This story is one of many included in Druidawn, a creative writing project for teens.
by Nate Goldstein
1st Aeon: The Age of Order
The wind swept through the valleys of the numerous outcroppings of seaweed covered rocks. Mist filled the sky, cutting off all views of the monstrous cliffs above. Roots reached for the nourishing sea, their green tops swaying in the salty gusts. Palishar's small skiff lurched forward, it's wooden beams squeaking from the black waves.
The bard gazed upward and caught sight of two circling sea gulls, their shapes silhouetted against the foggy heights above. Up there was what he had come here for. Up there lay his purpose. A blue dragon.
He sought the great power that could control the minds of men when the mystical sound of the blue dragon was in harmony with his own voice. He wanted dragonsong. It was in this enchanting magic that images flowed from the mouth of the dragon and crept into the mind of the listener, stunning them to tears, or even paralysis. The majestic creatures controlled this power, and it need be unleashed through training. He had to find one. All master bards had blue dragons, and he would be no exception.
His boat reached the rocky shore, and Palishar stood. He strapped his small harp to his back, then his long bow with its quiver of black arrows. He pulled his black cloak around him in hopes of shrugging off the chill, then jumped to the shore of granite before him.
He tethered the boat to a large rock, and again glanced up at the quest that lay ahead. An outline of the jagged, tower-like cliffs above could be seen. Few had passed over their sharp surfaces. Now it was his turn.
A thought crossed his mind. The rope! He slapped himself on the forehead, then turned and bent down to get it from the vessel. As he did this, an arrow whizzed over his bent back. He would have been dead if not for his stupidity! He straightened at once, the rope in hand. Camenon! The other bard had found him!
He bolted for the safety of an upright boulder. Another arrow streaked past him and bounced off a rock harmlessly.
"You'll never beat me to him, Camenon!" Palishar yelled as he leaned his back against the rock.
"The dragon is mine, boy! You are a fool not to recognize that! The wizard told me of its birth first, not you. You shall have to wait for the next three years!" Camenon laughed, as he edged toward Palishar's hiding place.
"The wizard was a fool in that respect," Palishar responded. "If he only knew what you were going to use the beast for..."
"And what might that be, boy?" Camenon inquired as he stole his way through the rocks.
"You know damn well, Camenon! Evil. You intended to live a life of destruction! Traveling throughout the land, destroying defenseless small towns, roasting innocent people with your newly trained killer, then stealing their hard-earned possessions! You intend to hypnotize them with the dragonsong!"
Palishar peered off the side of the rock. Camenon's crimson garb could be seen, betraying his crouched position behind a nearby rock. He pulled his ash bow off his back and fitted an arrow to the string.
"You will have to die, boy!" Camenon challenged.
Palishar stood up and drew back the string. He let fly the black arrow, and it struck Camenon's shoulder. The Crimson Bard yelled in pain, and his own arrow shot straight up in the air. Palishar charged toward his opponent, a dagger in hand. But Camenon was too quick. He was already on his feet, and running for the protection of the forest.
"You shall never get the blue dragon, boy! You shall perish!" Camenon's voice echoed throughout the misty bay. Palishar looked down to find Camenon's bow lying in a pool of blood.
* * *
Noon cast its gleaming rays, plunging down to the rocky cliffs below. The morning mist had evaporated into swirling images of heat. Palishar leaned against the jagged wall, and peered over the ledge to the rugged coast below. His skiff jarred in the waves. He grasped the rope cautiously, and wiped the sweat from his burned brow. He caught sight of the immense climb, still a hundred feet above. A rock slipped from the ledge, and plummeted to the ground below, shattering on impact. He must keep going! He readjusted the harp and bow on his back, and sighed as he strained himself to continue. Small, clinging plants held fast to the dense wall, a few tumbling under the weight of his boots. Dust clouded his eyes.
Suddenly, he froze. A chill swept through him. He heard something--a brushing of leaves and twigs above. No! The crushing of bones? He shook his head. Don't be so stupid! he thought. Probably just a gull...
He continued upward, finally reaching a ledge. He pulled himself up and collapsed from exhaustion. The bard shrugged off his harp and bow, sighing with relief. Then he yanked the grappling hook from a row of rocks and began gathering up the rope for another toss. There it was again! The sound was coming from behind a wall of vines. Something stirred in the dark, leafy shadows. The dragonling!
Sweat beaded on Palishar's brow. He inched forward, his face stricken with fear. Was its mother nearby? He reached forward and grasped the vines. A sharp cry pierced the air, as the creature lunged forward in a blur of white. Palishar yelled, and stumbled away, his foot slipping over the edge. He lurched backward, grasping through the air for a handhold, and fell over the side. He saw the ground, then the sky. His hand caught hold of a root and he came to a jolting stop, the momentum crashing his swinging body against the rocky side. He spit dirt from his mouth and his vision clouded with dust and tears. He glanced up at his attacker; it was a gull circling in the current, squawking angrily at Palishar for invading her nest. Stupid! he chided himself again, and he began scaling the wall once more.
When he reached the ledge once more, he pulled himself up. His hands and knuckles were streaked with blood. The rope lay in a heap on the ground. "A lot of help you were," his eyes widened as he mumbled the words. Behind the vines was a dark, ominous cavern. Steam rose from its depths, billowing into the burning sky above. Just outside the lair he stood up and gathered the rope, harp and bow, then scooted forward to the opening.
Drops echoed in the distance, and a coldness dwelled within. Palishar shivered as he pulled a dangling, dead root out of the ceiling. He produced a flint from his leather pouch and the dry root was ablaze in seconds. The cavern lit up, and revealed its twisting tunnel. The wet walls shimmered orange, and the rough, rocky corridor disappeared into distant black. Death was here.
He gathered up his remaining strength, and began walking down the fissure. His footsteps echoed throughout the tunnel as he glanced about him, noticing strange lines running down the length of the walls. It was as if something huge had scraped them out by hand or claw. A musty, pungent odor lingered throughout the humid tunnel, and Palishar felt himself shudder in anticipation of what he knew lay ahead.
The passageway widened, and stalactites hung from the ceiling like bats. Shadows from the so-called torch danced hellishly around the walls. It was near. He could feel it.
Then all at once, the walls fell away, and the tunnel turned into a large cavern, covered with crooked rock formations. Steam rose from numerous bubbling, green pools, their depths unimaginable. On the far end of the cavern was a huge opening, revealing the sky and rocky terrain hundreds of feet below. It was the dragon's entry. Although the cave was doused with the light of day, a strange blackness hung throughout. Another tunnel wound off to the right. But where was the dragonling?
Something stirred in the shadows ahead. Palishar cautiously stepped forward. Then he saw it. The dragonling. It was a young male, its white, shimmering body curled into a ball in sleep. The dragonling's mouth was twisted into a smile from dreams, as he breathed slowly. His leathery wings were folded next to his powerful legs, and his tail wagged impulsively. Two stubs rose from his head, soon to be horns. The bard smiled as he drew his harp from his back.
He strummed a chord, and began singing. An ancient ballad wound its way through the musty air and glided to the dragonling. It raised its head slowly, and cocked it to the side in curiosity. Then the young creature smiled, revealing his few teeth, as the rest had not yet emerged. All dragons were mystified by music, but only the blue ones could be trained to sing. This one seemed to love it.
The dragonling tried to sing, and a high pitched, beautiful note found its way out of his mouth. He smiled wider.
"Stop it now or die, boy! You are allowing him to become too attached to you!" Camenon's voice rung through the cavern. Palishar glanced up and caught sight of the Crimson Bard. The whole left side of his body was covered with blood from his wound. The dragonling too turned to the newcomer. "Move away from the dragon," he commanded as he drew his short sword. Palishar reached for his bow on his back. "Don't try anything with me boy, or I swear I'll kill the dragon here and now!" Camenon's words stopped Palishar from retrieving his weapon. His hand went down.
"Camenon, please. The dragoness will be back soon. Do you want us both to die?"
"Just get away, and let me have the dragonling." He edged closer to the young creature, pointing his sword at Palishar. "Get over there," he commanded as he pointed the sword to the back of the cave. "Can it fly yet?"
"I think so. His wings are fully formed."
"Good. Then I will bid you farewell, boy. But don't get your hopes up for an easy escape. Without the aid of the dragonling, you will never get off this mountain in time to avoid the enraged mother! You will burn, burn to ashes!" Camenon laughed as the dragonling glanced up with a troubled expression.
Just then, there was a gigantic swoop of air. Wind rushed through the grotto and dust blew around in clouds. The mother! Palishar dove into the shadows and hid himself behind two huge boulders. Camenon turned to the giant opening to see the surging form of the white dragoness landing on the platform. Her massive wings stroked through the air to cushion her landing, as huge, powerful arms and legs touched down. She roared in fury, seeing the tiny Crimson Bard by her offspring, her six-inch long teeth gleaming. Yellow eyes narrowed with anger, her tail swerved in frustration. Horns rose from her head like a crown to match the spikes that broke through her back.
A huge clawed arm raised and swatted down at Camenon. He yelled as he flew sideways and struck the wall to the right. The dragoness turned instantly, and was in front of Camenon. A large gust of wind entered the dragon's gaping mouth as she inhaled.
Fire exploded from the toothed opening, hotter than any natural flame. The bard screamed as he was engulfed in the scalding heat, and his body withered and melted to ash.
Now was Palishar's chance. He was up and running to the dragonling unnoticed, for he had been hidden the whole time. The young creature smiled as the bard reached him, then moved to stand by his new friend. His height was only six feet tall, not nearly close to his mother's enormity. The mother sifted through the ashes of Camenon curiously as Palishar swung silently onto the dragonling's back and kicked his flanks. The infant made what seemed to be a laugh, and moved playfully forward. Palishar glanced over to the gray ashes of Camenon. So long, fool, he thought. Then they were through the opening, the dragonling's wings catching the wind. The ground appeared far below, gliding past at amazing speed. Palishar's eyes widened as he gripped the young dragon's neck.
A loud scream pierced the sky, as the mother noticed the infant's absence. The bard glanced back and caught sight of the enormous creature gliding from the cave's mouth. He steered the dragonling downward to the forest, and it sang playfully. They soared down to the protection of the huge fir trees and settled peacefully within their confines. Apparently, the mother had not yet seen them. Her huge form whipped past the trees above, a gust of wind following her. A shrill cry sounded. She would not give up easily.
Palishar peered up to the treetops nervously. The dragonling licked his cheek with affection. It was almost a reassurance. The bard laughed and stroked the youngster's scaled head. The childish creature closed his eyes and smiled in approval, as he settled to the cool, forest floor. Palishar knew that the dragonling would never see his mother again, for they would eventually get off this island. He knew that the dragonling would have a better life with him than he could ever have in the wild, though. He would be treated with the highest respect, trained to use his gift of dragonsong, and be a kind, loyal companion. Palishar smiled once more as he looked down at the resting infant. Yes. We will be happy. Then he drifted off to sleep.