Lucy looked out over a small valley, from a ridge. She lay in amongst bushes, hidden from plain sight, so that nobody who didn’t look closely could see her. Her head rested on a long, flat rock that jutted out from where she was. Warm sun shone down, spreading across her scales like a blanket. She shut her eyes, feeling at peace for the moment. She shifted a little, muttering a curse to herself as pain shot up her fore paw. Her moment’s peace was shattered, and she opened her eyes, letting out a long sigh.
She had discovered that bullet wounds were not fun. Ariss had, after a number of attempts, managed to pull out the small lump of metal. He had done his best to wrap a scrap of clean-ish cloth around it, but the positioning was awkward and it had been a very long time since he had needed to do something like it.
She looked down at the village beneath. It was nestled in the lowest part of the valley, and a small, rocky stream flowed through the centre. It was spread out like a model, tiny little houses scattered in clumps through the green, with black, snake-like roads winding through them, creating a network of streets. On the warm winter’s afternoon, it was bustling with life. Cars creeped along then roads, small specks of colour gliding along. From up here, she couldn’t hear the roaring of their engines. Slightly closer to where she was, there was the middle of the village. It was a small hub of life, with one short high-street running through the middle. Tiny flecks wandered along them, looking like nothing more than fleas from where she lay. Somewhere down there, she thought, was Ariss.
He had ventured down earlier that morning to try and figure out where they were, and look for something better to dress her wound with. It had taken him a long time, she realised. Annoyance bubbled up quickly within her, subsiding as she remembered he was doing this for her, and no other reason.
Ariss was quite happy continuing along without any knowledge of where they were going. He wasn’t hurt, and he had no real connections to anything in this time. Lucy, on the other hand, felt insecure. She had pestered him the entirety of the day before, and a bit of the day before that. She had complained every hour or so, every time they stopped. Guilt replaced the annoyance. Ariss would still be in their home town if she had listened.
Or at the very least, he wouldn’t be having the problems he was having currently.
She was starting to wonder how he could put up with her, when she heard footsteps from behind her, and the familiar voice of the dead man. “From what I could gather, we’re somewhere in Wales.” He strode up behind her, sitting down beside her injured fore leg. “I think we’re not far from the border, though.”
Flicking her tail, she spoke. “Why the uncertainty?”
He glanced away, looking down at the village. “I didn’t actually speak to anyone,” he muttered, “You don’t really need to know where we are, anyway. It’s just a place, we would draw attention to ourselves if we asked where we were.”
Lucy sighed. “I guess not.” She grumbled, shifting a little.
Ariss took the clean bandages in hand, carefully unwrapping the scraps of a T-shirt that were currently wound around her bullet wound. They sat in silence as he redressed it, Lucy wincing occasionally as a little more pressure was applied and a spark of pain was sent shooting through her body. He didn’t offer any apology, and merely continued his work, until it was bound once again, and he stood up.
“There.” He said, brushing himself down. His coat was still peppered with bullet holes, but he had found a new shirt to replace the one he had worn previously. He turned away, and started to walk down the hill. “Come on then.” He called back, not bothering to check whether she was following.
Lucy stood up slowly, testing the weight on her leg gingerly, before she walked after him, with a distinct limp. Ariss did not slow, and instead continued at the same pace, waiting for her to catch up.
Cursing his name, she sped up a little, flinching at every step, until she was by his side again, and she could slow down. “Can’t you walk a little slower when you’re ahead of me?” She asked, glaring at him sideways.
He shrugged, his eyes fixed ahead. “Why would I do that? You wouldn’t use your leg much if I didn’t make you work,” he paused for a moment, “Besides, back when I was alive you had to travel no matter your injuries. Be glad you have clean bandages. The people of this time are spoiled.”
“Just because we have standards…” She muttered. Lucy refused to admit that she agreed with him, somewhat. Not once in her life until this point had she had to walk around with something like this. She doubted there were many people that had to, either.
They didn’t stop until the early hours of the morning. Lucy was tired, and fell down to sleep almost immediately. Ariss rolled his eyes, sitting down beside her and crossing his legs. They were in another forest. This one seemed larger, darker and more natural. On all sides, massive hills rose up like giants, towering above them and forming a valley. Ariss looked out through a break in the trees, down the sheer drop. In the very lowest point, there was a small body of water. There were a few boats moored on one side, tethered to small jetties. On the bank beside them, there was a small building, low in stature and aged.
He returned his attention to the dragon beside him, smiling a little at the thought. Here he was, the dragon hunter from legends over 900 years old, sitting side-by-side with one of the very things he was meant to hunt. There hadn’t been many dragons on their journey so far- the only ones they had seen had been specks up in the sky, or distant shapes on the skyline. They all seemed to avoid Lucy, and kept their distance warily.
The clouds above them were thick and black, obscuring any moonlight or stars. He could make out the distant flashing light of a plane, but otherwise the sky was a void of darkness. A cold wind blew, whipping through the trees, carried through the valley. It wasn’t very long before it started to snow.
It was the first snow of that winter. The previous mornings had been frosted over, with puddles freezing solid and dew forming a quite blanket on the grass. This night, snowflakes started to drift down gently, soaring down like kites, twisting and turning as they drifted to the ground. Through the gap in the trees, Ariss could see more of it, gradually thickening as time moved past. Further down the hill, he could see dustings of white beginning to cover the tallest branches of the trees.
He was lost in the gentle rhythm of snow falling, captivated by its gentle nature, as it floated silently through the sky, not making a single sound.
By the time Lucy woke up again, she was covered in a few inches of snow. Ariss sat still beside her, sword drawn and lying flat by his side as he held it. He, too, was covered in snow.
She shuddered, jumping up in surprise and shaking herself down. A clump of snow fell onto the dead man, and he stood up as well, brushing himself down.
“Sorry.” She muttered sheepishly, shifting her paws awkwardly. The ground was very, very cold.
Ariss waved his hand, dismissing the matter, and started to walk again. “How is your wound?” He asked simply, as they walked together. Lucy was looking around in wonder, excitement rising within her as she looked around at the wintry scene that they walked through. She flicked her tail as she walked along, a spring in her step for the first time in a while.
It was a few moments before she realised Ariss had asked her a question, and she broke away from her childish thoughts. “Hm? It’s… it’s fine right now. I think the cold has helped numb the pain somewhat.”
He nodded slowly, sheathing his sword as he did so. “Good.”
It was late afternoon, and already the sun was beginning to set, falling deep in the sky. The snow had stopped a little while ago, and the clouds had been carried away swiftly, leaving a watery blue sky behind, with a weak sun that did little to melt the white coat that had been spread over the ground. They walked in a sheltered area, between the wooden skeletons of trees. There was a fairly thin coating of snow on the ground, only an inch or two deep. Further down the hill, Ariss could see thicker layers building on the banks of the lake, and ice had formed on the surface.
With every breath Lucy took, she exhaled a large cloud. The air around Ariss was cold and clear, affected as much by his presence as it was by trees. They walked alongside each other, a strange combination of footprints spreading out behind them, leading back to where they had come.
Over the past three or four days, since Lucy had been attacked, they had not been attacked once. Things died down all of a sudden, as their trail had been lost. Whilst in the village the previous day, Ariss had seen a few notices here and there, informing the villagers of an individual travelling with a strange creature.
He glanced around warily, keeping a close eye on their trail. He saw no reason to cover it up just yet. He doubted anybody would head up the hill, and they needed to keep moving. Covering their tracks would only slow them down further. Despite the cool, numbing effect the cold had on Lucy’s wound, she was still travelling slowly. Ariss didn’t blame her.
As they moved, feeling was slowly returning to Lucy’s shoulder. With each step she took, the pain was getting stronger. It started as a dull ache, that spread each time she moved forward, with each moment her paw was in contact with the ground. Slowly but surely, it grew into a harsh jarring pain, that sparked out further and stronger with every moment.
By the time they reached the edge of their path close to the lake, it had returned to full strength. The sun was dipping lower and lower, and she stopped, muttering something about pain.
Ariss glanced around, stopping with her when he saw she had. “Hurting again?”
She nodded, lifting her weight off of that paw, stretching her claws in the air. “How long do you think it’ll take to heal?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve never stayed this close to a dragon before. Any dragon I’ve ever wounded is dead.”
She tilted her head to one side. “Really? You’ve not missed even one?”
He shook his head. “Nope. Even the one that killed me was dead soon after.”
They fell into silence, Lucy silently thanking whatever force was driving the world for Ariss’s help. She knew she didn’t stand a chance against him, if they fought seriously. She was only alive because he pitied her. She flicked her tail nervously, glancing toward the dead man.
Ariss looked back over the lake, frowning. The sun’s last rays were shining onto the hills on the other side of the valley, painting it a warm gold. They were in shadow, and the darkness around them was swelling, engulfing entire trees as each minute passed. In the sky above the ridge, he could see a faint moon. It was full, and was nothing more than a ghost at the current moment.
He felt uneasy, and looked back toward Lucy. “Are you ready to continue?” He asked quickly, one hand resting lightly on the hilt of his sword, trying to settle his nerves. He got the feeling something was going to happen soon.
Something very bad.
Lucy took a deep breath, forcing her pain down for now. “Yes.” She said, her voice wavering slightly. She started to walk again, moving ahead of Ariss.
He stood, staring back into the growing darkness, before shaking his head, and following.
By the time they had left the ridge, the sun had set and darkness had closed in. There was something different about this night. Illuminated by moonlight, the snow on the ground glittered and shone, creating a dull glow that showed them their path. Ariss was nervous, and kept looking back, certain something was watching them.
Lucy took no notice, instead focusing on moving forward. The pain had grown again, shooting through her body as she walked on carefully.
They were part-way down the hill on the other side, when Ariss put an arm in front of her, stopping her in her tracks. She looked up, startled. “What?” She asked, her voice loud against the silence around them.
When Ariss spoke, his voice was low and quiet. Lucy finally noticed his unease, and found herself trying to look smaller. “There is something out here with us. You go that way, I’ll draw it off.”
She watched quietly as he started to walk off at an angle, careful to make as much noise as he could. She followed suit, but walked quietly, placing each paw carefully, trying to avoid the larger snowdrifts.
Ariss picked up the pace a little, unsheathing his sword with a long scraping noise. He was aware of some large creature behind him. He could hear it as it ran across the snow, advancing quickly. It came from the direction he was headed, and snarled as it approached. Ariss stopped running, catching a tree and swinging himself around, his sword held up, ready to fight. He stopped when he got a proper look, and dropped the sword on the ground, instead bracing himself.
The creature didn’t slow, and hit him full force, a mass of glittering teeth and claws, with dark, black fur. It bit into him, pulling at his body. Ariss didn’t make a move to stop it, and lay there, completely still.
It growled, pulling away when it was satisfied, spitting out the dark blood that was in its mouth. Ariss lay there, large chunks of flesh missing from his shoulder, his clothes torn to shreds. Its yellow eyes seemed to glow as it looked down triumphantly. It stood there for a few moments, before there was a loud snap to their left. Its lips peeled back as it bared its teeth, a snarl rising up again. Ariss tilted his head ever so slightly, looking toward the source of the noise. A little way off, Lucy was mimicking the werewolf, her head down low, horns catching the light.
Ariss sat up all of a sudden, yelling. “Lucy! Don’t!”
The werewolf turned back toward him, scrambling back in confusion. He cast it a sideways glance, before it continued.
“Don’t attack it, I’m fine just run!”
It looked between the pair, backing away further, its snarls growing louder as worry began to replace the anger. Ariss began to stand up, one arm hanging by little more than a few threads of skin and muscle, with tattered cloth loosely covering the gore. The werewolf had clawed at his face, reopening old scars along his face, cutting into his cheek. He looked like a zombie, to the werewolf. Its clawing had also revealed his old wound, the gaping hole that went through his chest.
Ariss narrowed his eyes, circling around until he was between Lucy and the werewolf. Lucy had stopped growling, and was starting to back off again. He readied himself once more, speaking calmly to the wolf. “Look at me. Don’t I look tasty? Yeah, just… just keep looking at me. Never mind that thing over there.”
It growled, backing away further, its fur spiking up, tail curled up. It was on all fours at the moment, long claws clutching at the snow, head down low, threatening to lunge at any moment.
There was a call from further down the hill- the sound of a girl through the night. “Looolaaa?” she cried, drawing out the vowels. The werewolf’s snarls grew in volume, and it glanced nervously toward the sound of the voice. “Looolaaa?”
Ariss frowned, looking toward the source of the call as well. It was slowly getting closer, as the girl made her way toward them. He called out in return. “Run away, girl. There’s a monster up here, don’t let it see you.”
The growing sound of footsteps stopped, and Ariss could make out a dark figure further down. “L-Lola?”
The werewolf circled a bit further around, backing away toward the girl. Ariss ran forward, throwing himself further down the hill in an attempt to get between them. Lucy had realised what was going on, and was slinking around behind, in the darkness, and stood before the girl as well.
The girl’s sounded frightened as she saw the dragon. “L-L-Lola… There’s a… a…” She trailed off, and the werewolf lunged toward Ariss, landing heavily on him, before springing off and into Lucy.