War and Despair

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Chapter 1

Durazno crouched in the bloodstained grass, sword drawn. He felt a whoosh of air as a dragon swooped over him. Somewhere to his right he heard screams as the dragon bathed the field in fire. He felt the ground tremble as the dragon landed to finish off its victims.

Durazno drew himself up and charged. He plunged his sword into the dragon’s thick blue hide. The creature roared in pain as it twisted its head around and spat fire at him. Durazno duck just in time and jumped onto the creature’s neck. He pulled his dagger from its sheath and slashed at the dragon’s neck.

The dragon thrashed and took to the air, Durazno still clinging to its neck. Durazno slithered up the dragon’s neck like a lizard and grabbed its horns. Durazno prepared to ram his dagger through the beast’s skull and into its brain but paused. If he killed the dragon here, he would fall to his doom.

Before Durazno had time to do anything, an arrow shot through the air and lodged itself in the dragon’s wing. The first arrow was followed by ten more, and the beast started to lose height. Relief washed over Durazno. The archers had finally arrived. Durazno drove his dagger through the dragon’s skull two feet from the ground and jumped off the falling corpse.

“What took you so long?” He shouted at the nearest archer.

“We ran into trouble, that’s what, little brother.” She spat back. Durazno squinted and realized that it was his older sister, Naranja. Her hair was matted with blood and the orange swirls in her grey eyes blazed.

Durazno’s heart leaped into his throat. His youngest sister was not with Naranja. “Where’s Castana?” Durazno whispered.

“Right here.” Said a tired voice from behind him. He looked behind him and saw his sister limping over. She had blood smeared on one cheek, and her hair was coming loose from its knot. Somewhere along the way she’d lost her crutch, and her ruined foot dragged behind her.

“What’s the word on the casualties?” Naranja asked.

“Seventeen dead, nine of them children. Three looks like they won’t last night. Five with minor injuries.” Castana reported.

Durazno winced. He was lucky to be alive. But that luck would run out eventually. His middle sister, Aciano, and his older brother, Amaranto, had already fallen in battle. If this didn’t stop, he and all his siblings would end up as charred corpses on a bloodstained field.

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