Well, I don't really have anything to say, so onto the story!

Chapter Six

With our decision made, I decided that it was time to get moving again. I stood went back into the tent, my friends behind me. Quietly, we dug out some of our rations and ate, and then started preparing to move on. I was in the middle of sorting through my supply bag (which had been slightly squashed during the attempt to catch Talia) when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I jumped in surprise, but then turned to see that Jason was standing behind me, a concerned look on his face. "Do you need something?" I asked him.

"Gabby, I think that you should get some sleep," he replied, removing his hand from my shoulder. I shook my head forcefully, and then turned and returned to my task. But, being the stubborn boy that he is, Jason didn't give up. "Gabby," he said softly. "You need to get some rest. You can't constantly keep watch on us like we're little kids. We're trained, graduated dragon riders who know how to fight the darkness and volunteered to go on this quest. And if you pass out from exhaustion, we're stuck without a leader. Just take a short nap."

I shook my head once more, but that action was contradicted as my mouth opened into a wide yawn. I narrowed my eyes, angry that I had shown weakness.

Unfortunately, Jason had seen the yawn. "Take a nap," he said. "We won't leave without you, and you clearly need some rest." I shook my head a third time. Jason decided that it was time to revise his tactics.

"Look," he stated plainly. "I hate to blackmail you, but we aren't leaving until you go to sleep for at least fifteen minutes."

"Riley and Aleck will never agree to that!" I protested. "We need to get going, so that we can set off before things get even colder."

But Jason smiled like he had already won the argument. "Actually," he said slyly, "the others already agreed. We aren't leaving until you get some sleep. Your sleeping bag's already in the corner." Jason pointed to where my friends had laid my sleeping bag out, and then sauntered off, leaving me fuming as I sat next to my duffel bag. "Oh, and don't worry about watch," he called over his shoulder. "Riley's got it covered." I shook my fist at him and scowled, but then sighed in defeat. I might as well get a little sleep. We needed to leave, and if sleeping was the only way to get them to travel on, well, then, I might as well get some sleep. I curled up on my sleeping bag and closed my eyes, trying to let my worries drift away. My friends were trained dragon riders, and I would only sleep for a couple of minutes. What could possibly go wrong?

"Wake up Gabby, wake up!" A rough hand grabbed my shoulder and shook me awake. When I opened my eyes, I found myself staring up at Aleck's worried face.

"What's going on," I asked drowsily.

"Dragons and riders from the academy are coming!"

"WHAT!?" I jumped up immediately. Aleck was still squatting on the ground, and Riley and Talia were quickly stuffing things into the suitcases. I should have started packing too, but at that moment I was to angry to do anything but yell.

"I leave you guys alone for fifteen minutes and this happens?! I knew,it I just knew that something was going to go wrong. I told you guys! I shouldn't have gone to sleep, I shouldn't have!" Aleck watched me with wide eyes as I cursed and screamed.

Suddenly, Jason burst through the tent opening. "Riders from the academy are coming!" he shouted, obviously out of breath. "Wake Gabby up!

"Already did that," Riley called calmly over her shoulder as she moved to roll up my sleeping bag. Jason caught sight of my red face and angry expression, and his jaw dropped slightly.

"Gabby, are you okay?" he asked in a slightly stunned voice.

"No, I'm not okay! If you guys hadn't made me take a nap, we could have left earlier, and now this mess wouldn't be happening!"

Somewhere from Aleck's side of the tent, I heard a cough that sounded suspiciously like the words "Anger Management." I lunged to grab him and shake him, but Riley intercepted me.

"Gabby, we need to leave. Now. You can chew your friends out later. Right now, you need to help us get ready to go."

I sighed, knowing that Riley was right. Riley, sensing that she had won the argument, stuffed my suitcase and sleeping bag into my arms. Then, she and Talia handed the boys their luggage, and started herding us out of the tent.

"Help us fold the tent up," Talia called as she and Riley started pulling up the pegs. For an eight year old who had just learned about our quest that morning, she was pretty calm and collected. And Riley seemed to have accepted that Talia was joining us on our quest.

I dropped my bags and started working on folding up the tent, and the boys followed suit. With the five of us working together, we were able to get the tent folded up in thirty seconds, which must have been some sort of world record. It's amazing how motivated a person can become when being approached by a horde of angry dragon riders on actual dragons .

We called for our dragons as soon as we were completely packed. Within seconds, Jade, Sky, Russet and Cobalt landed in the clearing. They were panting hard, and Russet and Sky had several scratches on their sides and backs. Those poor, brave dragons must have tried to delay the riders on their own. I was just glad that they hadn't been caught.

"Thanks," I whispered into Sky's ear as I threw my supplies on her back and tightened her saddle. She grunted, and I knew that she had understood. Animals could be much smarter than people thought. Finally, everything was tied into place. "Come on," I called to Talia. She came sprinting over, and I boosted her up into the saddle and then hopped up in front of her. "Hold on to my stomach, and hook your feet here," I instructed Talia, pointing to the stirrups on the saddle. She nodded, and did as I said. I would have to ride without stirrups, but that was a minor worry. I had done it before, and I would probably have to do it again before the journey was over. As soon as we were ready, I looked around one last time, and saw that all of my friends were ready to go as well. Reassured that no one would be left behind, I commanded Sky to go up. We rose quickly up into the air, and then Sky took off like a shot.

I heard Talia scream with elation, and I chuckled. I had felt exactly the same way the first time that I had ridden on a dragon. I could also hear my friends behind me, shouting commands to their dragons. We headed quickly away from our campsite, staying close to the treetops and zigging and zagging so that we would be hard to follow.

After about five minutes, I dared to look back. My friends were still behind me, Jason and Aleck flying side by side with Riley close behind them. Unfortunately, our pursuers were also still behind us, and they were gaining. I twisted around to face forward and swore under my breath. Talia laughed, and I knew that she had heard me. "Don't you dare repeat that," I warned her, and she laughed again. I sighed, but didn't try to argue anymore. We had bigger problems than the fear of Talia cursing.

"What now, Gabby?" Aleck called up to me. "They're gaining on us!"

"I know, I know!" I called back. "Let me think for a minute!" We hadn't even been gone for a day and the academy had already sent people after us. Somebody must have seen us go. I was betting on Aleck's roommate.

I pushed those thoughts out of my head and tried to focus. We needed to somewhere to hide. Then, an idea formed in my head. It was slightly crazy, but it just might work.

"Let them get closer!" I called to my friends.

"What?!" Riley shouted in disbelieve. "Are you insane?!"

"Yes!" I shouted back, smiling.

I made Sky slow down, and nobody passed me, so my friends must have slowed down as well. When the other dragon riders were almost above us, I called out to my friends again. "Follow my lead," I instructed loudly. And then, our pursuers were above us.

"Surrender and come back to the academy." One of the riders, who was riding on a red dragon, called down to us.

"Never," I shouted back. I yanked back on Sky's reins, and she stopped completely, hovering in place. Our astonished pursuers shot out ahead of us, and I gave Sky a final command. "Dive!" I shouted, and Sky dropped like a stone. I could only hope that my friends were following me.

Sky hit the ground, but I didn't let her stop. I made her run forward, farther into the undergrowth. The tree branches were thick, and they whipped around us as we headed deeper into the pine forest. I could hear the other three dragons thumping along behind us, and I smiled again, relieved that my friends were still with me. Finally, when I thought that we had lost our pursuers, I let Sky slow and eventually stop. As I listened, I heard the thumps behind me stop as well as the other dragons came to a halt.

I jumped off of Sky's back and helped Talia down, who was grinning from ear to ear from exhilaration. Then, we sprinted over to where my other friends were dismounting as well.

When we were all on the ground, I decided that it was time to apologize for my behavior earlier. "Look guys, I apologize for freaking out earlier. You were just looking out for my health, and it wasn't anybody's fault that the riders caught up to us. I'm sorry."

My friends exchanged glances, and then Riley stepped forward. "Don't worry about it," she said to me. "It's all behind us. What matters is that we're safe."

"Yes," I agreed. "We're safe." That turned out to be one of the stupidest things I said during the entire journey.

This chapter was one of my favorites to write. Gabby's outburst kind of made me laugh. Yes, I'm weird. :)

R and R please

Lillypool