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 Corran's Short Story: First Dragoner - Detour

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Corran Horn
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PostSubject: Corran's Short Story: First Dragoner - Detour   Fri Nov 07, 2008 11:26 pm

This is the first chapter (still incomplete) of what I hope will become a novel. Warning: This section is some 3,500 words, so you'll be sitting here for a bit. Wink Please enjoy and tell me what you think. Suggestions and constructive criticism is very welcome.

-----------------------------------------------

First Dragoner

I was, as usual, traveling. The road from Keldel to Ramsford was empty in the predawn light. To be honest it was really little more than a foot path through the foothills of the Hadari Mountains, since it was so little traveled. Sure, trading caravans came through a couple of times a year as well as the occasional patrol of soldiers, but that was about it. There were easier ways, if longer ones, to get to Ramsford. Not to mention they were all a good bit safer for a lone traveler. No, I wouldn’t be surprised to not see another soul until I got much nearer the town.
The miles fell away slowly as the hours passed. I could walk all day on flat ground, but I doubt there was any between here and Ramsford. It was pretty grueling work, and I had to rest every couple of hours, but the scenery made up for it quite nicely. There’s just something about mountain air and expansive vistas that refreshes a person. Though I took my time to appreciate the views, I still managed to reach the top of Thedin’s Pass around noon and there stopped to break my fast. The pass was the midpoint of my trek as well as the highest and most remote section of the trail. It was nestled up in the high pines, just a few hundred feet from the treeline past which there was nothing but bare granite.
I gathered stray branches from a group of fallen pines and lit my small cooking fire in a protected place on the edge of a cliff. Before long I had some pork sizzling sharply in my small pan and took a moment to relax. Taking a rag from my pack, I wiped the sweat from my face. Then, after removing the band from my shoulder-length hair, I shook it out. Once my hair was loose I wet my rag from my water bag and tried to bring some order to my hair and goatee. It took a while, but the refreshing sensation of damp hair on my neck was well worth it.
I spent the next few minutes studying the woods around my resting place. It was pretty quiet up here with just the wind, the trees, and the birds for company. It was pretty rare for predators, at least the four legged types, to come up this high, so after looking the terrain over I relaxed and whiled the time away by whittling at a stick. When the pork was done I dug some bread out of my pack and, soaking up the pork grease with the bread, ate. The meal was simple, but filling. After another half hour or so I packed my gear and made ready to continue. I didn’t get too far. After only a couple of hundred yards a massive shadow suddenly eclipsed the sun. Seeing it, and feeling a compression of air so strong enough to nearly pop my ears, I threw myself off the path into a patch of small pines. I got back on my feet as another compression came, followed by a ground-shaking thud. I’d never run into a situation like this before, nor had I ever heard of it happening to anyone else. Long ago I’d learned that the unexpected, more often than not, is also the unwelcome. My right arm crossed my body, gripping the subtly ridged hilt of my hand-and-a-half sword, and drawing it with a smooth his of steel. Weapon up and ready, I parted two bushes with my free hand and looked out into the large clearing trading caravans used as a stopping place.
I’d expected to see a lot of strange things when I signed up for this, but the creature I was staring at now was more than I’d bargained for. Dull grey scales covered most of it, the exceptions being the two huge wings that were folding gracefully around it. A long, serpentine neck turned its massive head toward me. Its body was surprisingly smooth, for all the stories of such creatures noted the many spikes that graced their hides. The dragon’s pale red eyes whirled lazily and somehow I knew he was amused. He? Now where had that come from? It wasn’t like I could tell by looking, not without possibly causing fatal (to me) outrage.
As I stared at the dragon a voice, deep bass, sounded in my head, “Come out, Treys. Your caution is admirable, but I mean you no harm.” As if to prove his point the dragon settled down onto his belly and stretched languidly.
I considered his words for a moment, then sheathed my sword. After all, if he did mean me harm the bushes would hardly have slowed him down, much less prevented his attack. Keeping my hand on the hilt, I stepped out from the trees. For a moment we just looked at each other, the wind in the long grass the only thing to disturb the scene. But my curiosity won out quickly and I spoke, “Who are you? And what’s going on here?”
The dragon blinked and snorted, again giving me the feeling he found me funny. A small tendril of smoke curled up from his snout as he replied, “Search yourself for a moment. You already know who I am.”
There was little reason not to do as he asked (and several good ones to comply), so I cast about in my mind for his name. For several heartbeats I found nothing unexpected, then a name popped into my head quite suddenly and I knew it was the one. Slightly wary, I nodded and said, “You’re right, Selvith.”
Selvith rumbled deep in his throat in what I was sure was an amused chuckle. Then he stood and, turning, presented me his flank, saying, “Get on, Treys. I will explain on the way.”
That I had not expected, “Ah…thanks, but I don’t make a habit of taking rides from strange creatures…” I clapped my mouth shut before I could screw up any worse. After all, insulting dragons probably is not something one does to increase his life expectancy. Quickly, I tried to patch up my blunder, “U-uh, sorry. I didn’t mean to give any offense…where do you want to take me anyway?”
Selvith chuckled, this time blowing a small puff of smoke from his nostrils. He watched it drift away on the westerly wind for a moment, then turned his head to me and replied, “We are going somewhere no one else has ever been. There are things that must be done, and you must help do them. Now, let’s stop wasting time.” He turned then, showing me his left flank and back, and continued, “Get on, Treys. Or do I help you on?” I could hear the amusement in his voice again, but wasn’t entirely ready to push my luck.
I took a few steps forward and reached out to touch the dragon. His hide was hard and scaly, but unexpectedly warm. The scales that armored his body were very smooth, though the edges were sharp. Looking up I noticed for the first time the leather saddle Selvith wore. Leather straps extended around his chest and secured it to him. Other straps would secure a special harness that could be adjusted to snugly fit a rider’s waist and shoulders. Finally taking my hand off my sword, I scrambled up the dragon’s foreleg and settled myself in the saddle. I admired Selvith’s wings, which were quite large and were tipped with claws at the last joint, as I tied the straps. As soon as I finished with the last strap he turned to the cliff, paused for half a second, then rushed forward and with a surge jumped from the edge. We fell about fifty yards before he swept his wings forward and propelled us back into the sky.
As soon as we leveled off and my heart had slowed I asked the question that had been nagging me for several minutes. Selvith didn’t answer immediately, but hummed to himself a bit, the thrumming sound a bass vibration between my legs. As the seconds passed I wondered at my luck. How could it be that I was riding a dragon? They weren’t even supposed to exist!
“You want to know what is going on?” Selvith finally confirmed after a few moments. His head twisted and one huge eye regarded me.
“Yeah. Dragons aren’t supposed to exist here. They weren’t coded in.”
Selvith bobbed his head in acknowledgement and turned to look forward again, “We are a new creation, a new addition to Librameia. The game has become stagnant. The Admin decided to introduce some new blood, to change the balance of power in Librameia. Now all the others must choose sides. Will they oppose us or fight alongside us?” Selvith seemed excited about the prospect, and it certainly explained things. Life had indeed fallen into a pattern, something that made it even harder to believe this was actually super-advanced virtual reality.
For a moment I was distracted by the thought of my real body, lying on an immersion bed. Various tubes kept me comfortable while my mind was literally a world away. But the game was programmed to keep us immersed unless we wished to disconnect. Slowly reality began fading out to be replaced with the affairs of Librameia.
Back in the moment, I asked Selvith the next logical question, “Okay. But why did you seek me out?”
I could hear the smile in Selvith’s voice, “Can you not guess? A dragon needs a rider if he is to be more than an overlarge pest.”
For a long time we were both silent, but eventually Selvith spoke again, his voice very serious, “Treys. Will we be one? Consider carefully for the decision is permanent.”
“Yes, Selvith, we will be one,” I replied after giving it some thought. This was bound to be a great adventure, which was why I was here, was it not? As soon as I finished speaking a severe case of vertigo hit, making the world spin and causing me to fall forward and hang onto Selvith’s neck to steady myself.
Suddenly, as the vertigo eased, my mind seemed to open up, a barrier I’d never known was there ripping apart. My consciousness expanded into another’s as the other’s rushed in to join with mine. It was extremely uncomfortable, a mental sensation very like what one gets when too quickly pulling on clothes that were just ironed. It took a moment, but it eventually clicked that this new presence was Selvith and I willed the barriers I’d erected on instinct to drop. Instantly the fusion went to a whole other level. A magnificent roar ripped from our throats, prompting a long plume of silver fire to erupt from our dragon mouth. It whipped back suddenly, twirling around us. We could feel changes happening, indescribably complex.

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PostSubject: Re: Corran's Short Story: First Dragoner - Detour   Fri Nov 07, 2008 11:28 pm

When the flames died we examined ourselves mid-flight. The scales of our dragon body were gone, leaving new ones in their places. From the tip of our tail to the end of our snout we were pure, blinding silver. Our body had grown somewhat as well, perhaps another two human arm lengths. The spikes we had expected had grown in too, looking like gleaming teeth the length of a man’s forearm. Our human body was still there too, a young man slumped forward, eyes staring. We could see through them too, though, so it was odd seeing them turn silver to match our hide. Then the silver appeared around our human body’s eyes and started to spread, a sharp pain and odd pleasure combined, and formed graceful patterns. The tattoo it created seemed to emanate strength and courage.

We remained merged for a long time, three hours at least. Eventually, I was back in my own body alone, though my mind retained its link to Selvith’s. I couldn’t help but marvel at the changes in my senses. Every sense was ten times, a hundred times, more acute than before. I saw further, heard more, and smelled as never before.

Selvith’s surprise was just as great and resulted in amazing aerial acrobatics. I asked him why and he snorted and pointed out that he’d never done that before either, so how could I expect him to know what it was like? We played at acrobatics for a long time as we continued our journey, only settling down when a graceful tower came into view. Secreted high in the mountains, the fortress was stern and regal. A solemn silence dominated as we landed in a huge courtyard. I wanted to explore a bit, but in the end we sat down to wait at Selvith’s suggestion.

It wasn’t long before our wait was rewarded. Five cautious pairs of figures landed one at a time in the courtyard. Soon we all stood in a circle, humans beside their dragons. Selvith turned and nudged my shoulder with his head, “You are eldest among them; we joined first. You are to speak first.”

I frowned at him, then shrugged slightly and stepped forward to speak, “I am Treys, partner to silver Selvith.”

The beautiful young woman to my right strode forward next, saying, “Tessa, partnered with red Domath.” Her ruby eyes and tattoos glinted as she smiled and practically bounced in place in her excitement.

“Kam, friend of blue Tigath,” added a younger man, almost a boy, with navy eyes. His smile was nonchalant, almost lazy, as were his gestures. Short of stature, he tilted his head back slightly to meet each rider’s eyes before nodding to the next rider.

The black’s rider advanced, announcing himself as, “Mond, rider of black Erveth.” His pale skin and aristocratic bearing contrasted greatly with the midnight tattoos covering his face. Though his smile was warm, his face never lost a certain solemn cast.

Yellow Menath and green Garath were soon introduced by their riders, Bella and Arda. As soon as Arda stepped back, all six dragons lifted their heads and roared. Their voices joining and multiplying, “A new power rises in Librameia! The time of Dragoners is begun!” On an impulse I drew my sword and held it high. The others drew their weapons as well and flames roiled up our blades, turning them the color of our beasts and changing their very shapes, before shooting into the sky in a spectacular display.

The accolade lasted for maybe twenty seconds before the flames from our blades died out. I lowered mine, running my fingers along its length. It was cool; the flames had not warmed it in the least, though they had added new detail and complexity to the previously simple blade. The markings were very similar to the patterns that now marked my face. Sheathing it, I sighed, thinking back to all of the surprises of the day. There were certainly too many, at least on this scale. A few moments later Selvith’s nose bumping my shoulder shook me out of my reverie, “Treys, we dragons wish to fly together. Do you have any need of me for a while?”

I shook my head after only a second, scratching behind Selvith’s ear as I replied, “Go ahead, my friend, and enjoy yourself. I suspect we riders will be doing much the same thing in our own way.” Selvith’s head dipped in a nod and a moment later all of the dragons looked to the sky. Springing into the air, our beasts began pumping their wings and shot up into the clouds. After a moment of awkward silence we riders met in the center of the courtyard, greeting each other more informally. I shook hands first with Mond, who stood opposite me in our circle. We frowned in unison when we saw that we’d automatically gripped forearms rather than hands. The others made similar discoveries and more than one voice wondered why aloud. No one spoke for a moment, so I ventured a guess, “I think it has something to do with being Dragoners….you know, different customs being programmed in for different groups.”

“Makes sense to me,” Tessa agreed. The others nodded and I smiled at her.

“So what do we do now?” Arda, who seemed to be the youngest of us, asked as she pulled her blonde hair back from her face.

“Well, the dragons are getting to know each other, so I guess we should too. I’m Treys, now former adventurer and small time trader, no former affiliation or ties.”

“Tessa, Lady of the court, formerly of the Thygard Kingdom.”

“Arda, of little former occupation or loyalties.”

“Kam, of the Miner and Smith craftsguild, late of the Otrellian Empire.”

“Bella, freewoman and sometime magician, of the Bridench Kingdom.”

“Mond, Viscount of the village Centetern, of Emperor Naseer’s realm.”

I felt my eyebrows rise as each person spoke, nor were mine the only ones, “An auspicious enough group then, I’d say.” Looking at Bella, I continued, “A magician will certainly come in handy.”

She looked confused, “But…you mean your dragons did not tell you?” Seeing our blank expressions she grew more confident and continued, “Well, then. It seems we are all magicians now, though of what strength I don’t know. Menath told me this as we made our way to this keep.”

“Truly?” Mond was frowning again, it seemed to be a habit of his. Then, bringing his arm up to point his palm straight away from our group, he aimed at one of the large blocks that made up the wall and flicked his wrist as if flinging a knife. As his hand lifted a black nimbus formed around it, obscuring his fingers. The moment Mond made his motion the nimbus shot away from his hand, streaking toward the wall. It hit half a second later, blowing apart in a spiral of black flame and leaving a fist sized crater in the stone in the middle of a large scorch mark. Mond grinned, “Truly. This is very nice.”

Bella scowled at him though, and spoke sharply, “Stop! Idiot. If you don’t do that properly you could kill yourself or someone nearby.”

When her words died I added, “And when you do practice…do not do it in the keep. There’s no reason to damage our new home.” I was silent for a moment as the others nodded agreement, then spoke again, “It looks like everyone’s dragon told them something different. Let’s hear those words now and put this puzzle together…Mond?”

Mond, now frowning again, shrugged and said, “I’m sure you all can guess what I was told…that we stand in opposition to the way things are in Librameia. Erveth also said that in order to stand strong, we’re becoming stronger and faster than anyone can normally become. That’s about it.”

As Kam was about to speak Arda broke in. She was looking up at the section of sky visible through the courtyard’s open roof, “Perhaps we ought to wait to hear all this. The day has passed quickly, and it’s getting close to evening. Shouldn’t we explore the keep before we find ourselves stumbling around in unfamiliar halls?”

The suggestion made sense, so we each chose a passage and scattered into our new home. Little light penetrated the stone walls, quickly making seeing difficult. Fortunately the first room I came upon held a stack of torches beside an empty fireplace. Rather than pull out my stones and spend a half hour trying to light a torch I picked one up and, closing my eyes and touching the fingers of my free hand to it, concentrated on fire. I held an image of a flaming torch in my mind, using it to open myself to the magic I was now pretty sure would be there for me. After a moment I felt a fire’s warmth surround my hand. Opening my eyes again, I saw a swirling cloud of silver, like molten chrome, surrounding my hand. Satisfied, I snapped my fingers and willed the power to spark. A bright light flared and I yelped in surprise as a fireball as big as my head blew up around the torch before shrinking back into a lively flame. “Not your smartest idea yet, Treys. Next time have Bella teach you. And right after yelling at Mond too.” I muttered to myself, feeling my eyebrows gingerly to see if they were still there. They were, or at least most of them. “If you play with fire and all that...”

Holding my torch up, I surveyed the room. It was of a good size and looked to be designed as a reception room of some sort. Indeed, I realized it reminded me of the ready-rooms used by pilots. But why was it here in the middle of a fortress? Surely anyone arriving at the gate would be received in a room much nearer the walls. After all, it was both courtesy and common sense. Travelers should be welcomed well and quickly, and hidden enemies not be allowed to venture freely very far into a fortress. It puzzled me for a moment before I thought of my ready-room comparison. As soon as I remembered that I felt like hitting myself. Of course. This room was meant as a welcome and resting room for us. But just like the rest of our citadel, it seemed far too big for our handful. Then again, if we were going to have any impact at all we’d soon need the help of armourers, weavers, laborers, and many others.

To my left, opposite the door through which I’d entered, was a large fireplace framed in stone. A cord of firewood was stacked neatly beside it. Several sturdy looking wooden tables were set up nearby, with chairs of the same make scattered around them. On the far side of the room there appeared to be another, smaller, fireplace with a large open area before it. Bed rolls and such were stacked nearby. A sleeping area, then.

I hope you enjoyed it. More to come soon!

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PostSubject: Re: Corran's Short Story: First Dragoner - Detour   Fri Nov 07, 2008 11:29 pm

Btw, if an Admin could space the paragraphs in the first post our I'd really appreciate it. That or temporarily expand my permissions so I can fix it.

-Corran

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