|#1zombiegleemaxJan 28, 2004 8:41:46||As always, your comments and critisisms are welcomed.|
As day began to break Eric awoke, Airyanna was sound asleep in his arms still. Eric tried to get up without disturbing her, figuring she could use the sleep, but alas failed in his efforts. Once again her first words of the day to him were a request to ”go”. After a quick breakfast of dried fruit and salt pork, which Airyanna found very different, the two were once again on their way down the road.
It wasn’t long before she was once again being carried and asking questions. Again she asked why the draconians were at war with so many on Krynn, and again, Eric had no answer. Soon enough they came across a small stream at which Eric stopped at to refill his water skin.
Eric watched as Airyanna began to scoop water from the small stream into her mouth. Waiting for the right moment he suddenly splashed her with a large volume of water. She shrieked, but then returned the favor with splashes of her own. Soon both were traipsing in the stream trying to soak one another, though Airyanna’s efforts met with far less success then Eric’s. For the first time since he had found her though he heard her laugh. He had heard laughter plenty of times before, but never from a child. It was a pleasant sound, one that gave the large warrior pleasure to hear.
“Well, at least you’re not as filthy now.” He said as he chuckled himself.
“Yeah, but I’m kind of cold now.” She replied as they both made their way out of the water.
Eric took off his cloak, only the bottom of which had gotten wet, and wrapped it around the small girl. Lifting her up again he smiled at her as he roughed up her dripping hair. She smiled back, then lay her head on his wounded shoulder.
“Eric, I wanna stay with you, you’re not mean like everyone says draconians are.” She lifted her head up, looking into his face “Are all draconians like you?”
Eric didn’t answer, he just smiled, then began to ask himself the same question. He knew it wouldn’t be long before they would make it back to his brigade’s command center.
As they approached both could hear the sounds of a bustling camp, the smell of burnt out bonfires from the night before filled the air. Entering the camp several soldiers gave Airyanna, who was walking at Eric’s side a strange and bewildered look.
To Eric it was a standard Army unit camp. Airyanna looked about, seeing draconians of different sizes and colors. She noticed that most were a dirty bronze, and much shorter than Eric was, though she did see a few of similar color and stature to Eric, and even a couple of Silver draconians which were taller. More abundant than the draconians though were the humans. All of whom looked hardened and just as frightening to the small girl as the other draconians. Looking in front of her she could see a green dragon taking off in the distance.
“Eric, I’m scared, I wanna be carried.”
Eric swept her off the ground his pace quickened as he secured her in his arm. They entered into a large tent in the center of the camp, the entrance of which was guarded by two of the large silver draconians. Inside stood one of the shorter bronze draconians who greeted Eric in a strange tongue to the small girl, they seemed to know each other from the tone though.
A human, dressed in plate, with a flowing green cape stood hunched over a table with what looked like a map in front of him.
“Lieutenant Degn” the human called out in the language of man without looking up. “Report.”
“No enemy activity in the village sir.” Eric paused, glancing at Airyanna “One enemy patrol of five outside the village which I, neutralized.”
“Excellent,” replied the human, still looking down at his map. “As you can see, Sergeant Raeder is back off the injured list and fit for duty with Third Recon again, hopefully soon you’ll be back up to full strength.” The human shifted some papers, then continued “I am also promoting you to the rank of Captain, and awarding you the Cross of the Dragon, what you pulled a few days ago to allow….” It was then that the human looked up. “What the hell is that !?!”
“Sir, I found her in the village, she seems to be the lone survivor,” Eric’s words were cut short by a waive of the human’s hand.
“A child!?! Does she posses some knowledge of value?”
“Well sir, I found her, and I…”
“Just kill it!” barked the human. It was then that Airyanna’s arms tightened around Eric’s neck, indicating that she spoke, or at the very least understood, the language of humans as well as her own. Though he should have known this before, how else could she have known that the human from yesterday had begged for his life.
“Kill it now Captain.”
“Yes sir.” With that Eric set Airyanna down, she began mumbling and crying. As Eric drew his sword and raised it Airyanna closed her eyes, tears flowing down her face. She heard a rush of air, but felt no pain. Opening her eyes Eric stood empty handed above her, his sword stuck in the ground next to her. She turned to see the human standing behind her, his face full of rage.
“If you’ll not kill it then I will!” screamed the human as he pulled his own sword forth.
The Human raised his blade, Airyanna heard another rush of air. When she opened her eyes again she saw the human staggering backwards, a dagger lodged in his chest. As he stepped back he dropped his sword to the ground, then fell wordless next to it.
Eric pulled his own sword from the dirt, then turned to the shocked Bozak.
“Larkus, you’ve been my loyal friend for years.” Eric said as he lifted Airyanna back up.
“I can’t kill her, and I can’t let her die, I couldn’t.”
The Bozak broke his gaze from the slain human. “Do you realize what you’ve done?”
“More than you know.” Eric replied gravely.
“I’ve known you since we were hatchlings, the only thing that more amazing than your ability to find trouble has been your ability to get out of it, but this time.” The Bozak looked straight at Eric.
“Larkus, I can’t explain right now, but I need your loyalty. I have to get her out of here.”
“And where will you go? No draconian has ever done what you have that I know of, and you’re no ordinary Aurak, you’re one of the new breed. You might get out of here but”
“This war is wrong Larkus, I’ve known this girl for not more than a day and a half, she’s made me question everything.”
“What are saying!?!” The Bozak’s face turned to one of disbelief.
“I don’t know the answers, I just know that this, this war, our hatred of these people, following this madman who thinks himself a Highlord, it’s wrong!” Eric looked at Airyanna, then back at the Bozak. “I’m not asking you to come with us, just, give me time to get a head start before you report what’s happened.”
“You’ve saved my life many times, just tell me why you’ve given up everything, for this….child.”
“Ask yourself why you’re fighting, I mean really ask yourself. Ask yourself why the so-called good races of Krynn are our enemies. Ask yourself, what have we gotten by following these dragon lords all our lives, and what the cost has been.”
The Bozak sighed, then spoke as he looked back at the dead human, ”Go, I’ll give you ten minutes.” He looked back up at Eric, “See you in the afterlife old friend.”
“You too.” With that Eric exited the tent.
Without word Eric carried Airyanna swiftly out of the base. He parted from the road quickly. He didn’t know where he was going, he just kept going, using all of his training to cover his trail. Soon he could hear the activity in his old base increase. Two dragons flew over the road. They flew past, he couldn’t sure, but Eric was confident they hadn’t been spotted, he kept moving.
The trees became thicker as the road grew more distant, he could still hear shouting in the distance behind him. Still moving, the trees were thick enough now that they almost blocked out the late after-noon sun. The Bozak had been right, there was no place for him to go, but Eric just kept moving. He could feel Airyanna’s tears on his neck and shoulder. The idea of his own death was of no bother to him, but he had to save her, whatever this change that had occurred in him had been, it would not let him stomach the idea of her death.
Eric then found an old collapsed tree, the inside of which was partially hollow. He set Airyanna in cavity, then started to gather some nearby brush.
“I’m going to lead them away, you stay here and stay quiet.” He whispered to her.
“Don’t leave me, I don’t want you to go” Her arms stretched out toward him.
Eric knelt down then whispered in her ear, ”I promise I will come back.” With that he squeezed her hand, stood up, and then disappeared into the all-consuming forest.
Airyanna, sobbed silently. She was alone again, except for the sound of distant shouting. Her heart raced with fear. Several of the voices grew closer. Soon she knew they were right near her. Then a face peered in the log, looking right into her own. She made no sound, she was too terrified to scream. Looking closer she recognized the face. It was the Bozak.
Larkus looked in at her for a moment longer, then stood up.
“Sergeant!” A human voice called out. “I think they might have come this way.”
“No” said the Bozak as he walked away from the downed tree. “They didn’t come this way. They must have headed further off that way”
Airyanna couldn’t see what direction the Bozak pointed, but they headed off, their voices slowly fading into the distance.
An eternity passed, the forest grew darker, soon the voices were replaced by the sounds of a light wind, leaves rustling, branches creaking, and distant nighttime creatures. Suddenly a new sound approached. Already deathly afraid she closed her eyes.
“Airyanna” a familiar voice whispered.
She opened her eyes, Eric had come back. He pulled the brush away from her then scooped her out of the dead tree. The sense of relief was overwhelming.
“We’re gonna have to keep moving all night tonight.” He lifted her off the ground. “We have to move fast so I’m gonna keep carrying you ok.”
“You’re face is bleeding, what happened, where’d you go?”
“I’ll tell you later, for now we just have to go.” Eric started moving through the darkness, though darkness was of no real challenge to an Aurak. “Are you alright?”
“No, you were gone a really long time, and that other draconian looked at me.” She ended her words with a long sniffle.
“That other draconian from the tent looked in the tree, but I don’t think he saw me cause they left.”
Maybe they hadn’t seen her, or maybe Larkus was a more loyal friend than he thought. Either way she alive and safe for the moment, and that’s what really mattered to Eric.
He stopped at a small stream. Setting Airyanna down Eric knelt down, then splashed a little water on his face. His head swimming with the thought of what he had done this day. There was no point in looking back though, he was committed to the path he had taken.
Motionless for a moment his thoughts were interrupted by the sensation of a soft touch on his face. He turned to see Airyanna holding a small damp piece of cloth she had torn from her already tattered dress. She reached out with it and held it to wound just under his left eye.
“My mom always said you had to clean any spot you hurt.”
Eric smiled. “Your dress is in pretty bad shape, we’ll have to see about getting you something better to wear. Are you cold?”
“A little, could I have your cape again?” She asked as she continued to wipe the blood from Eric’s face.
“My cloak, sure.” Eric unhooked the clasp which held his cloak about his neck then wrapped it around the child.
“Thank you for coming back and getting me.”
“I could never leave you, and I never will.” Eric picked Airyanna up once again, this time giving her a small hug. As he did she hugged him back. “Airyanna?”
“Yeah?” She replied as she placed her head on his shoulder.
“Did you ever have a knick name or something?” Eric asked as he started walking along the stream.
“Airy, everybody always called me Airy. You can call me that too if you want. Do you have one?” She lifted her head back off his shoulder.
“No, not really.”
“I’ll come up with one for you.”
Eric only grinned briefly in reply.
“Eric, you killed that man back there.”
“I promised I wouldn’t hurt you, and that means I won’t let anyone else hurt you either.”
Eric and Airyanna moved through the thick forest for the rest of the night. Airyanna would occasionally drift to sleep in his arms. When awake she would blurt out knick names, each one sillier then the last, all a pleasant distraction from the situation at hand.