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by Jeff
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Fantasy · #2053391
Round 1 Entry: Retrieving a live dragon-wolf from the Forest of Sorrows.

Eldon watched as the other participants rushed into the Forest of Sorrows, eager and excited to begin the challenge of capturing a dragon-wolf. His was a more circumspect approach, taking his time as he entered the woods and fully surveyed his surroundings. If he was going to have any hope of success, it would be his wits rather than his nonexistent magical aptitude or combat prowess that led him to victory.

As the others rushed on ahead, Eldon realized that he wasn’t alone in his slower approach; a tall elf with long brown hair stood a hundred feet away, head cocked slightly as she listened. Eldon waved, but couldn’t seem to grab her attention.

“Hello!” he called out, earning a glance in his direction. “Seems I’m not the only one who sees the value in taking things slowly.”

As Eldon approached, he noticed her green eyes were hazy thanks to a filmy, milky white layer in front of her irises. He also noted that when he stopped moving, her eyes roamed around slightly, as if they suddenly lost track of him.

“You’re blind?” Eldon asked, surprised.

“Since the day I was born,” the elf replied.

“Wow, I didn’t think there’d be anyone out here that could give me a run for the title of Most Ill-Prepared Adventurer. How in the heavens did--”

Before he could finish his sentence or even register the fluid flick of her wrist, Eldon found himself with a sword under his chin, close enough that it could have shaved the stubble from his face if he were old enough to grow any.

“Blind, but certainly not incompetent,” she said. “Alasse Sirfalas. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Stepping slowly back, Eldon removed his throat from the blade’s proximity.

“Eldon Berrythistle,” he said, checking his chin for scratches. “How did you do that?”

“Sight is but one of five senses. I’ve trained myself to make do with the other four.”

“That’s impressive. Look, this might sound forward of me, but perhaps we could join forces? The rules didn’t seem to say anything about working together to accomplish the task. Two heads are better than one, right?”

“I don’t work with others,” she replied. “Besides, it’s going to be hard enough capturing a live dragon-wolf without also having to watch over you.”

Alasse didn’t intend for that comment to have as much hostility as it did; maybe there was some truth to the rumors that the Forest of Sorrows were so named because of the dark emotions they seemed to elicit from travelers.

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Eldon said. “I grew up playing in these woods. I know my way around.”

“Ugh, fine. Just try not to get in my way.”

The two of them moved into the forest, walking along in silence until they approached a point where the paths diverged. Rather than taking the wider, more worn trail, Eldon started along the road less traveled.

“Where are you going?” Alasse asked. “The main path goes that way.”

“You really think we’re going to find a dragon-wolf just hanging out by the side of the main path? Trust me, I know where I’m going.”

Alasse followed Eldon’s lead as the less traveled route wound its way deeper and deeper into the woods, until the light faded and the dense canopy of leaves overhead blocked out all by the occasional ray of sunlight. In the perpetual gloom, they approached a point where the trail became uneven and dropped off.

Eldon hopped down the three-foot change in elevation and kept going, but turned when he realized Alasse wasn’t following. She stood at the edge of the trail looking around as if she didn’t know where to go. Was that worry, maybe even a hint of fear on her face?

“What’s wrong?” Eldon asked, returning to the ledge.

“Heights. I don’t like heights.”

“It’s okay,” Eldon reassured her. “The drop is only a few feet.”

Still apprehensive, Eldon reached out and put a hand on her leg.

“I’m right here. I’m standing on the ground at the bottom of the ledge. Here, take my hand.”

Alasse reached down and took Eldon’s hand. Using him as a guide, she sat down on the ledge and pushed herself off, gasping as she dropped the remaining few inches to the ground.

“You okay?” Eldon asked her, only letting go of her hand once the elf had caught her breath and stopped trembling.

“Thank you,” she murmured as they continued into the forest.

As they walked, Alasse’s mood seemed to get darker and darker. Rather than quietly following Eldon’s lead, she started making annoyed remarks and questions every few minutes.

“How much farther is it?”

“Are you sure we’re headed in the right direction?”

“Seriously, where are we going?”

What made Alasse even more irritable was the fact that Eldon didn’t seem to be the slightest bit perturbed. It was almost like the negative effects of the forest didn’t bother him at all while they weighed on her every thought and moment.

Finally, they reached a clearing set against the side of a hill. A large cave was set into the rock and there, in front of the cave, a dragon-wolf lay curled up in one of the few pools of sunlight poking through the canopy of leaves.

Eldon smiled at Alasse. “I told you I knew these woods.”

Alasse was fixated on the dragon-wolf, quietly drawing her bow and reaching back to her quiver for an arrow.

“What are you doing?” Eldon hissed.

“What does it look like I’m doing?” Alasse snapped back. “We need to bring it back alive, but at full strength that thing is going to tear us apart. If we wound it, maybe prevent it from flying, we might actually have a chance.”

“Don’t,” Eldon urged her. “There’s a better way.”

Alasse pushed Eldon away and moved out into the clearing. The dragon-wolf’s eyes snapped open and locked on Alasse. As quick as she was with her bow, the dragon-wolf’s reaction was quicker. In the span of time it took the arrow to fly thirty feet, the creature was on its feet and had safely dodged out of the way. The arrow harmlessly stuck into the ground in the center of the pool of sunlight.

Alasse tried to draw another arrow, but the dragon-wolf pounced on her, knocking her to the ground. She cringed as the creature opened its mouth and roared, prepared to make a meal out of the vision-impaired elf.

“Rex, no!” Eldon cried, rushing into the clearing.

The dragon-wolf’s ears perked up and looked toward Eldon, its intelligent eyes instantly recognizing Eldon.

“Let her go,” Eldon commanded. “Come here!”

The dragon-wolf let Alasse up, who quickly rolled away and got to her feet just in time to get knocked around by the dragon-wolf’s heavy tail as it did an about-face and bounded toward Eldon. The tail thwacked Alasse good, and she went crashing back down to earth, her head smacking an exposed tree stump.

Light exploded behind her eyes and her mind reeled as she tried to gain her surroundings. Struggling against the blackness threatening to consume her, she heard Eldon talking to the dragon-wolf. With her unique sensory vision, she thought she even saw the dragon-wolf rolling on its back and squirming around as Eldon gave it ... was that a belly rub?

“Good boy, Rex. That’s a good boy. Come on, I need your help with something. I promise it won’t hurt ... they just need a little of your blood to help the elves get their wizard back ... I know, but I promise it’s only a little blood. I won’t let them hurt you ... I promise I’ll bring you snacks every day for a month if you do this for me.”

Alasse couldn’t possibly be hearing him correctly. The blow to the head must be messing with her. Had this boy befriended a dragon-wolf?

“Thanks, Rex. You’re a good boy. Now we just have to figure out how to get Alasse here back to the Guards of the Forest. I think you knocked her out. Think I can put her on your back?”

Alasse felt someone picking her up, and the odd sensation of resting on a bed of feathers. Then everything went black.


(1,383 words)

Entry for "CLASH! . Prompt: "T3 - Round 1 - The Forest of Shadows"  

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