Dragons by Jumo (click link to download. will be most effectively opened in word)
Many of times in the ages of past, the mere sight of the dragon would strike hatred into the thoughts of all those who witnessed its might and greed. The blue fire of the beasts had often been in inflicted on the homes and villages of peasants, to extract their most precious treasure, gold. Jewels also served as a target in plundering, for to the dragon, it was the most useful in the matter of protection. A thick coat of scales covers the soft hide of a dragon, providing an invincible shell, made from a connection of tightly linked, spiky scales. Little was known about the dragon but many formulated methods of killing them. Among those methods stood the technique of attacking the weak underside of a dragon, but through internal communication, somehow the beast had figured out how to combat their weakness, through lying on jewels to fuse them into the thin scales of their stomachs. Altogether, the deadly elements combine into a mixture of fire, steel and hunger for pillaged wealth, to form the creature they call, a dragon.
A low and constant thrumming sound relentlessly laid a sheet of fine rain and gloom atop the minds of the knights and sailors as their great boat weaved through the waves. Ward, a common knight who accompanied the warrior group on their quest, was braced on the deck with sword in hand staring out into the unmarked path of water to their destination. His expression was grim with anger and fear, a combination of emotions that grew under the strong weather of the sea on which he traveled. Ward was sure most of the other knights felt the same, coming from the same situation as he. But in the case of the volunteering commoners, the fierce ride and impending task had probably shaken most of the anger out of the mix.
Every meek and echoing clap of thunder stirred awareness; all thoughts were of the past and future and straying from the present. The memories of the pillage in Wards village were recalled many of times as the men drifted farther towards the target. Days ago, the very same men that were on the ship had been sleeping in their houses, tired by the day’s work. Then the calm was suddenly disturbed as a giant of a shadow suddenly loomed over and through the village. The next moment was filled with screams and smoke.
Ward wanted to run screaming out of the boat and franticly swim toward the dragon’s lair, but knew that it would be in vain, for the waves grew larger by the second and the ocean was teaming with sharks. All he could do was wait and constantly replay the previous assault and the way in which he would slay the dragon, while listening to the clanking of rain on armor. Ward had chosen a thin armor set, as did most of the other knights. The farmers had none, not having a reason until now to own a suit. Besides the knights and farmers, archers sat on the sides of the boat talking amongst themselves about strategy and marksmanship, they had heavy armor which was not usual, considering the average battle, but this raid was neither average nor usual. The archers had a goal of hitting long rang, as the swordsmen would strike while the beast swooping. Fire was not a problem thanks to a luckily aimed bucket of water during the village raid. The dragon would not be able to use his flames for another week, which was why it was so important to strike before the chance had passed; no other time in the history of dragons had the opportunity been available.
A long time passed before there any sight of land, but days after the beginning of their voyage, the men caught a slight glimpse of movement through the fog and rain, getting closer every time a wave rolled into the sea to reveal what was behind. But there was neither word nor form of speech, only the looks of determination and the feeling of renewed vigor.
Multiple thick and stony thorns rose out of the haze, reaching as far as the clouds and slightly beyond. The Dry Island, many travelers had told of such a marvel but it was believed to be nothing more than a myth. An island made solely of solid rock, known to span farther than the average quarry ever would and also the perfect environment for the vastness of a dragon. Puddles of hardened molten were spread throughout the island and had been noticed to glow as the ship maneuvered closer. Ward could imagine the island while the dragon still had fire, more than likely it was filled with white hot molten puddles that had been a target for the lonely dragon, but now that it didn’t have such advantages only old piles could be found, although still hot enough to melt skin.
Hours later, the island was fully in view and the group could make out what appeared to be a cave. The captain made the decision to scout the land before attack, sending four of the most stealthily skilled farmers in an old row boat. They covered the distance of water with no trouble and embarked out into the island. As they disappeared behind the sparse jungle of stone, Ward wondered what exactly they were going to discover, the next few moments would determine whether they would live or die. He thought about the latter and drifted into a deep thought process, until a frighteningly and sudden scream echoed across the water from the island. Sweat beaded down Wards head and he drew his sword, as did the others. Archers quickly silenced their conversations and whipped arrows out and onto their bows. All eyes and weapons were pointed at the island of stone, but only silence ensued. Then when all hope had faded three pale skinned farmers emerged from the grey. They dove into the boat and quickly started to row. Men rushed to the side and pulled the scouts up onto the wood and laid them down to catch their breath. The captain barreled across the deck, pushing aside the group.
“What happen? What did you see?” He spouted the questions out in breathless succession. One of the farmers tried to sit up, men rushed to help him.
“Foot prints… small… two of them,” The farmer couldn’t properly get the words out fast enough before they were drowned out by a deafening roar. A cluster of boots thumped on the wooden deck of the ship as the men turned to find the source. A silhouetted beast stood at the entrance of the stone cage, with a wide span of wings spread as if to hide a secret that it kept in the cave. Its scales glistened in the dull light, rain running through the intricate pattern only to evaporate near the beast’s stomach with a harsh fizzle. Thunder bellowed through the sky, volume dwarfed by the dragons own thunder. Lightning followed, illuminating the scowling face of the dragon, its sharp teeth bared, pointed ears slicked back and dark eyes burned yellow and red like an intense, blazing fire. Ward’s face remained neutral as a single, lone thought crossed his mind. I will kill this beast, or I will die trying.
Fwip! Another arrow darted toward the red disk. It crashed into the flying object and continued into the woods, hitting a tree.
“Very good, that’s the tenth in a row. Let’s try another,” Tark motioned with his hand as he spoke, “There’s always room for more practice.”
Ward nodded, already drawing the next projectile into his bow, “Yes sir,” He replied simply. The Master threw a disk into the air with a flick of his wrist. Ward pointed his weapon ahead of the target waiting for the right moment. His estimation was proved correct as pieces of the red disk scattered across the grass.
Tark nodded his approval, “Your skill has grown considerably, and honestly I have never seen so many disks be broken on account of a single bow.”
“Thank you sir,” Ward bowed calmly, although on the inside he was rejoicing. Complements were scarce around the master, and Ward valued every one. But he couldn’t help but question…
“Yes son, what is it?”
Ward rubbed his foot in the dirt, knowing the subject he was about to enter, “I still don’t understand… I mean… well… why do we have to train, it kinda seems… well, irrelevant,” Ward bit his lip and stared at his boots, not quite sure what would come next.
Tark smiled, “Do not fear, I understand. But I’m not sure I can correctly answer your question, Ward. The nature of my insistence in training is almost as much a mystery to you as it is to me. Although, I do know one thing, your skills will not go to waste, every single session and lesson you have received will be vital. Never the less do not doubt yourself, my belief is that you will succeed. Your skills are far above the average man,” He handed Ward the retrieved arrow, “You may go home now, I feel confident you have surpassed the required level of marksmanship.”
“Yes sir,” Ward noticed the weapon in his hand and tried to hand it to Tark, but the master just pushed it back.
“You will need these, keep them.”
Obvious surprise sprung onto Ward’s face, but he didn’t voice his nagging question. He noticed that Tark didn’t look at all like he usually did; the expression was alien to his face, the expression of worry. Ward studied the intricate designs on the wood with his hand and spoke the last words he ever would to his master, “Yes sir.”
The concept of haste was never very familiar to Tark. His knowledge of the impending events far surpassed the knowledge of others, but this did not bring him contentment, in fact, the longer he had to wait to share the information, the more frantic he became. Hence his speed in flight up the palace stairs. Villagers stopped their work to stare and point, but Tark kept his pace, knowing well the dependence of safety on his current task.
Red and breathing heavily, Tark crested the last step and stopped for a minutes rest, then jogged the rest of the way to the guarded entrance. It was late and the guards were slumped against the wall, asleep. Tark didn’t stop to alert them, but instead entered without permission. Soon he was within the royal chambers in which sat upon a cushioned thrown, the king. A guard rushed to break Tark’s progress, but he underestimated the old fellow’s skill. Tark swiped a foot under the incoming guard and maneuvered the man’s falling body into the air and behind him. The armored warrior crashed into the marble floor and slid a small distance while groaning and trying to figure out what exactly had happen. The noise echoed, causing the ruler to turn.
“Ah, Tarkis back so soon? I Thought I told…” he started but was interrupted.
“Listen king, I know what you said. I’m giving you one more chance to do what I suggest, whether you like it or not, it’s happening. Don’t be foolish, do not refuse me. Your people will die, and all because of you and your ego,” Tark spit the words rapidly, there was not much time left, and the next few seconds that the king had to concede could save the lives of many in the village.
“If you know what I say, then why do you bother me with your phony predictions once again? What you say is false.”
These few words struck Tark, he knew it was over. The mind of the king was static, resistant to his suggestions. It was truly over.
Ward tilted his head to view the sky, it was dark, of course, but with an unnatural tint of red. He hardly noticed it and resumed his short journey through the woods, following a worn dirt path that would eventually lead to his cottage. Speckles of dim light marked the ground, along with the darkly colored leaves of the bare trees. The recent events pressed heavily on Ward’s mind, as he silently passed between the trees. He wondered what the master had meant when he spoke of the “impending menace” he so often mentioned. Maybe Tark himself didn’t know. That’s the impression Ward got when they spoke of it, but there was something else, something the master wasn’t telling him. Ever since Tark had first mentioned it to Ward, he had been unusually alert. Somehow, Ward even had the feeling that he already knew what was going to happen, but couldn’t quite touch the thought, it was as if the notion was tucked deep in the corner of his mind and only emerged when Ward was most unaware. It was maddening.
As the light faded, Ward quickened his pace. Whatever was going to transpire would be soon. Suddenly, Wards senses sharpened, as if he had just woken. He had the urge to stray from the path and into the woods. His feet disobeyed Ward’s commands to resist and he ran head long into the thick darkness of the trees. Objects whizzed past Wards vision, trees, bushes… Wait! The command seemed to work as Ward stumbled and crashed in the scattered leaves. In a daze, He squinted to see through the blurry and dark world his eyes displayed. As his vision cleared, Ward gasped, for there was a small clearing before him and in it, stood his master, Tark.
The wind abruptly exploded into a flurry of swirling leaves; covering Ward’s view of Tark. He stood and swiveled his head to inspect the twirling tube of leaves. They seem to be revolving around him. Suddenly, a great torrents of air forced his eyes shut, shoving him back to the forest floor. As Ward’s senses recovered, he noticed a change in the atmosphere. He was no longer in the woods, but instead in his village. Although, this was not the way he was used to seeing it. The wooden huts and cottages were blackened, with dark lumps lying on the ground. A single flame lingered on the wall of the ruined remains of a hut. Ward cautiously crept to the glow, instincts blaring. Next to the burnt wall, lay a motionless lump, much like the others spread across the ground. Ward identified the lump as cloth. He reached out to touch the dark material, but hesitate. Ward forced his hand forward, the lump was cold, but not the kind of cold normally experienced, this particular chill could be described as void of heat, or just void. It was also contagious, as Ward noticed, stiffening. He shifted the cloth, flipping it around to face upward. A pair of wide eyes stared up at Ward, unblinking and as dull as a clouded moon. Ward once again stumbled backwards. Holding his stomach; he barfed into a pile of burnt wood.
After emptying his stomach onto the ground, Ward wiped his mouth with his sleeve and staggered into a cornering one of the collapsed huts. He closed his eyes, trying to clear the image from his memory.
When Ward was calmed, he opened his eyes and glanced between his crossed arms. The village was gone. In its place lay once again the scene of a dark night in the woods. Except this time, Tark was gone. Ward lay stunned by the swiftness of the past minute. He broke from the paralysis when he realized what the vision meant. What Tark had told him, was happening.