Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Prompt: Beyond the Silver Stream and past the Misty Woods there stood a tall tower made of grey stone. No man knew who had built it, and no one had ever found a way to reach its top.

Dargen lay coiled around the southern turret of the Grey Tower. The sunlight warmed his scales to a golden glow. His nostrils flared as an unfamiliar scent floated up on the breeze. He opened his inner eyelids to scan the Misty Woods for movement. Nothing stirred the mist that hovered under the dark trees.

There. A horse and rider picked their way across the Silver Stream. Dargen waited for their fall into the treacherous silvery depths, but the rider was clever, guiding the horse past the hidden dangers. Dargen felt a flicker of interest. He hadn’t enjoyed a Hero in a very long time. But they wouldn’t make it much farther. He settled back against the tower, keeping an eye on their progress.

Soon, they reached the bank and stepped into the mist. Dargen wondered whether the rider would fall or the horse would collapse first as they breathed in the mist. His interest fanned to intrigue as they moved closer through the woods. He took a deep breath to taste their scent more closely. There was something familiar about it. The rider might be a Hero after all.

Dargen thought about flying down to meet them. But it took so much effort, and really, the Hero should feel he had made a noble effort in his final moments. At last, they stepped clear of the woods and shook off the final clinging tendrils of the mist. The horse stopped, and the rider looked up at Dargen without moving. He could not see the rider’s face, hidden under a heavy hood. He wondered if they would trade challenges or insults, and if he should start, or let the rider go first. It really had been a long time.

Finally, the rider called up to him. “Dragon, you are legend among the People of Gastinok.” Dargen briefly wondered where that was, then pushed the thought aside. It was to be a challenge then. The Hero used a classic opening gambit.

Dargen smiled, and smoke curled from his snout. “Then you know you should leave while you still can, young Prince. Thou shall not pass,” Dargen intoned in his deepest stentorian voice.

“Why call me Prince?” the rider called up.

Ah, modesty. Or false modesty. Dargen still had a hard time with human nuance. “Who else but a Prince would play the Hero? And why else would anyone brave the dragon’s fiery wrath but to attempt the treasure of the Grey Tower?”

The dragon? Are you the only one?” the rider asked.

Dargen paused, startled out of his usual enjoyment of the doomed Hero’s Challenge. The only one? He thought back. Had there been others? Where had he come from? He couldn’t remember any place other than the Grey Tower. He shook his head. It didn’t matter. The Hero would perish, and Dargen would remain coiled around the tower turrets, awaiting the next one.

He stretched out and started to uncoil. “Enough, Prince! Your quest is doomed! You will not breach the tower walls.”

“What makes you think I want to breach the tower walls?”

Dargen reared up in surprise. “Why else would you be here? To gain the tower’s treasure, of course.” He roared with a frustration he couldn’t define.

The rider remained calm, stroking the horse’s neck when it stamped its feet in nervousness.

“What makes you think the tower’s treasure is inside, dragon?”

Filled with inexplicable fury, Dargen unfurled his wings, stretching between two turrets, and hurled a jet of flame into the air. “I will destroy you, worthless Prince! I protect the Grey Tower’s treasure from all who would defile it.”

The rider still did not run or cower from Dargen’s mighty display. “Why?”

The simple question floated up from the ground to the top of the Grey Tower, and Dargen stumbled, drooped his wings in confusion. Why? Why, indeed? He did not keep the treasure for himself. He had never been in the tower in all the time that he had guarded it. Guarded it for whom? Dargen opened his second inner eyelids and breathed deep again to taste the rider’s hauntingly familiar scent.

“Who are you, Prince? Why have you come?” he whispered, feeling uncertain for the first time in a very long time.

The rider threw back his hood. Long yellow hair tumbled out in curls. “No Prince, dragon. I am Princess Getheme, last heir to the Throne of Dargen.” The dragon drew back, hearing his name spoken aloud for the first time in centuries.

Princess Gethem continued, “When the Gastinok destroyed our lands, and our king knew he was defeated, he turned in desperation to dark magics to protect his infant daughter and his throne. Her line has been passed down, daughter to daughter, for seven generations.”

Her voice rang with sudden power. “Yes, I am the seventh princess of the seventh princess, and I have come to claim my rightful place upon the Throne of Dargen!”

At her words, the mist surged out of the woods and surrounded Dargen, then evaporated in an instant. All his memories came rushing back. He reeled and would have fallen from the tower if Getheme hadn’t cried out, “Dargen! I call you now! Come to me! We’ll free our people from Gastinok once more.”

Dargen flapped his wings and flew up, then soared down to land before the princess. He chuckled to see the horse’s wide, white eyes. But he gave it credit for standing its ground. He bowed low until his neck rested on the ground.

“Come, Princess Getheme. I am your Throne.”

She jumped down from her horse and patted its neck, whispering in its ear. It turned and galloped away through the woods. She walked to Dargen and laid a hand on his neck. Her touch spread warmth from his neck throughout his body. She climbed up and lay against his, somehow finding scales made for her touch. She laughed with exhilaration, and Dargen felt something bubble up inside him, too.

“Let’s fly, Dargen!”

With a single leap, he thrust up into the air, and they flew.

Dogs in house:

Time writing:
~45 minutes

April word count:


  1. Prompt: Beyond the Silver Stream and past the Misty Woods there stood a tall tower made of grey stone. No man knew who had built it, and no one had ever found a way to reach its top.

    Tinkling laughter seemed to bounce off the trees. Rollos stopped, and his horse butted his back with her head. The mare whinnied.

    "Shh, girl," Rollos said, petting her nose.

    He had not imagined the sound. Yet it only seemed to occur when he was moving. He waited twice as long as he had last time, then stepped forward again. As soon as he did, the laughter returned. He halted midstride, foot still in the air. The laughter cut off half a second after he stopped. Hah! So he could trick it. Her. Him. Whatever was laughing.

    It did confirm that it was not just coincidence that superimposed the laughter over the sound of his footsteps. Someone was teasing him. Someone who didn't want him to localise the sound. Someone, then, who could be found if Rollos tried. He smiled.

    The laugher would probably remain silent for a while now, after that accidental reveal. Rollos lead his horse forward again. He ducked under a branch. He wished they would run across a road or path, eventually. The whole cross-woods adventure had begun when the riverside path washed out. Then he started following the laughter. He had not come far enough, yet, to worry that he was wandering too far into the wilderness. But signs of civilisation would be nice.

    He squinted through the woods, thinking that a steady grey in the distance was showing a straighter line than one might expect from a natural cliff. He stepped more briskly, and soon it was obvious he was approaching a manmade structure.

    In a clearing, on the top of a very slight mound stood a smooth grey tower. Rollos craned his neck looking up, and could barely make out the top of the tower in blue-grey sky. Excellent. Civilisation.

    It was strange, though, that there appeared to be no path to the clearing. Perhaps he had come in exactly across from one, however. He circled the tower, and was soon more confused than before. No path, and no door.

    He placed a hand on the stone. It laughed.

    1. Ooh, nicely creepy! Loved the horse butting his back, and the laughter. Rollos seems like he might be on top of this game until the last line!

  2. I like the POV in yours. And the idea of the dragon as throne is quite neat.

    1. Thanks! It's rough, but I do like the idea. Might have to come back to this one...