Dragon Fire: Episode 72

Lightning flashed between the heavy dark clouds, and thunder rumbled from a distant strike. As Alidus and Aric rode toward the walls of Ethion, a raw wind bent the field of dead grass in a bow to the rightful king.

“Entering the kingdom walls will not be difficult, but engaging the guards and Nesmoru’s men may put the people in peril,” Alidus pointed out. “We must protect their safety.”

“You know how we will get inside?” Aric asked in surprise.

“I know that no gate will stand in my way. And even if there were such a gate, my friends will easily drop us inside the castle wall,” Alidus said casting his eyes upward.

When Aric followed his gaze, he saw nothing but the angry sky.

“What is it that you seek, sire?”

“My friends,” Alidus said turning his face to Aric. “Dragons. Brother and sister.”

His eyes widened, Aric looked at Alidus and asked,

“You have friends who are dragons?”

Aric looked up at the sky again, imagining the great beasts breaking through the clouds, their powerful wings riding the wind.

“I thought dragons were just an old story of the elders.”

“No. They are quite real. Long ago, they withdrew from man to preserve their kind,” Alidus said.

Aric grew quiet for a moment then said, “Lígdraca. That is what she meant.”

“I do not understand,” Alidus responded.

“When I was a young boy growing up in the monastery, one of the older women warned me to stay out of the kingdom because of the Lígdraca, the fiery dragon that lived there. She forbade me entering the kingdom because the Lígdraca would devour me, as he did all naughty children. I thought it just a foolish tale, but I see now that she was warning me away from you.”

Alidus gave no response, and Aric wondered at his silence.

After a few moments, Aric said,

“I respect your gift, sire, but are there not other ways into the kingdom that will not harm the people?”

“I will hear any plan that will save lives, but I must take my kingdom,” Alidus said.

Aric returned to thoughts of his boyhood.

“Despite the old woman’s warning, I slipped outside the monastery so often than after a while, the monks vowed to reward any guard who caught me trying to enter the castle walls.”

As they grew near Ethion, Aric pointed to a section of the castle.

“In that part of the wall, a drainage pipe leads beneath the castle to a group of underground caves feeding into each other. The guards were not so diligent, and I easily slipped past them, entering the pipe and the tunnels. Had I courage enough, I could have stepped into the castle itself,” Aric boasted.

“These tunnels. They will take us past the guards into the castle?” Alidus asked.

“Yes, sire. Unless they have sealed them. It has been almost 15 years since I last tried,” Aric pointed out.

“When this battle is won, I shall have them sealed,” Alidus declared.

“These tunnels are home to many. Some are villainous citizens, criminals, but most are simple outcasts, the sick and the lame who have been shunned by the people.”

Alidus was troubled by this news but pushed it aside for a time as he thought of the battle ahead.

Increasing the horses’ speed, they hurried towards the tunnels. When they reached the drainage pipe, Aric climbed down from his horse.

Removing his leather pouch from the saddle, Aric said, “We must release the horses and let them return to their stable.”

Alidus slipped down and freed his horse then joined Aric as he peered into the pipe.

“I do not see how either of us will fit in there.”

“It will be tight, uncomfortable, but I believe we can get through,” Aric said then dropped down and slid into the pipe.

* * *

At the end of a long and laborious crawl through the pipe, they entered a wider tunnel and followed it through to where it opened into a large cave of absolute darkness and a foul odor that threatened to overwhelm them.

“What is that horrid smell?” Alidus asked.

When no answer came, Alidus called out,

“Aric?”

Silence.

Growing concerned for Aric, Alidus slowly closed his eyes and with one quick motion set a blaze, filling the cavern with light.

Suddenly Aric rushed to his side and warned,

“Quickly! Put out the fire!”

“Why?” Alidus asked.

“Look down,” Aric suggested.

When Alidus looked down, he saw that the floor was covered with bones, some strewn about, others piled in the corners. He gasped, filling his nostrils with the stench of rotting flesh.

“There is something you should know, something vile,” Aric said reaching down and picking up one of the bones. “Look at this.”

When Alidus drew nearer for a closer look, he saw that the bone was that of a human, and bite marks covered its surface.

“Teeth marks?” he asked.

Human teeth marks,” Aric said dropping the bone and wiping his hand across his shirt.

His eyes darting back and forth as he searched every corner, Aric said,

“We need not worry about outlaws and outcasts down here. We are quite alone except, that is, for whatever ate them.”

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Published in: on April 16, 2016 at 5:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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