Wendell and the Dragon's Heart

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Chapter 7

Wendell said nothing of that day to his two friends. He was a great deal quieter, and didn’t bother to steal anything. Derrick managed to bring a long piece of iron back from the blacksmith’s, and begged Wendell to let him swing the sword, who let him without arguing.

They would take turns with the sword and iron, parrying and fencing a bit, and Wendell always won, although Derrick fought with more furiousness, except for some times when Wendell would get a far-off look in his eyes as if he was thinking of someplace else, and then seemed to be fighting desperately against a hundred men and not just with his good old friend.

They could be heard in the back-alleys of the town, ringing metal on metal, scuffling and advancing, now retreating back through the dust, shouting threats or encouragement to each other.

Some days, Derrick was busy at his work with John the blacksmith. On this day Derrick was free, and the two of them headed up through familiar streets and then to unfamiliar, going by memories Wendell had not thought of since long, long ago, in days that were like the bright pictures of a manuscript, days when his parents still lived.

Eventually the houses began to grow richer and richer, and grew larger to the point where they were more than mere dwellings, but were edifices to the grandeur and splendor of great families. Eventually, he came up a wide, wide street, paved with carefully fitted stones, that he remembered with that euphoric feeling of things long lost.

Turning a bend, it went on straight, towards the castle moat. The castle loomed in the near distance, flying banners that looked like small whiffs against the massive, towered form.

Up ahead, standing in two rows beside the bridge, castle guardsmen stood at attention, their uniforms glistening in the sunlight. He walked up the long street and watched them from a small distance. They paid no attention to him. They had spears topped with a nasty looking point, and looked wearied from their armor.

One of them glanced at him, looking bored. He had a face that looked as if it had seen a few battles, and a proud nose. Wendell loitered about, keeping his distance.

Across the bridge where they stood, there were hedges and a guard’s tower, grown over with a bit of ivy. Of course, there was nothing to be done but to sit and stare, so they turned and walked back down the street, and went back to the Black Mongrel.

He looked up now, from the place where he stood beside the Black Mongrel’s entranceway. Perhaps she would get bored of staying in the castle and ask to go out and see the city.

She would come and bring her royal servants, and come walking through the street… somehow she would see his dusty clothes and decide to make an example of royal charity, and give him a gold coin. He would bow graciously and thank her so well that she would be astounded, and ask him to come to the castle and meet the king… No. It was an impossible idea.

He looked up. People were milling around, or doing everyday things. There was someone in a brown cloak and hood who walked down the street, someone rather small in stature than everyone else, but who moved with assurance. Now he caught a glimpse of fiery hair beneath the hood, and he walked over quickly to see who it was.

The stranger turned to see who was following, and it was the youngest princess. Quickly he ran over to her, but she looked troubled that she was recognized and started to run away. He started to shout her name, but thought better of it. Then she stopped, and looked around, as if she recognized him, and smiled, just like she had in the painting. Then the dream vanished.

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