Lesson 19

220 29 5

Benedikt's heart sank

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Benedikt's heart sank. A dragon had not been part of his plan.

"And what kind of dragon might this be?" Grielle asked. Her voice sounded tired, and she pressed a fist to her forehead with the other arm wrapped around her waist.

"It's a Mountain Vicewing," Talitha said.

Grielle let her eyes fall closed. Yorick tilted his face up to the trees and gave an audible groan. Ludvig pinched the bridge of his nose. Moose released a sigh and loosened his cravat and Berne's dark brown eyes blinked, unfazed, behind his mop of red hair.

Benedikt shivered. They occasionally got a Mountain Vicewing up in Stalvart; they were a particularly nasty breed of dragon. Dragon temperament varied by breed. He'd known people who kept miniature Skumptails as pets, considering they had the temperament of a house cat — a house cat that had the propensity to light your tapestries on fire when it sneezed.

A vicewing was trouble enough, but he knew how defensive dragons got when they claimed something as theirs.

"On the plus side, a dragon is not a hard thing to find," Reyn said.

"Yes," Talitha said. "We know where it lives. The woods past the river Torir reek of sulfur."

"How far is this river?" Grielle asked.

Talitha's slender brows pushed together as she considered the journey. "About two days for an elf. Maybe longer for humans."

"Then we'd best get on our way," Grielle commanded.

The following days were long, but Benedikt took great comfort in having an elf by their side to help them navigate the tricks of the forest. By the third night, though, as they made camp, Benedikt was tired of the endless forest in every direction.

Yorick was making a rapid recovery, but he still recruited Benedikt to help him with his tent. He must have been in immense pain the first days, but he put on a brave face, meaning he wore a perpetual grimace until their third morning.

As the others set up camp, Talitha took Yorick aside and, with Benedikt's help, removed his bandages. She encouraged Yorick to use his arm the best he could, as her magic poultice had already healed most of the initial wound. Yorick lightly touched the circular scab on his shoulder and the bruised tissue that surrounded it. He flinched.

"You still have a ways to go, but you've healed faster than any human I've ever seen." Her fingers danced across his shoulder.

"T-thanks," Yorick stammered. He couldn't seem to look Talitha in the eye. Benedikt grinned as he watched this unfold in front of him.

"You must really have a powerful magic in you," Talitha said as she took Yorick's hand. She held it close to her face as she examined it.

"Um, you think so?" Yorick asked.

"It's hard for me to tell what you are capable of, but the elders would know. I would love to hear what they say about you." She was leaning in quite close to Yorick now, who looked almost petrified. Most elves had a different definition of personal space than humans.

"Who... um... who are the elders?" Yorick's voice cracked on the second "who."

Talitha released his hand. "They are the wisest elves in Rosenfjell. They assess all of our abilities and determine how we can serve our kingdom. They tell us our destiny."

Yorick swallowed uncomfortably. "Do you know your destiny?"

"Not yet. They assessed my potential ability and decided I should train as a ranger. It is a very well-respected position to be a ranger. We protect the forest."

"When do you find out your destiny?"

"At my final assessment ceremony."

"Uhh...fascinating." Yorick said. Talitha stood abruptly and began to set up her own sleeping arrangements, a hammock she strung between two jagged oak branches.

Yorick caught Benedikt's smirk as he finished tearing new strips of binding for his arm. A violent blush spread across his cheeks to include his ears.

"Shut up."

"I didn't say anything," Benedikt said.

Yorick stalked off to his tent.

Benedikt joined Grielle where she finished building their fire. "Is everything okay?" he asked, hoping that friendly concern was still allowed in their relationship.

"Hold this," she said, handing him a bit of tinder. She sparked her flint on her blade. The tinder began to smoke and Benedikt blew a little puff of air on it before sticking it under the larger logs. Together they stoked and poked the fire until their faces burned from its heat.

Reyn and Ludvig came back from hunting empty-handed. Ludvig chucked his bow and quiver into his tent with a clatter.

"Not a single creature within miles of here," he said gruffly. He ran his hand through his hair and shook out his blonde locks.

"I suspected so," Grielle said. "Kai must have been forced to go far to find food. He is never gone this long."

"We still have some dried meats from Andor," Moose consoled.

"I could really go for some more of that Andorian port." Ludvig dropped to a seat by the fire and scanned the woods. As they neared the river, Bleakwood had gotten greener and greener. Benedikt had never seen so much green. It was everywhere, from the foliage near the ground to the moss that hung on every unmoving thing. Even the air seemed to have a greenish tint.

"It's the dragon," Talitha said as she glided to the center of their campsite.

"What?" Ludvig asked.

"The dragon is driving the animals away."

"Oh," Ludvig said. "That makes sense, I suppose. So what are we planning on doing when we happen upon this dragon?" He turned to Grielle.

Grielle sighed and shrugged. "Benedikt is the only one here who has slain a dragon."

"Dragons," Benedikt corrected, placing emphasis on the plural.

The corner of Grielle's lip turned up in a smile but she still rolled her eyes. "Alright, mighty dragon slayer, how do we kill a dragon?"

Benedikt smiled as all their eyes were turned to him, waiting to hear his plan. He relished this feeling — the pressure to make decisions, decisions that meant either life or death for those who depended on him. He especially cherished the feeling of having Grielle's blue eyes trained only on him.

"To start, we are going to need a lot of water."

~

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