Ezra suddenly felt quite light-headed. Why? He looked down to see a long gash in his side. The soldier that had almost felled JD had apparently managed to cut him. It looked nasty, but it shouldn't make him feel so ill.
The sound of footfalls drew his attention away from his injury. The Hunters were coming towards him cautiously, weapons drawn. Ezra should've been afraid at the moment, but all he felt was a strange dizziness and a slow creeping ache he couldn't identify. When he tried to speak, his words came out in gasps. "Well, Hunter Larabee. You wanted...to see...a dragon. Will I...suffice?"
Chris and the others stood their ground, ready for the dragon to make the first move. They didn't have to wait long. Ezra promptly fell over with a moan.
"EZRA!" JD started was about to run over to check on the dragon when Buck grabbed his arm.
"What are you doing, Kid?"
"We have to help him!"
"I don't know if that's such a good idea."
"He saved my life and got hurt because of it! He wouldn't have done that if he was some kind of evil monster. You said we didn't know if this dragon was smart like Belenite dragons or just a vicious dumb animal--now we know."
Josiah watched the green creature before him as it moaned and shuddered in obvious pain. "Can you heal him, Nathan?"
"I'm not familiar with how dragons work, but I've never met anything I couldn't figure out given time. Might not be as easy as fixing up something human-like. The question is, should I even try? We came here to stop this thing. It's stopped. Maybe we should leave it at that."
Josiah looked to Chris. It was his decision as leader. But if he made the wrong one...
"Do it, Nathan."
Nathan grabbed his medicine pouch, looking for the right ingredients to fight goblin-blood poison. The Hunters had a lot of experience with that type of poison since they'd fought goblins so many times in the past.
He touched Ezra's side where the sword had sliced him open. Through the healing senses the land had given him, he knew some of his regular herbs wouldn't work on a dragon. Nathan quickly rummaged in his pouch, finding other things that were sure to help. That, combined with the healing power of his hands, should stop the spread of poison, draw most of it out, and seal the wound.
Nathan just shook his head. "I'd rather patch up five sword wounds than heal one poisoning. It's like the difference between sewing up one hole in your sock and trying to fix a sock that's threadbare from wear and tear."
Josiah's eyes never left Ezra. "He'll recover, though?"
"He'll be feeling weak and poorly for a few days, but he'll make it. So, Chris. Now what?"
Chris glanced at JD. "We wait until he's awake and then we talk to him."
Buck smacked JD on the back of the head. "Don't get too excited! This might not turn out the way you've been hoping. Since Ezra's a sentient being, he'll get his fair due. But if he's found guilty..."
"I know, Buck. But at least now we'll find out the whole story."
"Maybe after I have a little chat with him. Once he wakes up he probably won't be in any condition to resist my 'animal magnetism'."
"You're so full of it. I hope Ezra doesn't get sick from all your 'magnetism'."
"You like Ezra, don't you?"
"He's kind of snooty, he talks funny, and he doesn't trust anybody. But yeah, I like him. Don't you?"
"I don't know. I was starting to, but... Well. Kid. How much of it was an act?"
"I think he was acting like himself most of the time. It wasn't like he went out of his way to make friends with us or anything."
Josiah smiled at that. "No, Son. If anything, he tried very hard not to befriend us. I don't think he entirely succeeded. I saw many moments of genuine fondness and amusement in his eyes when he looked at us until he realized he was being watched and closed himself off. And his actions during the battle... Several times he was concerned enough to shout out warnings. I think he felt more than he wanted to."
Nathan was packing his herbs away and stopped at Josiah's comments. "You really believe that or are you just seeing what you want to see?"
"Maybe a bit of both. But think on this, Brother Nathan. We've been all over Itreya. Before we met Ezra, how many dragons had we seen?"
"How many reports of dragon sightings that were verified?"
"And how many dragons' tracks have we seen since we got here?"
"According to Vin and JD they all belonged to the same animal so they must've all been Ezra's."
"So he's alone here in Four Corners, in a country where dragons are extremely scarce. Seems like a lonely life to me. Maybe having such close interaction with a small group of people made him long for something that he was missing."
"Josiah, he could turn into a human! Who knows? Maybe the villages of Itreya are full of dragons hiding in plain sight."
"Living a life in hiding among people so different from you? People who might fear and hate you if they knew what you were? Always keeping your true nature secret? It still sounds like a lonely life to me--one that would have me looking for friends, even in unlikely places and under unusual circumstances."
Josiah let Nathan and the others think on that as they prepared to set up camp where they were. The time passed quietly as the six Hunters contemplated the recent turn of events--and theirs feelings about it.