Chapter 4

The wastelands were barren at first sight, but if one looked closely, one could see things that suggested life: a cave here, a patch of the vine blackthorn there, and, walking across the land, a young boy.

He was bent on his mission, it seemed, for he moved without pausing for anything. Not even when he stepped on some blackthorn did the boy stop; he just accepted it and moved on.

When the boy reached a particular cave, he stopped in front of it. "Anyone home?" he asked into the cave.

A large, reptilian head poked out of the cave. "Yes?" asked the dragon.

"Silv," said the boy, "do you know if Gekul is planning a raid tonight? Everyone in town seems to think the dragons are going to have a raid today?"

The silver dragon blinked. "Why do they think that?" she asked.

The boy shrugged, commenting, "I don't know."

"I don't think there's going to be a raid tonight," said Silv. A sigh came from her. "Gekul really shouldn't be doing these raids. The humans didn't do anything to deserve them."

"Yeah, if he doesn't stop, this'll turn into another war," said the boy.

"He's just a big bully," said the dragon wearily.

The boy said, "But sometime, someone's got to do something about him."

"Yes," agreed the silver dragon. "But who?" Silently, she added to herself, "And when?"

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As he walked past the same tree the fiftieth time, Cy thought dully, "Oh, look, a tree. That's so amazing. Wonder how it got there."

Cy flopped down on the ground, and he contemplated his status, wondering if he should continue on his quest, or just go back home.

The irony of it all was that Cy had originally planned to come alone, but now that he was, he wished he wasn't.

"I wonder where Kito and Maverick got to. Maybe…" Cy gulped, but finished his thought. "Maybe…the boar caught up with them."

Visions appeared in Cy's mind, horrific visions showing what the wild boar could do to Kito or Maverick. None of the visions were nice, and he tried to block them.

"They were ahead of me," Cy recalled, "and the boar didn't pass me, so it couldn't have caught up to them."

It made sense, and Cy felt a bit better.

"O.K.," he thought, "now I've got to find them."

He had no clue where the two had run off to.

"Kito — " Cy yelled, and then thought better of it. That might attract the wild boar.

Cy suddenly felt very vulnerable, and he wished fervently that his friends were with him.

But they weren't, and he'd just have to deal with it in the best way he could. And looking for them seemed to be the only thing he could do — sitting here wishing wouldn't help.

As he stood up, Cy heard a noise that seemed to be coming from ahead of him. He could hear growls and strange snorts.

Cy made his way toward the noise, thinking, What now?

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The boar lowered its head and charged at Maverick. Despite its squat body, it was fast, and the dog barely dodged it.

Maverick let loose from his throat a growl that sounded like it belonged more to a wolf than a dog. The wild boar, though, didn't care — it was bigger than the dog and knew it could win.

The boar swung its tusks, trying to impale Maverick. The dog was faster, but only slightly.

But Maverick wasn't fast enough when the boar's hoof lashed out, hitting Maverick in the ribs and sending him skidding across the leafy ground.

It hurt Maverick to breathe, and he whimpered from the pain. The wild animal loomed over him, and Maverick stared into the face of the boar.

In a flash of fur, Maverick leaped up and latched his teeth on the boar's back leg.

Squealing, the large creature tried to throw off the snarling dog, but to no avail.

With a rustle of foliage, Cy pulled back a branch and saw the scuffle. At almost the same moment, Kito, about ten feet away from Cy, came upon the dog and boar. The two's eyes met, and when Cy bent down a picked up a rock, Kito did the same.

"One…" mouthed Cy. "Two…Three!"

At the same time, both Kito and Cy threw their stones at the wild boar.

The animal, for a split second, ignored Maverick as the rocks hit it on the head and flank. But the boar couldn't ignore Maverick for long as the dog bit harder.

With a pang of worry, Cy saw that the boar would hurt — maybe even kill — Maverick if he didn't do anything. He quickly grabbed another rock and, getting Kito's attention, threw this stone. Cy's rock hit the wild boar on its ribs, and Ktio's hit just above that.

The boar squealed, and it swung its head around, its tusk grazing Maverick's side.

The fur on Maverick's side became wet with blood as the wound bled. Yelping, the dog let go of the boar's leg, and began to lick the injury.

Cy and Kito began to barrage the boar with stones, trying to make it go away. It withstood the stones' stings for a while, but finally, after one last grunt, the boar left.

The two humans left their hiding places and made their way toward Maverick.

"That was a good last throw, Cy!" said Kito. "Right between the eyes! That's probably why the boar left…"

But Cy wasn't thinking about that just then. He went straight to his dog, who was still licking the wound.

"Maverick, stop; you're just going to make it worse…" said Cy, pushing Maverick's head away and revealing a large gash. The dog strained to reach his injury, but Cy held him back.

"We're still close to Indigo," Kito said.

"We can't go back," Cy said. "Everyone knows us there. We need to go somewhere where they won't recognize us…"

"But where's that? Are we close to any other towns where we could get help?" asked Kito. "Maverick really needs medical attention…"

Cy took out the map. "Well…Blackthorn is too far away," he said disappointedly. "But there's a town…Chacó."

"Why Chacó?" said Kito, his voice close to a moan.

"What are you talking about?" asked Cy. "What's wrong with Chacó?"

Kito looked very troubled. "It's in the mountains…up high…and it's hard to get to, and the people…they're said to be…not…nice," he finished a bit lamely.

Cy rolled his eyes. "They're just stories, Kito. I'm sure it's not really that bad." He took a shirt out of his backpack and tore it in half, wrapping part around Maverick's gash. "He needs better attention than we can give him."

"I know, but Chacó…"

Cy looked at Kito sternly. "Whatever you've heard, just forget it. Give Chacó a chance."

"Well…all right…" Kito said, but it was with doubt that he moved on.