Climbing, Climber, Mountain, Climb, Adventure, Sport

The remnant of the assault team made their way across the battlement.  The feint and its discovery had bought them time, but they needed to be quick.  Senior Trooper Hij took command being the senior surviving warrior following the ascent and initial encounters, but he quickly asserted authority over his nine remaining comrades.

“This is the tower,” he said in a whisper.  He and Trooper Ama were just try the entry door when it suddenly opened. 

There was a prolonged moment in which the young guard from within, carrying a pot of hot tea to the defenders on the battlements, stared in shock at the assault team.  The just has he began to call out, Ama severed his throat with a single stroke of his dagger. 

“We’re in then,” Hij said in a low voice, and he and his men entered the dimly lit passageway.   The passed two closed doors and then stood at a stairwell.

“If this map is right, we need to go down two flights and then we will be next to the Royal Chamber,” Hij said, and weapons in hand they made their way downwards, leaving Ama to watch their escape route. 

Hij and the others passed the next landing and a sailor named Ali was left to watch for any unwanted interruption from that level. 

Hij’s team then came to the floor where the Royal Chamber was.  Hij used a small hand mirror to peer around the corner.  There, outside an intricately carved doorway, were two sentries in the livery of the Sultan’s Guard. 

Hij turned to his remaining squad and held up two fingers.  Three members of the assault team returned their blades to their sheaths and took small crossbows from their backs.  His then pointed to one of the men and mouthed the word “right,” and then to another, mouthing “left.”  He then mouthed “misses,” indicating that the third man should reserve his shaft to complete the task.

“On three,” Hij mouthed and began a countdown on his fingers.

At the indicated moment the three crossbowmen rounded the corner and first two loosed their shafts.   Both struck home expertly.  But just as access to the chamber seemed assured, the sound of several sets of feet could be heard coming up the stairs from below. 

Hij and the five men with him on the stairway turned to meet the threat, and the crossbowman who had yet to loose stepped back into the landing in time to shoot the lead newcomer in the forehead as he mounted the stairs.  Six other men in the uniform of the Sultan’s Guard immediately rushed forward, while a seventh scurried downwards to sound the alarm. 

A melee soon ensued on the stairs, and as the original two crossbowmen struggled to reload, the door to the Royal Chamber opened and three additional Guardsmen emerged scimitars in hand.  The first bowman loosed a partially cranked charge into the first of these, and then swung at another with the weapon.  This was easily knocked aside, and the Guard cleft into the archer with an overhand cut. 

The second crossbowman dropped his weapon, and drew a dagger which he managed to drive into the belly of the Guard who had dispatched his comrade.  He then rolled and snatched the scimitar of the Guard he had just gutted.  In a brief encounter, both the remaining Guard and the crossbowman collapsed with mortal wounds which they had inflicted on each other.

On the stairway, Hij noted the outcome of the engagement outside the Royal Chamber and then ordered his men to make a fighting retreat up the stairs in the direction they had come.  On reaching the next floor they found that Seaman Ali had managed to close the door to that level and then use some pitons from his pouch to hold the door shut.  He joined them in the retreat as they passed, dropping one of the pursuing Guards himself with a thrown knife. 

By the time Hij reached Ama’s position only three of his other men remained.

“Run to the ropes,” Hij shouted.

Only he, Ali, and Ama managed to repel to the ground.  The others being either killed, or captured and later executed.

The mission to assonate the Pretender had failed.




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It was a place steeped in Elf-lore.  The Blue House was a place of refuge, and within its walls no harm would befall those seeking its sanctuary.  

Hellon had always doubted the existence of the house.  After all it was preposterous that a glowing blue building would materialise at the place in which one found themselves in greatest need.   No need to seek it, it would find you.  No, Hellon thought.  Even magic doesn’t work that way. 

That was before the Ogre attack which had killed his two best friends, and left Hellon himself fleeing blindly into the dense forest.  His shattered collar bone made any additional resistance on his part nearly impossible, and jolting pain shot threw his shoulder with every step he took.

To make matters worse, the Ogre could be heard roaring behind him.  It was not endevouring to run him down, but merely kept pace with Hellon to ensure that he ran himself to exhaustion.

Suddenly there was a blue glow in the woods, and the trees gave way to an intricately designed pathway which led to a sturdy house emblazoned with a blue tree at its gable end.

Preposterous or not, Hellon jogged onwards to the threshold.




Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #81


Crowning Glory


Unicorn, Forest, Fairy Tales, Mystical


Dora was the plainest maiden in all the kingdom.  Some even said that she was ugly.  It was precisely that fact that led to her retaining her virtue far beyond the time in which it was relinquished by her peers.

This purity, however, was also her crowning glory, for she could see and converse with unicorns.

“Oh, I wish I was as beautiful as you,” she said to Daisy, one day.

“And I wish I had your lovely voice,” the unicorn replied.

They were suddenly transformed, but Dora could tell no one – for she had become a little horse.




Flash Fiction Challenge


Willow’s Key

skeleton key surround with dry leaves

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

“It was here.  I had it my hand just a moment ago,” Rosemartin said kicking among the twigs and leaves on the forest floor.

“You’ve done it now,” Nettleblossom taunted.”

“You should hush and help me find it,” Rosemartin demanded.

“You’re the one that lost it,” Nettleblossom said accusingly.  “Why should I look for it?”

“Because, if we don’t find it, we can’t open the cellar.”

“Good point, but I’m helping only because I want some honey cakes,” Nettleblossom retorted.

Rosemartin and Nettleblossom often squabbled, though they were the best of friends.  This time it was different though, as Rosemartin had lost the key to the cellar beneath the old honey-elm where the Fey folk stored their harvest.

“Doesn’t Willow have a spare?” Nettleblossom asked after an unproductive search.

“Yes, but she will be angry all the same,” Rosemartin replied.

“She’s always cross,” Nettleblossom retorted.  “So what difference will it make?”

Rosemartin choked back a giggle and then said, “She won’t give us honey cake.  That’s the difference.”

As the two Brownies bickered, a boy of about five years of age arrived and they barely had time to duck behind a bramble thicket to avoid detection.

The lad looked curiously at the freshly disturbed forest floor.  He had noticed that squirrels left similar traces when the buried or retrieved nuts.  The boy looked up into the canopy to see if he spied any squirrels.  While he didn’t see any, the notion of nuts now was firmly in his mind, so he began to forage through the leaves to see if he could find any.

While no nuts were forthcoming, a small bright brass key did catch his attention.  He bent down and picked it up, and without a second glance popped it into his pocket and headed back in the direction from which he had come.

“Quick – we should follow it,” Nettleblossom said.

The Brownies began darting back and forth between trees, keeping pace with the boy.  They were forced to come to an abrupt halt, however, when two large hounds came bounding through the woods to join the lad.

“What should we do now?” Rosemartin whispered.

Nettleblossom swiftly placed her hand over her companion’s mouth to silence her as one of the dogs stopped and cocked its ears in their direction.

A moment later the beast turned and sprinted after the boy and the other dog.

“We – we will tell Willow that – that the child stole the key from us, and that we barely escaped.  That’s what we will ‘do now’,” Nettleblossom instructed.

“I don’t know Nettles, it sounds a bit unbelievable to me.”

“Was the key ours?” Nettleblossom asked.

“Yes.  Sort of,” Rosemartin replied.

“And does that child have ‘our’ key?”


“Then the child has stolen our key,” Nettleblossom concluded.

The plan thus hatched, the Brownies left to face the wrath of Mistress Willow.







The Man At The Spring


image: ebay

Keeli sat by the side of the springs and played with the wooden horse that his uncle had made for him.  It was a bright summer day, and turquoise dragonflies flitted about.  Suddenly both dogs’ ears perked, and Dunder stood up and faced the treeline.  Dunder let out a low growl and his ears swept back.  Almost at the same instant Blisser rose to join him and assumed a similar stance.


A moment later a man with a prominent nose and a long forked beard emerged from the trees.  He wore a green cloak and coarse brown britches, much like those worn by the Nordlanders.  As he advanced he applied fire to end of a long white stick that he had in his mouth.  Dunder began to show his teeth and to growl louder.  The man responded by drawing his breath deeply through the white stick, and then blew a cloud of blue-grey smoke in the direction of the dogs, both of which immediately lay down and fell asleep.


The man was shorter than Father or Uncle, and had very jerky mannerisms.  But Keeli wasn’t alarmed when the man came and sat opposite him at the spring.   The fellow leaned towards the lad and poked his large pointed nose in his direction sniffing deeply, then cocked his head sideways with a puzzled expression on his face.


“Are you a boy child, or a girl child?” the man asked, and though Keeli did not recognise a single word that the man uttered, he nonetheless understood his question.


“I am a boy,” Keeli said.  “Mother says I am nearly a man, as I am almost five.”


“A boy child, and five,” the strange man said distractedly to himself.


“My Cousin April is a girl,” the lad volunteered.  “But she is just a baby.”


“A girl child, a babe,” the man mumbled.


After a pause, the man asked, “What do you have there, Boy-child?”


“It’s a horse.  My Uncle Hal made it.”


“May I see it?” the man said reaching a knurled, liver spotted had towards the boy.


Keeli handed the man the toy, and the stranger turned it over in his hands several times before returning it to the lad.


The man tapped some charred substance from a little bowl on the end of his white stick, and then refilled the bowls with brown fibres from a little pouch on his belt.  He then reached behind his ear, and a small flaming stick appeared between his fingers.  He lit the fibres and drew a deep breath through the stick before blowing smoke into the boy’s face.  It tickled his nose, but the scent was not unpleasant.  Then Keeli became very weary, and put his head down on the rock next to the spring.


It was very late afternoon when he awoke, and the two hounds stood watch over him.  Was it all a dream? he wondered. But then he noticed that his wooden horse was gone, and that an exact replica of it in silver was in its place.



The Dragon Hunter Part 5

Dragon, China, Chinese, Asian, Culture, Decoration


“Hows-bout you let’n us loose, and we will make you that there head?”  the Dwarf replied.

“Sounds fair.  My name is Wilfred by the way.”

“Runny – and there won’t be no laugh’n mind – or you won’t get no bleed’n head. Runny Roundbottom.  That’s my name.”

Wilfred choked back a chuckle, and did his best quench his smile.  “Good to meet you Runny.”  The rusty page then began to undo the lead Dwarf’s chains. He then handed Runny the key.

“Not like you folk to trust a Dwarf,” Runny observed.

“How do you mean?” Wilfred inquired.

“Most of you lot woulda insisted on gett’n the head first, then let us go – or not.  After all there’s seven of us, and only one of you.”

“Well are you a Dwarf of your word?” Wildred asked.

Runny scratched his beard and then after a moment said, “S’pose I am.  So let’s be see’n to that there head.”

It was actually an intriguing spectacle to watch the Dwarfs design and fashion the head.  They used several pieces of armour to replicate scales, and several dozen knives and daggers to form teeth.  In the end, the huge head looked every bit the full sized replica of the figure that adorned the crest of Hanon.

“Here’s what I propose,” Wilfred said as Runny presented him with the finished head.  “You lot can do as you like, but it would be more effective if you came with me to the border.  Before we get there, you can send a couple of your lads to get the attention of folks on the other side of the frontier so we have witnesses.  Then I will smear soot on my face and armour and arrive to the checkpoint with the head.  I will say that I slew the dragon, but my map for where I was supposed to claim my reward got burned-up in the battle.  Then you, Runny, can say you witnessed the whole thing, and demand that I get my reward right there and then, as I rescued you and your comrades from the beast.  The Hannies, as you call them, will have to pay up, and I will present them with the head and we will split the reward.”

“What if they say the head’s a fake?” Runny objected.

“They can’t afford to,” Wilfred pointed out.  “If they do, then their whole dragon farce will be exposed, especially once they see you are free.  They can’t risk war with the other nations, as they aren’t prepared enough yet, and there are going to be some angry folks in the Sultanate and Kingdom if they find out that the Hannies have murdered their heroes.”

“I s’pose you’re right there,” Runny said as he thoughtfully tugged on his beard.

Let us just say that Wilfred’s plan played out exactly as he envisioned.  In fact, one of the witnesses was a prominent Nordlandian duke who had just arrived to try his hand at dragon-slaying himself.

In the end, young Wilfred was rich, the Dwarfs were free, and the legend of the Dragon Hunter was born.




























Playful Flashes

Girls, Women, Dame, Noble, Park, Forest, Road, Green


Firefly? Lightening Bug?

Or are you a will-o’-wisp?

Why do you beckon me thus –

Away from pathways – that I trust?

Do you wish me malevolence?

Or do you have fair intent?

I shall remain here within the gaze

Of my sister – always wise

And resist your playful flashes

Which may be malice in disguise.





The Dragon Hunter Part 4

Dragon, Zodiac, Chinese, Culture, East, China, Oriental


As Wilfred entered the flickering glow, he discovered that the passage was lined with an assortment of high quality, state of the art armour.  There was no coherent pattern as far as he could detect.  There seemed to be Nordlanic, Ralulee, and Kingdom styles, yet each bore the rearing dragon sigel of Hanon.  As he slowly passed these, there was an  occasional roar, as if a great burst of breath was being released.  These bursts echoed through the cavern.  Each of them was accompanied by a momentary increase in the brightness of the passage.  At the last of these, he noted a bunk wedged in among the racks of armour and weapons.  On the bunk rested the other sentry, a blindfold of sorts shielding his eyes from the periodic flashes of scarlet light, as he slumbered.

Wilfred wasted no time, but quickly repeated the procedure whereby he had captured the other guard.  The man thus incapacitated, Wilfred rounded a bend in the tunnel towards the sound of the incessant metallic pounding.

What he discovered was a group of Dwarves working a huge set of bellows and working anvils on which they were affixing dragon crests to armour, or replicating weapons in the styles of those Wilfred had seen in racks.

“Who are you, Boy?” one burly Dwarf snapped, “and where are the guards?”

“Guards?” Wilfred repeated.  It was only then that he noticed that the Dwarves were shackled.  “I – I um – tied them up.”

“Well then what are you wait’n for?” the lead Dwarf challenged.  “Come and unlock us.”

“But, I don’t have a key,” Wilfred replied.  “Why don’t you just use your tools to break out?”

“Why don’t you just use your tools?” the Dwarf mocked.  “Why didn’t we think a-that? Becuz the chains is bleed’n magic ain’t they?” the Dwarf spat.  “Why don’t you go and fetch the bloody key?” the Dwarf said coldly.

Wilfred hurried back to the bunk, and there on a hook was a key with mysterious runes on it.  He went back to the Dwarves, and held it up.

“Yes -yes.  That’s it,” the lead Dwarf said, “So get on with it.”

“First, tell me where the dragon is,” Wilfred insisted.

“There ain’t no bleed’n dragon, you dunce,” the Dwarf responded.  “It’s all a ruze. A ploy.  Them Hannies made up the bloom’n dragon caper so they could steal the armour and weapons to equip their army.  This place ain’t got no iron to speak of, and no good smitties that’s for certain. So they lure heroes ‘ere and ambush ’em.  That’s how they got me and the lads as well.  But they kept us alive to do their dirty work.  The rest they strip, then toss in the furnace – just long enough to char them – mind.  Then they take the bodies back to the border to build up their dragon yarn.  Now, about the bloom’n key.”

“I will let you go, but I need you to do something for me first,” Wilfred said.

“And what might that be?” the lead Dwarf asked with a huff.

“I want you to make me a dragon’s head.”




Mamude The Younger


The open sky stretched from sand to horizon and the riders advanced on the oasis.  The day would be blistering, and young Captain Mamude knew he would need to make the most of the shade and waters in their brief stop here if he had any hope of getting his prisoners to the Protector before midweek.

Eri Mamude was a competent officer, and he carried on in his family’s long tradition of service and loyalty to the Sultanate.  His father had been Chamberlin to the late monarch, and he himself had shown so much promise that he quickly rose to be a Band Leader, or Captain, in the elite Storm Riders.  His superiors universally trusted him and saw him as a safe pair of hands.   This was especially true to his commander, Ral the Protector.

Mamude was a slight built man, with large expressive eyes, but no one should have mistaken these “gentle” features as signs of weakness.  Mamude the Younger as he was often called had the heart of a lion and the stamina of a camel.

The civil war had caught him off guard.  His father had been implicated in the assassination of the Sultan, a crime he knew his father would have never committed, and he himself was under suspicion.   It was only because of the Protector of the North’s confidence in him that he had not been sent to Prince Yaqub to face the trial, and invariably a torturous death.

Before the full outbreak of war, Ral’s ability to protect him was limited, so his commander thought it expedient to send the young Eri to patrol the deserts.  Since the conflict had escalated and having already mastered the patrol routes, Mamude had continued on as an executive officer of the force sent to enforce the Ral’s emergency edict on the limiting of foreign interference in Ralulee affairs.

He now looked at his captives, and found them to be a far cry from the seasoned mercenaries which had been reported to him.  All were young, and even the oldest, the raven-haired woman in the Farlandian dress, was no older than thirty in his estimation.  They were, however, to be escorted under guard to the Ral for judgement.




First Line Friday: The open sky stretched from sand to horizon and the riders advanced on the oasis.

The Dragon Hunter Part 3

White Dragon Statue

Photo by Suraphat Nuea-on from Pexels

Wilfred led the donkey back over the crest of the hill and tethered it.   He then placed the feed bag in place to keep the beast quiet.  This accomplished, he crept back to his vantage point to observe what would unfold before him.

After about an hour, the officer who had met him at the border came out from the cave.  A subordinate greeted him with a salute, and a brief verbal exchange ended with the junior man giving a shrug.  The commander then gave an order and all but two of the would-be ambushers assembled in marching formation on the road and headed back to the frontier, with the officer following them on a white stallion which was fetched from the cave.

As the sun began to set the two remaining soldiers began to relax.  One loosened the chin strap of his helmet, and then settled down on the right hand side of the cave entrance, while his comrade a portly older fellow removed his helmet and went into the cave, loosening his breast plate as he went.

There was not much more moonlight than there had been the night before, but a steady reddish glow came from the cavern.  The wind had changed as well, and Wilfred caught the distinct scent of charcoal on the breeze, and snippets of the sound of rhythmic hammering.

About midnight, the chubby man returned to the cave mouth carrying his spear, but devoid of armour.  The other man removed his own helmet, and entered the red glow of the space within.

Within a half an hour the portly sentinel had fallen asleep, and his rumbling snores punctuated the night.  Though sleepy himself, Wilfred was determined not to pass up this opportunity to investigate the strange happenings at the cavern.

He crept silently towards the mouth of the cave.  Reaching the sleeping guard, Wilfred slipped behind him and covered the man’s mouth before he could react.  The man awoke with a start, but was immediately aware of Wilfred’s dagger that was held to his throat by Wilfred’s other hand.

Wilfred gagged the man and bound him with some cords he had in his pouch, and then threw the man’s spear as deeply into the dark woods as he could.

Although Wilfred was uncertain that the man could understand him, he nonetheless whispered, “My comrade in the woods will be watching you.  Don’t try anything stupid.” To Wilfred’s surprise, the terrified guard nodded his comprehension.

The rusty page then turned and stared into the flickering red unknown.