Wendell and the Dragon's Heart

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Chapter 24

That day Wendell convinced them to follow the wolf down a pass to a lower place, where they found a huge river swarming past. There was a very small, leaky boat lashed to a tree stump, and when Wendell got in, the wolf suddenly stepped in behind him and sat patiently. Wendell looked back at the others, but Garim merely said, “The time for the help of men has come to an end for you, it seems.” Then there was nothing left to say.

Wendell strained all his meager strength against the unfeeling torrent, using a flat, pudgy oar that was left in the mucky bottom of the tiny boat. Every now and then some bitterly cold water splashed his face and hands, and was left there until some breeze would come up and dry it off.

Soon the desperate chore settled into a numbing rhythm of weariness against power, and if he stopped for a moment the current would suddenly send the little boat spinning downstream, almost out of control. The wolf sat behind him noiseless and out of sight, but he still felt its presence, and he was dearly glad to have something with him right now, even if it was only a wild beast.

He often expected to hear Garim’s voice suddenly making a pithy comment as he rowed, something profound about perseverance and the candlemaker who never gave up.

But then the wind suddenly hushed over the sharp splashes of his oars and he couldn’t find anything else to hear, to listen to, not even the rustling cloak of the soldier turning to look at something. He looked up ahead, and the sky was tormented with a blackening inferno that wailed in silence. He wondered how many days the silence would be there to counsel him and help him, but there was no one left to ask.

Finally, he dragged the boat up onto a pebbly shore. Up ahead there were more trees and woods, looking rather nasty and vicious in the dusk, but Wendell was sure that they would look fine again in the morning. After searching for a while through the pitch-dark forest for some firewood, he finally curled up against a tree and shivered into sleep.

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