Dragon thrashed and convulsed. The pain was excruciating, burning through her shattered body. But she heard a voice, a voice she knew well, the voice of a dear friend, a voice that should not be there. She must warn him! She struggled to say something, but only a scream of agony leapt from her lips. Then she fell silent.
* * *
“Oh, Beastie! Ye mus’ be keepin’ still! Ye mus’ be restin’ so’s ye kin be healin’ yerself!” The Old Dwarf swiped at the tears that streamed down his cheeks and soaked his grizzled beard. “Ye mus’ na be dyin’ on me, Beastie.”
The rotund figure turned toward the Arrogant One. “Do ye be finished wit thet spell o hidin’ out yet?”
The elf frowned. “It is a spell of concealment, and I do not know if I am finished yet.” He wiped the sweat from his brow and dried his hands on his robes. “I have enunciated the proper incantation, but I have no idea if the spell was cast. If you will remember, I have been having difficulty controlling my power. Sometimes I cast a spell perfectly. Other times, my incantations produce no result at all. Still other times, a spell is cast, but it produces unintended results.” The Arrogant One lifted his hands, palms up, and raised his shoulders. “I have no idea if we are hidden from the drake.” He threw himself on the ground next to a tree. “I did warn you I would most likely be of no help.”
“Is there any way to check the results of the spell to see if it was cast and that the desired results were achieved?” Sir Daniver stared down at the elf.
“The only way we will know if it was successfully cast and produced the intended results is if the drake does not find us.” The elf looked apologetically at the knight. “I fear the only course open to us now is to wait.”
The Old Dwarf’s jaw dropped, and his eyes popped. “Ta be waitin’? Iffins we be waitin’ an’ tha spell do na be workin’, then we be tha creature’s dinner!”
The dwarf started pacing. He walked all the way around Dragon’s prone body which lay deathly still now, save an occasional shudder. He gave the beast a desperate look, reached down and stroked her muzzle again, then squared his shoulders and faced the others. “I do na be much likin’ thet plan. I be thinkin’, as wee as I be, I do na be easy ta be seen in tha dark. I be thinkin’ I best be skedaddlin’ outten here and be spyin’ on our unwanted neighbor, mebbe be coaxin’ ’em away.”
All three knights protested. “That is far too dangerous, good dwarf!” Sir Daniver shook his head emphatically.
“It be no more dangerous then it be ta jus’ be settin’ here on our bums, an’ be waitin’ fer tha monster ta be comin’ and eatin’ us.” The dwarf shouldered his axe. “Iffins yer spell be workin’, elfie, where be tha edge? Where do tha protected area be stoppin’ and tha unprotected area be startin’?”
The Arrogant One stood and pointed at Dragon. “The beast is in the center of the area that should be encompassed by the spell. It is a roughly circular area that extends twice her length in every direction, to allow room for her thrashing and writhing. Everything inside should remain completely concealed to anyone outside that perimeter. No one outside should be able to see or hear those of us within the spell area.”
The Dwarf nodded. “Wale, I be leavin’ tha area. Iffin I do na be seein’ or hearin’ ye, I be supposin’ thet be meanin’ tha spell be workin’ good an’ proper like, and all ye be safe enuf while I be sayin’ me howdy-do’s ta tha drake.”
The Arrogant One grabbed the dwarf by the arm. “That will not work. First, you are a dwarf. You are not affected by magic, so you will still be able to see and hear us even if the spell worked properly. Second . . .”
But Sir Jenneseer interrupted, squaring his shoulders and grabbing his sword. “Then, it is up to one of us to test the spell. I will go.”
Sir Daniver stopped him. “No! I am the ranking knight. I will go.”
The elf shook his head. “No. I do not believe that will not work, either. That is the second thing I was going to explain to the dwarf. You were all within the affected area when I cast the spell. None of you are concealed from any of the others here. If one of you left the area, you would still be able to see and hear the rest, as well as be seen and be heard by us. And once you leave the protected area – presuming the spell actually took, and there really is a protected area – you would be seen and heard by anyone outside the area. The spell would not travel with you.”
The Old Dwarf scowled. “Ye be yammerin’ aboot too many iffins an’ whatnots. I be goin’. Mebbe I kin na be tellin’ iffin tha spell be workin’, but I kin be findin’ thet drake an’ be makin’ sure he do na be knowin’ tha whereaboots o all ye.”
Before anyone could stop him, the dwarf took off at a dead run and was promptly swallowed up by the dark shadows in the forest.
* * *
The green drake had stopped his slow descent down the hillside. He could still taste the fear in the air, but it was much less pronounced than it had been just minutes before. He narrowed his reptilian eyes and scratched his chin with one long talon. What has changed? Why do they not fear as they did?
The behemoth risked raising his head and looking around. The moonless night had grown dark, but the drake’s exceptional night vision allowed him to see as clearly as in broad daylight. He looked down the hillside to the clearing, to the spot from which the smell of fear had emanated. The small clearing appeared empty. The drake reared back. What? How could they have moved the wounded dragon?
Out of the corner of his eye, the drake caught a slight movement. Something was making its way from the clearing through the trees and up the hillside. He sniffed the air. Intriguing! This creature does not smell of fear; rather, it exudes the overpowering scent of rage. Not as tasty as fear, but not too bitter a mouthful.
The creature slid down into the cover of the vegetation. Come to me, my tasty tidbit. You will make a satisfying appetizer. He smiled, his lips stretching over dagger-like teeth dripping with venom.
* * *
The Old Dwarf slipped silently from tree to tree, staying in the cover of the shadows. He moved slowly, with the skill and patience of one boasting centuries of practice stalking peerless foes.
He paused, cocking his head and cupping one ear. He could still hear the faint moans of his friend, Dragon, and the whispered conversations of the elf and the trio of knights. I be hopin’ real hard thet tha elfie’s magickin’ be workin’, causin iffin it do na be, thet drake’ll be hearin’ ’em fer sure! Do na they be havin’ brains enuff ta be keepin’ their moufs shut tight?
The rotund figure peered about, his sharp eyes almost slipping right over his quarry, so well camouflaged was the green drake in the shadowy vegetation. Once the Old Dwarf spotted the creature, he studied it for several minutes before making a move.
The dwarf turned and stomped loudly on a twig. Making sure the drake had heard him, the grizzled warrior took off at a dead run . . . and promptly tripped over a protruding root. He struggled clumsily to his feet, and started limping away, cursing under his breath. He could hear the drake bearing down on him.
The Old Dwarf tripped and stumbled his way along the hillside, farther and farther from his friends in the clearing. The drake was catching up with him quickly. The dwarf strained to stay out of reach of the deadly fangs and claws. Finally, he reached an area of almost impassable vegetation. His limp vanished, and he disappeared into the underbrush, scampering along like a mouse. Hehe. Be seein’ iffin ye kin be keepin’ up wit me now, ye accursed monster! Every so often, the dwarf made sure to make some noise, to keep the drake from abandoning the chase.
* * *
The mermaid, resplendent with emerald green hair and scales, sat in the water by the edge of a pool. She stared into a large bubble hovering above her hand at eye level, watching a distant scene unfold. The green drake was crashing through the thick forest and dense underbrush, hot on the trail of the grizzled old dwarf. The plucky dwarf always managed to keep a few feet ahead of his pursuer.
“Why, that cunning rascal! He faked tripping over those protruding roots, to lure the drake away from the other dragon and her companions while the elf and the knights plan a defense. And the dwarf’s limp disappeared as soon as he reached adequate cover! He’s staying in an area of thick undergrowth, so the drake would be unable to see him at all if the monster took to the air! The dwarf has virtually grounded the drake.”
The unicorn, peering over the mermaid’s shoulder to see, bobbed his head and stamped his front hoof, splashing the shallow water. He placed his horn gently along the mermaid’s head, by her temple. She listened carefully to the voice in her head.
“You want to see the other dragon?” The mermaid wrinkled her brow.
The Lord of the Forest nodded again.
The mermaid waved her hand over the bubble, and the scene changed. She and the unicorn watched intently as the dragon convulsed. They could see the expression on the faces of the knights. The men were obviously distraught, but impotent to do anything for the ailing beast.
The unicorn laid his horn against the mermaid’s temple once again, and she closed her eyes to concentrate on the instructions the Lord of the Forest was conveying. After a long few moments, she nodded. “Yes, the dragon needs help. The drake’s venom must be neutralized. The knight called Jenneseer has a sister who is a hedge witch. She would be able to provide the antidote to her brother and his companions.”
The mermaid waited until the unicorn nodded his approval. “I will send someone to arrange it. I just hope we can get it done in time.”
The Lord of the Forest whickered softly and nodded, a faraway look in his eye.
Will Dragon receive the antidote in time? Will the Old Dwarf be able to keep the drake away from Dragon and her companions? Will the elf be able to help the knights mount a defense against the drake? Be sure to return next week and find out what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.