Disclaimer--- Nope, don't own 'em, don't make money off of 'em

Disclaimer--- Nope, don't own 'em, don't make money off of 'em. Wish I did though, then they'd still be on the air! Mighty Ducks are property of Disney, Zelda and her lot are property of me!

Author's note--- This story is a continuation in my long-running Dragon Chronicles series. Not every story in this series will be listed on FF.net, but all of them are listed in chronological writing order on my webpage. If you'd like to find out more about Zelda or other characters that will appear later in this series, visit my website at http://members.fortunecity.com/zeldathedragon and go to the information page, and the rest of my stories can be found in the fanfiction section.

Bothers

Written by Zelda

                "Man am I bushed!" Nosedive sighed as he lifted his teal and purple nylon duffel bag from the Migrator's side hatch door. The cool, late night air helped him keep his eyes open.

                "Yeah, I can't wait to get a few winks in before we head back home tomorrow." agreed Duke, shouldering his bag. The team was spending a night in a hotel, in a suburb not to far from Denver. After winning a close came against the Avalanche, the team was tired out. Wanting to escape the media and the noise of the city, they decided to spend the night in a small hotel, and head back to Anaheim the next morning. The team removed their bags and went to their rooms, all in a row in the small, two-floored hotel.

                "Sleep well everyone!" was Wildwing's parting farewell, as he went into his room and closed the door behind him. He let his bag drop down in the corner. He picked up the remote on a table and clicked the TV on. The volume on just loud enough to hear, Wildwing sat down heavily on the bed. After sitting in the dark for a moment or two, he got up and unzipped his bag, taking out his toothbrush and toothpaste. He went into the bathroom and turned on the light, shutting the door behind him.

                Mallory blinked drowsily as she rubbed a small white towel through her wet red hair. She picked the small digital clock up off of the table and turned it over in her hands, looking for a way to program the alarm.

                "Huh, if Tanya were here..." she smiled. She plunked the clock back down, deciding to forget about it. She shook out her hair and walked to the sliding glass door in the back of her room. Peeking between the tan curtains, she looked out into a short, grassy field, and a dense coniferous forest in the background, a deep navy blue against the night sky. She sighed and withdrew from the window. Lifting the sheets and comforters up at one corner, Mal slid into bed. She replaced the sheets in their correct location, drew them around her shoulders, and slowly drifted off to sleep.

                Zelda had smiled as she saw Mallory receed from the window. At a small distance from her room, Zelda sat in a tall pine tree, resting on the knobbly branch. She yawned a gaping animal yawn, teeth glittering in the moonlight. She lay down her head and closed her eyes.

                Chameleon cocked his head, staring through the binoculars. He smiled and stepped away, letting the bushes he was peering through close above him as he sat on the cool forest floor. He hung the binoculars around his neck and activated his com.

                "What's the status of our little friends?" Dragaunus asked.

Chameleon morphed into a little, wrinkled old lady with a pin on his blouse saying "Librarian". "Shhh! Ya might wake the birdies up." he warned.

                "So they're asleep?" Dragaunus asked.

                "Yup." Chameleon smiled, morphing back.

                "Good." Dragaunus grinned. "I'll be teleporting the cages to you shortly. Seige and Wraith should be along to help any minute now."

                "Great! Everything's in place." Chamelon whispered gleefully.

                "Be careful. I'll be watching your progress from here." With that, Dragaunus closed the com link.

Chameleon sat still, head turned to the dark hotel. He got so much enjoyment out of fighting. Though he wasn't as predatorial as his comrades, he felt the need for revenge, every time those stupid Ducks messed up plans he had helped think up. He had the ability to take defeat in stride though. Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted as green shadows appeared all around him. Three were small and rectangular, one was large, fat, and round. The shadows faded away to reveal Seige and three cages. "So the troops are here eh?" the Chameleon joked.

                "Ready to roll." Seige grinned back. He and Dragaunus had come up with the designs for the new weapons together. They were small, agile, and programmed to kill. He loved his job.

                "Where's Wraith?" Chameleon asked.

                "Dragaunus wanted him to stay on this trip. We won't be needing him now anyway." Seige said, waving a hand to clear the subject. "So are we good to go?"

                "Yup, let's let these little guys out." Chameleon said. He walked over to a cage as it lay on the ground. They weren't very big, about knee height on him. He lifted up one end of the cage, and tens of tiny little robotic creatures came running out.

Seige opened the two other cages, and the robots were let to mingle with each other. They were stunningly lifelike. Little things, looking like they had snake necks and ostrich bodies, with a lizard tail. They had thin, tapered little heads, and black slick eyes.

                "Okay little guys." Seige smiled, pulling out a remote control. "It's feedin' time!" he pressed a few buttons. The robots let out a communal high squeaking, and immediatly turned, racing off for the hotel. They moved in a group, splitting up as they trampled tiny paths in the grass.

Seige and Chameleon decided to watch this from a more distant standpoint, and teleported out, leaving the robots.

                Zelda blinked drowsily as she heard scraping, scuffling on tree bark. She looked down, blinking rapidly, to see a number of little gray things scurrying quickly up the tree. She looked over to the hotel by chance, and was alarmed to see that the gray creatures were heading there too, breaking into little groups and scratching at the back windows. What was intended as a roar of warning was suddenly replaced by a roar of pain, as something dug into her scales, pinching hard. She looked around to see a tiny, agile robot clamping onto her tail. She gasped as about ten more suddenly flung themselves on her. She roared again and thrashed on the thin spanse of the branch, trying to shake the things off of her. But they dug in deeper, squealing in high, metallic notes. She struggled as more leapt on her, covering her in dull, gray metal.

                Grin gasped, waking abruptly as Zelda's roar still echoed in his head. He looked out his back door instantly, but the glass had been cracked and spiderwebbed.

                "What the.." he started. But suddenly he jumped back in suprise as he saw about fifteen little animal-like roots scrambling up his sheets. Seconds later, he yelled out as they jumped on him and dug into his feathers. He tried to shake them off as screams and yells responded from the other rooms. The others must be in trouble as well! He changed into his battle gear, but it did no good. Frustrated, he grabbed one of the mechanical animals and ripped it off of him. He cried out in pain as it tore a little piece of his flesh out with it. The other creatures seemed to dig in deeper. He stumbled up and out of bed, more and more of the creatures jumping on him by the second. He rammed his way out of the back door, and into the field. Not caring about the pain anymore, he yanked the creatures off, crushing them in his hands as he did so. Suddenly, he felt Tanya crash into him. She dropped to the ground and rolled in the grass, desperate to get the robots off of her. Wildwing charged out behind her. Nosedive snarled as he stamped hard on a robot. He ran with blood dripping off of his beak. The creatures were chasing him. He knew he had to get away, so he ran for the forest. The little creatures ran with him, leaping onto him when they got close enough and clamping on. He looked up to see a pine tree close to him. Suddenly, he heard Zelda roar above and ahead of him.

She came falling from the tree and crashed to the ground, the creatures leaping all over her. She threw them off and waved Nosedive to keep running. She got up and started to run, but fell again, snarling in additional pain. Her left ankle throbbed. She shoved on, limping hard, the creatures piling on her. She raised her wings and flew. The creatures weighted her down. They leapt on her wings and knawed at them. She roared, crashed, stumbled up, and began flying again. She could see faint glimpses of the others running along with her. Finally reaching the confines of the forest, she swivled vertically, scraping her back against a treetrunk as she flew by, and mowing off some creatures as she passed. She tumbled in the leaves and pine needles, and finally stopped. About five or six still clung to her. She ripped them off fiercely and smashed them with her tail. More of them pursued her. One jumped on her head and clamped down above her eye. She screamed and ripped it off, slamming it to pieces on a rock next to her. She whipped her tail around, sending more flying. Having destroyed all the creatures for the moment, Zelda looked around her. Mallory was running not too far off. Suddenly, she stumbled on a wet log and fell to the ground. Zelda bounded over to help as the robots closed in around her. Mallory didn't get up. Finally, all the robots were destroyed. Zelda kneeled, panting, on the ground. She raised her head and nuzzled Mallory. She had hit her head and was knocked out. Zelda saw she was bleeding pretty badly. She heard movement not too far off in the forest and roared loudly for help.

Slowly, Duke pushed his way through the bushes.  "Jeez what happened here?" he said, breathing heavily.

                "Mal fell." Zelda panted.

Duke sat her up against the log she had slipped on, and slumped down exhausted on the wet forest floor. Suddenly, their coms went off.

                "You guys okay over there?" Wing called.

                "Mal's out." Duke sighed.

                "Great." the reply was decidedly sarcastic. "Everyone regroup with them of you can. We'll see if we can't get back to that hotel and get some help."

                In the next few minutes, everyone had regrouped. All were tired and bleeding. Grin had a huge tear across his forehead. Wildwing's armor was pitted with the indents of the jaws of the creatures in hundreds of places.

                "Come on." Wildwing sighed, mopping his bloodstained forehead. "Let's get back."

Suddenly, Zelda snarled.

The group sat in rigid silence.

The shadow of Seige's body could be seen through the transparent ferns on a rise not too far off. The Ducks sat in sudden fear. Seige passed slowly, silently. The group slowly breathed a sigh of relief.

                "My feathers.... they're hunting us." Tanya said.

                "Yeah, and we're perfect prey in our state. They probably think we're going back to the hotel right now." Zelda snorted.

                "We're gonna have to find shelter someplace else then..." Wildwing started.

The group sighed.

Duke stood up. "Lemme go see if I can't find something." he said. He walked off slowly into the forest. The group sat in wary silence for about 15 minutes. Finally, they heard a twig snap. The Ducks turned on the sound, but it was only Duke, peeking out from behind a tree. He motioned for them to follow him. Grin heaved Mallory up in his arms, and the group followed him. They walked slowly, Zelda still limping. They came to a rock formation, littered with mossy old logs. In-between the logs was blackness... a cave.

                "Perfect..." Zelda breathed slowly. They began a slow, exhausted climb up the hill.

Nosedive stumbled halfway up and crawled along.

Finally, they reached the top, and squeezed between the logs to find a moderate cave hollow beyond.

Zelda grabbed some fallen pine branches and placed them over the logs. She bent down young sapling pines and stretched them over the logs, holding them down in place with rocks. She limped in pain, back inside. "That should do for cover." she said, leaning slowly against the wall. She looked at her teammates as the moonlight painted zebra streaks across the cave. They were pretty hurt. "Tanya, do me a favor and go grab some ferns will you?" Zelda asked.

Tanya nodded and walked out. She came back shortly, arms full of fern leaves.

Zelda slowly limped around and distributed them to everyone, telling them to wrap the leaves around their wounds and tie them down with the stems. She herself attended to Mallory, who was still out cold. Finally, she herself wrapped several wounds from her tail to her snout, and splinted her ankle. They could finally get some rest. Zelda limped up a rock against the cave wall, and sat down on it, perched protectively over Mallory.

Tanya took something out of her pocket and began to examine it. It was one of the robots, not too damaged. "Zelda... this looks like some sorta animal." she said, tossing the robot over to Zelda.

Zelda turned it over gently. The creature was no bigger than a foot long. Well built from tiny plates of metal, and jointed to be incredibly lifelike. "It actually resembles a dinosaur... the compsognathus to be exact." Zelda said slowly.

                "The what?" asked Nosedive.

                "Compsognathus was a small dinosaur. Not as small as this, but it was built very similarly. It was a scavenger which preyed in packs, taking down anything it perceived to be dead or injured." 

                "But how could they kill anything when they were so small?" Duke asked.

                "They were persistant. And they hurt a lot." Zelda said.

                "Well hopefully we destroyed enough of them." Widlwing said. "I suggest we try and get some sleep." There was some shuffling about the damp cave before everyone got somewhat comforatble. "I'll take first watch." Wildwing said, a puck cannon across his lap. He sat at the moonlit edge of the cave. Slowly, the team dropped off, one by one, into sleep.

                Zelda awoke in the early morning hours, slowly blinking. She raised her head slowly, looking out to the cave mouth. Zelda saw Wildwing's silouette, sitting alert at the mouth of the cave. His head jerked at the sudden sound of a low groan beneath Zelda. Mallory was moving around. Zelda reached down carefully and found Mallory's head. "Shhh." she eased, brushing back Mal's red  hair. "Relax Mal. We're safe for now. Go to sleep." Mallory sighed heavily and shuffled back. Zelda blinked drowsily. She looked back up to Wildwing, who leaned heavily against the wall. Zelda sighed at him, she could tell he needed rest. "I'll take over watch." Zelda volunteered.

Wildwing yawned slowly and nodded. "Make sure you tell me if anything happens." he started sleepily.

                "You'll be the first to know." Zelda assured, smiling. As she shifted herself to her forepaws, Wildwing lowered his head and slept almost instantly, his launcher still across his lap. Zelda lay her head down on her forepaws, wincing in trying not to put any pressure on the scabs that had formed from her wounds. Having hours on end to scan through the forest gave Zelda some time to think. Below her lay her teammates. Cramped, stiff, tired, sleeping, and wounded, they would be perfect prey for the Saurians if they were found. She, being part of their blood, knew that. It was nature, as a predator and of predatorial behavior, it was natural to drive in for wounded and weak prey. Even now, she knew they were hunting them. The will of the Saurian was stronger than any earthly stone or steel. But she was more than certain that the will of her teammates was even stronger. She could still remember an old code of honor her kind had taught her when she was young:

Honor

Courage

Strength

Pride

Victory,

Above all obstacles

She smiled, knowing the team had upheld it unknowingly. She stayed thinking and thinking until the sky turned a peach, signaling the coming of the dawn. She nearly jumped ten feet when she felt something tap her on the shoulder, but Grin restrained her. He told her he would take the watch for a while. Slightly shaken, she smiled and lay down, going back to sleep.

               

                Mallory shifted her weight again. Her head throbbed. Her whole body ached. She knew she had been out for a long time, she just didn't feel rested. She opened her eyes to see beams of gold shining abover her head. Sunlight. She leaned up slowly, grunting in pain as she put her weight on an elbow.

Grin turned to look at her. "Relax friend." he eased in his usual deep voice.

Mallory turned to see Zelda moving above her. She raised her head into the sun and yawned. Suddenly, the forest rang with a loud thud and several snaps of wood.

Duke was suddenly up, crouching on his knees, moving slowly towards the cave mouth. Eyes on the forest in front of him, he drew his saber.

Wildwing suddenly appeared to life as well, putting a hand on Duke's shoulder to stop him. Tanya put a finger to her beak.

Cringed tensely, they waited.

                "Wraith I'm telling you, if I trip over that stupid staff of yours one more time..."

                "Silence you idiot! The Ducks are close... I can smell them." The unmistakable voices of Seige and Wraith floated across the forest. They weren't too far off.

Wildwing immediatly considered his options. "Can we run?" he asked.

                "No!" Zelda whispered harshly. "They're too close."

                "We can ambush them..." started Mallory in a barely audible whisper.

                "No." Wildwing mouthed silently back to her. "Too little firepower." They hadn't taken any guns with them in fleeing from the hotel, and what little they had on them would be useless. And they were wounded. Besides, if the Saurians were attacked, they'd probably call for help and their cover would be blown. However, the Ducks would attack if they were found... but then there would be no element of suprise... The situation was becoming more tense by the moment, they needed a decision now.

                "Wait, what about a decoy?" asked Tanya.

Wildwing thought. Leading the Saurians away from the cave would be a good plan, but simply throwing a stone across the way and into the bushes wouldn't convince a Saurian.

Zelda stood up slowly. "I'll go." she whispered. "I'll draw them off and lose them." Wildwing opened his beak in protest, but Zelda stopped him. "This is no time to argue... I can still outfly them."

Wildwing thought a minute, and nodded.

Zelda nodded as well, smiling devilishly, and slipped out of the cave. The Ducks had to try hard to keep up with her as she slid through the forest, hiding underneath the ferns and bushes. She suddenly stopped. She could see them. Seige and Wraith went through the brush, lasers in hand. Zelda froze as she saw the brush parting behind them. The robots... so there were more of them. She set her teeth and moved on. She had to get a little farther away from the cave. Finally she had a good position. She gently picked a stick up off of the ground, waited, and then snapped it violently in half. Then she stood strait up, poking her head up sharply out of the brush. A laser suddenly streaked inches above her head. The Saurians had seen her. The brush in the distance started being flattened. Zelda breathed sharply. The tiny robots were coming after her like Saurian hunting dogs! She turned tail and fled, crashing violently through the brush, trying to be as obvious as possible. Stumbling through the bushes, she soon realized that the little creatures were catching up, creating their own little pathways in the foliage as they ran along with her. Zelda knew she had to keep on going, to lure the Saurians as far away as possible. But she was hurting. The robots couldn't be allowed to catch up with her. If they did she was most likely as good as done. She ran, waiting as the sounds of the tiny robots came closer, lasers streaking around her. Suddenly, she yelped in pain. One of the robots had clamped onto her tail. That acting as her cue, she spread her wings and flew up. As she lifted, two more robots leapt onto her. Alarmed, she tried to hastily smack them off, when something burned a hole through her left wing. A laser. She screamed blindly in pain, losing control and smacking into a tree. She scrabbled, trying to hold onto the bark, but fell into the underbrush. Bounding up as quickly as she could, she spread her wings and lifted slowly, trying hard to maintain her flight. But a wind suddenly whipped through the forest, snapping her back, blowing through the wound. It was too painful. She fell blindly into the brush again, and this time the robots were waiting for her.

                Wildwing tapped the barrel of his puck launcher impatiently. Zelda was taking too long. The sounds of the chase had grown so distant that they were merely whispers now, undecipherable from this distance.

                "Something's wrong... we should go look for her." started Nosedive, worried.

                "No, they'll see us. We can't take any chances." argued Mallory in a whisper. "Besides... Zelda said she'd come back..." The team hesitated. It had been at least 15 minutes Zelda had been chased off. They were worried of course, but to go out was to risk them being spotted and attacked.

Wildwing couldn't let that happen. He crept up to the entrance of the cave and crouched behind some logs, peeking through the cracks and scanning the forest. Suddenly, he withdrew sharply. Dirt had fallen on his beak, possibly from the lip of the cave roof above.

Suddenly, Zelda fell from the top, bouncing off a few logs, and landed on the cave floor.

Wildwing rushed out quickly, scooped her up, and darted back to safety. "Zelda, you're okay!" he whispered, relieved.

                "Yeah well, at least I'm alive." she smiled back at him.

Wildwing lay her down.

Zelda tried to get up again, but she winced and snarled under her breath. Tanya eased her back down and started checking her over.

                "Ouch Zel, what happened to you?" she asked, removing bits of metal claws and teeth from Zelda's scales.

                "Stupid robots nearly got me." Zelda panted. "When they caught up with me I played dead until the Seige and Wraith caught up. Then I jumped up and got away...."

                "And?" Duke asked. Zelda paused for a second and swallowed hard.

                "And I can't feel my leg." Zelda started.

Tanya pointed to the left leg, and Zelda nodded. Tanya gently lifted the leg with it's now ragged splint.

Zelda clamped her mouth shut suddenly to restrain herself from roaring in pain. "Now I can feel it!" she whined. She twisted in pain and clenched her teeth.

                "Yikes, it might be broken..." Tanya started.

Zelda calmed down and tried to breathe normally. "Set it and splint it if you can."

                "Okay." Tanya said, taking some sticks and ferns. She set the lower leg straight and splinted it very firmly. "Better?" she asked.

                "Yeah... thanks a lot." Zelda said, wiping her brow.

                "Well, you did the job in driving the Saurians off." Wildwing said.

                "But for how long?" Mallory asked. Wildwing thought.

                "I don't know." he said. "But it just might be good enough to get us back to the hotel." The team nodded and slowly prepared to leave. Still sore from last night's action, they knew they were going to have to make this venture accurate. Mallory was well enough to walk by now.

Grin placed Zelda gently on his shoulder.

                "Wildwing, I think we should move one at a time. If we're distanced apart and found, then the rest of us will have time to run." Mallory suggested.

                "Yeah, run away, but no time to help. We have to protect the group, not put it at risk sweetheart." Duke said.

                "What about going just ten minutes apart? That way we can keep our distance and can have time to help." Tanya suggested.

                "Yeah, that'll work." Wildwing said. "I'll go first. From now on, no com calls. If you've got trouble, use the silent alarm." The team nodded as Wildwing crept out of the cave, and into the forest, alone.

                Tanya breathed heavily as she crouched down low in the ferns. Looking at her AutoTracker, she saw Wildwing in the lead, and Grin moving ahead of her at a steady pace, with Nosedive trailing behind. Mallory had just started out from the cave, and Duke was the last, yet to leave. Tanya stood again and continued. Climbing over the wet brush and fallen logs was a chore. She had taken the given path of terrain and tried to ration and conserve her energy, but found it hard. She was sore. Creeping along, she recognized a rise in the landscape: where they had regrouped the night before before heading to the cave! Happily, she started on, but suddenly froze as she heard rustling near her. Slowly crouching down again, she peeked through the brush, and sighed with relief. It was only a little raccoon. She watched it silently as it came closer, noting the stripes, the bushy tail, the mottling on the forepaws. But wait, raccoons weren't supposed to look like that...

                Grin stood up slowly. He suddenly sensed something different about the forest. Evil. Zelda whined softly. Suddenly, he saw a split-second glint of red light a very far ways off in the forest. He activated the silent alarm on his com, and turned around, proceeding back at a slightly quicker pace.

                Duke's head shot up as the silent alarm glowed on his com. The others must be in trouble! He quickly unsheathed his saber and leapt out of the cave. As he started running, he felt something close in around him, like a vice across his stomach, holding him. Duke looked down in alarm to see Siege's muscular orange arms grabbing him from behind. But Duke's arms were still free. He grabbed his saber with both hands and hacked down hard on one of Siege's wrists. Seige roared and let him go. Duke stumbled away, gasping for breath, trying to regain his footing in the loamy earth. Seige recovered quickly, swiveling around and punching Duke flat in the chest. Duke flew backwards and hit a tree. He sunk to the ground and slowly started to recover himself, reaching for his saber. But Seige loomed over him already, blood dripping off of one of his hands.

                Tanya cried out and struggled to get free. The thick ropes that bound her hands were heavy. She ducked quickly as a puck flew over her head. Nosedive darted out of the brush on the edge of the clearing in which Tanya sat, fired, and dove quickly again. Wraith and the Chameleon stomped around in a circle to protect their prize. Tanya seethed. She couldn't believe that she had fallen for the stupid look-like-a-cute-litte-animal-and-then-turn-into-The-Chameleon-and-capture-her trick. She kicked out with her foot and tripped him as he circled her.

Chameleon spat leaves out of his mouth and rolled up, eyes nearly burning with fury.

Tanya suddenly froze with fear.

                "You wanna drop the gloves and go featherbrain?" he cried. He took his laser and shoved it into the side of her head hard. "Lessee if you're laser proof!"

Tanya yelped and squinted her eyes shut, bracing herself for the blow... But she heard nothing but a loud thud and an "Oomph!" She quickly opened her eyes to see Chameleon skidding across the clearing, and Grin standing next to her. He bowed, placed Zelda down beside Tanya, and ran head-on into the fighting. Tanya saw Zelda was pretty weak. She struggled to her feet and whined softly.

                "Come on Zelda, gemme free!" she said.

Zelda clamped her jaws around the rope and pulled backwards. The ropes lifted, but didn't do much else. Zelda twisted her head 90 degrees and tried again, shaking her head and gnawing. She snarled in frustration and pain as she did so. This was going to take some time.

As for Tanya, she rolled left and right, trying to help Zelda, keeping her eyes on the flurry of the fight. She hoped the others would get here soon....

                Mallory cocked her head, suddenly halting in her tracks.

                "What the..." she started. Her AutoTracker showed Grin, Dive, and Tanya at the site of the silent alarm, with Wildwing close by. But Duke was still behind her, standing still. What was keeping him? Mallory thought hard for a minute. But there was no time. She turned tailfeather and ran backwards.

                Duke held his saber readily in front of him as he stood up slowly, leaning on the tree for support so he could keep his eyes (or eye) on Seige.

Seige wrenched his laser from its holster.

With one fluid swat, Duke swung his saber upwards, shearing the gun in half. Siege snarled in frustration and rage, throwing the two pieces of sparking metal on the ground and storming forwards. Duke backed up quickly, thrusting daringly at him to try and keep him back. Suddenly, Siege lashed out and grabbed the sword by the blunt of the blade, ripping it out of Duke's hand and throwing it away. Duke clenched his hand in pain. Before he could react further, Seige turned around and raised his club tail high, cocking it at a strange angle. Duke started to run, he looked back to see Seige striking at him like a cobra with his tail. Suddenly Duke felt an incredible pain in his side, as if he had been  shot. He cried out and fell back against a treetrunk. He looked up in fear to see Seige storming towards him, blood on one of the spikes of his tail. He raised his tail again gleefully as Duke gripped his left side in pain.

                "It's time to play featherball!" he yelled, and swatted his tail like a baseball bat, knocking Duke in the left side again. The blow knocked the duck off of his feet. He landed and rolled to a stop, laying still on the forest floor. "Whoo, home run!" Seige giggled and turned to continue. Suddenly, he felt someone tapping him on the shoulder. Seige spun around.

                "Can I play too?" Mallory asked. She punched him square in the jaw.

Seige stumbled backwards and tried to swipe at her, but Mallory agily dogded him. She swung her leg about in a wide arc and kicked him hard in the side of the head. He rolled away, groaning, and lay still, unconscious.

"Now that's a grand slam." Mallory grinned, dusting off her hands. She wanted to kill Seige right then and there, but she had seen Duke hit. She left Siege to his humiliation and kneeled beside Duke, who still hadn't moved. "Duke?" she asked. He groaned in response. "Duke, it's okay, I'm here." She grabbed his right arm and pulled him up into a sitting position. Duke's head hung down doggedly over his chest. She crouched down and put his right arm over her shoulder. Duke groaned in pain as she raised herself up again, taking him with her. She didn't care how much it hurt Duke now, she had to get him out of here. Siege could wake up any minute. But where to take him? There was always the possibility that the others had been captured. Mallory decided to ditch it. "Duke. Listen to me." she ordered him. "I'm going to get you to the others, but you're going to have to help me walk, okay?"

Duke didn't open his eyes. He swallowed hard and nodded slightly.

Mallory shouldered his weight and walked off quickly.

                                                                                To be continued....