Part Twelve - What Next?
They all stood there on the porch looking at the landscape. “So, what now?” Tom asked.
“What you want to do?” Chaphar answered.
“I don’t know. Seeing you all is fun, but I want to go home.”
“Not much argument there,” Shehleg said.
Chaphar sighed. “Then, why don’t we start back to the herd. It’s near where Tom got here from and it’s our home area.”
“Sounds good to me,” Shehleg said taking a few steps in that direction.
“So, how about it Tom?” Chaphar asked turning to him. Tom shrugged. “Tom, if there is any way to get you home, that is where we’ll find it,” Chaphar added turning his full body toward Tom. He then mumbled under his breath so Tom wouldn’t hear, “Not that we’ll find anything.”
Tom smiled, “Okay.” He hopped aboard Chaphar and they started trotting in the proper direction.
Shehleg added, “I don’t want to run the whole way. Could we go in such a way so as to meet the canyon and rest there? Then continue later?”
“I have no problem with that,” Chaphar answered. “We’ll still be there long before midday.” He then sped up to a low gallop. Shehleg quickly joined him. They ran for a good while, about twenty minutes since they weren’t going at full speed.
It was a good time though. Tom had started to enjoy the thrill of speeding along at twice the speed his legs would ever go. He could also feel the wind on his face, as on a motorcycle. He enjoyed motorcycles more, but somehow this was also fun. In some way something inside of him felt like this was the way things were created to be, a man and a horse taking a journey together.
Tom slid to the ground when they reached the canyon. Admiring the view he walked to about five feet from the edge. This time he studied the rock the canyon cut through. Under the thirty-so feet of topsoil there was a layer of black rock about ten feet thick.
Beneath that there was a strange muddy colored substance. The substance was like nothing he had ever seen before. In places it reflected a little like some dull metals did, but it was not any metal he had seen. There was about as much of this stuff as the topsoil, followed by another layer of black rock. Past that, the mysterious clouds blocked the view.
Tom looked as far down as he could by leaning forward an inch or two. He wasn’t going to be stupid and risk falling over. He noticed the black clouds begin to swirl about midway across the canyon. The swirls were moving in his direction. “Do you guys know what that is?” he said pointing.
The others joined him. “No,” they both said at once. Chaphar continued, though, “It looks like something is flying beneath them.”
“Well, whatever it is its going to hit the canyon wall right below us!” Tom said beginning to shout. It was about fifteen seconds from the wall.
“Everyone away from the edge and lay down,” Chaphar said backing up. “Now!” he yelled when no one moved. They all turned and jumped from the edge. Each one landing flat on the ground, the two horses on their side and Tom on his stomach.
Tom waited for the unknown reaction of the impact, but nothing came. He looked back to see if he could see anything. A warm yellowy glow crept up from the edge. The next thing Tom knew, the air itself seemed to catch fire. He turned away from the blinding flash.
He heard the sound of flapping wings. Even with his eyes shut, he could tell a shadow passed over them. He slowly opened his eyes as the flash had passed and looked for what caused the shadow. Looking away from the canyon, he found it: a giant red dragon!
Tom’s first thought was to call for help and run away, but his body was stiff as a board and his wind seemed to have left him. His eyes stayed glued on the monster. Within seconds he had its entire form encrypted to memory.
It had a medium long neck. Two long horns atop its head. Spikes ran the rest of the way around the head and down the center of its back. Teeth overlapped the bottom jaw. The tail was at least equal in length as from the shoulder to the tip of the snout, but it seemed to Tom it had to be a little longer. Last but not least, who could forget the huge bat-like wings which at least quadrupled its size?
A roar passed over Tom’s head and a few milliseconds later a black dragon flew by. Tom wanted to cover himself with the ground. Yet, all he could do was watch.
The red dragon landed next to a patch of trees and ripped one out of the ground. It stood still for a moment and the black dragon attempted to bite it from the air. Its head was whacked away by the red one’s tail. The red one followed that blow with a stab in the chest, using the tree as a spear.
No noticeable injury resulted, except the black dragon falling to the ground. It jumped to its feet immediately. It answered the stab with the words, “You are much too old to win against one such as I.” It was now evident that it was a ‘he’.
The red one answered with a much deeper voice, “I may be old, but my strength has not yet started its downfall. I am just as strong as you, but…I am a Derkomai and have more experience than thou. Give up your quest and I will spare your life.”
“Fool!” the black dragon cried. “It is you who betrayed us. You are no longer one of the ‘Derkomai’ Zawkane. Give up now and your death will be quick and painless.”
“Never! I did what was honorable. You, on the other claw, are not,” the red dragon, who was now known to be Zawkane, said circling his opponent. “Now leave or I may just have to use some very unpleasant tactics on you.”
“Enough, I will not argue with a traitor. We will decide who is more worthy,” the black dragon said with a huge smile growing across his face. “…with blood!” After shouting those last two words, he charged at Zawkane.
Zawkane waited until the last second before turning his side and dropping to the ground. The black dragon slammed into him and bounced harmlessly off Zawkane’s scales. Zawkane snatched a hold of one of the other dragon’s horns and yanked in the opposite direction. It broke off easily from the combined force of the black dragon’s momentum and Zawkane’s strength.
“I am required by my honor,” Zawkane said after the black dragon hit the ground. “…to give you one last warning to leave.”
The black dragon stood up, leaving the blood free to do as it wished. “If I fall, another will take my place. But if I run, I will be called a traitor and hunted down. This way I die with respect.” The black dragon charged again.
A frown hit Zawkane before his opponent. He braced himself, reared up, caught the black dragon’s head in his front claws and forced it to the ground. Tom could no longer see as Zawkane’s body stood in the way, but he could guess what happened. He saw Zawkane put his entire weight on one spot. That sight was followed by a crunching sound.
Zawkane stumbled back and began searching the surrounding area. After only one sweep he spotted the two horses and boy. He walked slowly in their direction and Tom could only think two words, ‘What next?’