Wendell and the Dragon's Heart

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Chapter 22

Wendell sat watching the endless night, that lingered on into the distance. It was so lonely, alone with his thoughts, that churned horribly like his hunger. If only there was someone to talk to, but even if Garim was awake he didn’t even know what he would say to him.

But he must stay awake... he had almost been eaten before... it had come, silently, stealthily, before opening its mouth...

Eyes appeared again, from behind a tree, and moved noiselessly towards him, lucid and rakish looking. Wendell held up his breath and made sure his dagger was still in his hand where he had left it, trying not to move even a hair. But of course he had to breathe, and heard the tumultuous rush of his own breath.

The eyes seemed to be looking directly at him, and he didn’t know how long he stared into them, wondering when the thunderous rush of fur and teeth and blood would come, and whether the others could wake up in time to save him before he was torn apart. He thought of calling them to wake up, but he couldn’t budge himself while the eyes still stared at him, so wild and intelligent. Finally, calmly, they moved away and disappeared.

In the morning, Wendell said nothing to anyone, but hunger was beginning to make him light-headed and dizzy, and only a throbbing nervousness kept him on his feet, pushing him to walk onward. Garim even rambled a bit, some old stories about foxes and wells and candlemakers and such, but they didn’t seem interesting at all. Those stories were always so tidy and complete somehow. He looked out for the wolf almost eagerly, even though when he saw it it still scared him. But even that was nowhere to be seen.

Finally, Garim suggested they rest for “lunch”. They stumbled ahead a few more steps, and then stopped. A huge, gray shape moved out directly in front of them and sat, holding a very fat rabbit in its teeth, snuffing its breath in and out. It was as tall as Wendell even as it sat, and the soldier hurriedly drew out his sword ahead, but it didn’t seem to care. It padded up to Wendell and dropped the ball of fur at his feet, then trotted away. No one said anything. Wendell poked at the dead rabbit with his foot, and finally the soldier spoke up.

“Well... who’s hungry?” he said in a kind of encouraging way, giving a sort of smile.

After scrounging for a long time, they managed to scrape together some decent brush, and a while later than that the rabbit was roasting and crackling juicily on a spit. Everyone took turns taking pieces off, each with their own dagger, but no one said anything. Wendell thought of making some sort of comment, something like, “rather nice of the wolf, wasn’t it?” but it always felt stupid if he opened his mouth to say it out loud.

That night Wendell watched anxiously for eyes to appear again, during his stand at watch. It gave him something to look for. Inevitably, they did appear, and looked into his eyes for a long, long while, so fierce and solemn. He stared back, trying to understand what the wolf was thinking.

They seemed to be such noble eyes somehow, and sometimes he almost thought they might be faithful and trustworthy, but then he always remembered the rabid wolf that had come for him before, and so the eyes became merely wolfish and wild again. When they finally left, he was left to endlessly argue with himself, whether the eyes had indeed understood what he was thinking the whole time.

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