Epilogue: Not Bad At All
NOT BAD AT ALL
When we got home and I started to tell people about what happened, it was as if everyone, and I mean everyone wanted to come and shake Drake’s hand. It was, like, whoa, you know? Everyone.
I managed to fend off the crowd enough for Drake to get back to his house on the top of the hill. I followed him inside because, well, what do you do? We just destroyed a criminal organization together, I don’t think either of us will cling to past grudges and rivalries now.
He hadn’t said anything for quite a while. I wondered if he was in shock or I-don’t-know-what.
When the air finally stopped exploding, the dragons all flew off, like they had been disbanded or something. We were dropped off near where Drake had landed, and I ran right up to him and cried, ‘I can’t believe that worked! That was awesome!’ and stuff like that. Then Drake just turned towards me, and gave me this look, and it wasn’t angry or annoyed or anything. Just sort of sad. Then he smiled, like, Yeah, you’re right; it WAS pretty awesome. Then he sort of forgot I was there and turned to look at all the dragons that didn’t make it; and I have to admit, it was kind of sad, standing there knowing that those majestic beasts would never fly again.
Then, while I was looking at all the unmoving bodies, I saw one dragon that was this deep green colour, and straight away I recognised it. So I started running towards it, and I heard Jereah yell something I didn’t hear but it sounded like ‘Where are you going?’ so I yelled ‘I found them!’ over my shoulder, and just kept running until I reached the dragon.
It wasn’t breathing anymore, which was a sight that hurt a little, but I could also see that right next to it was this big golden shield I recognised as Drake’s, and it was covered in bits of rubble and lying on top of this hole in a smashed tunnel. It looked like it had been wedged there on purpose, to shield the hole from falling debris.
I ran up to it and yanked it out of the hole, and underneath it were the Elves, Layleanel apparently unconscious and with this huge piece of sharp metal sticking out of her right leg, Darkleaf carefully trying to pry it out. The latter had a gash on the side of his head, but it didn’t look too bad.
I dropped down next to them and took a closer look at Layle’s leg. It was just as bad as it looked: an artery had been severed and was leaking blood all over the place. I politely pointed out to Selebriar that if we woke Layle up, she might be able to heal her own wound using magic.
Darkleaf just stared at me, like he was trying to decide whether he should mentally kick himself for not thinking of that or be surprised that someone like me could be capable of having good ideas. He didn’t hesitate long, though, since he could see that Layle was losing blood fast, and he bent down over her ear and started to chant something in Elvish. Probably one of those magic songs Elves can sing like in the stories.
While he was busy waking her up, I rummaged around until I found a thin, smooth wooden pipe that I inserted lengthwise into her mouth. To bite down on when she woke up and found that her leg was a modern art sculpture, you know?
It was at this point that Drake caught up and began staring down at us, at me prying a hunk of metal out of Layle’s leg and Darkleaf chanting into her ear like a psychotic hermit. I mostly ignored Drake – and Zombie-boy, when he ran up panting – because as soon as I got the largest chunk out, the blood was running twice as thickly, and I realised that I still had to clear up all the shrapnel still in her leg. I opted to hold the wound shut with my hands – not easy, since my palms were slippery with blood – and get Layleanel to magic the pieces out once her leg was closed.
She woke up, then, and started howling like a banshee in a bonfire. Good thing I found the pipe for her to clamp down on. As soon as she stopped screaming and was merely whimpering loudly, I started to walk her through the steps of tidying up her wound. First reconnect this artery, now clean up all this metal, etcetera, etcetera. She did a pretty good job of it, in my opinion.
Of course, she could only fix the basic stuff; it would take time for the cut to fully heal, for the bone to reattach to the cartilage and all that. But at least she stopped the bleeding, and could already walk again, though she was limping and needed to lean on someone for support. Jereah agreed to this role – the good old reliable zombie-crutch method. I tore off my shirtsleeves to use as bandages, so for the whole walk back I was freezing my arms off in the autumn wind. I didn’t mind much, though – at least Layleanel’s leg was bandaged, right?
Drake seemed really shocked at my being able to fix a leg. I guess it’s just another thing people don’t expect someone like me to be good at.
Darkleaf led us through the forest up to a road we all recognised; Layle thanked us all for helping her escape and stuff, and since she figured Jereah probably wouldn’t be quite at home back in his village, she was like, Come Be My Zombie Butler, and he was like, Cool, Okay. So then they vanished in this blue flash of magic, and it was almost sad, since we’d been through so much together and blah blah blah true friendship blah.
Then Selebriar smiled in a puckish sort of way, like a Catch-You-Later sort of smile, and jumped up into a tree and sped off through the canopy. That goodbye wasn’t sad, since it was pretty clear we could see him basically any time we wanted. I mean, I think he was who Drake was looking for when I saw him sort of standing around in the grass, back when it all began. Funny how much we’d both changed since then.
After parting ways with the others, Drake didn’t say a word during the whole walk home. I wondered if the explosion had knocked something loose inside his head; he didn’t look like he was just thinking the way he always does, he looked more…Empty. Sort of sad, but mostly…I don’t know, broken. Like his best friend had died or something. Which I knew wasn’t the case: he hardly had any friends back at the village; just like with me, most of them weren’t smart enough to hang out with. The Elf was probably the closest thing he had to a best friend, and he was accounted for, so…What was it?
As soon as I locked the door shut behind us, back at his house, Drakendrar released this huge sigh and sat down on a wicker armchair. I sat on the bench that ran along the wall opposite. Neither of us spoke for what seemed like ages – I think it was really around an hour or so. I’m not sure what was going through his head, but I was taking my time to properly process all that had happened over the past couple days. It was pretty crazy, when I thought back to it. I still didn’t buy the whole “dust explodes when you breathe fire on it” thing.
Half an hour later and Drake still hadn’t said anything. I was just starting to worry a little, when he stirred, and looked up at me with this faraway look in his eyes. And I stopped worrying, because it was the same faraway look he always wore.
Then he said, ‘I’m hungry.’ So we baked meat pies.
We were pretty much best friends after that. We would go out climbing trees after sparring practice every day, we would recount our adventures in the great hall during suppers and feasts. We even formed a Hero’s Society, a “joke club” of which we were the only two members.
Then there was the one thing we always agreed on: you couldn’t just go back and live normally ever after, not once you’d been on an adventure. You couldn’t just act like a normal person once you’d tried being a hero, if only for a day or two.
And so, it was when we were old enough, nearly two years after the meat pies, on Drake’s seventeenth birthday, that we packed our bags, said our goodbyes and set out into the forest. We found Selebriar waiting for us, wearing the same puckish smile as the day we had last seen him. He beckoned for us to follow, and we didn’t hesitate for a second. We followed him into adventures, and he showed us the world.
And let me tell you, the world was pretty awesome.