Gender: Male Age: 21 Location: N/A
|Introduction: Not my Storie|
Don was awakened by a hand shaking him softly. He rolled over and blinked his eyes clear. He couldn't make out the person standing over him, and he mumbled incoherently.
"Your turn at watch, buddy," Gill said quietly, so as not to wake Kate, who was softly snoring next to Don.
It took Don a moment or two to remember what the hell Gill was talking about. After that, he came rapidly awake, realizing he wasn't lying in his bedroom, which would, of course, explain why his bed was so hard. He shook his head at Gill to acknowledge him, but Gill waited until Don was sitting up and stretching before he moved off to sleep next to his own sister.
Don did a few stretches to work out the stiffness he'd gotten from lying on a cold, hard surface. He looked over at his sister, who was sleeping soundly. Her body was outlined in the dwindling firelight. He couldn't help himself, and he stroked her soft wing with his hand. She murmured in her sleep, but did not wake. He left her to walk to the edge of their campsite, as far away from the fire as he dared go. Although it was colder this way, his night vision would be a little better, so long as he kept his eyes away from the fire.
He hadn't been camping in a long time, but the sounds of the forest brought it all back to him. He heard an owl hooting, and the flapping of what he hoped were just bats. Then he heard a distant howl, long and low, that sounded very much like a wolf. He hoped the sound would stay distant. He had no illusions about their ability to take on wild animals just yet. Although Susan could probably take down one animal with her bow, or even two, a whole pack of wolves would certainly be trouble.
He wandered quietly in a wide circle around the camp, trying to peer into the darkness, to see if anything was there. The firelight reflecting off the trees was killing any ability he had to see anything beyond the meadow, and so he concentrated on his hearing, hoping that sound would carry any necessary warnings.
His hope of this was dashed when he felt a soft hand touching his arm. He nearly jumped out of his skin as he felt it. When he finally got his heart restarted, Kate whispered, "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."
He nodded at her, still not quite ready to speak. How had he not heard her get up? Finally, he asked, "Why aren't you sleeping?"
"I can't sleep alone in this place. It gives me the creeps. Mind if I keep watch with you?" Her voice was small and pleading. He couldn't possibly resist. He gave her a hug - easier to do when her wings were folded - and nodded his head. They walked the circle together, not speaking so that they wouldn't wake the others.
The morning revealed a blood-red sky that indicated nasty weather for the day. As soon as it was light enough, Kate resumed her flying practice by flying just above the trees, so she could see the coming storm. She came back with her weather report.
"It looks pretty nasty off to the east and the south. I can't tell how quick it's moving, but I did hear a faint rumble of thunder."
"And me without my galoshes," Don quipped. Kate didn't like thunderstorms very much, so he knew this was going to be a rough day for her. "We'll be okay, but we should probably get moving soon. We can't stay here forever." On further thought, he said, "Your flying seems to be getting a lot better."
"Well, I'm not crashing into things any more," she answered.
He chuckled at her. "Could you do a little recon for me?" Seeing her confused look, he explained, "Fly up to about two or three hundred feet, and see what's north of us. That's the direction the scroll told us to go, but I don't want to run into anything really nasty our first day out."
"What if I fall?" she said, suddenly frightened.
"You won't. Look, if you start to get tired, come down immediately, no matter what you've seen. But if you can make it, it would be a big help."
"Okay," she said, not really sure of herself, but her brother's confidence buoyed her. She took off, heading straight up out of the clearing.
"Wish I could do that," Paul said, coming up beside Don. They both watched her, Don in concern, and Paul in amazement. "My knee would sure as hell feel better about it."
"I suppose. Bad weather coming today," Don told him. "A big storm in the southeast."
"Shouldn't it miss us, then? I mean, don't storms move east?"
"They do on Earth, but do you want to assume that here? Besides, the wind is blowing from the east at the moment. We're going to have to get moving right after breakfast. Are the others up yet?" The camp was behind him, and he didn't feel like taking his eyes off his sister.
"Julie's up, but Gill and Susan are still sleeping."
"Makes sense. He got the worst shift. I'll take middle shift tonight."
Kate descended from her lookout position then, and landed lightly on the ground. Don smiled at her in praise. She blushed.
"I can't see much other than more forest. It looks like there might be a clearing that way, but it's pretty far off, so I can't make it out very well.
"Okay. Good enough. Thanks. Let's get some breakfast."
The first loud roll of thunder arrived just as they began their walk into the forest. Kate jumped at hearing it, and Don put his hand on her shoulder, to show support. Behind them, Susan and Gill walked together, not speaking at the moment, and Julie and Paul brought up the rear. Julie was actually hanging on Paul's left arm, while he kept his staff in his right. He was enjoying having her there, but was a little puzzled at her sudden rush of affection.
Kate grew more and more skittish as the storm approached. They walked on as fast as they could without getting tired too quickly. The storm was moving more quickly than they, however, and it was less than an hour before it arrived on top of them. The first sprinkles made it appear to be nothing more than a summer shower, but everyone knew that was not to be. Don pulled the hood up on his robe, and Paul raised the hood on his cloak, but the others were left unprotected from the weather.
Kate was the worst off, for her outfit was rather skimpy, and the rain was cold. Finally, she could stand it no longer, and did what she hadn't wanted to do. She unfolded her wings, and brought them together over her head, forming an umbrella of feathers. Her wings didn't seem to be bothered by the cold or the wet, and it kept her mostly dry, except for her legs, which were already soaked, anyway.
Don smiled encouragingly at her, and gently wrapped his arm around her waist for a moment, to let her know he was concerned for her. She smiled at him as she hugged herself, trying to warm up a bit. Behind them, Susan looked at Kate with a half-sneer.
"Freak," she uttered.
"Stuff it, sis," Gill hissed at her. Susan thought to give a nasty reply, but again, something kept her from it. Why could she not put these people in their place?
Their walk continued on in misery. All of them were drenched. Julie and Kate were both shivering from the cold. Paul had wrapped his cloak around his sister, so that his body warmth and the cloak would help to warm her. Don wished he had something to do to help his sister, but he wasn't wearing much beneath his robe, and so couldn't mimic Paul's actions.
They walked on.
The rain slowed in the late morning, but it showed no signs of stopping. By the time they paused for lunch, everyone was thoroughly miserable. They sat in silence, eating their food without conversation, each person alone in their wetness and chill. Don rubbed his sister's arms in an attempt to warm her, but it was simply too cold in the rain. She appreciated the gesture, and her brief smile warmed his heart, but it looked as if they were just going to have to tolerate this disgusting weather for now.
After he finished his lunch, Don decided to look through his magic book briefly to see if there was anything in it that could help them deal with this weather. His hand reached inside his robe, but he reached too far. His hand brushed against a small fastener he'd not noticed before. Curious, he pulled his robe away from his body far enough for him to look in. He realized that there were a series of such fasteners along the length of his robe, on either side. Really big pockets? he thought to himself at first, but on checking, it didn't seal at the bottom. It was merely an extension to the garment. Maybe that's in case I get really fat, he thought with a chuckle. He dismissed it, and reached for the book.
While Don was looking through the book, Gill came over and sat down beside him. He stared off into the rain for a little bit, and then looked over at Susan, who was sitting quietly beneath a tree. This was unlike her, because she was usually the one telling others what needed to be done. Now, she just waited for the group to get moving again.
"Don? Have you noticed anything weird about the girls?"
Don looked up from the book. "Hmm? Other than the fact that I have an Elf for a sister, you mean? Not really, why?"
"Doesn't Susan's behavior strike you as odd?"
"She's normally a lot bitchier than this."
Don chuckled. "True, I guess. Maybe she's just not gotten her bearings back yet, after being naked in front of all of us."
"Damned nice bod, though, huh?"
"I don't know, Don. I think something's up. I mean, Paul has mentioned that Julie is being a lot more affectionate, too."
"Not... well, now that you mention it, I guess she has been a little more dependent on me than she usually would be. But I just figured that was because she was scared."
"Maybe. But I think it's weird that all three of them are acting that way." Gill sat silently for a minute. "Why do you think the game asked all those sex questions?"
Don didn't answer, only because he had been about to voice the very same question. They looked at each other, and Don nodded almost imperceptibly. He said, "But what are we supposed to do about it, anyway?"
"I don't know. I'll try to talk with Paul about it when we get going again."
"We need to find out if it's true before any of us does anything... rash."
"Agreed. I'll see if Paul has any ideas."
The group got moving shortly after Gill got up. Don looked back at the group a couple of times, and noticed that Susan and Julie were now walking together, so that the boys could talk quietly between themselves. Don thought to drop back and join the discussion, but figured he'd just let them come to some kind of decision. Besides, Kate was so distraught that she really needed him with her right now. She was chilled to the bone, and she was scared out of her mind, and she was clinging to him as her last thread of sanity.
The forest changed not a bit as they continued their walk. The rain came and went, but never stopped completely. A cold, chilly mist joined the rain to add to their misery. It was an utterly disgusting day, and they walked on through it like men to the gallows: heads down, conversations in whispers if at all, eyes looking only at the path before them.
For hours they walked without any change in their condition. It was apparently reaching nightfall, something that was only obvious because the light was dimming. Neither the path nor the sky above them showed any signs of changing.
Without warning, a large beast broke from the forest around them, lunging for Kate. Don quickly swept her back, turning himself so he was between her and what turned out to be a very large forest cat. A light green coat of fur was cut through with brown stripes, and no one had seen the animal, lying silently in the trees.
The cat's first lunge missed, but it swiped a giant paw at Don, slashing his side with its claws. He and Kate stumbled to the ground, and the cat began to advance.
Susan reacted as soon as she saw the animal, but she didn't think she'd have enough time. The cat was too close. She had an arrow out, and was stringing it in the bow, but the large animal was only feet away from her two friends.
Then, suddenly, Don stretched out his hand and shouted something. A burst of light surged forth, and dazzled the creature. It would have dazzled Susan, too, if she hadn't been so focused on the cat. The forest cat faded back a little, waiting for its eyes to clear, but Susan wasn't giving it that chance. With a heavy twang, her arrow flew, and embedded itself deeply into the creature's side. Another arrow strung, she approached the cat, who was snarling fiercely, but lying on its side in pain. The second arrow, aimed at the head, ended the creature's suffering.
It took several minutes for the group to settle down. Kate was shaking so badly now that she couldn't have stood if she'd tried. Don was wounded and bleeding, but Julie, who had taken first aid, was able to bandage that. He thanked her for it, and she smiled at him, which was unusual for her, since he wasn't her type, and she only smiled to flirt. Gill gave his sister a pat on the back, which lingered into a soft stroking of her lower back.
"Good work Susan," he offered, wondering how she would react.
Her initial reaction to his touch was unfavorable, but the longer he kept his hand on her, the better it felt. Finally, she said, "Thank you, sir." Sir again? What the hell is the matter with me!
Gill noticed the change in her, but he said nothing. He let his hand linger another few seconds, and then he left her to herself, to go see how his friends were doing.
Paul was standing with Don, who was looking through the book. Finally, he found what it was he wanted. He moved his hands and uttered some words that were unintelligible to the others. A shimmering effect occurred around Don, and that was it.
"Healing spell?" Paul asked.
"No, I haven't found one of those. This one just fixed my robe." Sure enough, the slash marks from the animal were gone. Don turned to Gill. "You think you can skin this thing?" he gestured to the cat.
"I can try. I've never done anything this big, but I used to skin rabbits when I was a kid.
"Give it a shot. I want to try to make something to keep Kate warm. She's freezing to death in this weather."
"Gotcha. Let me go to work."
Paul said, "Don, I think we should stop here for tonight."
"I don't think we've got much choice. Kate won't be able to go anywhere until she settles down. Not that I blame her much."
Paul shook his head. "What about a fire?"
"No room. We start a fire here, we're liable to burn down the forest around us. That assumes we could get any of this sopping wet wood to burn, anyway."
"I suppose. Nothing in that book that can help us?"
"Not that I've found so far."
"Hmph. Not a very damned useful book."
"You're telling me. Well, we'll wait until Gill is finished, then we'll eat dinner, and go to sleep."
Gill, who was listening in while he was skinning the cat, asked, "What's the guard rotation?"
"You get first watch," Don answered. "Wake me up for middle watch, and Paul will get the last watch."
"Without any stars or moon, how will we tell when our watch is up?" Gill asked.
"Good question," Paul agreed.
"Wait, I think I remember a spell that would help with that..." He rummaged through the book for a while, and came up with it. It was hard to read in the fading light, but he finally managed to get the spell in his head. He put the book away, and chanted the spell. In front of him, a small ball of yellow light formed, hovering there. It gave off enough light to read by, but no warmth at all. Don explained, "The spell will wear off after a given amount of time. This ball will fade in an hour. Right before we bed down, I'll make one that will last three hours, so that when it fades, we change watch."
"Cool. Plus, it'll give us a little light to work by, if we need to do something," Paul said.
"True. Now, I'm going to see if I can help Kate. I'm really worried about her."
After Don left, Paul bent down to help Gill finish up with the cat. Looking over to make sure Don couldn't hear him, Paul said, "When the time comes, wake me up instead of Don. He's got enough to deal with, taking care of his sister, and trying to keep us on track."
Gill gave him a look, and nodded in agreement. "If we're going to make it out of here in one piece, he's our best bet. Hell, if we really are stuck in a game, he's always been the best of us at playing them."
Paul nodded, and then they continued to work in silence.
After they had their dinner, Don cast one more spell, this one over the cat skin that had been removed from the carcass. The spell was a tanning spell, but it would take a few hours to finish its work. He cast another glow-ball, and then he settled next to his sister. The rain had abated, finally, into a light drizzle mixed with a mist. It was cold and damp and dreary. Kate tried to snuggle as close to him as possible, but still she was shivering badly. He had tried to cast a drying spell on her, but the weather made that an impossibility: there simply was nowhere for the water in her clothing to go.
He hugged her tightly, feeling her shiver as they sat back against a tree. No one wanted to actually lie down on this ground. Susan was hunkered down against a tree about twenty feet away, and Paul and Julie were huddled together across from her. Gill was walking back and forth quietly along the path.
"I'm sorry, sis," Don whispered. "I don't know what else to do."
"So c-c-cold," she stuttered back. The night had brought with it a chill as bad as the rain's.
Just then, Don thought about his robe. He wasn't wearing anything under it, so he couldn't give it to her. All of their old clothes were soaked clear through, and so would be no help. But his robe had that extra fabric. Would she go for it? I guess all I can do is suggest it.
"Kate?" She looked up at him expectantly. "There is one option, but I don't know if you'll go for it."
"Right n-now I'd d-do just ab-bout anything."
Don reached in and unfastened the extra length of his robe. Then he explained. "This robe is expandable. It has extra fabric. Maybe I can wrap it around both of us. Between the covering, and our body heat, it should warm you up at least a little. Of course, I'm not wearing a whole lot under this robe, sis..."
"It's ok-kay. I n-need to g-get warm."
He unfastened the outer clasp, and tried to wrap the fabric around them both. There was no easy way to do it with them sitting side-by-side. It just wasn't working.
"Um, Katie, I think the only way we're going to make this work is if you sit in my lap. Sorry, but that looks like the only way."
She didn't hesitate, but immediately climbed into his lap, facing him. She wrapped her arms around his back inside the robe as he fastened it around the two of them. Maneuvering around her wings was a challenge, but he managed to work it out. Finally, it was done, and he could feel his sister's shivering subside. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her tightly to him, to better help her warm up. Or so he told himself. He hoped she was too preoccupied to notice his hard-on. His sister was beautiful, and well-endowed, and she was sitting in his lap. It was hard not to think impure thoughts. He kissed her lightly on the cheek as she closed her eyes and laid her head against his shoulder.
"Good night, sis."
"Good night, Donny. Thanks." It wasn't long before they both faded off to sleep.
Gill had stayed at the other end of camp when he noticed what Don was doing. He didn't want Kate to become embarrassed or nervous. It was a smart solution to her problem. It didn't settle in Gill's mind, though, whether or not she'd changed. As cold as she was, she'd have gone for almost any idea that got her warm. He still wondered about Susan's behavior, though. He figured he'd have to start pushing her just a little bit at a time, to see if she really was changing in her behavior toward him. It would be at least an interesting diversion to this interminable walking.
Gill woke Paul some time after the glow ball faded. The rain had finally stopped, and the mist was fading away. Gill made sure that Paul was fully awake, and then he went over to sleep by his sister, who murmured something as he sat down, but didn't awaken. Unconsciously, she slumped over and rested against him. He put his arm around her in a brotherly fashion, and she mumbled something before returning to her restful state.
Paul stretched and yawned. His sleep for the night was finished, but that was okay, for he'd never needed a lot of sleep. He looked down at Julie, sleeping peacefully with a coy smile on her face. He wondered what boy she was dreaming of.
He wandered back and forth quietly, trying to concentrate on keeping guard, but it was difficult to concentrate on nothing at all. His mind drifted to the situation at hand. Were they really in a game? Was his real body still back in Don's room? Or was it more complex than that? He knew that, as dismal as the previous day had been, it had still been nice to have a change from his dull existence back home. And, truth be told, having Julie hanging off his arm was starting to grow on him. One of the things that tied all three of the boys together was that they'd had a crush on their sisters at one time or another. Each of them secretly still did, but that secret wasn't going to last much longer, if the girls were changing as Gill had suggested. Paul wondered if that was part of the game, or if there was something else going on. He paced back and forth, letting his mind stray over these thoughts as his eyes and ears kept guard.
The first thing Don noticed upon waking was that it was already morning. He wondered if something had happened, and quickly looked around, but he saw Paul leaning against a tree at the other end of camp, so things were obviously all right.
The next thing he noticed was that there was still a very soft and warm body lying against him. Kate was breathing softly into his ear. It was a peaceful sound, and he sat for a few moments listening to it. Sometime during the night, he had slipped his arms inside his robe, and his hands were resting against the silky skin of his sister's back. His fingers unconsciously drew little circles against that skin, and she mewled in her sleep. His hands slipped across her back, and he accidentally brushed them down against her ass as she shifted positions. He didn't have time to move them before her eyes opened. She wasn't alarmed at his touch, and she didn't move away from him. She leaned her head back and looked at him dreamily.
"Morning, Donny," she mumbled quietly.
"Good morning." He was scared, now, to move his hands. To move them would draw attention to something that she might be currently unaware of. And, truth be told, her ass felt very nice.
"You know," she said, breaking his concentration, "you didn't have to wait until I was asleep to feel me up." She giggled at the shocked look on his face. She turned serious and said, "Thanks for last night. I'm not sure I would have made it without you." She didn't let him answer as she kissed him on the lips.
Don was hardly ready for her actions, but he recovered quickly, and kissed back. He felt her tongue insistently pressing against his lips, and opened them to admit it. Their tongues slid against each other, and his hands involuntarily squeezed her ass in response. She moaned very softly into his mouth, as her own hands ran along his back.
They continued for a few moments, but then broke the kiss, afraid they would wake the others and draw attention to themselves. "Thank you very much, Donny," she whispered into his ear.
"You're welcome. And thank you for the wakeup."
She smiled softly at him. "You deserve it. You probably saved my ass last night. Twice."
"Well, it's such a nice ass," he quipped. She wriggled in his grasp.
"You ought to know by now," she said slyly. He gave her one final squeeze, and then moved his hands back up to her back.
"You're going to have to get up," he said.
"But I like it here," she pouted cutely.
He chuckled. "Maybe, but I doubt you'll like it if I pee all over you."
"Ew! Okay. Um... you have to unbutton us." They both giggled, and he put his arms back through the robe's sleeves, and then undid the fasteners. She got up, and then helped him up. He staggered a bit.
"My legs are just a little numb," he said in explanation. She smiled at him, and he blew her a kiss before he wandered off behind a tree.
Paul had watched the two of them, discreetly, throughout the encounter. So. It looks like Kate has been affected by this place. I know those two are close, but I don't think they normally make out every morning. Of course, they don't generally wake up in each other's arms, quite literally, every morning, either. But I really think something is going on. I'll have to talk to Don and Gill about it later.
After everyone was awake, and eating, Don wandered over to where Susan and Gill were sitting. Susan looked up at him.
"Someone's awfully perky this morning," she said sourly.
"Yeah, well, I'm well rested." He looked at Gill accusingly. "Someone forgot to wake me for my turn at watch."
"Kate needed you," he said simply. Don nodded his thanks at his friend's understanding. Then he bent down on one knee, to look Susan in the eyes.
"And I didn't get a chance to thank you for saving me and my sister."
"That's what I'm here for, sir," she answered, and the warm flush running through her body at his praise made her forget to question why she'd called him sir.
Don nodded to her, and gave Gill a meaningful look as he rose to rejoin his sister. Gill ran his hand along his sister's back, and she shivered at the feel of it, making no objection. "You did good work, Susan." Again, her body flushed, and a soft smile came across her face. Gill took note of all of it.
It didn't take long before the group got underway. The forest cat's skin had been crudely lashed together into a warm garment for Kate, but today she didn't need it: the temperature was already warm, and steadily climbing. The meat of the cat had been wasted, as no one had a way to cure it, and without the ability to make a fire, they couldn't even cook it. It was already beginning to stink by the time they departed. On further reflection, everyone thought it strange that no predators or scavengers had come to collect the body during the night.
This day's walk was rather more pleasant than the day before. The forest was full of sounds, and the sun shimmered through the trees. They trekked on, moving swiftly along the path, hoping to find something that would lead them to the yellow dragon, and home.
After a while, Don dropped back, leaving Kate in the lead. He wanted to talk to the other boys privately. The girls all moved ahead, so they wouldn't disturb the conversation.
"Okay, so what have we decided about the girls?" Don asked quietly.
"Did you see the way Susan reacted to you?"
"Yeah. Normally, there would have been a nasty comment in her reply."
"Also," Paul said, "Julie and Kate are both far more affectionate than I've ever seen them."
"True, I guess," said Don.
"How do we test it?" Gill wanted to know.
"Hell if I know," answered Don.
"Well, there is the obvious way, but which one of us wants to risk it?"
"Shit, Don's damn near sleeping with Kate already!" The other two hushed him, but the girls didn't look back.
"I'm not sure I can push her like that, guys. I mean, she's my sister, and she's counting on me."
"But you wouldn't object if she came on to you, is that it?" Paul asked, knowingly.
"Well..." Don answered. He grinned, and the other two nodded.
"I don't think Julie's ready yet," Paul said.
"Why don't we all just take small steps, but keep sort of testing them, to see how far we can go before they protest?"
"That sounds like a good idea," Paul agreed.
"All right," Don concurred. "But don't expect much from me and Kate. I just... I mean, dammit, I've been looking after her all my life, it's kind of hard to take advantage of that."
"You'll get used to it," Gill chuckled.
"I've got another question, though," Don stated, trying to get off this rather embarrassing subject.
"What?" Gill inquired.
"Well, we've seen my magic work, and Gill, you're skills are obvious. But we haven't seen anything from you, Paul. Weren't you supposed to be a psionic?"
"True. I hadn't really thought much about it. I mean, I don't feel any different, you know?"
"Maybe you should try some things... you know, just easy stuff. Like moving a pebble or something. You could carry one with you, and try to levitate it in your hand."
"Good idea. If nothing else, it'll keep me occupied. I've never been much for forests." He looked around for a while as they walked, and found a small, round stone that fit well in his hand. He focused his attention on it, but it didn't move.
"Well, shit. I guess you didn't get anything, Paul. That sucks."
"Yeah. I mean, we got what we asked for. You should've got something, too."
Paul kept his peace. He had felt something. The stone had grown slightly warm in his hand. He hadn't been able to lift it, though. Perhaps he merely needed practice.
Soon, Don moved forward to retake the lead position with his sister. He wrapped an arm around her as they walked, and her hand snaked around his waist, as well. They walked like that until they stopped for lunch.
Lunch passed by quickly, with no hassles or surprises. Everyone considered this a blessing, for they didn't feel the need for any more excitement just yet.
As they continued to walk north, the forest seemed to thin ever so slightly. The group knew better than to increase their pace, even though they could now see farther. They stuck to their steady gait, making decent time without tiring themselves.
Gill, who had been watching Don and Kate walk together all morning, wondered just how far he could push Susan. First, he put his hand against her upper back, and rubbed. She looked over at him, at first looking annoyed, but this very quickly changed to a smile. He kept his hand there for several minutes, rubbing between her shoulder blades. Finally, he moved his hand down to the small of her back. Surprisingly, she actually moved closer to him when he did this.
After a solid ten minutes of tracing small circles on her lower back, he got up enough courage to slide his hand down further. His hand stopped when it was firmly planted on her ass. She said nothing, though she did take another small step inward, so that she was now almost touching him as she walked. He squeezed her ass cheek, and she inhaled sharply, but kept her peace. Not wanting to push his luck, he removed his hand. His experiment had produced results, and he was happy for the moment. Still, he wondered just how far he could go with her.
It was late in the afternoon when they reached a bend in the trail. Though it had meandered back and forth through the hours, this was the first time that the path had taken a sharp corner. Worse, there were sounds of a large animal coming from around the bend. The group came to a stop, and considered.
Finally, having come to a decision, Don, Gill, and Susan led the other three around the turn. Immediately, they came into a clearing. Sitting in the clearing was what could only be described as a dragon. Its red scales shimmered in the late sunlight, its large, leathery wings lay limp against its body. The head of the beast, which sat at the end of a short neck, at least for a dragon, sat on the ground, its eyes nearly closed. As the group entered the clearing, it lifted its head to look at them.
Susan immediately strung an arrow to her bow. Don raised his hand to stop her, just as the creature spoke.
"Go ahead, miss. End my misery. You would be doing me a favor."
Susan was so stunned that the creature could talk, she nearly dropped her bow. She stared at the creature for a full minute, unable to move or speak.
Meanwhile, Don moved further into the clearing. He kept his distance from the creature, but it was obvious that the animal was gravely wounded. "We mean you no harm," he said. "We are merely traveling through these parts."
The dragon looked at him balefully. "I'd much rather you did mean me harm. My time is short, but much too long for my tastes."
"What happened to you?" Kate asked, seeing the beast for the first time.
The dragon took a long look at her, inhaling his breath raggedly. Finally, he said, "Pray tell, lovely one, how did you come to be captured by this pitiful human?" His voice showed a faint hint of anger.
"That's my brother!" Kate snarled in resentment.
The dragon looked at her in shock for a moment, and then understanding dawned upon him. "You are not from Zemlia Nov. I understand now." The creature tried to rise, but couldn't manage. He did lift his head off the ground to look at them. "My name is Dan-Eger. This was once my territory. I hunted here to my heart's content. Now, it belongs to another of my kind, and I... I am not long for this world. And yet, all too long."
"I'm sorry," Kate said softly, understanding his pain. "Is there anything we can do to help?"
Dan-Eger looked at her for a moment, judging her sincerity. "Never has a human given a rot what needs a dragon has. I believe I am the first to be blessed by such an event. The only help I need, dear Elfling, is for your lady friend to run me through. I wish to die now."
"But... can't we... save you?" Kate asked, with tears in her eyes.
"Save me to what end?" Dan-Eger asked softly. "I can no longer hold my ground. I am an old dragon, you see, and my time is over. Dan-Gelmer has defeated me, and it is my fate to die. You cannot heal my wounds, you can only speed my fate. That is what I wish for."
Don had approached the creature, who had not made objection to the human's presence. Looking at the wounds, it was surprising that the dragon was still alive at all.
"We will do as you ask, if you will give us some information," Don offered.
"What do you wish to know?"
"Where can we find the yellow dragon?"
"Vernior? You seek Vernior? Why, for demon's sake, would you want to find Vernior?"
"The yellow dragon is the only way for us to get home."
"No one still living in Zemlia Nov has ever seen the yellow dragon. None who have attempted to find Vernior have ever been seen in the civilized areas again."
Kate paled at the thought, and Susan stepped back toward Gill, but Don held his ground.
"Still, I need to find Vernior. Can you help us?"
The old dragon's head slumped back to the ground. "Alas, I do not know where to find Vernior. I have never seen the yellow dragon." His eyes closed for a moment, and the group thought he had died on the spot, but then his eyes reopened. "There is, however, someone who might know."
"Who?" Paul asked.
"Iamor, the aged wizard of Castle Ballor. He is older even than I, kept alive by his magic. He may know how to find Vernior."
"How do we find him?" Gill asked.
Dan-Eger turned his head to look at a path, one of four leading from the clearing. "That way. It will take you three days to walk there from here. I would suggest you take part of my carcass as food, after you kill me. You are going to kill me?"
Don swallowed hard. "If that's what you wish."
"Susan?" Don asked softly. She raised her bow, and pulled back on the string. For a long moment, no one moved. Then, the musical twang of the bowstring sounded, and an unmusical thud announced that the arrow had found its mark. Dan-Eger was no more.
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