Natalie grasped her horse’s neck tightly as she took in the horrific scene around her. Duchess became uneasy and broke free of her owner’s embrace to neigh loudly as she rose onto her back legs. She kicked her strong, front legs wildly as Natalie tried to regain control over her horse. Keeping her distance, she felt the fear within the atmosphere and could sense Duchess was troubled. She could see the deep fear within her sparkling, blue eyes. “Duchess, what is it? What is it, girl?” she cried out reaching for the reigns that were whipping around wildly. Duchess quickly turned and bolted down the dirty, cobblestone path out of the destroyed village leaving Natalie to run after the mare. She was unable to keep up with Duchess’s incredible speed as she yelled out in despair with her arms outstretched, “Wait, Duchess! Come back! Where are you going? What’s wrong?”
Her attention was quickly averted when she heard a deafening roar from the skies above her. She glanced to the dark horizon behind her and was suddenly filled with fear as her breathing seemed to stop and her heartbeat skipped a beat. A large swarm of dragons was flying towards the village from the distance. Their silhouettes littered the sky, as their numbers were high. Natalie slowly began to back away, still in awe from the sight of so many ferocious beasts. Dragons were never known to hunt or travel in groups. They were solitary creatures and they preferred to be alone. Why were there so many of them?
Natalie’s light brown hair was blown back slightly as a gust of wind was conjured up from the many dragons’ wings. Their large, leather-like wings pounded against the air with much force to keep their heavy bodies afloat and their eyes were focused upon the ground. The moonlight reflected off of their scales casting a soft glow around them as they continued to soar. Gasping as she turned to run from the unprotected area, Natalie wondered where Duchess had galloped. Had she sensed the beasts? Had she known they were coming?
The largest of the dragons bellowed out another loud cry and began to spiral down to the crumbled remains of Anzama. Natalie had almost reached the sign when the terrible beast landed directly in front of her. It slammed its powerful back feet into the ground followed by its forefeet and stared into the girl’s frightened eyes. A smirk crawled upon his face as his gray eyes narrowed on her. The last of the dragons followed after their leader, spiraling to a landing around Natalie. Her breathing picked up as she slowly backed away from the intimidating beast before her. What did they want with her? Was this the end? Was she to live?
The terrible beasts surrounded Natalie when the largest of them began to circle her. He kept his eyes focused on her worried face as he paced around her. He studied her intently with his dark gray eyes. His desaturated skin shimmered under the moon’s comforting light as he walked, reflecting the fire still burning in the village in each individual scale. A low growl emerged from his throat and smoke bellowed from his nostrils. Natalie studied him in return and noticed that there was a large, disfigured scar in the middle of his chest.
“What are you doing here?” questioned the circling dragon with a deep, quiet voice. He stopped pacing directly in front of Natalie and waited for her answer. She was too scared to reply and backed away when he brought his face closer to hers. “Where is she?” he growled with a stern voice.
“She?” stuttered Natalie. “Who is ‘she?'” Fear was bubbling within her heart and she felt a lump in her throat. Her mouth was dry making it hard for her to speak. Glaring dragons surrounded her, as she felt nervous and frightened.
“Do not play games with me, foolish child!” roared the dragon in rage as he lifted his head from her face. His quiet voice had increased in volume, before quieting once more. “You know exactly who I am referring to.”
“Honestly, I don’t know!'” cried out Natalie.
The beast roared in anger and raised his head to the moon. He released flames into the night sky as he tried to cool his hot temper. He lifted his upper body and slammed his hands into the ashes below, shaking the ground violently. Dust and ash blew through the air from the blow before settling back down, and Natalie was thrown to the ground from the impact. “The animal! Where is she?” he asked impatiently as he glared at her with his angry face. “You can’t hide her from me!”
“Do you mean Duchess?” asked Natalie as she cowered on the ground below. She covered her face with her arms as the dragon drew his face close to hers again. She was afraid that the monster would harm her if she didn’t tell him everything that he wished to know. “I’m not sure where she is.”
“No! One of my scouts told of seeing you with her earlier. Where is she?” he growled.
“I don’t know! She ran off and I’m not sure where she’s headed. Please, I know nothing!” she pleaded.
“You will not get away this time,” the dragon muttered to himself. “You may have taken her away from me before, but you will not succeed this time!” he barked at the girl. “If you do not tell me where she is now, I will have your life end now!” The dragon paused as he thought to himself. He chuckled before continuing, “I’m sure you would make a good midnight snack.” With this remark, the other beasts became restless and impatient. They talked amongst themselves and looked hungrily at the child. They snickered with gleams in their eyes.
“Taken her away from you before?” asked Natalie as she pondered over what the beast had spoken. “She remembered the dragon that had attacked her home years before. She had found Duchess and had escaped with her. This could not be the same dragon, however, as that one was a golden-brown color. This dragon was a dark gray and was much larger. “You can’t possibly be the beast from long ago.”
“Yes, that was another of my kind,” agreed the larger dragon with a slight nod. “He failed me, and is no longer here to regret it!” he roared as the beasts surrounding Natalie laughed and roared with him. “Now, enough!” he resumed. “Where is she, now?”
“I’ve told all I know!”
“She’s lying!” yelled out one from the surrounding group. “I saw her with the animal atop the hill before the city. She knows where it is!”
“Fool!” yelled the largest dragon. He pounded the ground once more and narrowed in on the girl. “Tell me where she is!”
Natalie quickly thought over all of her possibilities. She figured that Duchess had run to the protection of the forest nearby, but if she told these beasts, what would they do to her beloved horse? Why did they want her? She screamed as the beast before her snatched her up from the ground and brought her to his face. She could clearly see each tooth within his menacing snarl as he growled at her. She was about the size of one of his teeth, and was frightened when the surrounding dragons narrowed their circle. This was the end, unless she spoke. “I know where Duchess is,” she began with a sigh. She thought of whether she was doing the right thing or not. “She’s in the forest,” she whispered hoping they wouldn’t hear her.
“The forest!” the dragon yelled as he dropped her onto the ground with a thud. The wind was knocked out of her as she lay on her side in the ashes. “The forest!” he repeated. “She’s hiding within the forest! Search it now! Don’t let her escape! I want her back alive!” Hearing their leader’s command, all of the beasts left Natalie on the ground and flew to the forest bordering the village.
Fortunately, the forest stretched for miles giving Duchess a chance. Natalie felt deep regret fill her soul as she moaned in pain. Her sides ached from her fall to the ground, but she resisted it and stumbled to her feet. She thought of how she must find her horse and save her from the search. She couldn’t let them find her! She began to sprint to the forest, inhaling deep gasps of air and choking of soot. Her mind was set on finding Duchess, her dear horse.