“Uh oh.”  Taliya’s giggles turned to worry as she realized what she had done.  She had made it outside the city gates for the first time in her young life, but she was in the back of a moving wagon filled with clothes that she couldn’t stop or reach the top of to climb out.  The plan was to explore the land around her hometown of Oer, not travel all the way to the city of Japheth in the wagon!

She sat cross-legged in the middle of the long wagon and considered her options.  Should she yell for help?  She could tell the soldier driving the wagon that she just happened to fall in as he drove by, but then she would end up right back in the city.  Her boring parents wouldn’t even try to listen to her explanation, and she would probably have to endure some sort of unpleasant punishment.

What if she started throwing all the uniform pants that surrounded her out of the wagon?  That would get the driver to stop for sure.  Too bad she would still be stuck inside the wagon for the guy to find her and take her back home.  She was not going home until she had a chance to do some exploring.

The wagon hit a big bump and sent her flying face first into a pair of pants.  As she sat back up and brushed the lint off her tongue, she got an idea.  She just needed to act quickly, before the wagon picked up too much speed.

From her knees, Taliya began pushing the clothes toward the back of the wagon.  She stacked pair after pair of pants on top of each other until the pile nearly reached the top.  “That should do it.”  She nodded at her pile and began climbing. 

She made it halfway to the top when the wagon hit a rough patch of road and jostled her backwards.  Once the road smoothed out, she began her ascent again.  At the top, she could barely make out the city of Oer.  If she didn’t get out soon, she may not make it back to Oer by dark. 

Then the wagon began traveling faster.  Jumping out at this speed was going to hurt.  Did she want a few bruises, or did she want to get caught by the soldiers in Japheth? 

Bruises.  Definitely bruises. 

Taliya bit her bottom lip, closed her eyes, and jumped, curling herself into a tiny ball before smacking into the ground on her right side.

She grunted on contact and rolled several feet along the dirt road.  She waited a minute before attempting to move.  The sounds of the wagons faded away, and a breeze blew dust in her face.  She coughed, opened her eyes, and tested her limbs by extending them one by one.

Right leg.  Stinging, but okay.

Left leg.  All good.

Right arm.  Scraped up, but working.

Left arm.  Just fine.

“I did it.”  Taliya rose to her feet and gazed at her surroundings.  Nothing but beautiful green meadows stretched out on either side of the road in front of her, and the same meadows led to the speck of the city of Oer behind her.  “I really did it.  I’m free!”

She ran into the waist-high grass and laughed as she twirled with her arms wide open and her face toward the sky.  She twirled until she got too dizzy to keep twirling, then plopped onto the softest grass she had ever touched.

When her head stopped spinning enough for her to focus, she cocked her head, squinted her eyes, and studied the landscape to the right of Oer.  “There it is.” 

Her jaw dropped at the sight of the vibrant green plants and spectacularly tall trees in the distance that marked the edge of Noon Stalker Territory. 

She picked herself up and brushed herself off.  She had some exploring to do.  It might take her all day, but she wasn’t going home until she met a dragon.