November is the PLANNED date-nothing is really set in blood. The first draft is complete and I have sent it to a few beta readers and editors. It’s 29 thousand words and will probably be a little over 100 pages.
Exclusive art from my book “Forlorn.” Set to release this year. Art by: DimikDraws
By: Aaron B.
PLOT: With Jon kidnapped by Ella, Ira and Vince trek to go find there human who maybe in peril, Hector goes to “The Hollow” for assistance from a mighty wolf pack who might be the key to helping Jon and his two anthro friends.
Jon groggily opened his eyes, his heart leapt into his throat once he looked upon an area he had never been in. He squirmed more, but the chains that bonded him began to cut his circulation off the more he moved.
Ella came out of one side of the human, grasping his neck harshly. She spoke in a soft, eerie tone. “Jon, I’ve been eying you for some time now, humans are rare and possess attributes that could prove helpful to my potions. All I need is-your blood.” Jon’s eyes widen, he begins to thrash about, screaming and yelling for help, praying that Vince, Ira or Hector were nearby. His ankles were bound as well, the chair he sat in unmovable, it was as if it was glued to the floor. This was it. He was going to die here. He felt it in his soul. In this strange cabin with a witch.
Ella gripped his palm with one hand and pulled out a small knife with the other and began slicing the top of his hand, his yell echoed through the house. As he sits, bleeding onto the floor, he begs Ella to stop. “Bring me back! NOW!” Tears stream down his face, the witch began collecting his blood in a clear, glass jar. Jon attempts to bite her and headbutt her, but she simply chuckles at his efforts. His body began to feel worn out already, he tries not to let out cries of pure fear, he was taught by Ira to conserve energy in stressful situations, so that maybe he could fight his way out.
He took deep breaths, closing his eyes, slowing his heart rate down. Death would be the only option if he panicked the entire time. No longer did he try to break what bonded him, now he would wait and if he were lucky, get out of here.
Ella makes her way outside, her shoes getting a bit dirty from the path outside her home and collects a few herbs from a weedy garden. humming as she places them into the jar of human blood. Her soul and heart fluttering with a happiness she hadn’t felt in a while. A warm breeze filled the air, the sun began to disappear behind heavy clouds.
* * *
The dragon leaned against the trunk of a large tree, he breathed heavily as he had just climbed up a large hill. His shirt beginning to reveal sweat. He unbuttoned a few top buttons, revealing a bit more of his scaly red chest. Ira caught herself looking at his movements and glowing yellow eyes, her eyes trailed down his chest. She coughed tiredly and crossed her arms. “Hector should be meeting us soon. If something happens to Jon, I’ll never forgive myself.” Vince looked to the mare. “Ira, we cannot lose hope.”
Soon enough, Hector began to direct them, landing on various tree branches nervously. The field the two travel is quite massive, trees are close by. Tall grass blows slightly in the wind, mountains are in the distance. Hector knew where this cabin lay-and he didn’t care about the dangers he could end up in. Vince and Ira hardly spoke, all their senses were up and working, hoping maybe a sign of him would come to light, something to give them that hope that he’s not too badly hurt.
Jon looked around the cabin, no longer struggling. Ella was out and about, this could be his only chance out. He looked to the floor, the sun shimmered onto an item he didn’t notice, a small pin.
He sighed with agitation as he had to stretch his hands far to reach it. Contorting his body, he knew he couldn’t get it. Holding his breath, he began to move his thumb, until a crack was heard, the pain shot through his hand like a knife being stabbed into his flesh. Tears rolled down his face, but this dislocation gave him the room to slip out of the handcuffs. Right when he did so, he began to hear footsteps-DON’T panic he thought. It could all be over in an instant if he ran around and tried to attack.
He needed a spot to hide, that’s when his eyes darted to a closet. He tiptoed in and shut the door, holding his breath. He hid quickly, huddling himself into the dark space. Time moved in slow motion for the young man, she would come in and kill him. He knew it. Right then and here. The door creaked open, a dragon and horse poked their heads in.
Ella slowly made her way back to the cabin after collecting the items she needed, heading back-she noticed the front door was open. She gasped and a hawk flew and began to tug at her long hair, she fell hard to the ground. She yelped. Hector viciously pecked her skin, squawking a bit.
Vince and Ira hugged him briefly, the dragon declared, “Go bring Jon back to the cabin!”
He briskly walked through the forest, sniffing the ground, trying to detect her scent. With a short puff of smoke, she appeared to one side and shoved him, her strength upheld by magic. She softly chuckled. “Vincent-you fool. You really think you can protect this human? He wouldn’t make it out of a human run war, let alone anthros coming at him!” Vincent got up from the grassy ground and took a deep breath, sending fire from his mouth and directly onto her. The heat quite intense, the fire hits a few neighboring trees. They go up in orange flame, leaves and dust swirl in the air, black smoke rises. The grass around the dragon also lights up a bit. Specks of yellow embers surrounded him, crackling as it burns through the grass beneath him.
Through the debris and burning wood, Vincent triumphantly walks through. To his dismay, Ella was nowhere to be seen. He cussed loudly, he clenched his fists, wanting to break down every tree until she was found. His white shirt covered in dirt and ash. She was gone. The one who hurt Jon. This was not the fate he wanted for her, but he couldn’t dwell on it however defeated he felt. He heads back to the cabin, leaving specs of dying blaze in his wake.
Jon washed his face with warm water, a gentle breeze hits his back. He stared into the bucket of water, taking a few deep breaths. Rethinking every detail ever since he first stepped into this anthro world. Looking at his weak body, feeling worried.
Ira softly approached him and sat next to him on the ground. “Jon? You okay?” He nodded as she put an arm around him. “I have to tell you the truth. Things won’t get easier.” Jon gives off a deep breath. “Because humans are hated.” The mare’s ears went back, never had she heard him speak so clearly. “Some do, yes.” Jon sat in silence for a moment, he began to think he wasn’t ready for this. He wanted to go home quite badly. He loved Vince and Ira, but maybe it wasn’t worth it. Maybe all of this is a waste.
Ira gave him a quick hug and began to chop wood for the fire, awaiting Vince’s return. The human still sat-thinking of what should be done.
The familiar sound of flapping wings zoomed by Jon’s ear, Hector lands at his feet. Looking up to him, his voice always a bit intimidating even if he didn’t mean it to be. “Jon! I wasn’t sure if you’d make it. I was worried for you.” “Thank you.” The bird sighed. “Jon, dark times are coming and I don’t know if you’re ready.” Jon crossed his arms in deep contemplation. “Jon, you can’t mope. You cannot sit here and give up. Life has handed you a very difficult hand, if you do not fight. If you surrender, Crixus will surly kill you. I promise.”
The streets of Animalia quiet, lights were off and most of the anthros were either asleep or doing evening chores inside. Among the usual activity was a newcomer. A shadowy cloaked figure makes her way towards the king’s castle. A menacing sight indeed, she knocked on the large door.
After a moment, a soldier with green scales answered, he was a bit taller than her. He spoke in a low, but slightly intimidating tone. “What do you want?” She looked to him and smiled a tiny bit. “I think the king would very much like my services.” He glared. “I can’t just let you in here. A human has gone missing, and you look suspiciously like that species. Times are of high tension.” Reaching slowly into the pocket of her cloak, she handed him a golden bar. “May I see him?”
He leads her down the large main hall, keeping an eye on her and holding a hidden dagger should she present issues. The shirtless Komodo was sitting on the edge of his bed, a female lizard massaging his shoulders. His eyes closed and taking deep breaths. His scales so smooth and sensual. She enjoyed her time with the mighty Crixus as she rubbed a warm lotion on his muscular back. The same soldier who answered Ella’s call poked his head in. “Sir? Someone wishes to see you.” He sighed, slightly annoyed his relaxing time was interrupted. However, being king sometimes meant you had to put down pleasures and work.
Wearing a black cloak, Crixus entered his dining room where Ella stood, for a human she looked mighty pretty he thought to himself. The Komodo stood much taller than she. “King Crixus?” She bowed slightly. “I am Ella. I wish to help you.”
Pondering, he went over to the table and snapped his fingers, a servant quickly went to get a bottle of wine and two glasses. “What could you possibly help me with and why don’t I just throw you into the dungeon where I keep the rest of the slimy humans?” To show off her true self, Ella waved her hand slowly and sends a chair flying into a wall. Stunned, the Komodo dragon smiled. “You wish to help me?” She nodded. “I can do a lot with humans and potions, and I’m sure with your brains and my power we would make a nice duo.” Crixus poured her a glass of wine. “I think we should discuss this further.” His tone content, eyeing her. Ella had the same feeling of happiness from before, only this time she hoped it was mutual.
Placing logs wood down with ease he began chopping behind the home. His arms swung down, cracking each log with perfect accuracy. His scrawny arms were no more, now he had biceps that had enough muscle on them to be very noticeable. He took deep breaths with every swing, the ax he held a copper color with a blade he sharpened himself.
With a tired sigh, Jon slicked his long hair back before washing his face with chilly water from a bucket he had just filled. Hearing footsteps behind him, he turned his toned body to face Vincent. “Do you need any assistance?” Jon shook his head politely. “No Vincent. Thank you.”
Jon had even begun to sound more confident, his tone still kind and his speech issues did not go away, but he certainly was not as anxious. His training with Ira along with doing outside chores had made this young man into a hard worker, he also had hit a bit of a growth spurt. However, Vince and Ira still had a foot or two on him.
The morning sun made Vince’s red scales shine, from inside the house, Ira watches them converse. Mostly looking at Vince’s eyes and impressive stature. Visually, he was pleasing to look at. His voice so calm and sophisticated.
Vincent went off to clean some clothes, the mare smirked and took this opportunity to spring on Jon. Her movements silent, he watched the shirtless human sit on a tree stump, sweating a bit and looking off into the trees, listening to birds talk among themselves. Jon didn’t have the advantage of super hearing like the horse did, she also did beat him in height and strength. Jon had certainly changed over time, she was proud of him. It was a simple fact that she had more brawn than he did. He had the body of an athlete, she had the buff arms and chest of a barbarian.
She wrapped one arm around his neck, Jon smiled a bit. He didn’t fear the mare. He loved her like a sister, he swiftly elbowed her stomach, with a flinch, she let go. Ira ran for him as he tried to jog in an opposite direction, but instead of using her arms, she did a leg sweep, sending him down to the ground on his back with a grunt. As she went to pin him down, he gave her a nice slap across the face, with a giggle she pressed both his hands down, leaning her body weight towards Jon. He winced in pain and merely looked to her as her tail flicked happily, her white peasant shirt now a bit dirty. “Nice slap.”
Between breaths, Jon smiled. “Thank you. You’re lucky I trust you.” She helped him up with a nod. “I wish we could stay here” Jon said, shifting his tone. Ira put an arm around him. “As do I friend. Fact of the matter is we have no idea where Crixus is and he’ll always pose a great threat to any human, I can only assume the witch is not dead yet and could hurt us again. As powerful as Vince’s fire is, it might not be a match for her sorcery if she came back stronger.”
Vince suddenly walked to Jon’s opposite side, his grey button up shirt untucked with specks of dirt across the fabric and sleeves rolled up, he looked rather rugged as he walked since he had just finished putting logs of wood into the fireplace. His stride so big and tall, as a seven-foot dragon’s walk would be expected to be perhaps.
Ira stole a glance, looking up and down his scales, then to his face. “We also do not have enough soldiers. Crixus has all of Animalia on his side and we have four including Hector. Ira and I can only do so much.” A moment of silence passed, light wind could be heard. “I’ll get lunch ready.” Vince said.
* * *
The Hollow is a fantastic place, only if you can stand the Arctic temperatures and a winter that lasts twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
Hector landed inside the main hall. He had flown here many times before and knew everyone who lived within these walls. Statues of wolves stood, wolves that had led great armies into battle and made “The Hollow: Land of The Wolves” what it is today.
The room smelt a bit like a dog who had been on furniture. The walls covered in large maps. Silver and bronze candelabras shaped like dog bones stood. The tall falcon made his way onto a wooden desk, careful not to knock over any of the neatly placed papers or ink and quill. He shuddered at the thought that some bird had a large feather plucked from him to make that possible.
From one side, a silver wolf approached, he knew who Hector was and recognized him instantly. He sat across from him, tail wagging slightly as it hung out of his freshly cleaned armor. “William, it’s been a long time” the bird spoke. Will did not have Hector’s stern approach, with a smile he pets him, only for him to step back in slight irritation. “Hector! It has been a month perhaps? What brings you to the land of wolves?” Hector pruned his feathers after being in the biting wind and freezing cold. “I have three friends. Jon Baker, Ira Goldentrot and Vincent Van Leeuwen. All of who need help. Jon is a human, and as you know the dictator in Animalia is a ruthless tyrant. Right now, the three are at Vince’s home, but as I surveyed the land I saw armies of Komodo dragons, heading out of the town. Right now, Jon is in grave danger. I would very much like to let them stay here. You have soldiers, you have resources.” Will nodded as he lit a pipe, feeling awful that so much stress was happening. Hector told him everything he knew. From Jon’s past, to the house, to the witch.
Theon stood on a large balcony, looking down at the many different colored wolves he ruled over and watching a black wolf named Barry get into yet another drunken scrabble and debating on whether to go down and deal with it himself. Flakes of snow land on his combed white fur, his nose black and wet, his eyes yellow. Without hesitation, William approached his side, his breath could be seen, his ears perked in concentration. “Sir? Hector has summoned me to tell you that a human needs help.” Theon rests his arms on the railing of the balcony as Will goes on to pass the story of Jon along. “William, I will no doubt help this trio in their time of need. Who are we if we are to shun those who need help? I shall order the pack to be ready for them.” He walked swiftly inside the castle, William followed.
Hector listened intently as Theon approached. “Hector, tell them to pack and leave as soon as possible. Now.” William paused. “Sir, this is quite a substantial change. Are you sure we are ready?” Theon stood, looking at Will. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” A gust of wind was all Hector left behind. Theon removed his armor as he was done training for the day. William began to alert guards outside. Life wouldn’t be the same for quite some time.
Dawn came. The sun barely peeked over the clouds. Vince and Ira groggily get dressed, not speaking much. A wooden carriage awaited outside, a hulking Clydesdale sits in front of it, prepared to pull the cart when the three set off.
Ira went to Vince, her mane a bit frizzy. “How long is the trip to The Hollow?” The dragon finished buttoning his shirt. “A day and a half. I know how much trouble you have sitting still.” Ira smiled to him a tad bit, as tired as she was talking to Vince made her feel a bit less so. “Yes, but I’ll be among friends. You truly brighten my days, Vincent.” He smiled slowly. “That’s very kind of you.” He gazed to her a bit. Perhaps his feelings were like Ira? If so, he was very good at hiding it. Her tail swayed happily. Ira briefly held his hand.
Jon came downstairs wearing a leather vest and brown slacks, his arms bare and would remain so until the weather got colder. The mare ruffled his hair. “Ready to go, lad?” Vince looked to Jon as Ira exited. “You okay, Vince?” He nodded. “Yes. I am. I just cannot help but think of all the monumental changes that have gone on. One moment I’m a blacksmith and a dragon who some anthros probably feared, the next I’m looking after a species I know nothing of. Then, I’m whisked away to a land I’ve never been to.” Jon walked passed Vince, brushing by him. “Ira might like you.” Jon inquired. “Among everything else. If that is the case, I am flattered. However, now I do have a lot of things on my mind.”
Jon grabbed one of the large sacks for travel with ease. Vincent took one last look around his home before locking the front door, knowing he wouldn’t sleep in his cozy room for a long time. Once Jon had stepped into his home, he had vowed to watch the human. He wouldn’t break it-not now, not ever.
The carriage is a bit cramped, the rocking movements would prove to be a bit annoying, but easy to get used to. The stallion pulling them didn’t say much. Ira pondered about having a job like this instead of risking her life as she sometimes did. Jon sat in the middle, he tiredly looked out into the passing trees, smelling the morning air.
As he did so often, he wished his parents were around. He had been told he was going to the “Land of The Wolves” and both his parents had a fascination with them. However, the feeling of doubt crept to him.
What if the wolves are vicious? Maybe not the king, but his soldiers? A canine could rip any human apart, didn’t matter his size. Vince would be there to blow fire, but that would leave them with no other place to go to. What if it all ended in disaster? Seeing his house and family burned to the ground prompted these tragic thoughts to swirl through his brain. With a yawn, Jon rests his head on Vince’s shoulder. His arm smooth and made a nice pillow. The dragon merely glanced to the human who looked so short to him, then looked out the same window Jon was occupying. Vince looked to the sleeping human yet again a few moments later, he sighed sadly. Ira was busy sharpening a knife to notice the look of sadness cross his face.
Sadness for Jon’s lost parents, sadness for everything that had happened. He hoped he was good enough. He hoped he would be the good caretaker Ira said he could be. A new feeling crept into Vince had hardly had ever felt. Warmth. Jon slept so soundly against him, it was a clear fact that Jon did trust him. Maybe that was all Vince needed. Maybe Jon’s trust was the key. Through all the events the two had been through, this moment in the carriage sitting silently made Vince feel the happiest. This was the eye of the storm, this was where he could let his feelings sit with him. Feelings of not only care, but fatherliness.
Making his eye to Ira, busily working on her blade, he began to see how tough and attractive she was. Nothing would be laid out yet. Vince had barely had a girlfriend ever. He had a few flings with female dragons when he was a teen, he was handsome and he didn’t know it. Not at all. His thoughts went from Ira, back to Jon and the traveling ahead.
William entered the castle, Theon’s back to him. He coughed gently. “Hector gave word that your human will be here in a day or so. Is everything prepared?” Theon simply nodded as he sat at the large desk. He placed his hand on his cheek. Preparing for the best, the worst and everything in-between.
By: Aaron B.
Art by: Emily Ormsby
PLOT: We learn how well Jon fits into the lives of an anthropomorphic horse and dragon, Ira opens up about her somewhat dark past and Vlad and a deadly accomplice grow closer to killing Jon once and for all…
He sighed a bit, he didn’t really want to let Vlad into the church. Father Merek however ignored his slight fear and held the door open for him. The evening was a bit chilly, the town of Animalia was fast asleep, crickets chirped and the only sounds that could be heard was the ambience of the creaky church and the footsteps of the two anthros stepping inside.
Towards the alter was where the buck kept his black bag for storing various books he wanted to take home with him and study.
Once the Komodo dragon entered, he began sniffing the place, tilting his head up and down. His black armor clanking as he moved about the area, the deer coughed gently. “What can I help you with?” Vlad smirked, he knew a human had been there not too long ago. Placing his clawed hands on his hips, the soldier spoke. “I smell a human. I need to know if you knew of his presence.”
The priest felt his heart sink a tad bit. Merek’s throat became dry a few seconds afterwards, he knew lying would be the only possible way of getting out of this. His good deed of keeping Jon safe might had just backfired. “Human? No sir, I would have alerted a guard. I know how the king feels about the species. If you’ll excuse me, I must leave.” The deer briskly walked to his bag, buttoned it and slung it over his shoulder.
As he turned to go, Vlad was mere inches from the buck’s snout, he was clearly startled and leaped back a step.
The Komodo smelt the scent even more than ever, Jon had taken refuge there, he knew it. Vlad also knew that below the church was a washing area, where Jon had cleaned up before going on his journey. Vlad knew just about every inch of every building, being the right hand man to the king, he was given exclusive information. “The cretin used your wash room without you knowing it? That seems odd. Father, you better come out with the truth.” With a sigh, Merek spoke, becoming agitated. “Sir, I do not know what you mean-please do not use that tone with me.”
Merek only blinked once before feeling the sharp end of a knife enter his abdomen, the buck fell backwards, his bag flopped to the ground, echoing loudly. Vlad knelt beside him. “To bad you will not get to save your precious parasite before I’m done with him. I hope you’ve prepared a final prayer.” He felt the sting three more times in the same area, if it had gone in a fourth he would not have known. Samuel Merek’s eyes became cloudy, the buck’s world became a black void.
Stepping out to the woods, Vlad took one last glance at the white church. The scent of Jon picking up, the lizard licked his lips and continued onward. Leaves crunched beneath his boots, he cleaned the edge of his blade and sheathed it to one side. As he drank some water from a canteen he had gotten from the church, his circular eyes widened as he found something incredible by his feet. He knew now why the scent had been so strong, but no human had been in sight. Laying in front of him, was a sharp rock, with some blood upon it. He took a large whiff, pressing his nose against the hard surface and continued his path, hoping to perform acts of violence and dread.
The sound of a large grandfather clock did not stir the eighteen-year-old human from sleep, in fact the repetitious noise calmed him. He happened to had fallen asleep on the very comfortable couch in Vincent’s living room.
The dragon was in the kitchen, preparing some ham and potatoes for a morning meal. He was lucky he had such an inheritance from his parents to be able to cook fine foods and live in such a gorgeous home, without these luxuries, taking care of Jon would have been a much more difficult procedure.
Ira Goldentrot soon walked in on the fine smell of breakfast, wearing a white peasant shirt and green slacks with boots, her tail swayed contently as she gripped the shoulders of the seven-foot-tall creature who was humming as he cooked, he wasn’t startled by her. He sensed her presence before she set foot into the room. “Good day, scaly!” With a smirk, he placed the food onto plates and set his table up. Jon woke groggily, after being given the correct potions, his foot barely hurt anymore.
Jon sat by Ira and across from Vince when the eating had commenced, Jon’s soft and kind voice was heard. “Mr. Vince? Thank you.” He paused, collecting his thoughts, plus speaking was a chore in itself for him. “Really, I would be dead without you.” He smiled kindly to the human, he never thought a dragon could give a kind smile, but if anyone could it would be him.
Vince spoke to Jon after the eating was done, Ira could help him quite a bit with cleaning his area. “Jon? Are you stable enough to perhaps do some chores?” The teen nodded. “Yes Mr. Vince.” He was extremely content here, going from terrified for his life to the feeling of safety was odd. He knew in his heart that no one could replace his parents, even if Ira and Vince’s personalities were a bit similar, his family would forever be missed. The teen knew he would always feel a dark cloud of depression over his head, no matter what.
Ira’s wooden sword came down, knocking him to the ground. Vince’s large backyard was perfect for activities, and being that his house was high up and away from the town, the chances of a soldier discovering them were rather slim if the human did not wonder. Vince’s mansion overlooked most of Animalia, so he also got a good look at Crixus’ gated castle, the woods across from his home also marked the spot where Jon had hurt his foot.
The sky was very clear, a nice breeze made the tall grass in Vince’s backyard sway, the sun beat down on the mare and human. Ira chuckled as Jon shot back up, grasping a similar sword, following her spurts of instruction. He was becoming quite skilled in a short amount of time, but the mare knew not to rush him. She helped him up swiftly, the dragon kept an eye on the two while sitting on the back porch and sipping some tea.
After a few words about sword defense from Ira, the two clashed again, the wooden weapons making contact made a distinct sound which echoed slightly. Ira hit Jon, Jon hit Ira-it seemed to be going on for quite a while. As the two practiced and probably got new bruises and sweat dripped, Vince decided to wash the dishes in a wooden bucket of warm water.
The war between the mare and human ended, Jon and Ira now sit with cups of water in each hand and heavily breathing after a day of swordsmanship.
* * *
The woods never seemed to end and he had lost the trail of the human a bit, his body becoming more tense as he realized this fact. The Komodo dragon leaned against a large tree, his armor was beginning to hurt his scales, he wanted to go back to the castle and report the teen as still on the loose. However, that would be a lie since he knew for a fact his scent would soon turn up again. Vlad would not give up, this was an honorable duty-going after such dangerous creatures as humans. He plucks some grapes from the tree and tosses a few in his mouth. He began to absent mindedly scanning the woods and the hundreds of trees to each side of him.
He turns his head to one side and finds a path in among some thorns, something he had not found in a while. No scent of Jon could be detected, but what really intrigued him was the wooden cabin at the end of the mysterious trail. With his pointed tail swaying, his yellow eyes looking quite inquisitive, he made his way to the house and knocked on the front door-which swiftly swung open, nearly knocking him to the ground. No mere mortal would have had that power-the owner of this place must be something more.
Drawing his sword, the lizard entered with no fear in his heart, he could take whatever this thing was down if he needed to. Once stepping inside, Vlad was met by a huge area, much bigger than it should have been judging from the outside proportions. The place seemed empty, he needed a place to rest, if he were going to have to battle whoever was keeping Jon away from the anthro city. Rest would not come however, he felt the cold metal of a blade on his throat and breathing inches from one side.
A voice of menace was the next thing to hit his ear, a female voice. “Move and I kill you. State your business.” The front door slammed shut, candles on the floor began to light on their own, perhaps Vlad had landed himself into more than he could handle.
The Komodo dragon placed the sword back in its sheath, the knife pressed harder against his throat, he began to cough a bit, the female spoke harsher. “State. Your. Business.” Vlad didn’t sound fearful, but his words were a bit cut off by this stranger’s brute strength. “I am Vladimir of Animalia, I am a knight. I have come from the city of my people on official business. To kidnap a human. Let me go, wench!”
She let go with a huff, he rubbed his throat and his breathing returned to normal.
How was she strong enough to keep him still? No one had ever done such a thing, for whoever attacked Vlad rarely lived to tell the tale. He dared not strike her-she truly possessed powers beyond most living creatures. Magical abilities were one of the only things that could thwart him.
The lizard turned to face the woman, she was tall, about 6 feet, wearing a silk black dress and had long blonde hair which went down to her hips. Her face smooth, her eyes striking and quite sensual. Her hands a bit clammy with long silver fingernails. She spoke again, her voice piqued interest instead of hostility. “A human? You must be mistaken; no human would dare set foot in in the city of anthros.” The reptile looked around the cabin walls, seeing all different sorts of potion books and glass jars. “The human will no longer be an issue once I’m through with him. I smelt the scent and he is around these woods”
The woman paused and approached the muscular knight. “I am Ella-and I would like to make a bargain with you if the words you speak are true.” She held Vlad’s scaly hand, he did not pull away. He couldn’t. There was something enchanting about the 50-year-old, it was odd that she was somewhat taller than he was, but not by much. He began to feel a bit relaxed, none of this made sense. Her hand grasping his should have been reason to cut it off, but his guard kept going down lower and lower. She went to his ear again, her voice sultry. “I need a human for a rare potion, and if you help me I will grant you any wish your heart desires. You could help your king, banish anyone you dislike, you could have riches beyond your wildest dreams-you could even BE a king. Just bring me the little rat.” Vlad would be going strictly against Crixus’ wishes by not just automatically brining Jon to the castle, but the temptation was strong. The outcome could actually benefit the land in the long run-a wish? Any wish? Vlad nodded, once she released his hand, the two shook on their deal.
The mare plucked an apple from a tree, tossing it to Jon as they walked over leafy path ways and looking up at tall trees. Another beautiful day would arise, Ira walked by his side detailing how to get back to Vince’s place should he ever get lost. She would walk a bit ahead of him to make sure no one was watching their movements or no one would come out of the bushes with an attack.
Ira’s nonstop talking and energy kept Jon happy, he liked her more and more each day. She had done quite a bit for him, he never thought he’d start to learn how to use a sword, his nerves would often get in the way every time he picked one up in front of his mother or father. Neither of his parents were knights, so they also were unable to teach him properly, but Ira had both a happiness and confidence that left Jon at ease.
Deep down however, Vince was Jon’s hero and that would most likely remain a fact for the remainder of his life. He liked both equally, but the dragon had come to him at a time when hope and happiness was sucked out of him. He knew though with Ira’s help, he’d be capable of so much more than before.
Jon attempted to climb a tree, but was no yet strong enough to do so as the mare chuckled while watching him, she would point out various items and things on the ground and show him footprints made by woodland creatures-much different than anthros and much smaller, but still could speak to humans if they so wished.
Ira began to ponder about the future of Jon, she didn’t say anything to him specifically, but it was in the back of her mind. This was a unique situation, but she had vowed her entire life to protect anyone he needed it, regardless of how different they looked from her. She knew complications would arise from protecting him, but in all honesty her mind and heart were flooded with optimism for him, rather than fear.
Jon asked her a few questions regarding her past which she answered.
The flapping of determined wings distracted her train of thought as she was watching Jon explore, she turned her head upwards as a Peregrine falcon landed on a branch of a large tree. His breast white with brown speckles, his thick brown feathered backside completely slicked back like he used a comb to style it. His orange beak hooked at the tip and his yellow eyes huge and rounded, covered with a circular dark pupil that darted to Ira, then to Jon.
He stood at an impressive 20 inches, his talons shined in the sunlight and presented a sort of threatening look. The bird spoke with honesty and slight irritation, he sounded perhaps sixty in human years. “What are you both doing here? You’re about to trespass near my tree and I can’t say I appreciate that. If you have an issue, take it up with the other woodland critters and tell them Hector sent you!” Jon went to Ira’s side, a bit nervous to the bird’s harsh tone. “I’m walking with my friend-we mean you no harm.” The bird scoffed, as Ira too was getting irritated. Jon spoke. “My name is Jon-sorry to bother you, sir Hector.” The falcon could tell he had trouble speaking due to the long separation between words and the slight stutter, but did not hold that against him. “At least Jon has manners” the bird spat out softly. Ira scoffed a bit and crossed her arms. “He is polite for sure, please treat him with respect as he is doing you the same.”
Something about the teen struck the falcon, it wasn’t his tone, but that did help. It wasn’t his age, as age meant nothing to him, it was something deeper. A unique kindness, it was something in his soul. Something about his manner. Why couldn’t he pick it out? Hector knew this kid was safe-he didn’t trust Ira as much however. She had the strength to chop down his mighty tree if she so wished, Jon seemed a lot kinder and soft spoken, which Hector also liked. “Well you two keep out of trouble and I suppose I will let you both go with a warning. I’m much too old to be fighting and arguing.” He flew up higher so he could rest, he secretly watched the two interact as they made their way down to the calm lake.
The sun caused a golden aura to bounce off the leaves and anything on the ground. The air was getting a bit colder being that evening would soon fall. Vincent strummed his guitar as he sat on the couch, but little did he know, someone lurked outsidTwo figures hiding in among thorns and tall trees and looking directly at Vincent’s home. A Komodo dragon and a witch. Vlad sniffs the air with a smirk, it was refreshing to finally know that the human would soon not be an issue, and that he wasn’t even the one doing all the work. Ella stared into the window and saw the scaly figure contently sitting, when suddenly he stood up to answer the front door and Ira and Jon walked in. After a quick hug from Jon, the three went to the kitchen to prepare making some food.
Vlad was just about to stand up, when Ella pulled him back. “The scent is SO strong.” The lizard hissed, Ella spoke softly. “No. We wait until nightfall. I have a sure plan that you’ll love. Trust me. With my plan, we’ll get rid of the dragon, the horse and the human in one day.” Vlad went back to his hiding position.
* * *
As the sky became pitch black and crickets began to chirp, Vincent’s house became a bit brighter as he blew fire onto various candles. The house fully clean and everything was put in their proper spots. Ira and Jon both wore similar looking nightgowns Vince had bought as they conversed casually by the cracking fireplace. Jon was looking through the seemingly endless book collection Vince had. The dragon entered the living room wearing a brown evening cloak, smirking to the two. The mare looked back at him, and the same feeling crept into her heart. Something about Vince captured her, even when the two first met, she found him striking. His voice, his mannerisms, his kind soul. Never did she let these feelings out into his ear, whether she would or not one day would depend on circumstances within herself, confidence was not the issue. Rather his reaction, would he want a horse for a wife, or did he envision himself with another glorious dragon? Did he imagine marrying no one at all? He never spoke of love, other than the love he had for his mother.
She assumed not to speak of it now, right now he had a lot on his shoulders and tensions could raise at any moment, she would have to wait for a quiet moment when a poor human wasn’t being hunted. She knew Vince considered her an amazing friend, and for now that thought would have to do as Jon gave him a quick hug and the creature headed to his bedroom.
The young teen and mare sat, listening to the silence of the night and the ticking of the now familiar grandfather clock. “I had a great time with you, Jon. You really brighten my day.” She smirked and Jon blushed. “Really? Well, thank you.” The horse looked off and sighed a bit, she coughed gently as if lifting a bit of a weight off her shoulders. “You would have loved my foal, Nova.” The teen turned to her, not saying a word, he could sense she was going to reveal something. “She died due to medical complications no doctor could fix. I always felt she was stolen from me by whatever God or Gods might be lurking in the skies. The stallion I had her with left, so I could never confront him about it. He was a coward.” Jon frowned and held her hand gently, she spoke again. “I think maybe this is fate’s way of telling me I might have a second chance. That’s one of the reasons why I jumped at the opportunity to help you.” The human smiled a tad bit. “I love hanging out with you, Miss. Ira.” Her ear flicked a bit, so did her tail.
Jon wanted to do something, something to make her feel that motherly love she longed for. Life was not fair to her, it was almost frustrating that he couldn’t let these big and deep thoughts out. He could spend hours thinking of others and thinking of kind things to say, or mean things to say if someone bullied him, but was not able to let it out in a full-fledged paragraph. That fact felt a bit of an entrapment. As he sat in thought, images of his own mother came flooding into his brain.
In the evening, the two would talk together about anything, from mythology to real life politics going on. The love and help she gave him was incredible, it seemed in these times people were left to fend for themselves as the teenage years came, but Jon was extremely lucky to have loving parents who wanted him to do good, but realized he had tougher limitations to overcome.
Jon looked to the floor. “My mom loved me…” The horse and human both leaned back on the couch, tiredness over powered the two of them. “Of course, she did, you’re good and kind. She’ll always love you.” Ira was just about to put her arm around Jon, when he spoke. “Tuck me in? Please?” The mare’s eye lit up with a bit of excitement, she had not had to do this for anyone in years, and secretly she yearned to help someone feel protected. Not in a ‘knight in shining armor’ way like she always did, but in a more maternal way. She nodded and led the human to his bedroom.
After a swift moving of blankets and a tiny kiss on the forehead, Jon was in a deep sleep. “Good night Jon, see you in the morning.” She blew out the lit candle which sat by his bedside. Soon she drifted off into a deep sleep, the house remained quiet apart from the two who stalked and waited.
The sounds of screams echoed in his brain, his small town being burned. He smelt the smoke, he saw the Komodo dragons dressed in armor as they slashed at his friends and his parents. He felt his heart thud in his chest, he was back here. How? When? Why? Neither Ira nor Vince was around to explain anything to him, he was reliving the worst day of his life and nothing could stop it.
Jon sat up swiftly with a yelp, quickly feeling the blankets which covered him and looking around in a bit of a dazed confusion. The sound of wind could be heard from outside, he didn’t want to get up, but he realized rest would not come at this moment. He gently tossed to one side after trying and trying to fall asleep.
He stepped out of his room, being careful not to wake the two who slept close by. Jon crept his way downstairs hardly making a sound. The home was nearly covered in a sheet of darkness, Jon recognized the shadowy living room. He saw the formation of the couch and the last dying embers of the fireplace.
Footsteps descending the stairs behind him interrupted the silence of the night, Vincent was going downstairs to meet the teen who stood still, he adjusted his cloak. His calm voice so close by, it brought reassuring thoughts back to him. “Jon? Are you alright?” Jon nodded as Vince reached for a glass lantern by the couch and blew a bit of fire onto the small candle inside. “Just a nightmare.” The dragon sighed. “I am sorry to hear that. Do you want to talk about it?” The human shook his head, even if he wanted to forming the correct words and sentences would probably take too long, of course Vince would have waited patiently as he wasn’t going to dismiss him for this slight handicap. “Well, let me get you back to bed.” He was just about to do just that when a sound from outside interrupted his train of thought.
Who would be outside so late into the evening? The dragon told Jon to stay put, for he knew if anyone was sneaking around they were most likely after the human.
Vince briskly walked out the back door, the cold wind startled him a bit, his bare, clawed feet hit the dirt. He stared into the distance and saw the lining of trees which made up the woods, his eyes adjusted swiftly to the night. The crisp air hit his nose, which felt quite nice. He spoke in not a yell, but in a tone which was louder than usual. “Hello? Is anyone there?” Holding the lantern with one hand and holding his cloak closed with the other, he stepped a bit further away from the house, he wasn’t nervous but more curious.
From one side, only a few feet away from the home and in among tall eerie trees, a shadowy figure approached, her steps not making a sound, no face or facial features could be seen. She swiftly moved one of her hands, speaking in some native tongue-the dragon collapsed to one side before he had time to comprehend what happened. His head hit the earth with quite a thud. It wasn’t like he was pushed, it was more like a spell had been cast over him. A spell which was extremely strong and caused Vince’s brain to shut down for a little while.
Becoming afraid and starting to panic, Jon rushed outside, once he saw Vince lying on the ground only a few feet in front of him, he was about to run upstairs to wake Ira, but he failed to notice that the witch was now behind him-using the same spell, she caused him to collapse forward. She smirked and lifted the human was ease, walking into the now silent night.
Vlad spent his time trying to pick the lock to Vincent’s home with a small knife, which he succeeded in doing. Stepping into the large home, he drew his sword. Disposing of one mare would be quite simple, the dragon-not as much. The Komodo’s boots thumped against the hard floor. He smiled a bit, he knew everything would be taken care of. Perhaps Ella could deal with the dragon with some magical spell, but he wanted Ira. He had never met a strong man who could take him, so this would be a fun side project, an extra kill to maybe get some praise from the king upon his return.
The large lizard poked his head into every room, bracing himself for a short battle. Once he came upon Ira’s room and saw the horse sleeping among thick blankets soundly, he made his walk a bit softer. The sound of her breathing echoed through his ears as he approached closer and closer. The silence was nearly deafening, Ira slept so peacefully as Vlad was only a few inches from her, she is a beautiful white horse for sure. Her ear flicked and her nostrils flared-surly she was dreaming. He almost felt sorry he had to dispose of such a pretty creature.
The Komodo took a deep breath and raised his long sword above her bed, once his arms came down-Ira twisted her body out of the bed and onto the floor, directly opposite of where Vlad stood. He grunted in frustration, the horse’s heart seemed to thump a mile a minute. Under her bed, her silver sword lied. She reached for it with success, again Vlad’s sword came down as he was directly above her now. Using her upper body strength, the horse flipped herself onto her feet. Using all her skills, she blocked and dodged his attacks, her breathing controlled, her body relaxed and her eyes on the soldier. As Vlad’s sword swung, various items were broken and crashed loudly to the floor, Ira went in for a stab, but the lizard ducked and she instead smashed her bedroom mirror. He punched her in the gut, with a wince she stumbled back. Vlad flipped his sword theatrically, left and right, right to left his sword swung, Ira was nicked in the shoulder, but it did not hurt much even as it started to bleed onto the floor.
The sounds of loud thuds of the weapons hitting the walls and clashing against each other could be heard along with heavy breathing from both attackers. The mare swiftly went for the top of Vlad’s foot, he screamed in pain as she dug the blade passed through his boot and into his scaly flesh. She pressed deeper and deeper, he let go of his sword to try and yank the weapon out, before it even hit the floor, Ira grabbed it in mid-air and slashed his throat. The white horse now covered in his blood watched him as he slowly stopped breathing.
Without wasting time, Ira rushed into Jon’s room to check on him, she shouted his name over and over. Had her fear come true? Was he been kidnapped? Or worse, was he lying in a pool of blood? Cantering down the stairs, she realized the teen was gone.
Sunlight began to form upon the house and woods, Ira knelt beside Vince-she felt tears form on the edge of her eyes, her thoughts went to him being dead. For Ira, life without this dragon would be a life with forever fading happiness. She shook him. “Vince! Wake up!” She cussed at him a few times and after a few short coughs and sitting up groggily, the tall creature was at full attention. The two stood up, Vince rubbed his muzzle. “What on earth happened? Where’s Jon?” She sighed deeply. “He’s not around here!”
Vince and Ira call his name over and over, the sun rising more and more, the sky becoming clearer, the dragon shivered as the morning wind blew. The two were at a loss for words and looked at each other with dark and depressing thoughts enveloping their brains, when suddenly-hope came flying from the sky.
Hector landed on a low branch, making eye contact with two distraught anthros. His feathers not very neat, he clearly had just woken. His voice as stern as ever, he yawned a bit. “Looking for that human fellow?” He would never admit it, but the falcon was a bit worried, only for the fact that Jon seemed innocent and the innocent getting hurt was an unfair burden. With her ears perked, Ira nodded in a panic. “Some lady was off carrying him, I didn’t see where-but I have seen a cabin a few miles from here. It’s the only other living place I’ve seen other than Vince’s. Jon was breathing from what I can tell.”
She got the last of her armor on and a clean sword by her side, she straightened her gloves and splashed water onto her face. Vince got dressed in a white dress shirt and black slacks along with his frock coat, he too had a sword by his side. The horse and dragon exit the home and make their way into the woods, the air freezing even though the sun shined brightly. The two had no second thoughts of saving the human they both considered family.
By: Aaron B.
Art by: Kimberly Mattia
PLOT: A young human embarks on an unforgettable journey after his family is killed by a group of anthropomorphic lizards. Along the way, he meets many more of these strange animals and finds a best friend in a kind dragon named Vincent…
Running through grass and piles of leaves, Jon Baker would have shouted words of panic and fear if he had the ability to do so. However, due to birth complications, he was only able to speak a few words at a time and he knew no one would be around to hear him, no one living anyway. Screaming would waste energy, and right now that was not an option if he wanted to keep his life.
His bare feet were beginning to get muddy, his breathing rapid as the sun was shining but a chill was in the air.
Before running at full speed once again, he cocked his head back to see the carnage done to his once beloved small town.
Black smoke rose from where it once was, and strange lizard-like creatures had taken over and had been burning homes and killing humans. Down below, screams were heard, and Jon’s parents were being tied up by the reptilian soldiers, crying and praying that their son escape the clutches of evil that befell the town.
Jon didn’t know why they were there, where they came from or who they were. Everything happened fast, everything was terrifying and hope dwindled away more and more.
He had heard tales of a city not too far off from his, a place he had been warned about.
A city of ‘anthros’ was what his parents called it, a mystical place where animals walked on two legs, wore clothing and spoke in human languages.
Jon continued his dash through the woods, jumping over roots and falling into a wet and muddy puddle. The coldness now seeped into his white pajamas as the winds blew colder, he’d have to come up with a plan and quick.
The teenager sat himself on a large rock, surrounding him were tall, colorful trees, the sun glistened through various branches and onto his pale skin.
During the commotion, he acquired his knife, a knife with a smooth edge, the handle decorated in gold and formed the image of a dragon. He cleaned the object in a nearby lake, then placed it in his pants pocket. He splashed some water onto his face and into his hair to clean up a bit. Nervousness had been the only emotion he experienced, and it seemed to grow as he knew night was approaching.
He trekked on, walking briskly through dirty leaves and roots, hours and hours it seemed to go on. He was following a path-he knew where it led. Not because he had been there before, but because he had a knack for memorizing maps and directions, his father had shown him maps every so often so he could always find home.
This was the way to the city called Animalia. It was the closest to civilization, where he felt he may have a chance of survival.
Jon looked at his feet as he stepped among grass that was unkempt and tall, flies buzzed around his head. The sun beat down on him, but it didn’t stop the cold air, it seemed now he had stepped out of the woods and found himself in a field, the path had disappeared, but he knew he was heading in the right direction.
A few feet in front of him, stood a large metal fence, with pointed tops. Covered in sweat from walking so quickly, trying not to get caught by any unfriendly folk who may catch him, he gazed upon the large structure. He pondered a bit-should I do this? The next thought was that he could do nothing for his old town, he promised his parents to keep running and not look back. Being alive was something he didn’t think would happen on this very day, so he took a deep breath and jumped, holding onto the fence as best as he could.
He fell once, but hopped up again, this time hoisting himself up over the top of the pointed edges and dropping to the other side and falling hard onto the mud below him. He stood up slowly and realized he had made it to the other side, just getting a bruise on his elbow. Jon trekked on again, down a smoother road, covered in smooth sand and tiny rocks which pricked the bottoms of his feet. He stared at the sign he hoped to see- ANIMALIA.
The afternoon bustled with activity, buildings of all shapes and sizes stood, the cobblestone roads kept clean by sweepers and the sky a light blue color, not a cloud in sight. The day was warm, but a nippy breeze kept everyone who had little or no fur under jackets.
Anthros decided to take walks and mingle among friends. In the center of town, stood a church, the bell rang and a white-tailed deer with a reddish-brown coat and wearing priestly garb, stood at the doorway waiting for those who practiced faith to walk in. His antlers finely trimmed, his ears and muzzle held distinct white spots, his fur combed and clean, he nodded to the last few entering the house of whatever God or Gods the creatures worshipped, he gently shut the double doors.
After church, Vincent Van Leeuwen stepped out and began his work immediately, his shop within walking distance like all the other shops.
Opening the creaky door, he entered a large wooden shack full of swords, knives and anything regarding forged metal. A large desk sat in one corner for payment purposes or lunch break, the sword making materials hung in just about every inch of wall space. The place smelt of metal and a bit of must, the ceiling had to be custom made to fit the dragon’s size.
Vince stood at an impressive seven feet, had clean, shiny red scales, and a thin tail which sometimes dragged behind his slender body. The most notable trait of Vince however, was that he had no wings like most of his species.
Rolling up the sleeves to his white button up shirt, he began by heating up a large bucket of water, using just a tiny bit of flame which methodically poured out of his mouth. He had learned and practiced how to control his fire breathing, he was on point for the most part. Vince spent a lot of his day listening to the chatter among the townspeople, he could tell by their tone something was going on, but he wasn’t interested enough to ask what it was, never was he nosey. Never did he partake in gossip, landing in trouble was something he hadn’t done yet and he intended to keep it that way.
That is until an acquaintance of his entered his shop as he was hanging up his latest sword on the wall. He attempts to get the grime off by rubbing his hands on his black slacks and turned around to meet the mouse’s gaze, with his identifiable deep and calming voice, he spoke. “Greetings, Martin. Pleasure to see you again.” His little ears flicked a bit, his pink eyes looking up at the dragon to attempt to look at the tall creature’s face.
Martin walked about the store, admiring the craftsmanship of the weaponry, his thin pink tail sways contently. “Vincent, have you heard the news?” The dragon was busy cleaning a dagger with a soft cloth behind the desk, he shook his head gently, eying the knife closely. Martin’s voice picked up tone, his heart full of curiosity. “It is rumored that a human has made itself across the fence and to our town!” Vince placed the knife on the table and looked at the rodent, he too now was piqued with inquiry as he placed his clawed hands on the desk calmly. “Our ruler has quite the temper when it comes to that species. I wish him the best if it is indeed not a rumor. I wonder why a human would come here in the first place? Lost perhaps?” With an uncertain air to his mannerisms, Martin shrugged slowly. “I do not know, but I too wish him the best. I do not think our town will give him a warm welcome, that is for sure. If they think anything like the king does.” Martin left with a polite nod. Pondering this news, Vince continued his work, he would try not to worry himself with things that were not of his control.
Clouds were overhead, his last customer had just exited the shop. Buttoning his black vest, he headed off to home, carrying his day’s payment in a brown pouch which he kept in his pocket. The journey home was a few short minutes away. Up a large hill, overlooking the small town.
The dragon enters his living room, his floors made of marble, chandeliers hung from the ceilings, in the middle of the living room a red couch and fireplace. Vince makes his way to his writing desk, located a few feet from the couch, complete with papers, a quill pen and his daily journal to get his deeper thoughts out instead of venting to friends. He lets slight background noises calm him, leaving a window open so birds could be heard. Picking up his favorite instrument, the Celtic guitar he began strumming softly, letting the sound of slight rain put him in a calm state.
The rain continued to fall, most of the anthros had either gone to bed, or were closing shops after a long day. Lanterns illuminated the night, lighting the shops and houses.
The townsfolk liked to gaze up, passed the church and notice the castle a few miles away which seemed to loom over all of them, where their ruler sat and controlled the populace.
Among the many shadows the night cast, Jon made his first attempt at really talking to these creatures. His pajamas now soaking wet and covered in mud, his skin chilled to the bone and a barely functional walking cycle proved to anyone seeing him he was far from healthy. The human’s journey had been rather short, but terrifying, but this town looked like it could suffice for the evening.
Jon approached a group of white mice who were just locking up their bookstore, standing at five feet-Jon’s height, the three were speaking of what tomorrow would bring and chuckling. All of them wore cloaks and did not look like they had a lot of money, but seemed content on this dreary night. The human limped over to the three mice and spoke in a frail and overly weary tone, he stuttered but spoke as best as he possibly could. “Help. I am tired. Please.” One of the mice did indeed turn and look to him in a concerned manner. “I’m sorry lad, I have no place for you to stay. I have nothing to give, best of luck.” With a pat on the shoulder, they all walked away from him at that moment, the teenager sighed in anger. He knew he shouldn’t be angry, the mouse seemed good hearted, but he was probably telling the truth.
With his feet nearly tripping over the slick road, he came upon another fellow-a grey goat in a suit of armor, obviously, a knight. He stood, poised and leaning up against a large metal building, possibly where someone important lived. Moving his brown hair from his eyes, he tapped the knight’s hoof. “Sir? help. Do you have food?” The goat cocked his head, facing the human, he sounded old and had spots of grey around his short horns which were on top of his head. “Go away, filthy human or I will tell the king of your presence. Move along.” His eyeballs slanted, his angry stare was enough to make Jon runoff.
The teenager tried knocking on doors to houses which seemed to have a lit candle on the inside, but no one stepped out. Most likely due to fear because they had never seen someone with no tail, fur or scales and were leery of something they had never seen, or they were prejudice against the species in the first place. He thought he might have to find some sort of shack to stay in or hide among some trees, but another structure caught his eye.
A white colored church, the steeple held a large golden bell. The building was quite beautiful. This was finally something he recognized, he had gone to church every Sunday with his human friends or his mom and dad.
He made his way towards the place he knew, went up the slippery staircase and nearly fell, but caught himself. He knocked on the large wooden double doors with no answer, with a single tug, the door lurched open.
The first thing noticeable, was the incredible echo. The rainwater dripped off Jon and made a pattering sound against the flat floor. Closing the door gently, he made his way passed rows of pews, the smell of old dust was prominent.
Hanging from the ceiling, large chandeliers, the windows stained glass, making the rain drops look like silhouettes against the images of the religious figures worshipped by anthros.
With his legs throbbing, he did not want to investigate the entire place, so instead he sat down on the bench closest to him, he shivered a few times as water dripped from his head and on his face. He took a deep breath.
Finally, he was out of the elements, he just hoped no one would be here to spoil it and kick him out. So far, he had no luck with these anthros-the thoughts crossed his mind that maybe he should have stayed behind with his family and die. Jon lied down, resting on his side, the seat hard to the touch. His eyes were just about to drop when he heard a deep and poised voice, causing him to stand. “Who’s there?”
A deer held a lit lantern, illuminating his face. A strong and handsome looking buck, the air about him so poised and so thoughtful, his tone assertive, but gentle. His priestly robes only added to his extremely majestic walk. Even though his eyes were pure black, his gentle white eye brows read confusion. His facial expression read something to be respected, he looked like he could be anyone’s father figure, his stare demanded attention and honest answers. The priest stood a few feet from Jon and put his hooves up in a non-threatening position. He spoke again. “I am Samuel Merek, I wish to know why you are here.” Jon sighed in slight fear, but then again, he never met an evil priest in his life and he certainly had never met a priest who was a deer before. “I need sleep…f-father. I am sick.” Merek was impressed that this new creature called him ‘father’ apparently, his species had religion as well. The anthro nodded, Jon spoke again, this time a bit louder. “You…accept me?” Father Merek smiled slightly. “The goal of accepting one another is the glory of God.” The teen seemed to let his guard down as he sat up. “Jon is my n-name.”
Father Merek waited until the human was asleep to lock the front doors and quietly blow out a few candles, Samuel was going to go home, but he decided to stay and make sure Jon would be out by early the next morning. He felt awful doing so, but in these times of human hate, he would not risk Jon being found, even though Merek spoke of acceptance and loving one another in sermons, it didn’t seem to do much good for the folk who attended. The deer fell asleep on a pew in the back of the church, the two of them listening to the sound of rain as the evening drew on, but not before a whisper of an evening prayer from Merek.
The six foot tall Komodo dragon made his way through his lavish castle. His spiked boots clanked against the marble floor, his long black leather trench coat swayed as he walked in a tense and egotistical manner.
Pillars of gold stood, supporting the massive ceiling, decorated with glistening light fixtures, the soldiers who stood in various corners and in front of many doors dressed in metal armor, the guards and servants all reptiles. King Crixus takes a seat upon his throne, a few feet from the entrance to the building.
His scales, dark green and leathery, his eyes yellow underneath his black round pupils, Crixus’ snout sticks out a tad bit, the inside of it slimy and made of sharp tiny teeth, complete with a forked tongue that sometimes could be seen. His nostrils, small and round and his body naturally large and bulky-but he could be quick as a rattlesnake when he wanted to taste the flesh of a victim.
Since he had just awoken, he was given a cup of hot tea with sugar, he drummed his black sharp claws against the metal armrest of his seat, when suddenly a knight with a similar look to Crixus entered and briskly walked to the king and slightly bowed. “Sire? I have some distressing news, we believe that our plan to eradicate the human species has backfired. Rumor has traveled that there may be a lone human loose in our town. We have not been able to locate him. Of course, you know having humans here could greatly damage your reputation.” As Crixus stood, the soldier felt a looming and dark presence sweep over him, something larger than life, something truly full of menace. His voice unmistakable for anyone else in town. “A human, you say? If this is true, then surely an anthro must have seen him?” The knight gives a quick nod. “Perhaps my lovely people need a reminder of what that species is capable of.”
Everyone was asked to gather at the castle which was within walking distance of the main town, all anthros poured out of their shops in excitement. The majority loved the ruler, because he was so kind to them. He was not forgiving, but in their minds he was strong willed and was not afraid to discipline. Crixus would make a grand speech on a large wooden stage in front of the gated castle behind a podium. Happy chatter could be heard among the peasants and wealthy a like, Vincent was the tallest in the town, but he chose to stand in back and watch from a distance. The day was beautiful after the night of rainfall and the ruler had not come out to speak in a few months, the air tight in anticipation. The audience of anthros of all different species, genders and ages clapped and cheered and Crixus made his way to the podium.
With large waves and a kind smirk, the king spoke in a booming and optimistic voice. “Thank you! Thank you! Yes, I love you all as well.” The cheering died down and the king cleared his throat. “We run an amazing and productive city, and we always continue to make it better. That’s all because of you guys. We have made Animalia a dream community!”
More yells and claps erupted. “There is a darkness overhead my people, something that is to be feared. As you are well aware, me and my wonderful soldiers have kept you safe from the clutches of the strange, tailless beings called ‘humans’. I don’t need to tell you that they carry disease, they’re violent, they preach speciesism and have destroyed so much of the world to get by.”
He eyed a few of the younger anthros who stood right in front, to perhaps make them feel important. “A week ago, we raided a small human village-humans were either killed or brought to my dungeon for interrogation-a very important tactic as I’ve discussed with you all over my time as king.” Crixus had drilled ideas into their heads about the species, almost all of his talks consisted of something to do with humans. “One slipped by us. One measly little scum sucking tailless freak, rest assured we will do all we can to bring it to justice. We can’t have that one human ruing what is so fantastic, and we KNOW he or she will try to ruin us.”
Fear struck the audience all at once. “Humans breed-and the one who is running about our town is no different. If you see him or her or know anyone who is hiding it, tell one of my guards. Tell a friend. I can’t keep humans away without your help, because we all want to live in ANTHRO city, that is what works. Thank you for listening and I love you and may the human species learn that we will NOT tolerate them!” The mighty lizard walked off as even louder cheers came from the captive audience.
Vincent had long ago left this speech, his heart sank to the pit of his stomach, he sighed deeply as he returned back to his work forging a few swords. He blew fire like he always did into the forming metal, but his movements were more irritated and less gently paced. The ambience of the town returned to normal, chatter, laughter, but the dragon’s heart was far from normal. He placed everything down and took a deep breath, he would never tell anyone his true, deep feelings, such thoughts could get him killed-but remaining silent, he thought might just be as bad as joining in with the ideals of a king he loathed.
Father Merk had helped Jon gather extra supplies, food and fresh clothing, after getting washed up in a warm bath-the deer reluctantly sent him to the back of the church and through the woods, away from civilization. He knew the human would not stand a chance in the city, but he still feared for his life. The deer knelt down before him and spoke. “Jon, come back here in the evening should you not find another human or someone to help you. I do not want you to die, but I promise if you stay in this town during daylight hours-you will be found. Peace be with you.”
His journey was less discombobulated, he felt a bit less fear now that he knew he had a friend he could trust. Father Merek was someone he would never forget, but the fear slowly crept back to him. The woods put timid thoughts back into him. Grabbing an apple from his new brown bag, he snacked and walked and drank from a jug of fresh water, leaving plenty for a few days’ worth of travel.
Weather did not cooperate with him, the wind began to blow cold, putting on his green buff coat, the teen felt a bit warmer.
A sharp pain entered the bottom of Jon’s left foot, he yelped and tumbled into the leaves and dirt, rolling harshly down a hill. His head nearly hit a large rock when his body finally stopped. For a moment, he lies still. Grass and leaves covered his body. He groaned as slowly looked at his foot, which was bleeding quite a bit. He knew he sliced it on something in the ground, but he wasn’t curious enough to go back to see what it was.
The pain at first was not bad, but soon the sting started and blood oozed out more. The seventeen year old stood up and attempted to walk again, but it was no use at the moment, the pain became sharper. Whimpering in distress, he tears his pants and ties the long cloth to the bottom of his foot tightly, taking deep and rapid breathes. Going back to the church was out of the question, mass certainly would have started by now. He looked up into the sky, he glanced at his foot, then back up again. If he didn’t get help, the wound would get infected and then who knew how long he would have?
He then heard a sound that would either mean good things were to come, or more darkness and torment than he could handle, his head felt heavy and his stomach began to churn, his heart thudded hard against his ribcage. He thought he would vomit, but instead he flopped into the leaves and brambles and passed out, the sound of his heart rang in his ears.
* * *
Something was off, he felt warmer. No more leaves surrounded him, no sun beat upon him and no cold wind nipped at him. Feeling droopy, Jon tried to open his eyes to see his surroundings, but tiredness flooded him, he closed his eyes for a few more moments before sitting up in a large, red bed.
For a moment, he thought maybe all of this was some terrible dream, that his mom and dad would come to his room to help him to breakfast, but he knew he had never been here. His foot ached terribly and was propped up with two pillows and had a fresh cloth wrapped around it, he cocked his head left and right and saw white walls and a mirror at the foot of his bed.
Through the open doorway to Jon’s right side, a slender figure emerged with shiny red flakes, a long tail, bright yellow eyes with black slits for eyeballs going down the middle and stood at an incredible height. Jon’s first instinct was to run, but the dragon was quick and gently tried to lie him back down, not without a fight.
The human was taught about dragons and their awful ways. What luck, a fire breathing, gold obsessed monster was the next step in Jon’s torturous week. Vincent spoke as Jon squirmed, pinched and hit his arms which did no damage to his armor like scales. After squirming he grabbed one of Vince’s brown suspenders and tugged, then he went for his white shirt. “NO! OFF!” Jon yelled. Vince shushed him gently. He didn’t sound like a usual dragon, his tone not intimidating at all, to Jon’s shock, his inflection was strangely calming, the dragon stepped back. “Please do not yell. I’d hate someone to come and find out you’re here.” He walked to an open window and shut it, looking into his backyard which consisted of trees and a large empty field.
This statement lowered the human’s guard, from the sounds of it this dragon was maybe good if he intended on keeping him safe. An odd revelation, but it isn’t like he could run even if he wanted to.
Vince pulled up a chair, sitting across from Jon who now was sat up and looking straight into his long snout. “My name is Vincent, you were outside, close to my home. I did not want to leave you out to the elements, so following my heart I took you here. If you have somewhere to be, or someone I can bring you to, please tell me.” Jon shook his head, truthfully this was the most comfortable he had been since his town burned. Jon said not a word. Vincent had hoped the human had found someone to live with or even a place that would accept him, he didn’t think he might be his ultimate savior. “Young man, where are your parents?” His parents. Even someone asking about them made his heart sink to the pit of his stomach. While they were constantly running through his mind, Jon didn’t really feel up to speaking of them unless he had too. He took a deep breath. Jon kept quiet, not taking his eyes off the creature who sat before him. Vince waited for a bit longer, then stood up. He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed, putting his hands on his hips and sighing in contemplation. Not only is this human mysterious, but he won’t speak. Too terrified? Perhaps. Vince understood that prejudice against dragons traveled across the lands, so he assumed this teen knew of only the ‘bad ones.’
The dragon felt it best to leave him be for a while. “Do not get up, your foot still has a lot of healing to do. I need to go out and get supplies.” Jon felt it best to lie in bed and rest his foot, even if it was a boring endeavor. Vince soon realized he didn’t have much in the way of food, he had applied some healing lotion to the young man’s foot as he slept, but he’d need more medical supplies. Thoughts raced as he threw on his brown frock coat and briskly left the house to do errands for a human, something he thought he’d never do.
The bar bustled with activity, creatures from all walks of life talked among themselves, most happy, but some sad and drinking to take a certain pain away. The building smelt of beer and wine, and tending to this bar a white mare, her black mane perfectly flat and a muscular figure that would rival even that of the strongest in the area.
As she passed out mugs to patrons, she spoke of her various adventures, being a bounty hunter she had many tales of fighting evil and protecting the innocent. Silently sneaking into the bar, the seven-foot-tall dragon, with a brown satchel slung over his shoulder, unbuttoned his coat and walked to the bar.
The horse’s gaze suddenly met his. With a smile, she hugged him tightly. “Vincent! It’s been forever! How are you, scaly?” This was a loving nickname she gave him, Vince hugged back but without as much of a tight grip. “Looking lovely as always Miss. Goldentrot, I need to speak with you privately later, if that is alright.” She nodded, as he waited he ordered a glass of red wine.
* * *
“After finding him lost in the woods and bringing him to my home, I bought necessary supplies that I thought a human might need.” The horse looked him in the face and sipped some beer. “Vince, I am happy to help you, but it seems like you have everything under control.” With a shrug, the dragon scoffed. “It certainly does not feel that way, I know nothing of his species. I feel quite lost, but I came to you because I know you were once a mother and perhaps you can give him some advice. Perhaps you could also train him in combat? I hope I’m not asking too much, I am willing to give you money for your time.” Reaching into his pocket, the horse stopped him quickly. “You don’t need to give me money, I’d be happy to help the boy out.”
She gazed at him as he placed the money back in his coin purse, no creature was quite like the mighty dragon in her eyes. So poised, so honest, wise and tall. His eyes read so much experience and teaching, it seemed Vince was an endless mystery to her even though they were friends. Sure, she knew of his past endeavors, but every time she saw him, she lit up and felt speaking to him was a great honor. That a dragon would have interest in a boring horse, especially one as wild and talkative as she was.
Placing her bag in the closet, she looked around Vincent’s lavish home. She had never set foot in it, she knew his father had been wealthy, Vince had more money than he knew what to do with. As the fireplace cracked, she removed her armor off and placed it on the floor, to reveal a grey peasant shirt and brown slacks and sat on the couch, Jon was still in the upstairs bedroom. Vince came downstairs softly and sat by her, the silence of the room engulfed them along with crickets and the cracks from the fireplace. He spoke, not looking at her, but into the fireplace. “I do not know if I can do this.” She looked him in the eye. “Just because he’s a human?” He leaned back, crossing his legs. “It is not just that, I’ve never had to take care of anyone but myself. I don’t know if I’m suitable to be looking after a kid who probably needs more than I can even wrap my brain around.” Ira put a hand on his shoulder. “Vincent, you are a kind, generous and thoughtful soul. Just be yourself, don’t over think it. When I had to take care of my foal, I thought the same thing, especially once my husband left me. I soon learned you just take one day at a time and be honest. I have confidence in you. Plus, I’ll be around so you have an extra pair of hands to help out.”
After a moment of thought, Vince stood up and got into his evening wear, a black robe. Before sitting back down, he went into the guest bedroom to check on Jon, who was sleeping soundly. Sleeping was a good sign that maybe he was getting used to his surroundings and no longer felt as much fear from the dragon. He spent the rest of his time putting items in cabinets and getting healing potions made up for the morning.
Ira meanwhile stayed in the room right next to Jon’s, a very similar bedroom to his, but with a grey color scheme. She was shocked to hear footsteps entering her room, but not Vince’s. She cocked her head to the doorway and saw a sleepy human in the frame. She smirked and calmly approached him, he didn’t back away. She spoke in a soothing tone, the one she used for her foal. “Hey, what are you doing?” Jon sensed something about her, she seemed motherly, but tough. He loved her cute muzzle and her muscular body, it made him feel protected. He didn’t speak, but didn’t seem tense either. She spoke again, hanging her armor up in the closet. “I know you’re scared, but I promise you, Vince and I will do everything to help you. Name’s Ira.” They both shake hands. “You need anything, I’m right next door to your room, or you can get Vince down the hall.”
The king looked over his town, in the tallest part of the castle, which was his bedroom. A bed with golden sheets sits in one corner, the wall is adorned with drawings that various artists composed of the king is various positions.
Crossing his arms, he turned to Vlad, a soldier he was quite proud of, taller in stature than most who worked in the castle and a fine warrior.
He too was a Komodo Dragon, who wore black armor and held quite a large sword by his side. Clearing his throat, Vlad spoke. “Sire, are we going to do a widespread search of the supposed human?” Crixus sighed tiredly. “Indeed, and like with the others, bring it to me.” Vlad was one of the only anthros to know the secret of what happened to the humans in the towns which were raided. “Death would be too good for a little snot who thinks he can tarnish my reputation of keeping humans out.” His voice rose a tad bit. “HOW could we have killed so many, and yet one slip by? Our victories had been consistently good.” Vlad shrugged and followed the stressed king through the various halls and to the front double doors. “Vlad, you bang on every door, you interrogate anyone you can. If he’s being hidden, FIND him, if he does not come, kill his keeper and break his legs and drag him here! Understood?” Vlad smirked, he loved going off on violent errands for his hero. “As you wish.” The entrance doors swung open and the brawny lizard began his search.
One of the soldiers spoke as he walked behind Crixus’ back. “King? Do you wish to feed to calm your nerves?” He nods, by the front of the castle, is a trap door, opened only by a key Crixus holds. With a creek, it opened and he descended a flight of wooden, rickety stairs. It was cold and damp, just right for what he was doing. His eyes adjusted quickly to the dark, once he hit the bottom of the stairs, he gazes upon his foul secret.
Humans, of all ages and of all sizes, handcuffed and chained, barely fed, some barely could walk. The cobble stone floor dirty, the clothing the humans wore, ratty and filthy. They whimpered and whispered, pleading for their lives. Crixus chuckled, for deep in his heart he knew something no one else in the town knew, something that would change the course of anthro history. Humans of course were not poison, but made fine snacks for a Komodo. That was the king’s heart-lie to the masses and make out better for himself. This tradition started when he was younger, Komodos were always good at catching victims, so humans seemed like a fine target. All food in the city were either vegetables or fake meats, Crixus wouldn’t stand for fake dead flesh, so he felt turning to humans was the next best option. He was proud of his work. Proud of his thoughts and ideas.
After dining, he felt full and quite good. Not even thinking that the species he just ate was someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s true love. Devoured by pure evil, humans were used as mere sustenance and nothing more, to be abused, neglected and hated.
The table long, the other soldiers also were served, Crixus sighed, propping his feet up on the edge of the table. “Tis good to have the upper hand, if it weren’t for the escaped human, I would say things are going very smoothly.” They all seemed to nod in unison. One soldier piped up as he sipped on some wine. “Imagine though, if it were found out we use humans as sustenance? What shock and awe that would create? Perhaps others would join us!”
Crixus stood up, breathing heavily, his leather coat squeaking a bit. “Is that so?” His tone went dead cold, no longer casual. Everyone stopped eating, all eyes turned on the Komodo who made the comment, he started to sweat nervously. “Oh, of course I wouldn’t tell anyone. Not an outdoor soldier, not a peasant, not anyone. I just like to see what they’d think of being tricked, the fools they are.” Crixus briskly walked to his side, his boots making a rhythmic and intimidating step. Crixus with the speed of lightning, grabbed a fork and stuck it in the soldier’s eye, with a scream of pain, he ran off, still screaming. The sound echoed off the grand walls, once it stopped Crixus looked at all the stunned faces that surrounded him. He cleared his throat and crossed his arms. “Who’s ready for dessert?”
Vlad roamed the dark streets, city lights were provided by lanterns, he sniffed the air. His metal armor clanked, his sword by his side and humming a content tune. His nostrils flared, his eyes darting left and right-he certainly smelt the extremely faint remnants of a human. He licked his lips, he thought maybe if he were lucky, he’d get a taste of the human as well. He did get some taste for it at Crixus’ castle, but to see a human that helpless, would be an interesting sight. These thoughts made him press forward. He took a giant sniff, his snout aimed at the starry night sky, the smell that seemed to come from the local church. The smell of faint human blood, sweat and flesh. He was there not too long ago Vlad inquired.
He made his way up the staircase and knocked on the double doors. With a creek, the door opened and revealed Father Merek, his tone soft to not wake anyone up. He coughed a bit. “May I help you?” Vlad smirked and held the door open with his large metal boot. “I think you can.”