Rona Loog, Dragon Slayer

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Prolog (v.1) - Prologue

Submitted: March 24, 2017

Reads: 66

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Submitted: March 24, 2017

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This is for all the dragon slayers - young and old, near and far.

 

Prologue 

Tom was in trouble and he knew it.  He and the Irridon were trapped in the Hellebore in the Ironwood.  The Irridon was on top, limbs tangled in the branches.  They tightened around it, unintentionally, the more it moved.  The Hellebore was the tallest tree in the forest, at least forty-five feet, with a twenty-foot span of branches that spread out like arms and fingers.  They grabbed onto anything that came near them.  Birds didn't nest in Hellebores, critters didn't tunnel in their cavernous trunks, and dragons and dragon slayers alike had the sense to stay clear of them.  That's unless they fell into them by accident, like Tom and the Irridon.

Tom blamed the sun for it.  It started out as a good day to hunt dragons - it was cold and a thick of clouds was holding the light at bay.  Then dusk arrived and the weather changed.  Tom was straddling the base of the Irridon's neck when the sun broke through the shadows.  They were airborne, but it wasn't a smooth ride.  The Irridon wanted Tom off its back and its body jerked this way and that.  Still, it couldn't shake this particular dragon slayer.  Tom had been tracking the Irridon for weeks and he wasn't about to let it go.  With one hand on his chain and the other on his sword, it was time to slay the dragon. 

The sun blinded them just as he was about to thrust his blade in the dragon's heart.  Leaning to the right, he was in a good position to do it.  His sword knew it, too, and hummed rhythmically.  But then the light hit Tom's eyes and he missed his mark.  The sword entered the Irridon's neck at an angle, the cut deep enough to irritate it, but not enough to kill it.  Tom cursed while the Irridon bellowed in anger and agony.  With eyes closed and snout down, it dove into a clearing in the wood and weaved through the trees.  It was a dangerous place for it to be, given its size, but at least it could see again.  

Tom held on for dear life.  His chain was tied around the Irridon's neck.  The other end was wrapped around his wrist and he had a firm grip on it.  Pressing his chest against the dragon, he went for his sword, but it was jammed between the neck scales and he couldn't reach it.  His only choice was to hang on and avoid the branches.  This wasn't easy.  The Irridon was smart.  Turning sideways, its back brushed the trees and carved a path through the forest.  If this was the only way to dislodge its rider, then so be it.  

Tom winced as the branches scraped his head and jabbed at him through his leathers.  He couldn't see his father and sisters, but he knew they were trailing them in the wood.  They were on horseback, driving their Yukons hard.  They needed to keep pace with the dragon and not lose sight of Tom.  It would take all of them to slaughter the Irridon once he brought it to the ground.  These dragons were twenty-tons, at least, and close to thirty-feet in length.  They were the largest of their species and the most vicious, too.  Their fire-smoke was potent and they knew how to use it - girding their prey with vapour before blanketing them in flames.  That is if they didn't get them with their claws and spiny tails first.  Everything about the Irridon spelled death and the family needed to kill it before it let loose its fire and tongs on Tom.  

At least that was the plan - one that was thwarted when the Irridon veered left when it should have gone right.  The stiff branches of a Mountain Hickory sent it and Tom somersaulting through the air and into the Hellebore in a topsy turvy way.  Tom's attempt to let go of the dragon before it hit the tree wasn't successful.  They were joined by the chain and they crashed into it together, although in different spots.  The Irridon was above Tom and its claws were only a few feet away.  The more it thrashed, the closer it got.  Its tail lobbed through the air, shaving branches off the tree and barely missing Tom.  At least it had the sense not to set the tree on fire.  Instead oily smoke billowed out of its nostrils while its eyes flickered like candlelight in the gloom.  Its spotty indigo, chestnut, and charcoal hide made for excellent camouflage, so that its eyes and fumes were the only things indicating that there was a large dragon caught in the branches of the Hellebore tree. 

If it weren't for the chain, Tom could have escaped his dire straits.  But it was tangled around the whole length of his arm and he was dangling from it.  There was also a sharp pain in his left shoulder and he couldn't lift his other arm to unravel himself.  His situation was precarious, especially when there was an irate dragon above him, fighting to be free.  It wasn't the least bit concerned that it was jerking Tom through the abrasive innards of the tree.  The fact that it had a sword lodged between its neck scales didn't help things in the least.

Soon, though, the Irridon got tired.  It was still and oscillated between panting and snarling.  This gave Tom the chance to find his footing on a branch and he peeked through the foliage.  He was relieved to see that his family had arrived.  "I need a little help up here!" he yelled.

Dismounting their horses, Peter Loog and his two daughters, Savannah and Dixie, looked up.  They were speechless at the sight of a dragon and Tom snagged helplessly in a tree.

"I've never seen that before."  At nineteen, Savannah was Peter Loog's oldest daughter.

"How do you think they did it?" her younger sister,  Dixie asked. 

Savannah shrugged and looked to her father for answers.  Peter Loog had none.  He was lost in thought, wondering how to free his son.  Hellebores were dangerous things, not to mention dragons, and the sooner Tom was out of there, the better.  "Right, I'm going up," he said.

"That's NOT a good idea," Savannah told him. 

"Should we go home and leave him then?" Dixie asked.

"No, Sis, that's not what I meant."  Savannah and her sister would have fought about it if there was time.  "What I mean is that I'll go.  You're too young and Pop can't fit through the gaps.  I'm thin.  I can do it."  

Peter wasn't happy to hear this.  "Are you telling me I'm fat?" 

"Pop, you did eat a second plate of Chimran ribs last night," Savannah reminded him.  

"Well, I blame your mother's cooking for that.  Her sauce was excellent," Peter admitted.  

"For Sion's sake!  Can you talk about Mum's ribs later?  I have a dragon breathing down my neck and I'm up a tree without a sword, if you haven't noticed!"  The Irridon shifted, forcing Tom to dance from branch to branch. 

"Where's your sword?" Peter asked.  

"The dragon has it," Tom replied sadly. 

"Great.  The dragon has it," Peter muttered.  This worried him.  Without his weapon, Tom had no way to defend himself.  "Can you climb down on your own?"

"No, I hit the tree hard and I think my shoulder's broken.  My right arm is tangled up in my chain and I can't lift the left one to undo it.  That's not the worst part, though," Tom said.

"It gets worse than that?"  Peter inhaled, wondering if he wanted the answer to this question.

"Yeah, it does.  You see, one end of the chain is around my arm, but the other is tied around the dragon's neck."  Tom looked up.  He couldn't see the end of the chain, but he knew it was looped securely around the Irridon's neck.  He was an expert chainer, after all, never missing a throw.

There was no time to lose.  Peter knew the Irridon would eventually find a way to escape.  When it did, it would take Tom with him.  "That's it then.  Come on, Savannah, we need to help your brother.  Dixie, you stay here and keep an eye on the beast."

"What do you want me to do if it falls on top of you?" Dixie asked nervously.

"It's a dragon, my dear.  Run.  Run as fast as you can," Peter answered.

He and Savannah moved to the base of the tree and charted their course.  "See that gap up there?" Peter began.  "If you climb through it and stay close to the trunk, you should be able to reach Tom without getting caught.  Keep your sword handy, though.  Hellebores don't take prisoners.  As soon as you reach Tom, untangle him and get out of there.  And for Sion's sake, watch out for the Irridon's tail.  It's not moving now, but if it sees you coming it'll go after both of you and make itself a tasty kebab for dinner." 

"What are you going to do?"  Savannah studied the gap in the branches.  She wanted to know where she was going before she started her climb.  Her father didn't need to be put in the difficult spot of having to rescue two children. 

"I'll climb up the other side of the tree and try to kill the damn thing."  This could mean Peter's own death, but better him than Savannah and Tom.  Beginning his ascent, he was careful not to go too fast.  Hellebores were anything but quiet.  They greeted their intruders with snapping twigs and agitated foliage.  The noise carried through the Ironwood so it was all anyone could hear - other than the panting dragon, that is.

"Seriously, Pop, could you be any louder?  Brute here has gone silent all of a sudden.  He knows you're coming for him."  Tom spoke quietly, but the dragon was sensitive to everything.  A low rumble came from its stomach, followed by a hiss of black smoke.

"Sorry," Peter mumbled.  He waved away the acrid vapour and continued up the tree.  He couldn't hear Savannah on the other side; then again, she was a better climber.  This was good considering Tom's vulnerable state.  With no sword, a broken shoulder, and his right arm chained to a dragon, he was in danger.

Savannah reached her brother easily.  She took in his injuries, the distance between his head and the Irridon's talons, and his stance on a flimsy branch that was groaning under his weight.  The other ones had fallen away and he had no where to go.  As soon as this one broke, he would be hanging helplessly from the neck of one of the most ferocious dragons on earth.

"Hiya, Sis.  How's it going?"  Tom was trying to be glib, but his eyes revealed his fear.  

"I'm better than you, considering the circumstances."  Savannah didn't want to scare Tom and sound as worried as she felt.  "How's your right arm?  Do you think you can use it to climb down once I take off the chain?" 

"I don't know.  My arm's gone numb.  It might be broken, too.  …Savannah, I'm sorry.  I know you'd rather be anywhere but in a tree with me and Pop and a dragon.  I thought I had it, but then the sun blinded us and we ended up here."  Tom was fazed.

"And your sword?" Savannah was trying to figure out the best way to free Tom.  She couldn't cut the chain - it was too strong for that.  Neither could she stand on the same branch as him and unravel it.  It could barely hold Tom, let alone the two of them. 

"It's in the dragon's neck, caught between the scales," Tom replied.

"Well, that won't help us.  Okay, here's the plan.  I'll climb up to that branch over your head and untangle you from up there."  Savannah knew the risk.  The Irridon's feet weren't moving, but if they jerked in either direction she would be gored by its claws.  

"Savannah, don't.  It's too risky."  Tom inhaled sharply.  "Look, this might be it for me.  I know that.  Stuff like this happens when you slay dragons for a living."

Their eyes locked.  They weren't dragon slayers anymore.  They were brother and sister.  "Tom Loog, we started this day together and we're going to end it together.  Whether you like it or not I'm going up to that branch.  And as soon as I get the chain off your arm, I'll help you out of this tree.  Then we're going home to play with our baby sister.  Rona just started walking, remember?  Who's she going to chase if you're not around?" 

Tom was relieved.  "Alright.  Get on with it then.  And be careful.  Apparently wrath have no fury like a dragon caught in a tree."

Or our mother if you don't come home, Savannah thought.  Climbing up to the next branch, she tried to untangle Tom.  It was harder than she thought.  Somehow the chain had knotted itself around his arm.  The circulation was cut off to his hand and it was blue.  She looked for her father.  She could hear him and she sensed he was getting close to the Irridon.  It was important that Tom be free and on the ground before they attacked the dragon.  She caught Peter's eye as he peered through the branches.  "Wait," she mouthed. 

Peter nodded and leaned against the trunk.  The Irridon's body was twisted in the Hellebore and he was beneath its chest.  Its stomach rose and fell in a regular way, like it was resting.  Peter could see Tom's sword lodged in its neck.  It was Tom's sword now, but it used to belong to Peter's father.  He wanted it back.  He waited for Savannah to say that Tom was free, but she was silent as the minutes passed.  He didn't understand why it was taking so long.  "Ava, hurry up.  The Irridon isn't going to nap forever," he whispered. 

"Pop, I'm trying.  It's the chain.  It's ravelled around Tom's arm and I'm having trouble with it," she said.

"Cut off my arm."  Tom was serious about this.

"No!  We are not cutting off your arm!  Can I remind you that you need two hands to slay dragons?" Peter said. 

"Pop, Tom's right.  I can't undo the chain.  I need to cut him free.  It's the only way to save him."  Savannah was afraid and she was tearing up. 

Peter could hear the emotion in her voice.  His children needed help.  "That's not necessary.  I'm coming over.  I'll get the chain off his arm."  He moved, the branches snapping under his feet. 

"Pop, STOP!  The dragon's moving this way!"  The Irridon's claws were directly above Savannah and its tail was flicking.

Tom looked up, eyes frantic.  "Do it, Savannah."

She nodded.  "Right.  Pop, Tom's arm is coming off.  We need to get out of here now."  She removed her dagger from its scabbard.  

"NO!  Don't you dare do it!  I'll untangle him!" Peter shouted.  Tom was a dragon slayer.  He needed both arms and his sword. 

Peter stepped from one branch to the next, but it was too late.  The Irridon was bothered and snorting smoke.  Craning its neck and head to the right, it searched the tree for its enemies.  Tom groaned as he dropped several feet.  Savannah couldn't reach him and shrieked, as did Dixie on the ground.  The Irridon's head veered until it focused on Peter and blinked.

The creature wasn't stupid.  It knew it was looking at a dragon slayer.  It could feel the sword in its neck and Tom's weight on the other end of the chain.  If it didn't escape the Hellebore now, it would die.  It was time to fight.

Black pupils dilated, its eyes narrowed.  Two rows of grotty fangs were revealed in a sea a red flesh when it sneered.  A sudden twitch of its tongue forced Peter to flatten himself against the tree.  Unable to reach its prey, the Irridon foamed at the mouth.  Its nostrils flared, letting out plumes of inky smoke, enveloping Peter in a sour fog.  He couldn't see the dragon thrash violently.  He could only feel the tree shudder and hear Tom yelp as he was pulled every which way.  The dragon heard Tom, too, and its tail whipped to and fro, barely missing Savannah.  It sliced through the branch she was lying on and she plummeted downwards.  Tom was completely out of her reach.

The Irridon shook its neck in its mad desire to be free of the chain, the boy, and his sword.  Tom was helpless as he was flung through the air.  Peter thrust his sword upwards in a last ditch attempt to slay the dragon, but it was already gone.  Free of the Hellebore, it sailed away with Tom still chained to it, his screams replaced by a deathly silence.  Lowering its neck, the Irridon saw his enemy.  So this was the source of his misery.

Tom closed his eyes.  He pictured his family, especially Rona.  Little Rona, his sweet sister, who wouldn't have the chance to chase him around the house that night.  Instead the halls would be silent.

The dragon opened its mouth, roared, then let loose its devastating smoke.  Peter, Savannah, and Dixie looked away.  They didn't need to see the flames.  They knew Tom was gone.

 

 

 

 


© Copyright 2018 Jackie Buell. All rights reserved.

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