“There Be Dragons Here” Writing Contest – Entry Twelve

by darkjade68

“There Be Dragons Here” Writing Contest

Entry Twelve

by Gaston Prereth @ Gaston Prereth’s Fantastic Tales

 

Guardians of the Dawn

Sven’s eyes stayed locked on the thin sliver of light that was his first ever dawn. His hand gripped his sword’s handle, making the scabbard sway, as the deck of the small ship rocked with the swell of the ice laden sea. Even with his eyes locked on the thin gold band of light that was the horizon, he could sense that the sea was changing from black to deep blue and the sky was moving through the greys.

So this was how it was going to end.  He would meet his ancestors with the glow of gold on his cheeks and the glint of dawn in his eyes, and all would assume it was for his glory that his crew had died. Behind him he could hear his crew scurrying liked panicked hens. Pulling ropes and twisting the yard arms, chasing the phantoms of the long dead breeze, trying to follow the receding darkness that Sven knew they would never see again.

As a young boy Sven had often wished to travel south to see the sun.  His uncle had often told him tales of adventurers whom had voyaged beyond the night’s sky. The stories were full of lascivious ‘Sun-women’ and tribes of midgets who rode on the backs of giant wolves, but for Sven it was the warmth that had captivated him. Sven had longed to be beneath the sun; to see the world lit by more than moon and lamp; to feel a land under his feet that wasn’t cold and numbing.

A screech, far more vicious and cutting than the howl of a wolf, rolled off the waves towards them. Sven’s hand tightened on the hilt of his sword a little more and he clenched his jaw, sucking in his cheeks. With the beauty of light, came the horror of fire and death. It was as certain as the moon. The guardian’s of the sun would always come.

Sven turned to face his crew. He knew they needed encouragement, they needed their captain, but the warmth on his neck sapped him of strength. He watched wordlessly as they grabbed their bows, notching their arrows with trembling hands. Two of his crew had clambered up into the the crow’s-nest and by the look of their hollow faces, he knew the beasts were here. The dragons were upon them.

Another screech scratched across the deck and Sven turned back to the sea. The light of dawn dazzled him and all he could see for a moment were the vague shapes of drifting ice and tumbling waves. Then, as his eyes adjusted, a shape started to form just above the waves, heading right towards them.

It flew with the same lack of effort as a vulture on an up-draft, its direction as pointed and straight as a loosed arrow. Beneath it, a shadow flickered and flashed over the deep blue waves, tiny spurts of water flicking up from its wake like the shadow itself was kicking the water up into the sky. There was no chance of escape.

With the cold certainty of death, Sven felt his courage return and he shouted over his shoulder to his crew.  “Prepare to draw.” His men were silent behind him, all that he could hear was the creaking of the sail and the clunk of ice against the hull. He swallowed hard and kept his eyes fixed on the dragon.

As the beast drew closer, Sven could see it in all of its vicious glory. It was more skeletal than he had expected. More winged death, then flying lizard. All the depictions in mosaics of large bellied monsters howling flames down upon giant galleons showed nothing of the graceful efficiency with which the dragon glided through the air. Its wings, spanning almost the entire length of their ship, were like oak leaves of skin and bone and its body was sleek and narrow with a long snake like neck.

There was one hope, as Sven saw it. He had heard stories. They always went for the sails first. This dragon was chasing after their boat along the tops of the waves, if it wanted to engulf their sails then it would need to pull up first. That would give them their chance. For a split second its belly would be exposed.

The dragon flexed its wings, curling them down like a bat and pushing backwards, and the waves of the sea behind it jumped into the air a little higher. Sven felt his stomach drop onto his pelvis and his hand turned white on his sword.

“Draw.” His voice was hoarse and he took little comfort from the sound of bows straining under tension. The sun scolded his pale features and his eyes watered, but still he stood firm. He could feel the beginnings of cramp starting to burn in his legs and his hand trembled. “Aim in the middle. We’ve only got one shot at this and I don’t want a single arrow to miss.”

The red slits of its eyes were like doors to hell that had been left ajar. Sven could hear the rushing of wind over its green leathery skin. He could almost taste the bitter brimstone of its breath. The dragon’s mouth pulled back, its teeth dark black scars against its purple throat, and another screech tore over the ship.

Its wings pushed down.

The dragon didn’t sore over them as Sven had expected, but rather it reared up as if it were hanging in the air. Its neck thrust forward, and its wings curled at their tips like ageing paper. Sven drew his sword in a smooth arc and pointed towards the beast.

“Loose”

The arrows cut through the air above his head. Two tore holes into the beasts left wing, letting light spill through the sinewy flesh. A third shot low and drove itself into the soft skin of the tail. Two more flew down from the crow’s-nest, but skittered past its head and speared down into the blue water of the ocean.

The remaining four flew true.

Sven felt time slow down as he watched their flightpath cuttings its way towards the dragon’s breast. The bright white feathers of their flights seemed to gleam against the shadow. The iron tips flashed with defiance. Sven felt his breath gathering in his chest as his body refused to breathe. His heart paused. The sea froze. The arrows bounced.

The world rushed back into the moment. A barrage of waves bucking the ship as Sven watched the arrows dropping like scattered feathers into the sea. The dragon’s neck tensed.

A stream of flame gushed from the dragon’s belly, shooting over Sven and catching the base of the mast. The crackling of a roaring bonfire erupted behind him, but it was the screams that forced Sven’s arm to drop. His sword clattered onto the deck from his unresisting hand and he slumped to his knees.

He stared up at the sun. The golden orb was releasing itself from the embrace of the sea. It was all over. He had seen his first and last dawn.

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6 Responses to ““There Be Dragons Here” Writing Contest – Entry Twelve”

  1. Well done. You left the humans seeming really puny. I like the encouraging touch of an arrow penetrating the tail – before the ones that should have counted, bounced!
    Two things I noticed – ‘More winged death than flying lizard’ perhaps? And, ‘didn’t soar over them’.

  2. God damn it, that’s annoying – it’ll teach me to not leave myself enough time for proof reading properly. Thanks for the kind words though, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  3. I enjoyed this tale. Graphic writing as ever. I thought the bald statement “The arrows bounced” was a great understatement of failure. In that phrase you captured the scene for me. Heroic quest or foolhardiness…..brill 🙂

  4. This is my favorite one that I’ve read so far, and I’ve read like five of the winning entries already. This one is cool.

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