Thomas woke up refreshed from a good night’s sleep. Glancing outside, he noticed that the sun was just beginning to peek over the distant mountains. Jumping out of bed he slipped into his day clothes, not forgetting to throw his quiver of arrows over his shoulders.
Downstairs he met his mother already awake and working on breakfast for his father. He told her what he was up too, and she warned him to be careful before giving him an affectionate kiss and saying goodbye.
Thomas hurriedly left after eating a quick breakfast. It didn’t take him long to climb over the mountains and into the valley surrounding Thistle’s cave. The air grew steadily hotter as he walked nearer the sleeping dragons. So hot, in fact, that Thomas was covered in sweat by the time he was next to his dragon friend who was sleeping just inside the cave opening.
“Thistle!” He hissed, afraid to touch the dragon because of the heat.
Thistle raised his head in confusion, and then realized where he was and what was happening.
“Yes Thomas?” He asked softly.
“Will we go now?”
“Soon. I need to awaken the other dragons and give them time to cool off before we fly, otherwise the cold wind rushing over us will damage our scales.”
Thomas nodded. “Do you need my help waking them?”
“No.” Thistle smiled, but shook his head. “Sometimes dragons will wake up violently, and I don’t want someone without fireproof scales to bear the brunt of it. Stay outside the cave until we come out.”
Thomas obeyed willingly enough, although he began pacing outside impatiently.
A few moments passed before Prickle dashed out. He was the smallest dragon and took less time to cool off.
“Hellohellohello!” He began cheerfully. “HowareyoudoingThomas? Splendidweather we’rehaving, don’tyouthink?” And then he dashed across the valley without waiting for answers.
Brier crawled out next, yawning loudly after mumbling a quick, “Good morning, Thomasss.” She too walked slowly around the valley, letting the morning air cool her off further.
Bramble came next, but he didn’t say anything, only bowing slightly to Thomas on his way by.
He was closely followed by Nettle and Thistle, who came out together.
“How art thou, Thomas? Fare thee well?” Nettle asked graciously.
“I’m fine, thank you.” Thomas replied sincerely.
The other dragons came back to the cave and looked expectantly at Thistle, who cleared his throat in an embarrassed manner. Thomas hid a smile. He knew how much Thistle hated being the center of attention.
“Well…since we’re all here…I suppose we should begin our search. Thomas agreed to go with me on my search of the islands I was assigned.”
There was a short pause, and then Brier spoke up. “When will we ssstop the sssearch for the day?” She asked.
“As soon as it begins getting dark. That’s when we’ll all fly back to this island, and give a quick report of your islands. If you didn’t find anything, Thomas will cross that island out of his map, but if you find something suspicious, we’ll all fly out and double check it. Any questions?”
There was another silence. The dragons looked around expectantly at all the other dragons, but no one had any questions. The directions were clear.
Thistle smiled. “Alright then. Let’s start this search!”
One by one the dragons launched themselves into the air. One by one they disappeared into the distance until only Thistle and Thomas were left.
“Ready?” Thistle asked as Thomas settled himself onto his back.
“Ready.” Thomas answered, reaching his hands around Thistle’s neck and holding on as if his life depended on it.
“Could you hold my neck a little less tightly?” Thistle choked.
“Sorry.” Thomas gasped, loosening his hold immediately.
Thistle sighed in relief. “Thank you.”
Once Thomas had resituated himself on Thistle’s back, the dragon rose into the sky.
The wind blew into Thomas’s face, bringing tears to his eyes, but he didn’t care. He was too excited. After all, he was riding a dragon!
The cell door banged open. Thorac stomped down the steps, his nose wrinkling in disgust at the smell of his prison. He saw the two siblings huddled together at the bottom of the steps and his mouth curled into a cruel smile. For years he had been waiting for this day. The day he would be able to take revenge on his stepbrother. He would relish every moment of it.
Walking down the remaining steps he kicked Brittney awake. She jumped up, startled, dumping Patrick onto the floor.
“What do you want?” She asked coldly, helping her brother up. “It’s very bad manners to kick a lady.”
Thorac snorted contemptuously. “Don’t speak of manners to me. I don’t care, and you should know that.”
Brittney had calmed down after the first scare and was now completely herself again. “Father told me that you were once a gentleman.” She said softly. “I thought maybe you would remember some things from those days.”
“Don’t ever speak to me of your father!” Thorac spat angrily. “I don’t want to hear about him or ‘those days’ as you call them.”
“Very well.” Brittney said calmly.
Thorac was surprised at her response. He had expected anger, or perhaps tears, but not calmness. He quickly recovered himself and pasted his usual smile back on his face.
“I will negotiate the ransom price with your father through Thorn today.”
“How much money are you going to ask from…him?” Brittney asked carefully.
Thorac rubbed his hands together, while a greedy glint appeared in his eyes. “I’m going to ask for 50,000 gold coins.” He replied.
All the blood drained from Brittney’s face. “50,000 gold coins!” She gasped.
“Yes.” Thorac chuckled. “And if he doesn’t pay it within a week, I’m going to either kill him…” he pointed a long finger at Patrick, who shrank behind Brittney’s skirt, “…or marry you. It will be your father’s choice.”
Brittney could hardly believe her ears. It was too horrible. “You wouldn’t dare!” She exclaimed.
“Oh, wouldn’t I?” Thorac asked, chuckling to himself.
Brittney shuddered, wondering if this could possibly be a nightmare and that she could wake up at any moment and find herself in her own room, in her own bed.
Thorac turned away from the siblings suddenly, and called his dragon on the whistle. Thorn appeared almost magically.
“You called me, Master?” He asked respectfully.
“Go and deliver the ransom message to their father.” Thorac ordered. “And this time, obey my order!”
“Yes Master.” Thorn answered, and then slipped from the prison.
Thorac turned back to Brittney, who did her best to appear defiant. He chuckled. “Since you insist on being difficult, I’ll just leave you in here for a while longer. Eventually you’ll get hungry enough to apologize.”
Brittney fought back the tears that welled up in her eyes. “You’ll never get away with this.” She hissed, keeping her voice steady.
“Watch me.” Thorac replied, and disappeared, shutting the door behind him.
Thomas felt his stomach drop into his toes as Thistle suddenly plunged down through the clouds.
“Do you have to do that?” He asked, gulping in air.
Thistle smiled. “No, but I enjoy it. Don’t you?”
“I might get used to it after a while.” Thomas said, hating to ruin any of his friend’s pleasure. “Just warn me next time so I can brace myself.”
“I will.” Thistle promised.
Just then they broke through the clouds and Thomas saw that they were directly over an island. Checking his map, he tapped Thistle on the neck excitedly.
“This is one of yours.” He said.
Thistle gave his friend a quick nod. “Here we go… I’m warning you.”
“You’re going to…?” Thomas began.
Thistle answered by again plunging downward towards the island. Just when Thomas began thinking that Thistle would crash into the trees of the islands, he pulled up and soared in a circle around it. Thomas gasped for breath, holding his stomach.
“Are you alright?” Thistle asked apologetically. “I did warn you.”
Thomas nodded, although his face was still a faint hue of green. “I’ll be fine in a couple seconds.” He replied bravely. “A little more of a warning would have been nice.”
Thistle looked dismayed. “I’m so sorry Thomas! I promise that next time I’ll warn you and then count to five…out loud…before plunging.”
“Thanks, that should help.” Thomas answered, his face its normal color again. He looked below him, and got the subject back to more important things. “Let’s search the island!”
“Yes sir!” Thistle answered teasingly and circled the island.
But no luck. There were only trees, trees, and yet more trees. Not even animals or other dragons, let alone humans, lived on that island. Only a few birds flew about, minding their own business.
Disappointed in their failure, the two friends turned away from the island, Thomas crossing it off his map with a sigh of regret. He had hoped that they would, by some miracle, find the person in need quickly.
Thistle rose steadily in the air, and soon they were above the clouds again, headed due north to the next island.
Patrick’s stomach growled. Brittney sighed. This had not been going well. Both siblings were beginning to feel the pangs of hunger, and it had only been a few hours since Thorac had left them. It didn’t help when smells from Thorac’s own meal came wafting through the cell door.
“He’s doing that on purpose.” Brittney muttered to herself angrily as her own stomach growled.
Patrick whimpered quietly, and Brittney took her mind off her empty stomach by comforting him.
If he wasn’t here, I would have given up already, she thought to herself gratefully. There’s nothing quite like having someone to comfort to keep you from despairing from all hope.
“It’ll be alright.” She said aloud, hugging her brother and tousling his already unruly hair. “Help will come soon.”
Patrick managed a weak smile, and Brittney played guessing games with him that helped them both forget for a moment the gnawing feeling that began getting steadily stronger.
Isn't Thorac awful? He gave me the shivers just writing about him! :P
How do you like the new characters, Brittney and Patrick?
God Bless! :D