(Here we go again...)
On the third night that the boy and his dragon were bedding down in the same clearing, he reflected on the day's events. Annabella had spent another morning with him and Ambernia. He enjoyed her visit, but was also leery of her. He felt that Annabella preferred his dragon's company to his, and that sparked a bit of jealousy in the boy, an emotion with which he was unfamiliar. Then there was that thing about her father being an ex-soldier. Although, she barely spoke about her father's military allegiance, she did imply he was a loyal Roman. He may have left his command to tend to his family, but there was no doubt that he preferred a soldier's life. And it was that soldier side of her father that caused the boy to worry. The boy regretted having revealed to Annabella how his family had ended.
When he learned that the men in Annabella's family hunted for a living, the boy wished he had not abandoned his archery equipment. When he set fire to his parents home, he had left inside his bow and quiver. It was his archery talents——since age five he could outshoot the best of adults——that caused the death of his loved ones. If he had only held his temper and not killed the Roman officers, his family would still live on. True, his mother and sister had been raped, yet he would rather have them alive and defiled than dead and avenged. He had not held a bow in two years, yet when hearing Annabella brag on her brothers skills, he longed to draw on a target, if only to show off his accuracy to Annabella. The boy was also skilled with a sling. It was the way he has hunted for the past two years. He had the same eye with a sling as he had with a bow, but a sling did not always provide a kill shot. Sometimes the game would recover from the slung projectile and scamper off before the boy could reload and take a second aim. This was alright with the boy, it felt like he was allowing the animal a second chance. Everyone deserves a second chance.
He thought about the killings less and less in the last two years. He had only been eleven when his life had abruptly changed, and he knew he would handle the situation completely differently now that he was the older and wiser age of thirteen. Yet, things being the way they were, he felt he had earned his second chance through his actions since that fateful day. He did not seek out the soldiers who killed his family. To be fair, if he happened on to them he still would demand retribution. He sought them naught, and if it be he that was still sought, he no longer warranted the attention. It was strange that the boy did not fantasize his revenge. It was the symbiosis between the boy and the dragon that created the boy's impassive regard to his past. Had it not been for Ambernia, the boy's thoughts would have tortured him to the edge of sanity; constantly reliving those last days on the olive farm. The boy only had an inkling of an idea on the effect of the dragon. He knew Ambernia had magically mended his broken leg. He did not know Ambernia had also mended his broken psyche.
He weighed his feelings towards Annabella. He was definitely attracted to the girl, yet she appeared not to have the return attraction. She seemed to be more interested in Ambernia than him. He wondered if he could win her over. That was doubtful. Even if he felt equal to Annabella, he believed she thought of his as a child. She was two years his elder. Two years would never be taken into account if they were in their twenties, but being thirteen and fifteen, their maturity was decades apart. At least, that was how Annabella acted towards him. On this second day spent together, she still had not asked his name. The boy felt slighted at this.
While the boy was thinking about her, Annabella was awake in her cabin. She listened to the snores of her brothers as she laid close eyed in her bed. She had told her siblings about riding the dragon that day. They congratulated her, but they did not share in her enthusiasm. They were more concerned about besting each other in their next contest. Quickly, the conversation turned back to which brother would outdo the other on the morrow. Unchecked by their father, the brothers argued for hours until bedtime. Annabella loved her brothers, but at times they could really get on her nerves. Falling asleep to their rhythmic snoring, Annabella began dreaming immediately. In her dream, it was her family who owned the dragon. As her brothers were arguing over which was the better flyer, she hopped on Ambernia's back and was at once soaring over the treetops. It such an exhilarating experience, flying high, free from the bickering of her siblings, high above her father's reign.
Meanwhile, Barnicus was aboard his raft. He did not have to fight the current for his return trip. The fourteen hours traveled to see Lionus, would be shaved down to nine for getting home. He estimated he would be there just around sunrise. He hoped his sons would not be off hunting when he arrived. He would have a different hunt for them tomorrow. His suspicions had been confirmed by Lionus. Either the boy with the dragon was the murdering farm boy, or knew who the murdering farm boy was. He was confident the former would be true. No matter, he would capture the boy and take him to the Roman post in Dacia for trial. Barnicus' reward would be more than just the praise of his loyalty, there may be a monetary reward but Barnicus did inquire into it, his reward would be the dragon. A trained dragon at his beck and call could earn his family more dinarii than his family could spend in their entire lifetimes. Plus, the fame and prestige the dragon would bring would open doors to the rich and powerful. Perhaps Trajan himself would have Barnicus share his table.