The Dragon Tamer – Part 4 of 4

With Ladon in the air and Barak on his horse, the two were able to cover a lot of ground the next morning. However, since Venator had his horse, finding him proved difficult. On the other hand, they had his possessions, so it wasn’t likely he had gone far. Barak took Venator’s things with him, just in case the dragon slayer had been planning to circle back to the cleft.

Eventually, they split – Ladon heading north, while Barak searched south. As he searched, Barak was growing frustrated. There were too many places Venator might have gone to, and every pause at a potential location cost him time to check the others.

However, his spirits lifted in the late morning when he found a glitter under an overhang. Dismounting, he entered to discover a necklace, supporting a blue jewel shaped in a fleur-de-lis. He also found a sword at his back. It was Venator.

“Who are you?” Barak asked.

The dragon slayer hesitated. “What do you mean? I am Claudius Phineas Venator.”

“No you’re not. I went through your things.”

Venator growled angrily. “It’s rude to look through a woman’s belongings, you know.”

Barak twisted around, bringing the back of his fist against her face. She fell, and Barak hurried to his horse to retrieve his own weapon.

“It’s also rude to hit a woman,” he said, standing to face her. “But you forced it on yourself.”

He charged, swinging the nauskilo two-handed. The dragon slayer held her sword in both hands as well, in order to match the power behind Barak’s blows. Though she had impressive skill, Barak realized that she had never fought against his weapon, putting him at an advantage.

The dragon slayer backed up the hill under the strength of his blows, moving toward the small rocky plateau on the overhang. Once on the flat area, she parried one of his thrusts, sending her own thrust at Barak’s chest. He blocked with the nauskilo‘s handle, before swinging at her head. Venator ducked, raising her sword and halting the blow. Pushing his blade back, she stood up, while he pulled back his weapon and swung again.

Barak could see a new determination in Venator’s eyes as she tried to push him down the hill. However, with his step back, he also made a step to the side, slowly circling around opposite the hill. Surely Venator could see where he was pushing her, but his strong blows prevented her from doing anything about it. Finally, he swung so hard that she was forced to back up. Her foot missed the ground, and she tumbled backward down the hill.

Barak hurried down the hill, until he stood over Venator, who looked up at him with a slashed and bloody face. He smiled triumphantly, placing his blade over her heart.

“Any last words?” he asked.

Her gaze moved past him as she replied. “If you kill me, they’ll be after you next. If they aren’t already.”

Barak turned around at the sound of a huge thump on the hillside. It was Ladon.

“I’d like to kill her, if you don’t mind,” growled the dragon, before he opened his jaws wide and let loose the flames.

—-

The dragon lay dead over the ground, victim of the dragon slayer’s blade. It hadn’t taken her long to defeat the thin dragon who hadn’t fought at all in the last two years. All she had really done was roll out of the way of the fire, scramble to her feet, and thrust her sword in.

Now, Barak looked up at her though bleary, bloodstained eyes, watching her pry Ladon’s fore-scale out with a knife. Only when this task was complete did she seem to notice Barak’s charred form lying nearby on the ground, surrounded by pockets of fire.

“Who are you?” he croaked as she stood over him, her body as bloody as her face.

“My name is Cynthia Athano,” she replied. “I am a dragon slayer, daughter of King Kligel Athano, who was killed by the High King of the dragons. My first kill was the High King, and now I shall kill you. Good bye, Barak Tueur, traitor, and one-time dragon slayer.”

And with that she plunged her knife into Barak’s chest. His eyes widened in sudden pain, and then closed, the darkness swirling inward toward the dragon slayer’s face, overcoming all his senses as he drifted away.

Hope you enjoyed this! Next week, Twilight!

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The Dragon Tamer – Part 3 of 4

Barak was distracted by his thoughts on how to keep Venator from killing Ladon the whole time they spent riding up the mountains to the dragon’s lair. Going over one idea, he supposed Ladon might be able to kill Venator himself; he didn’t know if he really believed Venator had killed seventeen dragons, no matter how many fore-scales were on his shield. But, then again, Barak didn’t want to have to resort to killing the dragon slayer. That would be complicated enough.

Fortunately, it was three days to the place where Ladon was hiding. On the third night, hopefully he could signal the dragon to discuss the situation. Until then, there wasn’t much he could do.

On all his other four trips, he had “fought” Ladon by himself, returning after a day or two with a faked fore-scale, self-inflicted wounds, and other false evidences of the confrontation. But that would be difficult to do now. Barak desperately thought of a way to resolve the situation, but the only solution that he could think of was to kill Venator.

When they arrived near Ladon’s cave on the third day, Barak cautioned against entering before morning, since a dragon would have an advantage in the dark. He was relieved when Venator agreed with him, and they camped in a secure cleft for the night. Finally, when the boy drifted to sleep, he departed to speak with the dragon.

“Ladon!” he hissed when he found Ladon trying to sleep in a corner of his new lair.

“What is it?” the dragon grumbled. “Why are you here? Aren’t we only supposed to meet tomorrow?”

“Yes, but there’s a hitch. There’s another dragon slayer with me. Claudius Phineas Venator. Have you heard of him?”

Now the dragon seemed much more attentive. “No, I haven’t heard of him. But this is not a good development.”

“What should we do?”

“I don’t know. We could try to fake my death – although that would be very difficult, particularly if this dragon slayer is any good. Alternatively, we could kill him. That would perhaps be the best idea. Dragon slayers die all the time on their quests.”

“Must we kill him, though?”

“I will if you won’t. I’d be better at it, anyway.”

“I suppose. So you want to do it tomorrow during our ‘fight’?”

“No, I want to do it now. Let’s go.”

The dragon stood up on its four reptilian legs and followed Barak out of the cave and to the cleft where Venator was sleeping. Barak ducking inside and checked the young dragon slayer’s blanket.

“He’s not there!” Barak announced, coming out to face Ladon.

“Well, where did he go? Is there any place he might have gone?”

Barak thought hard. “We passed a pond today on the way up. He might have gone back to bathe there.” Barak pointed in the direction of the pond.

“I’ll check it then. You stay here.” Ladon launched himself into the air, flying in the direction indicated by his accomplice.

Barak sighed, sitting down while he waited for the dragon to return. It was in this relatively unoccupied position that he suddenly felt a prick on his back. He swiveled around, only to find Venator himself standing behind him, shadowed in the dim moonlight, his young face rather unpleasant.

“That was an interesting conversation,” he said. “I didn’t know you were in the habit of consorting with traitorous dragons.”

Barak chose to ignore the antagonism. “Where have you been?”

“I was waiting for you to fall asleep so that I could go bathe, as you guessed. But then I heard you get up, and move toward the dragon’s lair. I was intrigued. I followed, and hid just as you two came out again, planning to kill me. You know, you really should choose some better company. It’ll come back to bite you one of these days. Don’t you know that dragon is Ladon, one of the traitorous Accursed?”

“Yes, I do know,” replied Barak, perplexedly. “But how would you know? Neither of us mentioned his name.”

“I recognized him. We’ve met before.”

“When?”

“When all the Accursed met together to decide the new High King.”

Barak still had no idea what Venator was saying. He changed the subject to something he would be able to understand.

“You don’t need to kill him, though. You could join us. We’d still be paid.”

Venator laughed. “I’m not here for money. I’m here for the Accursed.”

Barak sighed, disappointed. “Well, it was worth a shot. Anyway, Ladon will be back soon, so you’d better scamper.”

There was the echo of the beat of large approaching wings as Venator replied. “I suppose so. But don’t worry, I’ll catch up with you later.”

With that, the pressure on Barak’s back was gone. He looked behind him, to find that Venator had disappeared. A moment later, he heard the sound of swift hooves vanishing into the night, and knew that the dragon slayer was gone. He turned back to where he expected Ladon to appear. Impatient, he climbed into the cleft, going to Venator’s things to see if he could find anything particularly useful or valuable.

He first came upon the dragon slayer’s shield, covered in seventeen fore-scales of varying color. In the center was a black scale in the shape of a crown. He tossed the shield out of the cleft and continued to search through Venator’s possessions.

Barak didn’t find anything additional until he opened the clothing bag. He took out a small jewelry box before digging deeper into the bag where, turning over a shirt, he found something that intrigued him: a dress. And then he found a few more. Why would dragon slayer Venator be carrying dresses?

However, before he could ponder on this any more, a loud thump outside alerted him to Ladon’s return. He climbed out of the cleft, carrying the jewelry box, to find Ladon eying the shield suspiciously.

“He wasn’t at the pond,” said the dragon.

“No, he was here,” Barak replied. “You just missed him. Also, he knows what we’re planning.”

“Then it is imperative that we catch him.” Ladon paused. “Have you seen the center fore-scale here?”

“The one like a crown?”

“It’s the High King’s. I’m sure of it.”

“Did you ever see the High King’s fore-scale?”

“No. But that doesn’t shake my certainty.”

“Well, I have some other concerns. I found dresses in Venator’s bag.”

Ladon took a moment to respond. “So?”

“You’re not surprised that a dragon slayer is carrying dresses?”

“I think this dragon slayer may be Cynthia Athano, the High King’s murderer.”

If Barak had been confused before, it was nothing to what he was feeling now. However, he mustered together his thoughts, and spoke on what he was sure about.

“Well, whoever this person is, we still need to find him.”

“Yes, as soon as possible.”

Barak frowned. ‘As soon as possible’ was a little too soon for his taste. With all that had been going on today, he was tired.

“Let’s start tomorrow morning. I’m exhausted, and so is Venator. He’ll probably lay low tonight anyway.”

“Fine,” agreed Ladon, turning back toward his cave. “But we leave at dawn.”

Part 4 here.

Final part to be posted on Friday. After that…the Twilight review!

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.