Time of the Dragon Slayers (part 6)
The weather only become warmer, with many rumors of this being the hottest autumn ever felt before. Colton wiped his brow and took the water gratefully when she offered it. Threshing was hard enough on cool autumn days that doing it in near summer-like conditions zapped his strength.
He gulped it empty before handing it back. “Thanks.”
Natlie nodded and slid onto the rock. “How’s it going?”
He paused a moment before he frowned and wiped his face again. “Normal I suppose.” He smiled faintly. “How is threshing suppose to go?”
Natlie shrugged and looked at the sky. One hour ago the sky had been perfectly clear. Now, large, low gray clouds had blown in from the mountains, and with them the hope of rain and cooler weather.
Colton noticed her look. “I’ll be done before it hits, if it ever does. Don’t you worry about that.”
“I didn’t think you were completely unobservant.”
“Never am. It does feels better without the sun beating on me constantly.” He swung his arms at his sides and looked at the sky momentarily. “I probably won’t start another one though, so I’ll be done in about an hour.”
She nodded. “Does that mean you’ll want dinner then?”
Colton smiled. “Dinner sounds great. With pie?”
“We’ll see.” Natlie slipped off the rock. “I’ll see you in an hour or so.”
She took the bucket and wandered back towards the house. The slight breeze tugged on her skirt as she stopped to look again at the town. Spencer stopped by their home yesterday to report that Basham Heights still banned dragon slayers, Jorn still lived among them as a respected citizen, and no one had any intention of rebuilding the crossbows. Two weeks now since Justin had left and, although she told herself things would change, nothing had. She still couldn’t go anywhere. With a sigh, she turned and headed towards the house.
Natlie jumped as a hollow screech echoed across the valley. Shivers ran down her back and she looked towards the gray sky. Another low screech followed but the low clouds hid it from view. She swallowed and watched.
Suddenly, five silhouettes broke through the clouds and dove towards the earth. Natlie caught her breath as the powerful wings brought the dragons closer to her, their cries mingling with the echoes so that she could not tell them apart. As she watched, the tiny, one-inch dragons became six inches, then a foot, and then larger. These were no babies. These were as full grown as one could find.
“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.”
“Colton!” Natlie turned, dropping the bucket, and fled down the hill. Colton had already seen and freed the oxen from the nearby fence post. “Get the animals out of the barn!”
Natlie turned sharply and ran towards the barn. Tied at the fence post, the horse already began fidgeting and whinnying against the rope. She struggled with him a minute before she finally just cut the rope and watch the horse gallop into the bushes.
Natlie turned towards the barn. The dragons’ call became louder, almost like they were being tortured. She just pulled open the door when Colton grabbed her from behind.
“Go onto the the cave. I’ll follow.” He shoved her towards the woods.
Natlie nodded slightly. Her quiver slapped her back as she ran. As soon as she reached the woods, she turned to watch the animals and wait for Colton. Already, the older cows ran towards the woods, with the young ones following in panic. Birch, the dog, herded them towards Natlie at her call but that did little good as they scattered as soon as they reached the woods. The other horse galloped out of the barn. Natlie began to back into the woods, slowly, waiting for Colton still.
A gust of wind sent dirt into her eyes as a blue-gray dragon swooped down on the barn. For a moment, it hovered above the farm, as if to let itself be admired. Then, the orange flame flew from its mouth and it engulfed the house and the barn in one breath.
The buildings flared up like dried weeds due to the weeks with no rain. The dragon beat its wings twice to gain air and waited for the animals to run out. Except there were no animals in there. Only Colton.
Natlie grabbed an arrow and aimed. Something cried out, sounding almost like death, and jarred her into releasing the arrow too soon. Another scream and a figure rushed from the barn, consumed in flames.
Natlie ran towards him but not quickly enough. The dragon dropped immediately and snatched him up, flames at all. She stopped and fired again, this time hitting the beast in the soft spot between the body and the leg. With a screech, it dropped the mass of fire. It fell, splitting apart midair and disappearing behind the house.
“Colton,” she whispered, taking a step towards the house again. It couldn’t be. Colton wouldn’t do anything as foolish as running out randomly. He should be coming out of the barn at any moment, somehow surviving the flames. If anyone, he would know how.
The dragon screeched and turned towards her. Natlie yanked out another arrow and fired. It screamed and flew upward. She grabbed another but Birch shoved his body against her legs, sending her to the ground.
Natlie gasped and looked up. The dragon kept mounting so it was almost out of her reach. She scrambled up and began to run towards the woods, Birch at her side.
Behind her, the farm continued to burn.