Jay had been asking how they were going to deal with the hostility between the two sheep when the door was flung open. Fleta and the trolls stepped into the room laughing, but any light-heartedness died out with the sight of the bloody sheep on the floor and Shep’s grave expression.
“Oh my…” Fleta started, but quickly seemed to lose her ability to speak. After a moment of stunned silence, she tried again. “What happened?” Her face showed an expression of the utmost horror.
Shep sighed and stood to lead Fleta to the edge of the bed so she could sit down. “Tart was being his usual nasty self, but this time it led to severe injury. He was trying to gain the throne by killing the king—or what used to be the king. He doesn’t understand that to restore everyone to their proper place, everyone, including the king, needs to be alive and intact.”
“Is he going to live?” Fleta asked from behind a hand that seemed to be holding back all her emotions. Tears sparkled in her eyes, but did not fall. Gilfred and Godfrey wore similar expressions.
“I wasn’t so sure an hour or two ago, but now I think it is likely that he will. And Jay, any ideas on how to keep these two apart would be greatly appreciated.”
Silence fell in the room again. Jay could hear the sheep’s heavy breathing. Shep had told him that it was a good thing he could hear the breathing; if he couldn’t, there wasn’t enough oxygen going to the sheep’s brain.
“If someone could take one and watch it,” Jay started.
“No,” Shep cut in, “It’s best to keep them all together with me. That way I know where they are. And who would even look after them? You don’t know the first thing about taking care of sheep, Jay. No offense.”
Jay nodded. It was true; he didn’t.
“But I do,” said Fleta in a quiet voice. “I’ve been with you for a few years. I’ve seen you watch over the sheep.” Fleta stuck out her chin. “I could do it.”
Shep considered this. “But what if it gets sick? And which sheep would you take, the one with a gash in its neck, or the one prone to trouble? What would happen if you need me and I’m half a continent away?”
Fleta’s eyes blazed. “I can take care of all that.”
It was decided that Fleta would stay on the island with Reyus while the rest of the group traveled on. Shep admitted that Reyus wasn’t really fit to travel anyway, and that Tart would only go after the king because he was the first in line for the throne.
“Try not to go anywhere too fun without me,” Fleta said as the group was preparing to head off again.
“No promises!” Shep called back. They were going to travel by boat across the sea and down a river to the capitol.
As the boat pulled away from the beautiful island, Fleta stood on the shore waving goodbye. Jay waved back until he couldn’t see the island any more.
The trip was long and tiring. Jay made sure to stay far away from any shipmate whose smile was too bright. They spent four days aboard the ship, and on the fifth, Jay woke up to a sky filled with towering buildings. The ship docked, and Shep, Jay, and the trolls—who had decided that they liked exciting adventures—stepped off the gangway.
So the sky wasn’t filled with buildings in the sense that there were skyscrapers: the tallest building in the city was probably only six stories high. But the city had been built in a valley, and the buildings trailed all the way up the hills on all sides. To put it simply, the place was huge.
Jay had only a minute to take it in before Shep hurried him along. “This part of town isn’t the safest. It’s prone to thieves who steal goods off of boats and gold out of pockets.”
Shep led Gilfred, Godfrey, and Jay down cobblestone streets filled with all sorts of pedestrians. Every now and then they’d spot a road troll or two, and Godfrey would call them by name while Gilfred waved.
After a while of scurrying down the crowded streets, Shep stopped outside a shop with purple and orange banners hanging from the glassless windows. The banners seemed to be celebrating some kind of holiday, but Jay had no idea which one. “This looks like a fine place to eat,” said Shep, pushing through the door.
The smell that hit Jay reminded him of his favorite restaurant at home.It was one of those old-style restaurants that smelled like fresh-baking bread, and rich soups. Jay sighed, thinking of the things he had left home. They weren't great, but there were a few things he really liked about home.
After they had ordered, Jay asked, “So where do you think the sheep is?”
“Oh I’ve no clue. I just figured one might be in a city somewhere, and where better than the largest city in the county? There are a million places you could hide a sheep in this city.”
“Then how do you expect to find one?” Jay asked.
“With the help of a few old friends.” Shep grinned.
Suddenly, the door creaked open, and a shadowy figure stepped into the restaurant. It was about twice the size of a normal man in every dimension you can think of, and it was staring right at Jay.