Dragon Fire

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            I could see the dragon’s deep red scales on his tail in the small portion of the opening visible from this spot in the back passage. Two other leather clad soldiers crouched behind me and I could feel their fear. The spy lay gagged and tied not far back towards the distant entrance, which bales of hay from the wagon now covered. No breeze would pass through the tunnel and carry our scent.

            A racket of metal shields as the remaining eighteen soldiers moved steadily down the main entrance into the cavern preceded the dragon, with a deep belly laugh, saying, “yes, come to me my snacks! I will eat for weeks!”

            “Remember,” I say so only the other two soldiers could hear, “don’t let your shields touch the walls or each other or anything that will cause them to ring out.” Carefully I move forward and silently lift the tall piece of metal horizontal to the ground and pad forward softly. The others come too slowly for my liking, but it was better than banging the huge pieces of steel on the rock walls.

            The huge red dragon, his body alone the size of a two story city house, steps a little closer to entrance then lifts a head with a dog’s snout and two horns protruding from a flat forehead. An organ where his neck met the body glows bright enough to change the scales, hard as steel at that junction, to a bright tomato red from that of nearly dried blood. He prepares to breathe fire on the approaching men.

            All this signals our turn to slip into the cave behind the dragon as undetected as possible, and I take the opportunity to see how the other soldiers fare. By now they should be overlapping shields, ten across the bottom and eight over their heads to resist the blast as a group. There is a saying that is true, I’m sure, on almost any world, that battle plans only last until the first blade is swung. As I watch six of the soldiers flee in fear, three more die from it and another four stand petrified, I realize the remaining five have little chance.

            In the remaining incredibly small amount of time I have before the full heat of the dragon hit the chaotic scene I drive my blade, as long as my leg, in between the scales where the right rear leg met the body and don’t stop until the scales trap the handle and nearly my hand. As Ghorin roars in pain and breathes fire on the ceiling and walls to his right, I sprint across loose coin, chunks of precious metals and other stolen goods behind his legs and under his massive tail. I see the two other soldiers with me, just feet from the back entrance, properly crouch behind their padded shields.

            Ghorin continues to swing around to see who had stuck him. I hope the scales stop some feeling, especially with a huge longsword jammed into his body, as I lift my feet off the ground and let the force of the turn carry me against where the tail emerges. As I let the movement push me through the air, I see it. A two-handed blade, as tall as any of the other soldiers, yet only to my breasts, is exposed by the dragon’s movement. Seven soldiers now spread around the room as the dragon comes to a stop facing the entrance again.

            “You will all burn!” bellows Ghorin. He once again breathes and sweeps left to right without moving his body. The four soldiers standing motionless in the entrance, paralyzed with fear, burn up like bundles of kindling, the stench of burning leather and flesh immediately filling the air. Their screams don’t last long and I proudly watch the other soldiers crouch behind their shields. As the flame moves away from them, each one charges and tries to stick blades between the scales, with varying success. The dragon whips back against them with his head, sending two flying into the wall, the impact probably fatal.

            One thing Ghorin and most other dragons have is incredible intelligence, and he predicts the soldiers on his right would now try to come from that side. Two soldiers did just as I trained, lifting their shields and jumping just as the tail crashes into them. They turn in the air and use the same padded shields to lessen an impact that still stuns them.

            The dragon starts to turn his head to the right and his tail back to his left and I make my next move. Dropping my shield, I sprint along the dragon’s left side to the now close two-handed blade. As Ghorin prepares to burn the four now helpless bodies, two of them probably dead already, I drop to my knees so my calves straddle the blade, its handle now pressed into the middle of my back. “Stop, Ghorin!” I shout.

            The huge red head turns to look at me, fangs as long my leg on either side of razor sharp teeth as long as my arm. “There you are, Aquendar. Do you think to sacrifice yourself to save the rest of your men? I will eat you, and these in here and then go hunt down the ones that fled!” he bellows, the hot breath nearly unbearable.

            “Just tell me who asked you to lure me here and destroy me. You were so coy about it earlier,” I say loudly, keeping my voice as calm as possible otherwise.

            “Come now, Aquendar, you know the answer to that. Only one is mightier than a red,” answers Ghorin. As he ended saying this, the red whipped with his tail at the remaining soldiers and snapped his head towards me, jaws spreading. He must not have expected a man as big as me to move like I do. The only thing that stops the huge blade from exiting the top of the dragon’s head are the scales there. Standing on treasure with my feet between the front top and bottom teeth, I dive over the giant fang as the head falls to my left.

            “Is he dead?” asks Angin, now standing next to me.

            “Yes, that sword is through his brain,” I answer.

            “What now?” asks the soldier, a light burn on his exposed skin making it a light shade of red.

            “Go tell the wagon driver, if he’s still here, to bring the wagon in. If the wounded are stable we’ll load up treasure. If not we’ll get them loaded and race them back to town.”

            “Yes, Commander,” says Angin, as the two soldiers knocked across the room by the tail begin to stir.

            I walk over to the stunned soldiers, now holding their heads, while their shields and swords lay on the ground. “Give yourselves time to recover. You very likely have concussions,” I say to them as I reach them.

            “I have no doubt, sir,” croaks one. “But it’s better than being roasted alive.”

            “Yes it is,” I say over my shoulder as I walk over to the two soldiers flung off their swords into the wall. Seeing their heads are at impossible angles to their bodies, I close all four eyes. The wagon finishes its loud journey to the cavern and stops as I step up next to the driver’s bench. “Nine dead driver, though only two have anything left to take back. We’ll wrap the bodies and load as much of this treasure as we can, the part of it most useful to the townsfolk. I and the soldiers will take what’s useful to us and load that up to,” I say, as I turn back to the bodies.

            While rolling one body up in white linen brought along just for this need, my spirits are buoyed by one thought: If Rangdor is sending red dragons to kill me, my wandering and waiting to prepare for the child of prophesy is over. Fifteen years, half my life, has been spent cultivating my intelligence network all over Li. It is time to use it to make sure I am found.

First 2 volumes

Want more Aquendar? He’s in my trilogy available at my author page at my author page on Amazon.

Catching a Spy

First Entry

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As I execute my new plan, I hope the dragon still underestimated me. I made sure the town saw twenty one men on horseback ride out the morning after our tavern meeting, dressed head to toe in plate mail. For a part of the treasure a dragon hoarded there were always citizens willing to spy on their neighbors, even when the lizard was making some of them into meals. Heading out of town in a direction just north of northeast, we ride hard into the sparse forest across low hills that got higher as we travelled.

            Satisfied that we had passed completely out of view and would not be seen by a hard charging spy headed to the dragon, I let out a shrill whistle. All riders pulled their horses back to a walk and rope ends were passed to the front rider, now no longer me. As soon as twenty ropes had been secured to the lead rider’s saddle, I lead the others in dropping off the moving horse onto the hard packed ground as gently as my huge size would allow. The soldier chosen by straws to fool the spy galloped off leading the empty steeds into the distance.

            I led the sprint into a dense copse on a nearby hill and we immediately began stripping off the plate mail to get down to the loose leather. “Take a bit to cool off. We’ll watch for the spy to go by and then the cart with the shields should be close behind.”

            “Yes, Commander,” came the quiet replies. The more time that passed since my encouragement on the road to town and fighting the dragon, the more the fear would build in them. I know I need to get them to the dragon.

            As a breeze rustles the dry but still green leaves of the trees around us, I spot him. Two hills over, on a path where he would never have caught us, a hooded rider on a hot day kicks up dirt. He’s too far away to see us at that speed, and I smile at the damage his speed is doing to the dirt, leaving a clear trail for us to follow. In moments he passes behind more hills and I stand. “Time to move. The shield cart will be following that spy’s hoof marks, and it’s some distance south.”

            “What about all this armor?” asked one of the soldiers.

            “We’ll come back for it. For now, take a swig of your water and follow me,” I answer as I start jogging towards the hilltop I first saw the spy on.

            With only canteens, longswords and leather armor, we cross the few hills between us just as the cart comes into view from the west. “Angin, go watch for that spy to double back far enough that he won’t see us before he sees you. Hide and take him off his horse when he comes by, but don’t kill him.” A lanky blond soldier nods at me and sprints off down the clear trail in even this hard soil. The grass under our feet has struggled to get halfway to our knees in the summer heat and a galloping horse leaves a lot of it crushed. The spy was sprinting his horse, trying to beat us there.

            “Take a seat and rest. We need to save what energy we can for the fight ahead. We’ll join the shields on the cart for as long as it makes sense,” I said.

            As the sun hits zenith the cart, carrying nineteen of us, arrives at Angin standing over the spy, the spy’s dagger in Angin’s hand. I jump down from my seat next to the cart driver and squat in front of the seated man. “What did you tell the dragon?”

            “It won’t matter, you’ll all be dead soon. I told him you were on your way, wearing plate mail. Clearly that was a ruse,” said the brown haired, very pale man. His loose fitting cotton garments hid a well fed, but dirty body, from the smell of him.

            “Maybe we’ll be dead, maybe not. But whether you survive the day depends on your answer to this next question. Where is the dragon’s back door entrance?” I asked.

            “Back door? What back door?” the man stammered.

            “Every dragon cave has two entrances. The main one for them to go in and out in dragon form, and a smaller one for, let’s say, other passage. Surely he’s sent you out the back door to avoid detection, probably at your request. You’ll take us to that entrance, or you’ll be the first target of his flame,” I said with a snarl.

            “Ah, you don’t scare me Aquendar of Concrof. You would never kill me. You can threaten me all you like but I’ve heard about you,” said the spy.

            “Or maybe it is that none of the traitorous, greedy men like you ever live to tell anybody how far I will go.” I stood and turned to Angin. “Get him up and we’ll lash him to the front of a shield. May take two of you to force him forward, but he’ll be that much more protection against the dragon’s first breath attack.”

            “Yes, Commander,” replied Angin, with all the excitement I’d hoped he would muster.

            As Angin hoisted the still doubting spy up by his collar, I turned to the others. “Just remember the last time we did this men. Some of you forgot to hold your breath the smell of the burning traitor cost you lunch!” Catching on to the ruse, the men started to laugh, fake retching and hold their noses.

            “I’ll show you! I’ll show you!” shouted the spy. “Ghorin did have me go in and out the back entrance to try to protect our secret.”

            “Ah, so you even know his name. Put him up there next to me on the driver’s seat and we’ll go see if he’s telling the truth.” Angin tied his hands behind his back and forced him onto the seat. The driver cursed slightly and quietly at the crowded bench, but held his tongue knowing he had the option of waiting here between the hills for a cart he didn’t think would return.

First 2 volumes

Want more Aquendar? He’s in my trilogy available at my author page at my author page on Amazon.