The Dragon King
Copyright© 2015 by Allan Kindred
As they walked towards the cave, a fierce howling growl came from within. It is not the deep growl of the bear, but a higher pitch that settles into a throaty growl that sets Christopher's hairs to stand on end.
"Sarah's powers or no, I drew my sword and looked into the dark cave."
Christopher can't see what the creature is, but he can hear its low growl. The only thing he can think of where he has heard such noises, is from two alley cats fighting. Very large alley cats for sure. Sarah again tries to skirt around Christopher, but this time he stops her. She shows her annoyance by crossing her arms across her chest and wrinkling her pretty little nose at him. Christopher does the same to her and starts climbing into the cave.
With a death howl that stops him in his tracks, Christopher sees a flash of tawny power come flying by and out of the cave and it disappears into the mountains. As the mountain lion flies by him, Christopher falls out of the mouth of the cave and falls onto his back right at Sarah's feet. He can see the laughter in her eyes long before it escapes her mouth.
She explains to Christopher after she can catch her breath from laughing so hard, "That cat is a little kinsman to the big lions our birth sign is named after."
Both of them search the cave and decide with minimal work that it will make a good home to survive the harsh mountain winters. Sarah starts immediately on making a garden near the stream.
"Sarah always loved working in the garden. It seemed the more something kept her in contact with the earth itself or its life, the happier she was."
Christopher can only guess at that, because she is one of the Magic Ones and that somehow makes her closer than he can truly ever understand.
The first thing Christopher sets out to do is to go a little further into the mountains and cut down some trees. Most of the trees have the light brown bark of the pine trees, but some have an almost white bark to them from a tree Christopher has never seen before. He and his brothers and their father never went this high when they were here. He doesn't want to cut down the trees just to the west of their little clearing, in case they need them in the deep of winter and to break the force of any storms that may come from the west. After he cuts them down and makes them a manageable size he drags them back. It is a lot of work, and the physical exertion starts filling out Christopher's teenage body. Christopher further cuts them to fit the mouth of the cave, and binds them with strips of bark from one of the types of bushes.
Once the main wall is assembled and put up securely, he then fastens a swinging door. It isn't fancy by any standard, and the hinges that are made from the soles of some old boots will need replacing regularly, but it will help keep the strong winds out and the warmth from their fires in. Christopher then sets to chopping as much wood as possible and piling it in one of the antechambers of the cave. By this time his sword is no longer a weapon of war, but primarily an ax and a splitter, though eventually Sarah finds a rock that fractures with sharp edges, and slowly they start to find the tools they are going to need to survive up here from the land herself.
"I think Whisper would scream his opinion, as mine manifested itself as minor twinges of guilt about the way I treated my sword."
Every time Christopher goes out to get more trees to chop, he notices when he gets back to their clearing that there always seems to be more creatures than the time before. At first he notices several squirrels and a couple of rabbits always near wherever Sarah is. It becomes obvious that the mountain's creatures are flocking to Sarah, because one time when Christopher comes back he literally sees dozens of squirrels, rabbits and little fur ball of creatures he doesn't recognize.
She explains, "They are badgers."
Christopher has no doubt that if Sarah were not present these creatures would not tolerate him. He cringes when a family of skunks shows up, but Sarah loves them all the same. Flocks of birds chatter throughout the clearing's few bushes and the trees to the west. A few days later an orphaned fawn shows up and becomes part of the family. Christopher hasn't seen them yet, but off in the distance during the night he can hear a pack of wolves baying into the dark.
Every once in a while Christopher will get a glimpse of a family of foxes that are living just outside their little clearing.
"I don't know what amazed me more, that such a connection with creatures was possible, or that the connection was so strong that normal predator and prey existed in the same area without fear or hunger."
And finally Sarah's old friend the bear started making appearances. Even the mountain lion that they commandeered its cave from started showing signs of wanting to come home. Luckily the creatures seemed willing to go off and hunt their own food, so Christopher wouldn't have to provide for all of them. He knows, however, that winter is going to bring about some interesting problems.
After Christopher has chopped a forest of wood that he hopes will see them through the coming winter, they start collecting food supplies. At first Christopher brings his kills back to the camp, but the looks he gets from some of the critters starts giving him a complex, so he does the cleaning, skinning and jerking elsewhere.
Also, every time Christopher goes out and he finds a wild flower growing, he brings it back to Sarah with soil still clinging to its roots. Sarah has created a flower garden at the very southern edge of the plateau, just before it falls away and you see for leagues to the south. She has taken various types and colors of rocks and created a three-foot ditch the entire fifteen paces of width of the whole plateau, and steadily has filled it with darker soil.
Every once in a while she would create a concoction of dying plants and animal excrement and mix it into the soil. At first Christopher wasn't happy about seeing his pretty baby sister playing in animal excrement, but after she chased him around the clearing with her dirty little hands trying to touch him, he gives in. Laughter is again finding its way into their hearts.
"It makes the soil happy," she tells Christopher, with a divine smile on her angelic face.
Every time Christopher brings back a flower for Sarah, Sarah acts as if she has been given the greatest gift there ever was. At every opportunity Sarah shows that the darkness they have been through has no power over her beautiful spirit.
"I even made the effort to get as far away from the area as I could, just so I wouldn't make the mistake of hunting one of the creatures from our home."
Evidently Christopher has made a friend of his own, for everywhere he goes he finds a cute little red fox following him. Eventually the fox will come up to their camp and let Christopher pet him, or maybe it is a her, he doesn't really feel close enough to it to turn it over and look. The bigger Sarah's animal family gets, the further away from camp Christopher feels he should go to hunt. There are times when he'll be gone for days, but he isn't concerned because he believes the army of pets she has collected will protect her just as well or better than he.
The smell of pine fills the heart and mind. The sound of nature becomes music to your ears. Watching Sarah smile and laugh almost makes Christopher forget the past. To see her play with her wild friends gives him a hope that for some reason makes him want to cry.
One day on his way out to go hunting, Christopher realizes that Sarah's beautiful soul is feeling free enough and safe enough to express itself, which means he is doing his job. Because protecting somebody means more than just their physical self, it means their inner self as well.
As Christopher walks out of the cave-cabin, as they have started calling it, he looks over and sees Sarah basking in the rising sun, and he smiles and shakes his head as he says, "Sarah, when Winter comes you are not going to be able to run around naked all the time." Sarah has her bare feet in her flower garden, and Christopher can swear as he is watching he sees the flowers closest to her grow visibly.
"I know, that's why I have to do it now." Christopher just smiles
Sarah had only brought two dresses with her, and they got very torn and tattered as they made their way through the mountains, so Christopher says, "I guess I need to start thinking about making us some winter clothes. I think maybe a deer hide dress and some leggings for you. What do you think, baby sister?"
"Oh, that will be marvelous, big brother. Just make sure it's not anybody we know." Sarah continues to have her angelic face raised towards the rising sun with her arms held out to the sides, as if she is plugged into the harmony of the world. Tears come to Christopher's eyes as he smiles at the beauty of it all.
As Christopher is disappearing into the forest to go deeper into the mountains to hunt, he shakes his head as the beauty that is his little sister envelops him in a grace of wonder and grandeur. His soul becomes a little lighter.
"But we could never forget the recent turn of events. Not because we wanted to wallow in the past miseries, but because we did not ever want to forget the sacrifices made. It was the only balance that rationalized it in our minds. How some people were willing to give their all, and some people hid in their homes hoping it would just go away."
One way Christopher thinks to show respect to their parents is to continue Sarah's schoolwork.
"They always wanted the best for us."
Christopher can at the very least teach Sarah the level of education that he reached, but he has no delusions that Sarah will surpass him very soon and start to extrapolate, and before he knows it she will be teaching him.
"Although Sarah always had the ability to teach me things, which mom said was actually a great trait of mine."
Christopher sets up an area off to the side and he continues his physical fitness and military training. Maybe his land is a conquered nation, and maybe there is no military to serve in, but if there is a way he will find it for both Sarah's sake and his own.
"I finally had to tell, well, ask, Sarah to not keep so many animals inside the main camp."
The animals were great, and even though some of them avoided Christopher like the plague, he never felt threatened from any of them, but a smell was growing.
When Christopher tells Sarah about it she tells him, "Well, take a bath then."
Sarah, for all the horror that had been introduced into her young life, makes the best of it and begins to grow exponentially. She has labored so hard and consistently that the garden actually begins to produce real volumes of food. She of course then explains to her brother in vivid detail that is why they no longer have to eat animals.
"I apologized to her and the animals, but that it was natural and healthy to eat some meat, and that I would continue to do so."
She of course has eaten plenty of meat. Most of their survival reserves are going to be jerked meat.
Much to Christopher's amazement she even wants to help him skin a buck one time. He is sure Sarah will get grossed out and go find something else to do, but she methodically carves into the buck, calling out various discoveries.
"So it has nothing to do with being able to survive in the wild, her drive is one of curiosity and knowledge."
She also made sure that Christopher cut the hide in a very specific way, and then she began a very long process of making the hide usable as clothes.
Christopher isn't sure how she got the training, or if it is instincts, that allows her to just naturally know how to do magic.
She would tell him later, "That is how I get the gardens to grow so well, I use magic." Not just her innate magic, but she draws it from all things around her.
Even though Christopher's pragmatic military mind will never be able to fully grasp the things that she naturally knows and feels, that never stops her from telling him of the universe every other night. She has the most wonderful ability to communicate with creatures great and small.
"It got to the point where I had to walk with my head down so I wouldn't accidentally step on any of our smaller cousins."
Of about one hundred and fifty creatures that lived on and off with them, there were around ten that had become her best friends and guardians. The little red fox that had been following Christopher around for a while would not leave her side. The mountain lion and bear were by far the biggest and most dangerous critters that stayed at her side.