Dragon Carcass by Thomas Wievegg

Dragon Carcass by Thomas Wievegg

It was a month into the hunt before they caught more than a glimpse of their prey. There was little warning, one minute they were riding through the foothills at a walk, the next there was a roar, and the dragon swept down at them. The sun was at it’s back, and none of them, not even eagle eyed Clyde, saw it’s approach. They were moving North, deeper into the mountains, and in it’s first pass across the column the dragon swept Alf and Eber from their mounts, one in each great tallon. Then the great wings heaved, and the beast leapt back up into the sky.

Alf and Eber were released when the dragon was a hundred feet above the ground, and everyone in the column could hear their impact on the rocks below. The dragon wheeled, and swept back towards the men. This time they were ready. Urd jumped to the back of his horse, balancing there while he brandished his ax and shouted his warcry. Fergus and Fionn, brother and sister, jumped from their horses and readied their bows. Mighty Peredur wheeled his horse to face the dragon, and pulled the butt of his lance out from his saddle.

Even Sigrun readied his javelin, even though he was just a squire and not expected to fight. In fact, he thought, he should be running after Alf and Eber’s horses before they got too far away. The dragon roared again, and all thought left his mind. Warmth spread down his legs. The dragon came in low and Peredur rode to meet it. He lowered his lance, twenty feet of hardwood topped with three feet of gleaming steel, and took aim at the dragon’s eye. Fifty feet separated them, then twenty, then the dragon was past. In the blink of an eye it had lowered it’s head and caught Peredur with the great horn on it’s snout. There was a gout of blood, and Peredur flew thirty feet, dead before he struck the ground.

The dragon took another stroke with it’s wings, and as it passed over the rest of the column reached it’s mouth down, jaws open wide. Sigrun was locked in place as he watched the rows of teeth, each as long as his forearm sweet towards him. He lunged with his spear, timing it so it hit the roof of the dragons mouth. Then the jaws snapped shut and snuffed out his life. Arrows flew from Fergus and Fionn, now recovered from their shock, but they simply bounced off the thick scales of the dragon’s underside. It’s hunger satiated, for now, the dragon rose into the sky and, after circling once, glided off into the mountains.

They found it twenty days later. Clyde, leading the column, let out a cry as he rounded a hillock. Urd pulled his ax and roared, but as the dragon came into view his bloodlust abated. Once among the mightiest of beasts any of them had come across, the dragon was now a pitiful thing. It lay sprawled on the ground, one wing caught under it’s bulk. A score of crows sat on it’s back, worrying strips of flesh from a pair of open wounds. The riders circled it. As Clyde rode near it’s eye, the one it had left, tracked him, and it made a lunge. The dragon barely got it’s head off of the ground, before crashing back down. Urd rode up behind it, and with one swing from his ax broke the thing’s neck.

Once the thing admitted it’s death, with dragons that took a while, Urd climbed into it’s mouth to begin the bloody task of removing the dragon’s tongue. He let out a low whistle, then reached back into the dragon’s throat. After a few tug’s he pulled out a length of wood, which had lodged deep in the base of the dragon’s mouth and pierced an artery. Still gripping it was Sigrun’s right hand.

 

Duelist – Ulric Leprovost

Duelist by Ulric Leprovost

 

I faced him across a small brook. My spear had the reach on his sword, but he was stronger, faster, and though I was loath to admit it, a better fighter. Still, I had no choice.

“Gorou,” His shout broke the still of the morning. His voice a deep rumble. “Your time has come?”

I said nothing. There was nothing to say. I hefted my spear with my right hand and brought my short sword up with my left.

A red maple leaf floated across my vision, caught by the wind.

There was a blur of motion as he jumped, then he was on me, crossing the distance between us in a heartbeat. I just had enough time to lunge with my spear. He batted it aside with his sword, then slammed the pommel of the rapier in his other hand down on my hand. The spear clattered to the ground, my hand broken. I hadn’t even finished my attempted strike.

He stepped back, waiting. I started to step back with my right foot, but only enough to set my hips, and strike with all my strength. The blade of my sword whistled through the air, slipping past his, and finally striking him in the arm. Where it may have scratched his armor.

“It’s over now boy.” His voice was laced with a smile. He stuck out with the flat of his blade, knocking my sword out of my hand. His next strike hit the inside of my knee. There was a flash of pain and I fell to the ground. My hands splashed into the ice cold water of the stream. The next thing I knew he kicked me, and I rolled a few paces downstream, ending on my back.

A single leaf floated in the sky, one spot of red against the pale blue.

He stood over me, his weapons sheathed. He pulled a long knife from his belt. He stood over me in the stream, then knelt, straddling me. His voice had changed, was that sadness I heard? “I thought you’d be the one, you had such promise. Well, there will be others.”

He leaned over me, as I had seen him do four times before. He held himself up with his left hand on my shoulder. His right arm he stretched across, the knuckles of his hand touching my throat as he readied his knife. And as he did so the plates of his armor lifted. I had pulled my knife while I was rolling down stream, and hidden it under my arm while he approached. Now I brought it up, into the artery in his armpit.

Shock passed across his face, then an unspoken question.

“I watched my brothers fight you. You were so strong, so fast, and the armor. I knew there was no way I could beat you. But every time you killed one of my brothers you did it like this. I knew it was my only chance.”

He fell off of me, landing up stream. Blood poured out of his wound. He struggled to speak. “You’re more like me than you know.”

I pulled myself up. “All this is mine now.”

“Yes. And you earned it.” His voice faded, and I barely heard his last words. “You’ve made me proud, son.”

By the time the maple leaf landed in the stream the water matched its color.