First I’d like to apologize for seemingly vanishing for a couple of months. I needed a break from trying to write, so played a computer strategy game, which took a lot of time and mental effort, and got myself a 2nd part-time job.
I’ve managed to read several novels in the last few weeks, and am starting to feel that urge to go back to one of my recent projects.
However, first I’d like to post this old story of mine I wrote back in 1990. Made a couple attempts at submitting it, but nobody seemed to want it. Made a minor editing pass through it and sent it out a few more times last year, but still no takers.
So, I figured I’d post it here to see what anybody thought. Any form of feedback would be welcome, especially constructive criticism.
by Spencer E. Hart
The air warmed as he approached the valley. He spread his wings and caught the updraft, and glided silently over the river far below.
The sunlight reflected in glittering array off the swift water, reminding him of the sparkle of diamonds and rubies. A forest stretched along the river’s far bank, swathes of green broken by the yellowed brown of cleared areas.
There was something familiar about those areas; the pattern was not new to his centuries-old mind. As he glided further west, his long neck began twisting in a slow arc from side to side. Unconsciously, he sought the missing part of the pattern. Then he spotted it.
Right on the riverbank, in a large space cleared from the forest, was another pattern on a smaller scale. Its colors were grey and brown, its substances stone and wood. A half-circle of grey enclosed brown rectangles. Wisps of grey-black smoke rose from a dozen points. It was a town.
How dare they! How dare the filthy two-leggers clear his forest and build their smelly town along his river! Without hesitation, he curled up his wingtips and angled lower, to inspect this affront to his senses.
He heard the cries of panic from below. Two-leggers were scurrying about, shouting and banging metal on metal. His ears only made out one word from the clashing racket: “Dragon!”
Wooden shafts filled the air, bouncing harmlessly off his thick scales, glinting indigo in the afternoon sun. His eyes squinted, seeking the fools that dared assault his body. For their crimes, the two-leggers deserved death. However, generosity was with him today, after his long slumber; they would receive a chance to live. One chance.
He arched his tail up, cupped the membranes of his great wings, and settled to the ground in a cloud of dust. He had landed outside the stone wall, opposite the town gate. What a useless construction! It would not impede a serious foe, such as a griffin or giant, nor of course a dragon such as himself.
The buzz of shafts had ceased. No two-leggers were visible atop the wall, but he could smell their presence. He paused to consider the proper words, and then spoke in that squealy noise two-leggers called a language.
“Greetings, subjects!” his voice boomed across the town and echoed off the nearby river’s surface. “I am Frang, your Overlord. All that I survey is mine, to do with as I please. The mountains, the forest, the river, and the creatures of those places, including…,” he paused dramatically, “Yourselves!”
He could almost feel the fear of the beings behind the wall, how they trembled and shook. Good. They showed the proper respect for his awesome might. They might actually survive this day.
“Frang demands tribute for the privilege to live on His land and enjoy His river. If you prove your generosity, I may allow you to live, despite having assaulted me. I demand gold, jewels, and such magical trinkets as your pitiful kind may possess.”
A two-legger appeared atop the wall. Frang straightened up so as to tower over it, and eyed the thing suspiciously. If it dared oppose him, he would swallow the two-legger in a single bite.
“I am Orlant, Mayor of Morban Town.” the thing spoke. “We mean you no harm or disrespect, Sir Dragon, but your sudden appearance was quite shocking to us. We are but poor folk, and have little of that which you demand, and we…”
“Silence!” roared Frang. His voice deepened to its natural tone. “I care not for your reasons. Give me gold or else Morban Town shall be destroyed. You shall be the first to perish.”
The dragon’s wings rose over his head in a fearful arch, and his neck craned near to the wall. Hatred showed in his eyes, and malice coursed through his breath. The two-legger shrank back in alarm. Frang heard the rattle of weapons behind the wall, and felt the fear the two-leggers knew in the cores of their souls. If such lowly beings even had souls.
The one called Orlant turned and yelled to those below. “Go to the town treasury. Bring forth the large chest of gold, the box of jeweled necklaces, and the mystic ivory wand.” Then he rose and faced the dragon. “I ask forgiveness for angering you, Sir Dragon. The riches shall be fetched and placed upon a cart. The cart shall be pushed through the gate for your inspection.”
Frang relaxed his hostile posture a bit, and waited for his tribute to be fetched. After the gate was opened and the cart pushed through, Frang demanded that the chests be opened so he could see the contents. Then he ordered that the chests be tied firmly down to the cart.
“Not bad, but I’ve seen better. Next time you had best have something more impressive to gift your Overlord.”
As he flapped away, carrying the cart beneath him, Frang thought of how annoying the two-leggers were. If it was not for their habit of gathering treasures for other to take, they would be utterly useless.
Time passed. It seemed like a short time to the dragon, who had spent it surveying the heaps of treasure in his hearth chamber. His hoard was his pride and joy. If another dragon could have seen it (not likely!), Frang was sure he would be stunned by the sensational wonder of the sight.
In the center was the great heap of coins that was the dragon’s bed, thousands upon thousands of gold and silver pieces. It was arranged as a huge oval, with a depression in its center for Frang to curl up in. It was impressive from sheer bulk, although it was not particularly beautiful in and of itself.
Immediately to one side of the great heap was a jumble of swords, wands, potions, and other enchanted items. The individual items were fashioned of fine materials that never lost their shine or hue. Some were powerful and some were not, but the dragon liked keeping them all within easy reach.
The most beautiful of his treasures were the six small mounds of gems and jewelry spaced evenly around the cavern’s perimeter. They twinkled and sparkled in the dull light that filtered into the hearth chamber. There were diamonds and rubies, emeralds and sapphires, rings and crowns. Frang had placed them so that wherever he gazed, he could adore their glitter and gleam.
Suddenly, a tingling sensation ran up Frang’s long neck.
Reluctantly, Frang turned his gaze from his treasures. Something had crossed the threshold of his lair and triggered the magical ward. With a look of draconian annoyance on his face, Frang started up the tunnel to the entrance cave.
After a few yards, his keen senses alert to all, he heard low noises from ahead. A thud and a sort of scrape. As he continued up to the cave, Frang detected an odor that he couldn’t quite place. Then again, he had smelled so many things in his centuries that he couldn’t be bothered to remember all of them.
Underneath that odor was another, one that he definitely remembered. It was horrid, it was repulsive, it was… two-legger! Oh bother, thought the dragon. Wouldn’t they ever learn not to disturb his august presence?
As his head emerged from the tunnel into the cave proper, Frang’s ears stopped working. At least, it seemed so, for he could no longer hear the hiss of his breathing or the soft scrape of his claws upon the ground. Magic! thought the dragon.
Frang continued to emerge from the tunnel, and as he did so, he spotted the two-legger responsible. It was trying to hide behind a stalagmite, but the yellow robes gave it away: a wizard! Suddenly, Frang’s interest was renewed. He hadn’t eaten a wizard in what, two hundred years? This one looked a little on the plump side, too.
Just then, another two-legger charged from his left. A shiny blur descended towards his flank. What? That stung! thought Frang. The dragon’s massive forelimb whipped out, raking the two-legger with huge claws. The form of the two-legger fell back, blood spraying from shoulder and arm, sword tumbling to the ground.
In the moments of distraction, the wizard’s arms twisted and waved. A yellow bolt of power arced into Frang from the outstretched arms. Lightning? thought the amused dragon. What kind of wizard was this? Frang opened his enormous jaws and breathed out.
If the wizard had been expecting a raging torrent of flame to spew forth, he was surely disappointed. A discharge of electricity similar to the lightning spell of moments before flashed from the dragon’s mouth, splintering the stalagmite into fragments that flew across the cave. As the rock shattered, the yellow-robed wizard shimmered and vanished.
Illusion! Oh, well, eyes can be deceived, but not a dragon’s nose, thought Frang. He moved his head from side to side as he moved farther into his entrance cave, casting about for the wizard’s scent. There, in the corner, the smell was stronger. Frang prepared to speak to his afternoon snack.
Something cold and hard smashed into his left rear leg. Losing his patience, Frang twisted with an inaudible snarl and snapped his mouth shut on the annoying two-legger with the magic sword. As the lower body crumpled to the ground, Frang spit out the top half. Warriors tasted terrible, all that iron and steel, unlike wizards, who were softer, but still crunched nicely.
As Frang turned back to the corner where the wizard was hiding, a terrible burning sensation spread along his back and flanks. Fire! Ahh! The dragon thrashed violently, causing the cave to rumble, even though the magical silence prevented the roaring cry of pain from being heard.
Now he was angry. They dared challenge Frang, Overlord of the Grey Mountains? It mattered not if there were one two-legger or a hundred, none would live to regret their actions.
As the magical pillar of fire burning him expended itself, and the smell of his own charred flesh reached his nostrils, Frang used his own magic. His body faded to a shadowy, wraith-like form. He glided over the cave floor, across rocks and stalagmites, straight towards where he smelled the wizard.
The wizard became visible as he tried desperately to dispel the fearsome form of the dragon. He succeeded, but in doing so also removed the magic that prevented Frang from hearing. Footsteps! There! Frang turned his now-solid head towards the entrance tunnel, and saw another two-legger running straight at him. This one was armored, but carried no sword, instead holding some kind of metal stick above its head.
One of the dragon’s wings swept forward, bowling over the charging two-legger with a resounding crash. Frang returned his attention to the wizard, who was now fumbling with a pouch at his waist, obviously trying to prepare another spell. Frang used the moment to summon his own powers, and cast a spell to enfeeble the wizards mind.
The two-legger suddenly pulled his hand out of the belt pouch and held it up close to its face, waving the fingers and gaping in wonder as if he had never seen them before.
“Now wizard, how would you like to join me for a meal?” quipped the dragon.