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By , wrightwood, CA
Chapters:   « Previous 1 ... 4 5 6 7 8 9 Next »

Chapter Six

May scrambled to her feet. She grabbed a couple of stones off of the floor and prepared to throw them. Who was in the cave with them? Friend or foe? Rider or Slayer?
There was only one way to find out.
“Hello?” she called. “Is anyone in there?”
A bright dot of orange light appeared in the far interior of the cave. It was undoubtedly made by a torch.
Flame began lightly growling. Then he retreated back outside, into the slowly dying rain, in case the person was not friendly. He silently retreated into the background, waiting for his time to come out again.
Tom squinted his eyes into the darkness. The light was steadily growing larger, and they could now faintly see the outline of the person holding the torch.
He was a large man – wearing bulky armor that indicated his status as a soldier in the capital city, Basilisk.
“Oh, no,” Tom whispered.
May inhaled sharply. It was a good thing that Flame had left when he did, otherwise they would probably be arrested or killed. “What are you doing here, away from Basilisk?” she asked before she realized what she was saying. She bit her tongue. What right did she have to ask that of a soldier, being only a village girl, thirteen years old, herself? None.
Tom glanced at her. He had probably asked himself the same question.
But the soldier seemed not to mind. He walked closer, and saw that they were just children. “I might ask you the same thing,” he commented in a deep, amiable voice.
May exhaled in relief. He seemed to oppose no immediate threat. But now she had to answer the question. “We were practicing our sword fighting in the woods when it began to rain,” she lied smoothly.
Once again, Tom glanced at her, but then caught on to what she was doing. “Yeah,” he agreed. “And we wanted shelter. So we found this cave to wait out the storm in.”
The man nodded and sat down next to them – in the same spot that Flame had been not two minutes earlier. “We can wait it out together.”
May held her breath. Then a thought occurred to her. A traitorous thought, but nonetheless she paid attention to it. Was she really a Rider? Or did she want to go back to being a Slayer? Go back to her family? It was a tempting thought… She could reveal Tom right here, right now, if she wanted. Did she want that? Or did she want to remain living in solitude, hiding wherever she went?
She had to choose quickly…
The man found her gaze and held it. “What’s your name, lass?”
May found herself telling him without a trace of fright or apprehension. “May. My name is May.”
He nodded. “May and Tom. Pleasure to meet you.”
May nodded back. While she was immersed in her thoughts, Tom must have told him his name.
“So,” the man continued, apparently trying to start a conversation, “where are you from? Basilisk?”
Tom laughed. “No. Never been there.”
May shot him a warning glance, but it was too late. There weren’t many settlements around this area besides Basilisk. Now how would they explain how they got here?
The soldier narrowed his eyes into black slits that seemed to be examining them very thoroughly. “So where are you from? What village?”
May clenched her jaw, then released the pressure and decided to tell the truth: “We’re from Valkyrie, on the eastern border,” she confessed.
The man regarded them suspiciously. “So how did you get here? You’re not...Riders…are you?” his eyes widened. He could tell by the expression of their faces that he had hit the mark.
May began to breathe heavily. How would they get out of this one? What would they do to keep their secret? But then again, she could still get out of this…
She imagined herself saying something like, ‘Actually, he’s the Rider. I’m just a girl he picked up along the way. I’ve been dragged along on his dragon, waiting for someone like you to come and save me.’
But could she do that to Tom? Betray him so readily? No. Of course not. She would just have to make due.
Fire was burning in Tom’s eyes. “You better not tell,” he said to the soldier.
In response, he drew his sword. He began to advance, studying them and their movements.
May recognized this strategy. It was one of the first things they had been taught. Observe your enemy. Pay attention to their strengths and weaknesses, so you can use them to your advantage.
Both she and Tom had left their swords back at Valkyrie, so that was one weakness, but an obvious strength was the dragon. Flame would willingly die to protect Tom. But the soldier didn’t know that…
Before the man could take another step, Tom opened his mouth to yell for his dragon. “Flame!”
Flame burst in, almost as if he had been waiting at the door. In retrospect, May later thought that he probably had been waiting. The dragon opened his mouth to shoot out a stream of fire, steering clear of the children, and the man was disposed of immediately.
May gaped in horror at the smoldering ashes that had been the soldier. That had to have been the most gruesome moment of her life. She closed her eyes, and nearly blacked out.
Flame had killed a man at Tom’s command.
Tom could order Flame to do anything, and he would do it.
That put her in jeopardy. If she angered Tom, she could be gone in an instant. And Flame would approve whole-heartedly.
She stared at Tom, finally realizing what power he had. “Tom,” she gasped, “you – you could do anything!”
“No I couldn’t,” he replied bitterly. “But thank you.”
May wondered if he had liked killing the man, or whether it was only in self-defense.
Then he said something that surprised her even more. “I’ve tried.”
“What?” she asked.
Tom walked over to Flame and stroked his fiery scales. “There is one thing that we could not do. But I will never give up.”
“What is it?” May asked, genuinely curious.
Tom turned to face her. “I can only tell you if I trust you will never betray me,” he said. “Can I trust you?”
May thought guiltily of the thoughts she had had just a few minutes ago. But she hadn’t actually done it. And she really wanted to know what it was that Flame and Tom together could not do. So she said, “You can trust me. I will never betray you, Tom.”
His face – which had been a mask of pure tension – relaxed. “Good. I believe you.” he turned back to Flame. “I hope I’m doing the right thing, telling you this.”
“Tom, I can help you,” May urged. “Whatever it is you and Flame couldn’t accomplish in Valkyrie, maybe you can here, where we don’t have hide so much. And there are three of us now, not two.”
He sighed. “You’re right. Well, here it is.
“I want to kill the queen.”
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