Damsel Knight Part 1: Chapter Six

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"Do you get the feeling we're forgetting something?" Bonnie asks as they skirt around the field of bones. The dragon stands between them and the castle, its black eyes wide and curious.

"Your senses," Neven says without hesitation. He leans back, putting all his weedy strength into tugging at the makeshift halter around the zombie cow's head. It stares at him vacantly, chewing its cud. "But I think you lost those a long time ago."

Bonnie uses the flat of her sword to tap the cow's hind end, and it finally walks forward again. However magic brought it into the world, it didn't include any wits. It manages a shambling monotonous walk once it gets the momentum, but all it takes is a stone in the wrong place, or dips and humps in the terrain and it freezes.

She thinks of the long path of hills and slopes she'd traversed to get here and sighs. This wouldn't be an easy journey, but she could think of no other way to get the dragon to follow them.

"It's not working," Neven says, frustration burning in his voice. "How are we going to get back to the boat in time, if your stupid dragon won't come?"

She can hear the answer he wants behind the words. We can't, so leave him here. Anger may have pushed away most of his fear, but that doesn't mean he wants the dragon to come with them. He knows just the same as she does, that whatever is stopping the dragon from harming them is a spell, and spells can be broken.

"Here dragon, dragon, dragon," she says instead, fighting against the heat that rushes to her cheeks. At least it's only Neven she's making a fool of herself in front of. "Come get the nice zombie cow."

"Nice side of beef!" Neven calls out in the kind of voice sellers use at the market. "As fresh as you can get it!"

The dragon moves a giant foot, making the pile of charred bones clatter with the impact. For a moment she thinks that's it, then he makes another step, closing the distance between them. The footsteps are giant, but still manage to look shuffling compared to its size. Every time a clawed foot comes down the cow is the only one not to jump.

One moment he is far away, the next he towers over them, blocking out the sunlight. Her heart skitters in her chest like a frightened animal as his giant head descends toward them, its lethal smile spread wide.

She scrabbles for her sword at the same time Neven squeaks, dropping the cow's halter. Then the head is flying upward again, the cow gazing nonchalantly from between its jaws.

"My rope!" Neven says in a voice somewhere between hysterical and indignant.

A moment later there's a stomach turning crunch of bone, along with the wet ripping of tissue. A splash of blood and stringy tissue sprays all around them. The cow's severed head falls to the ground, bounces twice, then rolls to rest at Neven's feet. The halter is still attached.

"Thanks. I think." Neven stares down at the cow's head with its roughly torn neck. His tanned skin takes on a shade of grey, then decides to add a splash of green.

The cow's dull eye rolls toward him and blinks.

Neven screams at the same time Bonnie jumps. Both move back several hasty steps.

"That's it!" Neven shouts, a spray of red exiting his mouth with the words. His face and clothes are covered with it, and several chunks of flesh stick to the folds of his tunic. "I'm done! You've done some pretty stupid things Bonnie, but this one takes the biscuit. What made you think you can kill it? It's as big as a castle, and even if it weren't, you're a maid and I'm a farmer's son. You should be home with your new husband, and I should be training to be a soldier. Neither of us is right for this kind of thing."

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