A hunter realises all he knows and loves depends on a dragon he sought to kill & himself
She perched on a stony outcrop high on the snow-covered mountain peak. Below she could see the many dwellings that made up what humanity called a town. Her keen eyesight picked out men scurrying to and thro like tiny insects; she had studied the ways of man for some time. This fascination with men and their ways had made her an outcast among her kind. For men feared, hunted and killed many of her kind till few remained. But change was coming, she could sense it. She believed that many in the town below had accepted her presence, they feared her still of course, but there was a grudging respect.
Now she dreamed it as well, change fast approached and danger, a great worm that could divide into many tentacle-like appendages and teeth of steel would come across the sea to swallow everything in darkness. It threatened all men in this land and would bring extinction to her kind. She had tried telling others of her kind, but they wouldn't listen. She could sense however an important event was close that could make a difference to what may come. It involved herself and one other, a man. He was below now in the town. His nearness rang like a bell through her awareness. Crouching down on her fours and leaning forward muscles tensing like a coiled springs she thrust forwards and up unleashing the tension as she sprang skyward wings outstretching.
Leo had never known a winter like this one, he had only managed two deer pelts and one bear hardly enough to pay for supplies to see the winter out. The town appeared quieter than usual most people choosing to stay indoors and keep warm. A sudden far of screech echoed down the mountains, and Leo looked skyward to see a dragon circling in the distance.
"Now if I could bag me a dragon hide that would set me up for life," Leo thought as he approached the hardware and supply shop of the town, owned by his good friend Harry Lomach the mayor as he dismounted his horse and removed the pelts. Sandria, the mayor’s daughter, came out to greet him.
"Hail Leo Karsloy it's been a while, I missed you," Sandria said with a cheeky smile. There came another screech, this time it seemed a little closer Sandria looked skyward with a slight frown. "The dragon seems a little agitated,” she remarked. "You look weary Leo; come inside father will be glad to see you, ” returning her attention to Leo. “I'll get you a bowl of my special stew.” Sandria had long admired this tall ruggedly handsome man with his brown eyes and chiselled features. He had a relaxed, laid-back likeable manner that she found endearing and she loved him dearly.
Leo shook the snow from his boots before entering and removed his fur coat, hat, and woollen gloves his unkempt blonde-hair fell to almost shoulder length. He rubbed his hands together to warm them as he entered the hardware store.
"Leo my boy, good to see you come, sit by the fire and warm yourself. We'll talk later after Sandy has fed you." The mayor shook Leo by the hand vigorously and ushered him into the back room where a roaring fire blazed in the hearth. The mayor bade him sit at a wooden table close to the fire. Leo sat gratefully feeling the heat from the fire gradually warming him. He had almost dozed off when Sandria brought him a big bowl of stew and a pint pot of foaming ale.
"You're tired it's been a hard winter and not over yet,” Sandria said putting the food on the table. Slim pickings to I see, by what you've got," Sandria stated with a slight catch in her voice. Leo nodded as he hungrily ate the stew burning his tongue in his eagerness. “You’re not going out there again; you'll stay a while this time surely father will see you alright.” She paused watching him eat.“ I'll make sure he pays you well for the pelts, and you can lodge with us till the weather improves.” Sandria said. Her bottom lip trembled as she looked at Leo hopefully.
At that moment Leo's feelings for Sandria clarified he had always loved her but never admitted to himself till now as he stared into her green eyes. A stray strand of raven her fell to her cheek, and she absently brushed it aside. What had become a vague notion now became a certainty. He would hunt the dragon; then he would have enough gold to marry Sandria and live comfortably. He said as much to her the words flowing from him; he couldn't stop himself.
Sandria first blushed then looked concerned and angry. Much to Leo's dismay, she stormed off into the kitchen returning moment’s later tears streaming down her cheeks. Leo couldn't understand why Sandria was so upset had he got it so wrong and made a complete fool of himself.
"You stubborn fool you're exhausted and half-starved, and you’re going to go out there again and for what! A poor creature hunted to near extinction, what harm has it done you," she said outraged. Leo had never known her to be this angry before. “Well go for all I care, and I hope the dragon eats you! It will be all you deserve you'll not be welcome here anymore if you kill that dragon; it's our protector." She scolded him at length.
"Why couldn't you keep your big mouth shut," he thought be-rating himself. One thing was sure he still intended to go after the dragon, and if he got killed well, he wouldn't have to worry anymore.
"What's all the fuss about?" Asked Harry, he had just finished serving a customer and could hear his daughter's tirade from the store.
“This fool man is going after, the dragon he thinks it's skin will buy my hand in marriage," Sandria said still fuming.
"What! Well that's going a bit too far lad you're liable to get yourself killed besides this dragon has become a sort of talisman for the town. Many consider it a tourist attraction as long as it keeps its distance" Harry explained. Sandria looked as equally appalled at her father and once more stormed out of the room.
The next morning Leo waved goodbye to the mayor there was no sign of Sandria. Harry had pleaded with him to stay at least another day. Telling him, Sandria would come round eventually Leo had his doubts about that she seemed far too upset and angry with him especially now that he was determined to go after the dragon.
"She's of training with the local militia you know she takes her job there seriously," Harry began Leo nodded and sighed. “You know you two are right for each other, you could marry her rich or poor as far as I'm concerned." said the mayor. Again Leo could only nod he wanted to be able to provide for her to see her live in the comfort she was used to and deserved not live the hard life he had until now he couldn't do that to her. It was too late now anyway he turned his horse and headed towards the mountains behind him the mayor looked on and shook his head in resignation.
For three days Leo had followed the trail of the dragon. He could see it ahead of him tantalisingly close, as if leading him on but every time he got near it seemed to disappear. The weather had turned colder, with his food running low and snow falling again, soon he would have to turn back and wait for the weather to improve which may not be until spring
"That would at least make Sandria happy if he went back empty-handed." He thought with some sarcasm. He considered how he was going to kill the dragon. He adapted two long spears with barbed metal tips dipped in poison which he hoped would at least slow the beast long enough for him to go for the kill; with a third heavier spear. At least that was the theory, when he thought about it now the whole idea seemed insane, but he was too stubborn to change his mind.
His horse plodded through deepening snow as he climbed ever upwards into the mountains. He had an annoying bussing in his head for most of the day which he couldn't shake and was getting worse. He began wondering if was sickening for something. Shaking his head to try and clear it he stopped in a small dip in the trail surrounded by pines, a narrow path went higher into the mountains and a second seemed to traverse the side.
"Having trouble deciding which way," said a voice. Startled, Leo looked around to see who it was but there was no one in sight
“Who are you show yourself," Leo said trying to see beyond the trees he stood up in the stirrups and squinted staring around to no avail.
"At last," said the voice sounding a little petulant. "You are looking for something yes," the voice stated rather than asked.
"Yes," said Leo. "Are you looking for the same thing show yourself perhaps we could join forces," Leo said.
"Perhaps, take the trail leading up on the right," said the voice.
"Then we will meet if I take the trail to the right?" asked Leo
He waited for an answer, but none was forthcoming. He decided to take the trail she said, whoever she was. Realising he had called the mystery person she because the voice had sounded feminine. What would a woman be doing out here alone he wondered perhaps he was wrong he nudged his horse onwards. The trail was not an easy one he had to dismount and lead his horse part of the way. Another hour passed as he reached a small plateau dotted with pines and small bushes. At the far end of the plateau, he thought he saw movement it was hard to see anything with mist clinging to the snow-clad trees and snow falling heavily now.
"Hello are you here," Leo called his horse refused to go any further and started bucking. Immediately Leo suspicions were raised, and he felt a shiver down his spine.
"It's here; it must be, perhaps it has already killed whoever spoke too me and is now laying in wait for me," Leo thought, trying to keep calm. He could hear his heart pounding in his chest, he dismounted as he reached for his spears, untying them from the horse he cautiously moved forward.
“Hello, are you there," he called out again with not much hope of an answer.
"I am here!," said the voice.
He muttered a curse he could hardly believe it he was sure the dragon had got whoever she was. "Where in the blazes are you I'm sure there is a dragon nearby," he exclaimed gruffly. He kept moving slowly forward staring all around
"Oh, I'm sure too! I'm just a little further past the small group of trees in front of you, there is a rocky outcrop can you see it yet?" the voice said.
"Not yet wait, I can see it, I can't see you though," Leo said. Brushing away snowflakes from his face, heart still pounding, nervously he hefted one of his spears, dropping the other two as they were getting cumbersome, the shaft ends trailing along the ground slowing him more, and restricting freedom of movement; his breath steamed in the cold air. He passed a small group of fir trees but still could see no one.
"Damn it where are you," Leo said looking about anxiously.
"I am here," said the voice, as a dragon appeared right in front of him close enough to touch..
Terror gripped him, and he took several involuntary steps back, stumbling dropping his spear in the snow. The dragon remained in place watching as if he were some insect and it wondered whether to stomp on or snatch him up and eat him. Panicking he groped around for his spear while trying to keep one eye on the dragon. His hand felt the wooden shaft of the spear, and he grabbed it hefting it he aimed it at the dragon. The dragon still hadn't moved and merely looked at him curiously.
"Well are you going use that stick or not," the dragon said
"You tricked me, lured me here letting me think you were another human by hiding like the skulking beast you are," he exclaimed outraged hefting his spear ready to throw but before he could throw it the dragon wrenched the spear away from him with a talon nearly pulling his arm from its socket. The lance splintered and cracked into pieces as it fell to the snow-covered ground. The dragon let out a fierce roar. Leo only now realising the seriousness of his situation felt he was about to die.
"Well you can eat me or burn me to ashes, but I won't go without a fight," said Leo with false bravado. Summoning what courage he could, he drew his sword.
The dragon batted him lightly aside knocking him over and causing him to drop his sword he felt bruised and had a scratch on his face but amazingly still alive as he regained his feet.
"For your information if I wanted you dead or if I was to eat you I would've done it by now," said the dragon with more than a little impatience. "And I didn't lure you here I simply told you what you needed to know to find me. Not that I needed finding I've been close to you most of the day trying to communicate with you so when I finally did rather than show myself, and scare you to death, I gave you a meeting place." The dragon explained with some humour.
Leo was speechless he was talking with a dragon whom he had come to try and kill an absurd idea he now realised one man alone could never bring down this creature he could only wait and see what it wanted if not to be its super then what? The dragon was apparently intelligent and cunning nobody had ever mentioned that in the stories about them. There were a few things the dragon said that didn't make sense to him so he thought he might as well ask and play for time maybe he would get his chance to escape later.
"You say you have been close to me all day how come I couldn't see you?" Leo asked.
"Did you look up."
"Oh yes, I did several times during the day, I'm sure I would have seen you if you were flying above me."
"Not if I didn't want you to," the dragon said and promptly vanished into thin air.
"What the!!" Leo exclaimed in surprise, looking around in astonishment. The dragon reappeared a moment later in the same spot.
"You can turn invisible!!" He said in wonderment
"Yes I have that ability as well," said the dragon
"As well as breathing fire."
"Whatever gave you that idea dragons can't breathe fire," the dragon said in a mocking tone.
"What, I thought all dragons could breathe fire," Leo said surprised. Realising some of his and many others preconceptions about dragons
were proving to be wrong.
"Ridiculous notion breathe fire indeed, I would burn my own throat if I breathed fire any dragon would, I can, however, make or cause a fire," said the dragon
"Magic, of course, all dragons have magic abilities not all can become invisible or create fire, but all have magic abilities," stated the dragon.
"You're a female aren't you?" he asked at least wanting to confirm what he had thought earlier.
"Yes, of course, females are larger than males."
Who would've believed, he would be on a mountainside talking to a dragon both became silent, and Leo was aware it was growing dark, had he been talking that long. He no longer felt afraid of the dragon though he didn't entirely trust it as yet. He also began to feel a strange feeling of oneness with the dragon while talking to it.
"I'll have to stop calling her it. Damn, things are getting complicated," Leo thought wryly.
"My horse,” He remembered. "I've got to fetch my horse," he told the dragon looking back to where he had left the horse.
"I like horse meat," said the dragon lifting her head she rolled her tongue around the outside of her mouth.
"Errm... on second thoughts maybe it's alright where it is," answered Leo.
The dragon let out what sounded like a half roar half cackle. “Relax your horse headed for home some time ago - and anyway I much prefer a fat cow or a sheep to a horse." the dragon said amused
Leo wasn’t too happy to hear he had no horse. How was he to get down of the mountain and more importantly escape from the dragon? Leo shivered in the cold air it had stopped snowing, and a hard frost set in. He could see stars coming out maybe it wouldn't be a problem getting off the mountain perhaps he would freeze to death before morning. The dragon looked at Leo and could see he was in considerable distress "What is your name manling?" She asked her eyes blinked staring thoughtfully at him.
"Leo,” he replied shaking violently now with the cold in spite of the heavy clothing he wore.
"What's yours? "He asked in return
"You couldn't pronounce it,” She said considering. "You can call me Pelonia, you better, get under my wing Leo; you will at least be warm there until morning,” the dragon said.
Reluctantly Leo did as she bid crawling under her wing close to her massive breast so he could hear the pounding of her heart and he did indeed feel warm and cosy but wasn't sure if he would get any sleep the beat of the dragon's heart was so loud. Surprisingly the rhythmic beat lulled him to sleep.
He woke to a grey misty morning there was no sign of the dragon. He thought about what had happened the day before he could hardly take it all in. If he ever got back alive to tell the tale. No one would believe him looking around, he saw a fire burning close by melting the surrounding snow, and spitting sparks, as flakes of snow fell. He stood and stretched feeling stiff; the cold seeping into his bones again, going to the fire he warmed himself. He noticed his spears lay on the ground untouched and his sword lay close-by also, either the dragon trusted him not to use them or she didn't fear their use. He picked his sword up wiping it clean and sheaving it but left the spears.
"You're awake good," said the dragon.
"Wha... I wish you wouldn't do that," Leo said startled.
"Do what?" said the dragon.
"You know, Talk to me when you're invisible,” he said puzzled.
"But I'm not invisible I'm right above you in plain sight,” explained the dragon. He looked up and could see the dragon some distance away which confused him even more.
"Wait a minute... how come I can hear you a long way off is this another kind of ability you have?"
He watched as the dragon drew nearer, and lower the actual size and potential threat of the dragon became more evident in the light of day. Covered in mottled green shimmering scales, with a bony ridge along her spine and lizard-like tail. With a wingspan almost as long as her body, four short, muscular legs and cruel sharp talons. Her head had a jutting jaw; the mouth held long interlocking sharp teeth; he had seen them the day before. She carried a dead animal in her jaw as she landed at a safe distance from him
"In a way yes."
"What do you mean in a way?"
"Well, you don't think I can talk like you do?” She paused to let what she had said, sink in “I had to make you able to communicate with me." explained the dragon. “Your brain is telling you I'm talking to you in the way you are talking to me,” again she paused. “I hear only meaningless sounds coming from your mouth. You don't see my mouth move as if I was talking, do you? Especially as I'm carrying a deer in my mouth that would make talking difficult," she expanded in an amused tone. Leaving Leo baffled seeing he hadn't quite grasped it all yet she continued. "It's called telepathy, or mind speech you don't have to speak aloud just think what you want to say.”
"Ah... the buzzing in my head, it stopped when you first spoke to me," he frowned.
"Yes, it's a complicated process, don’t ask me how because I don't fully understand it myself," Pelonia said.
"How far away can this mind speech work, you were quite a distance from me when you started talking? Leo asked curiously. The dragon made her way her towards Leo making him feel slightly nervous again. She dropped the deer near the fire as Leo took a step back warily.
"You have to be able to see who you are communicating with," Pelonia answered. "Breakfast, you can cook it on the fire I've already eaten." She crouched down waiting as he skinned cut in portions cooked the venison. After he had eaten as much he could there was still plenty left.
"I'll finish this if you've had enough," the dragon said and thrust her head forward snatched the rest of the cooked meat up in her mouth as Leo jumped back in surprise.
"Mmm not bad that's the first time I've had cooked meat," she savoured the meat gulping down the last of it. "You'll have to cook some more for me sometime," the dragon eyed Leo with some amusement.
"Oh, so that's it, I'm to be your cook, you're going to keep me here your slave and cook is that it," Leo said petulantly.
The dragon gave a below lowering her head so she faced him eye to eye almost toppling him over Leo stood his ground no longer caring if he had gone too far and the dragon was to have him for dessert. He was at the end of his tether trying to figure out what the dragon wanted from him. The dragon blinked her eyes and drew back. "You have courage at least Leo," she began. "You still don't entirely trust me though do you," she stated staring down at him.
“Not entirely, but you can't blame me for that can you."
"I suppose not, but it's too late to think about it now you're going have to trust me because I want to show you some things that are happening now; some terrible things." The dragon said by her tone Leo didn't think he was going to like whatever she wanted to show him. The dragon stretched out lying on the ground.
"Climb on my back near my head and sit between the ridge spines," she said turning her head ponderously to make sure he did as she asked. Leo looked at the dragon with wide eyes hesitantly he climbed on her back all the while he kept nervously looking at the dragon. She half turned so she could watch him get safely on.
"Make sure you're comfortable and hold on to the spine in front tightly," she said rising to a crouching position.
Leo could feel the tension in her body as she prepared to lift skyward. "What did you say your name was again I've forgotten,” Leo said trying to distract himself his eyes tight shut.
"Pelonia," she said springing upwards the force of her lifting skyward almost unseated him, and the wind surged violently around him leaving him breathless for a moment.
"I think I'll call you Pel for short if you don't mind," still keeping his eyes closed as the dragon climbed ever upwards.
"As you wish Leo, but Pelonia is already a shortened version of my name," Pelonia said a little pompously.
That made him grin, eventually, he opened his eyes not daring to look down; he kept them fixed on the back of her head. They both fell silent as Pelonia levelled out, Leo gradually feeling at ease, looked around. The wind whistled as it passed over and around them. The beat of dragon's wings thrummed the air like a ship’s sail in a storm. He still couldn't bring himself to look down yet. Pelonia banked turning she passed over the town, Leo took his first look down and nearly fell off he felt dizzy and sick. Pelonia levelled out again Leo managed to keep his breakfast down. He took another look down and forced himself to stay in place and keep looking down, gradually he got used to it so he could look around or down without any ill effects. In fact, he was beginning to enjoy it. The thrill and sensation of flying on the back of a dragon filled him with wonder and a sense of almost invincibility.
"How are you fairing back there," asked Pelonia bringing Leo back to himself
"I’m fine now, and I'm sorry for having wanted to kill you I'm ashamed of myself," Leo said, feeling humbled for now he realised how wrong he was, and indeed most people were about dragons.
"There is no need to apologise, Leo, you were not to know, besides not all dragons feel as I do," Pelonia replied.
"Oh, Why is that?" He asked wondering if he should revise his feelings about dragons once again.
"Most want little to do with men they don't bear any animosity towards your kind for having hunted them in the past," Pelonia said.
"That's nice to know and magnanimous of them,” concluded Leo.
"Maybe, maybe not, they put it down to man's ignorance, my kind has, the ability to cause much devastation and chaos amongst your kind with a great loss of life to your people," she said soberly.
"Why didn't they?" Leo asked wondering why she was telling him all this.
“For one they couldn't agree on what to do, and they had the intelligence and farsightedness to see that only more men would come and they would be, hunted all the more so. In the end, they decided to hideaway and shunned men and the places where men dwell," Pelonia expanded.
"But not you Pel, why is that?" asked Leo sensing he was getting close to something important.
"I was curious and wished to learn at first I couldn't understand why I felt this way. I stayed close to the town below studying it and its people. Dragons have excellent eyesight, and so I watched learning, and I saw something in your kind long forgotten amongst dragons," Pelonia said at length. Leo was fascinated by Pelonia's intelligence and eloquence of speech especially when she got into lengthy explanations. He wondered if dragons were more intelligent than man.
"What's that?" He asked
“A noble spirit," Pelonia said. "And then I had the dream!"
"One of my abilities is that I can dream of possible future events," she explained.
"Seems you have quite a few abilities do all dragons?" he asked, "But wait, is this dream connected to what you are going to show me?" He further asked thinking it must be. Now he would finally get to the bottom of things. Events had been set in motion when he decided to go after the dragon that now seemed almost fated. What they were and what part he and the dragon had to play he yet did not know.
"Most dragons have only one or two abilities I, on the other hand, have been gifted with several," Pelonia began. Leo thought she almost seemed to be boasting, but then again she was only stating the facts as she saw them. "And yes you are right it’s connected with what I'm about to show you.
"I'm dreaming, I see a great worm that comes floating on the sea, it has many tentacles branching out across the land with steel teeth.. It swarms over this land burning, killing, swallowing all in its path, covering the land in darkness and death." Pelonia recited in a deathly monologue that sent a chill down Leo's spine
"Wow, that's a bit depressing."
"I'm sorry, but that's the only way I can explain my dreams it's all a part of the ability."
"Did you recite this dream to your kind?"
"Yes but not all believed me and those that did, said it was to do with men and did not concern them."
"To do with men I don't understand you said it was a great worm of some kind.".
"You will see soon enough, we are getting near the coast now," Pelonia once again climbed, banking to the left.
The coast came into view, looking down at the ocean below the sea looked vast and empty but as they flew further a large land mass appeared on the horizon Pelonia dived a little then levelled out again, and Leo could make out a large fleet of black-sailed ships. Some of which had set sail towards his homeland and the rest seemed to be preparing to leave.