Tuesday, August 26, 2008



Sir Peregrine

Prince Peter sat high on his horse, Titan, as he watched Sir Peregrine’s men make their way through the thick trees of the Dragon Forest. Peter’s hands firmly held his new sword and shield as he prepared for whatever lay ahead. He looked around the forest clearing and noticed that the familiar blue mist was thicker and reached up to Titan’s knees. The mist covered the sapphire lake completely. The sight made the forest appear to float high in the clouds. Within the trees, he then saw the yellow eyes of the Dragon waiting patiently to make its move. What will happen now? Peter thought as he gripped Titan’s mane.

“Hold tight, Peter!” his mother yelled as she led Titan around the corral. The clip clop sound of the horse’s hooves on the dirt made a musical sound as Peter listened to the rhythm. “Try gripping his mane in your hands.” Peter obediently grabbed a tuft of mane in his small hands. He was surprised at how thick and rough the hair was in his fingers. He watched his mother walk with the reigns in her hands as she led Titan around in circles. “Squeeze tightly around his body with your legs to hold on,” she said. “Then you won’t fall.” She looked back at Peter and smiled as the wind blew her black hair away from her face. “You’re wonderful!” she laughed as she watched her son ride his new horse for the first time. The sun was shining brightly on Peter’s face as the smell of jasmine filled the air. He could feel the warmth of the sun on his skin.

Titan whinnied and clawed the dirt again with his front hoof awaking Peter from his memory in time to see Peregrine approach.

Lord Peregrine’s voice was faintly heard as he shouted orders to his men. The voice echoed into the night air. Peter couldn’t make out what was said as the Knight was still too far away. But he could see the light from their torches reflect off the trees and their shadows dance along the ground. Peter went over in his mind what he would say to the Knight when they faced each other. He realized that he looked prepared for some sort of confrontation, but he also knew that Peregrine was supposed to be on a rescue mission. Did he truly intend for Peregrine to know that he knew, of the plans to capture the Dragon’s scales? Peter’s mind was spinning as he tried to figure out what to do next. One thing he knew to be sure, he would defend the Dragon as his father would were he with them now.

Peregrine made his way into the clearing and his eyes met Peter’s. He was shocked to see the young boy on his horse with sword and shield in hand. He raised his hand up, signaling to his men to stop where they were. Then he slowly removed his helmet to make sure the young boy in front of him was really Peter.

“Boy, is that you?” he asked.

“Yes,” Peter answered. He swallowed hard. A large lump had formed in his throat.

Satisfied with recognizing Peter’s voice, Peregrine said, “Boy, what are you doing out here?”

Peter remained silent.

“I say, what are you doing out here in this forest…alone?” Peregrine asked again while he looked around at the mist covered forest.

“I am…I...” Peter stuttered as he searched for an answer. “I am here to...”

“Shouldn’t you be on your way back home now?” Peregrine asked. “Your father is very worried. He sent us here to find you.” He waited for a response from the Prince. “Do you know what trouble you’ve caused?” His voice grew louder as he felt his patience drain. Then he saw some strange thing in Peter’s hands. He lightly nudged his horse forward to get closer to Peter. Only the sloshing sound of Peregrine’s horse walking on the damp ground could be heard in the forest.

“No, I...” Peter said.

Peregrine was much closer to Peter now. His ruggedly handsome, bearded face and dark hair were lit only by the torches, but Peter could see his eyes. Peter did not trust Peregrine’s eyes. He gazed at the curious boy closely. “What is that you have there, boy?” he asked as he spotted a small, but real, sword in Peter’s hand.

Peter looked at the sword and then returned his gaze to the strong Knight. “It is my sword,” he said.

Then Lord Peregrine’s eye switched to the unfamiliar thing in Peter’s other hand. It seemed to him to be a shield of some sort. He looked closer as the light from the torches was far away. He motioned for one of his men to bring him a torch. The squire galloped over to the Knight and quickly handed him his torch. Peregrine took it and raised it up above his head toward Peter. Peter looked down at his shield and grasped it even tighter.

Lord Peregrine’s gaze, illuminated by the torch, moved slowly over the form of the shield. His strong features and dark beard were highlighted by the yellow light of the fire. Peter saw the ominous shadows over the Knight’s deep set eyes and feared him more. Peter had once admired Sir Peregrine as his father’s most noble Knight. Now he doubted the man’s loyalty to his father.

Peregrine squinted his eyes in order to see the detail of the shield. Then, realizing exactly what the object was before him, his eyes grew large and his mouth gaped open. He looked amazingly at the boy and then back at the shield. He knew it was a scale...the scale of the Dragon.

“Where did you find that shield?” he demanded of Peter.

“I...did not...” Peter hesitated.

“Answer me! Where did you find that shield?” Peregrine shouted.

“I did not find it,” Peter said. “It was given to me.”

Peregrine’s horse neighed impatiently and tried to turn away. It nervously sensed something unfamiliar in the woods. Peregrine pulled the reins back.

“Given...to you?” Peregrine asked. “By whom?”

Peter did not answer. This puzzled Peregrine as he knew it had to be a Dragon scale. But how? He wondered. Where did he find it?

“Give it to me.” he commanded as he reached out his hand.

Peter motioned Titan to step backward. “No!” Peter yelled. His horse took two steps back, snorted, and shook his mane.

“Give it to me, you silly boy. You don’t know what you have there,” Peregrine said as he reached out to Peter.

“Yes I do!” shouted Peter. “It’s the scale of the Dragon,” he said with satisfaction. Peregrine’s men gasped and looked at one another. Only then did he realize he should not have made the revelation known.

Peregrine became angry. He moved closer to Peter squinted his eyes, and lowered his voice to an intimidating tone. Slowly he said, “Where did you get that scale?” Peter froze as he watched Peregrine’s men inch their way closer to him. Some dismounted their horses and uneasily walked on the blue mist. Titan whinnied and shook his mane as he took a few steps backward. The two stood there as Peter quickly plotted their escape, but nothing came to mind. Peter regretted ever having left the castle.

Lord Peregrine sensed Peter’s uneasiness and realized he was approaching this from the wrong direction. He sat straight up in his saddle and seemed more at ease. He released the reins of his horse and handed the torch to the rider next to him. Then he raised his hand toward his men. “Now, now,” he said. “We mustn’t frighten the boy.” He slowly dismounted his horse, and as he turned away from Peter he made eye contact with his men. He whispered to them, “When I give the signal….” And they nodded in agreement hoping Peter did not hear him.

Peregrine, in his slyness, walked over to Peter. He removed his gloves and tried to look pleasant in the darkened forest. He reached for the torch once again and the soldier handed it to him. He gazed at the young Prince’s face. He tried in earnest not to look at the beautiful shield made of the Dragon’s scale even though it represented all that he had fought for these many months. He kept his eyes on Peter in order to make the boy feel more at ease. But the plan was not working. Peter grew more frightened as Peregrine walked over to him. He slowly grabbed a large chunk of Titan’s black mane in his hands. He did not trust Peregrine.

“Now, my boy...I mean Prince Peter, your Highness, ” Peregrine said, bowing his head. “Your father is looking for you. He is very worried about you and gave me, specific orders to bring you home safely.” He smiled reassuringly.

Peter raised his eyes above Peregrine’s head and looked toward the dark trees behind the knights.

“Come now, we do not have much time. There is a battle raging in the Cardion Valley,” Peregrine spoke more seriously as he reached out to Peter. “We must get you home so I can help your father.”

Peter’s eyes were fixated behind the knights as Peregrine spoke. “Help my father?” Peter asked. “My father doesn’t trust you.”

“Now your Highness,” Peregrine slowly stated. “Why would he send me out to bring you, his only son, home safely if he did not trust me?”

Peter inspected Peregrine’s men. Their armor was darker and heavier than his father’s and they did not have the Illiath banner with them. He could barely see their faces in the night. He did not answer Peregrine nor look at him. Instead, he held tightly to the sword as he grabbed the mane with some of his fingers. He knew something was about to happen in those dark trees. He squeezed Titan with his legs, signaling him to be ready.

Peregrine grew impatient. He was not amused with Peter’s silence. Nor did he appreciate the boy’s refusal to look at him. “If he trusts me,” he said, “so should you.”

Realizing he was not getting through to the boy, Peregrine decided to forego the pleasant conversation and get what he wanted after all. Lunging forward in a split second, he yelled to his men, “Now!”

The Knights ran toward Peter and Titan as Peregrine tried to snatch the shield from Peter’s grasp. But Peter knew what was happening behind them.

The glowing yellow eyes quickly made their way up the trees as the ominous voice came from within the forest walls. “Ride!” was all it said to Peter. And that is what Peter and Titan did. Peter kicked the ribs of his loyal horse and rode toward the lake. As they made their way, they heard Peregrine yell to his men, “Stop them! Move! Don’t let them get away!”

Peter could hear the commotion of the Knights as they ran to their horses and began riding toward them. But Peter followed the glowing eyes in the trees. He saw the blue mist rising out of the woods as the great beast began to reveal itself. The blue lake was in front of them and Titan hesitated to enter into the water. The Dragon sensed this and yelled, “Do not stop! Ride!” Then blue fire spewed out from its mouth. The ice blue fire hissed onto the waters as they approached it. “What’s this?” yelled Peregrine. Some of his men stopped as they sighted the Dragon at the top of the trees. They sat their on their horses staring at the giant spewing the blue fire from its mouth.

Peter kicked Titan even harder as they galloped faster and faster toward the waters. Peter closed his eyes as Titan jump up over a log. He fully expected to enter the icy cold waters of the lake when Titan’s hooves landed, but they were met with hardened ice instead. Trying not to slip, Titan continued to gallop as fast as he could, leaving Peregrine and his men far behind them. When they made it to the middle of the lake, Peter and Titan stopped and turned to see the Knights. Many of them were still standing in awe at the sight before them. Others were mounted on their horses ready to fight the Dragon. The beast made its way out of the forest deep and revealed itself to the traitorous Knights.

Peregrine quickly mounted his horse, pulled his sword from its sheath, and ordered his men to seize the Dragon. His eyes glared at the giant beast then turned toward Peter still in the middle of the icy blue lake. The hatred and anger inside Peregrine built up inside him as he realized how he had been tricked. Many of his Knights were mounted and ready to obey their commander’s orders. But the Dragon stood ready as well.

Peter asked Titan what they should do. He knew they would be safe on the now hardened lake, but he also wanted to help his new friend. The Dragon perceived Peter’s concern and turned to him. He spread his massive wings wide open and showed his claws. Then he lifted his head high into the night sky and roared. Peregrine’s men stopped where they stood not knowing what would happen next. They had their weapons in their hands and their shields hiding their bodies, but what match were they for the giant Dragon?

The Dragon made the familiar hissing sound as it inhaled a large amount of cold night air. The whooshing sound frightened the men’s horses, but Titan knew not to be afraid. Deeper and deeper the Dragon inhaled as it reared its head back farther and farther.

“Steady men! Remember your shields!” Peregrine shouted. He reminded them of the magic shields Lord Caragon had provided for them. They were supposed to protect them from the Dragon’s breath. He raised his shield up over his head.

But they were no match for the Dragon. A silent pause followed all the hissing and inhaling. Then the Dragon, leaning forward, unleashed all its fury on the Knights in one steady stream of glowing yellow fire projecting from its mouth. The unrelenting fire devoured all the men and their horses in one swipe, but the Dragon waved its head from side to side layering the hot fire in row after row. The fire consumed all in its path. It covered the misty ground all the way to Lord Peregrine’s armor covered boots. Then it stopped.

Peter had lifted the shield up over his head as a precaution even though he knew the Dragon would not hurt him or Titan. He slowly lowered the sparkling shield to see what had taken place. Fire was burning all over the forest clearing. What was left of Peregrine’s men lay smoldering on the ground. Only piles of ashes remained where once proud men stood before their mighty foe. Their metal swords and armor smoldered on the hot earth as smoke rose from the burial ground. Peregrine stood breathing heavily, dumbfounded at the sight. Then the Dragon made its way over to the cowering and ignoble Head of the Royal Knights.

Peregrine took a few shaky steps backward as the giant beast stepped toward him. The earth shook with each impact of the huge clawed feet as the sound of crunching tree trunks snapping in two was heard throughout the forest. The swishing of its tail fanned the flames that were still burning. Its belly rubbed against the flames, but its scales protected it from harm. Peter and Titan walked over to the water’s edge as the Dragon walked past them. They knew they were safe now.

The hissing sound from the Dragon echoed into the night. No other sound could be heard in the entire forest except the frantic beating of Peregrine’s heart. The Dragon lowered its head to the Knight. “You dare to approach me?” it hissed.

It continued moving forward as it looked into the eyes of its enemy. Its magnificent scales glistened and reflected the flames around its body. The scales were mesmerizing to Peregrine. He had never seen such a sight. As he fearfully admired the beast’s scales, he dropped his pitiful shield to the ground. Still holding the sword in his hand, he knelt before the Dragon’s feet. Bowing his head, Peregrine begged for mercy. The Dragon’s large mouth was inches away from Peregrine’s head. Its hot breath graced the doomed knight’s skin and smelled of burning incense. He shuddered at the thought of being incinerated. Peter and Titan stood far away from the spectacle, but they wanted to see what would happen to Sir Peregrine.

Peregrine slowly looked up into the Dragon’s eyes. “Please, I beg your forgiveness,” he sobbed

The Dragon answered only with a hiss of his hot breath as he studied the heart of the man before him.

“Mercy,” Peregrine said as he remained on bended knee before the Dragon of the forest. He bowed his head once again to show his respect. “I beg of you.”

Peter did not believe Peregrine. He still did not trust him.

The Dragon stayed close to Peregrine for a few moments and then slowly raised its large head. It turned to see Peter and Titan behind its tail. As he turned, Peregrine raised his head to watch the beast’s every move. With the Dragon turned toward Peter, Peregrine’s eyes met with the hole in the Dragon’s shoulder. He carefully eyed the mysterious gap and realized that a scale was missing. As the Dragon continued to look away, Peregrine raised his sword high behind him and lunged forward with all his strength. The sword released from his hand and flew into the air twisting and twirling toward the shoulder of the Dragon. Lord Peregrine’s aim was true. The cold blade entered into the exposed flesh of the Dragon’s shoulder and sunk deep into its chest. As the metal met the flesh of the beast, it roared out a painful scream that frightened Peter and Titan. Red blood flowed from the wound. Titan reared up and sent Peter flying to the ground.

Seeing that his aim was indeed accurate, Peregrine grabbed a deserted lance on the ground and hurled it at the wounded beast. The lance pierced the flesh again and sent the Dragon spinning around to face the knight. But Peregrine, in his time of boastful arrogance, forgot his shield on the ground and stood vulnerable to the Dragon’s breath. He leapt through the air and rolled on the ground toward his shield. With the celerity, grace, and beauty of a well trained Knight, he quickly grabbed the shield and held it over his body, still convinced it would protect him. Spying another sword smoldering on the ground, Peregrine grabbed it and hurled it at the enormous body before him. He ran behind a tree and watched the Dragon as it followed him. Then, Peregrine leapt over to another tree where he hid, hoping the Dragon did not see his maneuver. But all the armor and promises of greatness and wealth Caragon had sold him and all the training of his youth would betray him that night.

With one exhalation of the Dragon’s mighty yellow fire, Peregrine’s once proud and strong body was reduced to a simple pile of ashes.

The Dragon, however, was wounded. Peter ran over to see where the beast had been pierced. It lay down on the ground with its head hung low. Peter could hear its heavy breathing. He was afraid.

“We’ve no time to lose now,” the Dragon hissed to Peter. He could see it was in a great deal of pain. “We must go to the battle.” Peter lunged forward and quickly removed the lance from the wound. Peregrine’s bloody sword had already fallen to the ground. He hoped this would help the Dragon’s pain.

The Dragon lowered its head to let Peter climb on top so that they could make their way to the Cardion Valley together. Peter climbed to the back of the massive head and held onto the scales as best he could. The Dragon stood up so quickly that Peter became sick to his stomach from the rapid motion. He regained his strength when the Dragon spread its mighty wings wide open. Peter had not seen the wings spread completely out before and now he realized just how magnificent this Dragon truly was. Peter guessed its wingspan measured almost one hundred feet across with the translucent wings made of thick course leathery skin. .

“Hold on,” the Dragon ordered. Peter obeyed. The giant wings flapped forward and backward in a quick movement. The wind they created blew the trees back and forth as the blue mist rose around them. Titan reared up and loudly whinnied to Peter as his front legs flared in the air. He looked as if he was trying to say goodbye. “Go back to the castle, boy!” Peter shouted to his horse. Peter smiled as the body of the Dragon rose off the ground. Spotting Titan galloping out of the forest, Peter and the Dragon rose up over the forest and circled above it. Peter looked up and saw the moon. It appeared closer to him than ever before in his young life. He could see mountains and valleys on the moon’s surface. He saw the brightness of the stars around them. Then he switched his gaze to the Cardion Valley in the south. He could see the flames of the battle burning brightly and he knew his father needed help.

Together, they flew into battle in order to save his father...in order to save the kingdom.

Monday, August 18, 2008



The Siege Begins

The King rode quickly toward Cardion and Lord Caragon’s army. He jabbed his heels into his horse’s ribs and felt the beast’s strength move them both forward faster and faster. Yet his thoughts remained on his son’s whereabouts. He knew because of the Dragon Peter would be safe in the forest, but something inside him still doubted Peregrine.

“Sire!” a Knight yelled at the King to get his attention. “Look!”

The Knight was pointing toward the Dragon Forest when, together, they saw blue light coming from deep within the trees as it rose high into the sky. The Knight tried to ride forward while looking back. He seemed frightened.

“Do not fear!” answered the King. “All is well. Look forward where you are going.”

The King knew the blue light belonged to the Dragon. And he knew what the blue light meant. Deep inside his heart, he knew his son safely waited with the Dragon.

The Black Banner of Caragon’s army waved in the night breeze as his men moved forward to battle. The golden crest of Caragon, made up of two small dragons intertwined and facing each other, gleamed in the moonlight. Beneath the intertwined dragons was a human skull symbolizing death. Many of his men were on foot and behind them rode the Black Knights called Baroks trained in the art of battle. Their black armor would have nearly disappeared into the darkness were it not for the light from torches they held in their hands. Armor covered their faces and bodies, weighing them down so that their feet left deep impressions in the earth. They held shields before them and had lances in every hand. These metal suits of armor could not be penetrated by any lance or arrow, so the legend said. Yet they had never been tested in battle. The time had come for his men to finally meet their fate in the hills of the Cardion Valley. Huge catapults several stories high were pulled by large oxen. The thunderous sound of the marching enemy echoed throughout the land and could be heard from the Crow Valley.

At the threshold of the valley, they stopped and soaked their arrowheads in black tar. One thousand Black Archers lined up outside of the valley and lit their arrows in one swoop of brush fire. Then they raised their arrows high into the sky as they waited for the order to come from their master. Horses nervously neighed and reared from impatience. The riders had to fight hard to keep their horses still.

Caragon sat mounted high on his black stallion. Together they stood on a small hill to the north of his archers. His men were anxious to begin the battle. But Caragon waited until the opportune moment to commence his plans of revenge on King Alexander and the kingdom of Illiath. His black horse moved in the night as Caragon tried to steady him. The cold breath blew from the stallion’s nostrils as it weaved back and forth on the small hill. Still wanting to run further, the horse remained nervously excited from the ride through the desert plains. Lord Caragon slowly removed his black helmet. The wind blew his long dark hair over his face. His eyes, surrounded by dark hardened features, focused in on the Cardion Valley. With teeth clenched and jaw tightened, he turned his gaze southward to the Castle. He could see another thousand of his soldiers hastening their way to begin the siege. The tall white towers of the Castle glistened in the moonlight. Cold blood ran through his veins as he imagined the fear and dread of the people within the walls.

Just then, a single black crow circled above Caragon. An omen. Its shrill interrupted the dark Lord’s thoughts. He watched the bird fly overhead. He smiled. Then the dreadful Lord Caragon looked to the North toward the Dragon forest. Near the tops of the trees he saw what he had been waiting for all these years in exile. A blue light shone from deep within the trees and rose up as a crown over the forest. It cut through the night like a blue flame of fire. Caragon knew the time had come. He placed his helmet back over his head. Then he raised his arm high into the night sky as his generals waited for the signal. The archers steadied their arrows as the flames flickered. Their heads faced toward their targets as their eyes turned in their sockets to see the signal. The hand of their leader lingered there only for a slight moment. Then he quickly lowered it in a cutting motion the ground.

The archers bent their bows back as hard as they could and then released their flaming arrows into the cold night air. They caught the breeze coming from the west behind them and rose farther into the sky where they reached their pinnacle before bending down again to the will of gravity’s pull. Many arrows met the thatched roofs and began to burn the helpless straw into nothing but ashes. More reached the ground and set it aflame. The savage fires rapidly spread across the farms and roads leaving nothing behind. Caragon had hoped to see the people running for their lives, but he knew the people had long ago entered into the Castle for safety. The archers reloaded, but behind them came the others rushing into the village carrying their black banners. They made their way in before the second wave of arrows flew. The trumpets of Caragon’s army signaled the commencement of battle.

The King and his men had ridden around the Cardion Valley to the East. There they watched through the fire devour the land as Caragon split up his men. The Black Knights entered into the small village, ransacking all the deserted homes and searching for the townspeople. “Baroks,” the King murmured as he angrily watched these evil Black Knights, mutations of man and beast, make their way through the dirt roads and destroying farms and homes along the way. It became too much for him to take. He knew the time had come to end this war with Caragon once and for all. He removed the sword of Alexander from its sheath and held it firmly in his hand. He could feel the power of his fathers before him emanating from the grip.

“He has unleashed the Baroks!” Alexander shouted. He motioned to Sir Thomas to move his men north and for Sir William to head south away from him where he had set up another group to enter the battle from the front. On his orders they were to ride in, flank the enemy, and surprise the Baroks.

With swords drawn and shields up, the King and his men stood ready. The King raised his sword high into the night sky where it lingered for a slight moment. Then he quickly lowered it in a slicing motion through the air. The Knights saw the signal and began their attack on the brutal enemy before them. Sir Thomas led the King’s men northward into the village. Many knights and squires followed him. Their horses screamed and the men yelled with passion as they entered the battle. The Baroks saw the approaching men and ran toward them with their lances held high. Their eyes glowed with hatred and magic from within their black helmets. Arms and shields were held high as man fought furiously against Barok. The King watched Sir William enter from the south as riders clashed with enemy footmen in what appeared to be a slaughter.

Sir William swept his sword into the approaching enemy and struck down many as they swung at his horse. William’s horse reared up and fell to the ground sending the Knight flying from the saddle. Disoriented, he quickly rose and found his sword as an enemy foot soldier ran toward him with his lance. The two faced each other with their weapons. William struck the legs of the enemy and sent him down. Then he released the anger built up within him and ended the duel once and for all with one swipe of his sword meeting metal to flesh. He stood over his kill only for a moment before he headed onward to yet another foe waiting for him.

Sir Thomas remained on horseback, slicing his way into the village. His horse leapt over a fence and landed in the burned-out remains of a small house. Thomas drew his sword and thrust it into the back of an enemy foot soldier who was pillaging the house. The soldier screamed in agony as the cold metal entered his body. Sir Thomas withdrew the sword and turned to swipe another of Caragon’s soldiers. He kicked the ribs of his horse and charged from the burned-out house to lead his men further into the battle.

Then came the Zadoks. These large black wolf-like dogs were a creation of Caragon’s evil magic. Their yellow eyes bulged as they showed their wicked teeth. Caragon’s men held back the giant beasts on leather leashes as they snarled and begged to be let free. With his arm in the air, Lord Caragon alerted his men to release the Zadoks on his mark. As he quickly lowered his arm, the Zadoks ran over the hills without restraint, eager for blood. It was Sir William who spotted the eerie creatures running toward his Knights. Raising his lance high into the air, he shouted a warning to the men.

“Dogs!” he screamed. The knights heeded the warning. But for many it was too late. The Zadoks tore into the arms of the men and pulled them down to the ground. These monsters were not dogs, and not wolves. They seemed to be a new breed of animal not seen before. Their teeth easily ripped through armor and mesh as their hot breath met the cold night air. Sir William galloped over to the fight and quickly dismounted his horse. Slicing through the beasts with his sword and lunging at the enemy with his lance, he valiantly defeated many before they killed more of his men.

From the hill, the King watched the heated battle rage. Through the smoke and fire, he could see to the other side of the village to where Caragon stood. His horse’s black mane blew in the wind and smoke. Both men stared at one another for a moment. Then King Alexander raised his heavy sword high above him and yelled as he reared his horse back in defiance.

All at once, with a swift lunge forward, King Alexander entered into the battle.

At the Castle, the garrison of men could hear the trumpet blast from Caragon’s army. They could see the fire and smoke rise from the Cardion Valley. They watched as legions of the approaching enemy soldiers hastily made their way on foot to the Blue River where they set up their positions. The river, the main water source to the Palace and surrounding valleys, flowed west to east outside the castle gate facing the Dragon forest. The wooden bridge which ran over the river allowed access to the castle’s main gate. Constable Darion knew this bridge needed to be severed. As the tall silhouettes of the catapults rose behind them, Caragon’s horsemen gathered nearby, ready to make their run. King Alexander’s men knew it would not be long before the enemy made its way to the outer walls of the Castle. The Constable stood next to the archers along the curtain wall of the courtyard. He knew the catapults would launch large boulders into the air toward the Castle towers, but whether or not the large towers could withstand the attack he was not sure. Gazing at the bridge over the Blue River, Darion ordered the archers to set it afire in hopes it would give them more time to prepare. The men obeyed and Constable Darion made his way down the ladder and off the wall as the bridge burned. The enemy would have to cross the river in order to make their way to the Castle walls.

Lady Silith gazed out the window of the Steward’s tower and saw her village burning in the night. She held a linen handkerchief tightly in her in her hand. She could see down into the courtyard from high in the tower. The men were frantically gathering the women and children to send them below the Castle for protection. Her eyes filled with tears as she knew many of her people were below. She wept for their fate.

Lord Byrén came up behind her and touched her shoulders. He watched out the window as wel,l only to see the flames from the battle rise into the night sky.

“Do you suppose the King is there, my Lady?” he asked.

“One may only hope,” she answered.

The others paced quietly in the large room of the tower patiently waiting for word from below. Just then, the Constable burst into the room.

“Quickly!” he shouted. “You must come with me.”

He motioned for them to follow him down the stairs.

“Whatever do you mean?” asked Lady Godden. “What is happening?”

“The soldiers have informed me that they can see the enemy approaching with much haste toward the Blue River,” the Constable said as he held the large door open.

“The Blue River?” Lady Godden repeated, amazed that the enemy had made its way so close in such short time.

“Yes, we haven’t much time. I must get you all out of here. You are in grave danger!” he yelled back. “My Lords, my Ladies, please…hurry!”

They quickly walked out of the room and down the spiral staircase where a foot soldier waited with a torch. He led them down the narrow dark staircase toward the dungeon.

“Where are we headed?” asked Lord Byrén.

“To the dungeon,” answered the Constable.

“The dungeon?” Lady Godden asked as she lifted the skirt of her dress so as not to trip in her haste. “Are you sure that is…wise?”

“Yes, my Lady. The King has made the dungeon into a safety room for all the women and children,” the Constable answered as he led them farther and farther down. “He knew this day would come and made arrangements for the gloomy dungeon to be cleaned and prepared to hold as many people as it can for the duration of the siege.”

“Wise man, indeed,” said Lord Byrén.

They dutifully followed the torch down to their hiding place. They could hear the rumbling of footsteps and voices in front of them. Finally, they spotted others entering into the large room made of brick and stone in the bowels of the Castle lit by many torches and candles. The Ladies entered first, followed by the Lords. As they made their way in, the Constable stopped at the doorway and handed the torch to Lord Byrén.

“Stay here. You will be safe. Close the door behind me and no matter what, do not open it. No matter what you hear…do not open this door! Understand?” he ordered as his eyes stared sternly at the Lord.

“Yes, of course,” Lord Byrén answered. He knew exactly what the Constable was saying. If, by chance, the enemy were to enter into the Castle, they could find this room. They would proceed to kill everyone in their path.

“Good,” the Constable said. “Lock it after I close it.”

“But what about you?” asked Lady Silith. “Where will you be?”

“Don’t worry about me. I will be with the soldiers.” The Constable placed his hands on the door to close it. “Just do not open the door. Not even for my voice.”

Then he closed the massive door with a resounding thud. After it closed shut, they heard the Constable on the other side as he ran up the steps.

“Oh dear,” Lady Silith cried. She buried her face in her hands.

Then she and the others turned to see hundreds of faces watching them. The people of the villages stared at their leaders intently as they wondered what would happen next. Lady Silith regained her composure. She stood tall as she faced her people. A little girl with dark hair walked over to her and pulled on her burgundy velvet gown with her small hands. She had never seen such fabric before. She gently touched the soft gown and gazed at the gold thread. Lady Silith bent over and picked up the little girl into her arms. Then she walked over to the others who were lying down on blankets and huddled together on sacks of grain. She spotted the girl’s mother and sat down next to her with the child on her lap. She smiled at the mother.

“We will be safe here.” she said, reassuringly, as she sat with the family.

All the people were quiet as they heard the trumpet blast from Caragon’s army outside the Castle wall. They looked up at the ceiling of the dungeon. It trembled slightly from the marching feet on the earth outside and some dirt from the stones made its way down to the ground at Lord Byrén’s feet.

“I’m afraid… it has begun,” he said.

Friday, August 1, 2008



Face to Face

Peter stood in frozen silence from the whispering voice he heard. Was it just an echo of my own voice? He thought. Or was it someone else…

Titan looked around the forest near the surface of the lake for any sign of an approaching creature. His skin quivered from fear as well. A black crow was still circling above them with his ever present “caw!” descending down through the trees. That black bird made Titan nervous. He whinnied and shook his long dark mane as if to shake off the fear he felt. He pulled on his reigns to signal to Peter for them to get moving. They had a Dragon to search for and no time to waste.

“Yes, alright,” Peter agreed as he walked Titan around the lake. The mist followed them. Every once in awhile the surface of the water danced in the breeze and moved in every direction. Peter, anxious that something would arise out of the water, was troubled that his imagination was getting the best of him. So, together the two adventurers continued to walk the area of the lake. The black from the forest peered at them from all sides and their old friend, the crow, continued his song above.

“Blasted crow,” Peter whispered to Titan. “It makes me nervous.” He kept his eyes on the circling bird above while he walked slowly around the lake. The tops of the trees were framing the crow as if it were a painting. The sort of paining no one wants. The moon was their guide as it illuminated the whole area for the time being. Clouds hovered near the moon waiting to blanket the glowing orb and make it near impossible for Peter and Titan to continue their search. But for now, the moon stayed out in the open.

The crunch of the leaves underfoot was the only sound heard above the gentle breeze swaying the trees. Peter and his faithful horse stopped to figure out their direction. Then, certain stillness came to the forest.

Suddenly, they heard the branches shaking violently in front of them ending the calm. Several small birds quickly departed the darkness and flew up into the open air flittering by Peter and Titan. Peter waved his arms in front of his face as the birds quickly flew past. And yet the trees still shook. Peter and Titan froze as they waited for something to happen. And it did.

There, from between the branches of the trees moved a set of glowing yellow eyes, each one about the size of Peter’s head. They stared right at Peter and his horse, unblinking in the moonlight. Peter’s mouth was open and he turned to see if Titan was experiencing the sight as well. Titan’s eyes were large and his nostrils flared as his ears were pointed back. Together they stood, staring at the yellow eyes glaring back at them. The dark pupils were vertical slits that reached from the bottom to the top of each glowing eye.

Then they heard it.

A low ominous growl penetrated from behind the trees as the eyes rose from a few feet above the wet earth to just near the tops of the trees. They blinked as they rose. The growl grew louder still. Then a hot mist from between the trees shot out towards the Prince, who was near tears in his fright. His body shook. The short blast of mist warmed Peter’s skin and made him and Titan take a few steps back.

“Do not move,” A low voice hissed. It seemed to come from the glowing eyes which were nothing but slits now peering from the tops of the trees. “It is important that you are here.”

Peter’s knees were shaking and he looked at his faithful horse. Titan neighed nervously as his whole body was still quivering. With his ears still pointed back, he shook his grey mane and whinnied. His hooves clawed at the mud beneath him as he huffed air out from his nostrils in defiance. “Steady, boy,” Peter said as he tightly held the reigns.

Titan’s bravery gave Peter his courage back as well. From his belt, he quickly pulled his wooden sword from its sheath and lunged toward those ever present eyes.

“Who goes there?” he yelled.

The yellow eyes moved rapidly up the trees and high into the night sky with the moon highlighting the tough scaly skin of the giant creature’s head and body. The hot misty breath spewed forth from its nostrils, exhaled in frustration, toward the young boy and his steed. Larger than any other dragon known to terrorize the kingdom, the Dragon of the forest had four long limbs and a set of wings attached to its back. Gazing down at them both from its lofty perch above the trees of grand forest green, it could see the fire glow from the torches of Lord Caragon’s army as it approached from the west. The Dragon of the forest knew the time had come.

Peter and Titan, in awesome wonder and amazement, stared at the giant creature as it stood many feet above the tops of the trees. Their eyes moved downward in order to see its giant feet now protruding from the trunks of those same black trees. The shiny claws glistened in the moonlight as they dug into the mud. Its colossal head had rough scales all over the surface, some bent grotesquely over the eyes and down the slope of its long snout leading to the protruding nostrils. Blue mist eased out of those same nostrils. The larger hardened scales made their way down its long giraffe-like neck and onto its humpback where the wings folded over its sides. Small horns made their way out of its skull behind the eyes, but they were short and dull, perhaps from battle. The loud rustling noise throughout the forest came from its long tail as it moved back and forth. The end of the tail provided the final resting place for the larger more prominent scales to form sharp spikes. The larger hind legs were bent underneath its enormous body, yet it still stood high into the night sky. Peter did not want to imagine the creature’s full height. He froze in his dread. Titan whinnied and shook the reigns from Peter’s hands as he backed up in astonishment and fear. This woke Peter from his trance and he quickly grabbed Titan’s reigns once again. Just then, together, they remained frozen as the realization before them came to complete fruition: The Dragon of the Forest lives.

“We’ve not much time.” It spoke. More steam came from the nostrils.

Peter looked at Titan. Astonishing, He thought. Could it be that it spoke to us? Are we dreaming?

The Dragon lifted one foot and with sudden and complete force slammed it into the ground. The earth shook beneath them. A shot of fire eased out of its nostrils and lit up its roughened face made of scales and snake-like skin. The glow from its fire breath reflected in its shiny scales. They appeared to be made up of many different colors. For a slight moment, Peter even thought it looked far more beautiful that he had previously imagined.

The Dragon lowered its mammoth head toward the two before him and his tongue slithered between its enormous teeth housed inside the giant mouth. The hot misty breath felt earlier still shocked Peter into complete attention to anything it might say if it meant it would not eat them both in one swallow.

“Listen now,” It stated rather calmly. “I know why you are here.”

“Yes.” Peter nodded through his fear.

The Dragon studied him.

Peter swallowed hard as the yellow eyes narrowed.

“I need your assistance,” it said, raising its head slightly upward. At that same moment, Peter could see its entire face in the moonlight. Its eyes were gentler than he had first thought. Although its hot breath and large teeth seemed frightening, somehow he was reassured they were not meant for him.

My help?” Peter asked.

“Yes.” The Dragon hissed. Just then, it spread its wings open wide as though stretching only to reveal the translucent skin between tough tendons and claws. They were immense in size and caused a breeze that ran across Peter and Titan’s faces as they moved over the Dragon’s body. This giant beast could have squashed them both with one gesture of its claws, yet it was somewhat tolerant of how they had trespassed into its forest.

Gazing up over the tops of the trees, the Dragon saw something in the valleys to the South. Peter waited for further instruction.

“War has come to the Kingdom. Caragon’s army is coming,” it said, swallowing hard. Peter watched the lump in the throat slide down toward the large belly. From head to belly must have been the size of the castle courtyard, Peter assessed.

“War?” Peter faintly asked. Suddenly he felt guilty that he was missing from the castle. He sorrowfully looked down at his feet. He felt foolish.

“It is good that you are here,” the Dragon said, sensing Peter’s sadness. “You have come at the right time.”

Its giant foot dragged the claws into the mud. Large piles of mud surrounded each long claw like the termites’ hills Peter had seen in the desert one summer. He remembered each hill as being taller than his father and these mud hills were no smaller. The sound of the claws sliding in the mud echoed deep into the forest. Peter stared at the yellow eyes and wondered what the Dragon could have meant.

“What can I possibly do to help? I’m afraid I have ruined things for my father by running away. He is looking for me instead of attacking Caragon’s army,” Peter sighed.

“Why did you come here?” the Dragon asked. Blue mist eased from its nostrils.

“To…” Peter hesitated. “Find you, to be exact.” He looked at the sword in his hands. The handle was tightly gripped by his fingers entwined around it. He thought about what he was doing. He suddenly felt sick. A wooden sword against a giant beast? he thought. He looked down at his feet and felt cold. He felt….ten years old again.

“And so you have succeeded,” the Dragon said as his tongue slithered out between its teeth once again.

“Yes, but I wanted to find you in order to…” Peter stated. “take your scales.” He winced and waited for the fire to consume him.

But the Dragon moved its giant body and lifted its feet toward the two little creatures in front of him. Titan took three steps back as the beast made its way through the trees and into the clearing. A puff of fire came from its mouth and the firelight blew across the surface of the water as it illuminated the entire lake. The hissing sound echoed off the surface of the lake. Titan reared up onto his hind legs in fear and confusion.

“No, Titan!” Peter yelled. “He won’t hurt us!” He ran and grabbed the reigns to his horse’s harness. He pulled the gentle horse to him. With their heads together, Peter gently stroked the muzzle of his friend. “Trust me. All is well now.”

Suddenly Peter felt alright. A calm had gone through his body settling his spirits. He no longer was afraid of the Dragon. A peace went through his soul and he now knew things would be okay with the Dragon here in the forest. The legend was true after all. Perhaps his father had been taken care of by the giant Dragon when he was a boy just like he told him. Perhaps that is why his father never wanted Caragon or Peregrine to enter into this realm.

The Dragon hissed as it moved to the other side of the clearing. Peter and Titan stirred swiftly in order to get out of the way of its body and tail. The Dragon’s sinewy muscles underneath the tough outer skin twitched and pulled the massive body along. The Dragon’s claws dug deep into the mud as it moved. The earth trembled with each step. The beautiful scales twinkled in the moonlight. Shiny black clawed feet and long wings made a breeze on Peter’s face as they went by him. He noticed the eyes of the beast were lined with tiny rows of scales.The rims of its eyes were reddened as though they were tired or old.

“How old are you?” Peter asked.

The beast continued to move its way over to the lake. “Very old,” it hissed.

Peter thought about his grandfather and great-grandfather and how they knew of the Dragon. “You knew my grandfather and great-grandfather?” he asked.

“Yes,” the Dragon answered. “I am two thousand of your man years.”

Peter gasped at the thought of the antiquated Dragon still present in the forest guarding the land for so many moons.

He placed his wooden sword in its sheath and quickly mounted Titan and galloped alongside the Dragon to keep up. Not wanting to miss anything now, he rode with the beast.

The three made their way around the lake and toward the entrance of the forest. The Dragon looked down at the horse and rider it had befriended. It stopped and motioned to Peter. Needing Peter to see exactly what was happening, it lowered his head and motioned Peter to hop on top. Peter dismounted Titan, carefully and cautiously walked over to the Dragon’s large head, and climbed on top. Titan whinnied and moved back a few paces. Peter grabbed the small horns behind the Dragon’s eyes and lifted himself to the neck of the beast. He discovered the scales were smooth and cool in the night air.

The Dragon slowly raised its head to prevent Peter from falling. Higher and higher it went into the air. Peter held on tight to the Dragon’s scales as he watched Titan grow smaller and smaller. Suddenly, he saw the entire forest in the moonlight. The crystal clear lake and the trees seemed to go on forever. Then he turned his head south toward the Castle. His heart sank deep into his chest at the sight.

He saw the Cardion valley engulfed in flames. He could see Caragon’s army moving toward the palace and his father’s soldiers fighting them. The sight of flaming arrows and homes burning amidst the shouts of men in battle made Peter gasp. Peter could not believe his eyes. He thought of the families he had seen. He thought of their plight. Now he knew why the Dragon wanted him to see the view from up high.

“As your father returns to the Castle, the siege begins,” the Dragon said.

“No.” Peter shook his head. He covered his mouth with his hands. They were cold from the night air. “What can I do?” He asked as he lowered his hands.

“Lord Peregrine’s men will enter the forest from the north in order to destroy me and take my scales.” The Dragon said as it slowly turned its head toward the north.

Peter could see the torches and riders swiftly approaching. He wondered if they could see the massive Dragon high above the trees.

“Quickly! You must bend down or they will see you,” Peter shouted.

The Dragon stood motionless. “They will be upon us soon.”

Us? Peter thought. What will we do to stop them?

The Dragon slowly turned and began to lower its head. It took a few steps into the clearing.

“They must not see me, but they must find you safe,” it said as it lowered Peter to the ground.

“I want to stay here with you and help,” Peter said.

“Patience, I need you… in the forest to help me… with this battle.” The Dragon slowly answered.

Peter hopped off the large head of the Dragon and staggered a few feet back. He was a little dizzy now. His sword still dangled in its sheath.

“Remove your sword,” the Dragon ordered.

Peter hesitated a moment and then obeyed. Not sure what the Dragon saw in the little wooden sword, Peter wondered if it mattered. He slowly pulled the sword out and, with embarrassment, held it in his hand. His fist clenched around the handle.

“Hold it up high.” The Dragon said as it lowered his head toward Peter. Its mouth stood a few feet away from Peter. “Hold it tightly.”

Titan trotted next to Peter and quietly observed the Dragon. Peter held onto the sword with both hands now eagerly anticipating what the Dragon would do.

Suddenly, the Dragon inhaled the night air deep into his massive lungs. As the chest cavity expanded more and more, the sound resembled that of a wind storm and Peter’s hair blew in toward the giant mouth. The Dragon leaned its head back as it inhaled the air. A hissing sound could be heard. Peter closed his eyes, not knowing what to expect. Titan turned his head away.

Then, the Dragon’s mouth opened and spewed out a thin blue flame of fire from between its teeth as it exhaled on the sword.


The flash of fire hit only the blade of Peter’s sword and nothing else. The weight of the force from the blue flame almost knocked Peter off his feet, but he held fast and strong leaning into the flame. The blue fire enveloped the small blade only and Peter opened one eye to see what happened.

He felt on his face that the flame was not hot. Indeed, it was ice cold! The blue flame was penetrating the wooden sword and changing it somehow. It grew heavier and heavier as the Dragon breathed upon it. Peter could feel the handle becoming colder and colder in his hands as he watched his sword transform before his eyes. What is it doing? he thought.


As quickly as it started, it ended. The Dragon hissed and inhaled air once again, only this time it raised its head away from Peter. Titan turned slowly to inspect the damage to his master only to find him in one piece still clutching the sword in both hands.

Peter opened his eyes wider now in amazement as he looked upon his sword. He could not believe what he saw. The blade was no longer made of wood. Now made of the shiniest metal he had ever seen, the blade was double-edged as well. He held it up into the night sky and turned it in his hands back and forth as the metal blade glistened in the moonlight. It was so shiny, Peter could see his reflection in the blade. He had a real sword now!

He raised his hand to touch the blade.

“Careful,” said the Dragon. “The blade is very sharp,” it warned Peter. Clearly pleased with itself, it bent down to inspect the work.

“But how?” Peter asked in utter amazement. But the Dragon was silent.

Just then the three heard some movement through the trees. The Dragon quickly jerked its head and turned to look into the black forest. The glow from Peregrine’s torches could be seen.

“I must go now. Do not fear, for I am with you,” the Dragon said as it gently removed something from its shoulder with its mouth. It slowly moved its head toward Peter, and in its front teeth was a shiny scale from the Dragon’s shoulder. It motioned for Peter to take it, but Peter was scared. He slowly walked toward the creature’s mouth, which was full of large teeth stained with age, and saw the scale up close. It was thick as a shield and hard as metal. He used both hands to remove it from between the Dragon’s teeth for it felt heavy. Then he held it in his hands as he walked a few paces back. The Dragon’s mist coming from its mouth was still cold as before. Peter inspected the scale and saw that it indeed looked like a shield or buckler. It appeared large enough to cover most of his body, and yet it wasn’t heavy. He turned it over and saw that his arm could fit inside the back slope and hold onto the short tendon as a handle. He held the shield in front of himself as protection. Then he realized that this must be what the Dragon wanted. He completely understood why Peregrine wanted the scales for his army. They seemed to be unlike any armor Peter had ever seen. The scale was beautiful, solid, and strong.

Then Peter saw where the scale had been and in its place was a dark hole in the Dragon’s shoulder. Peter gasped when he understood what this meant. The Dragon could be pierced in that very spot. He was unprotected!

“No! Wait! You mustn’t. The hole will leave you vulnerable to Peregrine’s lance! You must take the scale back.” He insisted as he ran to the Dragon holding the scale up. But it was too late.

The Dragon quietly turned, hissed, and made its way into the trees. Its phantom like movements enthralled them. Peter heard Peregrine’s horses approaching.

Peter and Titan just stood there watching as the giant Dragon entered into the forest and disappeared from sight. He could not believe that the massive creature he saw before them could just walk into the night and blend into the darkness perfectly. Only the yellow glowing eyes of the Dragon could be seen between the trees unblinking in the moonlight just as before.

“Be brave,” the Dragon whispered. Clouds of the familiar blue mist returned to the forest and began to cover the ground around their feet in waves.

Peter mounted his horse and together they stood firmly waiting for Peregrine to find them. What would happen next remained a mystery to them both, but with one hand tightly clenched around his new sword and the other behind the scale shield, Peter felt ready for this adventure to begin.