Wings of Paper - Chapter 3

Wings of Paper - Chapter 3

A Chapter by A.L.

Dragons and Warriors


“Is it dead?” Sadie’s voice was shrill and it almost burst my eardrums. 

“No,” Kip answered. “See how the scales are still glimmering. It’s alive and unharmed.” He used the toe of his boot to lift the tail of the creature on the road. 

It was a beautiful young dragon, about the size of a husky dog. The scales were a lovely shade of smokey gray, the ends fading into teal and then finally to midnight blue. Tiny puffs of white breath curled from the dragon’s nostrils, its tail was drooped to the side of the road. 

I remembered actually creating this very dragon - it was the first thing I had ever made, a drawing from art class in first grade. The dragon had grown more sophisticated as I grew older but it had been my go-to character even if it didn’t have a name. In a way, this dragon was my friend. Except the fact that it was lying in the middle of the road. 

“Not to criticize, but aren’t dragons supposed to have wings?” The question came from Alex, surprisingly enough. 

I, feeling a bit miffed and protective of the dragon, answered a little snappily. “I made it when I was in first grade and I guess, well, I kind of never pictured wings with it. But it’s still beautiful.” 

“I never said it wasn’t,” Alex argued. “It’s a truly magnificent creature, I just thought it would have wings.” 

Kip toed the creature again and it snorted quite majestically. “Well, this dragon here is a male.” 

“How do you know?” Sadie asked. “Why can’t he be a she?” 

Kip pointed to the spikes lining its back, an even darker shade of navy. “See how the spikes along his back meet at a point? In a female the spikes are round. And his color is much brighter than one of a female.” 

“His name is Smokey.” The words kind of just spilled from my mouth and I blushed. 

“What do you mean ‘his name is’?” Kenzie asked me. “We’re not keeping him, we don’t have time to pick up animals off of the street.” 

“Dragons are endangered.” Kip smiled at me, encouraging me to argue. 

I kind of did want to keep the dragon. Yes, it would be another mouth to feed. Yes, it would take up room in the car. But in worlds like this one you had to be careful who you wronged. If we didn’t take in Smokey there was a chance that the rest of his family would come and destroy us. 

“He’s adorable!” Sadie cried out. She turned to Kenzie, her eyes watering with fake tears. “Please can we keep him?” 

Kenzie glared at Kip. It was Hiro who broke the silence. “C’mon, Kenzie, what harm could a dragon do? Besides, he might be helpful to us in the future. Who knows what we could need at the last minute?” 

“Fine,” Kenzie sighed at last. “But all of you have to take care of him.” 

Kip bent down at Kenzie’s permission and began to wake the sleeping dragon. Alex was almost squealing with delight at the fact that there was a living, breathing dragon in front of us. I was just as giddy as she was, though I didn’t show it. 

And that’s how we ended up with a dragon. 

We drove for about six hours before the sun began to set, casting shades of gold and rose across the sky. Kip pulled over claiming he couldn’t drive any long. 

We were currently in a stretch of forest abandoned for centuries. There were no buildings for miles and miles on from here, and much to Sadie’s dismay, no working bathrooms. “Where am I supposed to do my business? With you watching?” 

Alex had calmly explained that there were no toilets for miles and took Sadie on a short walk to find a tree to use instead. 

Kip started a fire using some of the matches and we cooked over the flames. 

Smokey was awake, and he acted just like a dog. I had never had pets back in my own home, but Smokey was almost exactly like our neighbor’s puppy. He bounded around, chasing his own tail before curling up next to Sadie. 

Darkness fell over our camp like a blanket, smothering the rest of the flames and leaving warm coals behind. Sadie was the first to fall asleep, the rest of us too worried to rest. 

“The Darkness really is a threat, isn’t it?” Alex asked at last, her voice hushed as not to wake Sadie. “That’s why you need Luke - you can’t fight it without him because it’ll destroy you.”

Hiro nodded. “People disappear into the Darkness, and their souls and bodies are separated. Their souls are stuck in the form of moths that destroy everything they touch. Their bodies are used as Dark Warriors for D. Creatures that disappear come back as Dark Beasts, their only goal to kill. Meanwhile the rest of the world is still being affected.” 

“Like Kenzie’s mind reading?” I interjected. Earlier she had mentioned not being able to read my mind, and the question had been weighing on me ever since. 

Kenzie scowled at me. “To answer your question, yes. Ever since the Darkness first began to spread it has taken more effort for me to read minds. But it’s changing all of us. No one escapes.” 

On that eerie note our camp fell silent, our worries hanging in the air between us. 

I didn’t know how the Darkness had come to be, or how it even worked. I was pretty sure I hadn’t created it, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if it was my fault. 

Kip dozed off shortly after, and Sammy resigned himself to rest beside Sadie. Hiro and Kenzie decided to go for a quick walk, probably to talk about me. That left Alex and I alone - something even more terrifying than the Darkness. 

“So, you created all of this?” The question startled me and I took a moment to calm my beating heart before responding. 

“Yeah, I guess so.” I didn’t really want to talk about it. What if she asked about the Darkness? I didn’t want to admit that I didn’t know how I was supposed to stop it, especially not to Alex. 

“I noticed the similarities between Kenzie and I.” Surprisingly, Alex didn’t sound mad. She sounded intrigued if anything. 

I shrugged. “Most of my characters look like people I’ve met before.” 

“Well I’m flattered to have a fictional sister like her, even if we’re not really related,” Alex said, her voice soft. “She and I talked a lot about you specifically.” 

“What did she say?” I asked, hooked. Did she say she hated me? I couldn’t be sure. 

It was Alex’s turn to shrug. “Just some stuff she asked me not to share with you. The point is, Kenzie believes that you can stop this Darkness. All of the Fictionals do. And I want to help, because I know you don’t have a plan.” 

“What?” I gasped. It was like she had inherited Kenzie’s ability to read minds. 

“I took psychology last year,” Alex laughed. “Do you have any idea how you’re going to kill D? Any at all?” 

“I suppose I just stab him.” I wasn’t sure entirely what I was doing, I kind of figured the experience would come to me as we travelled along. Improvisation would work for a long time, as long as I didn’t die before I met D. 

Alex rolled her eyes. She was about to say something when Hiro and Kenzie burst back into our little grove of trees. 

“Dark Warriors,” Hiro panted. “They … found us.” 

Well that was bad news. I scrambled to my feet, Alex at my side as we rushed towards the minivan filled with our weapons. Whose idea had it been to hide the weapons in the car? 

Kenzie skidded to a stop in the clearing, tripping over Sammy’s legs. The boy leapt to his feet, pulling a dagger from his boot and holding it in front of him and Sadie. Kip and Sadie groaned awake as Alex opened the trunk and began rooting through the boxes. 

“Hurry!” Kenzie called. “They’ll be here any moment!” 

“I don’t know how to use this!” I cried as Alex handed me a sword. The blade was heavier than I had been expecting. 

“Wave it around and hit the bad guys,” Alex explained, grabbing a sword for herself and leaving the trunk open for everyone else to grab what they could find. 

We weren’t a moment too soon either because about a dozen dark shapes filed into the clearing. I could vaguely make out the shapes of humans, but I realized the skin was black as pitch and the people were definitely not alive, more like reanimated corpses. 

“Attack!” Hiro called out, raising his sword and charging into battle. 

I raised my own sword and ran straight at the nearest Dark Warrior. It was a bearded man with a sword as black as a raven. He was definitely more experienced with a sword than I was, but I managed to roll aside as he swung his blade at me. 

The rocky ground cut into my shoulders but I kept rolling as the man slammed his sword into where I had been standing. 

I used the momentum to leap to my feet, slashing the air with my sword. The man didn’t seem phased and kept charging at me. I jumped to the side as his sword impaled the tree behind me. I took his momentary distraction as a way to sneak up close to him, slicing at his ankles. Killing him felt so wrong … 

“They heal the longer you delay!” someone called out, maybe Sammy or Hiro. Great

I made my cuts deeper on his legs as the man fell to the ground. Just as I was about to bring my sword down on his back he thrashed his sword around, the flat of the blade knocking my ankles away and causing me to face plant. 

I groaned, rolling the opposite direction as a blade hit the ground beside me. Apparently I wasn’t quite quick enough because the blade sliced open a gash from my wrist to my elbow. I yelled in pain, but continued to roll away. The rocks felt like they were stabbing me even more but I couldn’t risk the Dark Warrior killing me. 

I glanced upwards in time to see the Dark Warrior thrown aside by a quick moving flash of long dark hair. Alex pressed her sword against the man’s throat as she forced him against a tree. 

I looked around realizing how pathetic I must have looked. Everyone else’s enemies were gone, no bodies or anything left. 

“I have a message from D.” The man’s voice was robotic when he spoke, his tone emotionless and expression blank. Alex looked towards me for advice, but lying on the ground I must’ve looked like a worm or something else pathetic. Definitely not a threat. 

“Speak,” Alex said at last. 

The voice changed, shifting slightly higher but not enough to be considering squeaky. “I await your arrival at my castle, Luke. You know where to find me. With hatred, D.” 

Alex sent a pitying look at me, probably because the message had been addressed to me. Then she sliced his sword across the man’s neck. Instead of blood gushing from the wound came dark words. They pooled on the ground like blood and the man disappearing suddenly, his blood becoming vapor and disappearing into the wind. It floated towards me first and I stepped aside as it continued to dissipate. 

As the dark vapor passed by I felt my heart grow heavy and my head grow fuzzy. If I had been standing I probably would have fallen over. 

My heart was racing in my chest, my breaths uneven as I pulled myself to my feet. No one seemed impressed but my terrible display of fighting skills. Hiro was the first one to speak. “We should wrap that wound.” He gestured to the gash in my arm. 

“Sure,” I said, unsure of what else to say. Heat was rising to my cheeks. Even Sadie had dispatched her enemies with ease. And she was twelve! 

Hiro returned from the minivan with a roll of bandages, and he wrapped them expertly around my arm, his touch gentle. Hiro beamed at me as he returned the bandages to the box. “For being a newby you fought pretty well.” 

I snorted. “Please, Alex was the one who killed him.” I sent a glance her way. “Where did you learn to do that?” 

“I took fencing classes for four years,” she shrugged like it was no big deal. But in this world being good with weapons was incredibly convenient. “I can teach you if you’d like, since we have a long journey ahead of us.” 

“Thanks, I would love to.” I wasn’t being completely honest. As fun as sword-fighting lessons sounded, I didn’t really want to embarrass myself anymore. 

But a live Luke would be more helpful than a dead one. 

“Is it safe to sleep?” Sadie asked at last, her voice high and reedy, face pale. 

Sammy stepped in front of her, grabbing her hands and holding them in his own. “You’ll always be safe with me.” 

Kenzie snorted and Hiro laughed. 

“As touching as that sounds, we’ll never be truly safe until the Darkness is gone,” Hiro told us. “But I think we’ll be unharmed for the night. D won’t risk sending anymore of his forces quite yet, not until he’s sure he knows what we’re doing.” 

“He made it sound like we’re walking into a trap,” Alex pointed out. 

Hiro shrugged. “It’s too late to debate things like this. We can discuss these matters in the car tomorrow morning.” 

I was too exhausted to argue. It had been a long day, and I was ready to sleep. 

I curled up on the ground, draping a blanket over myself. Hopefully tomorrow we could get even further. The sooner we got out of here the better. 

It would be terrible to let my world be consumed by Darkness, but what about Alex? I couldn’t let her die either. And my parents would be devastated if I never came back - if Hailey ever told them what happened to me. 

I fell into a restless sleep, hope overwhelming me. 

By ten the next morning we finally arrived in another small town. After riding in the van squished between Hiro and Alex for hours I was ready to escape. The whole car stank of sweat and Kip promised he would buy some air freshener. 

Kenzie had decided it would be best if we walked through the town to search for any clues we could find about D’s weaknesses. I was pretty sure that she just wanted to be out of the car, and I had to agree with her. We split into three groups; Kip would drive the van through the town and search for another convenience store. 

Alex, Kenzie, Sadie, and Sammy took the left half of town to look for anything or anyone who could help us. 

That left Hiro, Smokey, and I to explore the right part of the city. 

Smokey trotted along beside me, looking generally happy to be here. Hiro’s hand rested on the hilt of his sword, and his eyes were constantly darting around as if looking for danger. 

I had a knife on me but I wasn’t really trusted with weapons after the previous night. 

“That tree looks suspicious,” Hiro commented pointing towards a tree with a deep colored bark. He had been doing this since we first started walking. Anything that was slightly darker than normal had to be inspected thoroughly. 

Luckily no one was really around to find our behavior suspicious. Most windows were dark and the streets were empty of cars. The few people that hadn’t fled from the Darkness eyed us like we might be servants of D. None of them approached us as Hiro touched a cautious finger to the tree. Nothing happened. 

I sighed. At this rate we would have to book a hotel room for the night. “Do you need a break?” I asked as Hiro rubbed his eyes and yawned, stepping away from the tree. 

He shrugged. “A little one should be fine.” 

We took a seat on a metal bench not far away. The whole city had a faint stench of something rotten that seemed to radiate from the bricks of the buildings. A faint draft of wind sent shivers down my spine as Hiro buried his face in his hands. Smokey curled up under the bench, snoring softly.

“You okay?” My voice was softer than I had expected - nervous in a way. 

Hiro was the hero I created for myself, to give me someone to look up to. And now the Darkness could possibly kill him. 

“I’m fine,” Hiro mumbled. He shivered, his eyes meeting mine as he curled his legs to his chest. I realized that despite being so heroic he was actually quite tiny, shorter than me and probably Kenzie. 

“You don’t look fine,” I argued, feeling a bit guilty. Would it be considered rude to press him for details? 

“Are any of us fine?” Hiro shot back, but then he looked at me and his face softened. “Seriously, Luke, don’t worry. I’m just a bit dizzy - it’s been happening to me more often lately, probably because of the Darkness. It’ll pass in a few minutes.” 

I worried. Now Hiro was being affected by the Darkness? It kind of made sense, based on the direction we were heading and what I had seen from the tower window, Hiro’s kingdom was closer to the Darkness than everyone else’s. It was probably being consumed as we spoke, and that was another thing I wasn’t going to mention. 

“Actually…” Hiro began, but he was cut off as Smokey snarled from under the bench. The tiny dragon hurtled away like a rocket being launched, his stubby legs carrying him further than I had been expecting. 

Hiro and I shared a look, both thinking the same thing; follow that dragon! 

I caught up to Smokey relatively quickly, Hiro stumbling behind me, still dizzy. Smokey was clutching something in his mouth, a sheet of paper with holes for a staple, which meant it had probably been ripped off of a telephone pole. 

I flipped over the paper and gasped. It fluttered out of my hands and Smokey pounced on it. 

It had been a Wanted poster. But why would my face be recognized as a criminal? 

© 2020 A.L.

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Added on August 14, 2020
Last Updated on August 14, 2020
Tags: short stories, teen, young adult, fantasy, adventure, fiction, quest, darkness, heroes, castle, kingdom, imagination, doubt, confidence



I've been writing for a little over two years now - just short stories and occasionally a book (by word count alone). My main works are sci-fi and fantasy, aimed at a teen audience. I'm still in high .. more..