Into the Woods: The Life and Times of Lemuel Xandiver – Part 3

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Lem walked through the woods as quietly as he could, but even to him, his footsteps seemed to pound through the underbrush like an elephant tromping through a bed of broken glass. The dragon kept looking back at him and hurrying on as fast as its injured body would allow. Lem knew that he was on dangerous ground. Komodo dragons were deadly in the best of times, and this one was injured, but his curiosity kept him going.

They walked quite a ways from the school through the woods, and Lem almost lost his reptilian prey a few times as the trees thickened and the ground began to rise. They were coming closer to the mountains.

Lem thought he saw the dragon disappear into a hole in the ground and hurried forward to get a better look.  He hid behind a tree close to where the dragon had disappeared and peered around to make sure it wasn’t just hiding in the underbrush. He certainly didn’t want to accidently step on the injured animal. Looking into the dense bushes intently, Lem almost jumped out of his skin when the native boy from the school jumped out of the tree and landed right in front of him.

“You almost gave me a heart attack,” Lem gasped accusingly. He looked nervously at the boy who just stood there with his arms crossed. “My name’s Lem. I’m new in town. I, uh, saw you up at the school.”

The native boy just looked at him for a second. Finally, he responded, “I’m called Running Wolf.” He seemed to relax a little as he leaned back against a nearby tree. He still had his arms crossed in front of him, but he didn’t seem quite as threatening as he had.

“You are not supposed to be here, you know,” he said with a lifting of his eyebrows. “You would get in much trouble if the school officials knew.”

“I know I’m skipping class,” Lem admitted, “but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a dragon before. I had to follow it.”

“Yes, you will get in trouble for skipping class, but it is more than that. These woods are considered the personal property of one of the most powerful men on the island. He would not look kindly on you for trespassing.”

Lem hadn’t thought about that. “Oh, well, where does he live? I could go ask him if he’d mind.”

“No! He does not like kids.” Running Wolf replied almost a little too quickly.

Lem looked at him curiously. It almost seemed like the other boy was hiding something.

“Besides,” Running Wolf continued, “only a fool would go after an injured dragon. He could still easily kill you and will if you get too close.”

Lem considered at him carefully. Something didn’t seem quite right. Running Wolf’s posture seemed too casual, almost posed, and the muscles standing out on his crossed arms indicated more of a stressed nature than the calm one he seemed to be trying to convey. He was hiding something.

As soon as Lem made this realization, he decided to change tactics. If there was something here that Running Wolf wanted to hide, then Lem’s curious nature insisted that he discover it. He was pretty sure that the dragon had gone into a hole or hidden cave nearby, but he was also pretty sure that this was about more than the dragon.

He couldn’t do anything now with Running Wolf on guard, and he didn’t want to raise his suspicions, so Lem relaxed his shoulders and let out a big sigh. He smiled.

“You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve just never seen a dragon before, so I guess I got carried away.” He chuckled. “There’s no telling what trouble I might have gotten myself into if you hadn’t come along. I guess we should get back, huh. I’m probably already in enough trouble.” Lem turned and began walking back toward the school.

“Thanks for following me and making me see reason. I really appreciate it. My curiosity can get the better of me sometimes.” He chuckled and looked behind him at Running Wolf, but the boy wasn’t there.

Lem stopped and looked hurriedly around.  Running Wolf was nowhere to be seen. He had simply disappeared without a sound. Lem hesitated for just a second to consider going back to look for the hole, but then he thought better of it. Running Wolf had followed him all the way from the school without him knowing it. He was obviously good at the whole stealth thing. Lem didn’t want to run the risk of the native seeing him now.

He would go back to the school and act like everything was normal then, after a week or so, he’d go back. He would find out where the dragon went and what Running Wolf had been so worried he’d see. His curiosity could wait that long, surely. One week, and he’d be back.

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