Saturday, December 12, 2015

Threat of the Fire Demon - Chapter 4

Charles and Saul headed south along the border where The Realms and the mundane world met. On occasion something would startle them, like the ghost image of a car flashing by or a pedestrian passing so close to the barrier they could reach out and touch them.

“It’s here, to the left,” Charles said, as he stopped to study the map Remy gave them in more detail. “Through those two trees and then two steps to the right,” Charles pointed.

When they emerged from the first gate they were in a field of tall amber tipped grass. The grass was so tall neither could see over it.

“We are supposed to proceed toward the hills,” Charles said, looking at the map. “Can you see any hills?”

Saul who was a good six inches shorter than Charles snorted in derision. “What do you think?” He folded his arms across his chest. “What can you see?”

Charles shook his head. “Nothing. We have to get out of this grass.”

“And your suggestion as to the direction we should take to do that?” Saul asked sarcastically. “We’re in The Realms. This grass could be the carpet of this whole section. It could go on for days.”

“Want to give me a leg-up?” Charles asked. A few inches more and he could see over the grass.

Saul fell to all fours. “Just be careful of the back,” the cat warned. “I am not a hippogriff.”

Charles stepped up on Saul’s back, but moved his weight back onto the cat’s rump and rear legs. He did a slow turn.

“There are the hills,” he pointed. “That way…”

Saul’s ears pricked forward. “Duck!” he shouted in warning, but it was too late.

A huge shadow fell over them followed by the sound of wings popping open and the flap as though a sheet were snapping in a high wind. Charles was ripped from Saul’s back, but by the time the cat turned, the elf-man had fallen to the ground.

“Run!” Saul hollered.

“That way!” Charles pointed.

They slapped and pushed at the tall grass as they ran flat out in the direction Charles pointed. Saul’s ears were swiveling from side-to-side trying to get a fix on their flying assailant.

“Duck!” he shouted again and fell flat on the ground.

Charles did the same. The grass above their heads was shredded and fell over them like amber confetti.

“What is that?” Saul hissed over his shoulder. He still hadn’t caught a glimpse of it.

“A dragon,” Charles answered. He brushed his hair out of his face and in the process the hood off his head. His hand caught in a hole where the initial pass of the beast caught him. Luckily, the garment ripped and the dragon lost him. “A youngling, I think, else I would be lunch about now.” Charles waved his fingers through the tear at Saul when the cat looked back at him in surprise.

“Did Remy draw any dragons on that map?” Saul asked.

“Nope,” Charles replied.

“Remind me to have a chat with him when we return about details like 'There be Dragons Here!'” Saul hissed.

“We’re not far,” Charles assured the irritated cat. “When we hit the edge of the grass stop and we’ll scout it out. Hopefully, it won’t be far from the grass to the hills.”


They were not that lucky. After another hour of running and dodging the obviously hungry youngling dragon, they found themselves at the edge of the grass field facing an open expanse of flat dry land. It was perhaps the width of three very tall trees laid end-to-end. They had to cross that before they could reach the hills. Once there, it didn’t appear as though cover could be easily found. The hills looked like huge slabs of stone some giant set up in a row, on end, like dominoes and then pushed them over. They lay all helter-skelter on top of each other. The two studied the hills from the cover of their grassy hiding place.

The youngling dragon was not foolish either. It knew about the open flat land and it chose to perch on the top of a jutting rock at the edge of the hills. It eyed the pair hidden in the grassy edge. No doubt it could smell them. Saul could smell it.

“How do we get past it,” Saul raised a paw and pointed. “We’re lucky it is a youngling and can’t breathe fire yet or we would be roasted meat with greens.”

Charles couldn’t help but chuckle even though he was hot, and tired, and out of breath.

“Maybe it can be reasoned with,” Charles suggested.

Saul waved a paw. “Go right ahead, my friend, but leave the map. While he is eating you, I intend to continue on and out of here.”

Charles studied the youngling. He was a he, and a beautiful example of his kind. His iridescent lime green scales were tipped with red on the edges which caught the sunlight and made him look as though he glowed. Under his arching neck and down his chest was a golden shade which also tipped his horns and the toes of his front paws. He looked well fed and probably hunted over this grass land for anything which grazed upon it.

Charles doubted an arrow could penetrate the dragon’s hide and a shot to the eye or mouth was iffy at best and might even make the dragon angry. Right now he appeared uninterested as he sat and spread out his wings to catch the last of the sun’s rays before it set.

“Watch out!” Saul warned and pulled on Charles’ sleeve to get him to duck down. “I hear something big.”

“Bigger than that?” Charles asked, as he thumbed at the dragon over his shoulder.

“Much,” Saul answered. His ears swiveled around like poppy blooms in a stiff breeze.

The two watched as what the cat heard arrived. It was an adult dragon… a dragoness. She greeted the youngling as her own and listened as he obviously told her of his exploits during the past hour or so. He even pointed a paw toward the pair hiding in the grass.

The dragoness spread her wings and did a fly-over their heads. She went back to roost at her youngling’s side. She spoke to him and he roared back at her, obviously upset. She roared even louder at him and he fell silent at her side.

The youngling hopped down off his stone perch and tread heavily toward Charles and Saul’s hiding place under the watchful eye of his mother. When he got within hearing range, but not within threatening range, he sat down on his haunches, ruffled his wings and then lay then back smoothly against his sides. He cleared his throat.

“Mama says I have to apologize,” he said in a soft tenor voice. “I’m not supposed to chase little helpless things.” He snorted and looked back over his shoulder toward his mother.

She shooed him with her wing.

“You can come out,” he continued when he looked back at them. “I promise I won’t hurt you.” He humpfed in disgust, rose to his feet and went back to sit by his mother.

When Charles and Saul didn’t move from the grass, the dragoness rose to her feet.

“I assure you, this is not a trick,” she said in a clear tone. “The youngling has been properly chastised. He will not do it again.”

Charles was the first to step from the grass into the open space. As a show of faith, he kept his bow slung over his back. Saul followed him cautiously.

“Thank you, Dragoness,” Charles said when he got within hearing distance. “Your youngling gave us quite a scare.”

“He is over eager now that he can hunt on his own,” the dragoness said, as she smiled down on her son. “But, much like a cat, he still likes to play with his food,” she rolled her eyes at Saul and grinned. “We do not see your kind her often,” she offered. “Where do you hail from?”

“The Mid-land East part of The Realms,” Charles answered.

“Raven’s rule,” the dragoness said in a tone that said she did not approve of Raven or his kind.

“Indeed,” Charles agreed.

“Are you escaping his rule?” she asked.

By her tone, Charles did not think it wise to say he was on an errand for the head vamp. He side-stepped the question and went on.

“We are headed to the Land of the Fire Demon,” he informed her.

“You must go through the Land of Sand and Stone,” the female said and shook her wedged head in dismay. “It is a good thing you have a knowledgeable companion. It is not a friendly place for man or beast.”

With that statement she ruffled her wings in anticipation of flight.

“We must be going. I have left a kill unattended and it is meant for our supper.” She nodded her head at the two. “May the winds blow in favor of your journey and carry you safely to your destination.”

With that wish conveyed, the two dragons spread their wings and lifted off.

“Play with my food, indeed,” Saul growled and falling to all fours he sprinted toward the shelter of the rocky hills with Charles trotting along, chuckling, behind him.

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