They came outside and seen what looked like the whole village coming towards the cave, but they were not armed, they could not see any weapons on any of them. both noticed the the chief was absent from the large crowd. They looked at the hundreds of faces, some of them hung low, some sadly smiled, some were stone cold, and some were hopeful for the future.
"What is this? Why are you all here?" Sotirios said slowly, unsure of what was happening.
"They-- We have come to apologize for everything, and to make a new alliance, to start a new beginning." Said Nahan.
"But how?" Vasilis was saying. "And what about the chief?"
"The chief started trying to organize another hunt as soon as you two left." Nahan started saying, "Let me tell you the whole story..."
The chief rose slowly to his feet, and limped to the center of the crowd.
"The monster has left us alone! We must act quickly if we are to destroy the menace! It attacked me! Me! I want you to bring me his head, and kill any who would defend the monster!" The chief shouted as best he could. He then started to collapse, obviously in pain. The some of the men in the village went to break his fall. "Go to the mountain! Kill the beast who tried to kill me!"
The villagers started preparing for the hunt, but with almost no enthusiasm; most were doubting the chief.
"Are we really going to do this?" Someone said quietly, "It just does not seem justified..."
"I agree." Someone else responded. "But it's the chief's orders..."
"It did attack the chief...we do have to defend our own." A woman said objectively, "It even tried to kill him!"
"But it didn't..." another said. "It just flew away."
"But the fact is that it endangered out leader's life!" Another person shouted. "This is retribution! We must kill it! It's the right thing to do!"
"Is it really?" Nahan suggested. He awaited an answer. No one replied. "What have we done to it? Nothing. We saw it one day, and just left it alone. But out of nowhere, it just decided to come after us. It attacked us for no reason, but it said it that we were the evil ones! We ended up having our father...I mean, 'leader', in an unhealthy state." He said sarcastically. "Or is it the other way around?" Everyone was silent and hung their heads low. "Think of it in a different perspective. If someone you didn't even know just came up and killed the only thing that you had in your life, how would you feel? Then if the same that killed you loved one came up to you unarmed, what would you do? If you were one swipe away from killing the man responsible for ruining you life...what would you do?" Again, there was only silence. "Do any of you think it's right to kill that dragon, when all it did was put a few scratches on the man responsible for killing his father? My son was right...we're the ones who kill without reason. What we did yesterday was wrong. What we were told to do today was wrong." Still silence. "I know we've followed this man for decades. I know that change is hard. I know that we looked up to this man. But the truth is, he's stubborn, hard-headed, and wrong. We are who we follow...do you still want to follow this man?"
Silence still loomed over the village. Each person was still contemplating their opinion on this matter. The silence was broken by the clanging of metal on the stone street they were all standing on. A domino effect was created, as all weapons were dropped. Soon after, they all started to chant his name. He signaled for them all to calm down. They all got quiet and awaited they're next command.
"I'm going up to the cave where my son and his friend are. Follow me if you wish to make up for what we did. This may be our last chance." He said, as he started to walk the path to the cave. The whole village followed.
"So you're the chief now?" Sotirios asked, full of joy.
"Yes, it would seem so." Nahan said. Vasilis ran and hugged his father, tears in his eyes.
"I cannot believe it! This is great, my friend and I are safe now."
"That is not all, the village is safe from most enemies now." Somebody in the crowd said. "Nobody would want to attack a village that had a dragon protecting it! Assuming you forgive us, of course." He said to Sotirios.
"I do forgive you." He said. "It was not all you fault, you were misled by your old chief."
"No, it is our fault. We should have known better, many of us felt it was wrong and yet we still did it. None save for Vasilis said anything against it."
"I forgive you all the same, you would not have came all the way here if you had not changed. You came with no weapons, you even brought some of your young ones, I can see that you trust me. I will return that trust." Sotirios said.
"Very good." Nahan said. "Now, let's get back to the village."
"I agree." Said Sotirios and most of the crowd. "And let's do something about the chief once and for all." The people cheered in agreement and the party started walking towards the village.
The children with them run up to the dragon to get a closer look, and he had to be careful to avoid hurting them.
"You know, it would be far easier if you two road on my back." Sotirios said.
"Really?" They said, amazed. "Thank you! Will you catch us if we fall off? like Vas?"
"I will certainly try, but I will not be flying to the village, so you should be fine." Sotirios said.
"Ahh man, I want to go flying! Why can't we? Please?" The kids begged.
"Maybe some other day. I expect to be around a long time." Said Sotirios. "and besides, it is dangerous to fly in the dark."
"I see you have made some new friends." Vasilis said, amused.
"Indeed I have." Sotirios said. "I don't think one can have to many friends."
"You are most certainly right." Vasilis said.
They continued walking toward the village, hope rising. The party entered the village, early in the morning, and it seemed to be all but deserted. Upon hearing their arrival, someone opened the door to the old chief's house. He emerged, expecting to see the head of a slain dragon. Instead, he was greeted be about 200 angry villagers. And a dragon.
"What is this treachery! Why did you not kill it! Destroy the beast immediately!" He shouted. Upon hearing the noise, the two children who had fallen asleep on the dragon's back woke up and got off of his back.
"Why would we want to kill our friend?" They asked, highly offended.
"That monster is not friend! Stand aside!" He growled, then turned to the men with him, the few who remained loyal to him. "Now kill this monster before anymore damage can be done!"
"You're outnumbered, even with us disarmed, you will lose. You've been replaced. Accept our new chief's decision, or leave." Someone in the crowd said.
"You're all acting like fools! You'll be innocent victims to a merciless crime! They can't be trusted! Especially this one! It's in his blood to kill without reason!" The chief lashed.
"How could you say that went he let's you go. Even after what you did to his father." said another person in the crowd.
"You don't see the evil in his eyes like I do." yelled the chief with a loud growl in his voice, "The beast is just waiting for it's chance at revenge, just like it's father. I know what it did to my family, I was there. It thought it could get away clean, but I was witness to its evil and I will not rest until I have purged them from the very fabric of the world."
"What the hell are you talking about?" yelled Sotirios, "What evil?"
"The evil that was in your parent's eyes the day I saw them rip my family to shreads." Said he chief, "I remember that day well, burned into my very soul forever."
The chief took a deep breath as he started his story. The look on his face was one of sorrow and anger as he recalled the day his life was forever altered. Twisted into the soul that stands before the crowd today.
"It was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing. I was but a boy, hunting in the woods for rabbits while my parents were fishing for carp." The chief said, looking like he was truly missing those days, "I had just gotten my first rabbit of the day. I was estactic, until I heard the blood curdling screams coming from the road in my old town. I ran as fast I could, knowing well that the road goes close the lake, where I had last seen my parents. I was smacked in the face by so many branches that my cheeks were red, I could feel them getting sorer with every strike. I made it to the clearing by the lake , and was greeted by blood covered grass and stones. Corpses were strewn about the clearing, many of them were torn up and other were so bloody I could see what happened to them. Standing in the center of this mess were two massive creatures. They were covered in the blood of the people who they had just savagely torn apart. Their claws and fangs were dripping with the life blood that they had stolen from the innocent people just trying to get home. They looked to be grinning wildly while staring at the maimed corpse of two nameless people. That's when I saw them, right at the beast's feet. My mother and father lay face down on the ground, soaked in their own blood. My mind faltered. How could this have happened? Why did this happen? I gripped my spear tighter, and prepared to kill the creatures. The ridiculously evil creatures, that had killed without reason. But like cowards they flew up into the air, leaving me to look upon the mess they had brought down upon me. I sworn that day I would get them for what they did to me. I tracked every dragon down I could. I study the arts to find the best ways to slay the demons and all the evil tricks. I became one of the most noble of heroes, a protector of the people. I protect the helpless and you should not be doubting me. All these years we have been safe from these creatures, because of me. Until a few days ago. One of the same dragons that had killed all those people came back. It had found me, the only witness to its merciless crime. I knew it wouldn't hesitate to kill, so we had to kill it now. It's offspring stands before us. It surely was taught by it's parents the ways of evil. It witnessed what we can do in groups. If you let it live, people will start 'disappearing'. Before long, we'll all be dead. The apple doesn't fall far from the cold-hearted tree."
The crowd looked at the chief. The fire was still raging in his eyes, shining like the fires of hell itself. He was on the verge of utter madness, driven to this point by the sight of a dragon standing no less then thirty feet away. The very spawn of the of the beasts that killed his family. This was too much for his mind to handle. "That's a lie! They never did anything!" Sotirios snarled. He moved closer to the chief slowly. It was one thing to call him a killer, even go as far to call him evil, but his parents were saints. They never harmed a human soul, unless for their own protection. And he was calling them cold-blooded murders!? He had crossed the line. "I'll kill you!" Sotirios said, sealing his fate.
"It's true colors now come out! It stands poised ready to kill, even after we hadn't done anything to it!" The chief proclaimed. A bustle was stirred up in the town, people contemplating who was right; it was Sotirios's word against the chief's.
Once again, this bastard had bashed his parents. Sotirios was furious, as his pupils narrowed and he let out a earth-shaking and ear-splitting roar, leaving a gap in his defenses. The chief took this opportunity to its fullest. He grabbed the new, shining knife from its sheath. Without even aiming, he launched the knife. It sailed across the air, bending the light as it headed on its fatal course. The accuracy was perfect; it headed straight for the heart of the dragon. It sliced the air in two halves, along with the rest of reality. Right and wrong, just and unjust, evil and righteous. Reality split, and the destiny of the knife would decide who was good and who was evil. The knife flew closer and (closer to the heart ~ Rush reference FTW) of the dragon. Reality was starting to come back into focus, as the chief was closer and closer to being pronounced victorious.
A figure steps in front of the dragon. It seemed to come out of no where. It takes the knife with it's hand and crushes it to dust. "Stay" it says angrily. "Away" It continues, enunciating every word. "From" It spits out, the fury boiling up inside of it. "My..." It says, as it looked at the chief with slitted and angry eyes. "Son!" It continued on, fire blowing out of her nose.
"Mom!" yelled Sotirios, "We thought you were dead."
"I am most assuredly not." said momma drag.
"Then where have you been?" Sotirios asked with his eyes filled with tears, not know what to feel at this point. He was torn between his anger at the chief and the joy of his mother's return.
"I was a little held up." she replied.
"By what?" Sotirios asked.
"The day I disappeared, I went to the lake to get a drink. As I sipped the water, a group of hunters jumped me. They threw a net over my wings so I could take off. A chain of iron was thrown around my neck and they used hooks to pull my legs out from under me. It all happened so fast I couldn't react fast enough. They were clearly very experienced at this." she told her very confused son, "They use a large blunt mallet to knock me out. When I came to, I was is a large metal crate that was being moved. I could not see were I was being taken because there where no windows, just little slots too small to get a good look through. The crate looked designed to make sure that if I used my fire breath, I would be burned to death before the cage would melt."
"What did they do to you?" asked Sotirios, his face had softened to concern for his mother.
"They sold me!" she yelled, "Sold me like I was nothing more the a cow!"
"What?!" he yelled.
"They took me to an auction," she continued, "I was strapped down to a large platform and wheeled into a huge room filled with humans from all over. They all just looked at me like I was an object to be bought. I was paraded around for them to look me all over. I was so embarrassed, this was no way for me to be treated. They all just would place their bids on me, they just kept fighting over me. Finally, someone got the winning bid. I don't really care who it was, because I wasn't about to let him take me anywhere. They kept me tied up to a thick metal beam and loaded me back into that same damn box, but they got careless. I was able to put my tail in the door, keeping it from locking. I let them get a little farther down the road, trying for a clean get away. We rolled on for an hour before I made my move. I let the door swing open and I rolled myself out onto the ground. The cart kept going, not knowing I was no longer in the back. It took a while for me to hop over to a large rock and break the chains on it, but I freed myself from that stupid beam. As soon as I was free, I came looking for you, but I had know idea where I was or where you had gone. It took me this long to track you down."
"Oh Mom, I'm so glad your still alive." Sotirios said with tears streaming down his scaled face.
"I'm glad you are too, I was so worried about you." she said, tears welling up in her eyes as well. "Where is your father?"
Sotirios' face contorted into a strange mix a anger and sadness, he was over come with so much emotional stress that he was unable to answer. Vasilis saw his friend's trouble and knew he couldn't be the one to tell his own mother that his father was dead. So he deiced to shoulder this burden for him. It was the right thing to do.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but he is dead." said Vas in a somber tone.
"He's what?!" she yelled in shock, the anger rising up in her again.
"The village chief ordered us to kill him." he explained, "I try to talk them out of it, but nobody would listen to me. I'm so sorry."
"You're sorry!" she yelled, "Sorry for brutally slaughtering my mate in cold blood and turn around and call us the monsters! Your not sorry, not yet!"
"No!" said Sotirios, "He's my friend, if it were not for him I would probably be dead as well. A lot of these people are no longer behind the chief. The chief is the one who caused all this."
"Is that true?" she said as she turned to face the chief. "You the cause of all this suffering. I should put an end to you little reign right here."
"You see how these beasts think!" yelled the chief, "They plan and plot. They timed this so they would get reinforcements right when they needed it. They even made up this ridiculous story to gain your sympathy. They cannot be trusted, they are pure evil."
"You can say that even after you savagely murdered my mate." she hissed.
"It was what he deserved," growled the chief, "after what you and the horrible creature did to my family and all those people."
"What in blazes are you babbling about you little dirt clod?" she said, now surprised at this sudden appearance of reason in this otherwise insane looking person.
"I recognize you," said the chief as he glared at the dragoness, "Those scales, claws, wings. Your that same dragon that killed my family all those years ago. I saw you do it. Along with that other dragon I had killed. You were the ones responsible for all my suffering."
"I have no idea what you are talking about...wait a minute. I remember now. You're that little kid from 23 years ago aren't you? The one that survived the highwaymen attack?" she asked.
"What are you trying to pull demon?" the chief yelled, "There were no highwaymen, just you two."
"No, there were highwaymen. They attacked the caravan that was heading to a small town just down road. We were hunting nearby and heard the screams. We came as quickly as we could to try and help, but we were to late to save the people. We were not to late to deal with the highwaymen which had murdered them. They were loading up their ill gotten goods into there wagon when when bust into the clearing. We make it a rule not to harm innocent humans, but evil humans, like these highwaymen, were fair game. We didn't leave a one standing. After we finished off the last of the cowards, I noticed you coming out of the woods. I didn't think much of you at the time, I just thought you were curious of what was going on. I honestly didn't think you had relatives in that caravan."
"My parents were at your blood covered feet!" he yelled.
"There were lots of bodies lying around when we got there," she hissed back, "We didn't have time to watch where we were standing. We just tried not to step on them."
"You're lying!" he screamed, "You are the ones responsible for their deaths and I will make you pay!"
"And what of the other men? Do you have an explanation as to why they were there?"
"They..." The chief began, before realizing he had no explanation.
"Why were they all armed for a fight?" She asked while walking forward.
"Because they-" The chief stuttered, before getting cut off again.
"Why did they surround you parents? Why did they all show up at the same time? Why did we leave once they were all dead?" She continued to ask, while she progressed further and further until she was mere inches from him.
"They...they..." The chief said, slowly realizing that he had no answers.
"Why did you survive? If we had just taken down over ten armed me, what was one child with a spear to us? If we had killed without a reason, then why aren't you dead?" She said. "And most importantly...Why aren't you dead right now, when I have a reason?" She said, as she raised her claw to his throat.
"I was wrong, I was foolish." The old chief said, sadly. "I was wrong, I am sorry."
"I am glad you could change your mind." Sotirios's mother said, and then turn toward the others. "Now that we all understand how all this got started, let's put it behind us and live in peace. It's what he would have wanted." She said. While she was turned to walk away, the old chief quietly pulled another knife out from his boot and started moving alongside the dragon, towards her neck. The oldest boy who Sotirios had let ride him saw what the chief was doing. At that moment, the boy's mind fought to what he should do. In that moment, he alone decided the one who would live or die. All the talk, all the bloodshed, all the ideals two sides fought for came down to him. It was this little boy, no older then 12, that would decide who would be the victory that night. The weight was heavy on the boy's shoulders. Would he take the side of the chief, the man that had lead and protected them all those years. Or would he side with the dragon, the beast that had lost almost everything to the man that he had once looked up to. Which one was the most worthy to live. His mind raced to find an answer before it was too late, he needed to think fast. He reached down and grabbed a rock, a rock that would be the ending to this struggle. He took aim at the one who he had chosen to be the cause of all this madness, the one who he viewed as the beast. He took aim at the chief. As the rock left his hand, he could feel all the strength in his arm flow into the very living rock itself. As if it was drawing from him, all the righteousness and power the young boy had to guide itself to the target. The whole scene played out from the boy's vision as if time was running and half speed. The rock moved through the air at an almost casual pace, it was taking it's time getting to its victim. As the rock finally made contact with the chief's head, it began to bury itself in the man's skull. It hit him right in the left temple, the thinnest spot on his skull. The wet crack it made when the bone could take no more and gave way was a sound that echoed across the village. The chief collapsed in a twisted heap, his body no longer containing any living presence. He had died trying to do something that he had longed to do, but he never could because his flaws prevented him from seeing when it was time to stop living in the past and start seeing what is in front of him.
The large mother dragon turned to see what had made the sound and saw the man laying on the ground with a knife in his hand, she knew immediately what had happened. Someone had thrown a stone and it hit the man right in the head. The side of his head was covered in blood and it was rapidly draining out onto the ground. She looked around to find the person who had thrown the rock, she had to thank the person for saving her life. She soon locked eyes with a young boy who stood in the midst of the crowd. He had a look on his face a of shock, but also one of confidence. He looked like he had done something he knew was wrong, but it had to be done to prevent an even greater wrong. He was with another boy, who looked younger then him.
"I could not let him kill you." said the boy.
"Why would you do such a thing for me?" she asked.
"Sotirios is our friend, I wouldn't feel right if I let his mother get killed right in front of me when I could have stopped it." he replied.
"But why choose to save me?" she asked the young boy, truely puzzled.
"Because you were right, he was wrong." he said, stone cold in his standing of what he did was the right thing.
"Thank you." The dragon said. "I had hoped he could change his mind."
"Some people just will not change," said Vas, "Even if the truth is right in front of them."
"I guess you're right," she replied, looking over the chief's lifeless body, "There really wasn't a way to save him because he refused to save himself."
"All this time and we never saw him for what he truly was," said Nahan, "He was a beast."
"A beast isn't defined by its looks," said Sotirios, "It's defined by actions."
"You're right," Nahan said, "I can't believe we missed it all these years."
"It's not your fault." said the mother dragon, "Sometimes the hardest beasts to see are the ones we see everyday."
"That's quite a saying," Nahan said, "I'll have to remember that."
"There is a lot of wisdom in the world for those who wish to find it." she replied as she walked up next to her son.
"I'll keep that in mind. " Nahan said as he stood next son.
The whole village crowded around the group. A group of men carried the chief's body away to be buried. He would get a plot out in the back of the graveyard, no where near the part where the leaders of the village are buried. He did not deserve to be buried in such a respectful place. The villagers all gathered and began to celebrate, celebrate the new chief, celebrate the coming to terms with the dragons, celebrate the return of peace to the village. Life was good. They all put up the decorations in the village, making it a grand spectacle. If they were going to celebrate, they were going to do it right. They all had a party, at the party there was cake. It was the best cake ever. And it wasn't a lie.