Gender: Male Age: 53 Location: Las Vegas, Nv
|Introduction: A visit to the dragon’s lair|
Over the next month Kendra visited often and I knew she was the one I wanted to share my life with. It was a foggy evening when the Imperial Ambassador came to the inn. I had finished all the chores and relaxed just inside the stables. I was cleaning weapons and sharpening them when he came out the back door and crossed to stand in the doorway. He watched me for a moment and then cleared his throat, “My lord Peacemaker?”
I guess I knew he would come or the Emperor’s Voice, “Yes my lord?”
He smiled and came closer, taking a deep breath, “My lord Peacemaker, the Emperor’s ward is destined to marry one of title. Your… relationship must end.”
I looked at him and then back at the knife I was sharpening, “Does Kendra know?”
He sighed, “No.”
I wiped the knife clean and looked at the Ambassador, “May I speak with her?”
He frowned but nodded, “You can tell her.”
I stood and carefully replaced all my weapons. I nodded to the Ambassador and walked out. I think the darkness in my heart frightened people because they went out of their way to avoid me. The guards at the Curtain wall quickly moved aside without challenging me. When I arrived at the Ambassador’s keep, the guards moved out of my way. I knocked on Kendra’s door and waited even after she called for me to enter. She pulled the door open with a frown and started, “Edward.”
I smiled slightly, “Walk with me?”
She hesitated and then came out, “What’s wrong?”
I took her hand absently as I headed down the hall, “I have been asked to not see you anymore. I was reminded that you are destined to marry someone with noble blood.”
Kendra looked at me and sighed, “I know, I have always known, it’s just that… since I met you I hoped…”
She went quiet as we turned and walked back down the hall. I didn’t want to leave, to let her hand go. Kendra finally stopped and looked at me as she bit her lip, “Do you love me Edward?”
I smiled, “We can’t run away Kendra.”
She slashed the air, “Do you love me?”
I caressed her face, “Yes.”
Kendra took a breath, “There might be a way. This kingdom has an Imperial Dragon’s lair.”
I looked at her, “No one comes out of a Dragon’s lair.”
Kendra grinned, “That’s because a Peacemaker has never tried it.”
I thought about it, “A Dragon’s lair dates back to before Peacemakers.”
She nodded, “You’re very good Edward. Just take your time and pay attention.”
I thought about what she was asking. Risking myself for something beyond my sworn duty… I looked into Kendra’s eyes and finally nodded, “Very well.”
She kissed me, something she had never done. It was like breathing in light or smelling sound. Kendra seemed to fill my senses like no one and nothing before. When she pulled back slowly her eyes were wide. I finally turned and walked away. The Dragon’s Lair was created by a mage council when the empire was first born. It was always beyond the keep of king or empire, located where the common man could find it.
In this case the Dragon’s lair in this kingdom was located in the center of the city commons. A large park like area set aside for travelers and fairs. I don’t remember my steps as I walked away from Kendra. I remember standing on the flagstones before the wide stairway leading down into the lair. I sank to my knees and bowed, waiting.
The lair can only be entered during the first mark when the sun rises. People seemed to know and slowly began to gather. When the sun began to rise, I stood and took a breath before walking through the wide arch and started down the stairs. The stone wall before me seemed to melt into vapor as I approached. I walked through and it became solid behind me as I stopped walking. I knew a huge magical sphere was showing everything I did.
I carefully looked down the sloping hall and noticed the way the floor stones were positioned. I stepped forward and began a strange dance of tiny steps and leaps and large side steps. I was halfway down the hall when the stones changed. I stopped to look as a wall of flames exploded behind me. I concentrated on the floor in front of me before turning to the right hand wall.
The wall of flame behind me was still moving closer as I leaped. My fingers gripped the tiny ledge and my toes landed on another. I began moving down the hall using just my fingers and toes on the tiny ledges. I was almost to an intersection and the wall of flames was much closer when I stopped. I looked at the slightly raised ledge next to my fingers and glanced back and down.
I leaped back to land on a single tile before turning carefully to face the other side of the hall. I leaped and landed on the small ledges and started moving quickly. When I reached the intersection I jumped to the side and landed in the intersection as the wall of flame just died. I looked at the three hallways thinking quickly since I knew if I waited to long something bad would happen.
I turned to the left or the sinister hallway. Like the last hallway this one slanted down. It had silver bars below the ceiling that ran parallel to each other down the hall. I jumped and grabbed both bars and started down the hall. I slid each hand down the bars keeping constant contact. The floor was suddenly replaced with something that bubbled and seemed to boil, it also gave off a foul odor.
A quarter of the way down the hall spears began stabbing out of the walls in a seemingly random pattern. I took a moment to watch and then shifted to the bar on the right and move a few feet before moving over to the left. I went back and forth as I continued. I was also watching the bars. Halfway down the hall I dropped onto the floor.
I landed on a single tile using just one foot. I didn’t pause and hopped to the side to land on my other foot. Jets of seemly liquid fire began shooting down onto the floor and I began a dance of springing from one tile to another. A little later the dance changed as spikes began appearing at random. I went from hopping on tiles to a sideways leap to the wall where I stepped and jumped back to grab a bar on the ceiling. I swung to the other bar and swung again to the far wall where I again pushed off. This time to land on a tile painted like a dragon.
The wild dance continued all the way to the next intersection. I moved to the center as four huge men appeared in each of the hallways and rushed at me. I shifted sideways pulling swords and blocking and then stabbing up under a chin. I spun forward and around his falling body before slapping a short sword from another man away and stabbing under the extended arm and into his heart.
I spun to block a lunging sword and slice across the man’s throat. I sidestepped the last man’s rush and stabbed into his neck and up into his head as he went past me. I looked around and knelt to quickly wipe my weapons clean before looking at four identical hallways. Someone that didn’t know better would not have been able to tell which they had come out of.
The bodies of the four dead men began sinking into the floor as I walked towards the next sinister hallway. I took a brief moment before slowly walking down one side. The hall seemed to shift and suddenly it seemed as if I was walking on the wall. The huge serpent that appeared, hissed as it began to coil. I knew that if I took even one step back it would kill me.
I stepped towards the serpent as I pulled my knives. I shifted and turned my body sideways as it suddenly struck. I stabbed through the back of the skull and continued past the body ignoring the vertigo that swept over me as I was suddenly walking on the ceiling and the body of the serpent was falling to the floor above me. I glanced at the hall and jumped to the other side before continuing. This time it was a huge scorpion that appeared in front of me.
I turned sideways as the sting flashed towards me and sliced down. I faced the screaming scorpion and lunged forward, one knife slipping into its sheath and the other sliding into the head. The scorpion’s claws were closing as I flipped up and yanked the knife out. I rolled across the scorpion’s back and dropped to the hallway floor, well, ceiling.
I jumped back to the other side of the hall just before it rolled again. I was back to walking on what seemed like the wall as I moved towards the other end. I shifted to the center of the hallway and jumped. I grabbed the silver bar that seemed to protrude from the wall and started moving hand over hand. A spider appeared and as I moved closer it grew larger.
As the spider rushed at me, I let one hand go. I was hanging from one hand as I pulled a spike and threw. The spider screamed and writhed around as the spike struck its head. I continued moving as the spider flailed. I swung over it and dropped to the other wall before stepping into the next intersection. Everything righted itself as I walked to the center of the intersection.
I wasn’t surprised at the six men that appeared. This time four were carrying short swords that seemed to glow as if straight from a forge, the other two held throwing daggers. I shifted sideways and bent backwards as two daggers flashed by me for each man. I pulled both swords and moved forward into one of the men, blocking his sword and slicing his throat with the other.
I moved sideways and turned, slapping a dagger away and blocking a man’s lunge. I parried and lunged into him and held him as I turned. A dagger hit his back as I released him to block a sword and kneel suddenly. I stabbing into one man as a dagger went past my head to strike the last man with a sword in the chest. I spun and rolled before coming to my feet and brushing a dagger out of the air.
I blocked the stabbing dagger, shifted sideway and turning to bend backwards. Another dagger went past me and struck the man in the shoulder. I lashed out and ripped the point of my sword through his throat before turning to walk towards the last man. I slapped two more daggers away before I reached him. He fainted a lunge with a dagger and then tried to stab down into my hand. One sword took the hand and the other stabbed through his eye.
I turned to look at the hallways as the room turned and then showed four new hallways. I quickly glanced at each and started for the one with a Sheppard’s staff engraved above it. I saw the other three and thought they were meant to draw someone. As I stepped into the hallway it began to rock and shake. I shifted my balance but kept going.
Halfway down arrows began shooting towards me. I used my swords to brush them aside. A few steps later a large lion lunged at me from out of thin air. I shifted and hopped sideways as one sword stabbed through the neck of the passing lion and the other slapped an arrow away. I had almost reached the end of the hallway when the huge crocodile surged out of the floor in front of me.
I dove forward, one sword stabbing down and through the spine behind the head and the other spinning to protect me from a last arrow. I moved out of the hallway and into the fourth intersection. As I moved towards the center and looked around, eight men with long swords appeared. I didn’t hesitate and moved towards one, attacking him.
I lunged and let my other sword move his aside. He grunted in surprise when my sword tip slammed through his leather chest armor. I continued into him and then around as the two closest men attacked. I shoved his falling body into one and knocked the others sword up as I stabbed through his thigh cutting the artery. I turned him and shoved before shifting sideways.
I blocked two lunging swords and took the hand of one man before moving sideways suddenly and slicing the tendon behind a knee. I brushed a sword away before stabbing through the forearm of another man lunging towards me. My other swords blocked his as I twisted. He stumbled sideways into another man’s lunge and gasped as his sword went into his stomach.
I struck over his shoulder and into the man’s throat behind him before turning and pushing the dying man. I sliced open the arm of another man lunging at me and followed it with a strike through his eye. I spun and blocked a sword stabbing towards my back and stabbed him in the gut before side stepping away. The last man standing circled me and fainted.
I brushed his sword aside before cutting the throat of the wounded man. When I did the last man moved, lunging into me. I deflected his sword and slammed the hilt of my other sword into his throat. He staggered back choking and my sword took him behind an ear. I looked at the bodies before kneeling to wipe my swords clean. I stood and looked at each hallway before walking towards the one with a symbol for Water on the arch, each of the other’s had Earth, Air and Fire.
I had barely stepped into the hallway when water began pouring in. Instead of jumping towards the bar on the ceiling I began wading through the water. I put one sword away and watched the water in front of me. I stabbed a small flesh eating fish as it surged towards my shins. I stabbed several more but kept moving. I was over halfway when the water reached my thighs. The larger fish that struck at me were like pike, long and thin.
As I approached the end the water reached my hips and a huge monster appeared. It had a large triangle fin that sliced through the water. This time I used my other hand as it rolled to push away from its nose as I stabbed my sword through the spine behind its huge head. I was shoved sideways and back and before I knew it the water was to my shoulders. I took a breath and dove under the water and began swimming. I ignored anything behind me as I reached ahead of me to slice the nose of another monster and then I was dropping to the floor of the next intersection.
I rolled forward and came to my feet with both swords in my hands as men rushed me from all sides. I blocked and spun, stabbed and sliced. My dance slowly moved me around the intersection as the men died and were replaced as if from an endless supply. I finally laughed and let the pattern take me, block, stab, sidestep, slice, shift, block, lunge… As suddenly as it started it was over. The entire floor was littered with dead that slowly seemed to sink into the floor.
I quickly looked at the six hallways and started for the one with building blocks on the arch. As soon as I stepped inside the hallway it shifted and a fog seeped up to cover the floor. I didn’t even pause as a huge spike dropped from the ceiling and went through the floor. There was a roar as I sidestepped and a spout of flame shot out from where the spike entered the floor.
Spikes, arrows, blocks of stone, they dropped from the ceiling or shot through the walls or sprang up from the floor. They were always followed by flame or streams of acid. I walked down the hall shifting back and forth as I went. The further down the hall I went the faster they came. By the time I reached the end of the hall I was running and dancing. At the very end I spun and slid sideways and then did a back flip into the intersection.
I pulled my swords as a huge Hydra appeared and one head snapped forward. I stabbed up and sliced across at another head before rushing the monster. It tried to strike at me but I was to close and it couldn’t back up fast enough. I stabbed straight into the thick skinned chest and the heads jerked and whipped around as they screamed. I spun to stab a head that came close before rolling forward and spinning at the roar from behind me.
Over the dead body of the hydra leaped a huge Manticore. Its stinger was rising up behind it and both front paws were stretched out reaching for me. I dove forward under it and rolled to my feet swinging back with one sword to slice the stinger off. I turned with the other sword as the Manticore roared in rage and pain. It was spinning towards me and I lunged forward to stab through its side and into the heart.
I ripped my sword free and moved back as it staggered around and went to its knees. The beat of wings above and behind me had me dropping and rolling before coming to my feet to face a large Griffin. Its large taloned feet were reaching for me. I stabbed a sword into one clawed foot and moved sideways as it screamed and landed. It lunged and I sliced across its throat hard in a spray of blood.
The head almost came off as it staggered and fell. I spun as I heard a slithering sound behind me and then moved backwards in a weaving pattern as a large Drake seemed to stalk out of a tunnel towards me. Suddenly its snake like head flashed out towards me. I turned sideways and stabbed up into the tough hide of the neck and throat.
The Drake yanked its head back and I almost lost my sword. I lunged towards the screaming hissing monster and stabbed in front of the front shoulder and up into the neck. The sword hit something it grated on as I pulled it out and spun to use a back handed slice at the head whipping towards me. The drake collapsed and spasmed and I knelt to quicky stab through an ear hole to kill it.
I stood and turned at the roar of a bull and jumped to the side as a Minotaur charged me. I spun and ducked under a huge axe and lunged in to stab into the inner thigh as the axe passed over me. I dove to one side and rolled to my feet as the beast roared again and stalked after me. I fainted and then sliced through its wrist as the monster stabbed at me with the axe. It roared and fumbled as it switched the axe to its other hand. Suddenly it swayed and then it went to its knees. I moved around it and lunged in to stab into the neck and rip the blade out the throat.
As it fell I was spinning to look around and saw the huge three headed dog as it leaped over the other bodies. I sliced out and then stabbed as the left head lunged towards me. My sword went through the left eye and into the brain before being yanked out of my hand. I didn’t pause and stabbed into the open mouth of the middle head and shifted aside as it to was pulled away.
I pulled a knife as the two heads dragged along the floor and the last growled. The dog stalked towards me and suddenly lunged. I went straight back and plunged the knife up under the jaws as I fell. I rolled as I yanked the knife out and came to my feet to see the dog jerking on the ground. I moved quickly to put my knife away and yank out my swords.
I turned around to look at each hall and saw the symbol for a dragon over one. I walked towards it as the bodies sank into the floor. I hesitated and then stepped in and began to walk slowly as my eyes checked everything. This time there were no traps or attacking beasts. When I walked into the huge chamber at the end of the hall I knew why.
A huge black dragon lay curled up in the middle of the floor. I knew my heart was beating fast as the dragon uncurled and stood to face me. I had nothing that could stab through the scales let alone reach something vital. I moved forward as the dragon seemed to breath in. When it suddenly thrust its head forward and opened its huge mouth to breath fire, I dove.
I dove straight into its mouth and rolled to my knee as it jerked back and snapped its jaws closed. I thrust both swords straight up as its great jaws started coming together. I was slammed down even as both swords slid up through the roof of the dragon’s mouth. The dragon roar as it’s jaws opened and I spun to leap out leaving both swords imbedded to their hilt in its mouth. I drew a knife and backed away as the dragon started thrashing around as it dropped to the floor.
It was a long time before it was still. Slowly it sank into the floor leaving my swords behind. I moved forward and picked them up before wiping them off and sheathing them. I walked to the distant pile of treasure and stopped at the edge and knelt. I waited and finally a shade appeared and stood before me, “Bravely done son of the empire.”
It looked at the treasure, “This is not the treasure you seek.”
I smiled and shook my head. He frowned and looked up for several minutes before smiling, “Rise Empire’s son. What you desire awaits above.”
I stood as it turned and motioned to a door that had appeared. I bowed, “Thank you sire.”
It faded as I began walking and when I went through the doorway I stepped out onto the flagstones before the lair. Kendra rushed out of the huge, gathered crowd and into my arms. The Emperor’s Voice followed slower and stopped a few feet away with the king beside him, “Well done Peacemaker. On this day you have done what none thought possible. I give to you two things, I adopt you as a son and I give my ward to you in marriage.”
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