Falling for Fire

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Chapter 4: Brone- Silver Princess Saved

I soared through the sky, feeling like all my worries were flying with me. This whole Hunt thing is pointless, I thought sourly. I mean, what’ll be accomplished by hunting the humans? They’ll just go after us even more! It wasn’t helping to gripe and moan about it, so I let out a puff of exasperated smoke from my nostrils and banked to the right, following the thermals. Suddenly, a horn was blown in the distance. Crap! I’m gonna be late! I flapped my wings and arrowed a straight beeline to the clan village.

I arrived just as the overseer was calling my name; I shifted to my drakeman form as I landed and stood in line. “Here!” I said, out of breath. “About time you showed up,” I heard a familiar whisper from behind me. “Sorry! I… had my head in the clouds.” I whispered back to my best friend, Vrey. “You weren’t about to purposefully… skip the Hunt, now were you?” He asked, cracking a small smile. Remember when I said that no one else knew about my opposition to the Hunt? Vrey… well, he’s an exception. I shook my head and turned back to the front. “Shut up,” I mumbled.

After the overseer had finished role call, he went on about the rules. “The drakes and dragonets will be split into pairs- no female and male partnering- and will line up at the ledge of the cliff.” Immediately Vrey and I scooted closer together. “The Hunt is a test of courage and character. It is crucial that you prove your worth to the Seven Dragon Clans and prove your dedication to their practices. We will now begin the Hunt; good luck, and may the wind blow in your favor!” The trumpet bellowed and immediately the sky was filled with drakes and dragonets flying off towards Dracobane.

“So what’ll we do now?” Vrey asked, in his dark red dragon form, a furry black mane trailing from the crown of his head to a tuft on his tail, as he was flapping his red wings while we flew near the edge of our border, about ten miles from human land. “We’ll find a place to hide out until the Hunt is over,” I replied, surveying the ground below for a cave or something for us to hide in. Suddenly a faint and sweet scent that smelled of jasmine and rosemary reached me. I stopped my search and looked at Vrey. He must’ve smelled it too, because he looked as puzzled as I was. “What is that?” he asked. I sniffed the faint smell again, this time it was tainted with a metallic scent. Like… “Blood…” I muttered.

I pinpointed the source of the smell and flew towards it, diving towards a river in a valley on the ground, called the Valley of Lost Songs. I landed at the bank of the river. The scent is strongest here, I thought, puzzled and sniffing the air. It’s like I’m right on top of it. Then I heard a quiet whimper. I slowly looked down and immediately jumped backwards; I was literally right on top of a human girl. I shifted into my drakeman form and began approaching her warily while stopping every few steps whenever she let out a moan.

Her beautiful silvery-blonde hair was splayed out, her face was pale and stained with mud, she was battered and bruised, soaked through by the river’s water, and her back looked like it’d been sliced open by a sword. She twitched, her eyes slowly opened and immediately locking on me. They were a pretty golden color, like the setting sun. But they were filled with fear at the sight of me in my drakeman form. “D-dragon…” Her whisper froze me on my tracks. “P-please… don’t hurt me…” I looked down in wonder at this girl; she looked like she was nineteen, a year under me. She tried to push herself off the ground, but then collapsed with a pain-filled moan.

I crossed the last ten yards in a flash and knelt down at her side. “You’re badly hurt, girl,” I said softly. “Try not to move.” I touched her cheek gently and immediately pulled it back, shuddering; she was ice-cold. “Brone! Where’d you g-?” Vrey landed on the ground next to me, and froze when he saw the human at my feet. “Whoa… you really hunted a human?!” he asked with shock. “No!” I said with wide eyes. “I found her like this!”

Vrey shifted into his drakeman form and joined me at the girl’s side. She whimpered and started to push herself away from us, probably trying to get away. “She’s half-dead and soaked through, Brone,” Vrey said with contempt. He may know my secret in opposing the Hunt, but that doesn’t mean he likes humans. “Not to mention that giant wound in her back. She won’t make it through the night.” I looked up at the sky- the sun was setting and casting long shadows in the valley. “Unless we help her,” I said softly. There was something about this girl; she just seemed so… helpless. Yet there was a fire burning inside her, one that I felt was as fierce as the strongest dragon, even though she and her race were the very personification for evil.

“Are you crazy?” Vrey almost shouted. “She’s one of them! We don’t even know who she is!” I kept gazing at the girl, then without thinking I reached down and gently picked her up, slinging her onto my back piggy-back style. She struggled weakly and I gave her a grudging smile. She’s definitely got some fire in her, I thought, looking back at her half-closed eyes. “I’m not gonna hurt you,” I said to her gently. “I’m gonna take you somewhere safe.” Her eyes opened a little wider and the fear that’d been evident in them quickly switched into faint contempt. “W-why sh-should I tr-trust y-you dragons?” She asked weakly, yet with firm distrust.

“Because you’re seriously wounded, about ten miles on the opposite side of your lands borderline, and you have no weapons on you.” I summed up to her, trying to be patient. “And if someone else had found you like this, they’d be using your bones for toothpicks right about now.” She laughed weakly and slumped against my back. “A d-dragon with an attitude,” she whispered with a grim smile. “How strange.” “Oh, girly you’ve got no idea.” I heard Vrey mutter. The girl sighed and went limp. She must’ve passed out, I thought. This girl is somethin’ else.

“I smell a cave, Vrey,” I said, shifting the girl on my back into a more comfortable position. “Let’s go and treat her there.” Vrey sighed and sniffed the air as well. “Fine,” he said with resignation. “It’s this way.”

By the time we reached the cave, the sun had set. We set up camp inside and had gathered around the fire we’d set up. I was by the girl’s side treating her wound as best I could (it was very awkward because I had to remove her shirt to treat it correctly). She let out a groan every now and then whenever I pressed down too hard when I rubbed poultice on the edges of her wound, the veins spider webbing from the wound turning an angry red color. The wound’s infected, I realized. But that can’t be; the wound smells fresh… unless…

I gently brushed a dry finger against a section I hadn’t covered with the poultice and brought it up to my nose, smelling it. There was a sickly sweet smell, like rotting strawberries. Poison! I quickly stood up and rushed over to the luggage bags Vrey and I had brought along with us. I pulled out some other medical provisions that we had: tonics, more poultices, compresses. However, we had nothing for the poison coursing through her body.

“Vrey,” I said urgently. “We have to get her to the healers back in the village.” He shot to his feet from the cross-legged position he was sitting in. “Brone are you insane?!” he nearly shouted. “She’s a human! She and her kind have been hunting our people for centuries! Why should you care whether she lives or dies?” “Because,” I said firmly, getting up and facing him with a glare. “There’s something about this girl; I don’t know what it is, but one thing I do know is that she needs help! Now are you going to help me or not?”

Vrey stood there glaring at me for a few seconds, and then he sighed and dropped his head, shaking it and giving me a wry smile. “You’re a total dumbass. You know that, Brone?” “Why else would I be helping a human girl?” I teased him. But we wouldn’t be able to make it back to the village at this time of night, I thought with worry. And the girl is in no condition to travel- we’ll obviously have to spend the night. We sat down and began to gather the food we’d brought along. I remained by the girl’s side though; as Vrey prepared a meal of fish soup and bread I placed cool rags on the girl’s forehead. She’s burning up with fever, I thought with concern. And she’s trembling too…

I sighed and sat down next to her. I’d tried to clean her up without removing too much of her clothing; I’d stripped her of her cloak and tunic, only leaving her with a silk undershirt to cover her. What was she doing in the Valley of Lost Songs? She couldn’t have gotten lost, I thought to myself. She looks like the kind of human who would know where the borderline is. Then there’s the slash wound on her back… I sighed. So many questions, but I will get answers. “Brone!” I started and spun to look at Vrey, who was holding the ladle to his mouth as he sampled the soup. “Dinner’s ready,” he said, looking at me with a thumbs-up sign. “Get your tail over here and eat.”

I got up and trudged over to the pot, casting one last glance towards the sleeping human. I took my bowl and scooped up a double helping. but instead of sitting down to eat with Vrey, I strode back to the girl’s side and promptly sat back down in my previous spot. I took a small spoonful of soup and trickled it into her slightly open mouth, sighing with relief when she swallowed it even though she was unconscious.

“I still can’t believe you’re actually going to go through with this,” Vrey said as he sat next to me. “Yeah,” I said with a short laugh. “Neither can I.”

Vrey went to sleep after a few hours, his snores echoing in the cave; I, however, stayed awake by the girl’s side, using my deerskin blanket to cover her shivering body. I felt her forehead again. Her fever’s getting worse, I thought with concern. I turned her over as gently as I could and lifted her shirt. I choked as the awful smell of rotting fruit filled the cave; veins spider webbing from the wound had turned a sick-looking purple color. I shuddered and lowered her shirt. She doesn’t look like she’ll make it through the night, I thought.

“What can I do?” I asked aloud.

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