16-17 Group Short Story
Each year, members of the club come together to write a short story. Below is the group short story from the 2016-2017 school year, written by 14 members of the club.
The Wind Whisperer
I groan, sitting up, I rub my head. My hand goes over a huge bump. I wince in pain. “Where am I?” I mutter to myself, taking in my surroundings. Trees, everywhere I look. A forest. But what forest? I think to myself. The trees have an ominus look to them. Wind sweeps through the forest, shaking the leaves. I shiver from the cold.
“Right, get up then.” A gruff voice booms. I turn around, and see a troll. I gasp as he smiles, showing off his yellow, crooked teeth. The troll hauls me up to my feet.
“Let go! You ugly oaf, I can-” I stop and put a hand to my head, suddenly dizzy. My vision darkens as a pounding headache comes on. I grit my teeth in agony. Then, as sudden as it came, it leaves. I straighten up, and get an eyeful of a gray, warty face. “Gah!” I jump back from the grinning troll.
“Let’s go then.” He says in his broken voice. I shake my head furiously, about to open my mouth to object, when someone steps out from behind the troll. A knight. He puts his hands on his hips and jerks his head towards a trail I hadn’t noticed before. The troll looks behind him, noticing I was looking past him, and sees the knight. He breaks into a grin.
“Ah! Me old friend!” The troll gestures the knight over.
“Wait, you- you’re working for him?” I ask, with disbelief. The knight smiles, as the troll nods.
“Yup. Been spying on the Lady Teverin.” The troll replies. I think this through.
“What are you trolls planning?” I ask, narrowing my eyes. I glimpse something in the bushes out of the corner of my eye. I turn my head quickly to look, but see nothing.
“We ain’t the ones plannin’ anythin’. It ain’t us.” The troll says, drawing my attention back to him.
“Who is?” I ask, frustrated. The knight had noticed my quick glance toward the brush, and now was stalking over there, sword out. The troll chuckled.
“Can’t say, can’t say.” I followed the knight with my eyes, my hand hovering about the hilt of my sword.
“Where are we at least?” I ask, watching at the knight prods the bush with his sword.
“Why, we’s in the Forest of Dubh.” He replies, clearly shocked I hadn’t figured that out yet. Even the knight turned to look at me. And that’s when the wolf sprang out, gripping the knight’s sword arm in his mouth. I didn’t waste a second, grabbing my sword, I yanked it out of its sheath and leapt towards the stunned troll. I sunk it into his fleshy belly, and then pulled it out. That snapped him out of it. He roared in pain and grabbed his club, which was hanging on his back.
I danced out of the way, just as he smashed the earth, right where I had been standing. I knew how to fight a troll. They were slow and bulky, but deliver deadly blows. I heard the wolf yip in pain, and my head started pounding again, and it was making the process of killing the troll harder to do.
I thrust my sword, dripping with dark blue blood, straight at the troll’s heart, but he lumbered to the side and I missed him by an inch. I heard the wolf yelp once, an agonizing, heart-wrenching yelp, and then a thud. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, and then the knight was upon me, too. I was a trained warrior, and had much respect, but this was too much. Sweat running down my face so I could hardly see, I jabbed my sword at the knight, ducked the troll’s club, and faced the knight. He swung his sword at my head, I leaped out of the way, and crunch! Pain zipped through my leg, and I screamed in agony. I looked down at my side, shaking with pain. The troll pulled his club away, and I saw a bloody bone sticking out of my right leg.
Everything was in slow motion now, and as the ground slowly turned beneath me, I saw the knight staring at me in horror, and the wolf on its side a few steps away. Then my vision went black, and I fell to the ground, unconscious.
I awoke to voices. They weren’t the troll’s and knight’s voices, they sounded like humans’ voices, but higher. I moved to sit up, and pain shot through my leg, pain that I had never felt before until I fought the troll. I cried out in pain, and the voices stopped. I opened my eyes slowly, and gave a yelp of surprise. Two children were standing before me, a boy and a girl. The girl looked about 13, and she was holding a thin straight stick, about a foot long, and the boy looked maybe 12. They looked at me in concern.
“Who are you?” I asked weakly.
“I am Katarina,” said the girl, “And this is Dreken. Who, may I ask, are you?”
“My name is Orania Windwhisper.”
“How did you get hurt?” the girl seemed very calm and did not wince when she looked at me and my leg.
I looked down at my leg and gasped. There was no blood, no bone sticking out, and a white bandage was wrapped around the wound. “Did you do this?” I asked.
“Yes,” Katarina replied simply.
I was dumbfounded. “Why? And–and how?”
“I am a magician’s apprentice, or was, until I ran away. He was cruel to me and to Dreken, so I took him with me when I left. We came upon you when we were traveling, and I sent the troll and the knight far away from here when I saw that they were not friends. You had a wound, so I mended it. How did you get hurt?”
“I fought a troll and a knight, and the troll hit me with his club.”
“Ah,” said Katarina. Dreken tugged on Katarina’s sleeve and pointed to the bushes where the wolf had come from. Katarina turned toward the bush and raised her stick. The bushes trembled, and Katarina pointed her stick at them and opened her mouth to say something, when out jumped a skinny dog! It whimpered quietly as it crouched down, crawling towards us.
“There you are”, Katarina whispered. I watched in surprise as the dog, who looked remarkably like a wolf, stretched out its front legs and bent his head to the ground, laying it in between his outstretched legs.
“Who…what… I’m confused…” I stammered, still eyeing katerina who was now petting the skinny dog gently.
“You two may have met” Dreken says between his grin.
“Don’t tell me this is the wolf that jumped out of the-”
“Yep, I learned a couple of tricks when I was with that magician. I turned this big old bad wolf into a little pup and so he shall remain until he learns manners.” Katarina proudly announced, standing up. She stood over the transformed wolf with her hands on her hips, looking down on him. The dog whimpered again, looking up at her with pleading, big brown eyes.
I blinked a couple of times really fast and opened my mouth to say something, but my mind was eerily empty. Each thought came to me slowly, and one at a time. I found myself lost and completely unsure on what to do. The children didn’t seem to dangerous, but then again, looks are deceiving and if this little girl had the ability to scare away a troll and a knight… But then again, she had healed my wound… My head swum again. My body went weak and I drew a sharp breath, trying to think clearly, trying to regain composure. C’mon Orania, think, I pleaded with myself.
“Are you alright miss?” Dreken shyly asked, looking concernedly at me.
“Let’s take a look at that nasty bump on your head shall we?” Katarina said, leaving the skinny dog to come to my side.
“No no, I’m fine, thanks.” I stammered again, and backed up a little with my palms, pushing myself back a bit, until the pain made me cry out than ever before. I gasped in terror, feeling a fire like one i had never experienced before shooting up and down my wounded leg.
Katarina gasped and thrust her arms out to stop me. “Stop! I’m not going to hurt you, please let me have a look.”
Through my gritted teeth I glanced towards Dreken, and then to the dog, and then back at Katarina. Who was I kidding? I couldn’t do anything on my own. Much less return to my journey home with such pain and this annoying headache. I had no option but to let Katarina crouch down and slowly feel my wounded leg. Suddenly I felt something stir deep inside of me, a feeling I had not felt since before going to fight in Queen Beatra’s war… A memory was attached to it- at first it was just a little sliver of a memory, prodding at the back of my brain, trying to make its way from the hidden nook I had stashed it away in. Then all of a sudden, I remembered all too clearly, and I gasped again, but not from the pain. I saw my mother, gently holding my leg, and bandaging it up. I was about seven or eight, having just gotten hurt in a wrestling fight with a big bully. I smiled sadly. My mother, she always understood my fiery spirit, my need to fight for a just cause.
Suddenly, my headache roared louder and drew my mind away from my mother. I watched as Katarina muttered incantations. Her eyes closed and her expression peaceful. From the flower headband and long white skirt, I could tell she was a druid.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“A small town off of Cauldron Bay,” she replied. Her eyes never opened, but a smile grew on her face. “It was peaceful and beautiful. Away from all of the war and bloodshed. Flowers would bloom even in the iciest of winters,” her smile fell. “Dreken and I haven’t been there in a very long time.”
“Why did you leave? It sounds incredible,” I said. I could just imagine the beautiful hills covered in flowers, with snow falling on top of them.
“Queen Beatra’s army invaded our village,” Dreken said. A dark expression was clear on his young face. “They were looking for someone, or something. When they couldn’t find it, they started torturing people for information. Last thing we remember was seeing our parents tied up and being placed on the back of a wagon, and then the horses took off and brought our…” He froze. His lip quivering. “And brought our parents with them.” He could barely finish the last word before he sat down and put his face in his hands.
Great job, I thought. You just made a 12 year old cry. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to pry.”
Katarina broke out of her trance of spells and rushed over to her brother’s side. “Oh no, don’t feel bad, Miss Windwhisper. You were only curious. To continue the story, we were frozen in the midst of the fire and screaming as we watched our parents being taken away, when a man took us by our hands and told us to run. He was a kind sorcerer who took us in and trained me in the way of mage-hood.” I just looked down, unsure of what to say. There was silence for what seemed like forever. Until suddenly, there was a loud screech not too far outside of the tent.
We all jumped up. I flinched, waiting for my head to sting, but nothing happened. She fixed it, I thought. That’s amazing, I wonder-
The screeching noise was heard again. We darted outside of the tent and then we all froze. There it was, only about 30 feet away, at the edge of the forest, a baby green dragon. It screeched again, and a little puff of fire came out of it’s mouth.
Even though it was a baby, it was still at least 8 feet tall, and very large.
“Where there is a baby, there is a mother,” Dreken stated. Katarina just looked at the dragon and started slowly walking towards it.
“What are you doing?” I hissed. She didn’t look back. She just kept walking.
The dragon looked at her and started screeching more, and backing away slightly.
Katarina raised her hand towards the dragon as she approached even closer, and she walked more slowly. No sign of fear on her face.
“Wait no-“ I call to Katarina, “don’t touch it…” I am amazed…they actually exist.
“They are dangerous” she calls, still on alert as the baby dragon inches further away from us.
Doing my best to stand up despite my throbbing leg, I inch toward the baby dragon slowly. “Look at it….it’s injured”. I called, looking at the winged creature. It’s wing has been the victim of archery. A broken arrow protrudes from the it’s wing, crooked and stuck in place. I look at the children for a quick moment, they do not share the same curiosity as I do.
“We need to go…now” Katarina demanded. For a child she was quite the leader. I shake my head at her, I was lucky enough to retrieve help for my injuries, there is no reason why something else, even a Dragon should not be welcome to the same generosities. I walk as slowly as I can without agitating my nerves towards the baby dragon. By this point Katarina has all but given up and backs away from the dragon, allowing me to grab its attention. The baby dragon huffs a little bit, as a warning which I full heartily accept.
“It’s okay, little one.. I am not here to hurt you. I simple want to help you”. The dragon stands still as I am almost an inch away, its eyes are full of apprehendtion.
“Get the arrow out of the wing and let’s go, I dont think its mother will be happy to have you by her baby, good intentions or not.” Katarina warns.
The baby dragon was still as I slowly reached my hand towards it wing, I accidently touch a sensitive spot as the dragon cries out and flinches back. “Sorry…little one” I say, smiling, hoping the dragon will not want to kill me now. The dragon then tenses up and does its best to extend its wing out for me.
“Miss Windwhisper…I’m getting an eery feeling” calls Katarina’s brother, Dreken. I can see Katarina in the corner of my eye nod in agreement.
“Okay okay…here it goes..” I say quietly. In a swift motion, I grab the head of the arrow and pull it out of the winged creature. The baby wailed as the arrow came out, whimpering and licking at its wing. With a sign, Katarina tears the bottom of her sleeve off her shirt and hands it to me, cautiously. She is starting to look around and pace.
“Take this and wrap the wound quickly. We need to go.”
As soon as she finished her sentence there was a slight rumbling deeper into the forest, we all jumped and I finally decided to listen to the child. I carefully wrapped the bandage around the creature, and I could’ve sworn I saw the dragon smile. The baby dragon then quickly yelps and scampers off into the bushes. Turning around slowly to the siblings I smile, “See? That wasn’t so bad now was it?” But they are not smiling, instead they have their eyes fixated on something behind me, they have their heads aimed well above my head. Whatever they were looking at was much bigger than I was.
“I think we found out where the baby dragon went..” Katarina called, shaking.
I quickly look up and see what they were looking at. It was an enormous green dragon the size of a whale. A roar shakes the ground and causes me to fall down. Katarina runs to me and tries to pull me off the ground but she, too, falls. The sound of trees being crushing makes me jerk my head towards where the sound is being made.
The dragon was no longer in the air but now on the ground. “We have to go!” Katarina shouts. She jumps up and I follow her, my leg throbbing with each step. Something hits me in the ribs, sending me flying ten feet to the side.
“Orania!” Katarina screams. I slowly stand, my legs shaking and my heart pounding in my chest. Placing my hand to my side, I can tell some ribs were broken. I grip the handles of my swords and pull them out. My body was aching and I was exhausted.
I turn to face the dragon but it is no longer where it was. The sound of Dreken screaming makes my blood run cold. Where are they!? My thoughts scream at me to find them but they are nowhere to be seen. I look around and find a trail of broken trees. Running as fast as I can with my broken ribs and injured leg, I follow the trail which leads to an opening. The dragon is clawing at something that I can’t see. I’m guessing it’s the children.
Screaming at it doesn’t get its attention but stabbing it in the tail does. It lifts its head to the sky and lets loose an inferno of flames. The heat causes me to take a few steps back, lest I want to end up like my food from last night. Then it turns its gaze towards me, a fiery hatred burning in it eyes. I stay still, my eyes wide and my body frozen with fear. What was happening to me?
I shake my head and charge towards the dragon. Surprise flashes on its face for a split second but then it comes to its senses. It whips its tail around and almost hits me right in the chest but I roll out of the way just in time. I can feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins.
The dragon is about to attack again but the baby dragon jumps in the way just in time. It roars at its mother and stands its ground. The mother growls, but doesn’t try to attack me. With strong flaps of its wings, the mother lifts off from the ground and flies away. Katarina and Dreken come out from where they were hiding and run over to me.
“Are you guys okay?” I ask.
“We’re fine,” Katarina says with a nod. We look at the baby dragon still standing next to us and a smile comes to my face.
“It defended me after I helped it.” I slowly walk over to it and wrap my arms around its big neck.
As I wrapped my arms around the dragon’s neck the neck seem to become shorter and soon the dragon was a boy. I gasped as I look at the boy he was tall with brown hair and freckles across his nose and he looked to be 19 or 20 his eyes were the same color of the dragon he was bright green everything seemed to be normal about him beside the fact five seconds ago he was a dragon.
“Wh…attt just happened” I say to no one in particular.
” I’m sorry to startled you madam, but now that you have gotten the arrow out of my wing I was able to transform back into my human state. Thank you so much for helping me” the boy says.
I take a step back from the boy and shield Katarina and Derken with my left arm and my right arm goes to the top of my sword just in case he try’s anything.
” I’ve heard of dragons before but never one that has turn into human, explain yourself right now” I demand.
But before he can Derken screams “Katarina” I turn my head to see her clutching on to her stomach, her hands stain red,she falls to the ground as the dragon boy rushes to her side.
“Don’t touch her” I yell
“You don’t trust me after I saved you” he states.
I stare at him I wasn’t sure if I did or not. I got into my bag and brought out something’s to help with Katarina wound and started to bandage it up. The dragon boy picked her up “we should get some water” he started walking “there’s a lake not to far up ahead” he says.
When we reached the lake and the dragon boy laid her in a patch of grass near the lake I grabbed a cup form my bag and brought some water to Katarina lips. Her eyes flutter open ” what happen” she asked.
” you was wounded by the dragon and hadn’t realized in time before you passed out form losing some much blood” I say. Derken grabbed his sister hand, as they talked I pulled the dragon boy away from them. I stared at him waited for him to speak.
” My name is Jospeh and as you know I’m boy who can turn into a dragon. I’m not exactly sure why I can,I know others who can and I know Dragons who are just Dragons. I have a older brother who is has been captured by the guys who shoot me with the arrow” he explains.
“My name is Orania I am 18 and that is Katarina and Derken and they helped my earlier when I was wounded and now I’m going to protect them and if you want I will help you find you brother” I say.
” You will” he says in surprised “this could put you in danger the hunters want to capture all dragon human hybrids and will stop at nothing to get us.”
“I believe in family and helping you find your brother is an adventure that I cannot pass up.”
As I finished my sentence a big enormous smile spread across his face. “Then onward wayward men…and women.”
“First there are some more details I need to know before we just go marching forward.”
“Ok, like what?”
“First of all, who are these men that shot you with an hour? second, do you even have any idea where your brother might be?” I ask.
“There were two men that shot me one a knight, the other a troll. I have an idea where they might have my brother captive. If that is still not enough information for you, then you can just be on your way.”
Surely they can’t be the same knight and troll that wounded me?
“Well when you put it like that, the only choice I have is to stay put and deal with the fact that there isn’t enough information.”
I walk over to where Katarina and Derek are sitting. Katrina is still so pale, but at least she is breathing. “How is she?”
I see her slowly open her eyes. “I’m – fine – water.” I go to the lake, pull out my leather pouch and use it as a cup. The water is crystal clear, there are no life sources I can see in the water. It makes me wonder where they are and wether or not she should be drinking this. Out of the corner of my eye I see a long, skinny, fuzzy, and light blue neck. I look closer, It seems to look like a cross between a bird and a giraffe. I realize then that if whatever the thing is, can drink the water so can Katarina.
“Here you go Katarina.” I kneel down, gently brush hair out of her eyes and caress her cheek.
The wound is still open, thankfully its not bleeding as heavily anymore. I tear part of my shirt, wrap it around her stomach, and tie it in a knot. “Derek, make sure she does not try to sit up at all and if it should start to bleed really bad again cut off a part of your shirt.”
“Yes, I can do that.” He says in a whisper.
I put my hand on his shoulder, “She will be fine.” Now where did that silly dragon boy run off to. He couldn’t have gone far. I look around, and spot him on the other side of the lake. I walk towards him. “Hey, what are you doing?”
“I’m collecting dry wood for a fire.” He says, as if I am supposed to know that already. “How bad do you think Katarinas wound is?”
“Its nothing that won’t heal.”
“She will be ok then?”
“Yes, Katarina will be fine.”
I start helping him collect firewood. Neither of us talking, fully absorbed in our own thoughts.
“What was that?”
“It sounded like a bird of some kind.”
Then a flash of light blue, long, and skinny neck passes through my mind.
“When I was getting water from the lake for Katarina, I saw a animal that I thought might be bird, It didn’t have any wings and looked like a giraffe.”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner!” He shouts at me.
“Because I didn’t know where you were. How was I supposed to know that-” I feel warm breath on the back of my neck, and a sudden chill goes down the length of my spine. very quietly I tell him “Don’t run but slowly walk back to the other side of the lake and stay with the kids.” He stands there in shock not moving. “Come on go.” I say a little louder. “You said slowly so thats what I’m going to do.”
I turn on my heel very slowly, and I come face to face with a beak and two eyes. I hold back a scream. It opens up its beak and means to bite off my head. I stand there thinking this is it I’m going to die. Joseph charges at it waving his arms everywhere saying “Shoo, go on get.” It swipes at him with its claw and cuts his stomach. Joseph rolls out of the way just in time before it has time to take another swipe at him. He gets back up and starts running to the other side. I Pull out my sword, go the other way planning on cutting the thing off before it can get to the children.
“SCReech!” I run faster.
“Orania, Joseph!” I hear Derek scream. Just a little further. “I’m coming!” I shout. To the side I can see Joseph has fallen in his attempt to run. Its up to me to get there before that thing does.
Time was running out. The healing wound on my leg burned like the fire that had started within me. I had one goal at this moment and that was to take this creature down. Closer, and closer. It reached the point where I could reach out and graze my finger along its lanky neck.
I leaped in front of…whatever the thing was with my sword held high. My feet skid across the grass, almost landing on my ankle and creating a fresh new wound to accompany the many others that I had already received today. The beast stopped in its tracks, staring at me with eyes that had no soul, just the craving for human flesh. I swung my sword down towards its leg, causing the bird-giraffe thing to be sent tumbling to the ground with shrieks of pain echoing throughout the forest.
“Orania! Are you okay?” Joseph asked, still on the ground with his hand clutched around the wound on his stomach. I shoved a piece of hair behind my ear. “Yeah I’m fine,” I responded as I grabbed his hand to help him to his feet.
“That was a close call,” Derek said from the other side of the lake, still frozen in fear.
“You’re right, young one. ‘A close call’ it was,” a familiar voice had said from behind me. Yanking my head around, there was the knight and troll. They stood above the fallen creature that I had just injured, its shrieks now a small whimper as it laid crippled on the ground.
“However, not close enough. If only the thing had done what it was supposed to do,” The knight said, looking shamefully down at the creature. “Was yer idea, not mine,” The troll said crossing his arms.
I drew my sword once again, holding it upwards so that they could get a good glimpse as to what I would do again if they had stepped any closer. Derek hid behind me, Katarina on the ground by his side. The knight drew his own sword, the troll’s smirk mocking me.
“If you touch any of us then so help me I’ll-“ I couldn’t finish my sentence before the troll broke into laughter. “You’ll what?” He asked, his voiced croaked as his yellow set of teeth revealed itself. “I thought you didn’t want to be a part of this war? Now you’re pitching threats?”
“Where is my brother?” Joseph shouted at them as I had to place my arm in front of him to keep him from doing anything that might get him killed, especially in his current state.
“Well someone’s scales are a bit cold, aren’t they?” The knight chuckled at his own joke, clearly referencing to Joseph’s dragon form.
“Answer his question,” I demanded, doing my best to sound sure of my words. “Where is his brother?” The trolls grin only grew bigger as he shook his head.
“That’s none of your business, young lady,” he responded.
“I’ll kill you!” Joseph rages as he lunges at the troll, pushing my outstretched arm away. With a single swing of his club, the troll sends Joseph to the ground. Gasping for air, he tries to get up, but the knight delivers a stern kick to his abdomen.
“Ecan will be very pleased indeed,” the knight says, grinning at his troll companion. He yanks Joseph to his feet, and laughs under his breath as the younger boy stumbles and nearly falls back over. In a swift motion, the troll picks Joseph up and tosses him over his shoulder.
“Now we have both slimy dragons for him to play with.” The troll was smiling, exposing all his yellow teeth. It was revolting.
My mind whirled as I tried to understand what they were talking about. It was obvious now that they were working for Ecan, the leader of Maera, but I didn’t know why. And what did the elves want with dragons? Nothing was matching up, but I couldn’t think about that right now. Joseph had been taken from my side in a matter of mere seconds. I glance over at Katarina and Dreken, and I see my own worries reflected in their faces. I barely survived fighting the troll and the knight the first time, and now I had children to protect.
A great rumbling came from the tree line to my left, and everyone froze. The ground felt like it was shaking, and it took substantial effort to keep myself upright. A single look over at Dreken falling to the leaf strewn ground told me he didn’t have such luck. I braced myself, preparing for a new fight. Keeping my eyes on the troll and knight, who still held Joseph, I slyly pulled my other sword and positioned myself in front of Dreken and Katarina.
With a crash, a huge oak tree cracked and plunged to the ground, and outstepped the largest man I had ever seen. A giant.
I realize that if this came to a fight, there would be no way that I could survive, get Joseph back, and keep the kids safe. But beside me, Katarina looked to be preparing for a battle herself. While it wasn’t ideal, I liked the idea of someone fighting next to me.
The giant took a few lumbering steps forward, just enough that I could see that there were several others behind him. I swallowed, my mouth gone dry.
“Put the boy down, troll,” it said, voice low and sluggish. The knight let out a laugh that was more akin to a bark, and drew his longsword.
“You may look intimidating, but giants are not adept fighters. I can take you.” The knight grinned, and I almost groaned at his utter arrogance. The giant tilted his head, as if he didn’t even understand what the knight was saying. After a brief moment of pause however, the giant lurched his right leg forward, kicking the knight across the clearing.
“Puny man,” the giant said, without any trace of emotion. “Bad knight,” he continued, visibly frowning. He gave the troll another look. “Put the boy down, troll,” he repeated, an edge to his loud voice. It was quite frightening to hear.
The leaves around us rattled in the echo of his voice and filled the silence that followed. The troll was just staring in awe at the spot where the knight was lying crumpled at the base of a tree. Apparently he had as much confidence in the knight as the knight had in himself. Well that goes to show where confidence gets you. The giant was angry now and bent down as if to get a closer look at the troll.
Almost face to face with the troll he boomed, ‘Did I stutter tiny one?’
At once the troll dropped Joseph. Joseph limped over to us, eager to get away from both the troll and the angry two-story man. The giant looked away from the troll and lumbered around so he could watch Joseph. He had a look of concern on his face that was quite unusual for a giant. Why did he care so much? Were the rumors true? That would explain why so many giants were together, they usually traveled alone. But the question was WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? All of this was very frustrating, but I had to look out for Katarina and Dreken right now. Katarina didn’t look like she was bleeding, but it was obvious she was in pain.
I took a subtle step back so I could lean into her ear and whisper, “Start backing away.” She gave a slight nod and whispered the massage to Dreken, who then whispered it to Joseph. We all started taking small, and for me slightly pained, steps backwards. One of the giants closer to the tree line noticed us.
“Where are tiny people moving Harkn?!” he bellowed. The one who had attacked the knight clumsily turned to look at the four of us huddled together. I reached back and gripped Katarina’s hand and squeezed. She squeezed back. It would be beyond foolish to try and draw my sword again.
The giant called Harkn was staring us down with an unreadable expression when he pointed at the four of us and said slowly but commandingly, “Leader step up.”
I risked a glance back at the three bodies behind me. This was my duty now. I let go of Katarina’s hand and stepped forward, slightly limping. He was just staring at me so I said, “My name is Orania Windwhisper and …”
“You are leader? But you are so small!”
Like I said before, large, but not bright. He didn’t seem to get that all of the other races were at least 10 feet shorter than him. I looked up so I could look at his leathery face and I spoke boldly.
“What are you here for?”
Apparently I was hilarious because all of the giants started to laugh. Instinctively I put my hands up to my ears. The sound of that many giants laughing was deafening. One they got over how comical I was, Harkn sat down. He folded his legs and his large giant rump hit the forest ground. The ground shook beneath me and I had to spread my arms out to balance myself.
“We want to help.”
Curiosity filled me to the brim, as the booming voice slithered through my ears. Help us. Why on Earth would the giants want to help us? They must have a deceitful incentive slithering up their sleeve.
I cleared my throat from my abhorred shock and looked up- way up at the towering figure of menace. “What’s your bargain? Money? Gold?”
The scabrous-faced leviathan pinched his scaly face in an unpleasant manner and I braced myself and Katarina’s body for the harsh impact of the giant’s chuckle.
“Money! Gold! That tiny dense human tickles me funny bone, boys!” Harkn boomed, to the fellow giants as he bellowed like laughing monkey. The dirt jumped five-feet in the air and the trees shook as if they were wrestling with the wind. I instinctively pulled Katarina’s tiny body against my flesh and stapled my feet to the dirt as everything began to shake. The pain searing in the flesh of my wound began to burn as if lit on fire with calefaction. I lost my warrior’s equipoise as my footing began to crumble like a decaying weed.
“Ow!” I screamed in pain as the density of my flesh impelled my injured leg as I fell onto the shaking ground with the tiny Katarina falling flat against my chest. She whimpered in pain as the ground’s intensity floated up through my weight and thrusted her body from off against my body- shooting her next to a worrying Dreken. Dreken immediately tended to his sister as she fell next to him- while Joseph came over to my lying figure and checked me for injuries.
I smiled gratefully at him as he lifted one of my leg’s to tend to the fermenting scab currently charring my flesh and causing my teeth to tighten with angst. The pain felt as if someone was ripping at my bones with a sledgehammer.
“Oh gosh Orania! It looks bad! I don’t think you will be able to walk.” Joseph’s farce gibberish floats past my ears. It’s just a tiny, little boo-boo that’s hurting me. I’ve been through much more severe laceration’s and besides- the wound has been healing thus far this journey.
“My! My! Did I cause that injury? Me sincerest regret, human.” Harkn’s voice thunders as he gets up and lumbers his hulking body over to where I am laying on the floor.
“Oh Orania! Let me help!” Katarina yelps as she rushes towards me from her nagging and worried younger brother- who sheepishly follows his older sister, resuming back to his usual silent manner.
“It’s fine. I’ve been through the deepest parts of somber voids and have earned bruises that make this one look like a newborn child.” I settle Katarina’s angst with my tattle’s of past encounters with the esoteric forest and mountains settled amongst this uneasy land.
“If you don’t mind me asking, human- may I carry you the rest of your passage?” Harkn solemnly asks with repentance draped across his leathery face- making the ghastly creature look as if we were both bred from the same species.
“If you insist, Harkn.” I assert to the personified-towering figure as he picks me up with his large scaly hands- the size of a abundant hill.
The giant smiles, his brownish-greenish teeth sparkling against the sun’s harsh glare. I hold back a gag as I politely smile back.
“Where to, miss?” Harkn asks.
“Follow the knight and troll’s trail. We must find where the scurrying rapscallions ran off to- and put this misguided war to an end.”
“Well, miss, how do you plan on fighting with that wounded little leg of yours?”
I pause for a moment and think on this. As much as I’d like to bolster up my remaining strength and knock some sense into that dimwitted duo, I can’t charge into this fight so ill prepared. There’s also the children. I look to my left and watch as one of Harkn’s friends scoops them off of the ground and carry them beside me. Katarina is muttering some incantation under her breath while Dreken clutches to her side. Joseph shoots a worried look at me. Whatever I do, I must make sure the children are safe.
“I only ask because I’ve got some friends deeper in the woods, and you lot look like you haven’t come by a good meal in a while.” I feel my body shudder as Harkin’s voice booms around me.
“As much as I appreciate the gesture, I don’t know what use four humans—well, a human and a dragon boy—would get from giant food.”
Harkn opens his mouth to laugh again but sees me cover my ears and calms himself. “Oh no, Miss. I’ve got some friends just about your size. Ah, here they are.”
I follow the giant’s gaze to a clearing where a small cottage sits. Why on earth would anyone build a house in this horrid place? Three figures come spilling out of the cottage as Harkin sets me down in front of it. They look haggard, but wear bright smiles on their faces. As they come into view, I get a clearer focus on them—two humans and a dwarf.
“Oh, company!” one of the humans says excitedly. She grins as she runs toward me and the children.
“Careful not to scare ‘em, Mara. I hear human children frighten easy,” the dwarf says before scratching his long beard. “Now what’s this you’ve brought us, Harkn?”
“Friends. That dense old troll and oaf of a knight attacked them.”
“They took his brother.” I say as the woman helps me to my feet.
“Those two don’t know when to stop do they?” Says the dwarf.
“Well, Ecan’s goons are nothing if not relentless,” the other human mutters before shuffling back to the cottage’s door. “Bring them inside. If there’s anything we can do help, we will.”
Mara ushers us into the cramped home. A pot sits boiling on the fire and stale bread on the small table. Joseph quickly runs for I, but I stop him. “Wait, we don’t know anything about you. Why should we trust you?”
The dwarf looks at me. “We wanna take out that scummy elf king. What else is there to know?”
“Now, now, Bart,” the other human says before turning to me. “I am Hal. This is my sister Mara and our friend Bart. We are the last of a once prominent gang of marauders. Ecan the Immortal took everything we had from us, and now we only seek to gain vengeance for our fallen allies. This knight you encountered, he works for Ecan. They’ve been hunting in the woods recently and capturing creatures. Gods know what they plan to do with them. We can offer you food and shelter for the night, but then I implore you to seek out these monstrous individuals and end Ecan’s diabolical plan.”
“Capturing creatures? I thought they were only taking dragons,” Katarina said, nestling herself on a sofa in the corner beside Dreken. Joseph helps himself to a greedy serving of bread.
“No, dear, they’ve taken much more than dragons. Wolves, faeries, avuls—”
“What’s an avul?” Joseph inquired.
“A long-necked, blue menace with hardly a brain but a big desire to eat. Their beak is so sharp that even a small wisp of it touching your skin will slice it clean open,” said Bart.
“I saw one of those earlier,” I said, taking a step closer. “I killed it in the clearing. The way the knight and troll spoke of it… perhaps they were testing it? Seeing if it could kill us?”
Hal pondered this. “Perhaps. I couldn’t tell you what they’re doing with them. Just that I know they’re disappearing, one by one. Either killed, or just gone.”
“They could be building an army,” Joseph said, bread crumbs falling from his face. His eyes immediately darkened at the thought. “Maybe using my brother as a cog.”
“That could be so,” Bart muttered, his face haunted. “Might be experimenting with creatures from the Forest to take out their enemies. Who knows that they’re planning?”
I considered the individuals in front of me carefully. “I don’t think this is a war I want to be a part of. Not anymore.”
“Anymore? You’ve fought in the war?” Hal asked.
“Yes, for Queen Beatra. It was never-ending, and she was ruthless. I escaped and sought the Forest for cover, but, now I am here. I was attacked by the knight and troll before Katarina and Dreken found me. Then we found Joseph soon after, wounded by an arrow. He is a morpher. He can shape-shift to a dragon, and tells me that his brother has been taken as well.”
“Well this is all the more reason to go after Ecan!” Bart shouted. “He’s taken so much from us, and if he really is building up his army, who knows what he will do us all if he wins.”
Mara turned to me, face pale and eyes pleading. “Please, dear, you have to help us. You’re trained, you know the war and what it has done to us all. If you help, we could stand a chance at finding Ecan.”
I searched her face and found nothing but sincerity and hope. I sighed. “Alright, but I cannot do this alone. If we’re to find Ecan—and Joseph’s brother—I’ll need all of you, and the giants, to help.”
“I’d gladly fight with a warrior. Bring some honor to my name,” Bart said with a grin.
“And us as well,” Hal said, taking his sister’s hand. “We will go with you tomorrow at daybreak. The giants would be happy to help as well. They are fond of any we call ‘friends.’”
“Alright,” I said, though I could feel uncertainty welling up within me.
“Well then,” Mara said with a clap of her hands, “who is hungry?” She turned to the table and found Joseph still munching on the bread. She chuckled. “I know one mouth definitely needs to be fed.”
Joseph smiled meekly between the loaf in his mouth. After eating and nestling in bed, I allowed sleep to peacefully overcome me as the darkness enveloped my vision. That night, I dreamed of Ecan and his army of creatures slaying every single being in Midgury, setting everywhere they went on fire until the flames grew so hot that world was engulfed in destruction—
I was shaken from my dream, sweat drenching my shirt. I looked up into Joseph’s face mere inches from my own. I pushed away from him. “What?” I spat.
He blinked. “You were whimpering. Did you have a nightmare?”
I scoffed. “Warriors don’t have nightmares. Now go back to sleep.” I rolled over away from him, but deep down I was glad for him waking me. My heart was still pounding as I drifted back asleep.
The next morning, we all packed supplies of food, water, and clothes for the trip before setting on the backs of the giants. An hour or two might have passed before we decided to stop for rest under the shade of a cluster of trees. The giants lowered us to the ground. I began to stretch when suddenly, Joseph’s hand gripped my shoulder. I looked at him in confusion, but became alert at the sight of his eyes wide and focused on the path before us.
“Joseph,” I hissed, staring at his unmoving features.
His mouth was set in a steady line, and gaze was so transfixed on the woods that I felt a small, eerie shiver creep down my spine.
“Joseph,” I hissed again more forcefully this time.
“They’re around. I can hear them,” he murmured, finally breaking his attention. “Everyone, stay quiet!” he whispered, taking a few more steps toward the path.
Our group fell incredibly silent, all eyes staring at Joseph as he continued to listen. His eyes fluttered shut for a moment, his mouth slightly agape in concentration. When he lifted his lids, his irises were blazing a bright, iridescent green. “I can hear my brother’s voice…” he whispered. Without warning, he shot forward toward the woods.
“Joseph, no! Wait!” I yelled, but he was already gone.
I charged forward after him, hearing Katarina calling for me. I could hear my heart hammering in my ears, my pulse slamming against the veins in my neck as I searched wildly for Joseph. I paused a moment to listen to for him, lost in the shroud of leaves, when I heard the gentle noise of voices from up ahead.
I crept forward, my hand wrapped tightly around the hilt of my sword, and stuck to the shadows as I neared the noise. The voices grew louder as I approached, and soon, I was close enough to a ledge.
“…and how have the experiments been going?” a man in a velvet, red cape spoke with a liquid-like purr. His shadow bled into the darkness surrounding him in the pit, the only source of light being a large, blazing fire kept alive by a crowd of slaving trolls feeding wood to the flames.
“Extremely well, Ecan. I think we have a fair chance of winning the war.” It was the knight I encountered in the clearing.
I examined the rest of the area before me. All around the vast pit were creatures I’d never seen before, and some I knew: avuls, wolves, and other exotic wonders, all enclosed in cages. Each one looked anxious, some fearful, and some angry.
I cast a glance to my left to see Joseph lying on his stomach a few feet away. He gestured for me to come closer. Still crouched, I scurried closer to him and lied beside him. “Can you believe this?” I whispered in his ear. “We found Ecan’s army.
His gaze was fixated on something off to the side. I followed his line of sight to see a dragon that looked similar to Joseph in his dragon form in a cage, a look of bitter hatred on its face. Unlike the other rowdy creatures, this one lay still on its side, continuously glaring at Ecan with a deathly stare.
“That’s my brother, Kaleb,” Joseph said through gritted teeth.
He made a move to get up, but I grabbed his arm. “Wait,” I hissed.
“And how have the blood tests been? Are they proving to be successful?” Ecan inquired, approaching Joseph’s brother’s cage with a look of intense curiosity. Kaleb began to growl.
“Quite. In fact, I have a test that is ready for you.” The knight presented Ecan with a glowing, green vial, which Ecan took and examined in the light.
He sipped the liquid greedily, enjoying the juices, and once he finished, he breathed in ecstasy. His skin glowed a strong, green color, and before my eyes, he changed in a towering, menacing dragon, roaring as loud as thunder.
“Oh my God,” Joseph breathed.
Within moments, Ecan returned back to his normal state. “Excellent,” he hissed, his fiery gaze now on Kaleb. He removed a sword from its sheath on his belt and approach the dragon, who stared at him with defying eyes. “Trolls, remove him from the cage.”
A group of twenty trolls did as ordered, guiding Kaleb from the cage and holding on chains bound to his body. “You were hard to capture, and even harder to break. But now with your blood in my veins, I no longer have a need for you.” With one swift swipe of his blade, Ecan sliced Kaleb’s throat in one quick stroke, blood pouring from the wound as the dragon crumbled to the ground, gargling on his death.
I could hear Joseph’s breath catch in his throat, and I gasped, clasping a hand over my mouth.
“NO!” Joseph shouted, leaping from his spot and bounding over the edge, transforming in a dragon midway down.
Ecan let out laugh of surprise as trolls scattered like ants, and the knight took a step back in fear. “Well, look at this!”
Joseph roared ferociously, taking a dangerous stance.
Ecan pointed to the now-dead Kaleb. “That must have been agitating to witness.”
Joseph growled in response, now circling Ecan.
“If it’s a fight you want, beast, then a fight you will get!” Ecan transformed into a dragon and lurched forward, teeth bared and snapping at Joseph.
Katarina and the others charged toward the edge to find me watching the scene.
“What’s happening?!” Dreken screamed, witnessing the monstrous fight.
“It’s Ecan. He killed Joseph’s brother after drinking his blood. Dragon blood can transform people in dragons. Ecan and Joseph are down there fighting right now!”
“We got company!” Hal yelled, pointing to the horde of trolls racing up the side of the ledge toward us.
“The creatures, they need to be freed,” I said, pointing to the frightened creatures in the cages.
The giants charged forward and began attacking the trolls, flinging their bodies backward.
“We can help. We’ll free the creatures!” Mara said, racing down the other side of the ledge with Katarina, Dreken, Hal, and Bart in tow.
Joseph clawed at Ecan’s face, slicing his left eye. Ecan roared in agony, breathing fire on Joseph, who was able to fly up out of the way but not enough to save his legs. He let out a screech, landing quickly and writhing on the ground to put out the flames. Ecan took the opportunity to pounce, grabbing Joseph’s right arm ripping into it. A sickening crack whipped the air, inciting louder roars from Joseph.
“Joseph, no!” I yelled, taking out my sword and fighting my way through the trolls. One by one I fought, slicing and slicing until the blood soaked my clothes. The iron was pungent, staining oxygen with its heavy, suffocating presence. By the time I reached the bottom, most of the creatures were free.
I began to hurry toward Joseph when the knight cut me off. “Not so fast, girl,” he hissed, unsheathing his sword. “I should have killed you when I had the chance. But none of it really matters. Even with these creatures running free, we’ll be unstoppable with the dragon’s blood. And once Ecan kills your pathetic friend, we’ll have plenty of blood to create an army. We will win this war, and when we do, I’ll make absolute sure that you’re a slave in my quarters.”
“I’d like to see you try!” I swung my sword, cutting into his arm.
He yelled in surprise before raising his weapon and swinging the blade. I countered his attacks, and kicked into his thigh. He grunted, and I took his stagger as the chance to attack. I knocked the blade from his grip seamlessly, then aiming the blade at his throat. He paused in anticipation, and then smiled coyly.
A moment later, a heavy blow was delivered to my head, knocking me to my knees. I cried out in pain and looked up to see the troll leader standing above me with his club in hand. He grabbed a fistful of my hair and wrenched my head back, exposing my throat. I gritted my teeth in defiance as the knight picked up my dropped up sword.
“This is the end of you, Orania Windwhisper. Any last words?” He lifted the sword, ready to swing.
I shut my eyes, preparing for the pain that would follow, and heard a loud and bone-shaking thump, followed by a solid thud on the ground somewhere to the right of me. I opened my eyes to see Harkin standing in front of me, and the knight lying unconscious on the ground further away. “Puny human,” he grunted, and then growled at the troll.
The troll slowly released my hair and took off running. I smiled up at Harkin. “Thank you.”
Suddenly, a sickening snap rang out through the air once more. Joseph was on the ground, weakened by the fight. Ecan pressed a firm claw into his face, and raised the other to deliver the final blow.
“Orania, Joseph needs your help!” Harkin yelled.
Grabbing the knight’s blade from the ground, I stood back up and reached out my other hand. “Throw me!”
Harkin blinked in confusion.
Harkin lifted my body and threw me toward Ecan and Joseph. I felt myself traveling in slow motion, the world falling behind me. No noise was heard, no other individual in my field of vision but the dragons before me. I felt my heart beat solidly in my chest twice, and all at once, the world caught back up to me as my blade sunk deep into Ecan’s heart. The dragon fell off of Joseph. Gagging on his blood, he morphed back to human form, gasping for air.
“It… it cannot be,” he stammered, clutching the blade.
I walked toward him. “This is the end of you, Ecan.” I ripped the blade from his chest, and with one last shuttering breath, he went still.
Joseph whimpered behind me. I quickly turned back to him, now in his human form. “Joseph!” I said, racing to his side, lifting his head to my lap.
He gazed up at me. “I’ll be fine, warrior. Thank you,” he murmured, solidly clutching my hand as I helped him up.
The others approached us. “Are you two okay?” Dreken asked, taking Joseph’s other arm.
“Ecan is dead,” Hal said, disbelief crossing his face as he looked upon the body. “I cannot believe it.”
“Yes! She’s saved us! Orania, you’re a hero,” Bart yelled gleefully, cheering excitedly.
“What now, warrior?” Katarina asked.
“Well, now we return to the town and tell Lady Teverin and the other leaders of Ecan’s plans and his defeat. This war must come to an end.”
“I want a moment with my brother,” Joseph said as he staggered toward Kaleb’s dead body.
Bart moved to say something, but Mara and Hal silenced him with a look.
“Take your time, Joseph,” I said gently as he bowed his head over Kaleb.
After a few minutes passed, a giant wrapped Kaleb’s body in a blanket and carried him back up the ledge with the rest of us following. As we walked, Joseph took my hand wordlessly. I cast a glance to him, and he gave me a grin. I squeezed his hand in response. “I cannot thank you enough for saving my life.”
“They don’t call me a warrior for nothing,” I responded.
He laughed. “You must teach me all you know.”
I gave him a smile. “I will.” I looked toward the rising sun as we began to leave the battle ground, the rays seeping down through the tree leaves. “I promise.” I could only imagine where my next journey would take me.