Time of the Dragon Slayers (part 5)
This one is for today and tomorrow. Sorry. School calls.
The storm was followed by a period of dry weather, much to all of the farmers’ satisfaction since it neared harvest time. Harvest came and with it, the tiring routine for Justin and Colton began as well. They rose in the morning early, did the chores, ate breakfast, and then disappeared into the fields until sunset. Once dark, they finally trudged home to collapse around the dinner table. At first, Colton jested Justin often about how he handled a sickle like he never had done it before in his life. Justin just brushed it off but Natlie guessed, based on how much he did not protest, that Colton was correct. Not that it mattered much. No farmer would argue against help, no matter where it came from. Soon, sheathes of grain stood in all the fields surrounding them for miles and Natlie began her daily checks to see if they were dry enough for threshing.
Although the men had many things to do, Natlie had very little besides her normal chores. As such, she found herself missing the town even more. Harvest always dragged Colton away from the house for long periods of time. Before she had escaped from the desolate house by going to town. The town always was a place of excitement and people. There, she could always find someone to talk with there. Sometimes, she caught herself staring across the fields at the buildings and wondering how long Colton would persist in his stubbornness that she could not go.
Colton did not relent. Once Natlie got the money from her crafts, he ordered her not to go again. Although she hated it, she had to listen to him. He was, after all, her brother and responsible for her. He tried to compensate for not letting her go by setting a day sometime next month to go to Alsworth but hardly helped in fighting the overwhelming loneliness that threatened to overtake her.
The harvest slowly came to an end. Since Colton only planted as much as he could harvest himself, with two of them working and near perfect weather, they finished much earlier than normal. With the end of the actual harvest came the promise of seeing both men more often as they worked closer to the house. In celebration, Natlie made a mulberry pie, which they ate around the fireplace after dinner while Justin told stories.
Justin’s stories had been the best part of this past month of isolation–possibly the only really good part. He knew many from traveling nearly five years as a dragon slayer and she enjoyed every single one of them. Always, she had been curios about the other parts of the country and what it was like. This was part of the reason why she liked the inn so much; there was always a story. With Justin, it seemed like he had been everywhere at least once and had a story to tell for every place imaginable.
Natlie sighed as he finished and pulled the blanket tighter around her. “Just how many stories do you have, Justin? Of your own I mean.”
Justin tapped his pipe thoughtfully. “Hundreds I suppose. Maybe thousands.” He shrugged. “I never really thought about it.”
She sighed dreamily. “That’s what I miss most about town. The stories at the inn. All of them.”
“I doubt too many people will stay long enough to tell you any now,” Colton said.
Natlie threw a pillow at him. “You’re impossible!”
He grinned and held his pie up to protect it. “Always. Just for you.”
Justin cleared his throat slightly. “I’ve been thinking that, with the harvest over now, I’ll be leaving in the morning.”
Natlie looked at him sharply. “What? Why?”
He pulled thoughtfully on his pipe. “I thought that dragon from a month ago would be a scout, looking for a new place to find food.” He glanced at Colton. “You know how it is. Since we didn’t even harm the creature, it would assume this area is safe and return with the herd. That is partly why I was so angry at Jorn for stopping your shot, Natlie, because it would have spooked the animal enough to leave.” He paused again. “But they didn’t come back. I gave them more than enough time to return and they have not. So it is time I move on.”
Colton watched the fire for a moment. “I’ll miss you.”
He smiled faintly. “I did enjoy it here. Farming was a very nice change of pace for me.”
“Thank you for staying as long as you did. It’s not often I get help in the fields like that.”
“I’m sure. And it was very interesting to learn.”
Natlie stared at her cup and slowly twisted it before sighing. “I understand–of course.”
“I’m sorry, Natlie. But–it’s time. Your town is safe for now. If it gets very bad, I’ll be back. I follow the dragons after all.”
‘I know. I know all that.” She looked at him. “I was just looking forward to you both being around here for a while.”
He nodded slightly.
She smiled, although it felt incredibly small and fake. “Don’t worry about it.” She took a bite of pie to hide her disappointment. “How early are you leaving?”
“Dawn. You need not do anything about it.”
Natlie nodded slightly. “Very well.”
Justin nodded slightly and leaned back. “I’ll admit, I’ll miss this good food.”
Natlie blushed slightly. “Thanks. I’m glad you liked it.”
He finished with his pipe and rose. “Well, good night and thank you, both of you, for everything.”
Natlie watched him go to bed before slipping outside. The stars twinkled through the night sky and made the world seem so bright and mystical. The sudden warm day made it possible to mistake this night for just another summer night, instead of almost winter.
She sighed and leaned against the wall. Colton closed the door softly and looked at her.
“What is it, Natlie?”
She glanced at him. “I’m just going to miss him.”
“Why? You have me still. It’s not like you’re getting totally abandoned.”
Natlie sank onto the bench and just stared at the sky. “You’re–you’re not me, Colton. You like the quietness of the fields and you like the time you can spend alone while planting or harvesting. You like having the chance to think in peace. I–I’m not like that. I like being around people.”
“You can be around me. You know that.”
“Only for so long. There’s only so much that you’re willing to listen before you just want your quiet. Justin–Justin doesn’t know any of my stories or my thoughts so he lets me speak as I wish.” She sighed. “I don’t know how much you actually understand that I liked having someone else in the house. I liked the company. I liked the change. And… and now it’s gone.”
“Oh, Natlie.” Colton wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close.
She shuddered and leaned against him. “It isn’t fair, Colton. Albin hunted the dragons for two years before he came here and snatched up Lita to marry her. It’s like he forgot completely about that part of his life. Instead–he’s condemning everyone who does it now with no mention of himself in this.”
“It’ll be okay, Natlie. They’ll remember soon. They’ll see that this is all foolishness and forget the whole idea about protecting of dragons. It’s just for a little bit. It’s just until Jorn leaves.”
“And how are we to know when he leaves if we aren’t going into town?”
“I’ve been talking with Spencer. He goes there and tells me what’s going on. He’s not letting his family go either.”
“That doesn’t help me feel better.”
He smiled. “Sorry.”
“I wish we could travel sometimes, Colton. Like Justin does. I wish we could just leave everything and start traveling.”
“You know we can’t do that. We have the farm to take care of.”
Natlie nodded slightly. “I know. Still….” She sighed. “I would like that.”
“I’m sure you would.” He looked around the yard thoughtfully. “I don’t think you’re ever going to be happy just staying here forever, Natlie. I think you’re going to leave as soon as you find someone who will go with you, no matter how much I protest”
“You would never let me.”
“I wouldn’t have a choice. You like being free too much to stay put here for long and I will have to either give you my blessing or give you a logical reason as to why you should not go.”
Natlie looked up at him. “Are you saying I should go with Justin?”
Colton looked at her sharply. “What? No! Not at all. Why would you think that?”
“It just–it sounded like you might be giving me permission to. I think you know that if I were a boy, I would have been a dragon slayer.”
“I do. But you aren’t a boy; you are a woman, And I have done my best to raise you as such.” He squeezed her hand. “And I think you turned out pretty much fine. Only problem is your inseparability with your bow.”
She chuckled slightly. “Thanks.” The wind blew her hair slightly and she shoved it back. “I try to be that way.”
“I know. Makes me glad to know that you’re safe even when I’m not watching.”