Sorry I didn’t get this up yesterday, dear readers, we were pretty busy. Anyway, here we are now:
Part Twenty-fifth: The Sacrifice
They camped at the edge of the foothills, among the dark, shadowy trees. Gimel stood hesitantly holding his horse’s reins while Sir Richard and the Princess gathered up pieces of pine wood.
“Velvet’s done nothing today but stand tethered to a tree, sir,” he said at last. “I haven’t done much more. We could ride through the night still. I could tell them we succeeded.”
Sir Richard nodded as he looked up from trying to light the wood they had gathered. “Yes, tell the City. And Gimel—you guided me well. Thank you.” Penelope wondered why he smiled queerly as he said this.
The Shepherd smiled slightly in return, swung himself into the saddle, and galloped away. The Knight and the Princess spread their cloaks on the ground and lay down on either side of the fire. Jael stood at the edge of the wavering firelight, quietly munching grass. Cyrus lay down beside his master. Penelope stared listlessly at the dancing flames.
“Velvet could not have carried you both,” Sir Richard said, guessing her thoughts.
“I know,” she answered quietly.
“I understand why you want to get back,” he continued. “It’s your home. Your family is there—your people. They are also anxious for your return. When I went to His Majesty, your father, and asked if I could try to kill the dragon, he explained to me how you went freely to save the City. He said that if I failed to defeat the monster, he would destroy your people because of me. He said the decision belonged to those you saved.
“He called them together the next morning, and asked the if they were willing to risk their lives for you. They all cried out yes! as with one voice. I stood beside the King on the castle battlements, and the noise was deafening.”
Penelope smiled, but turned away from the fire, so he could not see the tears in her eyes.
I know this one’s a little short, but the next part is longer–and. . . I’m really excited about posting it! It’s one of my favorites. 😉