Meanwhile, Thistle had flown the warriors he had saved to his hidden cave. Thomas came out to meet him and was greatly astonished when he saw the physically, mentally, and utterly exhausted warriors being unceremoniously dumped in front of the cave’s mouth.
“Make sure they get some food, water, and a lot of rest.” Thistle commanded.
Thomas sprung to action, laying out a simple meal for the tired warriors from the cave’s food supply. He was delighted to find that one of the warriors was his father, and he introduced Thistle to him.
Thistle explained what had happened while Thomas handed cups of water to the men, knowing that he was probably dying to know why he had brought the warriors to the cave. Thomas told him that he was very glad he had saved his father and the other warriors.
“I wish you could save the rest of them too. They’ll be worked to death under the orders of the chieftain.” He finished.
Thistle agreed, nodding his great head wisely. “I’ll see what I can do.” He replied. “I only want to deal with the chieftain anyways.” He glanced around the fatigued warriors, already fast asleep. “Make sure they get lots of rest, Thomas. I’m going to go pick a fight with a chieftain.”
Thomas smiled. “The best of luck to you Mr. Dragon.”
Thistle returned the smile. “Call me Thistle.”
Thomas grinned. “Good luck, Thistle!”
With a mighty flap of his wings, Thistle rose into the air once more and went back to where he had left the chieftain and his men. Apparently they had gotten over the ditch safely and were now setting up camp on the opposite side. Thistle decided to leave them be for a while. Since the chieftain had finally let his men rest, Thistle didn’t want to chance having him change his mind suddenly by seeing him fly over them.
As quietly as possible he returned to the cave, said goodnight to Thomas, tucked his head under a wing, and drifted off to sleep.
Thomas also went to bed, but before he actually did so, he put out the temporary fire he had built earlier for warmth. The breath coming from the sleeping dragon was able to heat the cave quite easily.
Thistle awoke to the sun shining brightly into the cave, and he got up quickly. Without bothering about his usual mountain goat, Thistle flew down to his valley to see how the chieftain and his men were doing.
He was surprised to see them already at work, clearing away the cacti needles. However, one look was sufficient enough to show that they hadn’t seen them all over the ground before it was too late and that they had spent a few painful hours getting them unstuck from their clothes, skin, and shoes.
Thistle could hardly feel sorry for the chieftain, who, pacing up and down in a boiling rage, looked like he had gotten the worst of it. However, he did feel a pang of regret when he noticed the chieftain’s men were toiling away under the chieftain’s anger and looking as if they wished they were dead.
An hour passed before the warriors finally cleared a path that was approved by the chieftain through the cacti needles. They now moved quickly, but stealthily up to Thistle’s cave. His plan had worked; apparently the chieftain thought he was still living in his cave.
Gleefully, Thistle watched him as the chieftain ordered his men in an eager whisper to surround the cave as he drew his sword and walked into the cave. The darkness seemed to swallow him up.
After a few minutes of silence, Thistle crept down closer to the cave so he would be able to hear the chieftain’s reaction to him not being in the cave.
Finally he heard the frustrated shout of wrath from the chieftain, and he hastily swallowed a smile. “The dragon is gone! And the wretched creature took his treasure with him!”
Thistle shook his massive head, disgusted with the chieftain’s greed. “I haven’t got any treasure to take away with me.” he muttered scornfully.
The chieftain was stamping back and forth in front of the cave opening, shouting threats at “the dragon”. Of course, the chieftain didn’t know that “the dragon” was within easy hearing distance and was listening to all the threats he was spewing with an amused smile on his face, that made them seem pretty empty.
Angrily, the chieftain ordered his men to search the valley and mountains high and low for the dragon’s hiding place. Fearful to contradict the chieftain in his wrath, his warriors wisely chose to follow his commands and stated a search through the surrounding areas.
The chieftain waited until his men had gone before making himself a camp just outside the cave’s opening. “If the dragon decides to come back, he’ll have me to deal with!” he grunted to himself satisfactorily.
Thistle, who had of course heard this statement, chuckled softly to himself. “That’s just what I’m going to do!” He whispered.
Worming along the ground, he slithered behind his cave and crept around it until he could safely keep an eye on what the chieftain was up to without being seen by him. If any of the chieftain’s men had decided to look back at the cave, they would have seen Thistle waiting to surprise the chieftain clearly, but none of them did.
At last the chance came and Thistle took it. The chieftain turned his back to the cave to survey the surrounding country. Thistle darted noiselessly from behind his cave and stood directly behind the unsuspecting chieftain. A minute or two went by before the chieftain, still without the knowledge that a dragon was behind him, turned casually back to his camp.
He came face to face with Thistle. The chieftain let out a terrific yell and toppled over backwards in his attempt to escape. Thistle placed a claw on his chest and immediately the chieftain laid still, his eyes dilated in fear.
How Thistle wished he could turn from the whimpering coward in disgust, but he forced himself to look down on him loftily instead. “I don’t have any treasure.” He said haughtily. “But if I did I certainly wouldn’t let you have it. I don’t like greedy people, or cruel people for that matter, and you are both.”
Suddenly the chieftain let out another yell, but this time a yell of relief. “Kill the dragon!” he shouted, his eyes looking sideways at something Thistle hadn’t noticed before. “Kill the dragon! That’s a command!”
Thistle spun to look at the intruders, a jet of flame leaping from his mouth. “No one move!” he growled threateningly. The men froze, their eyes on the patch of what used to be sand that was now a smoking pile of cinders.
Thistle turned back to the chieftain, his eyes glowing dangerously again. “I don’t like you.” He continued, as though nothing had happened. “And I’m going to make it so that you can’t ever bother anyone on this Island ever again.”
There was a quickly stifled cheer from the warriors, and Thistle smiled grimly. “See? Even your own men don’t like you, and I can’t say that I blame them after all you made them go through.” Thistle turned to the warriors. “Go, tell the people of your village that the chieftain is going to be taken away into exile by me. Tell them that today is a day for great rejoicing, today is a day of freedom!”
Thistle flapped his wings, the wind from them knocking over a few of the warriors, and he clutched the unconscious chieftain in his claws. Thistle rose into the air, higher and higher until he was over his mountain. He flew by his secret cave and flapped down to where Thomas was watching him.
“It’s all right now. I’ve got the bad chieftain, and he’s not going to bother you ever again.” He said, nosing Thomas affectionately.
Thomas patted his muzzle gently. “What are you going to do to him?” He asked curiously.
Thistle looked down at the prostrate form. “I’m going to put him in exile.” Thistle replied decidedly. “He fainted, so he won’t know where he is. Besides, he knows now that I don’t hoard treasure like other dragons, and he’s so scared of me he wouldn’t dare show his face again while I’m alive.”
Thomas looked up into Thistle’s eyes. “Are you going to stay here then? Even though you don’t like people?”
Thistle nodded his great head. “I’ve found that the only people I really don’t like are bad ones. Cruel or greedy people especially, like the chieftain. I like you Thomas, and I like your father.”
Thomas smiled. “I’m so glad you like my father, because he’s going to be the new chieftain. I would hate for you to not like him after all the trouble you went too to get rid of the old one.”
Thistle gave a dragon laugh. “Well, I’m relieved to hear that your father is going to be the new chieftain. At least I won’t have to worry about him trying to steal treasure that I haven’t got!”
Thomas laughed with him. “Me too!”
Thistle rose back into the sky, apologizing to Thomas for knocking him down with the wind from his wings. Steadily he grew smaller and smaller in the sky as he got farther and farther away.