War and Despair

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Chapter 19

Durazno watched Trista and Tomeans practice the moves he had shown them earlier on a rock with a smile on his face. Sim plopped down beside him.

“Whew! Timmons has gotten fast!” Sim panted. He followed Durazno’s gaze to Trista. “She’s rather pretty, isn’t she?”

Durazno stared at him wordlessly.

“Aha! So, you do think she’s pretty!” Sim shouted, raising a fist.

“Please be quiet.” Durazno said.

“Oh! It’s a secret!” Sim gasped mockingly. “Sorry, mate. If you want to catch that one you need to step it up. I think she’s been looking Tomeans’ way.”

“We’ve got a war to fight. I don’t have time for a love life.” Durazno grunted.

“The ladies will be sorry to hear that. Especially Tansy.” Sim said and walked away. Durazno grunted and pulled off the bandage. The wound did not look good. The edges had swollen and were tinged purple. It was coated in a layer of dried blood and smelled foul.

He winced and looked around for Hortense, but the woman was nowhere to be found. Durazno sighed and trudged over to where Petunia was attempting to show Tansy how to use a bow. When they noticed him, Petunia gave him the usual glare, Tansy looked at her feet.

“I need your help.” He said to Tansy, showing her his rotting wound.

“Come on over to the stream. We need to wash that.” Tansy murmured. Durazno bit down on his wrist while Tansy gently washed it. Tansy withdrew a large dull green leaf from her apron pocket and rubbed it over the swollen, blistering skin around the edges of the wound. Then she pressed a bunch of sweet smelling leaves into the wound, finishing by wrapping his arm with a large fuzzy leaf and securing it all with twine.

“Thanks.” Durazno said.

“You’re welcome.” She said, giving him a nervous smile. He found himself smiling back. “We’ll need to repeat the process every morning and evening until it heals.”

A roar rang out in the distance. Tansy jumped.

“C’mon everyone! We need to move on!” Durazno shouted. They all gathered for a moment, kicking away traces of their presence. Then they walked briskly away from the sound of the roar.

The noises of roaring creatures followed them all day, like they were tapped between five dragons. Durazno worried about the dragons catching up. None of them were ready to take on a dragon, and he was injured. The roars followed them until nightfall. They didn’t stop to sleep.

“We need to stop!” Sim hissed into his ear. “Hortense is barely keeping up.”

“If we stop now, we’ll be massacred! There have got to be at least five dragons out there! None of you are ready to fight one on your own! If they catch us while we’re asleep there won’t be any chance for survival!” Durazno said.

“If we walk up that hill just ahead, there are some large rocks we could shelter under for a while.” Sim reasoned. Durazno looked up the hill at the rocks, then nodded. The group plodded up the hill and crowded under the overhang of the rocks. Durazno found himself squeezed between Sim and Tansy.

“We didn’t stop to change the dressing earlier. We should do it now.” Tansy whispered. Durazno nodded tensely. He held his breath as Tansy repeated the process from earlier. When she had finished, Sim buried the bloodied leaves. At long last, Durazno’s exhaustion caught up with him, and he fell asleep leaning on Tansy.

Durazno jerked awake three hours later when Tansy shook him awake. “We need to go. They’ve gotten closer.” She whispered. The group moved stiffly out from under the rock and walked away as quickly as they could. A shriek rang out in the distance.

“Was that a human scream?” Trista gasped.

“Yes.” Durazno said grimly.

“What on earth is a person doing out here in the wilderness?” The Timmons asked incredulously.

“Probably the same thing we’re doing, traveling.” Sim said.

“We have to help them!” Tansy whispered.

“Help them? We need to get out of here before we end up like them!” Trista exclaimed.

“Petunia, do you think that you could get a dragon in the eye with a crossbow bolt from one hundred yards?” Durazno asked. Petunia shook her head. “I’m sorry Tansy, we have to run. I won’t be able to do much with my arm like this, and none of you are ready to fight against a dragon. If we try to help we’ll only get ourselves killed. We need to run while we have the chance. Understand?” Tansy nodded, tears welling in her eyes.

He grabbed her hand and pulled her along behind him as they ran. They crossed the next hill and saw a grove of trees. “Run for the trees! We might be able to lose them there!” He panted. They bolted for the trees.

They stopped underneath the trees, breathing hard. After a moments’ rest they walked deeper into the trees. Just when they were sure that they were safe they heard a crash. Durazno turned and saw a medium size orange dragon.

He cursed mentally and drew his sword. His hands shook as his weakened arm struggled to keep his sword in the air. He screamed a battle cry and charged at the dragon. Surprise shot through him as he saw Tansy streak past him. Durazno sped up, annoyed.

Stupid girl, she needs to stay back and out of the way, Durazno thought. Aloud he said. “Tansy! Take my dagger!”

She caught the dagger, and together, they charged the dragon. Durazno hacked at it’s foot. Tansy edged around it, trying to get at it’s wing. The dragon grabbed Durazno in it’s claws. Durazno bit it’s scaly foot, it screeched in surprise and dropped him. The dragon whirled around and knocked Tansy to the ground with its wing.

It bent its head towards her, jaws opening. Durazno jumped at its head, sword aimed at its eye. But he had miscalculated his jump. His sword struck the hard scales around it’s mouth and bounced off. He fell to the ground, landing on his injured arm. The dragon abandoned Tansy and came after him instead. Tansy tried to put herself between them, but the dragon knocked her aside again.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Tansy rise to her hands and knees, palms flat on the ground. The dagger had skidded off into the leaves somewhere, his sword lay broken under the dragon’s foot. He closed his eyes and waited for death as the dragon’s jaws loomed closer.

He saw a bright flash through his eyelids. An explosion rocked the nearby trees, he opened his eyes just in time to see the dragon’s corpse go flying through the trees.

Durazno looked at Tansy, then at the smoldering dragon carcass that now lay about one hundred feet away. The trees that the dead dragon had hit had broken like matchsticks, the ground around Tansy’s feet was a muddy mess. What did she do? Why is the ground muddy?

Tansy was staring at her hands like she’d never seen them before, so Durazno chose not to ask.

“We need to find the others.” He said instead. “They must have run off into the trees when we attacked the dragon.”

They found the rest of the group on the other side of the trees, walking briskly away. Durazno yelled at them. They all froze and spun around. Sim’s face broke into a grin, Trista squealed and ran towards them. She embraced Durazno when she reached him and spared a small smile for Tansy.

“You’re still alive!” Sim whooped. “What happened?”

“We killed the dragon.” Durazno said.

“How?” Timmons asked.

“Rammed a dagger into it’s throat.” Durazno lied, glancing at Tansy.

“We need to go.” Tansy said. “We don’t know how long it will take for the other dragons to find us.”

The rest of us the group nodded, and they ran.

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