(If you thought I would leave you hanging, you are wrong. Hopefully, I will conclude the story I started yesterday. Let's pray I can work through any unanticipated plot twists.)
The boy had turned his parents home into a funeral pyre. The fire's shadowplay danced on the trees as he passed. He drove the olive cart and horse into the woods. He did not know or care where he was heading as long as it wasn't anywhere near soldiers. With tears streaming down his face, he disappeared among the trees, never looking back.
Over the next few days, the boy took a northerly zig-zag course always on the less traveled roads and paths. On the fifth day of his flight, the boy found himself on one of the most uneven, bumpy paths of his life. A snake appeared and startled the horse. The horse reared up, the wagon twisting up and to the side tossing the boy to the ground. The animal's halter snapped in two freeing the cart to overturn atop the boy. The boy's right leg received the bulk of the wagon weight breaking the femur. Black olives spilled out half covering the boy. Excruciating pain caused the boy to lose consciousness.
Some time later, he came to, covered in sweat. Any movement sent torrents of pain to his leg. The broken bone also upset his stomach. He retched up the olives he had eaten earlier. Empty of food, he threw up bile. The nasty taste and smell caused him to pass out again.
In the middle of the night, the boy woke up in a fever. He had the shakes which caused his leg to scream in agony. He had been trapped under the cart for over twelve hours and not a single person had found him. He cried because of the pain, because he was trapped under the wagon, but mostly because of the loss of his family. His mind kept showing images of his father and mother, his sister and her groom lying butchered on the floor. He cried and shivered with intense pain until he passed out one last time. Two hours after the dawn, the dragon found him.
Two years had passed. The boy still had occasional nightmares about the slaughter of his family, but for the most part, the boy was content traveling with Ambernia. They had not met any soldiers, Roman or otherwise, in all their journey. It was a rarity the boy thought about being wanted for killing of Roman Officers. He did not feel pursued. Occasionally, they would happen upon people, farmers or hunters, but no one paid attention to him. They were generally fascinated by Ambernia. When they did see folk, the boy would jump into Ambernia's saddle and have the dragon fly them away. He would smile and wave at the people who would return the gestures. This was as close as they had come to mingling with the human race. Now you see us, now you don't.
On the day that Ambernia flew the skies seeking food below, and the boy took his canteen to the stream to refill, the boy met a girl. As he approached the stream he noticed a garment thrown over the dry end of a log that laid half in the water. He looked at the stream and saw nobody, so he went to the garment and picked it up. It was a female dress. He looked back at the water in time to see a girl rise out of it. She was coming towards him, twisting the wet from her long hair. She was waist deep when she spotted the boy. Quickly she covered her breasts and lowered herself to shoulder level.
"Who are you?" she demanded.
The boy looked around for his dragon. This was the part where he would hop onto Ambernia's saddle and they would fly off. He had not spoke to another human for two years. He was at a loss for words. Embarrassed he turned and began to hurry off.
"Stop!" the girl yelled.
The boy halted in his tracks. He slowly turned back to the girl.
She said, "You put that back."
The boy suddenly realized he still had the girl's dress in his hands. He walked back to the log and put the garment back where it had been. He stuttered, "S-s-sorry." He was about to turn and go but he remembered his canteen. "Can I fill my water flask?" he asked the girl, his gaze cast skyward.
The boy was younger than her, a year, maybe two, still shy around girls. She knew he was not a threat, so she said, "Fine. Fill it fast and go away." She stayed submerged as the boy filled his canteen and walked back through the thicket. Not even a goodbye. Boys!
The girl waited a couple minutes after the boy had gone before leaving the water. She stood naked on the bank brushing water off her body. When she had dried as much as possible, she picked up her dress and pulled it over her head. As the dress shifted into place around her body, she spotted the boy partway up the wooded slope. His smiling face was visible poking out from behind a tree. When he saw that she saw him, he turned and hurried up the hill.
Back at the campsite, Ambernia sat in front of a pile of peaches, pears, corn and turnips. The boy rushed up to the dragon. He was excited and stated, "You won't believe what I just saw!"
The dragon cocked its head as if to ask 'What?'
"A girl taking a bath! She walked out of the water without a stitch on. You should have seen her. She was beautiful."
Ambernia understood that most species, including humans, have two sexes, male and female. But being neither, it could not understand why one sex would get so excited about the other. And the boy seemed very excited indeed.
"I think she caught me looking at her. I.. Hey! You got some peaches! I love peaches." The boy picked the fruit up and bit into it. Juice flowed from the sides of his mouth over his chin. The boy said through a mouthful of peach, "I saw her titties, I did. Boy, that was something." He swallowed and took another bite. "You should have seen her, Ambernia..."
"Are you talking about me?" came a female voice from behind the boy. The girl walked up to the boy and his dragon. "Are you telling the dragon about my... titties? Is that what you said? Titties?" she asked the boy but kept her eyes on Ambernia.
The boy choked a little and uttered a "Uhhh..."
Ambernia was amused at the situation. His master's face was so red. The girl was acting mad but Ambernia knew she was just having fun at the boy's expense. This was the first time the boy and Ambernia had been so close to another human, yet it felt right. Ambernia picked a pear from the food pile and offered it to the girl.
She took the pear and said, "Why, thank you. Its nice to see at least one of you has manners."
"I.. I'm s-sorry."
She turned to the boy and asked, "For what? For not being hospitable or for spying on my walk out of the water?"
The boy hung his head shamefully. "For both, ma'am."
She decided to let him off the hook. "Okay, I forgive you," she said and waited for the boy to look up at her. When he did, she gave him a smile. She then asked "So where did you get the dragon?"
"Ambernia? We been together for a long time. Ambernia saved my life and we've been together ever since."
The boy then told the story of the olive cart breaking his leg. When he finished, the girl asked him, "Where were you going when the wagon tipped over?"
"I wasn't going any place. I was trying to get away." Then before he could think it over, the boy was telling the tale of the soldiers and the killings. Once he had started talking, he could not bring himself to stop. It felt good to talk with another person after so long. He did realize how much he had missed conversation until now. He was willing to tell this girl, who he just met, all his secrets just for the privilege of being able to converse. A dragon may be a fun companion, but they cannot talk.
After about an hour, the girl got up and said, "My father may be starting to worry about me. I better get back. It's been nice talking to you."
They said there goodbyes and as the girl was almost into the woods, the boy shouted out, "Hey, you never said what your name is..."
"Annabella," she shouted back and then entered the woods.
The boy thought Annabella was a lovely name and then wondered why she hadn't asked his.
(Alright, I lied. This story does not end here. I'll have more tomorrow.)