Today’s post is inspired by a TV show I’ve been watching, or re-watching, if you’ve read my previous post Living In A Story, and I suddenly got the idea, because of one particular episode, which sparked a memory about the Hobbit, and well, it spiralled from there.
Anyway, I won’t say anymore, because this one’s going to be a long one, depending on how this turns out!
It’s Time To Face That Dragon!
The trek up the mountain wasn’t as bad as the other soldiers said it was. In fact, Bailor scoffed at their stories. It felt more like his daily hike, than the treacherous journey the others described it as. Stopping for a breath, he turned back to watch his travelling companion, as she climbed over the boulder that shielded the forest path from view. She looked at home in the wilderness, her braids and their decorations made her seem more like a warrior nymph, than a hunter.
“We just need to pass this last ridge. The cave is at the very top. You won’t miss it,” she said. Her eyes were cast down, making sure her feet stepped where she wanted them to step. Of course, she already knew he was watching her. Years of hunting and living in the forest made Astrid more aware of what was around her, than her fellow men. In fact, it made her even more dangerous than the best soldiers, because she knew how to be quiet, especially when sneaking up on prey. The soldiers at the tavern even had a nickname for her, “The Silence”. It was an apt name too, since neither her breathing, nor her steps made a sound.
“Trying to get rid of me, are you? I thought you said this quest was a team effort,” Bailor remarked, returning his gaze towards the mountain path ahead. Sure enough, there were a few rock formations, beyond the ridge. Amongst those formations was a small crevice which was barely noticeable. Bailor squinted, trying to measure the crevice’s dimensions, “Are you sure the entrance is here? It doesn’t look like a cave opening to me. It looks like it’ll barely fit me, let alone a dragon.”
Finally catching up to him, Astrid heaved a great sigh, looking in the same direction he was, studying the cave’s entrance, tiredly, “That’s because the dragon doesn’t enter this way. We will, because he won’t expect it.”
Scoffing at her observations, Bailor turned to her, “You speak as if a dragon thinks.”
“It does.” Astrid’s tone brooked no argument, and her face was set in a stern expression, as memories washed over her like a tidal wave. She was very young when she encountered her first dragon. It was just a baby, barely learning how to fly, and Astrid couldn’t help but befriend him, just as any other would do with much tamer animals. She cared for him, just as it did for her. She called it Nightrunner, for the midnight coloured scales on its back.
They’d play together, hunt together and were essentially inseparable. They spent three years in good companionship, bringing killings to the local traders, for money and weapons. In those days, Astrid was called “The Dragon Tamer”, but after one particular incident, that title became redundant. A knight from the big city had arrived in town and started to stir up trouble about Nightrunner. What happened after was a blur to her, of trying to calm down the townsfolk and attempting to prove to them that he wouldn’t do anything to anyone, especially since there was no reason for him not to, but nobody would listen. They demanded his blood, and Astrid was helpless to stop them.
They’d tied her to a post, at the centre of their town square, luring Nightrunner to her, but it was a trap. They’d captured him, tortured him and eventually, at the hand of that very same knight, they’d killed him. It broke Astrid’s heart and she mourned him, to the point where she removed herself from the town altogether, preferring the relative safety of the forest, fashioning her own weapons and tools, so that she wouldn’t have to venture into the town, unless absolutely necessary. It had been five years to the day, and the memories still haunted her. Now, she was hunting another dragon, and this time she hoped she’d be able to save it from the same fate as Nightrunner’s. Perhaps it could live somewhere farther away, across the ocean, even, at the very least she hoped it could fly far away from the people she had to endure.
Astrid’s situation was lost to Bailor, as he watched her contemplate their trek ahead. He didn’t know her, but he knew about her. He knew she had once been called “The Dragon Tamer” and that she’d once owned a dragon herself, but the stories about it had been a mix of tales and opinions, and he wanted to know what exactly happened, but seeing the grief that lurked under the veneer of determination, he didn’t think it was the right time to ask. So, he decided to focus on their mission, returning his attention back to the crevice ahead, “I take it you have a plan to handle this then?”
Snapping out of her trip down memory lane, Astrid strode forward, not even glancing at the soldier beside her, “Just stick to me, and I’ll let you know what to do.”
Feeling slighted, Bailor halted in his steps. He reached out to his companion, and forced her to look at him, “Careful, girl, I am not a helpless citizen, in need of reminding. I’ve fought in many battles before, and I can assure you I can handle a dragon’s loot.”
Rolling her eyes at the obvious display of masculinity, Astrid, stepped up close to Bailor, invading his personal space “You forget, soldier,” she bit out, “we are not stepping into a battle. We are stealing from a dragon, who, unlike your king, knows something about honour. We are simply slipping into his vault, taking whatever it is your king wants, and leaving before it wakes up. There is no need to fight it, when all we’re doing is taking something from it.”
They stared at each other, daring the other to back down. When it was clear that Astrid was clear in her resolve, Bailor reluctantly released her. Not many of his fellow soldiers dared to speak to him like that, but then again, he was their commanding general, and very few had the courage to stand up to his unyielding commands. Impressed by her stubborn determination, he had no choice but to concede defeat, “Very well, but should we awake the beast…”
“Then I will deal with it.” Astrid started down the path again, already regretting her decision to help this man.
Taken aback by her relaxed attitude, Bailor frowned. In all his time as a general in the king’s army, he’d spent much time on missions like this one, and even witnessed the destruction a dragon could cause. It perplexed him how this slip of a woman could handle a dragon by herself, when it took at least ten men to fell the creature, the last time he encountered one, “It is a dangerous beast. It’ll attack and kill you the moment it can get to you. How do you intend to ‘deal’ with it?”
Reining in her ire and frustration, Astrid continued on the path, biting back the curses and remarks she sorely wished to make, “That is up to me. All you need to worry about is to get out of there as soon as it’s clear.”
The rest of the journey was made in silence, both of them lost to their own thoughts, as they made their way up to the cave’s entrance. When they stood before the crevice, which was just as tall as a child, and barely wide enough to fit Bailor, the soldier sighed in resignation, “Is this really necessary?”
“You can wait out here if you want, I can get whatever it is you need to get. Just describe it to me,” Astrid readjusted her weapons belt and tightened the straps of her gloves tighter, before making the treacherous climb down into the crevice.
Alarmed, Bailor followed her, keeping careful watch of his steps, in case he slipped, “Do you really think you can do this alone?”
“How do you think I managed to afford my cabin? There are some things you can’t get without trading for it.” Astrid paused, holding onto a nearby rock, jutting out of the side of the hole she was suspended above, with her feet strategically placed on the walls, to prevent her from falling. She looked at Bailor with raised brows, expecting a remark or two in reply.
Surprised, he gaped at her, concern written all over his face, “Don’t tell me you do this all the time? You’re insane!”
Scoffing in derision, Astrid returned her attention back to the task at hand, and began the dangerous descent, “Depends on how you define insane.”
“Disregarding your safety, to steal from a ferocious beast, would be classified as insane. No wonder you agreed to do this with me. If I had known I had employed a psychopath, I’d have refused your help the instant you gave it.” Afraid for Astrid’s safety, Bailor had no choice but to keep up with her. He wasn’t sure if he believed she’d stolen from a dragon before, but the fact that it was just the two of them on this mission made him keep going, if not for anything else, to ensure he wasn’t in the company of a suicidal maniac.
Giving him a dry chuckle, Astrid replied, “If you want to go back and employ those brutes who call themselves heroes, be my guest, but I guarantee you, you’d be roasted to death, before you could even get your hands on that precious treasure, your king asked you to find.”
Unable to come back with a retort, Bailor remained silent, focusing on keeping his balance and copying Astrid as she deftly climbed down the hole. After a few minutes, they landed in a small tunnel, that led deeper into the mountain. When they took less than ten paces, Astrid decided to ask the question that had been on her mind since they started the journey, “What exactly did your king ask you to get?”
“Why, do you plan to steal it from him? I should warn you, I do not plan to return to him empty-handed, even if it means killing you,” Bailor replied, an amused smirk lifting the corners of his mouth as he noticed her expression turn dour. Chuckling, he continued, “His majesty is looking for the dragon’s egg.”
Bailor should have known he was in the company of an experienced hunter, so she would have muscles and strength no ordinary woman would have. He found himself pinned to the wall, completely caught off-guard as an arm barred his movement, and a dagger rested against his throat, “Say that again,” came the angry growl. When he didn’t immediately reply, she shook him, and her voice came back louder, “Say it again! What does your king want!”
Coughing out his reply, Bailor did his best to keep his skin away from the blade, “What are you doing? It’s just an egg.”
“Just an egg?” Astrid mocked, her nostrils flaring as her rage grew, “That egg, is the dragon’s child. What does the king want with a dragon? Don’t tell me he plans to destroy it.”
“What his majesty wants to do with it is none of your concern. What should be, is the fact that you’re toying with a general of his armies. I could easily kill you here and bring my squadrons with me, to face the dragon myself.” He glanced down to her side, prompting her to do the same. When she did, she found his dagger poised to strike her in the gut, if she didn’t let him go.
Angry beyond belief, she threw him off, stepping back and pacing about, like a caged animal, “This is exactly why I never trust a human.” Before Bailor could retort back, he found a punch directed at his temple, knocking him out. The last thing he remembered was the fast approaching floor, and Astrid’s retreating figure, as she ran down the tunnel, further into the mountain. His last thought, before darkness swept him was the promise to find her, and that egg, once he woke up.
Ok, I know you probably expected some dragon action, but I think this is far enough for this post. I might post up a continuation of this story in my next writing post, because it does deserve a few chapters, especially because I’m hoping it could become a proper short story, which I’ve learned takes about 5000 – 10 000 words, and I’m here about 2000 words in, and it’s already a TDLR post!
Anyway, I’ll leave it here for now, because I’d like to take my time with this! In the meantime, why don’t you like, subscribe, follow and share for more updates here and notifications of my latest posts. Remember, I only share a newsletter once a month, so you won’t get bombarded by spam emails and such. I’ll see you all next time then!