Wendell and the Dragon's Heart

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Chapter 5

Farmer Cralth surveyed his fields with a hawk’s eye and a cocksure expression, oblivious of the shivering lad beside him. Finally he turned and made an address.

“The same thing today. I’ll be back by sundown, and then we’ll see whether there will be any brass. Crows are clever. I need a clever boy. I didn’t pick that speck-fool friend of yours, he’s no good for this work. I know a clever one when I see one. But I don’t need a lazy boy. Lazy boys are no good to anyone. I’ll be back by sundown.”

He turned and walked off, his gait slow but decided. Wendahl took a deep breath and stretched out his aching fingers into the air. They still lingered with soreness, but sleep and yesterday’s stew had refreshed him and he felt energized by the crisp air instead of chilled. He walked around a bit, unhurriedly, looking for some good throwing pieces.

Over the course of the days, he slowly gained confidence and soon could keep the intruders away handily, without much thought. He found that he could hit a large crow almost half the time, from anywhere in the field. Soon he walked back and forth by the field like a captain on his ship, now hurtling a stone exactly, now judging the best place for another without even thinking.

Soon the days all melted together, he felt strength coming to him for the first time in his life, and his arms and hands no longer felt the strain of endless use, but felt as if they had an endless well of energy.

He began to recognize the peaks of the mountains and where they lay over the field, and the various dips and features of the horizon, as if he had been there. He found himself recalling the old stories he had heard from the wandering minstrels, just to have something to think about.

The rhythm of the flying stones and the cawing of the frightened birds mixed with the rhythm of the minstrel’s song, and with the passage of the sun through the sky, and the deep recesses of the far mountains. When he threw a stone, it was the strike of a sword that killed a goblin, and the protest of a raven became the squealing of an ancient door.

Soon he imagined that he was throwing stones even still, but he was Curdie, leaving them in a dark place, or perhaps hurling them at the head of a bumbling giant, and taunting him as he threw, the giant roaring and floundering. But in the end the squawk of ravens returned, and the stone sank into the wheat field never to return.

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