Evading Dragons Part Two, Raised by Dogs
Lars stepped out of the tunnel opening and looked to the west. It had been two days since they made their way out of Nashville. They seemed to have lost the dragons. As they went east they ran into more water. Rivers and streams made the traveling difficult. Crossing open water was as bad as the roads. This water forced them south into what they knew to be dog territory. Ester said how there was once many breeds of dogs and they served man. But after the fall, the larger breeds killed off the smaller breeds. The different breeds bred together creating the feral dogs that roamed the countryside. Hester knew of a village that was overrun with hundreds of these dogs. Whatever connection man had with the dog was long dead.
They had hoped the tunnel would provide a safe passage, but the other end was closed off. This would mean that they would have to either travel in the mountainous terrain or go further south. Neither were good options. They were told that further south was where the dogs were the thickest and some sort of long green monster that lived in the swamps. Something called an alligator. Helena’s father told her about the large cats that lived in the mountains. He had said that they were as big as dogs and killed anything that came their way. They all knew that with the change in the weather coming that they could run into the dog packs as they migrated south. The dogs stayed mostly to the roads and low lands. This migration brought out the smaller dragons making the open roads a place to go to die.
Go to the Coast
Going north into what was rapidly becoming winter was foolish and going south was not an option. One of the many information brokers Helena met spoke of the coast and how there were villages there. If they could make it to the coast, then they could set up camp and wait out the weather. It was left unsaid that they all still planned to go north together to this mythical city. Val, Ester, and Helena could find themselves a place in any village with little effort. The same was near true for Lars. His age made him a good laborer. Most villages would see Hester as an alpha and not let him in without something to trade. He had a knife and the spear he made himself. He also had the strange metallic thing. It was once a weapon that spits fire or something, but now it was a metal club with a wooden head. Hester’s great-grandfather called it a revolver.
We can’t stay here
About midday they found what was once a small village. A palisade that was built to keep the dogs out but had no defense against an aggressive dragon. Whatever happened here happened a while ago. The walls were intact but the buildings inside were leveled. Smashed and burned. On the other side of the wall was the rotting corpse of a smaller dragon. Not even the hungriest of dogs would eat from a dragon. If the meat wasn’t poisoned from the blood, then the smell would linger and attract other dragons. Hester figured they had killed this dragon and the scent attracted a larger dragon. Ester said, “we can’t stay here.” As they searched the camp for supplies Lars saw movement to the west. Something or someone was coming fast.
They ducked underneath a fallen roof and watched. Something jumped on the roof. It growled, but the sound wasn’t dog-like. A small child jumped down in front of the opening to their hideout. He went to all fours and sat like a dog. The boy was nearly naked and filthy. His hair was down past his shoulders. He stared in and growled. Something larger jumped on the roof. It said, “hey dummy. Did you find something boy?” A man dressed from head to toe in dog fur jumped down and looked in. He said, “well hello there.” He backed away as Lars and Hester stepped out. Lars had an ax he found in the Grand Ole Opry and Hester had his spear. The boy growled then backed up. The man showed his empty hands then he carefully lifted his right arm and pulled out a necklace. At the end of it was a dragon’s tooth. The symbol of an information trader.
Buying and Selling
He said his name was Sid and he had named the boy Dummy. He had found the boy living with a pack of dogs. He said, “if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes then I wouldn’t have believed it. The dogs were taking care of him like he was one of them.” The man patted his jacket. He had killed the dogs and kept the boy. Sid said, “I have information to sell if you are buying.” Hester looked at the women then back to Sid. He said, “I am their guardian, but I don’t own them. I do have a few things I could trade, but not them.” Ester said, “give us a taste and just maybe we could come to a deal.” Sid said, “it’s obvious that you are traveling east. That can be a dangerous trip.” He pulled out a folded piece of paper and said, “unless you have one of these.” He had a map of what looked like the area. Ester saw the name Nashville on the part showing. Ester said, “I think we have a deal.”
Val got up. Hester said, “you don’t have to do this.” She said, “this isn’t your call.” Sid said, “oh heck no. I want a woman, not a girl. It’s her or nothing.” He pointed at Ester. She smiled as Val sat back down. Ester whispered into Sid’s ear, “after that I will make sure you get your maps worth.” He led her to a place just around a hill away from the group. The boy stayed with them as a hostage until Ester came back. They opened the map and soon realized that they were many miles away from the coast. Hester said, “it would almost make more sense to start north than travel straight east.” Val turned to Lars and said, “could you reach down and pull that thing he is wearing over his boy parts. It’s disturbing.” Lars said, “I’m not touching him.” The boy growled. Hester traced his finger north-east on the map until he stopped at the name New York City. Another sign that this place was real. Hester looked toward the place the two went. He said, “I think its been too long. She should be back by now.”
They walked around the hill to find them gone. There were signs of a struggle. Val asked, “how can we find her?” Hester turned to the boy. He asked, “where is Sid boy? Where is he?” The boy’s whole body was wagging. He jumped up and down then took off for the woods. They followed him for about a mile. As they got closer they could smell smoke and cooking meat. They could see smoke rise from the other side of a hill. The boy stopped and went to the ground. He didn’t like whatever was on the other side of that hill. Lars slowly moved around the hill low to the ground. He could see five men all dressed in dog fur. Off to the side, he could see Ester. Something didn’t seem right. Her head was turned too far to the left. The one named Sid said, “yes, there was two more. One of them was a skinny thing and the other was just how you like them. There was also a boy.” One of the men said, “how young.” He smiled, and the rest laughed. A third man pointed to Ester. He asked, “you think she is still any good?” Sid said, “she’s dead, but I bet she is still warm.” Over the fire was the body of a dog. It had been roasting for hours. The men were cutting off pieces and eating it.
Dinner for Two
Lars came back and told them what he saw. He did his best to describe how Ester’s head was turned nearly clear around. The boy went back to the ground and looked up. Hester realized that the smell of the meat and the fire must have attracted a dragon. Helena said, “we can’t do anything but run.” They took off, but the boy stayed behind. Val tried to wave him over, but he just stood there. The boy crept up on the men. As they sat there a dragon about the size of a horse walked into their camp. The men jumped up and turned to run. Another dragon cut them off. The boy watched as the dragons ate the men that killed his family. They had killed and skinned the only family he knew. They forced him to wear the skin of what was a brother. One of the dragons sniffed the woman, but it seemed they didn’t want to eat dead human meat. When the last of the men were dead, the boy snuck away and ran to join his new pack. He smiled all the way.