Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2138935-Dragon-Rescue
Printer Friendly Page Tell A Friend
No ratings.
Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2138935
A High Fantasy Adventure in 20 pages. Dragon Riding Knights vs Goblin Bat Riders
Dragon Rescue
A High Fantasy Romance
By David Daniel Ducker

Mountains of Mu

Black mountains sit beneath a bright blue sky, the jagged division between the two realms, earth and air, is thrown into relief by white caps of snow, and snow also rests in some of the deep valleys and crevasses of black stone.

From the cloudless expanse of blue comes a distant speck, growing nearer monstrous wings are in evidence, larger than those of any bird, flapping lazily in the high altitude. Then a long sinuous tail and neck, writhing through the sky like an eel might push itself through the depths of the mysterious sea. The great gold dragon glitters in the sunlight like polished coins flung from a mountain precipice, but despite it's vast bulk it moves forward, not down towards the jagged rocks below.

A small figure crouches on the dragon's back, held in place with an intricate saddle of leather. The form of a man, camouflaged well against the yellow hide of his mount, for his scale armour is crafted from the beast's own flesh, yet thrown in relief by his sword and helm, made of golden bronze. The helm bears horns which mimic the aerodynamic sweep of the dragon's own, and the sword is short and broad it's profile like some great brass leaf.

Smoke rises from a distant valley and the man frowns, it is a black billowing tower signalling disaster. He urges his mount to greater speed and clears the valley wall to look down on a ruin. Smouldering thatch and tumbled stones, slaughtered livestock covered with buzzing flies, and the corpses of men, brutally ravaged and violated. An entire village destroyed and despoiled.

Man and dragon wheel over and slowly spiral down into the site of recent massacre. His eyes scanning the valley wall for traces of huddled survivors, or hidden ambush. As the great gold lands the man hops down to the warm earth and begins searching through the rubble. Crows and flies are all that remain alive, those and one great black cat which sits licking itself in the sun as if it had yet to notice the devastation around it.

The warrior began to search the edge of the village next. His keen eyes seeking tracks or a trail. Soon he finds it and begins a cautious ascent into the crags above. The going is rough but the trail clear, the invaders clamoured down the mountainside from some cave or pass high above, doubtless in the middle of the night. As the man climbs his dragon follows, easily scaling the steep valley, climbing like some titan bat.

The warrior comes to a pass, two craggy stone walls reveal a narrow crevasse where the invasion originated from, he looks cautiously over his shoulder at his mount assessing it's bulk. The way is too narrow for the great beast... Yet he must know the source of this hell!

Drawing his leaf-shaped bronze sword he presses forward alone, holding the blade before him and treating each narrow shoulder of rock like a potential ambush point. He threads his way with caution, listening for displaced rocks or the growlings of life ahead of him. Turning a corner he sees the end of the gorge ahead, it seems to simply open up on the farther slope, no cave then, he can go back and remount... As he relaxes his guard for that instant he is trapped! A net of thick rope drops down on him from above and screaming figures quickly follow with short knives and cudgels in hand

The struggle is brief and one-sided, encumbered and outnumbered he is at the mercy of his savage foes. They soon squat about his prostrate form snarling in triumph. The men are ragged and lanky, their bodies lean and scarred from a tortuous life among the crags and caves of the black mountains. Their gear is piecemeal and ramshackle, jagged iron knives and rough-spun cloaks. They begin to drag their captive upwards into the narrow cave from when they crawled.

The gold dragon whines at the far end of the pass and looks apprehensively down the twisting, empty canyon. It waits there until dawn, then flies off alone...


Valeria admired Edmund's naked body in the early morning twilight. He was a handsome man, tall and muscular, with the same coal-black hair and tan skin as herself. She knew if he opened his eyes they would be deep green pools for her to get lost within, she could stare for hours into the fathomless depths of his eyes. Her own eyes were a glossy blue, oddly shallow, beautiful but superficial. Edmund snored and she flicked his nose, her finger brushing his neatly trimmed beard

'Don't ruin the moment with snoring!' Valeria giggled

'Moment? Were we having a moment?' Edmund said groggily blinking awake

'Yes. I was admiring you.' Valeria said running her hand down his well-defined abs

'And what is it about me you were admiring?' Edmund said with a smile, stretching lazily

'Your silence' Valeria teased

'Ha! Well the time for silence is over. The time for breakfast is now' Edmund said pulling her close and kissing her playfully on the neck

'With all you eat it's a wonder you don't go to fat!' Valeria said running her hands through Edmund's thick black hair as he continued to pepper her long tan neck with kisses

'That's because I always take care to get plenty of exercise' Edmund said rolling on top of her

'Yes I've heard' Valeria said rolling away from him sulkily

'Heard what?' Edmund giggled following her to the far side of the bed

'About you exercising with some of the servant girls for instance?' Valeria said in mock indignation

'Jealous?' Edmund grinned wolfishly

'Of the servants? Hardly. I'm more so concerned with your lack of standards. If you take them to bed how does that reflect on me?' Valeria pouted

'But some of them are just as pretty as you' Edmund said in mock consolation

'Hardly! And is that your way to win my heart? Telling me other women are just as beautiful as I am?' Valeria's indignation was almost real

'Win your heart? I didn't think it was a prize to be won' Edmund said running placing his strong hand on her chest, over her heart

'Maybe it isn't' Valeria said with a frown, taking his hand in hers

'Then why bother?' Edmund said laconically

'I'm not worth bothering about to you?' Valeria pouted and put her arms around his neck

'Parts of you are' Edmund said moving his face towards her breasts

'You swine! It's a good thing you're handsome' Valeria giggled pushing him off of her onto the silk sheets

'And young?' Edmund said with a confident grin

'And young' Valeria said snuggling up beside him in bed

A heavy knocking came at the chamber door interrupting their kiss.

'Come in!' Edmund called

'Go away!' Valeria groaned, burying her face beneath a pillow

'Ser Edmund, Dame Valeria, you are requested at council' A paige stood in the doorway, carefully not noticing the knights' undress

'Which of us?' Edmund asked glancing at the exposed skin of Valeria's tan back

'Both of you' The paige replied

'Very well, we'll be right there' Edmund said with a smile, giving Valeria's back an affectionate rub

The two dressed quickly, leather breeches and boots, silk shirts, sword-belts and a leather bustier for Valeria. They left the bedroom and walked quickly down a corridor hewn from living stone, hung with tapestries of noble dragons fighting vile monsters.

The council chamber was a large round room with a high ceiling and skylight. A vast round table dominated the layout and colourful banners hung on the walls to make the room seem even taller than it was. Seated at the table was an old man in a rich blue robe and a young girl wearing a short green tunic over her leather breeches.

'Grand Master Marron' Edmund said with a curt bow before reaching for a flagon of wine on the table

'Greetings Ser Edmund, Dame Valeria. Please have a seat. I'm sure you already know Dame Beatrice?' Marron said indicating the girl at his side

Beatrice was short, pale, and a bit chubby, her light blonde hair intricately braided above her plain face. She seemed a bit intimidated at being in the presence of the Grand Master and two of his best knights.

'The famed herbalist?' Edmund said hopefully as he poured wine from the flagon into a glass goblet

'My lord is too kind' Beatrice flushed with embarrassment

'Yes he is, isn't he?' Valeria glared coldly at the other woman as she took her seat next to Edmund

'I've called you here because last night Ser Cedric's dragon returned to the hold without him. He was investigating rumours of Atlantean raids. I want you three to go and find him and bring him back' Marron spoke casually, just another of a dozen missions he might need to organize across Mu that week

'Three of us? We don't need her help. Edmund and I can handle this alone' Valeria said looking scornfully across the table at the shorter girl

'Beatrice is a healer, she can tend to Cedric if he is wounded, she also knows the area well, and most importantly has a good rapport with Cedric's dragon' Marron said matter-of-factly, plainly expecting Valeria's objections

'We're not taking the dragon with us too?' Edmund sounded concerned

'I think that would be wise, yes' Marron replied

'With all due respect sir I disagree. A dragon without it's rider, separated from it's rider, can be extremely volatile. You know that.' Edmund said confused as to what he wasn't being told

'I do know that, but that is why Beatrice is going with you. She can control Cedric's dragon, at least long enough to determine his whereabouts.' Marron continued to speak matter of factly

'Then she and Cedric..?' Edmund let the unspoken words hang in the air

'Yes they have' Marron said stoically

'I can see why you want to find him then' Edmund said to Beatrice, his voice tinged with compassion

'No it's not like that...' Beatrice looked even more embarrassed now

'Then what is it like?' Valeria said mockingly

'I do want to find him. I just want to help' Beatrice said

'Wanting a thing and making it happen are very different. Remember that' Valeria said placing her hand on Edmund's shoulder casually

'Don't be cruel Valeria' Edmund said shrugging away from her touch. Edmund hated this side of Valeria. Why couldn't she just be as kind to everyone as she was to him?

'Maybe I should stay then...' Beatrice seemed cowed by the more richly dressed girl

'No. Marron is right. Two more dragon's will make me feel much safer on this mission. I need someone close by in case things get rough' Edmund said glancing at Valeria, who was not known for being the most stalwart of dames

Atlantean Enclave

The Atlantean enclave was squalid and filthy. They slept on pallets of straw and animal fur, all together in one large cavern, crowded close around a huge blazing bonfire. The stink of body odour and excrement permeated the air even above the smoke from the poorly ventilated fire. Cedric had been stripped naked and bound at wrist and ankle. He lay in a cold and drafty corner of the cave with his bonds lashed to a piton in the wall.

An Atlantean approached Cedric, dressed more richly than most, he wore a ram skull on his head and it's fleece for a cloak. The rest of his garb was black wool and a curved scimitar hung at his girdle. Like most Atlanteans he was pale and thin, but not as thin as most and much taller, almost as tall as Cedric had he been standing.

'You are hungry? You are thirsty?' The Atlantean chieftain asked

'I am hungry' Cedric admitted

'Here you go my friend. We can be civilized After all our races are cousins are they not?' The Atlantean freed Cedric's hands and pressed a bowl of mushroom stew into them

'I didn't know you kept up with history' Cedric said before taking a deep slurp of the steaming stew. It was greasy and bitter from the lichens which fortified it, but his stomach was glad for it

'Oh yes my friend. We know history. We sing the songs. The songs never change. History never changes. We know' The chieftain said smiling broadly and revealing teeth filed to fangs

'You desire a bed warmer? A blanket? Let us become friends. You can have a place here you know. I have no heir, you can be chief when I am gone.' The chief gestured about the cave but Cedric shuddered as his eyes passed over one of the emaciated half-naked Atlantean women. It would have to be a very cold night indeed before he'd take such a bed-warmer

'Chief of this rat-hole?' Cedric said trying to drink down as much stew as he could before he roused his host to anger. Better to die with a full belly he thought to himself idly, resigned already to his fate

'Chief of much and more. A pleasant life. Compared to the alternatives' The chieftain said consolingly

'What alternatives?' Cedric said flashing a glare up at his captor

'I have a dream for my people.' The chief said, changing the topic

'Wake up then' Cedric snapped

'A dream of fire, a dream of dragons.' The chief was looking up at the cave ceiling clearly imagining mighty dragons flying through the night sky outside

'Dragons?' Cedric ventured cautiously

'Where are the dragon spawning grounds?' The chief asked placing his hand on Cedric's shoulder

'What?' Cedric said indignantly

'The spawning grounds. Where are they?' The chief's hand began to grip Cedric's shoulder too tightly, dirty nails digging into his flesh. Cedric was almost overwhelmed with the chief's rancid breath

'Fuck you. No Atlantean will ever ride a dragon' Cedric growled defiantly

'Fuck me?' The chief asked in mock surprise

'Fuck you' Cedric said flatly into the chief's face

'String him up. Start with his shins' The chief let go of Cedric who was quickly taken up by a swarm of dirty Atlantean hands

They ran the rope between his ankles up through a hook in the ceiling and lifted him upside down to dangle from the cave roof. Stout sticks were brought forth and they set to beating Cedric's shins viciously. He screamed in pain as he felt his skin split open and bruises form instantly across his exposed bones.

'You ass-hole! Your mother was a whore! She sucked cock for pennies! Clipped pennies!' Cedric cried out in desperate agony

'Where are the spawning grounds?' The chief asked again calmly

'I'll bet she taught you how to suck cock too!' Cedric spat up at the chief

'Again' The chief ordered his men

The beating recommenced and blood rained down from Cedric's battered legs to fall hotly on his cold face. He felt his left shin snap beneath a particularly brutal blow. The pain was overwhelming, he felt as if his legs had been set on fire with hot torment

'You're a whole stinking race of whores! You have no honour! You have no immortality! You wear the collars of demons!' Cedric tried every insult he could think of spitting them from his lips between cries of agony

'He's trying to goad us into killing him. He thinks we're stupid. But he will learn. Even if it takes him a long time. He will learn. The only way he's leaving here is if he tells us; where are the spawning grounds?' The chief remained calm and collected. He wouldn't let his men kill Cedric until he knew what he wanted to know. Until he had a dragon of his very own...

Mountains of Mu

'They took him into the cave' Beatrice said peering into the narrow aperture

'Lets go' Edmund said confidently.

He helped her to clamour up into the opening and then easily climbed up after her thanks to his strong arms. Both were now garbed in dragon scale armour and wore their helms. Red for Edmund with backwards curving horns on his helm and green for Beatrice whose helm had just a high fin rather than a horn. Edmund looked up at the blue dragon above him, straddling the canyon, and raised a torch from his belt, the blue dragon lit it with the tiniest gout of fire from it's throat. Valeria smiled down at him from atop her majestic sapphire mount

'Be careful Edmund! I'll wait here for you and keep my eyes open' Valeria said with a confident smile to her sometimes lover

'Don't worry we will be careful Valeria.' Edmund said emphasizing the 'we'

The two warrior's entered the black tunnel in the mountainside, squinting in the feeble light of their single torch. Strange shadows were cast on the walls and floor by the flickering light, and every step they suspected an ambush.

'Cedric never mentioned you' Edmund said as they pressed forward, swords drawn.

'What?' Beatrice said as she tried to decide between a left or right fork in the cave based on the feeble scratches in the rock, this trail their only guide

'He never mentioned you' Edmund said again

'So?' Beatrice shrugged as she led the way forward into the inky gloom

'Well if you and he were.... close, then I would have expected you to come up in conversation. Cedric wasn't much of a ladies' man' Edmund said glancing ahead of them in case of ambush

'Isn't' Beatrice said coldly

'What?' Edmund said

'He isn't much of a ladies' man. But he is still an 'isn't' and not yet a 'was'. Not until we find him' Beatrice said, her concern for Cedric clear from her tone

'I'm sure he's okay. He's a very stubborn man you know.' Edmund said with some more compassion

'I know he is. Things between us ended... badly.' Beatrice said thinking of their final argument

'I'm sorry to hear that' Edmund said sympathetically

'Don't be. Some things aren't meant to work out' Beatrice said sadly, as if she didn't believe the words herself

'Yeah I guess not' Edmund shrugged

The cave ended abruptly and opened up to blue skies. Down a steep slope before them stretched a black forest, grown thick in a deeply sheltered valley. They signalled for Valeria with a shrill whistle worn around Beatrice's neck and shortly she and her blue dragon appeared on the precipice above them, followed quickly by Beatrice's green, Edmund's red, and Cedric's gold dragon as well.

'They went this way. See the trail' Beatrice

'No' Edmund

'Right there. See the footprints?' Beatrice

'That's a footprint?' Edmund

'Aren't you glad you brought me along?' Beatrice

'Very. Always good to have a healer along in case I get wounded' Edmund

'I didn't think anything could wound you' Beatrice

'Haha I'm afraid so. I've got my share of scars. Maybe less than my fair share but still plenty to go around. Had a lot of close calls over the years' Edmund

'You do have a bit of a reputation for rushing in where others fear to tread.' Beatrice

'Other people tend to think of the consequences of their actions.' Edmund

'So you're shortsighted then' Beatrice

'Not at all. Others think of the consequence of action. I tend to think of the consequences of inaction. Evil prospers when good people hesitate' Edmund

'You're smarter than you look' Beatrice

'We should make camp. It'll be dark soon' Edmund

Mountain Forest

'I see you looking at him' Valeria said hotly

'What?' Beatrice sounded nervous

'I see the way your eyes follow him. Just the same way his eyes follow me. Haven't you noticed he's not interested?' Valeria said scornfully

'I don't know what you're talking about' Beatrice glanced about trying to find some escape from the taller woman

'Don't deny it. You're in love with Edmund. There's nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone loves Edmund. He's a hero. Women throw themselves at him all the time. But you know what?' Valeria smirked realizing the other woman's discomfort

'What?' Beatrice said almost as a whisper

'He'll never pick you over me. Look at you. No money, no beauty, no charm. Why even bother? You're only setting yourself up for disappointment.' Valeria gestured at Beatrice as she spoke

'I have something you don't Valeria.' Beatrice said with quiet conviction

'Hahaha don't make me laugh! What could that be?' Valeria said arrogantly

'Compassion.' Beatrice said with quiet defiance in her voice

'Compassion is for friends, not lovers. No wonder Cedric left you. And here you are still chasing after him. After the way he treated you? Pathetic!' Valeria laughed off Beatrice's virtuous claim

'Valeria? What are you girls talking about over here?' Edmund said walking over from the far side of camp

'Compassion' Valeria said with a mocking laugh and strutted back towards the campfire

'Are you alright?' Edmund said glancing at Valeria as she left, concern evident in his voice

'I'm fine. Just leave me alone' Beatrice said tearfully

'What did she say? What did she tell you?' Edmund said, getting angry at Valeria without yet knowing the details

'The truth' Beatrice said sadly, turning away from camp and walking into the forest to be alone

'Fine be that way' Edmund said in frustration before turning back towards camp

Atlantean Enclave

The four dragons flew into the mountain valley of black stone where the Atlantean enclave lay. Edmund led the way on his red and the other three formed a wedge behind him Valeria on her blue to his right, Beatrice on her green and Cedric's gold to his left. They spotted the Atlantean cave from down the valley this morning and Edmund decided a charge would be the best way to take the Atlanteans by surprise.

The sky was a dull grey and the valley floor here was exposed black rock, strewn with boulders and supporting only a few stunted and gnarled trees and bushes. The three dragonriders spurred their mounts to greater speed knowing they would be easy to spot on approach, they needed to get as close to the enclave as possible before being detected.

The sound of a horn echoed through the valley. The dragonriders had been spotted.

'Well they know we're coming now' Beatrice yelled pessimistically against the screaming wind. Her mood was still black after Valeria's confrontation the previous night

A flock of black shapes began to issue from the cave mouth. Great wings spreading, catching the wind, and wheeling towards the four lone invaders into this rugged and desolate landscape. As they drew nearer size and shape could be ascertained; they were enormous brown bats, each half the size of a dragon, and each bearing an Atlantean rider on it's back thanks to a cunning saddle. The dragons were outnumbered four to one.

The dragonriders drew their bows from hostlers slung far back on their saddles. Each was made from the wingbones of fallen dragons, just as they knew the Atlantean bows were crafted from the wings of dead dire bats. In the distance the dragonriders could make out the Atlanteans likewise preparing their own missiles. Both sides used poison arrows in this aerial dogfight, it was the only way to overcome their rivals' mounts. But the dragons and their riders had the advantage of scales and armour while the Atlanteans rode almost as naked as their bats.

For a moment the two parties flew on, the distance closing rapidly between them. Arrows were knocked and loosed whistling across the narrowing gap and finding marks in exposed flesh of bats and men. The Atlantean arrows bounced harmlessly from dragon scales, no gap had been found on this folley.

Dragonfire burst onto the Atlanteans. Squeaks of fear and pain issued from the Atlantean mounts and several fell screaming to the valley floor below, fireballs of burning hair and charred fleh. Most of the bats drove through the fire to fall, biting and clawing, onto the dragons, trying to grapple with their larger foes, to rend wings and drag them down to the mountain slopes below. An aerial melee had begun.

The tangled mass of screaming, clawing animals fell through the air plummeting towards the scanty shrubs growing on the floor of the valley. The dragonriders drew steel and began slashing at their foes, the smell of charred hair and flesh filling their nostrils. At the last moment bat and dragon alike disengaged and spread their wings, one bat couldn't pull up in time and was smashed to pulp on the thin soil of the valley.

A furious aerial dogfight ensued, the bats being smaller and more agile, fell in to chase down the dragons, their riders loosing poison arrows at man and beast alike. Beatrice's green groaned in pain as an arrow found it's mark in her exposed underbelly, but one arrow would not slay it, merely slow it down, leaving it vulnerable to further damage and injury.

The dragonriders twisted sideways and fired backwards into the pursuing cloud of leathery wings and snarling fangs. More giant bats went spiralling or flailing down to be crushed against the black rocks of the valley. A few of the Atlanteans were hit as well, death being instant in the face of the deadly poison, and their mounts wandered from the chase seeking freedom amongst the crags of the black mountains.

'Split up!' cried Edmund

The women obeyed, Valeria turning left, Beatrice right. Circling back they fell in behind Edmund's pursuers and scorched them with blasts of dragonfire, all the time firing their own poison arrows with excellent accuracy. The Atlanteans panicked under this onslaught and broke formation. Most went down to ruin, and those who survived had lost all taste for battle, they fled into the mountains to lick their wounds and find a new enclave to join, one with less hearty enemies to contend with. The sky was clear for the dragonriders to approach the enclave.

The dragonriders resumed their formation and began a slow spiral towards the cave. The Atlanteans were sheltering in the cave mouth and hiding behind boulders, crouching with bows and slings at the ready. The dragonriders kept up a continual stream of arrows onto the Atlantean plateau but whenever the sky seemed clear of immediate danger the Atlanteans would break cover just enough to return fire. More arrows were driven home into the dragons' bellies, but it was not enough to hinder their landing.

The dragons touched down and were soon sweeping the plateau clear of Atlantean resistance, lashing out with fang, wing, tail, and fire. The Atlanteans outside of the enclave were soon either dead or fleeing. Seeking another leader to provide shelter and succor in the cruel world of crags and stone that was their domain.

The three dragonriders dismounted as their great war beasts drove off the Atlanteans outside the cave and began a cautious trot into the enclave itself. Edmund had his bronze sword in hand now, Valeria and Beatrice covered him with their compact dragon-bone bows, all three ready for traps, treachery, and ambush.

The cave ran straight enough for grey sunlight to illuminate it's length and at the far end Edmund could see the orange glow of a huge bonfire blazing and burning, the source of the smoke which flowed along the ceiling in greasy wisps.

Stepping cautiously he led the way with his sword thrust forward, ready for an attack from any direction. The cave stunk of body odour, excrement and urine, deep shadows lurked everywhere along the rough hewn walls.

The attack came when he reached the narrowest point of the cave, about halfway to the bonfire and thirty feet from the cave mouth. Atlanteans swarmed him from both sides and above too, one dropping from a small crevice overhead.

Edmund sprung back and his sword flashed in a series of parrys while the twang of bowstrings behind him sent arrows into the Atlanteans to his left and right. The nimble climber who had dropped from the ceiling was quickly dispatched by Edmund's blade but he knew if his backward spring had not carried him clear of the initial ambush he would have been done in by the cruel blades of the Atlanteans. As it was only his thick dragonscale armour had saved him from that crawler's serrated sword, doubtless it was poisoned and the smallest knick would have been Edmund's doom.

Now entering the central chamber they saw Cedric strung up by his feet, nude, with blood streaming down his body from his smashed shins, one leg clearly broken by the trauma of the Atlantean clubs.

'Oh Cedric!' Beatrice cried rushing to his side and falling to her knees.

She cradled his head in her lap, supporting some of his weight while Edmund came forward with a dagger to cut him down. Valeria kept a careful watch on the side passages of the central chamber, bow still in hand, an arrow knocked and ready to be loosed at the first sign of ambush.

'How ya doin buddy?' Edmund asked as he hoisted Cedric down gently

'My leg is broken' Cedric

'Yeah. Let's get you out of here' Edmund

Dragonrider Camp, Evening

Cedric was sitting up beside the fire in the dragonrider's camp, his back supported by the massive root of one of the Atlantean mutants. His legs stretched out in front of him with Beatrice kneeling there cleaning and bandaging his wounds. His dragon was just off to the side of the clearing gazing at him with satisfied affection, happy to have him back.

'You saved me.' Cedric said to Beatrice with a hopefuly smile

'Yes' Beatrice said flatly keeping her eyes on her work, bandaging Cedric's wounds

'Why?' Cedric asked hope shining in his voice

'I was sent' Beatrice said still not meeting his gaze

'I don't believe that' Cedric said

'Well it's true.' Beatrice replied, still not betraying any emotion

'Is that the only reason you came?' Cedric asked, the hope starting to leave his face

'What do you want me to say Cedric? Why are you asking me' Beatrice said in exhausted frustration finally meeting his gaze, her own blue eyes looked tired and desolate

'I'm sorry. You're right. I have no right to. But I'm glad to see you' Cedric said looking away, having not found what he was hoping to see in her light blue eyes

'Ha. You'd be glad to see anyone in that circumstance' Beatrice said sarcastically returning to her work

'Yes. But I'm glad to see you' Cedric said truthfully

'Stop it' Beatrice said, her frustration mounting, confusion plain on her face

'What?' Cedric asked knowingly

'Looking at me like that. Stop it' Beatrice said avoiding the return of his passionate gaze

'I'm sorry.' Cedric said looking down

'Sorry for what?' Beatrice asked hotly

'For everything.' Cedric said looking now up at the flat grey sky above

'What's that supposed to mean? What am I supposed to do with an apology? Forgive you? How can I?' Beatrice asked rhetorically, her pride warring with her feelings

'But you're here' Cedric said hopefully trying to meet her gaze again

'Shut up' Beatrice said finishing her work she moved to the far side of camp without looking at him

Dragonrider Camp, Morning

The next morning following a simple breakfast of spiced porridge Cedric was testing his body to see the real extend of his injuries, he ached all over, and felt feverish from the shock of his ordeal. Beatrice had made him a simple crutch from the wood of a fallen tree nearby but had given it to him without allowing him to engage her in conversation. Breakfast had mostly been filled with gossip from Valeria, catching Cedric up on a scandal he'd missed during his captivity as if he really cared, and snippets of songs and poems from Edmund.

'I'm glad to see you standing again. I was worried your leg might be infected. That place was filthy. I don't know how they can live like that' Edmund said watching Cedric hobbling about heavily on his crutch

'They've fallen very far indeed from the ancient empire. Especially in terms of hospitality. But yes my leg is feeling much better now. Just a bone-splinter kind of ache instead of a feverish burning.' Cedric said cheerfully through teeth gritted against the pain in his damaged limb

'Beatrice is a great healer. And very skilled in woodcraft as well. We couldn't have found you without her' Edmund said admiringly

'I know. I owe her a lot. Are you and her?' Cedric asked looking at Edmund with concern

'What? Oh no. No we're just friends' Edmund said with a casual smile

'Then you won't mind if I?' Cedric said glancing back towards the forest where Beatrice was gathering firewood

'You? I thought you and her were over?' Edmund said looking disheartened

'We were. But she came to rescue me' Cedric said hopefully

'She was ordered to.' Edmund said flatly

'You really think she doesn't care then?' Cedric asked looking crestfallen

'I don't know. It's just that she'd said...' Edmund's voice was full of sympathy for Cedric's situation

'She told you what happened?' Cedric asked looking embarassed

'No. But she said you two were a thing of the past.' Edmund replied

'Yes. I cheated on her. She left me' Cedric admitted sadly

'She said you left her' Edmund asked in surprise

'She would see it that way. But it was a mistake' Cedric said still looking sad and embarrassed

'Not all mistakes can be taken back' Edmund said sharing his peer's sadness

'But I have to try' Cedric said with determination

'You still care about her' Edmund asked hesitantly

'I love her. Not a day goes by that I don't regret what I did. I was young and stupid.' Cedric said with candor

'Well then I won't stand in your way' Edmund said

'Thank you Edmund. You're a good man' Cedric said looking with admiration towards the taller man

Mountain Forest, Afternoon

Beatrice had managed to catch a few rabbits for their lunch, enjoyed roasted over the fire, alongside flatbread baked amidst the coals of the blaze. Cedric had tried to talk to her again but she'd managed to deflect him, she'd eaten quickly and returned to the solitude of the woods to gather more firewood and perhaps catch something for dinner. Edmund and Valeria were tending to the dragons after yesterday's exertions, rubbing them down and making sure their wounds weren't infected, trying to soothe raw skin beneath broken or missing scales.

'Beatrice' Valeria called after the shorter girl, pushing her way through the grey scrub to catch up to her

'What do you want?' Beatrice scowled over her shoulder, only allowing a momentary distraction from her hunt for firewood

'I came to warn you' Valeria huffed

'Warn me about what?' Beatrice said suspiciously

'Cedric thinks he's going to lose his leg' Valeria informed

'So?' Beatrice glared at the other woman

'So he'll never be able to find a decent woman with one leg. I just heard him tell Edmund as much. He's finally willing to settle for you though. He was just asking Edmund if he was interested in you. Edmund laughed at the idea' Valeria said with a cruel smile playing across her full lips

'So that's it' Beatrice said with dejected realization

'Yes. I just couldn't bear the thought of it. You might be pathetic, but even you don't deserve to be some cripple's consolation prize. Surely you can at least find a man with two legs?' Valeria said mockingly, glee in her eyes as she realized Beatrice believed her

'Why are you so cruel to me?' Beatrice said, almost shouting, she threw down her bundle of firewood

'Because you need to learn your place. There are winners and losers in this world. I am a winner, you are a loser. You need to learn not to covet what is beyond your reach' Valeria said coldly moving towards the shorter girl to intimidate her with her superior height

'You want to see a loser! Get ready!' Beatrice shouted shoving Valeria hard with both hands

'Come on then little girl!' Valeria shouted back drawing her sword

Beatrice charged Valeria like a bull, recklessly hacking and cleaving at the taller girl with her bronze sword. Valeria deftly parried, moving back and using her footwork to maintain distance between herself and her smaller, but more ferocious, attacker. Both women quickly realized that without their armour this could be a lethal contest, even a single blow could cut deeply.

Valeria's counterattack was fast and precise, she moved with a graceful fluidity Beatrice could never hope to match, cutting and thrusting to test Beatrice's defenses and overcome them. Beatrice managed to use the terrain to her advantage, gnarled roots, treetrunks, rotten logs, she moved deftly over obstacles and made sure not to stand toe-to-toe with Valeria as she realized the brunette was a superior swordswoman to herself.

The fight ranged around a bit and went on for a few exchanges, neither women quite finding her mark, only a few minor cuts being influcted, then Valeria stumbled. A gnarled root caught her ankle and her guard went down just for a second but it was all Beatrice needed, she sprang forward and tackled the thinner women to the ground, both swords were lost in the tall grass, but Beatrice had landed straddling her opponent and didn't need any weapon to assert herself now, she reigned down hard punches onto Valeria's fragile face venting her frustrations into the pretty girl's flesh

'What's goin on here!? Stop this at once!' Edmund yelled as he came rushing out of the scrub. He threw his drawn sword aside and tackled Beatrice off of Valeria

'She attacked me!' Valeria yelled though swollen, broken lips

'Is this true?' Edmund said in shock, hopping up to his feet from the forest floor

'Yes' Beatrice said pushing herself up, gasping with exertion

'Did she ambush you Valeria?' Edmund asked helping Valeria to stand

'No' Valeria's face betrayed embarrassment

'She beat you?' Edmund asked with genuine surprise

'What does it matter?' Valeria spat angrily

'I'm impressed Beatrice' Edmund said shooting the blonde an admiring glance

'Don't be' Beatrice said glaring at Valeria as the brunette stormed off towards camp

Dragonrider Camp, Afternoon

As Valeria stormed back into the camp clearing Cedric was hobbling in the direction of the fight, leaning heavily on the crutch Beatrice had made for him.

'What happened? What's going on' Cedric asked looking at Valeria, concern on his face

'Nothing don't worry about it' Valeria answered in a huff, dropping down cross-legged near the fire, rubbing her bruises

'Are you all right?' Cedric asked hobbling over to sit next to the lithe brunette

'Beatrice is a cow!' Valeria spat angrily looking up at Cedric, her eyes swelling with unshed tears

'I see you've spent some time with her then' Cedric said with gentle humour and a consoling smile

'She seems to think that just because she's wood-crafty, and a healer that she's entitled to Edmund!' Valeria said looking down into the fire and wiping the unshed tears from her eyes

'I didn't think Edmund was interested in her?' Cedric asked with concern in his voice

'I don't know what he's interested in!' Valeria said looking up at the patch of grey sky their clearing revealed, a tiny window in the canopy of ugly, mutant trees

'Hey Valeria come here. You're a beautiful woman, any man would be lucky to have you. Really' Cedric said placing his hand on her shoulder, his voice filled with empathy

'So why am I still chasing him around and running off his floozies?' Valeria said, sounding tired and defeated

'Edmund is still young. And besides he's a hero. He's never had things go against him, he's not used to making mistakes. Or at least not used to suffering for his mistakes. Once he realizes how fleeting these affairs are, believe me, he'll regret ever leaving your side' Cedric said moving closer to her, trying to comfort Valeria, who was obviously distressed

'Do you really think so?' Valeria said hopefully, looking into his deep blue eyes

'I know so. Just give him time. Be patient. Try to forgive him' Cedric said with that same consoling smile

'I don't know if I can.' Valeria said looking back down into the blaze

'Have you talked to him?' Cedric asked

'What? I should beg for him to make a commitment? Begging is counterproductive.' Valeria said cynically, with a pride her body language lacked

'Just be honest with him.' Cedric said his voice still gentle and soothing

'You're so naive' Valeria said shaking her head in disrespect at Cedric's gentleness

'I've learned the value of candour Through long, hard, experience. I've learned. Honesty is what really matters' Cedric said with conviction ignoring her insult

'I can see why Beatrice misses you.' Valeria said with a hint of a smile

'You think she does?' Cedric said hopefully

'She came out here to save you' Valeria said

'Well she didn't seem very interested in forgiving me.' Cedric said sadly

'Forgiveness is hard. Compared to forgiveness Atlantean bat-riders are a piece of cake.' Valeria said with a sad smile

Mountain Forest, Afternoon

'What were you two fighting about?' Edmund asked Beatrice gesturing towards the camp where Valeria had stormed off to

'How can you be with her?' Beatrice said accusingly with an angry gesture

'What?' Edmund was taken aback at Beatrice changing the subject

'She's so cruel and selfish. How can you be with her? You're not like her at all. Are you really that shallow?' Beatrice said looking away from Edmund, frustration boiling over in her voice

'Valeria is... complicated. She did not have a very happy childhood. It makes her defensive.' Edmund said quietly, trying to meet Beatrice's gaze, afraid to reveal too much of his friend's personal past

'Offensive is more like it' Beatrice said flatly sitting down on a massive gnarled tree root

'Deep down she's not like that. She just needs someone to be there for her' Edmund said gently stepping in front of Beatrice's huddled figure

'Someone like you?' Beatrice glanced up at Edmund accusingly

'I don't know' Edmund sighed looking up to the canopy of withered leaves above

'Then why are you leading her on?' Beatrice said hotly standing up

'It's not like that' Edmund said with a confused look on his face

'You're the reason she's so insecure. I know you don't mean to do it, but you're torturing her can't you see?' Beatrice said imploringly, wishing Edmund could understand

'She's never asked me for a commitment.' Edmund deflected

'You're oblivious.' Beatrice sighed in frustration

'What's that supposed to mean? Hey I'm trying to make sure you're alright' Edmund said becoming defensive

'I can take care of myself' Beatrice said looking away from Edmund

'I can see that. Not many could beat Valeria' Edmund said with admiration in his voice

'I take back what I said about you' Beatrice said

'What?' Edmund asked

'You are as stupid as you look. You might be a great fighter, you might be brave when it comes to danger. But you're clueless when it comes to people. You're a coward when it comes to your feelings' Beatrice said staring up at Edmund with a scowl on her chubby face

'I know how I feel about you' Edmund said not flinching from her stare, his eyes soft and admiring

'You're impossible. How will you feel tomorrow?' Beatrice said turning away from the blue depths of his eyes

'We might be dead tomorrow. But we're alive tonight' Edmund said softly placing his hand on her shoulder

'And what if that's not enough? What if I don't just want to be alive from moment to moment?' Beatrice whispered as if to herself

'Then you're already dead' Edmund whispered back to her


The four dragonriders returned to Mu amidst a grey drizzling rain. The dragon's scales shined in the weak light from the moisture but the rider's were bundled up tight against the chill of new spring.
© Copyright 2017 davidducker (davidducker at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2138935-Dragon-Rescue