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Dragon Hunt – Chapter 1, Part 7 – Visitors
August 6, 2012Posted by on
One day, while Trevan and Gimble were working on a log that was to become one of the side posts for the door, they heard a wagon on the road coming from the direction of Hetsdale. There had been no traffic on the road in either direction in the three weeks that had passed since the dragon attack. As the wagon came into view they could see it was driven by a large muscular man with long blond hair. He was dressed in animal hides and had a very large sword propped up on the seat beside him. Trevan had seen northern barbarians before but never one driving a wagon, and this wagon was like none he had ever seen. It appeared to be assembled from a variety of miss-matched parts and barely hanging together. What was really surprising though was that it was filled with half a dozen human children of various ages. It was being pulled by an old work horse and had all manner of pots, pans, boxes and bags tied to the sides. Yeark, the kobold, hid himself behind the partially completed cabin walls. Trevan called out to the stranger and offered them fresh water from his well. Then he and Gimble walked down to the road to greet them.
The man appeared to be a little un-easy at the sight of the gnome. He said that his name was Ozur and that it was his habit to walk down from the north every few years. He stumbled into Hetsdale about a week ago. All he found was the burned-out shell of a village and these 6 children who were living in the streets. He found the half-starved horse wandering nearby and he was able to build the wagon from the remains of three different wagons. He understood that there was a town called Morningside some distance south and he was hoping to find homes for them there.
Trevan made a large pot of stew and fed them all. They accepted an invitation to camp in the clearing there for the night.
Gimble was handing a cup of water to one of the smaller boys who appeared to be very sad. He took the cup and, using some gnomish magic, chilled it to the point that it was sloshing with ice crystals. Then he colored it a bright red. The boy’s expression changed to one of wonderment. When Ozur saw this he yelled to the boy, “Don’t drink that!” But it was too late, when he tasted it and found that it tasted like sweet strawberries, he broke into a wide smile. Ozur turned to Gimble and said, “Nothing good ever came from magic. I don’t want you to magic up anything around these children.”
“It’s just a sweet drink,” Gimble said. “It couldn’t hurt anyone.”
The other children gathered around and pleaded with Ozur to let the gnome make a red drink for them too. He finally succumbed to their sad, wide eyed faces and backed away. Gimble then made one for each of the children. While they were enjoying their cool treats, he entertained them by making some ashes from the fire dance with him as he sang a familiar tune.
It wasn’t until later that evening, while they were all sitting around the campfire enjoying some fresh mint tea and exchanging stories, that the oldest child, a ten year old black haired girl named Drizzle, asked Gimble, “Aren’t you that funny gnome that works for the blacksmith?”
Ozur looked up with a start, held his big hand out to gently push Drizzle back away from the gnome and asked, “You’re from Hetsdale? How is it that you survived the dragon attack?”
“I ran away,” explained Gimble. “I was hiding behind a tree at the edge of the forest when the dragon arrived. I watched until he started burning the village. Then I ran into the forest and never returned. I could see the fire from a distance. I had no idea that there were any survivors.”
Ozur wasn’t sure that he completely believed Gimble’s story. He was always suspicious of anything he ever heard from a gnome but he could think of no reason for him to be lying about this. Gimble had freely admitted to being a coward. Still, he felt that he was hiding something. At the very least he should have returned to look for survivors.
Gimble asked Drizzle, “Could you tell me what happened after the dragon started to burn the town?”
“No!” thundered Ozur as he rose to frighten Gimble away. “These children have been through enough.”
“It’s okay,” said Drizzle. “I want to tell somebody, but let’s wait until the younger kids are asleep.” She looked around and the two youngest were already asleep. She busied herself making pallets for the children by spreading blankets on the warm grass.
The sun had just fallen behind the hill where work on the cabin had been abandoned for the day. The sky was turning a dark violet and the first stars were starting to appear. Fireflies were beginning to dance in the trees at the edge of the forest and somewhere a lone cricket began to chirp. It was going to be a warm, still night. All of the other children were fast asleep. Trevan, Gimble and Ozur all set on the ground around Drizzle as she began her story. “First, I wish everyone would stop calling him ‘the dragon’. He said his name was Abraxas. He may be the only dragon I ever saw, but I know that all dragons aren’t evil like he is. They can’t be . . .” She stared at the fireflies for a few seconds, fighting back her tears. Then she continued, “Me and Mama was in the kitchen, hiddin’ under the table. I could hear screamin’ and shoutin’. I could hear the shutters rattlin’ like they do in a wind storm. I heard things hittin’ the side of the house. We were there a long time and I was scared. Then he finally came to our house. There was a very loud noise and large pieces of the wall came flying into the kitchen. Some of them landed on the table. Mama pulled me closer and suddenly there was another, louder sound and there was a bright light. He had ripped the roof off and the sun was shining in. I remember smelling rotten eggs.”
“That would be the smell of sulfur,” interjected Trevan.
“Well, it was very strong,” continued Drizzle. “It made me sick to my stomach. Then the table rose into the air and flew away. Mama fell down on top of me and then his big scaly hand scooped us up and he held us up close to his face. I thought he was going to eat us! His teeth were terrible. They had yellowish stains on them. They were bigger than table legs and sharp like a knife. There was smoke coming out of his nose. He was looking at us. His eyes were bigger than a soup pot and they had slits, you know, up and down, like a cat’s eyes. It hurt my ears when he talked because it was so loud. I wanted to cover my ears with my hands, but I was afraid to let go of Mama. I thought I was going to fall.”
“What did he say?” asked Trevan. He moved in a little closer as did Ozur and Gimble. They were all listening intently to the girl’s story.
“He thought Mama was hiding some magic gem of his. She told him that she didn’t have it but he didn’t believe her. He held her and flicked me off to the side. All of a sudden I was flyin’ through the air. I went up real high. I could see the whole village. It looked like everything was burning. When I started back down, my dress caught on the chimney of the house next door. It ripped nearly in two. I was hangin’ by my dress. Then I was able to grab the stones and hold on to the side of the chimney. The very top of the chimney was broke off. The roof of the house was mostly gone and most of the walls and the stuff inside was on fire. There was a lot of smoke coming up around me, but I could see inside our house next door because the roof was missing. I could see Abraxas holding Mama. He said she was lying about the gem, but she wasn’t. He got mad and threw her down on the floor. I think he broke her because she never moved after that. Then he started searching the house. He dumped out all the drawers and boxes be could find and looked through everything that was in them. He kept a couple of things he found. I couldn’t see what they were. There wasn’t much left. Mama had already taken all of our money and stuff to him earlier. Then he busted up all of the furniture and most of the walls and the floor. I guess he was looking for places where we could hide stuff. When he was through he flapped his wings and flew up over the house and set fire to it by breathing fire down on it. Our house burned up with Mama in it.” Drizzle stopped talking for a minute. She looked up at the stars. The sky was getting darker and more stars were coming out. The light from the campfire reflected off a tear that was forming in the corner of her eye. She wiped her eyes on her sleeve and continued, “I saw Abraxas land in the town square and put all of the stuff he wanted into a big box and then the box just disappeared. I watched him fly away before I climbed down off the chimney. Me and the other kids found each other that night and we helped each other as much as we could. We never did find any grown-ups until Ozur showed up.”
“How did you survive on your own?” asked Trevan.
“We looked through all of the houses and found some food that hadn’t all burned up, and we got some stuff out of a garden we found.”
“That’s enough,” said Ozur. “No more questions. She has been through enough. Come Drizzle, lay down now and get some sleep. We’ll start out early tomorrow.”
Trevan and Gimble wished them all a good night and returned to the cabin where Yeark was still hiding. When they got up the next morning, Yeark told them that the wagon and all of its occupants had left before sunup, “And it’s a good thing too. I wasn’t able to get anything done last night from having to keep an eye on them.”