Learning to Fly (7 Hunters)
Vin Tanner studied the ground, just making out the tracks of three horses in the dark. “They went this way, alright.” Vin got back on his horse, heading in the direction of the tracks. Chris, Buck, Nathan, and Josiah followed.
“I knew this was a bad idea from the beginning. Now we have a missing king and two Hunters.”
Josiah shook his head. “Chris. Why do you automatically assume that something bad has happened? Maybe they camped out somewhere for the night. Perhaps they are staying at an inn. After all, the king didn’t specify how long this trip would be.”
“No, he didn’t, but he led me to believe it would be a short outing in the countryside. It’s full dark and no sign. I should have insisted on going with them.”
Buck smiled at his friend’s over-protective streak. “Now, Chris. You know when Michael gets his back up about something it’s best to let him have his way. Not just because he’s the guy in charge, but because he’s got a temper to rival yours when he’s riled.”
“It’s one of our jobs to protect the king, Buck! I let him run off who knows where without a proper guard!”
“He’s got Ezra and JD.”
“Great. An inexperienced young dragon and an inexperienced kid. Neither one of them knows much of anything about the terrain, the hazards, the weather, bandits…”
“Let’s try not to worry until, or unless, we have a reason.”
For two hours more they followed the tracks. They got easier to follow as the sun began to rise over the horizon. Buck noticed they seemed to be headed towards the hills. Michael wouldn’t… Nah. But maybe… “Chris, you don’t think Michael took them to…”
“Shh! Do you hear that?” Vin was sure he heard laughter coming from somewhere up ahead, real quiet-like.
Suddenly a voice called out from the early-morning shadows. “An honor guard is unnecessary, Christopher Larabee. But since you’re here, we’ll take the escort, none the less.”
“Yes. Who were you expecting? You were looking for us, weren’t you?”
“Where have you been? When you didn’t come back, we expected the worst. What happened? Are you injured?”
Michael laughed. He couldn’t help it. Chris really was a mother hen.
Buck smiled as Michael, JD, and Ezra came into view. The three of them looked like they’d had the time of their lives. “You took them to the blue fort, didn’t you?”
JD was practically jumping out of his saddle. “It was so amazing! The walls were kind of glowing blue and there were these huge statues and this giant mural with dragons on it and a dungeon and lookouts and then I met these bats…I’ve never met a bat before. They were pretty nice and they helped out Ezra out with his flying…”
“JD. I think that Ezra wanted to tell them his surprise.”
“Oh, no! I’m sorry, Ezra. I was just so excited about all the stuff we saw.”
“That’s alright, JD.”
“What’s this about flying?”
A huge grin split Ezra’s face. “The bats showed me how. I can fly! I’m still wobbly and my landings are atrocious, but I was able to stay aloft and actually fly out over the sea.”
“That’s wonderful, son!”
“I knew you could do it!”
“Way to go, Ez!”
Nathan pulled his horse up next to Ezra’s and gave him a pat on the back. “I’m glad I won’t have to patch you up so much now.”
“Only for my landings.”
As they made their way back towards the castle, JD told them all about the fort. Ezra regaled them with the story of how the bats taught him to fly. The others praised Ezra, telling him that they knew he could do it all the time. The young dragon was embarrassed by their attention, but flattered at the same time.
When they reached the stables, Josiah asked the one question that still bothered him. “Michael, why is Ezra riding your horse while you’re riding Snow Walker, Judge Travis’s horse?”
Ezra turned to the king. “But, but… I apologize profusely, Your Highness! I did not realize that I had commandeered your mount. Please forgive my impudence. If I had known, I would have chosen another.”
“Another horse that would have shied away from you or tried to buck you in fear? Don’t think that I’ve been unaware of your problem finding a horse to ride. Jet and I are old acquaintances, but I no more own him than I own the wind. Jet is special. I don’t think anyone can properly own him. We merely had an understanding. And now the two of you have an understanding.
Don’t worry about me, Ezra. I borrowed Orrin’s horse today because he needed a workout. I have my pick of several magnificent horses and I can always purchase more at the horse fair. But there is only one you and only one Jet. And another thing, my name is Michael. Please do remember it.”
“I don’t… I don’t have the words.”
Buck smirked. “Looks like you’ve done the impossible, Michael. You’ve left Ezra speechless.”
“Too bad I can’t do the same for Chris. I’m sure he’ll be yelling at me for days over this trip.”
“You should be so lucky.”
Everyone laughed at the glares Chris was giving the king. Michael just smiled back at him innocently.
Ezra bowed his head to the king in respect. How could he ever repay him?
Michael nodded in acknowledgement. “It was my duty, Ezra, and my pleasure.”
The eight rode into the courtyard in high spirits.Epilogue