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Part Fifteen - On the Chase

When they reached the trees, they were only a batch of a hundred or so. Their goal was not here anymore. They looked around for his next best location to find food. To the right the batches of trees became more and more frequent and larger than to the left.

“Uh oh!” Chaphar said when he realized where the dragon was headed.

“You bet your twitching ears uh oh,” Shehleg said galloping away. Chaphar did the same at almost the same moment. Tom realized why they were worried. This was the way to their home herd. If the dragon wasn’t careful, he could eat some of their best friends, or worse family.

They ran for an hour, following the densest trees. It was a winding path. Had they just went straight home, they’d have been there much sooner, but they couldn’t bother with that. They had to find him. “Could we have missed him?” Chaphar asked.

“Missed a dragon, no way!” Tom answered.

“Could he have taken a different route?” Shehleg asked.

“Maybe. He c—” Chaphar said looking behind them, but a sound cut him short. A swooping, then trees being toppled, followed by a thump which shook the ground even where they were standing. Tom even felt it on Shehleg’s back. “This way,” Chaphar said leading the way.

Within seconds they found Zawkane tossing a deer into his mouth, but he got distracted by them and it landed on his snout. He took hold of it and lowered it. He seemed confused and amazed as he stared at them. His gaze was questioning them.

Tom slid down from Shehleg and the three looked at each other. Now that they found him, they didn’t know what to do. Chaphar looked at the deer in Zawkane’s claw. The claws had pierced the deer straight through, an instant kill. “Um, I didn’t know dragons ate deer,” he said motioning to it with his head.

Zawkane looked at it and said, “Not really.” He looked at them again as he said, “But it is better than nothing.” He glanced down at it again, “Is this unacceptable? If so I’ll find another meal next time.”

“No its okay,” Chaphar answered. “Provided it was mindless.”

“I,” Zawkane said putting it down. “I don’t know if it was or not. Can you tell?”

“I don’t think so. I could if it was a horse, but I don’t know deer,” Chaphar said studying it from where he was standing.

“I can. I’ve met lots of animals at Red’s house,” Shehleg said stepping forward. “No, it was mindless.”

Zawkane sighed slightly. “Good, I would hate to have made enemies on both fronts.” He grabbed the deer and chewed it three times before swallowing. He looked down at them, “Why are you here?”

“We are here because we wanted to help you find food and whatever other way we could,” Chaphar answered.

Zawkane’s jaw opened a little bit. “Why would you do this for a known enemy such as I?”

“Because it is commanded of us,” Shehleg said backing up to Chaphar and Tom.

“And because it is the right thing to do,” Chaphar added.

“Who gave this order?” Zawkane asked looking around with his eyes.

“Ae—” Shehleg said, but Chaphar budded in.

“By our top leader.” Shehleg shot a questioning look at Chaphar who mumbled, “I’ll explain later.”

“What a strange and illogical order,” Zawkane said looking up slightly. He put his left clean claw to his chin, “And yet it has the ring of honor in it.” He thought for a moment before looking at them again. “I should like to meet this leader of yours one day. He sounds like a very honorable…creature.”

Chaphar looked to the ground and Tom noticed a slight smile, but it faded fast. “He is. Very honorable! But He is no creature,” he said looking back at Zawkane.

“Not a creature? Man then?” Zawkane said tilting his head.

“No, I’ll explain more later if you want,” Chaphar answered.

Zawkane nodded. He then motioned with his snout as he said, “Does the boy speak?”

“I am not a boy and my name is Tom,” he blurted out.

Zawkane ‘hmmed’ as he lowered his head to about one foot above Tom’s. Tom was scared stiff yet again. He was looking straight into the eyes of a thirty foot dragon. “Feisty and strong of will,” Zawkane said with a slight growl. “I like that,” he added with a dragon smile. Zawkane lifted his head again, “Well, that deer was tasty, but it was a mere snack. If you know where there is more food, let’s be on the move on, before my stomach picks you as its next filler.”

“Right, um. This way,” Chaphar said trotting away. Tom swung his leg over Shehleg but fell off when the dragon’s claw slammed in front of Chaphar. They all looked at him.

“Oh no you don’t. If I don’t need to look on my own and have a guide to food, I’m going at the fastest best speed. You couldn’t keep up. I’ll carry you as you tell me where to go.”

“How would you pounce on your prey?” Chaphar asked.

“If we run into a herd, I’ll scorch them. It’s the only way to fill up in one sitting.”

“You can eat food that’s burnt to a crisp?” Tom asked.

“Yes. We dragons eat but once a month and when you eat so little, you stop caring what your food tastes like. You only bother with it twelve days out of a year.”

Chaphar sighed. “Okay, if we must be carried, than we must.”

Shehleg began to say something but Zawkane said, “Yes, you must.” He then snatched Chaphar in his front clean claw and flapped himself into the air. He then took hold of Tom and Shehleg in his back two claws. Tom was shocked; this dragon could hold things with all four of his claws, just like an ape. That thought was quickly replaced with what might happen if Zawkane decided to go to the bathroom.

Copyright © 2010 C. L. Richardson, All Rights Reserved; "Untamed Picture" © Nathanael Eisner