Legend Valley Chronicles - Birth of a Dragon

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

This was written from a prompt for a contest. Though it did not win, I enjoyed it and wanted to share it with all of you

There weren’t always dragons in the valley. There were birds, lizards, mammals, flowers, grasses, trees, and a quaint village in the foothills where the waterfalls became torrents and pools. Of course, this village was as alike and as unlike any other village in the region.”

A deep voice rose over the din created by the throng in the Friendly Dragon tavern. It traveled through the space, weaving around the tables.

“It had a baker, a blacksmith, a seamstress, a herb-woman, a trading post, a weekly market, and the farmer had married the tavern/innkeeper. But, most importantly, this village had a resident wizard, no, even better, a MAGE. No one knew how long he had been there anymore, when, or why he had come. He was feared and admired in equal measure by the villagers.”

Greeted by eager clapping, the bard called to the customers in the tavern as he stood on a table, making sure he was seen and heard by all.

“Get yourself a drink, a seat by the fire, and listen up! I’m here to tell you the story of the legend of the tale of the birth of the first dragon, and how Human and Dragon developed a unique relationship. Barkeep, get me a drink too, I’m parched already… and the story isn’t told yet. Gather ’round.”

The crowd sat comfortably around the traveling bard and prepared for a rousing good story. It had been a while since someone had stopped and offered them a story. That it was a favorite, Legend Valley – the “Valley of Dragons”; famed but never seen, made it that much more exciting.

“It was an accident that brought the dragon to life. Don’t raise your brows at me, that is exactly what happened; an accident.” He glared defiantly. Seeing no opposition, he grinned, “To tell the truth, it had really started 3 months earlier when the Mage found himself needing a new apprentice. Why did he need a new apprentice you might ask? Well, they ended up becoming wizards in their own rights, now, didn’t they?”

The people nodded in agreement, smiling at each other; no one stayed an apprentice forever.

“And so, it went that every few years, the legendary Mage, known as Grandfather by everyone, would come into the village and choose his next pupil. He had a knack for knowing the exact, perfect time to pluck his apprentice from the clutches of an unremarkably regular life.”

The bard took a sip of his drink, no smile on his lips. He looked downtrodden, sad. The crowd frowned along with him. Everyone knew what it meant to live an unremarkably regular life, and its road was certainly not paved with fame and glory, or excitement for that matter.

“The farmer/tavern-innkeeper’s second son displayed innate discipline and a willingness to work hard. As you can imagine, those are necessary prerequisites, learning magic is no easy task; it certainly doesn’t lead to an unremarkably regular life either. Grandfather had had his eye on him for a few years now.” He grinned, bowed, and curtsied to the captive audience who chuckled back, thoroughly enjoying the story and the performance.

The tavern keeper brought another drink, the tankard would be refreshed all evening. Drinks, meals, and a room for the night, it was cheap entertainment, and the customers always tipped more heavily when there was a good story to be had. They stayed longer too, spent more. And, if the bard was good, he could make a tidy extra sum. People always showed their appreciation with a few coins or two.

The bard nodded his thanks and continued, “He also needed to be older than a child, past puberty… hormones play havoc on magical skill development. It’s easier to start fresh at around 14 or 15. Brewer had turned 14 just a few weeks ago.” He winked to the ladies, simpered, and smiled lewdly. Guffaws of appreciation followed this demonstration of adolescent awakening.

“His background was another point in his favor; he’d been raised to value service to others. The Mage’s last apprentice has been a sore pain in the arse, refusing to do the simplest tasks, like strike the first match of the day. The keep was cold and needed to be heated all year round, getting out of bed was easier when the fire was already burning. The Mage, bones creaking”, the bard whispered an aside conspiratorially – “it’s not because he was immortal that he wasn’t human -,” and throwing his voice in indignation, “had had to light his OWN fire for years now.”

The audience moved back with the force of it all, eyebrows raised, eyes wide, mouths agape, slightly stunned. “He used a spell, of course. But still, he was the MAGE, the GRANDFATHER, wasn’t he? With Brewer, it wouldn’t be difficult. He was a responsible boy. It was always iffy when they first started training.”

The bard’s hand wove this way and that. A few faces broke out in grins, and some laughed. They could well imagine the incidents rambunctious young men could get into with those skills at their fingertips. Others nodded their agreement, silently encouraging the bard to keep the story moving. The bard looked at the innkeeper and tipped his cup over. He received a gesture acknowledging his silent appeal. Satisfied, he continued.

“The wizard approached the young man and offered him the position on the spot, giving him 30 minutes to choose. A decision that would change the course of his life, in 30 minutes? You might think it’s cruel to lay it on like that, offer a magical position to someone who never even dreamed of it, and then … give them no time to do any dreaming. But, that’s the way of things, isn’t it? Very often, time is not on offer.” The spectators sympathized with young Brewer, but they would bet their last copper that he had dreamed of it. More often than anyone could say.

“Anyway, to make a long story short. The young man accepted, packed his bags, said goodbye to his shocked family, and followed Grandfather to the Keep. He wasn’t going to miss out on the life of adventure he imagined a wizard lived on a daily basis. The first night, the mage used his magic to impress Brewer with all the things he was likely to learn if he applied himself and listened closely.”

“There were no rules, Grandfather made them up as needed when needed. He believed Error was a great teacher, greater than himself even, though he never told his students that. Over the centuries, he had realized that not all rules were good for all apprentices. It was easier to add them along, all in good time. Some pupils needed very few, flexible rules, and others needed the opposite. He would see with this one, though he had an inkling that Brewer was going to be a studious acolyte.

Brewer went to sleep dazed from the fate that had befallen him so unexpectedly, astonished by the Mage’s heretofore unknown abilities, and ready to get down to learning. Tomorrow.”

The bard stopped and looked each person in the eye, licked his lips, and took a long swig from his beer. He repeated a few times, “tomorrow.” His intensity calmed even the rowdiest members of the crowd listening to him so keenly. He loved these moments, when he was the center of the world, everyone’s ears, and eyes peeled on him, mirroring his every word and move. His voice softened, “tomorrow,” he echoed, beckoning the audience closer. He gave earnest stares to some, and quick glances to others as he raised his tankard once more.

“Now, you may wonder, where is the dragon in all of this?” His beer sloshed around and over the top of its container. “Don’t worry, it’s coming. You needed to know why the accident happened. It’ll make the how much easier to understand.” The audience was willing to stay put and follow along; it was an old story, but this was a new twist. Usually birth of the dragon was much more esoteric. Every once in a while people appreciated a tweak here and there; it kept the story fresh and new; interesting and novel.

“I imagine that you all think you know the first spell Grandfather taught Brewer, don’t you?” He asked pointing here and there over their heads. Raised hands and loud voices clamored to say it.

The bard wasn’t a novice, he included everyone. So, he exaggeratedly counted his fingers, “on three. One. Two. Two and a half. He was taught to make, and control … ? Three,” he pointed to the crowd with one hand and cupped his ear with the other.

“Fire! Fire! Fire! Fire!” The force literally lifted the roof from its moorings, and him off the table. Covering their ears, everyone giggled, chuckled, and cackled with pure glee; what fun they were having. Usually, they were home at this time, but they were glad they had stayed.

So was the innkeeper who kept a steady stream of beer going to quench the worst of thirsts… that of excitement and anticipation. It was a good story, one for getting people involved and thirsty. He was glad the bard had stopped by, they would both make money this night.

The bard shushed everyone with a small smirk, and strutting back and forth on the table, he picked up where he had left off. He took another long sip of his beer, turned his tankard over, and attracted the innkeeper’s attention.

The crowd calmed down and waited. “I guess you won’t be surprised, then, when I tell you that the first spell Grandfather taught Brewer was how to make and control fire.” He chortled a little and winked covertly to the people seated at his feet. They grinned appreciatively.

“And so it went that it took a few weeks for Brewer to really get the hang of it. He wanted to learn the spell, but lighting a fire with a flint was so much faster and easier.” Nods and snickers accompanied this quip.

“It took even more time before Brewer was ready to cast the spell without supervision. After several days without mishaps, Grandfather decided to teach him to cook. He chose something simple, something everyone knew how to do well at a young age. What do you think it was?” Audiences loved when he did this, and this one was like any other.

People yelled out ideas, “Chicken. Pasta. Rice.” He let people yell a few more suggestions and rubbing his hands, answered them, “no, no, no, no, and no. It is so simple, too easy.” He drank a long drought and gave them a few extra seconds to come up with more ideas.

“It was an egg. Brewer was going to learn to boil an egg with magical fire,” He laughed and laughed; the crowd answered with “ahhs, ohhs,” and “that’s rights”, laughing at themselves.

“Grandfather put the egg in a pot of water and set it over the hearth. It was purposefully unlit. He told Brewer to boil him a perfect soft-boiled egg for lunch. Brewer nervously concentrated, aiming for the pot itself. Trying to appear confident, he nonchalantly threw a small ball of fire into it instead. Embarrassed, he immediately hid his face in his hands… And here it is, everyone… The truly fascinating part you have all been waiting for, come closer. It happened right then…” He could feel the vibrations of expectancy and buzz building, almost fever pitch now.

“Brewer looked up and saw Grandfather turned toward the hearth, gaping. He dared to look; the fire floated on the water, the egg reached for it, came closer and closer to the surface. Suddenly, the pot exploded, water splashed everywhere and the egg had absorbed the fire.” The bard let the last few drops in his tankard fall. The people at his feet were so engrossed that they fairly jumped out of their skins when they felt the wetness on their necks. The throng in the back guffawed loudly at the surprised and outraged gasps.

“The egg cracked! CRACK, CRACK,” everyone jumped, startled at the loud sound.” Both Grandfather and Brewer moved back apprehensively. Grandfather stared at the singed bird slowly stretching. Burnt to a crisp, totally black, with skinny wings, he glowed from within; as if he had swallowed the ball of fire.”

The tavern keeper happened by with a tray of full tankards at just the right moment. In a single sweep, the bard grabbed one as he passed by and brought it to his lips. He took his time and guzzled the whole thing down. Patient impatience was in the eyes of his people, irritated by this unnecessary stop.

“Brewer had never seen such a thing and looked to Grandfather for answers. The glowing black chick alternatively chirped and hiccupped flames. Grandfather, an immortal, was faced with a new being, something he had never seen, or indeed, heard of before. He needed to consult his books. He left Brewer with his new pet and went to the most secret part of his library.”

“Over the course of a day, and a night, and another day, the chick and Brewer grew close. When Grandfather came back, it was already saying, ‘my name is Blacky’ with Brewer smiling encouragement like a doting father. It had tripled in size, and its would-be feathers had become permanent scales.” They were back in familiar territory, the story was winding down. The dragon always grew with lightning speed and scaly skin.

“Grandfather sat with Brewer and told him of a forgotten legend: one day, someone would be capable of bringing the scariest being to life – a fire-breathing dragon. No one knew how it would happen but a magical flying beast would be born. He thought Brewer was that someone. After all, the chick had become something else by absorbing Brewer’s magical fire – something never seen before. It had to be a dragon. It could be nothing else. Don’t you agree?” The bard was skillful. The crowd appreciated these small reprieves and answered enthusiastically with yes, no, and a joke here or there.

“That it was born here and now was a cause for concern and until they could figure it all out, the valley would be warded. The dragon would not be able to leave. They soon learned neither could Brewer.” The audience sighed and released the pent-up breath they had unknowingly been holding. This answered the unasked question, why had they never seen it?

“The magical connection between Brewer and Blacky ran deep; very, very deep. It twined their lives together. Everything that happened to one was felt by the other. Every hurt, joy, laugh, cry, roar, and anger was shared. Every pain, sore muscle, torn ligament, and scratched knee was also part of the deal. They became inseparable, and Grandfather let the wards down. Blacky wasn’t so fearsome after all, even the villagers loved him.”

People were smiling contentedly at the bard, reassured as to the nature of this dragon. They always enjoyed a good dragon story; so many were mean. The bard finished with a sweeping gesture, “but, it didn’t take long for them to see that he was feared by everyone else. Every time they flew over a field, or a village, a posse would come to find him. The wards were raised once more, this time to protect Blacky and Brewer from the rabble. To this day, Legend Valley is shrouded in the mists of the wards and no one knows if Brewer or Blacky still live within.” The bard stopped talking and stood still, head bowed, hands clasped in front of him.

Coppers flew through the air as people cheered his performance. He bowed and shook hands on either side, coming down from the table, accepting the admiration of his listeners with grace. He had done well tonight; he would sleep comfortably, and eat plentifully for a few more nights as he continued on to the next village, and the next story.

Author’s note: this story was written for a contest. Though it did not win, I still like it and so share it with you.  My blog: https://thecoatofmanypockets.com/?page_id=52

 


Submitted: June 28, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Eugenette. All rights reserved.

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