‘Summits not right,’ he muttered in his mysterious way.
I misunderstood his local dialect. ‘Something’s not right?’
‘Yes,’ he pointed up to the top of the hill, where I could just make out the wall of a lookout tower. ‘There’s something wrong at the summit.’
‘What’s wrong?’ I could see no sign of anything untoward.
‘No smoke.’ My guide crouched down behind a thicket and pulled me down beside him. ‘No smoke, means no fire. The guards must always keep a fire lit as a signal and to pass on messages.’
He nodded. I hadn’t heard of anyone using smoke signals since the days of the native Americans, but in this world of basic communication it made sense.
‘Maybe they just fell asleep, or ran out of firewood.’ He gave me a withering look and said nothing. ‘What do we do now?’
‘If they are there, they know we are coming and they are waiting for us.’
‘Should we turn back?’ I knew we couldn’t turn back. The capital was lost, our only hope was to cross the mountains and rejoin my retreating father and what was left of his forces.
The guide smiled at me, ‘The dragon teaches you that if you want to climb high you have to do it against the wind.’
‘Really, you’re giving me an ancient proverb about dragons?’
‘If you would rather I can spell it out in layman’s terms.’
‘I think I get the gist.’
He drew his sword and handed me a long knife he drew from his belt. ‘Time to prove you are a Warrior Prince.’
With that he scampered up the hillside and I had no choice but to follow him.