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| Category: || Fantasy Fiction |
Posted:|| December 1, 2019 Views: 380|
Chapter 21 of the book Aaron's Dragons
Dylan has news
by Cindy Warren
Aaron has found and hatched a clutch of dragon eggs. Now the dragons are growing and developing their talents, some of which may be useful to defend the kingdom from invaders. Plans are being made.
"I think we'll be staying here tonight," said Aaron. "Any kind of torch is likely to attract more than bugs. We're best to camp under the pines."
He unsaddled his horse and laid the saddle blanket under the trees. Duane did the same. They soon found the dragons under the blankets next to them. Mountain squirmed and shifted position beside Aaron. The Dragoyles climbed over him. It didn't matter much, because sleep eluded him. He heard Duane tossing restlessly nearby.
He listened to the waves lapping against the shore, and thought of Blue. He'd let Blue go almost immediately, and had visited him in his dreams every night since. Keeping the water dragon in a pail had never seemed an option, and setting him free, though not easy, had been the only thing to do. He sat up, his back against a tree, and let the dragons climb into his lap. Duane soon joined him.
"Nobody can sleep," he said. "Yellow's done nothing but wriggle. Red and Green were climbing all over me."
"We're all missing Purple, and worrying over her. I don't think we'll be getting much sleep tonight."
"So what do we do?" Duane asked.
"Not much we can do in the dark. We sit here for a bit and go back to bed. Wait for morning."
They were up before sunrise, as soon as there was a glimmer of pre-dawn gray. Brown, who was nocturnal by nature, was diving for fish. Mountain, Yellow, and Sky joined her as soon as they could see. Black also tried diving, but found his large wings made it difficult.
"Watch Sky," Duane told him. "See how she holds her wings next to her body when she dives."
Black watched his sister, tried a couple more times, and soon came up with a fish, looking pleased with himself.
The dragons gobbled their prizes, and Aaron sent them to catch more to take home. While they fished, he and Duane hunted for more of the edible bulbs. At sunrise they headed home with plenty of fish and a few handfuls of greens. Brown climbed into a saddlebag to get out of the light.
They arrived at the cabin to find a brown horse grazing in the clearing.
"It's Dylan's," said Aaron. "You stay out of sight and take care of the horses while I make sure he's alone." He sent the dragons, except Brown, into the trees, picked up their catch of fish, and went to greet his friend.
He found Dylan in the cabin, looking for breakfast.
"I guess I don't have to ask where you've been," he said, eyeing the fish. "Tell the kid not to waste time hiding that horse."
"I feared the worst when you weren't here," said Dylan. "I checked for tracks. There's two sets, and no sign of trouble."
"I guess nothing gets by you. Let the kid keep his horse."
"I didn't say he couldn't keep it. I said not to waste time hiding it. I'm hungry. Them fish are going to be burnt to a crisp if you cook them."
"I'll get Duane. Then you can give me all the news."
Soon the water was boiling for tea and the fish were sizzling in the pan. Aaron followed Dylan outside.
"You came alone," said Aaron. "Why aren't your men with you?"
"I had to leave them to keep order. You've probably guessed. The king has died, and you know, the princess is not fit to rule as queen. There's a lot of unrest."
"Any more signs of invaders?"
"Not so far. We know they're coming. It's just a question of when and where," said Dylan.
"I might be able to help you with that." Aaron recounted his conversation with the witch. "We can be ready for them."
At that moment, Duane interrupted them with tea, fish, and boiled greens.
"That smells good," Dylan said, taking the plate. The dragons gathered round, expecting some cooked fish. Duane had saved the heads, and fried the parts the humans didn't want to eat. He went back inside to get it for them. They gobbled it up and returned to catching bugs and mice.
Aaron found he didn't have much appetite. He passed half his fish to Dylan, who ate like he hadn't seen food in days. Over the next couple of hours, Dylan filled Aaron in on events at the palace. They discussed the witch's promise of help.
"Seems Gareth was telling the truth," said Aaron. "She did have a dragon, the mother of the ones you met. She feels responsible for her death. She wants to do right by this generation. I think we can trust her."
Pink landed next to the men. "The woman will tell you what you need to know," she said to Dylan. "You must stay until she comes. She must know who to send messages to. You must meet her."
"I must, huh?" Dylan looked at the pink dragon, annoyed.
Pink glared at him. "Yes."
"I think there's a little pink gal getting too big for her britches."
Dylan took a step back. The little pink dragon was suddenly gone, and in her place was something eight feet tall. Her pink color had faded and become flaming oranges and yellows, and her voice meant business.
"You said you wanted to meet her. Make up your mind. Do you want our help or not?"
Dylan looked at Aaron, who was just as startled at this new development.
"I guess you better answer the lady," he said.
"Beg your pardon, Madam. I didn't mean any disrespect. I'd be pleased to meet your friend."
Pink, unable to maintain the illusion any longer, became herself again, gave Dylan the most deadly stare she could manage, and flew off into a tree.
Dylan turned to Aaron. "What was that?"
"That's a new one. She's been working on something she calls a glamour. She can blend in and seem to disappear. I've never seen anything like this."
"That could be useful. I seem to have offended her. I'll have to fix that."
"I'm sure you can," said Aaron. "When you meet the woman, remember humanity didn't treat her very well. She has little reason to like us. She's not friendly, and she has the sight. You'd do best to be direct and honest with her. Insult her and you might find yourself sitting on a lily pad catching flies."
"Could she do that?"
"I wouldn't take the chance," said Aaron.
"I'll keep in mind we need her as an ally. I'll be the perfect diplomat. If she's too big for her britches I won't tell her so."
Duane had crept into the root cellar for bread, meat, and cheese. He'd seen Dylan at breakfast, and guessed he hadn't been eating much. After tea and a fat sandwich, Dylan was in a better mood. Aaron and Duane were exhausted, after their sleepless night.
Dylan went to find Pink and make peace, and Aaron and Duane stretched out under a tree near the horses. Sheer exhaustion soon sent them to sleep.
Instead of finding himself in the water with Blue, Aaron found himself with Purple. What he saw was terrifying. The little dragon was doing her best to call for help, and he couldn't help her. She'd found a crevice to sleep in for the day, and something had found her and dragged her out.
Purple whipped her tail around, slashing the creature across the neck. Had she been bigger, a blow from that tail would have been fatal, but Purple was not big enough. She was in serious trouble.
Aaron tried to put himself between her and the animal, which he could now see was a mountain lion.
Purple saw him, but the mountain lion didn't. He was helpless. His dream self was not able to intervene. Purple was trying to back into the stream, but he could see it would do no good, even if she made it. The stream she'd been following was only a couple of feet deep.
"Pink!" he called. "Make her disappear, or make her big and scary!"
If Pink could hear, she didn't reply.
Aaron looked away, unable to watch. He'd let her go. Now he couldn't protect her. He felt sick. The little dragon was putting up a brave fight, but she was outmatched. He heard the predator growling, and turned to suddenly see a second dragon. His size and strength was no match for the hungry mountain lion, but his fire was. Black blew a second plume, and the lion backed off, but not far, unwilling to give up his meal.
Black lifted his terrified sister by the tail, hauling her upstream toward deeper water. Dangling in his claws, Purple curled herself into a ball as best she could, trembling. Aaron found he could follow them. Black hauled his sister upstream until his strength gave out. Finding a stretch of deeper water, he set her down beside the stream. Purple sat there trembling.
"You're safe now," Aaron assured her. "I think we'll let Black watch out for you for a day or two. It's a good thing he showed up when he did."
Not knowing how to comfort her, Black dived into the stream and came out with a fish. He offered it to her. Purple, blinking her eyes against the sunlight, huddled next to him. She took the fish and nibbled at it nervously.
"Sleep next to deep water from now on," Aaron told her. "Always leave yourself a way to escape. I think Black is going to be looking out for you anyhow, so I'm not going to object. You are going to be okay."
"Aaron! Aaron!" Pink pulled at his sleeve. He came slowly awake, sweating and shaking.
"What is it?"
"The woman is here. She wants you and Dylan, right now!"
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