The shouting was finally beginning to fade behind him as Ethan plunged through the forest, struggling past the vines and shredding his skin and clothing against the thorns. He wanted to slow down, but he knew they would follow him and anyone else who had escaped the final onslaught of dragons and warriors. Dragons had not been seen in those parts for more than two centuries, and few in the city still believed, or rather, few had believed the great monsters had ever existed until today when on rushing wings and spouting firy streams they screamed into the village as the warriors on their backs showered arrows into the fleeing masses. The castle's defenses had weakened during the seven day siege, but they could have held out, could have won through with a little more time. And no dragons.
Ethan stifled a yell as he tumbled down the unseen cliff that broke the hill he'd been climbing. After shaking himself off, he found that he could not ascend the cliff, nor could he walk the shoreline, for the small patch of sand upon which he'd landed seemed to be the only break in the cliffs allowing a footrest. Knowing he had little time before the dragon warriors began seeking him, he started for the water when he suddenly landed face first in the dirt before him. Jumping to his feet, Ethan whirled to face his adversary, reaching for his sword and crouching in the only fighting stance he knew.
A smile on the face of Wilomena, Princess of the Gnomian Highlands, greeted him.
"Ah, Squire Ethan, you wouldn't use that sword on your protectress, would you?"
Ethan stood silently, poised for the expected attack.
"Squire Ethan, I see that you have grown untrusting and that a slight trick leads you to think the impossible. How is it that one who once danced in my father's halls now draws his sword as though to slay me?"
"Ah, Princess Wilomena? Forgive me, I did not know it was you. Your father's balls have been out of my memory for a very long time, and for a week now, I have been at the ready day and night for nothing but a fight. We have no time, I'm afraid, for greetings, but only for running. I do not think those who follow me will be any more affable toward you, however charming and beautiful you may be."
"That, my friend, is precisely why I sent you sprawling on your face just now. You cannot enter the river as you are, but you cannot stay here either. I will not follow you, for I have other business to attend to. No," she waved her hand at him, "I will be fine, gnomes do not have the same troubles with dragons that humans have, and that is why I may help you and you may not help me."
The doubtful expression on Ethan's face gave way to surprise as a great doorway appeared in the side of the cliff. At Wilomena's touch the gates swung open and a young Gnomian called Ethan forward. Still stunned, Ethan looked from Wilomena to the boy with uncertainty. His mind was made when a dragon flew past them as it searched for him in the river. As Ethan darted through the gates, he heard Wilomena calling, "Squire Ethan, remember my father, remember the balls, let yourself not forget them again!"
The gates closed as Ethan stood dumbfounded, and he did not move until the little Gnomian boy took his hand and led him through the hill.
*Quite possibly the worst thing I've written so far...