Winse stared hard at the thick trees ahead of them. He had never been this far from home before. Lymph shuddered beside him, tiny body pressed against the Guardian’s larger bulk.
This was it–Woodland Path, where three of their family had fallen four days before. Bola, Malihini, and Pizzicato had gone in without a clue as to the horrors that awaited them. Unprepared, they had fallen to owls and basilisks with nobody to help them.
Now Winse and Lymph were here to take the forest on themselves.
Winse stepped onto the path first, Lymph cowering at his tail. The Skydancer posed a smaller target and, though his magic had grown strong, his courage was seriously lacking without his hatchling-hood friend, the Winter Wolf, there to support him. The familiars refused to come out here with them, leaving the young dragons on their own.
Winse tried not to think about the blood that was on this path. Four days ago, his family had died here. Who knows how many others had lost their lives to this place.
Winse didn’t want to think about it. It was too painful.
With a squawk, a basilisk stepped from the forest to confront them. It hissed, flaring leathery wings, tail lashing, eyes gleaming. Winse growled, teeth bared.
Lymph made the first move, meditating to gather his magic. His Zephyr Bolt required little but one turn could be deadly. Winse blocked furious scratches, swiping the creature aside with one of his large paws.
He remembered yesterday when they came in here to test the area. They were strong, stronger than Bola and Malihini and Pizzicato had been when they had entered this place. But the forest was cruel and the Wildwood Owls hadn’t appreciated the intrusion. Though victory had been secured, Winse was quick to flee with an injured Lymph over his shoulders. They returned to Training Fields for the day, regaining health and honing their newfound magic.
Winse wasn’t good with magic. His took too long to build up and by the time he had enough, he’d waste it immediately to down the enemy. Lymph was patient, building up stores of breath until he could dish out blow after blow on their opponents. It made Winse jealous, to an extent.
But Winse could forgive that. Where Lymph was good with magic, Winse had all the physical power he could ever need. He had downed most opponents in Training Fields with one or two blows.
Admittedly, the inhabitants of Woodland Path were much harder. The basilisks and owls and chargers struck hard and fast, many hitting first blows before Lymph and Winse were prepared. It was difficult.
But they weren’t failing, giving up, fleeing. The two young dragons stood their ground and took out every opponent. When things got too deadly, when health was too low, they backed off to breathe and recover. Then they were back into the fray.
When the day was done, Winse was proud to say they had grown. Lymph, though nervous, had become more confident in his magic. Leaving the place with their bounty of riches, they trekked home.
They no longer feared judgment for their choices. If Zone wanted to yell, let him yell. They had come home safe, as they had promised their mother. Scavenging wasn’t helping. They had to fight, grow, learn.
Experience was their greatest ally.