Time of the Dragon Slayers (part 7)
The (so far) complete verson of “Time of the Dragon Slayers” is there on one of my pages, if you haven’t read the beginning.
For some reason, Natlie expected when she came back to the farm Colton would be there, looking tall and solemn across the land. She’d touch his shoulder gently and he’d look at her with a sad expression. “We’ll rebuild,” he’d say. “We’ll rebuild it all, just like it’s always was.”
But only blackened dirt met her. Not even the frame of the house stood. Just a pile of black soot that had begun to fan out into wisps because of the wind. Everything else–the barns, the house, the chicken coop, the fences–had vanished in one night. Even the grain that Colton just threshed had vanished, eaten up by the greedy flames.
Without the buildings and the grain, Natlie could easily see the crossbow that guarded the main road, a black silhouette against the sky, a burnt skeleton just as her house but not by the dragons. No. To protect the dragons. To protect the same thing that caused this much harm.
Natlie screamed and threw a rock as hard as she could. It clattered down the hill and disappeared. How foolish did they think they could be? The dragons were the enemies. The dragons were just animals. Ruthless, heartless, brainless animals.
The rain began to patter around her in gentle, cold drops, a quiet reminder of the coming winter. But–she had no one now. No one to help her build a house. And even if she did build one, how long would it last before the dragons came again to attack? How long before all the animals were eaten? How long before whole land was as black as where her house once stood?
They had to protect themselves. They could not rebuild unless they protected themselves first. She knew of only one way to protect herself.
Natlie ran across the fields towards the giant crossbow. She slowed as she approached it, surveying the damage. All the burnt parts had to go. It could not shoot the arrow far enough with that weak of wood. Then, she would need fresh wood. Those in town should help now–now that they saw what happened when they did not fight.
The rain began to quicken as Natlie climbed up the structure. Angrily, she shoved a burnt log out of the way. It tumbled to the ground and shattered. She pushed on another one but it didn’t budge. She shoved harder.
“Move already! Move!” She kicked it.
She realized she was crying. The rain fell around her, soaking through her clothes. She shoved it again but it only moved slightly.
“Move!” She kicked it. “Move! Move!” It didn’t listen. The rain continued to fall around her.
A quiet rustling and Birch’s bark caused her to turn. Behind her rested a young dragon in the middle of the field with water running off its blue back in small streams. It tucked a wing against its body like an injured animal and stared at her quietly. The blood mingled with the rain under the wing and fell to the ground in red streams.
Natlie began to reach for an arrow but paused. The sad face watched her mournfully with sad, golden eyes. “I’m sorry,” it seemed to say. “I’m sorry all this happened.” Its head swayed slightly from side to side, like animals often did when in pain. This creature was as helpless as she. All the other dragons left it alone to die solely because it was injured, just like she was now alone. This ruin wasn’t its fault.
She slipped off the crossbow and stood still for a moment, waiting for it to respond. The dragon laid its head to the ground, its yellow eyes still watching her. Cautiously, she took a step towards it. It would not harm her. It knew that she only wanted to help. Another step and another. The dragon did not move at all, just waited, like it could read her mind. It knew that she meant it no harm. She only wanted to help it.
Natlie blinked, feeling like someone was trying to wake her from a dream.
She looked behind her. Immediately, an arrow flew past her. The dragon screamed in agony as it tried to fly away. Justin grabbed her wrist and pulled her back as the dragon fell into the crossbow, dead.
Natlie shoved herself away. “What did you–” She paused, staring at him. He caught her hands and searched her face earnestly for something. She swallowed and licked her lips. It was just a dragon. Now, it was dead dragon. She had no reason to be angry. She never should have even cared.
Natlie slumped against Justin and he wrapped his arms around her, shielding her with himself. “I know, Natlie. I know.”
“Why?” she whispered. “Why did I want that dragon to live so badly?”
He paused for a long minute. “It’s a defense the dragons have. They–make you attached to themselves so that you do not feel like you can kill it. It has become much more common and almost never ends well for the person.”
Natlie shuddered and buried her face against him. The rough dragon scales scratched her hands but she did not care. He had just saved her life. If she had kept moving, that dragon would have eaten her the moment she came close enough. The stories about people befriending dragons were fiction. It probably just wanted food.
“I saw your farm,” he whispered.
Natlie nodded slightly, a lump rising in her throat.
At his name, Natlie began to sob. Justin seemed to understand for he held her close in the middle of the field and rocked her gently, murmuring things in her ear that she never comprehended. The tears continued to flow, as steadily as the rain. For a long time, they stood like that in the middle of the field, each one clinging to the other and the rain hiding both their tears.