“Would killing you reset your stomach?” Finn asked while eyeing the blade in Arve's belt loop. For the past three hours, he had been whining of hunger pains. Finn and Emma were just about at their wits end.
“Finn!” Emma groused.
“I’m just suggesting. Hey, you’re lordship, when are we going to be there?” Finn stood and looked at the stars. Arven had been using the west star to gauge their location, but it was harder than it looked. He held out a sea map but a jump from Carnil Coast to Meolin Port city was no small matter. Meolin’s strong winds would fight against the sails the whole way.
“Soon. I think. Meolin in the summer is windy so maybe I’m a bit off course.” Arven glared at the maps like they had all of the answers. They didn’t.
In the past, Arven had never made any particular destination. He showed up wherever the winds blew. Carnil was a chosen destination, but he wasn’t in much hurry to get there. A package delivery to Johna was never much of a hurry.
“Wait, I see land!” Emma shouted from the portside of the boat. Arven quickly readjusted course. If Emma hadn’t been looking, they would have passed Meolin right on by. The boat creaked from the turning rutter, but soon the bow was pointing at the sandy beaches of Meolin.
“Arven? Don’t you think the docks look kind of small for Meolin Port City?” Finn went to the bow for a better look. Mountains rose from the beaches, and a few single lamps lit the docks. It was still early in the night, but no one was near the docks.
“Maybe I overshot?” Arven shrugged. Any mountain in Meolin would do. Didn’t matter where.
“Overshot? Can’t you navigate?” Finn grumbled from his seat at the bow.
“Not even a little bit.” Sometimes Finn forgot that for half of his life, Arven was a small child. A small, brainless, stupid child who probably couldn’t navigate. Finn still wanted to get to Cape Rilitte. Could Arven even get him there? Or would it be a guessing game like this?
Cape Rilitte was far away from places like Meolin and Carnil. Finn wasn’t even sure of the directions himself. He had no maps or skills in navigation.
“When we hit land, do you think I could trade your shoes for some food?” Arven joked with Finn.
“Eat my shoes.”
They had finally reached land, and Arven was sure it wasn’t Meolin Port City. For starters, it wasn’t nearly as big as it should have been. The ports were nearly abandoned and only a single other poor-looking ship sat in the docks.
“We’ll get the dragons up the mountain tonight, and make our way down in the morning. Then you can do whatever you like from there.” Arven looked up at the stars one last time before leveling a stare at his fellow crew mates. He knew they would leave him, just like everyone else who had joined him on this boat.
After slowly guiding the boat into the docking area, Arven realizes that he doesn’t have a loading ramp anymore. Well there goes his food money for another week. Arve was costing him more and more money these days. Arven grabs one of the docking ropes and jumps from his boat to the dock.
“Don’t be so reckless,” Emma scolded. She was calming one of the younger dragons by petting his snout.
“You should know by now that I don’t exactly die.” Arven mumbled back. He didn’t have the energy to argue. The money Johna had given him was still in his coin purse, but were now meant for a new docking ramp. It would cost him more than Johna paid.
“You look really sick. Don’t worry about-”
“I’m fine. Let's get going.” Arven walked up the dock. He wasn’t going to wait for Emma and Finn to exit the boat. He was being impatient, but he wanted to make the climb up the mountain before Arve got any better ideas.
Arven knew that deep down, Arve wasn’t going to handle losing Emma and Finn well. They were the first people he had met that were like him. Cursed.
Arve had quickly attached himself to them. Even getting shot in the head for them. Arven had never, in his many years, seen Arve do anything simply for someone else.
Especially getting shot in the head.
“Hey, wait up!” Emma yelled at him.
Aijun’s adventure into the sand dunes was going about as well as expected. He’s stumbled in the sand at least three times, and face planted into the sand. The faceplant resulted in him inhaling sand and choking for another five minutes.
Jonathan stayed silent.
A rattling sound echoed in his ears, but Aijun was too busy choking on a dry sandy throat to notice.
“Stop moving. Rattlesnake on your left.” Jonathan guided Aijun’s eyes toward the rattler near his feet. Aijun froze.
“Best thing to do it slowly back away. No sudden movements.” Jonathan used Aijun’s mouth to speak. The dry throat made his voice even raspier than before. Jonathan naturally took control of Aijun’s body, but in the panic, Aijun fought against him.
Jonathan tried to take a step back and Aijun stopped the motion half way in the air. His leg stomped down hard and startled both Jonathan and the rattler.
“Oh now you’ve done it!” Jonathan grouched as the snake hissed at them. It gives a warning strike toward Aijun’s feet and Aijun stumbles backward. Disoriented by the other person inside his body, and the nausea from blood loss caused Aijun to fall back onto his butt in the most ungraceful way.
He was face to face with a six foot rattlesnake.
“Don’t move. Don’t breathe. It will leave us alone if we aren’t a threat.” Jonathan spoke out of Aijun’s mouth as quietly as he could. Jonathan had dealt with rattlesnakes all his life. He was hardly ever scared of them anymore. Although this one was much larger than most, Jonathan still knew the basics.
Getting bitten at this point would be very bad. There was no warlock that could help except the one that put them in this situation. The doctors could only lessen the symptoms caused by the bite. The bites weren’t normally fatal if treated in time.
“It isn’t going away.” Aijun breathed.
“I want to try something.” Jonathan was asking permission to use Aijun’s body in a very roundabout way. But Aijun was running out of options. Aijun nodded his permission, and Jonathan fell to the front. Aijun wasn’t fighting against him anymore.
Jonathan made his eyes go yellow, as if he were in his own body. The dark desert lit up and Jonathan could see for miles ahead instead of only a few feet ahead. The rattlesnake wasn’t moving but kept hissing and rattling. Another warning strike was made and Aijun got nervous.
Aijun was holding his imaginary breath as Jonathan changed from human to half wolf. Fangs and claws grew where there had never been any before. His eyes glowed and he growled loudly at the rattlesnake. In the past, this had worked for Jonathan. But Jonathan was a werewolf, and Aijun was not.
Aijun’s body didn’t have the same scary predator affect that Jonathan’s used to. And so, like any prideful predator, the rattlesnake attacked.
The snake struck with accuracy, and lodged it fangs in Aijun’s outstretched leg. He growled, nearly like a werewolf, and went to pull the snake off forcefully. Jonathan stayed back to keep out of Aijun’s way. This was probably his fault. Jonathan was a werewolf, but Aijun’s body wasn’t. He was going to have to keep remembering that.
After the snake slithered away, Aijun put a hand on his snake bit and clutched his leg close. He wasn’t so much in pain anymore as he was just angry. But before he could yell at Jonathan for doing something that was going to kill them both, a voice called out.
“Who are you?”
A small boy appeared in front of Aijun’s face. With his face only inches away, the kid started laughing hysterically.
“You totally tried to werewolf out on that snake and it bit you anyway!” The boy mocked Aijun. If there was a better time to find some people who could help him, Aijun could think of one. He needed medical attention, and fast.
“Can you help me? Where are your parents?” Aijun looked around but the sand covered mountain was empty and dark. What was this kid doing out here all alone?
“Arve? Where did you go? Say something!” A girls voice called out from behind a sand dune. Aijun put it together that this boy has probably been watching his performance with the snake for some time. Meaning, he saw Aijun talking with Jonathan.
“He’s over here,” Aijun yelled out to whoever was on the other side of the hill. He heard frantic voices as a young woman and young man appeared at the top of the small sand covered hill.
“The real question is, who was it you were talking to?” The kid asked. Aijun swore under his breath. This kid was smart for being ten or eleven years old.
The young girl caught up to them and ripped the boy up to face her. She was clearly angry. All Aijun could do was stare. She was beautiful. Her hair was the perfect blend of brown with natural blonde highlights, and her eyes were stunning in the low starlight. He wanted to use Jonathan’s night vision tricked just to see her better.
“Why is it that one moment you are moping around and the next you’re just up and gone?” The young lady shrieked. The man appeared at the woman’s side. They both looked mildly displeased.
“Well I found a werewolf, that’s why-” The boy childishly pointed at Aijun even as the woman was about to strangle the kid. Her eyes turned to meet Aijun, and the man’s gaze followed.
“New parents? That’s rough.” Aijun gave an awkward smile that was now fang free.
“Parents? What? No. I am Emma, this is Finn. And this is Arve. He’s not our kid or anything like that-” Emma had gone from angry and annoyed to smitten in zero seconds flat. Finn felt dizzy from the sudden change of pace.
“Oh. So do either of you happen to be a warlock? I got bitten by a pretty nasty snake…” Aijun’s voice trailed off. He couldn’t stop staring at Emma. Even her name was pretty.
Aijun sat up and showed them the bite wound. Arve started laughing again.
“We’ll get you to a warlock but you better pay up.”
“I don’t have any money,” Aijun rubbed the back of his neck in shame.
“And we don’t have any food. Nice to meet you weird werewolf guy.” Arve waved and turned around. Emma and Finn didn’t follow as Arve made his way up the way they came.
“Please. The venom will kill me if I don’t get help. I have money just not with me.” Arve stopped mid-step.
“Well all you had to do was say so,” Arve’s grin was magnetic and all eyes landed on him. Emma looked ready to fight, but Finn only smirked. Finn squatted down and faced his back toward Aijun.
“Get on. We’ll walk you back down to that small town.” Finn said. Aijun smiled excitedly and climbed onto Finn’s back.
The desert night air was chilly and the Meolin wind only made it more unbearable. Arve and Emma walked a little bit ahead and Finn was loaded down with a behemoth of a man. The man on Finn’s back was muscled, and it weighed him down.
“I haven’t had a piggyback ride in a while. Especially from a hot man,” Aijun whispered seductively in Finn’s ear. “Name’s Aijun. Aijun Lin.”