A hot summer’s day wavered softly over fields and forests, the cloudless sky aching for rain, the glowing sun bringing stifling heat to the population below. No one worked at this time of day, and slumber fell across everything. People slept in the shade, dreaming of winter, and the roads were deserted.
The traveller dozed in the shade of the tree at the edge of the road, leaning up against the rough bark of an oak. A worn cloak, pulled off thankfully earlier in the morning, pillowed the head; black hair framed the pale, oval face as the girl slumbered, oblivious to anything but dreams in the baking heat. Around her neck, a tiny dragonet curled, its jewelled eyes likewise dimmed in dreams.
A faint breeze blew softly through the leaves for a moment, rustling like the trickling of water. The girl stirred slightly, one slender hand reaching up to comfort the dragonet as it stirred and hissed at the movement. It spread its wings and shifted, then settled back into slumber. Although the girl’s eyelids flickered, she remained immersed in her dreams, unaware of the faint sound drifting down the road.
The one unfortunate traveller on the road was enduring the heat with stoic patience. The rattle of wheels on the few loose pebbles sounded loud in the hot, slumbering silence, empty of all people. The traveller saw no sign of anyone in the fields, and it had been a long time since the last hamlet. Urgent business, urgent business…otherwise he could stop and rest until it was cooler. But no…he plodded onwards, wheeling the broken runner at his side. If only it hadn’t broken down so far from anywhere!
The rattle grew louder, echoing around the hedgerows. The girl’s eyes flicked, then opened. She sat up, ignoring the dragonet’s protest. Grasping her pack, she stood up and slipped round the side of the tree to peek down the road. Someone was coming…and until she knew who they were, she didn’t want to be seen. Someone with a runner…a broken runner, by the sounds of it. The dark head peered around the tree, jerking back as she saw what had startled her. Considering making a run for it, she decided against it and prepared to wait his going, calming the dragonet as it roused. A Night Rider!
With a broken bike…