Keil surveyed the small area cautiously. Today he had come across fresh footprints in the ground, indicating a camp or town in the distance. He followed the trail carefully, curious to see where it led and if there were supplies he could steal. Might it even be Sylvia’s home? Would he see her again, perhaps?
Eventually he found where the foot prints ended, only to see a camp that looked torn apart and abandoned by now. Keil stepped out into the open to get a better look at the suspicious encampment. The fire had burned out on its own, still having some freshly caught fish within that appeared to have been cooked down to ash. He saw a couple of blankets on the ground, torn and tattered from some sort of wild beast attack, maybe. The foot prints here looked to have been made while running for their lives. He kept his dagger ready as he inspected the site for any signs of life or leftover gear. After about half an hour he had managed to salvage one mostly whole blanket, two small water skins, a few arrowheads, and a small supply of wood for a fire. He felt lucky, but he wondered what had happened to the people who had run away. Had they survived the animal attack?
Keil decided to explore the surrounding area in search of any more supplies. Surely their bodies would still have…
Shame suddenly washed over him. Sylvia had not searched him for goods before leaving him to die alone, though he had been so close to an untimely death. Yet here he was, thinking selfishly of salvaging the items off a dead or injured traveler! Months ago he would not have felt any guilt at doing such things if it meant his own survival, but now he could not even bear to even imagine the thought.
Keil cursed under his breath. Just what had this woman done to him? He could not afford to be so scrupulous now of all times! Here he was, actually debating whether he would save and care for an injured person like Sylvia herself had cared for him, despite knowing it could be downright dangerous!
Wait, Sylvia! Had this been her camp? Had she been attacked or hurt, perhaps? Keil’s heart started pounding anxiously in his chest as he looked around the camp again. He quickly took off and started searching for where the running footsteps led, unable to imagine what he would even do if he found her dead body.
Keil stopped dead in his tracks, his face paling with fear. He pulled out both knives and gazed at his surroundings warily. That growl—it must have been the wild animal who attacked the camp! Now he heard the sound of crunching leaves and branches close by, though it did not seem to be coming from the grassy ground near him. Instinctively he looked up into the trees, noticing a dark shape stalking the treetops above him.
A dragon, it was a dragon! His pursuers were still here! Toko, Gera, Bagu, they were still after him even after all this time!
Keil turned and started to run. The branches above broke loudly as the flying beast came racing after him. He saw the shadow lunging at his body, so he jumped out of the way and rolled behind a large tree trunk. The shadow turned and lunged at him again, growling loudly.
He tried to turn over and plunge the dagger into the beast, but his blade broke against the monster's diamond-hard scales. He cursed aloud as the beast pinned him under its heavy claws, readying for the kill. He dared to gaze up at his captor, wondering which of his old friends was willing to do the wretched act so heartlessly.
A familiar pair of large red eyes met his. The dragon leaned down, wagging its tail and sniffing him eagerly.
"FINNA?!” He laughed with the greatest relief and happiness.
The dragon growled with excitement and licked his face with its leathery tongue. Keil crawled out from under her foot and wrapped his arms around her big face, rubbing the scales under her chin just the way she liked. She purred contently as he looked her body over for injuries. She was missing a few scales from where the other dragons had scratched her with their claws, as well as some of her beautiful spinal pinions. Her right wing was also damaged badly, and would probably keep her from flying more than just a few feet distance. With the proper care, however, it could heal up and be good as new.
Keil smiled with relief. Finna had managed to survive the others’ attacks and had even come back searching for him. The two of them were alive and well! Now they could make the journey back home, together.