“Grab my hand!” I screamed over the roaring river, stretching my hand out to the helpless man fighting to keep his head up against the raging currents. My half-submerged black stallion, Diablo, shuffled sideways against the aggressive water, doing everything he can to keep us from going under. It was only a matter of time before the horse would lose strength and the rescue would be forced to end.
“Come on!” I called to the man who battled his way to me. Squeezing my legs around the saddle and the horse’s belly and gripping reins tight, I leaned closer to the exhausted fellow while focused on not falling into the river myself. Despite my lack of size and strength for being a woman, nothing was going to stop me from saving someone who needed help. Strategy was going to be key for this situation.
With determined green eyes and bared teeth, the man threw a hand towards mine and I aimed to catch it. Unfortunately, the tip of his fingers barely touched mine and he missed his target. So damn close.
The short bearded man tried again, but a hard wave knocked into him before I could catch his hand and forced him under. Sitting back in my saddle, my eyes searched frantically through the murky, brown currents. The roaring river concealed all sound, including my own panting breaths and thoughts. He was nowhere in sight.
Seconds turned to minutes and my heart sank. Diablo whined from exhaustion and the poor brave creature was doing his best to keep his legs up. I knew I was putting us in jeopardy of following the same fate of the poor man if we remained in the river. Releasing the reins, I was about to give my command to Diablo when out of the corner of my eye, a large shape appeared in the water next to my right foot.
“AAAHH!” The man roared as he broke out of the water cage like a beast who refused to be tamed. His hands caught both ends of the saddle, his weight nearly yanking it down sideways, and he looked up at me.
“Go! Before the river changes its mind!” He shouted. Without a second thought, I caught the man by the collar of his shirt and gave Diablo the command to head to land. In a manner of minutes, the horse spent every last bit of strength forcing its way against the powerful currents to get us to shore. The poor thing collapsed down to its stomach before I could get off the saddle. The short bearded man threw himself against the ground and rolled unto his back, breathing in every bit of air into his lungs. I stood next to him and glanced for any injuries.
“You are a… courageous woman. Thank you… Thank you so much.” He huffed with eyes closed, pulling his long wet hair off his face, “I owe you my life.”
“You’re welcome.” I said, emptying out the water that had collected in my boots, “Also, don’t worry about it. I don’t need anything in return. Simply glad you will be alright.”
Keeping his back against the ground, he stretched a wet hand out to me, “I’m Rucifet.”
Gripping his rough hand, I shook it with a smile, “Freta.”
A couple of hours had passed since Diablo pulled me and Rucifet out of the river. The short-bearded man seemed like a very nice person to be around. He was much closer to my age than I had thought and was born in a village next to the one I grew up in. From there, he revealed he was simply traveling and thought taking a short-cut through a river was a smart choice. He didn’t realize how more wrong he could have been.
After a long, enjoyable conversation learning about each other, it was time to return to the road. A part of me wanted to stay and get more acquainted, but my journey was only halfway completed and I needed to get to the next village before sundown. He and I said our good-byes and parted ways at the trail.
Holding unto Diablo’s reins, I pulled the tired horse along as we strolled down the dirt trail in the forest. An hour had passed and everything was peaceful.
Until a flocks of birds scattered across the sky. Deer, rabbits, and even foxes darted past me and my horse. Even Diablo seemed bothered by something. Before I could glance around to see what they were running from, there was a loud crash.
The black stallion reared up onto his back legs and screamed, yanking its reins out of my hands, and then abandoned me before I could react. Spinning around on my heels, a large oak tree had collapsed behind me and standing there with a dirty bare foot on top of it was a massive ogre. Standing at between eight to nine feet in height, it bared its jagged teeth under his starving beady eyes. Stepping over the tree bark, he raised his club over his fat, bald head, aimed to crush me.
Before the monstrous creature could bring it down, I ran. The strong gust of wind from the club being brought down against the earth shoved my back and the ground shook hard that I tripped. I caught myself from falling with the help of a tree and kept charging away from it. Nothing could prepare me for an encounter with an ogre. No weapons. No horse. Nothing. Only my feet and my high adrenaline to keep me moving. Damn, this is awful! How could my horse leave me like that!
The ground quaked with every step the heavy set ogre took, roaring after me, and snapping any weak trees in its way with its club. My half-dried clothes weighed me down, making my escape harder on my legs.
The familiar sound of rushing water caught my ears and I made my way towards it. Hustling with all the energy I had left, the forest began to part and reveal the river up ahead. If I can swim it, hopefully the fast river will deliver me far from the hungry ogre. There was still the risk of drowning but feeling my body crunch under his teeth is not the last memory I want before I die.
The idea was short-lived when the impact of the club slamming against the ground created a powerful force strong enough to knock my body up into the air, flying me several yards forward into a tree. My body rolled along the tree’s roots and I stop with my back against the ground, facing the ogre who was ready to take swing his club at me. Pain spiked from my hips and down to the tips of my toes, making me wince and tear up.
Drool leaked from his bottom lip as it bared its teeth again, adjusting the club in his hand as he stopped a few feet from my helpless body. Then it began to raise the weapon back over his head and I couldn’t shut my eyes. Heart racing and devastation filled my gut. This was it.
That is until the sun suddenly disappeared and so did the ogre’s head. Are my eyes deceiving me?
A dragon appeared from behind the ogre and had chomped down on its head, with its sharp teeth digging into its neck. The ogre tried to take the club to the dragon’s head but the large reptile deflected the attack with its massive claws. Shoving the ogre into the ground, the gigantic brown and green creature continued to sink its large sharp jaws into the monster’s neck. The arms of the ogre struggled against the jaws until they plopped against the ground motionless.
Retracting its teeth from dead ogre’s neck and spitting the head out several yards away, the dragon turned its focus to me. Great! I am going to be dragon food.
As the massive, frightening creature shifted towards me, dark gray clouds came up from the ground and circled around it until all I could see were the clouds themselves. Then as quickly as they came, the clouds dispersed and revealed Rucifet.
He spit out blood and wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt, “Ogres do not taste great. Too fatty for my pallet. Bison is more my kind of meal. Are you alright?”
Shock rained over my face. Rucifet is a dragon? “What are the odds of bumping into each other again?” was all I could muster and he laughed.
He knelt down next to me and surveyed my injuries “I’d say pure coincidence. Come on. Let’s get you somewhere to get patched up.” He said, careful to pick me up from the ground with his long, strong arms. Heat radiated from his body.
“Sure, it was pure coincidence.” I raised an eyebrow at him. His eyes looked away when he grinned and looked back at me with a smile.
“Maybe not. I think I might have taken a fancy to you.”
All I could do was blush and smile. I kinda fancied him too.