Time of the Dragon Slayers (part 8)
The last one. Remember, the story is on the side bare there.
Between the small fire and Justin’s cloak, the cold stayed away as best it could that damp night. Justin knew how to make the small cave her family always used as a refuge against the dragons cheery and provided warm food for them both. But not before they set up a small stone for Colton in the little birch grove where the rest of her family rested. Although she hated the fact, that was all they could do. There was nothing to bury.
Justin lowered himself next to her after tossing on another log. He stuffed his pipe meticulously and inhaled deeply before he looked at her.
“Are you ready to hear my plan?”
Natlie looked at him. “Your plan for what?’
“My plan for tomorrow.” He waited for her to respond. She nodded slightly. He took a deep breath. “We take the animals probably only as far as Galatia, and sell them for what they’re worth. After that, we head towards Salworth.”
“The summer capital?”
“Why? That’s–that’s almost on the other side of the country. What about–the land and the dragons and–everything?”
Justin turned towards the fire and let out a long sigh. “The fact is, Natlie, that–no one wants the dragon slayers any more. It isn’t just your town. People are doing it everywhere along the dragons’ nest.”
“Surely not now though! Not after….” She swallowed and looked towards the fire.
“I thought the same thing. Unfortunately, they are all the more determined in Basham Heights.”
The lump in Natlie’s throat became colder and harder. If they did not see now, when would they see?
“I want you to come with me, Natlie. The time of the dragon slayers is over for now. They might come back eventually but they will need at least a year. Until then, no one will be hunting dragons. Not even myself.”
“What are you going to do?”
Justin paused for a long moment. “I’m retiring and going home.”
Natlie looked at him sharply. “But you said–”
“I can find dragons to kill, Natlie. The fact that I killed that one earlier proves it. But I cannot kill dragons if no one will allow me to travel in the area the dragons frequent, or sell the skins. So I’m going to go home for some time and live at my father’s house again. Maybe give a few fencing lessons here and there.” He shrugged. “Depending on how things are, maybe start supporting myself in the real world. I don’t know. I’ll just let life carry me along as it wills, like I always do.”
Natlie twisted her finger around his cloak for a long time.
“I think that my mother would be honored to have you as a guest. It won’t be the same–obviously–as here but I think you’ll fit in fine enough. Everyone is always so curious about those who have seen dragons and there won’t be much court since most everyone would have moved to the winter capital by now. Or their lands, as the politics strikes them.”
Natlie looked at him sharply. “What do you mean by court?”
Justin paused. “My father is Lord Christopher Kale.”
Natlie looked at him sharply. “The prime minister?”
He nodded slightly, a faint smile flickering across his face. “But there’s nothing to worry about, Natlie. You’re just a friend of mine and that’s all there is.” He paused and threw a stick in the fire. “You gave me a home when I didn’t need one. I want to give you one when you do. If things change here or you decide you don’t like it there or anything, you still have your land and the money from the animals. You can come back again. But–I don’t think it is safe here anymore.”
Natlie searched his face. He looked at her sincerely and honestly, just waiting. She swallowed and looked away. Colton wouldn’t like the idea of her leaving the land. It was their land, he would say, and they had every right to keep it to themselves and to do as they pleased. Even fight the dragons for it.
But what else could she do? She had no one and with her brother’s history, few people in town would be likely to help her. With her own history, few people would. She injured enough of the dragons after all.
She looked at the fire. For some reason, it sounded like she heard Colton’s voice instead of her own as her thoughts. She understood him now. He said it was their land to convince both her and himself as to why they had to say. But he wanted to protect her. He wanted… he wanted to leave. He would want her to leave too now, given the chance, so that she could be safe.
Natlie looked up at him. “Very well, Justin. I’ll–I’ll go.”
He squeezed her hand. “Thank you.”