The Arrogant One stared wide-eyed and uncomprehending at the three knights. “There have been no dragons on this world . . . for the past millennia?”
Sir Daniver nodded. “We had heard tales of the beasts, but never saw one until your previous visit to our world, when the evil wish listener brought you and your companions, including this one, here.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/06/03/our-little-odyssey/
Sir Hrolf stroked his chin thoughtfully. “We immediately recognized what she was. We were raised on the epic legends of dragonkind. There were grand tales of heroic knights slaying murderous creatures that ruled the skies and rained fire onto the villages below. There were tender tales of noble dragons who befriended humans and aided them, protecting them from danger, even from others of their kind. But the last report of a dragon sighting is almost lost in the mists of history. Supposedly, an army of knights wiped them from the face of the world a thousand years ago, slaying evil and noble beasts indiscriminately. It was a blot on the escutcheon of the knighthood.”
Sir Jenneseer nodded. “It is told that rather than receiving the hero’s welcome they all expected, the returning knights were stripped of their rank and discharged with dishonor for conduct contrary to the Knight’s Code of Chivalry. Many were disowned by their families as well. It was a dark time.”
“Yes, yes, I am not interested in a history lesson.” The elf scowled and waved dismissively. “We need to return to the safety of the castle. We know not how many of these beasts there may be.”
Sir Hrolf shook his head. “Your companion can not be moved. Her condition is critical. While legend has it that a dragon has the innate ability to heal itself, even from wounds as serious as these, it will take time. We must remain with her and protect her.”
The Arrogant One gaped at the knights. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, and grasped his cloak with both hands. “I have no intention of staying here. We would be no match for that other beast if it caught us out here in the open. We need the protection of the castle . . .”
Before the elf could finish, Sir Daniver backhanded him, knocking him off his feet. “You shame yourself, elf, and you shame your entire race. We will not be tainted by your dishonor. We will stay with the noble beast and guard her for as long as necessary.”
Struggling to his feet, the Arrogant One brushed himself off and glared at the knights. “Do what you will. I refuse to sacrifice myself for a creature that abandoned my quest. The beast pledged to help me find the source of my affliction. Instead, she went off in search of the Lord of the Forest, that . . . that second cousin to a donkey!” He scoffed. “And then the foolish beast was injured to boot! Let her be, I say. She got what she deserved. I intend to save myself!”
He turned on his heel, snatched the reins of his horse, vaulted into the saddle, and galloped off in the direction of the castle.
Sir Hrolf started to go after the elf, but Sir Daniver stopped the younger knight. “Let the elf go. We have an obligation to stay with this helpless creature and protect her – with our very lives, if necessary.”
“But . . .” Sir Hrolf hesitated to defy his commander. “But the elf, too, is in need of our help. There is much open ground between here and the castle.”
Sir Daniver nodded but placed his hand on the younger knight’s shoulder and addressed him firmly. “Let him go. He has made his choice and must face the consequences.”
Sir Hrolf acquiesced. Sir Daniver then directed his two companions to help him move Dragon into the cover of the shade trees. “This will conceal her from any creature flying overhead and help keep her cool.”
It was a monumental task for the three knights to move the huge beast. When they finally had her resting comfortably, Sir Daniver tasked the other knights to erase any signs of their presence from the clearing. “Smooth the grass, repair the areas that have been torn, disguise our trail. I will tend to the beast. I have some salve that might ease the pain of the wounds while the creature heals herself.”
From the top of a nearby hill, nearly invisible against the lush grass and trees, the green drake watched the activity below with intense interest.
* * *
The unicorn stood in front of Dragon’s illusory fireplace. The image of the mythical creature shimmered, fading in and out. My characters backed away, partially, I think, out of respect for the Lord of the Forest, and partially out of fear. Their faces showed equal parts awe and apprehension.
Miles grabbed my hand. “Honey? What is that horse doing in our house?”
I squeezed my husband’s hand. “He’s not a horse, Miles. He’s a unicorn. He’s the Lord of the Forest.”
“Do you remember the tale I told you when my characters and I returned from our nature walk at the Memorial Day picnic last year?”
“Mmm-hmm” My husband’s eyes never left the unicorn.
“Well, this is a creature of great power from the world to which the wish listeners had taken us.” I gave his hand another squeeze before letting go and walking toward the unicorn.
I approached the shimmering form cautiously. I was unsure if this apparition was a solid object or just an incorporeal image. When I stood in front of it, I bowed in a deep obeisance. “Great One! You honor us with your presence.”
The unicorn stood quietly, his eyes searching mine for many long minutes. Finally, he shook his head, wuffled, and started pawing. He looked over at my group of characters.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think he wants to speak with me. I think it is one of you with whom he wishes to speak.” I backed away respectfully.
“But which o ussins do tha beastie be wantin’ ta conversate wit?” My Old Dwarf stared at the creature.
“As the unicorn is a magical creature, it would most likely wish to communicate with someone who possesses great magic.” My Bounty Hunter pointed at Sorceress and my Gypsy. “With Dragon and your Arrogant One gone, these two would be the most likely candidates.”
I beckoned the two forward. They approached the unicorn and stood, waiting. As he had done with me, the creature seemed to search their eyes for many long minutes before repeating his display of shaking his head, wuffling, and pawing. He looked again at the group, then walked toward them, stepping daintily across the carpeted floor. Finally, the shimmering form stopped in front of my Old Dwarf.
“Do na be eyein’ me liken thet, beastie. I do na be havin’ no magickin’.”
The Lord of the Forest reached out and gently touched my Old Dwarf with his horn. The dwarf’s eyes widened, and he began to tremble. Finally, he turned to me. “She be dyin’! Tha beastie be dyin’!” He fell to his knees, and tears ran down his face, soaking his grizzled beard.
“Dragon? Dragon’s dying?” The color drained from my Bounty Hunter’s face.
My Old Dwarf nodded and blubbered, unable to choke out any words.
“Then what of the elf?” My Bounty Hunter whirled around and stalked forward toward the unicorn. “What has happened to the elf?”
The Lord of the Forest shook his head furiously, and he swished his tail. He snorted and bared his teeth at my Bounty Hunter. Then the creature turned back to my Old Dwarf, who was still on his knees, sobbing. The unicorn nickered and placed his head on the dwarf’s shoulder. My Old Dwarf seemed to calm down. Then the unicorn lifted his head and gently touched the dwarf again with his horn.
The dwarf looked at the unicorn and then stood and nodded. “Tha beastie be needin’ me help. I be goin’ wit tha you-nee-corn.”
“But what about the elf?” My Bounty Hunter grabbed my Old Dwarf’s arm. “What has happened to the elf?”
The dwarf shook free of my Bounty Hunter’s grasp and rounded on him, eyes narrowed, voice deep and threatening. “Tha cowardly little popinjay be abandonin’ tha beastie in ’er time o need. He be savin’ ’is own skin.”
My Old Dwarf turned to me. “I be goin’ wit the you-nee-corn. I will na be comin’ back wit’out I be bringin’ tha beastie.”
He grabbed the unicorn’s mane and swung himself up on its back. The two of them galloped across the room, disappearing into the depths of Dragon’s illusory fireplace.
The rest of us stood there, mouths open, eyes wide, unable to move.
Will my Old Dwarf be able to help Dragon? Or will she perish in a strange land, with only the three knights standing vigil? What will happen to my Arrogant One? Will my three characters ever find their way back here, or will they be lost to us forever? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.