The Dragon Hunter Part 4

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

Pixabay

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.”

 

Padre

 

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.

 

Padre

 

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.

 

Padre

 

 

The Dragon Hunter Part 2

Dragon, Statue, Sculpture, China, Asian, Culture

Pixabay

Wilfred was no knight in shining armour.  He was in fact a slightly rusty page, but he was also astute. No not mustelid, but a clever and intuitive observer of the things around him.

When the young Wilfred arrived at the border on donkey-back, he was greeted by several raised eyebrows from the Hanonian guards.

“And what exactly are you after?” a overly self-important officer challenged.

“I have come to take care of your lizard problem,” Wilfred announced.

The officer turned and translated the comment, and it was greeted with a chorus of dismissive laughter.

“Very well,” the border official said.  He then directed Wilfred to make his mark in the log book.  Wilfred was then handed a map, and a sheet of paper with a set of directions written in Kingdom-tongue, Ralulee, and Nordlandish.

“And where will I go to collect my reward?” Wilfred asked.

The officer sneered and then said, “Why of course.  An oversight I assure you.”  The official then handed Wilfred another set of directions.

With the formalities accomplished, the rusty page turned his donkey towards the indicated destination.

What struck Wilfred as odd was that the road he was instructed to follow seemed very well travelled, with a marauding dragon at large and all.  But he followed the directions until nightfall and made camp a little way off the road in a pine glade.  He had expended his meagre supply of tinder on the long journey to Hanon.  After several failed attempts to start a fire, he wrapped himself in his cloak and fell asleep.

He was awakened in the small hours by what sounded like a large band of men travelling the road below him, but it being a moonless night he dismissed it as a dream and fell back into a deep slumber.

The next morning, he inadvertently took out the wrong map and began to try to find his way to the dragon’s grotto.  In so doing he became desperately lost.  It was several hours later that he noticed fresh signs of human activity in the wood.  As he crested a small rise, he saw the road that he had lost track of, and a huge cave with smoke emanating from it.  But what caught his attention most of all was the party of two dozen Hanonian soldiers lying in ambush with their eyes focused on the road.

Padre

 

The Dragon Hunter Part 1

Dragon, Animal, Creature, Drake, Beast

Pixabay

Though thought to be extinct for hundreds of years, reports of a great dragon had begun to circulate.  Far beyond the Wuhi Range, in the secretive Kingdom of Hanon, a call was made.  It seems that the pariah state had finally met a challenge its despotic ruler could not handle internally.

King Han III, whose grandfather had usurped control of what was then a minor Duchy, and once in power proclaimed it an independent realm, was in need of foreign aid.  The weakness of the mythology that the royal line was the embodiment of divinity was being tested to the full   Even though the fact that the people were largely starved, and that the kingdom lacked both natural resources and skills in metallurgy was an open secret.

Soon mercenaries arrived at the borders, each prepared to rid the realm of the great serpent.  But for all of their bravery, skill, and superior arms and armour, none returned from the dragon’s lair to collect their rewards.  At least until the day young Wilfred arrived.

 

Padre

 

Guardian

Viking, Warrior, Vikings, Sword

Pixabay

Ulias sat at the little guard table and rolled the dice.

“Eleven,” he declared triumphantly.

“Yeah, yeah,” he responded to himself, “Guess I win again,” he sighed, and picked up the dice and placed them in the cup.

He stood up and walked over to the calendar on the wall.  Only the Fourteenth, he mused, and stepped to the large sand-timer and watched the last few grains fall.  He flipped the timepiece over and went to the logbook.  Twelve O’Clock and all is well, he scribbled.

Two more hours and he could go wake Eriad.  What would that be, the seventieth time?  Ulias shock his head.  It wasn’t like it really mattered.  After all they were less than three months into their six-month watch.

He went to the cupboard that served as their pantry, and took out a loaf of crusty bread.  It crumbled as he cut himself a thick slice.  He glued the scattered chunks together with a butter and took a bite.  Three days old, but not bad, he thought.  Fresh loaf tomorrow if Eriad baked like he is supposed to.

His bread finished he walked over to the weapons stand and hefted a decorated battle axe.  It was a magnificent weapon, perfectly balanced and forged in dragon’s fire, they said.  He ran his finger over the runes which glowed blue in turn as his finger passed over them.

Returning the artifact to its place, he turned to the game table and frowned at the cards before him.  His hand was laid out perfectly, a sure sign that Eriad had been cheating again, as Ulias distinctly remembered leaving the third card sticking out above the other.

Just then a little bell tinkled.  Ulias turned and looked at the row of bells on the wire by the guard desk.  It was definitely the signal from the main passage.  He watched the bells waiting for the counter signal to be rung.  Nothing.

He tightened his breastplate and drew out the magic axe from the stand.  Finally something to do, he thought.  He then banged on the door of the sleeping chamber with the haft of the axe, “Eriad, get up!  We have company.”

 

Padre

 

Sunday Writing Prompt “Guardian”

 

Noontime Mishap

Pixabay

 

The twins, Haya and Laya made their way through the wooded hills.

“Mum said we should never come this way,” Laya scolded.

“But it’s a lot shorter, and it’s a hot day,” Haya retorted, adjusting the heavy bundle of supplies on her shoulder.

“But what about the Trolls?” her sister asked, taking a quick look around her as she uttered the word.

“Relax, it’s nearly noon, and Trolls sleep during the day.”

Laya was far from convinced, but accompanied Haya anyway.

Shortly afterwards, the sisters were passing through a little rill when Laya spied a pair of sleeping Trolls snuggled under a blanket of moss.  “Let’s get past here as fast as we can,” she whispered.

“Why should we?” Haya queried.  She then set down her bundle and began to make faces at the slumbering giants, just as the moon began to eclipse the sun.

 

Padre

(146 words)

Sunday Photo Fiction – Apr 5 2020

 

Terms and Conditions Apply

Genie

 

While beach-combing one day, I came across a rather battered, and tarnished oil lamp.  While I cleaning away some sand and seaweed, there was a whoosh-sound as a D’jinn materialised from the lamp.

“Oh Master, you have freed me from the curse of the lamp.  Now you will receive three . . . , ” the apparition began.

“Yada. Yada. Yada,” I interrupted. “I know the drill. . . .”

The D’jinn looked on quite confused as I continued, “. . . First, I want a complete list of terms and conditions, including explanations of all the small print.  These will include an exhaustive explanation of all probable consequences and repercussions, as well as a cost benefit appraisal.”

“Um, ah, hmmm,” the D’jinn muttered dumbfounded.

“Secondly,” I proceeded, “I would like an expert team of lawyers: local, international, and mystic, and in sufficient numbers to thoroughly examine the document provided in accordance with the aforementioned wish number one, to analyse and summarise the document within a time period not to exceed five years on the current agreed calendar.”

“Ahh,” the D’jinn gasped as I continued.

“The third wish I will defer to a later date while the above mentioned stipulations are scrutinised.”

“I hate Union officials,” the D’jinn said under his breath. “Yes Master, as you wish,” he said returning to the lamp.

Padre

Sunday Writing Prompt “Make a Wish”

 

The Bridge

Historical Odtwórstwo, The Middle Ages

Image by Michał Koper from Pixabay 

It had been a small engagement, and an unnecessary one.  Seventy men fought for a remote bridge that no one really wanted.  Both main armies were approaching each other forty miles upstream.  Even if they were closer to this position, it was unnecessary.  The summer had been dry and the river barely a trickle, especially at the ford which was a mere half mile away.  But fought they did.

The Bear Clan had gained the western approach to the crossing just before dawn. Thirty men, some as young as fifteen massed to block the Wolves’ advance.  Through the morning mist they could hear the quiet conversations of the forty Wolf-men as they approached, unaware of the Bear’s arrival on the span.

Without warning, or orders, young Kildrin let loose a shaft towards the advancing voices.  It fell well short, but served to bring the Wolve’s into battle array.

Forming a wedge the Wolves, led by the veteran Rithard Bonebreaker, mounted the eastern side of the narrow structure.  No more than four men could stand abreast, and that made wielding weapons next to impossible.  The result was a battle of attrition, with each side plugging the gaps of fallen comrades.

Though braced for the onslaught, the Bears had neither the numbers nor the experience to halt the Wolves in the end.

After nearly thirty bloody minutes, the eight remaining Bear-men broke and fled into the forest beyond, allowing the “invasion force” of the remaining seventeen Wolves to enter their lands.

Padre

RDP Friday – Remote

Destiny

 

House in Mountains

(Artist Juan C. Barquet)

Prompt: “It has been a long, exhausting day of walking through harsh mountain terrain. You’re cold, hungry, your muscles are aching, and the sun is about to set. Suddenly you come upon this place, nestled onto the top of a nearby peak. The windows are lit up with a friendly glow, and there is smoke rising from the chimney. The musk of burning wood that carries on the wind makes you long for warm, dry clothes, and a hot meal. But this is a strange place to live, remote and barren, with no good place to grow food, keep livestock, or even hunt for game. Who lives there, and how do they survive in this harsh climate?”

The chill was all the way to Horner’s bones.  He had been warned not to try the mountain pass after Krispert’s Day, but he was young and strong willed so of course ignored the warnings of his elders.

But now he saw the folly of his ways.  The pass had indeed been impossible to traverse and in his attempt to scale an ice sheet, he slid headlong into a ravine.  More flustered and frozen than injured, he tried to ascend the path of his fall, but found that too was impossible.  All he could do was try to work his way upwards on the parallel face of the ravine.

He found the climb easier than he had anticipated, and made good time. In his efforts, however, he failed to notice he had become further and further from his intended path.  In fact, he crested a totally unfamiliar peak.

It was then that he noticed a hint of wood smoke on the crisp mountain breeze.   Nestled nearly on top of the peak was a lone building.  The windows are lit up with a friendly glow, and there is smoke rising from the chimney. The musk of burning wood that carried on the wind made him long for warm, dry clothes, and a hot meal. But this was a strange place to live, remote and barren, with no good place to grow food, keep livestock, or even hunt for game. With night drawing in, and the lights seeming so welcoming, young Horner put the oddity of the place out of mind, however,  and made his way to the door of the dwelling.

Almost as soon as he set foot on the porch, the door opened and a bent, aged man stood before him.

“Come in from the cold, Friend,” the hermit beckoned.

Horner didn’t need to be invited a second time, and stomping the caked snow from his feet, he entered the warm tidily kept house.  A woman nearly as decrepit looking as the man was setting the table for four, and a young redheaded woman, about his age was huddled near the fire with a blanket wrapped around her.  Wet women’s clothes were on a wooden rack near the hearth, and a pair of soggy shoes steamed at the fireside.

“You are just in time,” the old woman said.  “I was a little worried that you might not find your way,” she added.

“Nonsense, Edie,” the old hermit said kindly.  “Young Horner here was always going to arrive today, Just like Rose over there.  Please excuse my wife, young man.  She’s always been a bit of a worrier.”

“How – how did you know my name?” Horner almost squealed as he jumped back from the old man.

“It’s destiny son,” the hermit replied.  “Been so for three hundred years.  Every fifty years, after the first major snow after Krispert’s, a couple arrives here to take over the care of the wayward travellers.  Tonight is your’s and Rose’s night. Edie and I will be moving on by morning.”

“Now you two young people come get a bite to eat, we have a lot to teach you in a single evening.  Rose you come sit next to Horner, you two should start to get to know each other,” the crone said with a kind smile.

Padre

Fantasy Art Friday