Read The Wizard And The Dragon Online

Authors: Joseph Anderson

The Wizard And The Dragon

The Wizard and the Dragon

By Joseph Anderson

 

The Wizard and the Dragon

All Rights Reserved

Copyright
©
2012
by Joseph Anderson

Chapter One

 

 

I have torn pages
from this book and burned them, erasing false starts as I struggle to find a
way to explain everything that’s happened. I struggle because I don’t know if
you’ll believe me. I don’t know if I would believe me. My summaries fall short
and sound hollow, even as I read them back. Instead I will tell you the whole
story and allow you to judge it yourself. I hope what you learn from it will
not make things worse.

The
pages left will have to be enough. No more false starts.

The
dragon attacked sixteen years ago almost to this exact day. It was late
afternoon on a warm summer’s day and I had climbed the wall that surrounded our
village. I was only ten years old and boys weren’t allowed on the wall, but I
had a good hiding spot on the east side. There was a small gap in the stone
below the walkway on the wall that I could crawl into and hide. It was barely
big enough for me to fit into.

I
would lay there when it was nearing evening and watch the village stretch out
in front of me: the small clearing that was used as a marketplace around the
village tavern and the rows of small houses around them.

I
would watch people go about their business and spy for any unattended stalls
with a piece of fruit that wouldn’t be missed later on. Some days I would watch
the sun sink over the far side of the village beyond the west wall. The light
would cast shadows from every building in my direction. It was part of what
made my hiding spot so good.

I
think I was the first to see the dragon. It came from the west and was a small
blot on the sun. The size of the monster played tricks on my eyes and I thought
at first that it was a bird that was close to the village. The flapping of its
wings caught my attention and I watched as it flew closer, at first only
curious at what kind of bird could be so large.

Someone
screamed nearby. Someone near me that was far enough from the west wall to see
over it. I was the first to see the dragon but not the first to recognize what
it was. The last image of it flying toward us will forever be fuel for my
nightmares. The dragon’s body eclipsed the sun and then continued to grow as it
neared us, blocking it out completely and engulfing our entire village in its
shadow.

There
was a moment of quiet as the dragon hovered over the village. I could see the
people in the market as still and silent as I was, either gripped and stilled
by terror or holding their breath and hoping the monster would decide to leave
us alone.

Fire
came around the dragon’s body from its wings and tail, swirling together in
blues and reds and oranges. Each flap of its wings increased the intensity of
the blaze and flames came together and covered its body like a cloak.

The
people in the market began to stir but it was too late. The fire surged forward
and coalesced at the dragon’s snout, packed tightly together as a vibrating
ball of molten heat. There was a roar from the monster as the ball of fire was
hurtled down into the middle of the village and it hit like the sun itself had
crashed into us.

The
silence had been broken with the dragon’s roar and screams came out muffled
amongst the crackling fire. There was a crater in the middle of the village and
the people that had been standing there weren’t burning or dead but were simply
gone, obliterated by the fire. Those that had been nearby were corpses and
burned, darker shapes in the fire. Others were running through the flames
wailing as each step brought them more pain. There was no where they could run
that wasn’t burning.

The
dragon flew forward again and I felt marching footsteps above my head on the
wall. The guards of the village were responding and gathered to shoot their
arrows at the monster. Shouts and bellowed orders joined the sounds of
shrieking people and collapsing homes as they crumpled from the fire.

The
dragon must have swooped down over the wall. The bodies of guards were shot
into the village and fell from the wall in front of me. Some were burning, some
fell in pieces, and others weren’t dead until they hit the ground with a
sickening crunch.

Smoke
was heavy in the air. Most of the buildings had been made of wood and the fire
seemed to have spread to them all. The dragon came back again and landed this
time, putting its claws down through the fire on the ground as if it were
nothing and could do him no harm.

Arrows
flew from the last few guards on the wall and bounced off the dragon like twigs
being thrown at a rock. The beast ignored them and turned his head to the
tavern near the middle of the village. It was one of the only stone buildings
that we had and stood on the outer edge of where the ball of fire had landed.

The
dragon began to flap his wings and the smoke was blasted clear from the air. I
saw fire once again gathering around the dragon’s body but it spewed forward
this time, coming around the dragon’s mouth in a stream of fire instead of
condensing together. The flames filled the tavern in seconds and an explosion
thundered out from it. The roof popped off the walls and the building collapsed
into itself.

The
last thing I saw gave me a brief moment of hope as I lay shaking in my hiding
spot in the wall. The village wizard came into my view behind the dragon. He
was an old man but he had always done magic for children on feastdays. He could
move things without touching them and make light dance in his hands.

I
saw the wizard stop a few paces from the dragon’s tail. He was dwarfed by the
monster, his head barely reaching the same height as the dragon’s knee. I saw a
gathering of light in the wizard’s hands similar to how the fire brewed around
the dragon’s wings and tail. There was a bright flash and a bolt of lightning
arched through the air and collided with the back of the dragon’s head.

The
dragon stumbled forward from the blast and roared. It turned around, its tail
smashing through the wreckage of buildings and scattering rubble. It tilted its
head at the old wizard. He had fallen to his knees after focusing the spell. It
seemed to consider the man for a brief moment before it snapped its head down,
faster than I could ever imagine something so large moving, and chomped him in
half.

There
was so much blood. The dragon roared and took off into the air again and the
smoke returned, thicker than before. My view and hiding spot were smothered.
The last thing I remember is the sound of the dragon’s wings, beating through
the air when my vision went dark.

 

 

I don’t know how
much time passed before I woke up. My throat burned and my mouth was dryer than
I had ever felt. I became aware of my own shallow breathing and began coughing
uncontrollably. When my lungs had cleared a little I was able to move and look
around. At first I thought I was blind, but I rubbed my eyes and cleared them
of ash and peered out again. My eyes could see but it was too dark to make out
anything.

I
felt out for the edge of the wall and pulled myself up. My muscles ached but I
suddenly felt uncomfortable and anxious in the small slot in the wall. My hands
groped the wooden surface on top of the wall and slipped from it. There was a
layer of ash over it. I rubbed my fingers through it and cleared some of it
away. I felt some of it fall into my hair.

When
the wood felt clear enough I gripped the edge and pulled myself up like I had
done hundreds of times before. I propped myself up and out of the wall but my
fingers had collected too much of the ash and some of it still clung to the
wood. I tried awkwardly to squirm back into the hole but I pulled myself out too
far. My fingers slipped away and I fell clear from the wall and down below.

I
landed on the bodies of the guards. It didn’t register at first. The shock of
the fall that should have broken my back ended without the spasm of pain I
expected. When I struggled to get upright and found that I was amongst a pile
of body parts and corpses, the horror of the dragon’s slaughter hit me harder
than the fall.

My
feet slipped in blood and ash but I never stopped clambering to get away from
the dead men and women. When I was finally clear of them I raced along the
bottom of the wall and out from the ruined houses. I sprinted into what
remained of the market and fell on my knees.

Most
of the fires had burned away but smoke still streamed out in scattered places
around the village. There were still embers among the collapsed buildings and
stalls and too many charred corpses to count. The crater still sank the middle
of the clearing and the bodies closer to there were contorted in agony, as if
they were still burning after death.

I
looked down at my arms and couldn’t see my skin. It looked like I had been
climbing through a chimney. My throat was burning and I suddenly noticed how
thirsty I was. I decided I’d walk through the north gate and head to the river
from there to wash and drink. My family’s house was near the gate and I thought
I would see my parents and sisters on my way.

I
was still a child. The idea hadn’t occurred to me yet. My parents stood like
invincible pillars in my life, strong and powerful. That the dragon had killed
them too didn’t occur to me until I was standing at the north gate, looking at
the blackened, exposed frame of our house. Something was still burning inside
and I couldn’t look. I walked through the gate with tears running down my face,
mixing with the soot and stinging my eyes.

When
I reached the river I fell back on my knees. Even out here, a few moments from
the village, the ground was littered with the burn remnants of our home. The
surface of the river was sick with it, a murky gray, and I wept harder at the
sight of it. My parents had been fishermen. They had their own stall in the
market. The thought of them next to the soiled river made me hysterical.

I
don’t know how long I spent there. It must have been late in the evening when I
walked through the gate and it was deep into the night when I finally stopped
sobbing and screaming. No one came to check on me.

The
night sky was heavy with clouds and it started to rain as I walked up stream,
far away enough that the water was still clean enough to drink. It hurt to
swallow the water but I was too thirsty to care. I had intended to wade in the
shallow parts of the river to clean myself but the rain was hard enough that I
didn’t bother. It was washing me well enough.

I
looked back at the village and the same rain falling hard through the smoke
that still snaked up from inside the walls. The fires would be extinguished but
it was already too late. In the distance I saw lightning branch out across the
sky and panic grabbed me when the thunder came several seconds later. It was
like the roar of the dragon.

I
ran from the sound without thinking. The hairs raised on my back as if
something was about to snatch me from behind. I ran from the village and
through the farms around it. Each time the thunder boomed it seemed closer to
me, and my mind imagined how a dragon could hide itself in such a noise. The
image of the dragon parting through the storm clouds was fixed in my mind. I
couldn’t run fast enough.

The
ruined farms were a blur to me in the dark. They hadn’t been spared in the
attack. There were no farm animals left alive and the fields I ran through were
empty. I ran without even knowing where I was going until I spotted the edge of
the forest in the dark. My childish mind decided that I could hide from
anything in the trees, darting between trunks and hidden under the branches and
leaves.

When
I first entered the forest the loudest explosion of thunder yet erupted in the
sky, reminding me of the sound of the tavern bursting open from the dragon’s
fire. I’m still not sure if what I heard next was actually the dragon’s shriek
through the rain or only my imagination, but it was enough to keep me running
through the trees and deeper into the forest.

Some
days I have felt that it was cowardly to run from noises. On my most bitter
days I hate that I didn’t have the courage to stay behind and at least bury
parents. Especially now, years later, that I know how they were defiled in the
months after the attack. On better days I know that a child should not be
blamed for running from the monster that had just reduced his home to a husk.

I
didn’t see the tower in the distance and I didn’t know how far I had ran. I
stepped on the stone foundation around the tower and stopped in shock, and my
lungs and legs began throbbing the moment they were given a rest.

The
tower was dark and blended in with the shadows of the forest. It should have
been a foreboding, dreadful sight, but my clothes were soaked and clung to my
skin. My chest felt hot and raw from running so hard but the rest of my body
was cold from the rain. The tower looked welcoming in comparison to the
drenched forest.

I
walked up to the tower door unaware that this was about to become my home. A
place of danger and magic, but nevertheless my home and prison for sixteen
years.

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