Thursday, 12 December 2013

A Lucky Quest

by Ross Watkins

Four shadows flickered and danced down the mountain side. They came in descending height order, smallest at the front. They chanted merrily and joked between each other; and so they went about their journey, not knowing that it would throw them into a series of peculiar events.

The head of the largest turned to face the crimson sky. An overcast cloud appeared above, or it seemed to be a cloud… they all scarpered as an ivory dragon from the north kingdom of Alpinard, the home of the mighty white dragons, swooped down and perched on a rock. They all gathered in a conveniently placed cave and I believe this is a good time to introduce the odd bosh of races which formed this company. Next to the entrance was the company’s largest member, Grot. He was a swamp troll from the great southern swamps. He was small for a troll and it was because of this he was here in the first place, but that is another story. Huddled next to the troll’s rough hide was Brather the Dwarf. He was a stout Dwarf (if you can get such a thing) with a long brown beard. He had glinting sapphire blue eyes and was clad in tinted armour.  For it was he who had let the Dwarfs down when the men had come for their gold, for when captured it was he who told the men the passage into the great hold and therefore losing the battle. Even with this he considered himself to lead this company (even if the other disagreed) for he was scared (as every Dwarf was) for them not to go too far into the ground for the fear of falling through the void. Furthest into the cave was the goblin, Nigbit. He was green all over with a distinctive dark green birth mark on his left cheek. He was dressed in a brown robe with a sword strung at his hip.  In the corner, matting his fur was Thurin who was a werewolf with a personality disorder. The trouble was that when he was a werewolf (such as tonight) he behaved like a man and when a man he behaved likes a werewolf.

Grot juddered his blue head out of the caves entrance and then brought it back in. He turned to the three of them.

  “I think it’s gone,” he tried to whisper.

  “Yeah, well, why don’t you go out and we will see if you get turned into a stagnant mount of blue flesh,” Nigbit snapped back.

Grot squashed himself through the gap and onto the road which had been carved into the mountain side.   

  “All clear,” Grot grunted back to the others.

They all clambered their way out of the cave and made their way down the mountain.  Once on the valley floor below; they began their long and treacherous journey to the north. You see, each one had become out of favour with their respective races and one way to be re-accepted was to capture a dragon egg which could be held as a ransom so that the mighty dragons would not attack and pillage their lands. But all knew how hard it would be to get there and steal an egg. You see that even the mightiest armies had failed to penetrate the mightiest of all holds. But these three had learnt of a day in which all the dragons sleep (for reasons unknown). So the plan was simple: get in, get the eggs and get out of there. It was now the fifth day of the summer which meant that they only had three days until the dragons slept.        

Later in the day they were greeted by a clear evening sky. It grew ever darker as they journeyed the lifeless frozen plains. Thurin walked at the front gripping a map (for now he was a human). Every so often they would dive into cover as a glittering elvish patrol passed. Their journey continued until dark. Brather decided that they would stop and stay in a small copse of trees. They spent the evening recounting myths and legends to each other. It was not long until they drifted off with a smouldering lump of embers left. Nigbit took the first watch; the night seemed uneventful until Nigbit felt a fait tremble through the ground. He anxiously looked around; nobody stirred, so Nigbit thought that it was just him. Another jolt. Nigbit scarpered up a near tree. He looked onto the frozen plains with only the moonlight to aid with his search. Nigbit twisted his body to scan the plains; he suddenly leaped up and scrambled down the tree. He swiftly scurried to Grot and slapped the troll. Nigbit screamed.

  “River giant!”

  “By the tar swamps of Gurthur,” Grot said rising.

Nigbit raced around the others. They armed and cautiously approached the plains. They ran they heard a bellowing growl, there was a thump behind them, they all froze and turned; behind them they saw the river giant. He had mould all over him (due to the damp conditions which these trolls lived). On his torso he had a lump of torn rotting flesh gently flapping in the wind. In his right hand he held a rotting wooden club. He suddenly thundered towards them, shaking the ground with every step. They all knew that they would not be able to outrun a giant; Brather turned and drew his sword first. He was followed by Thurin, Grot and finally Nigbit. They separated into an arc with Nigbit and Thurin at the ends. Once the giant entered the arc (for they weren’t the brightest creatures) Nigbit jumped on to the giant's back. The giant now tried to shrug off his attacker by clawing at his back with his free hand.  Now distracted, Grot swung his large sword. This pierced the giant’s skin to reveal his curdled black flesh. The giant stumbled and this gave Brather a chance to swing at him with his axe. There was a faint splinter of bone and the giant’s weight suddenly shifted to his remaining foot. This threw Nigbit off its back. The giant swung his club and it collided with Grot sending the troll backward. But the force was so great the giant splintered his own club and chunks of rotten wood flew onto the frosty plains. In the giant's confusion Thurin lunged forward and swung at the giant's remaining leg. There was a large thud as the giant toppled over. Nigbit seized the opportunity and clambered onto the giant’s neck and swiftly drove his sword into its neck. The giant’s neck muscles tightened and relaxed and a pool of green blood warmed the plains. Not wanting to attract attention, they quickly left the scene.

They made good distance and by midday they had reached the great forest of Drya. There were many stories of this forest. It was told that it was a magical forest full with weird beings which not even the imagination could compose.  They entered the forest cautiously; the undergrowth became steadily thicker. Brambles clawed at them like hands trying to cling on. As night fell, they decided that they should tie themselves onto a rope therefore meaning none of them could get lost. The rope weighed them down as if it were a chain. It hugged trees and bonded itself to the thorns. Nigbit struggled the most, having to climb over trees which caused no problems for the others. It was in the early hours of the morning that they heard the birds fall silent. It was as if a front of cold air had hit them.  Suddenly to the west through the thicket of trees they saw a green glow. Grot froze, and darted to the north. He had such immense strength that he pulled the rest of them with him. They all hung onto the rope, Grot seemed not to stop; he strode and swerved though the trees until they broke through the outer line of trees and onto the northern plain of Araza. Grot turned, still petrified and helped them up.

  “What in the name of Archnon were you doing!” shouted Brather.

  “I saved your life,” grumbled Grot.

  “How?” replied Brather stiffly.

  “You do not know what that was?” asked Grot in a condescending tone.

  “No, “replied Brather. The others had now risen and approached them to listen in to their argument.

  “That was a daemon of Dyclada the dark God of death and decay. If we had not run we would have very quickly be turned into rot. For if you look upon one of the daemons you will rot from the inside-out.” Grot explained. The chattering decayed and a silence grew through them. Thurin was first to fight it back; he had noticed a luminous shine in the distance.

  “The gates of Alpinard!” he shouted. The mood instantly lifted.

  “And just in time, the great sleep of the dragons is nearly upon us,” said Nigbit. 

They then departed to the north with spirits raised and after half a day of heavy trekking they were five hundred meters away from the secret path which would lead them into the dragons hold.

It was the evening before the dragons rested; there were explosions of crimson and ochre as fire rolled down the mountainside. The fires increased as more dragons joined in. It seemed like a ritual with the dragons circling each other. Suddenly they stopped and perched on the mountain side. There was a deadly silence; a black flame enclosed the moon and darkness shrouded them. Nigbit (who still could see) raced behind Grot. The moonlight rejoined them and the sight they were blessed with was remarkable. A giant gold dragon sat down on the mountain side.Fear spread throughout the company it was Cithra the king of the dragons. He was two hundred meters across with silver wings that glittered in the moonlight.

The morning grew across them in a steady manner. Brather was first to rise and quickly made the preparations for the final stage of the journey. Nigbit changed into his brown robe and also helped Brather by wakening Grot. Once they had organised themselves they shuffled to the walls, threw over a rope, clambered up the wall and into the dragons hold of Alpinard. A portfolio of shining colours graced them; the floor shook as the dragons snored. It was like an out of tune Gorthelio horn band had placed itself around them. They slunk through the court yard and into the main chambers where the dragons eggs were kept. Great statues of metal lined the walls, each depicting a great dragon; Brather looked to the right down a passage full of dragon plunder and at the end was a great platinum coated door.

  "How are we going to tell if there is magic guarding this hall?" asked Grot.

  "Easy," replied Thurin. He shoved Nigbit into the door and waited, "Ok I guess they didn't expect anybody getting this far,"

Thurin and Brather both grabbed a handle and heaved at the door, but to no avail, Grot laughed at them.

  "Weak, I will show you how it is done," said Grot.

  "Well at least I'm not a troll," mumbled Brather.

Grot pulled at the door and eventually made a gap for each one of them to fit though. They each stood in awe, there were thousands of eggs in shelves each in colour order. But what caught their eyes were the five eggs in the centre of the room. These were the future kings of the dragons: they all ran towards them and carefully placed them in their sacks, stealthily sneaked back to the door, worked their ways between the valleys formed between the dragon's bodies, down the wall and out onto glittering frozen plains. They said their farewells and took their leave to their respective races, knowing that their people were safe from dragon attacks for many years to come.  

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