The Tale of Ander Collins: Chapter Fourteen

Fiction By LoriAnn // 6/30/2009

 

Ander was rudely awakened the next morning by a claw poking him in the side. “Mmm…” he groaned, rolling over. “Leave me alone, Shyllen.”
She poked him harder. “We will if you don’t get up, Clod. Come one.”
Ander grunted and stretched the aches out of his muscles. Smacking his lips in sleepy disgust, he squinted blearily up at the grey sky. “It’s not even light yet,” he complained to no one in particular. Hearing a low rumble, he glanced over at the ogres’ campfire. The three elder creatures were still asleep, snoring prodigiously. Jagsod, however, was up and about, stirring the pot of leftover stew that hung above a fresh fire. He was talking to Thraluic intently, and the dragon was shaking his head. Grouchily curious, Ander straightened his clothes and went over to them.
“Good morning, Ander,” Thraluic said, turning to greet him.
“Morning? Yeah, I guess it might be,” Ander retorted sourly. “Hard to tell in this light.”
Jagsod snorted.
“What are you two talking about?” Ander asked, taking the bowl that Jagsod handed him and ladling out a helping of the stew.
Jagsod sliced a piece of bread from a thick loaf and passed it to Ander. “I want to come with you,” he explained. “And your master says no.”
“I most certainly do,” the dragon interjected. “Your parents hardly know us at all, Jagsod. How can I ask them to entrust you to my care?”
The ogre shrugged, jabbing a thumb in his sleeping elders’ direction. “It’s about time I struck out on my own anyway,” he said. “Dad’s been trying to get me to hit the road ever since my last birthday, and I think even Mom would be relieved at this point.”
“Your parents would wish you to leave?” Thraluic’s voice was skeptical.
“It’s and ogre thing. Once we’re old enough to take care of ourselves, we have to prove it – go off for a year or so and bring back treasures and stories and bigger muscles and thicker heads.” Jagsod looked slightly resentful. “Most of us just take it as a year’s vacation – you know, a chance to go wild, go all the places we’re not supposed to go, act the way we’re not supposed to act. But I want to do something, you know?”
Ander said nothing as he dipped the bread into his thick stew, but he found himself agreeing with the young ogre. Who wouldn’t want to have a grand adventure before settling down to a normal life? Then he thought of Celzara’s razor-sharp, green eyes boring into him, and he shuddered. So maybe adventures weren’t all they were cracked up to be after all.
Thraluic was nodding slowly. “I’ll have to talk to your father, of course,” he said “but another hand and strong back wouldn’t go amiss in this endeavor of ours.”
Jagsod looked hopeful, and flipped a lock of shaggy hair out of his face. “Thanks,” he said. “I’m sure Dad will agree.”
 
 
 
He did too, and with surprisingly little argument, thought Ander. Even with what Jagsod had said about young ogres leaving their pack for a year, it still seemed unnatural that parents would actually want their child to leave home – and even more, that the child would want the same thing! To Ander, who had never known his parents, it was alien and strange.
However, no one else seemed to see anything odd about the arrangement, so after Jagsod had said his goodbyes, the dragons lifted off again – this time, with Ander riding aboard Shyllen, and Jagsod – who was built like a rock and about as weighty – riding Thraluic.
“We should make the sea by this afternoon,” Thraluic said, as they rose above Denwold’s sheltering canopy and into the light of the rising sun. “We’ll sleep on the beach tonight and start off for the islands tomorrow morning.”
The day was a warm one, thick with the moist, hot winds blowing into their faces from the west. Ander sat facing rearward on Shyllen’s back, watching the sun rise behind them, all gold and pink and violet. Birds fluttered up from the forest, darting around the dragons’ heads and cheekily swooping almost close enough for Ander to touch, just barely out of reach. The clouds above their heads – higher than even the dragons could fly – were puffy and soft-looking, like the meringue Cook liked to top her chocolate pies with. Ander’s mouth watered at the thought of those luscious, sweet pastries, hot from the oven and melting the air with their rich, dark scent.
Another scent distracted Ander for a moment. It was a cool, green smell, like – “A river!” he called out, pointing down.
“It’s the Seletar,” Thraluic answered him. “We’ve been flying over it most of the trip so far, but it gets nearly a mile wide here. Now the trees aren’t blocking our view.”
Ander leaned over Shyllen’s side, gaping at the huge expanse of water. Their reflections shimmered on the surface, broken into ripples as a fish splashed energetically. Ander blinked as the water reflected the sunlight into his eyes, and he caught sight of a thin-legged, long-necked bird stalking near the shore. He chuckled – it walked the same way as some of the king’s courtiers did, with their noses in the air and their gartered legs high-stepping.
The river veered away to the south soon, and Ander returned his attention to the land before them. He knew that they must still technically be inside of Thraluic’s territory, though he doubted that the dragon came this far very often. The lush green of the forest against the stark blue of the sky made for a stunning, ever-shifting landscape that Ander found endlessly fascinating. He watched intently as they crossed deep, bowl-like valleys that seemed very dark and ominous at their bottoms, shivering in delighted fear at the horrible night-creatures his imagination conjured up. There were small meadows, surrounded on all sides by thick trees, but bursting with color and bright life of their own: deer and rabbits and other small creatures. Once, Ander even thought he might have seen a unicorn, but they flew over far too fast for him to be sure.
They flew mostly in silence, since the distance between them made conversation difficult, but around noon, Thraluic swooped above Shyllen’s head so that Jagsod could toss Ander a sack of traveling food. Ander waved at him thankfully, and the ogre grinned back. When Ander opened the sack, he found a selection of dried meat strips, lightly spiced with wild garlic; a piece of good yellow cheese, and three small rolls. Silently thanking Jagsod’s ogress mother for her foresight, Ander dug into the food, savoring the salty meat and cheese. Unfortunately, the salt also made him extremely thirsty, but he discovered an apple under the cheese, and that helped.
It must have been only about three hours later – during which time Ander became very bored and hot under the noonday sun – that the briny smell of seawater wafted on the breeze. Ander pulled his head out from underneath the make-shift sunshade he had crafted out of his over-tunic and peered over Shyllen’s head.
He sucked in a deep breath through his teeth.
There, stretching out as far as he could see in the west, was a great shining plain of glittering silver. Small white puffs adorned its glimmering surface, and little white birds swooped and dove in loose clouds scattered here and there across the near edge. Ander had never seen anything so beautiful and terrifying in his life. It was immense! Far larger than the Denwold, and that was hundreds of miles across!
“What is it?” he asked in breathless amazement, even as part of him wanted to cower on Shyllen’s back and hide from the enormous space.
“It’s the sea, Clod. Water.” Shyllen was trying to sound superior and haughty, but Ander could hear the awe in her voice as well.
They flew on, and the sea became bigger and bigger in Ander’s vision so that soon, the only land he could see was directly below them, and behind.
Thraluic swooped down and set down on the shore with a soft explosion of sand. “Ahh…” he said in contentment, as Jagsod slid off his back. “This is a place made for dragons. Feel that heat?”
Indeed Ander did – sliding down Shyllen’s side and into the sand was like jumping feet-first into an oven. He could feel the warmth through the soles of his boots, and radiating up into his face.
“Yeah,” he said, quickly beginning to sweat. “Nice and warm, alright.”
Jagsod gave him a mischievous grin. “Last one into the water is a kelpie’s rear end!” he darted forward, his feet spitting sand.
Ander dropped his bundle onto an outcropping boulder and raced for the water’s edge. Splashing into the silvery liquid, he yelped at the unexpected coolness.
“Woo-hoo!” he shouted in excitement, ducking his head into an oncoming wave. “This is amazing!”
“Look out below!” Shyllen’s voice shouted. Ander looked up – just in time to catch a face-full of water as the dragoness plunged in, diving from the sky into the deeper water a few dozen feet out.
Spluttering, Ander wiped the salt from his eyes and sat down in the surf, feeling the waves pull the sand out from under his legs. He scooted out until he was chest-deep in the water.
“This is the life,” he said, splashing contentedly in the foam. “I thought it would be calm and weedy, like a lake. But this…” he motioned around with his hand, unable to find the right words.
“The sea is different than anything else on the earth,” Thraluic agreed, his scaly length stretched out over the hot sand. His golden eyes drooped in relaxation, and Ander was glad that he seemed to have forgotten the damage to his cave, at least for the moment. “There aren’t enough words in the human language to describe it, though many of your poets have tried. Dragon-tongue comes a bit closer, but our vocabulary tends to lean more towards fire and heat and treasure. It makes for an interesting time trying to describe winter, I can tell you that.”
Ander chuckled. Thraluic looked like a big cat lying there, his entire span close to six times as long as Ander’s height. “Comfortable?” Ander asked him.
“Mmm…yes.”
Ander was about to reply, when something grabbed his ankle under the water!
“Help!” he shouted, kicking at the creature, and splashing so hard that he blinded himself with salt water. “Get it off me! Get it off!”
The grip released him, and Ander scrambled up and out of the water, falling back several times and stubbing his toe on a rock. He collapsed on the sand, and swiped at his eyes. “What was that?!?” he demanded, his heart thumping like a runaway horse.
Out in the water, Shyllen and Jagsod were bent over with laughter. Shyllen had apparently shifted into her human shape, and now she imitated Ander’s frantic retreat, splashing and shouting the whole way. Jagsod fell into the water, he was laughing so hard!
Thraluic guffawed heartily behind Ander, puffing little jets of green fire. “I believe it was a certain ogre, lad,” he said.
Ander stared in disbelief at Jagsod, who shouted gleefully and waved. Sputtering incoherently, Ander flushed as red as the apple he had eaten for lunch. “You – you little – arrrg!” he roared his fury and stormed into the water, hands outstretched. “You’re going down, Jagsod!”
The ogre made a face of mock fear and splashed away, while Ander plunged into the surf and stuck out after him. The other boy swam slower than Ander did, and Ander grabbed his shoulders and dunked him under, shouting victoriously. The sound was barely out of his mouth when he felt two hands settle on his own shoulders and push him down.
Ander came up spitting, and splashed at Shyllen, who squealed and ducked under a small wave to avoid him. She tickled his toes under the water, and he shouted in surprise.
On the shore, Thraluic watched them play and sighed in contentment. Danger would come soon enough, but they were still children. It was good for them to relax.
 
 
They finally drug themselves out of the tide at sunset, red-eyed and salt-encrusted, with sand in every possible crevice. Collapsing on the sand, where Thraluic had started a small fire with driftwood and dried seaweed. The dragon himself was no where to be seen.
“What’s for supper?” Jagsod asked, breaking a twig and throwing it into the flames.
“Hold on.” Shyllen stood wearily and got her pack, pulling out several more pieces of the ogress’ meat and a few apples.
They dug the cores out of the apples and stuffed them with meat, then roasted them on green branches over the fire, tired and content to sit silently as the sparks from their blaze flew up and mingled with the gathering stars. Ander sighed. He had never had so much fun – not even when he, Jove, Criston, Kenderly and Davior – the boys he had bunked with – had released a cage full of fat, glossy rats into the noble’s courtyard and watched all the fine ladies (and quite a few of the lords) run screaming for help. Come to think of it, that hadn’t actually been that fun – since afterwards, they all got severe thrashings and extra duties in the kitchen.
Ander shook his head and took a bite of his apple. Warm juices ran down his chin, sweet and salty at the same time. “Yum,” he said, around his mouthful. “Whose idea was this?”
Jagsod took a large, crunching bite of his own. “Who cares?” he said, licking the sticky juice from his chin with a long brown tongue. “It’s delicious.”  
Shyllen ate her apple with considerably more grace than the boys, scooping out the insides with a small spoon and wiping her mouth on a handkerchief. “I don’t think I can remember ever being this hungry before,” she grunted happily. “And they do say that hunger is the best seasoning.”
They finished their meal in silence, listening to the soft shushing of the waves against the sand, and the cries of night birds just inside the forest.
Just as the fire started to die down into glowing coals, Thraluic reappeared, slipping out of the dark forest with hardly a rustle. “Sorry to be gone so long,” he apologized, puffing on the fire to get it burning again. “The game around here seems to be mostly rabbits and birds – not a decently sized deer for miles.”
“That’s fine Uncle. Did you find anything?” Shyllen asked sleepily.
“Yes – eventually. Finally ran across a herd of boar about a mile from here.” Thraluic puffed a tiny flame. “Good eating, those.”
Ander lay on his back in the sand, now pleasantly warm and a comfort against the cool sea air. He gazed up at the sky, catching sight of two shooting stars that burned fiercely for a second, and vanished. “What are our plans for tomorrow?” he asked, resting his head on his hands.
Thraluic answered. “Another day’s flying still,” he said. “If we set out early, we can hopefully find one of the small offshore islands by dark. It’s going to take us another three days – at least – to get to the Scyth Islands.” Shyllen groaned. “Don’t worry niece. We can use the exercise.” There was a teasing tone to Thraluic’s voice.
Shyllen merely grunted.
“If we’re going to wake up early,” Jagsod proposed reasonably “We may want to go ahead and go to bed now. I know I’m ready to sleep.”
Ander rolled over and blinked into the firelight. “What is it about swimming that makes you so amazingly exhausted?” he asked absently.
Thraluic snorted. “Just a fact of life, Ander. Go ahead and go to sleep, young ones. I’ll keep watch.”
Ander forced himself to retrieve his cloak from where he had draped it over a boulder earlier. Curling up on the warm sand, and spreading the cloak over him like a blanket, he fell asleep in minutes. His last thought was Yes. Definitely better than the rats…
 

Comments

So far, this has been my

So far, this has been my favorite chapter to write. Hope you liked it.

~L

LoriAnn | Tue, 06/30/2009

Excited

It’s and ogre thing

I think you mean an ogre thing. Otherwise, it's amazing.

Julie | Fri, 07/03/2009

Formerly Kestrel

oops

Yep, I meant "an". Sorry - there's prolly a ton of typos in these things.

LoriAnn | Mon, 07/06/2009

Fun

I like it LoriAnn.

Kay J Fields | Mon, 07/06/2009

Visit my writing/book review blog at http://transcribingthesedreams.blogspot.com/

Whohoo!

Glad to see some more chapters, LoriAnn! Yay! I really liked this chapter--such fun--reminds me of my siblings and me in the water... ;0) And I like Jagsod too. The way you described the ogres was neat!

LOL, this quote from Thraluic made me laugh! "Dragon-tongue comes a bit closer, but our vocabulary tends to lean more towards fire and heat and treasure. It makes for an interesting time trying to describe winter, I can tell you that." :0D

Heather | Mon, 07/13/2009

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

This is one of my favorite

This is one of my favorite chapters so far.  Sorry it took me such a long time get around to it though!  I love the ocean... *sigh*

Bridget | Wed, 07/15/2009

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya