The promises of dragons a short story

I wrote this story in response to a picture prompt, but I’ve lost the picture, and can’t remember who posted it.

The picture showed a wizard standing on a rock in the mountains, and a dragon breathing fire towards him. this is the story I wrote.

I have considered the possibility of expanding it into a novel or novella. I like the title, and think it’s too good to waste! What do you think of the idea? Let me know in the comments box, please.

The Promises of Dragons

It suddenly appeared one day and took a cow from the field.

A week later, dark wings blotted out the summer sun. The farmer looked up and saw an enormous shape gliding overhead. A dragon! He watched, cowering behind a large tree.

The dragon swooped down and carried off another cow.

As soon as the creature disappeared towards the distant mountains he ran as fast as he could to his home.

“What? You say a dragon is stealing our cows?” His wife was incredulous. “They‘re supposed to be extinct, aren’t they?”

“It was a dragon. A huge beast with horns on its head, leathery wings and reddish-brown scales. It was a dragon for sure.”

“Then you must go and tell the village council. They must do something about it. We can’t have dragons taking all our cows,” his wife exclaimed.

“I’m not sure they’ll believe me. Anyway, what can they do?”

“Nevertheless you must go. Leave straight after we’ve eaten. I can see to things here until you get back.”

The farmer strode resolutely into the village that afternoon and made for the home of the leader of the council. When he heard the farmer’s tale, he called an emergency council meeting.

Once all the council members were assembled he turned to the farmer.
“Now tell the council what you told me.”

The farmer bowed to the council. “A dragon has been stealing my cows. I’ve lost three over the last three weeks. At first, I thought is was rustlers, although I did wonder why they were taking them one at a time.”

“It could have been a wolf pack, or some other predator.” The leader of the council looked around his colleagues and grinned.

“No. I thought that at first.” The farmer shook his head “But in that case there should have been blood and bones at the very least. The cows just vanished without a trace.”

“Did you search for remains?” one councillor asked.

The farmer nodded. “ I looked everywhere. There was nothing. Then I decided to wait near the field where I keep the cows. It was then I saw the dragon.”

“You are certain you saw a dragon? Most experts say they’re extinct,” the leader of the council said.

“It was a dragon. I can’t be mistaken about that!”

Another councillor asked, “It was in the sky, against the sun. Could it have been a cloud?”

“And clouds swoop down and steal cattle?”

The members of the council asked more questions but eventually they were convinced–at least enough of them to agree to send a troop of volunteer guardsmen to investigate, and to kill the beast, if it turned out it were truly a dragon.

Two days later the volunteers set off to track down the mythical beast.
They crossed the plain towards the mountains in the direction the farmer told the council the dragon had gone. It took a full day to get to the base of the mountains and they made camp when they arrived. The men were in good spirits. Searching for an extinct creature was a bit of a lark. They were mostly young men who volunteered and not one of them believed the story the farmer had told.

“An old man, going senile and seeing things,” one said.

“Or perhaps his eyes are going. It must have been a cloud. I’ve seen clouds in the shape of all sorts of things,” another said.

“What about the cows that vanished?” asked a third.

“Rustlers, as the old man suggested himself,” the first volunteer told him.

They all laughed at the foolishness of old men.

The next few days they spent climbing the mountains. They trudged ever higher, but the path stretched before them in a never-ending ribbon. The peaks soared high above them, wreathed in snow and clouds. Each footfall seemed to make little difference to their progress. Still the mountains grew above them. and as they got higher and higher some of them began to wonder why they were here on this futile search.

“Where are we supposed to look?” said a young red-headed man, little more than a boy, really.

The others shook their heads, then one of them, older than the others, said, “I’ve heard dragons live in caves”.

“Hey, I used to play in these mountains when I was a kid,“ another said. “We lived high up and we played in some caves. Perhaps we should look there.”

He led the troop in the direction of the caves he remembered.

After another day of weary climbing, their breath coming fast, and hearts beating ever more quickly, they saw dark openings in a cliff ahead. They stopped and had a brief discussion.

None of them believed in the dragon, but the oldest man said, “We ought to be careful, ‘just in case’. There might be bears in the caves.”

Later that afternoon, just as they were about to set off up the mountainside to the caves they heard a strange noise as though a large flock of bats were flying overhead, or a tanner was shaking out a piece of leather. A flapping sound like wings, but not feathery wings like a bird. More like what they thought of as …dragon wings. The sunlight disappeared momentarily and as they looked up, they saw what could only be a dragon, flying towards the largest of the cave openings.

“By all that’s holy,” breathed the leader of the group. “The old man was right. It is a dragon. Where has it come from? It can’t possibly exist. They were extinct hundreds of years ago, yet here it is.”

“Evidently the scientists were wrong. They’re not extinct. Some must have survived in the depths of the mountains where no one goes,” the oldest man said, standing beside the leader and shielding his eyes as he watched the beast enter the cave.

“We need to wait until it leaves.” The leader frowned as he peered toward the cave where the dragon had gone.

A full day passed before the creature left again. They took their opportunity.

“Aren’t dragons supposed to have hoards of gold and other stuff?” one man asked, rubbing his hands together. “If we find its treasure, we’ll all be rich men. We’ll be able to court any girl we want, and buy farms, but have someone else to work them. We’ll never need to toil in the fields or factories again.”

They all nodded and laughed at the idea of all those riches, but when the dragon left the next morning, the reality hit them. They would need to go into the cave to get the treasure. The little group of young men crept towards the cave mouth, keeping an eye on the sky above, and ears open for the sound of leathery wings.

The stench of dragon hit them as they neared the cave. It was a sickly, sweet smell with hints of sourness in it. They held their noses. Around the mouth of the cave lay bones from large animals. Many were obviously deer, but there were sheep and cow bones there too.
As they neared the lair the leader asked for a volunteer to go into the cave to look. These otherwise brave young men looked at each other, eyes wide and hearts pounding. What happened if the dragon returned while they were in the cave?

Then one man stepped forward. He entered slowly and with some trepidation and lit his torch, for it was dark inside. The smell was even worse here and at first he thought he might be sick, but he wrapped a rag around his nose and mouth. That made it a bit more bearable. A little way into the cave he stumbled over a smooth, rounded object. He lifted his torch and saw—an egg! Not just one egg, but ten. He sprinted out of the cave and reported what he had seen.

They went in and smashed the eggs. Even though they searched right to the back of the cave, no treasure could be found. The leader said they should take some of the egg shards to prove there was a real dragon in the mountains.

After smashing the eggs and destroying the threat of ten more dragons rampaging through the land they began the decent to the plain.

~~ When Gulineran returned to her cave and found her smashed eggs the roar of her anguish made the mountains themselves tremble. She determined to take revenge. First she looked for the culprits. She saw them like ants, trekking down the mountainside. Flying over them, she burned every last one to a crisp with her flaming breath. Her anger and sorrow still not appeased, she swept down and breathed flame onto the hapless village. The cottages burned like tinder. Many lost their lives. Those who survived crowded into the stone-built village hall. ~~

The leader of the council stood before the surviving villagers. His eyes raked the gathered people, and burned with tears. So many dead. And all those young men who did not return. The dragon must have incinerated them, too. He held his hand up for silence.

“We must destroy this pest,” he told them, over the sobbing of the people.

“Who is going to tackle a creature who can do such things?” a voice called from the back.

“And most of our brave young men are dead. There’s no one here who can fight, even if we weren’t facing a dragon,” someone else called.

A heated debate ensued, but in the end they decided to send for help to the nearby wizards, thinking perhaps magic would be able to destroy this dragon.

The message took a week to get to the wizards’ college, but eventually a message came back. The leader of the council called all the surviving villagers into the council chambers where he read the reply.

“We are very sorry, and we sympathise with your problem, but we cannot spare anyone at the moment. We are far too busy.”

There was pandemonium in the hall, but then, the door opened and a wizard entered. The crowd immediately became silent.

The wizard stood before them and began to speak. “I do not agree with my colleagues, I cannot stand by and watch a dragon decimate your village. Believe me, it won’t be the last visit you have from her.” His eyes blazed as he spoke. “I’ve made a study of dragons. You could say they’re my speciality. I have special knowledge not many others have. I am prepared to help you with your problem.”

He was a young man by the name of Oni. Oni talked to the council, and promised to do something about the dragon. The council accepted his offer and promised him great rewards if he could manage to get rid of the great beast that was terrorising them.

Oni walked out of the village and into the mountains. He followed the path the young men had taken until he stood near the cave, Then he called. Within seconds the dragon rushed out ready for battle. She breathed flame. The flames washed over Oni. Gulineran expected to see a dead wizard when her fire died away, but Oni was left standing and very much alive. She looked into his eyes.

“Ah.” Oni sighed. “I’ve not seen such beauty in two hundred years.”

“How can a human talk of hundreds of years?” Gulineran asked. “Your lives aren’t that long.”

“No, but dragons live centuries. You’re the first female dragon I’ve seen in more than three.”

His skin began to change, turning a rich, deep red and he grew and rippled, smooth skin turned into scales and horns sprouted from his head. His shoulder blades burst from his skin and he folded a pair of wings along his back. A handsome male red dragon stood before her. “Will you accept me as your mate?” Oni asked.

When Gulineran accepted Oni’s offer he changed back to human form and returned to the village. There he told the villagers of his encounter with the dragon.

“I used magic to charm her and I have managed to get her to agree not to attack the village nor take any cattle. She will live on the wild creatures of the mountains.”

The council offered him gold, but he refused saying, “I have everything I need now. Indeed, everything I ever wanted.”

When he returned to Gulineranm he told her of his promise to the villagers.

“Oh, Oni.” Gulineran answered, smiling. “Don’t they know not to trust the promises of dragons?”

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