Friday, September 15, 2017
Flash Fiction #268 -- Dusty & Friends/13
Dusty looked back and slowed -- the orcs looked confused. That would not help.
"I need you to be brave again, Blue," she said and reached her hand into the bag.
Blue grabbed hold, scurried up her arm and to her shoulder. She stopped, Fox beside her, though he looked worried.
"You will never have the baby dragon again!" she shouted. "And you had better hope his mother never catches you!"
The orcs shouted in dismay and maybe fear. With no doubt that they had their attention, Dusty turned her anxious horse and started away again. However, before they had gone more than a yard, the horse Dusty was riding became frightened by the growing roar of sound behind them. Blue gave a cry of dismay and darted back into the bag. Dusty feared she would be thrown, and wrapped one arm tight around the bag with Blue while she held tight to the reins with the other.
"Calm, my friend!" she shouted over the roar of angry orcs, the yells of people, the cries of dozens of birds, and the barks of every dog in the town. "Calm! We will get away!"
The horse calmed, took on a long-legged gait, and ran steadily toward the end of town. Fox's horse did the same.
"Well done!" Fox yelled. He'd probably thought she was going to end up on the ground, bones broken.
Dusty gave him only a nod and held tight still. The horse would sense her own fears, and she needed to get control or else this would end badly. It helped that the sounds of the village were already less loud. She dared to look back. Two soldiers rode with them, but behind that group, she could see the turmoil the others had created. The orcs had not yet gotten past them.
She hoped no one was hurt.
They sped past the edge of town where crumbling old buildings were slowly crumbling back into the sand from which they'd been born. Fox still rode close beside her, the horses almost neck and neck as though they raced for fun. Dusty wished to make the ride a game, but she knew that a long, hard journey stood between her and the dubious safety of the river.
Fox pointed out the trail just ahead, and she prepared to turn, daring one look back. Somehow, the townspeople were still holding the orcs at bay, though she didn't think they could do so much longer. As soon as they took the turn, she and Fox both let the horses run full out down the road, around a curve, and down a hillside covered with fig trees and small plots of crops. Before Dusty stretched nothing but desert hills now, golden in the growing light.
How far to the river? She couldn't see it from here, but the land rose and fell in low lying hills. She could see no line of green, which would be a sure sign of water. Would they dare ride through the heat of the day? It wasn't bad now, but soon the sand would reflect as much heat as the sun beat down on it.
Daring one glance back, she knew they had no choice. The orcs had gotten free of the townspeople, but now the few troops they left behind had started to slow them.
"Hold on and ride fast!" Fox shouted.
Fox clearly did not intend to ride off without her, and the idea that he might put himself into danger on her account worried her enough that she stopped looking behind and pressed the horse forward again.
The shouts and yells behind began to fade as they went down one hill and then up again. Fox looked back, so she did as well. The soldiers, though few in number, had held the orcs. One of the massive creatures might even be dead.
"Down fast and then slow on the next incline," Fox said.
Her horse panted badly, but he liked the down hill rush. He didn't mind slowing on the next hill, which had been a little steeper and higher. At the top, Fox stopped finally.
"Rest for a little while," he said. "We need to be careful of the horses, and I think the orcs will have trouble on the hills. We're going to hit the flatlands soon, though. We'll want to keep a good distance as long as we can."
"Yes," she said, barely catching her own breath. "Are you all right, Blue?"
"It was kind of fun to bounce up and down on the fluffy stuff in here. And I landed on a piece of apple."
She laughed and related what he said to Fox. The soldier looked at her with a touch of wonder on her face. They started away again, though not very fast. The orcs hadn't even made it to the first hill yet, but she knew they dared not go too slow.
"What will we do at the river?" she asked.
"I hope to find some sort of craft. The current is with us so we can float down stream to the canal. We're sure to find some help to reach the capital from there. The orcs are found to follow the river bank. We have to hope that it doesn't narrow too much that they might be able to reach us."
"I always wanted an adventure," Dusty admitted. "This is not what I thought it would be like, though."
"Adventures are always better when you can tell about them after they're done," Fox replied.
"I suppose so. They do make good reading. Have you had adventures?"
"Oh, a few," he replied and pressed to go a little faster. Dusty stayed with him, grateful that she did not need to make this journey alone. "We'll have to sit down and talk about adventures sometime."
"I would like that very much," she said.
He looked startled, but she smiled. And then they moved faster once more.