Evading Dragons, Part Four: Human Dragons
Three men sat around a table staring at each other. One of them asked, “and you saw this happen?” Hester said, “no my boy did. He watched them circle and stomp.” Hester knew it would be better if these men thought Lars was his son. There would be less of a chance they would try and buy him. One of the men looked to the corner at the feral boy watching them with a look of anger and hunger. Hester said, “no not that one.” Spot looked to Hester then back to the men. The first man asked, “where is the boy that saw this? Why isn’t he here?” Hester took a drink and said, “we don’t have much and what we do have is being protected by my boy and the others.” The first man said, “my name is Frank, and this is Vector.” He pointed to the other man. Vector said, “where did you get the dragon’s tooth around your neck?” Hester reached into a pocket and pulled out two of the medium size teeth and tossed them onto the table. He said, “I think we can come to an understanding.”
Two hours later, Hester and spot came back to the others camped near a river. He had three bags full of supplies and information. Spot had his haircut. Val just stared at the boy and just how young he looked all clean and groomed. Hester told her how it took three women to do that and a dragon’s tooth. For his part, Spot dropped to the ground and rolled in the dirt. Hester said, “the dragons carry their dead away making teeth rare and valuable, so spending them for nothing is a waste that we just can’t afford.” Spot got to a crouch and started to do his body wag. Hester lightly patted his head. Helena couldn’t get over just how different Hester was with this boy then with anyone else. Lars asked, “did you get the passes?” Hester pulled out three pieces of paper. They were green and made from a cloth and paper hybrid. Most of the ink was faded, but the image of a man with a beard was still visible as well as a name. Lars asked, “who was Lincoln?” He then counted the papers and said, “wait there are only three?” Hester told him as well as the others that women didn’t need passes to go into town or cross the bridge.
A man on the Road
A day ago, the group ran into a man on the road. He told them about the town and the bridge. He said, “it’s the only safe place to cross.” He pointed at Helena and Val then said, “if I were you I would do whatever I could to make them look like men. The people that control the bridge don’t let women leave their town.” Hester told them that while in the meeting hall he watched three women cross the bridge without any trouble. He said, “we paid that man for bad information. He is now going to use our knowledge to earn what he doesn’t deserve.” They decided to cross in the morning. They wouldn’t stop at the hall just in case the man was right. It was also a distraction they didn’t need. It had been five days since Lars killed the dragon and people had found the body in the valley. Finding a dragon’s body was so rare that it became general information quickly. Everyone took credit for the find, but no one wanted the blame for the death. The dragon cult was growing across the land. It had even reached Memphis just before the village was wiped out. Ester had said, “its human nature to worship those things people can’t control. At one-point people worshiped the sky and nature.” Hester made sure that the dragon’s teeth he used didn’t look similar, so they couldn’t be connected.
Crossing the Bridge
That morning they crossed the bridge. To do so, they passed by the hall, which was an old brick building with actual glass windows and a faded sign that had once said, Diner. Vector was watching from the window. Val asked, “is that Victor?” Hester said, “Vector.” Val asked, “Victor?” Hester grew just a little angry and said, “no not Victor. It’s Vector Val.” Lars asked, “what does it matter?” Val asked, “so it’s Victor?” Helena said, “Val stop poking the dog.” Spot turned to Helena on the word dog. Hester said, “I need to find someone else to travel with.” With that, they all laughed. Back at the diner, Vector said, “we will give them an hour then take what’s ours.” Behind him was Frank and a man dressed in a grayish costume that had a dragon theme.
An hour away from the town the group stopped and made something to eat. A soup made from dried vegetables and unknown dried meat. Val thought it was some strange fish. As they ate, Spot looked to Hester then back to the bridge. Hester resisted the urge to say, “what did you see something boy, did you?” They were treating Spot like a boy, not a dog hoping he would eventually drop the dog persona. Val quickly put the small fire out. They would leave the leftover soup behind. Hester saw a gray streak in the woods and then another. They grabbed their bags and ran. Hester hoped that the smell of the food would keep the dragon at their camp. The two gray streaks Hester saw approached the camp. One of them put his hand on the place where the fire was. He said, “they were just here.” Five men dressed in the religious garb of the Human Dragon stood by as Vector studied the ground looking for their path.
A Small House
The group found its way to a small house with a large fence around it. Val was sure she saw someone duck into the house as they approached. The house was ancient with the roof having caved in many years ago. Just inside the house, they could see a woman. She looked to be in her mid-forties with long black hair that had streaks of gray. The woman came out of the rubble and said, “you’re not welcome here, and I don’t have anything worth trading.” Hester pulled an apple out of his bag and tossed it to her. She smelled the apple then looked at him. Hester said, “something is following us.” The woman looked at the group then back the way they came. She said, “follow me.” They made their way to what looked like an old well. The woman climbed inside and opened a door. She said, “it’s safe in here.” The door opened on a ladder that led down into an old cellar. They got in, and she closed the door. To anyone passing by it would look like an old abandoned well.
She said her name was Charlette, but everyone called her Lee. She was born on this property and lived her whole life there. Lee said, “the Human Dragons took my family twenty years ago. I hid in the cellar.” She told them how they took people off the trail. How they kept the women and fed the men and boys to the dragons in the nearby valley. She said, “they see the dragons as their gods and the sacrifices as why they can keep the bridge.” Hester said, “we can’t offer you much, but if you want to come with us then you are welcome to whatever we have.” Lee asked, “where are you going?” Val said, “New York City.” As they talked the Human Dragons searched the ruins, then they set them on fire. Vector said, “the fire will attract our gods, and they will find their offerings.” The others chanted, “and the gods of old will cleanse the land and make new.” They chanted this as the flames grew. Lee looked at Hester and said, “OK I guess I am coming with you.” Val noticed how she said it to Hester and not the others.
Another for the Road
Sometime later a large thump hit the ground. It was clear that a large dragon was just outside. It walked around the fire then back to the well. They could hear it sniffing the opening. With a thump, the dragon took off. It had found the scent of the Human Dragons and was following them. Hester said, “go get them.” Lee responded, “they would consider it an honor to be chosen by their god.” Hester said, “my grandfather used to say that it was better for your enemies to die for their cause than for you to die for yours. You should live for your cause.” Hester told them that his grandfather got that from something called a movie. An hour later, they saw smoke coming from the bridge. Lee said, “for our sake, I hope the dragon got them all.” Lee unburied her supplies and packed as much as they could carry. Val couldn’t help noticing how little Lee had with winter coming. Lee responded, “the rest was in the house.” They went back on the trail with a new member and just possibly a new enemy behind them.