Keep him fighting, stay close, stay alive, Zrig chanted to himself as he circled the shadow warrior. He hissed and bared his teeth, then sprung, twisting away at the last moment to avoid a bolt of deadly energy. The shadow warrior lept after him, swinging his sword, and Zrig felt a sting on his back flank before he managed to get away. Furious, he whirled, panting, but instead of going in for another strike he let the Shadow Warrior regain position. Zrig side-stepped over one of his fallen companions while the Shadow Warrior turned to watch him. Zrig didn’t have to make another futile attempt to kill him, he only had to keep him fighting.
The shadow warrior’s form flickered, and he half turned his head for just a moment. Zrig’s heart thumped faster. It was coming. His moment. He was about to see the realization of his plot. He slunk closer, waiting, watching.
The shadow warrior sent another bolt of energy at him. Zrig sprang backwards while the rock where he’d been blackened and sizzled. Too much distance! No! Zrig scuttled forward though his paws burned on the hot rock. Just in time, too. The shadow warrior’s form began to fade. Almost laughing, Zrig sprang forward and caught hold of the warrior’s boot just as he disappeared.
A shock ran through Zrig’s body, leaving him stunned. When he opened his eyes again he knew his plan had worked! He had followed the shadow warrior into the shadow realm!
He heard voices, an elderly human female in a harsh, scolding tone, “Spencer, the bell rang five minutes ago? Why didn’t you go to class?”
It took Zrig a moment to realize this woman was speaking to the shadow warrior. How dare she? Was there no honor in the shadow realm? Did she have no fear of the warrior’s wrath?
The shadow warrior shrugged, and as Zrig looked on him he realized with joy that the stories were true. In the shadow realm, the shadow warrior was only a little child! How easy it would be now to destroy him.
Zrig tried not to laugh as the old woman continued to scold the shadow warrior. Neither of them had noticed Zrig, lying there in the grass beside them. He looked into their foolish, unseeing faces and anticipated leaping up and shredding them both to ribbons, leaving them brutally wounded to die a slow and delicious death.
“Your teacher looked out the window and saw you tearing around out here all by yourself. Didn’t you notice the other children had gone in?”
The shadow warrior gave her another shrug.
It was the last thing he would ever do. Zrig spread his claws and leapt. He smacked into something soft and bouncy.
“Oh!” the woman said. “What a funny little lizard! Sorry, it startled me. It just jumped at your shoe.”
Zrig shook himself, then looked down. He was only a tiny hatchling!