His blond hair was draped over half his face. Fresh blood soaked the left side of his head. Handsome, came to her mind.
She quickly became alarmed as she realized another part of her dream lay before her. How can he be here? She moved closer and she thought he was only two or three years older than her, maybe twenty-one.
He moaned again when she moved his head to locate the source of the blood. A cut ran from his temple back toward his ear. It was the type of injury that could have been caused by an oversized talon, like that of the giant hawks. Julia used the arm of her coat and dabbed the wound to determine how serious it was. Not deep. She exhaled with relief and realized she had been holding her breath.
The screech of the hawks broke the momentary lull. They’re getting closer.
“Crap.” She looked around not sure what to do. The grass had been flattened by her steps when she’d tried to find the man. The hawk riders would easily be able to spot the two of them if they flew overhead. There wasn’t anything she could do about the bent grass, but she could at least try to hide.
She couldn’t imagine how she would be able to drag the wounded man into the woods, but she had to at least try. Julia dropped to one knee, grabbed him under the arms and lifted, surprised by the feel of the armor and how light it was. It looked solid, but was actually thin layers of scales, like that of…a dragon.
The trees were only a couple of feet away, but despite the featherweight armor, it was difficult to get him over the thick trunks and through the brush. After a struggle, she managed to move him more than a couple of dozen feet from the meadow.
The chores around the farm sure paid off. A sense of satisfaction filled her as she sat for a moment to catch her breath. She stared down at the man then back up at the clearing as her thoughts became more serious. Maybe the hawks are the good guys? Her dreams had shown her a happy people, the dragon people, no signs of aggression. She could be totally mistaken, after all, she had only seen bits and pieces in the dreams. Looking back down at him she acknowledged, “This doesn’t seem like a dream.” She also realized she’d already made a choice.
They’ll still see the grass where I dragged him. Julia hurried back to the meadow. She picked up a bow left where the man had been and slung it over her shoulder. She quickly continued along the tree line making sure to push down the grass as she went. When Julia had gone twenty feet, she moved into the woods, trying to disturb the grass as little as possible. She worked her way back to the silver-armored man.
Julia crouched. She could see the clearing through a slit between two trees. The man groaned again. Julia said in a whisper to the universe, “Please. Please. Let them fly by.”
A quiver of arrows was looped over the injured man’s back. Julia put the bow on the ground. As gently as possible, she lifted him a little and freed his shoulder from the quiver strap. She removed her coat, took out three arrows, stuck them into the ground, then swung the rest over her own shoulder.
Another Hawk screech sounded directly overhead.
Lowering to one knee, Julia picked up the bow, thankful it wasn’t a long bow. Being just over five feet tall, she would never have been able to handle one from a kneeling position.
She placed the bow in her right hand, the non-dominant one, as information began to flow into her mind. Don’t squeeze the bow too tightly—like shaking a hand. She nocked an arrow, but didn’t pull it back, leaving her left hand free.
More data continued to come to her: How to draw the bowstring back using her shoulder blades rather than just her arms; how to find an anchor point; how to shoot clearly. Somehow, Julia knew to make sure that when she released an arrow, she would need to let her hand continue back toward the bottom of her ear to ensure all the energy in the bow would be transferred cleanly to the arrow. Ready. She balled her free hand into a fist to keep it from shaking.
A whoosh then a thump echoed over the clearing as a hawk landed.
“Celestral,” the wounded man cried out in a weak voice, then fell silent again.
Julia placed her left hand lightly on his mouth and hoped he was able to understand her meaning. Soft. Her finger rested on his lips while her thumb grazed the light stubble on his chin. When he didn’t make further sounds, she drew back the bowstring and aimed through the small opening between the trees to the clearing.
A hawk walked-hopped across the clearing and stopped in front of the slight opening between the trees. A man in blood-red armor dropped to the ground with a thud and a clang. He was tall, seven feet, maybe more, and broad in the shoulders. He wore a helmet of dark rich red marked with brown streaks. The crests on the sides of the helmet were brown as well and resembled wings in flight…hawk wings. In one hand he held an axe blade on a ten-foot-long shaft with a spike mounted on top. Halberd. Her mind identified the medieval style weapon.
The hawk rider scanned the meadow.
Julia froze when he turned toward the opening, but his eyes didn’t linger on the spot where she had dragged in the silver-armored rider. Instead, he focused on the trampled grass path she had made and then disappeared from view.
She relaxed the bowstring and looked down at the wounded man. His head moved restlessly from side to side, and she worried he might call out again.
A loud growl brought her head up. The hawk rider had returned. Now he peered into the shadow of the woods, sniffed again, and raised the halberd, holding it diagonally across his body with both hands.
Julia pulled the bowstring back until her index finger touched the corner of her mouth…her anchor point. She took long deep breaths trying, with minimal success, to calm her rapidly beating heart. What if there are more of them? There was little she could do now. The tip of the arrow rose slightly as she aimed just above the red-armored rider’s body armor, where leather covered the man’s neck.
The hawk rider lifted his head and inhaled deeply as if testing the air, then startled Julia as he let out a deep throaty snarl.
She nearly let the arrow fly at the sound but held her breath and tried to control her shaking.
The hawk-rider pushed aside a branch and took a step into the woods.
Julia prepared to release the arrow. Don’t make me do it, she whispered several times as she fought the fear that welled up in her.
A loud low-pitched roar shook the branches of the nearby trees and seemed to fill the sky.
The red-armored man’s head snapped back to the clearing. He stepped out of the woods, turned toward his hawk. He barked several times at the giant bird, the sound shifted in pitch like a conversation then he climbed into a saddle when the hawk lowered itself for him to mount. When he was settled in the seat, the hawk squawked and hopped out of sight.
Julia loosened the bowstring as the bird took flight. She dropped to both knees, sat back, and finally exhaled.
“The arrow wouldn’t have punctured the Maynes’ armor.”
“That’s why I aimed for the exposed neck,” she answered automatically, then realized the words were from the man on the ground next to her. Julia looked down at a wide smile and a pair of sea-green eyes. Maynes must be the hawk riders, she decided.
He tried to push himself up with his hands, but only got as far as resting on his elbows before he cringed, his face tight. “If I could get a little help.”
She walked around him, removed the bow, and got down on one knee, putting her hands under his armpits like she had in the meadow.
The armored man started to push up with his hands while she lifted. It took effort on both their parts. Finally, he stood, but started to teeter until Julia grabbed his arm and barely managed to hold him up.
“I seem to be a bit shaky,” he smiled again.
Julia helped him stumble over to rest against the trunk of a tree. She stood, unsure what to do as he hung his head and took a few moments to regain his breath. Everything in her dream was coming to life…and this time she was in it!
The man’s head rose, sweat drenched his face. “I’m called Cordyr of the Kelrac Clan.”
“I’m Julia,” she answered while she picked the bow up, keeping her eyes on the man. He seemed harmless when he was unconscious. Not so much so sitting in front of her in his dragon-like armor.
He touched his head and frowned when he pulled his bloody hand away and wiped it on the leaves covering the ground. “Julia is a strange name.”
“I was named after a movie star.” She didn’t know if that was true or not, but it was what her aunt had told her.
“Where is it?”
“I’m sorry?” Julia didn’t understand the question.
“Which star?” Cordyr lifted his eyes to the covering of branches above, then looked back at her. “I’m familiar with most of the major ones in the night sky, but never heard of one called Julia.”
It took Julia a moment to realize what he was asking. “It’s not that kind of a…” She sighed. This was all going horribly wrong. “Never mind. It’s not important.”
Cordyr shrugged. “Well Julia. What is one of the Wolf People doing in the Myrst Forest?”
Julia just stared at him.
“Please understand, I’m not complaining.” He managed a grin. “You did save my life.”
“You’re welcome,” Julia stammered.
“It’s just that your people are rarely seen this far south.” The smile remained, but Julia could see him grimace as he shifted slightly.
“Yes. The Wolf People. From the northern regions of Entharia.” A bewildered look crossed his face. “The light red hair. Pale skin. Freckles on your face and…” he hesitated, looked down her body, and cleared his throat.
Julia’s cheeks warmed as her eyes dropped to the ground. She cleared her throat, looked up at him, and tried to focus on figuring out this dream…or nightmare, she wasn’t sure what to call it now. “I don’t know anything about Wolf People. I was having this dream—“
He sat straight, his eyes went wide, and his mouth opened as if he wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words.
Julia knelt and stared into his face. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?” Her concern overcame the wariness she felt a moment before. She glanced over to check the side of his head, but it didn’t look like it had started bleeding again.
“You’re. A…A Dream…Dreamer!” his words came out slowly as if they were being pulled out one syllable at a time.