The Dragon Tamer – Part 2 of 4

Barak made his way up the mountain, through a shallow canyon, riding atop his new horse, pulling a bull carrying his possessions behind him. He rounded a corner, and found what he had been looking for: Ladon, lying just a few yards away from him. The dragon looked up at him as he approached, a hungry grin spreading over his reptilian face as he spotted the bull. Barak dismounted, unpacking his things from the bull before turning around, listening to the sounds of Ladon shredding it and swallowing it piece by piece.

“Ugh,” said Barak as he pulled his own food out of his knapsack. “Do you have to play with it so much?”

“I’ve been sitting here all day,” replied the dragon. “Do you know how boring that is?”

“You have a point. I just wish I didn’t need to hear you eating.”

“I could eat you, you know.”

“Yes, but then you’d be back scavenging on the edge of civilization. You need me.”

“And you need me, Barak. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have those four ‘kills’ you’ve gotten from me.”

“That is true, Ladon. And I appreciate it immensely.”

“Good.”

“Good.”

They sat a while in silence, each attending to his own meal, consumed by his own separate thoughts. After a moment, Barak spoke up, a burden on his being coming into his mind.

“Ladon, I’ve been wondering ever since we met – you introduced yourself as ‘Ladon the Accursed’. Why would you give yourself a title like that?”

The dragon paused. “Well, contrary to the word’s connotation, it has much honor ascribed to it. It first signifies a dragon that took part in the destruction of Henas; and second a dragon that refused to back Tyrannosaur in his bid to become the next High King of the Dragons.”

“So why would you be cursed if you helped bring down that hated empire?”

“Because one of the survivors swore revenge against us all.”

“Who?”
“Cynthia Athano, daughter of King Kligel Athano.”

Barak turned toward the dragon in surprise. “Isn’t she dead?”
Ladon reacted with a draconian shrug. “I don’t know. But she didn’t die in Henas, as is the popular belief. After watching her father die, she slew the High King, and then appeared to the surviving dragons, swearing revenge and cursing us all. I think, though, that we would know if she were dead, since whoever kills her becomes the next High King.”

“I suppose whoever did kill her would want to proclaim it to the world.”

“I would.”
They continued to converse through the evening, while the sun set and the stars appeared overhead. And finally, as the moon shone above them, they quieted, lay down, and drifted to sleep.

—-

A week later found Barak riding into the town of Notos, a small town on the edge of one of the southern kingdoms. Ladon had been terrorizing the area, and, as always, Barak had arrived to help. He was going to enjoy this venture – the lord of Notos owned considerable wealth.

As he rode through the street, the villagers stopped and stared up at him. He was quite a sight, with his shield on his back and his weapon sheathed beside him, while his body was garbed in shining armor. He continued forward unopposed, until, finally coming to the end of the street before the great oak doors of the castle, a guard raised his hand to stop him.

“Who are you?” the guard inquired.

“I am Barak Tueur, the dragon slayer. I have come to slay your dragon.”

“Oh, another one!” the sentry said to himself.

“What do you mean, another one?”

“Just that another dragon slayer’s already arrived. Still, I guess I’d better let you in…”

Barak considered these comments as the doors swung open. Another dragon slayer? Impossible! No one else could have gotten here as quickly as he had! He dismounted, handing his stead off to the guard, while he himself strode inside, entering the long hall lined with tables and benches, where, at the far end, sat the Lord of Notos on his high seat. Below him stood a blond boy of about eighteen, carrying an impressive shield on his arm. Barak wondered if this was the dragon slayer the guard had mentioned. He seemed rather young. And if this was the dragon slayer, Barak would need to seriously rethink his plan with Ladon.

“Sir!” announced the guard. “Dragon slayer Barak Tueur has arrived to see you.”

“Another one?” said the lord as Barak walked across the hall. “Well, why not. Two are always better than one. Have either of you met before?”

The boy turned to Barak, revealing a clean-shaven face with sharp blue eyes that Barak didn’t recognize. He told the lord such, as did the boy.

“Well, Tueur, this is Claudius Phineas Venator, a dragon slayer like yourself,” said the lord.

“I am pleased to meet you,” greeted Barak.

“Likewise,” replied Venator. “so long as you prove to be a competent dragon slayer.”

“I’ve killed ten dragons. What about you?”

“Seventeen.”

Barak quickly covered his surprise with a cordial joke. “One for every year of your life?”
“Almost. Once I kill this dragon.”

Venator said this with such surety, that it was all Barak could do from panicking about the state of his partnership with Ladon.

Part 3 here.

The Dragon Tamer – Part 1 of 4

First blog post! This is a sort of companion piece to a novel I’ve been writing for some time. I hope you enjoy this fantasy tale…

Barak climbed over loose rocks and weaved between boulders as he moved toward the cavern open before him. Within lay a dragon, which had been plaguing the villages below the mountain.

In his right hand, he held the three-foot long handle of his nauskilo at the ready, prepared for the dragon to appear at any moment. On his back was his shield, decorated with grey dragon scales for deflecting fire, scales taken from his first kill.

He intended the dragon within the cave before him to be his seventh kill. He hoped it would pay well. Like most dragon slayers, he wasn’t just in for the adventures or the recognition or the wenches, he was also in for the gold that rulers would pay to be rid of the great reptilian pests. He just hoped the people paying him for this job would actually give him a significant sum.

He finally came to the mouth of the cave. Big and black, it yawned open before him, inviting him in, teasing him with the whispers of echoes of the deep breaths of the dragon within. He hesitated; a dragon’s lair was the most dangerous place to fight it. Then again, he had no way of knowing when the dragon would emerge. It might be in a few minutes, perhaps a few hours or early the next morning, when Barak would be asleep. He sighed, and stepped inside, making his way across the dim floor, keeping a wary eye about him.

He went deeper and deeper, using his hands and ears to guide him. Now that he was inside, the dragon’s breath echoed around him. Whatever it might be, a dragon cannot be subtle.

Eventually, he turned a corner, coming upon a bright tunnel. Following it, he came upon a large cave, with a large, sunlit opening opposite him, the light falling brightly upon the mass in the center of the room: a golden dragon.

Barak had never seen a dragon quite like this one before. But it wasn’t the bright color of the beast that surprised him; rather, it was the creature’s thinness. It’s legs seemed to cling to its bones. Normally, dragons were much stronger and much thicker.

But he had no time to think of the dragon’s state of health. At the moment, it seemed to be sleeping, so he had to hurry if he were to kill it before it awoke. The first blow would probably wake it up anyway. Barak walked up to its neck, raising his weapon to plunge it in and slay the beast. However, as his weapon hung poised in the air, the dragon’s eyes opened wide, and the beast recoiled away.

“Please don’t kill me!” it begged. “I’ve tried to stay inconspicuous! I’ve tried to stay out of the way!”

Barak hesitated. He had never seen behavior like this from a dragon. Weren’t they supposed to blast whomever threatened them? Normally, a dragon would attack on sight and fight to the death. Why was this one so desperate?

“Why shouldn’t I kill you?” Barak asked, lowering his weapon in confusion.

“It’s what they want!” the dragon appealed. “You’ll only be helping them!”

“Yes, I am helping them. And they’ll pay me very nicely to bring back your fore-scale.”

He gestured toward the dragon’s prow, where this unique scale lay inconspicuous among the others on the dragon, save for those who knew where to find it.

The dragon paused. “Just my fore-scale?”

“They just want to know you’re dead.” Barak couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. He should be finishing off the dragon, whose expression had suddenly changed.

“But what about you?” it asked.

“I’m just in it for the money,” Barak admitted warily.

“So what if I could give you gold not just for killing one dragon, but several?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll let you take one of my scales – disguised as my fore-scale – back to your patrons, and then I move on to the next village and we do this all over again.”

“A con?”

“Precisely.”

Barak considered this. “So I let you live, I tell the man who hired me that you’re dead, and then we head over to other places, where you’ll fake your death at my hands over and over. But what’s the catch?”

The dragon’s stomach growled. “Oh, nothing much. You just help me feed.”

Barak thought for a moment, weighing his inherent desire to kill the dragon against his desire for easy money. “Fine.”

“Swear it.”

Barak raised his free hand. “I, Barak Tueur, dragon slayer six times over, solemnly swear to carry out your plan.”

The dragon then raised his head triumphantly. “And I, Ladon the Accursed, also swear to carry it out.”

Part 2 here.