The Dragon

When Georgina set's out to rescue her brother from being sacrificed, she has no idea what the fates have in store for her.

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1. One

I am the forest. It’s smell blends my smell, cloaking me in darkness and pine sap. Hidden. I slink past trees, sharp ears alert for the slightest crunch of dead leaves in the silence, eyes following an invisible trail of cracked twigs and salt.

I will find him.

But whether I find him before it is too late is more down to chance than my tracking skills.

The forest thins out to irregular blackened stumps, and a large clearing with a lonely, knurled totem pole. Rusted silver chains pin a helpless nine year old boy to it, his angelic face smeared with tears, soot and the salt granules he marked my trail with.

My brother.

I swiftly nock an arrow in my bow, and take out the coward guards that are watching from a safe distance. Daniel looks up with a jolt. I throw my bow to the ground and sprint towards him, his beautiful face splits into a grin, eyes now dry.

“Georgie! Georgie! You found me!” he sings happily.

“Shhh!” I scold him. “Of course I did” I burry him in my arms before his look of euphoria can break my heart.

“I left the salt, Georgie, like you told me to!” he whispers merrily, as I hack into the bolt of his chains with silent menace.

“You did so well, my brave Danny.” I pause and think back to a time when we used to play in the forest together, before the Queen, before the dragon, when he used to ‘test’ my tracking skills in elaborate games of hide-and-seek, leaving several trails of salt to various hiding places.

 Not anymore. Now our village is shrouded by darkness, its inhabitance too frightened to even leave their homes for market day, for terror of being chosen, starving to death as a result. Not that hiding does much good: soldiers just break into houses and drag people out instead.

I grab hold of Daniel’s hand, and drag him out of the clearing at top speed, back into the safe cover of the forest.

Safe. Not for long.

We had barely cleared half a league before a twig snaps behind us. I freeze, breathing hard, and clutch Daniel closer, protectively. If they want my brother they’ll have to go through me first.

A man clad in leather and a black mask swings down from an invisible branch, landing neatly with a role at my feat. In the spit second it takes me to pull out my dagger and lodge it into his skull, I see the reflection of a pale girl, with large, heavy lidded black eyes and thick dark hair dripping untidily from tight braids upon her head in his gleaming silver belt buckle.

She turns as I turn, pushing Daniel away and shouting “Run” before drawing a short sword with a wooden hilt, and slashing at two more of the shadow men. They exchange a glance, then advance at me from both sides, one with a spear, the other a thick chain, which he threateningly twists around his right hand.

I lunge at the chain man, lodging my sword in the base of his neck faster than he can swing his chain, which I catch in my left hand, and toss over his companion with the spear. The man’s grip loosens on his weapon in shock, and clutches to his throat where the chain holds him tight.  I yank him closer to me and bring up my knee to deliver a savage kick in the solar plexus, snapping his spear against his chest. He falls to the ground next to his ‘friend’, dead or unconscious I don’t care.

I turn to find Daniel struggling with a fourth man in black, the man’s hand holding a dagger to his throat.

“Move and he dies” the man growls. “Saving him is cruel anyway” he continues “someone else will only have to go in his place. You know the rules. One sacrifice to the dragon every month and the rest of us live-”

He might have gone on, but at that point Daniel bit down hard into his dagger hand, giving Daniel the chance to throw himself to the ground, and me the chance to grab a lose arrow from my quiver and hurl it into his chest, where it buries itself with a sickening crunch.

“Not my brother” I mutter more to myself than the dead man. “Not my brother.”

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