War and Despair

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Chapter 17

Durazno and Sim galloped towards the sounds of fighting. The horses became more agitated the closer they got, and eventually refused to go any further.

They jumped off their horses and took off running. There were three dragons, a large yellow creature, a dark green brute and a small pale green dragon. A group of seventeen people were huddled in the center of the field.

“Distract the little one.” He ordered Sim. “And try not to die.” Sim nodded grimly and ran to face the pale dragon.

Durazno charged the dark green monster with his sword drawn. He jumped onto it’s tale and hacked at it’s spines. It flamed angrily at him. Durazno dodged the fire and climbed up it’s tail onto it’s wings. He plunged his sword into it’s soft wing membrane and sliced downward. The dragon screamed in agony as the blood started to pour from its wound.

Durazno sliced it’s other wing and danced up it’s neck. He gripped its horn and stabbed his sword into it’s hateful violet eye. As the dragon died, he glanced over to see how Sim was doing. The farm boy was dancing around the smallest dragon and jumping in every now and then to stab at it.

Durazno sighed and leaped off the dragon’s head. He ran over to the small dragon. He thought he saw panic light in the its black eyes. It rose into the air and flew away.

That’s right, monster, fear me. Durazno thought, satisfied.

“C’mon!” He shouted to Sim. “One more to deal with!”

“What do you want me to do?” Sim yelled.

“Time for a lesson in dragon slaying!” He shouted, jumping onto the dragon’s back. “They have two main weak points, their wings-” He stabbed the dragon’s wing membrane. It turned its great scaly head and chomped down on his arm. “Bloody hell!” Durazno muttered under his breath. He pulled his arm free with the sound of ripping flesh. He plunged his sword into the yellow monster’s eye. “And their eyes!”

Durazno clutched at his wounded arm and hopped off the dead dragon’s back. The people stared at him in shock. “Does anyone have some clean cloth to bind this with?” He shouted, raising his bloody arm. A girl who looked about sixteen hurried over and wrapped her apron around his mauled arm.

“Thanks.” He grunted at her. She gave him a small, mischievous smile.

“We are moving to rejoin the resistance against the Dragonfriends.” He shouted. “Who will join us?”

Three men came to stand with him, as well as the girl from earlier, two stone-faced older women and another girl who looked about seventeen.

“What are your names, and what can you do?”

“My name is Trista.” The girl who had bandaged his arm said. “I can’t really do much, but I knew know a lot about cooking and wild food. I think that l could learn to fight and hunt if I had someone willing to teach me.”

“I’m Tansy.” The other girl said quietly. “I’m a healer.”

“Hortense.” The first stone-faced woman sniffed. “I am also a healer.”

“Petunia.” The second woman scowled. “I’m excellent with the cross bow.”

“Timmons. And he’s Tomeans. We know how to use a bow.” Timmons said. “And he’s Mick. He’s good with horses.”

“Is anyone here injured?” Sim asked.

“Not seriously.” Hortense said.

“Good. We leave now. I’ll give you a moment to say your goodbyes.” Durazno said.

Trista ran over to an older man and woman and hugged them. Petunia walked over and snapped something at a frightened looking little man. Timmons kissed a pretty woman and gave the little girl beside her a hug. Then they were gone.

They marched over the hills, Timmons, Mick and Trista singing a marching song. Tansy walked beside him playing nervously with her long dark hair. Petunia and Hortense were arguing about a bread recipe somewhere behind me. Tomeans said nothing.

At dusk the group stopped and made a small fire. Petunia and Trista disappeared into the nearby hills and returned with two rabbits and an armful of wild greens. Everyone ate the greens as the rabbit roasted. Everyone sat content and full around the fire after the food was all gone.

“Where you from?” Trista asked, tossing her rose gold hair so that it caught the light of the fire.

“A town far away from here called Red Garden.” Durazno said, staring into the embers.

“Never heard of it.” Timmons commented.

“You wouldn’t have. It was a long way away from here and remote. It was completely obliterated about nine years ago.” Durazno told them.

“How old were you when that happened?” Tansy asked.

“Nine years old.”

“Oh!” Tansy whispered.

“I escaped with my siblings and headed north. We started a farm. But the war wasn’t done with us. The dragons flew north and destroyed our farmland and killed my sister Aciano. My remaining siblings and I headed back south to join the army.” Durazno said.

“Well, I’m beat.” Sim said, breaking the awkward silence. “I’m going to sleep.”

They all went to sleep in a circle around the fire but Durazno. Durazno sat staring into the fire until late at night, lost in memories.

The night that Castana had been crippled and his father killed. His father had been out drinking. He’d climbed up onto the roof and slipped, breaking his neck on the street below. The dragons had come out of nowhere.

He and his siblings had been huddled in the shadow of their neighbor’s house, preparing to charge to safety. As they’d been running across the street, Castana had tripped. The dragon had descended on her. It had stomped down on her foot, splintering the bones into tiny pieces. Naranja had injured the dragon’s wing with a jagged rock and saved Castana.

They’d fled the city and gone north. A witch had saved Castana’s life by removing the bone shards, but she hadn’t been able to save Castana from being a cripple.

Durazno pulled his gaze away from the sleeping figures beside him. He yawned and unwrapped the apron from his arm.

The skin underneath was a bloody mess. The gashes oozed green and yellow pus, blood welling in the center. Durazno uncorked his water skin and poured the cold water on his wound, biting his tongue to keep from crying out. He turned the apron over and wrapped the unbloodied side around his wound.

Finally, Durazno lay down and went to sleep.

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