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Curse of the Dragon Scepter


By E. J. StrangePublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 23 min read

There weren’t always dragons in the valley. They resided in the high mountain passes where natural and dwarf made tunnel systems acted as cozy homes for them. Humans didn’t know this, but dragons were primal beings that fed off of the flesh of the earth. Their main food source was gold and gems, not plants or living meat. The dwarfs, knowing this, mined these minerals to bribe the dragons into lighting their forges so that they could, in turn, manufacture the iron weapons used for trade and their own protection. This symbiotic relationship kept all content, so the dragons would never leave the mountain without cause. Princess Orillia had been that cause.

Orillia, Princess of the Vast Valley of Aereness, had started out a kind and gentle soul to the point she was almost an anatomical doll. When someone asked her to do or be something, she would comply, reasoning that the requests had a purpose that would help all. Defiance, her mother had always told her, bred misfortune for all. She could not bear to be the bringer of misfortune, so she strove to be the perfection everyone asked her to be.

It was daunting, to say the least. With each “yes, Mother,” “As you wish Father,” “I will comply priest and priestesses,” a little more of herself faded until she did not recognize her own pain. She remained perpetually numb and was moved only by the urge to comply to the point that when she was alone and not given a task, such as needlework or lesson studies, she would sit and stare into nothingness afraid of what calamities her own actions might bring.

That was until Lord Orwel, the new Duke of Swadstead, arrived. He was the king’s most esteemed guest because his land granted access to their kingdom’s most important port, Silvermoon Harbor. The king himself ordered his daughter Orillia to see to the Duke’s personal happiness, since they were of the same age, believing their friendship could benefit him in some way.

He raised an eyebrow and leaned out of his chair so that he was looking down on his daughter who kneeled at the base of the stairs to his throne. “Anything,” he stressed and added, “except for your body. That is for your husband. We can’t find you an adventitious marriage if you are soiled.”

Lord Orwell was not a bad fellow; he was just a rake who enjoyed women. When he had met Orillia, he thought her beautiful, but found her lack of personality alarming. He had met dull shy women, but Orillia wasn’t even that. She was devoid of everything. Her answers where textbook words of politeness, her motions too perfect, her posture ridged, and her eyes perpetually glazed unless activated by someone’s attention on her. There was something unnatural about it; a curse or an enchantment her parent had put on her, he thought, and made it his personal mission to discover the real her.

When they were alone and not under anyone’s watchful gazes, he started with questions that could not be answered with simple pleasantries. Questions that were of personal opinion. She blinked, stumped, and Lord Orwell felt a ping of excitement as he awaited her response.

“My lord, my feeling aligns with yours. It is as you feel,” She responded in a sweet tone that belayed no emotion.

He slumped inwardly and visibly. She was clearly clever, but there had to be some emotion. He felt hope when her brow furrowed at his response, “No, no, no, I want you to answer me honestly. What do you feel on the matter?”

“I feel as others need me to feel. It is my duty to please, so that everyone might be happy,” Her smile reached her eyes.

Orwell revised the thought that she might be clever. Rather, the woman was daft, or completely brainwashed. He pressed on, though. “So, if I told you I think your mother is a buxom wench, you would think the same as well?”

“I believe you are trying to say my mother is beautiful and you are right,” she said, no hint of malice striking through that sweet tone of hers.

“That’s not what I said. I meant to say I believe she is worth plowing,” He made a vulgar pumping motion with his hips.

Orillia peered around and over the rose bushes that made up most of the garden. For the first time since meeting her, Orwell got her perfect facade to crack a little. “Sir, I am not to speak or engage in matters of the flesh,” her tone shrilling, “Now I am sorry, but I really must leave you!”

This was the first time Orwell had seen Orillia express any discomfort, and it excited him. The wolf in him awoke and the hunt was on! He trapped Orillia on every occasion and made it his duty to fluster her in some way. He didn’t shame her with it, though. It was his private game; a game that he wanted no other to delight in.

Eventually, the games, the taunting, and the teasing came to a crescendo. They had been alone when he brought her to her breaking point. He had taken things too far, and he could see it in her tear-streaked face. “What do you want from me?” she wept in pitying gulps.

He realized with that question, she was, in fact, like every courtly girl; full of sickly sweetness that they used to trap men into marriage. “He was not a fly, and she was no honey!” he thought bitterly. Just like that, the hunt was over, but he left her with a parting gift. “I want you” he said in a sultry deep tone, and he sucked her into a searing kiss. Shock and hooded lust plagued her face as he pulled away, leaving something stirring in his male ego. He thought to take more, but footsteps echoed in the marbled hall outside the library’s open door. The last thing he wanted was to be trapped into marriage by the biggest bore in all the kingdoms, so he made a swift retreat before he could be caught.

Orillia had had a different experience entirely. The kiss had cast her into remorse and inner turmoil. It opened her heart to the possibility that she could enjoy something, and she wanted to enjoy it more. That terrified her because it defied her father’s wishes. Guilt and lust racked at her brain as she twisted and turned in the sheets that night. He had wanted her, but what exactly had he wanted from her? Reflecting back, she had not been the epitome of perfection that she could be. It dawned on her she might have something special to her, and he had seen it. This line of thinking led her to believe he really knew her and wanted her for herself, which meant it must be love. She hugged her pillow as feelings of elation washed over her. It felt nice to be loved, she thought, as she smiled into her pillow. She let the new feelings dissolve the discord drumming at her heart as she slipped into sleep.

The next day, Orillia couldn’t stop her eyes from wondering to Orwell. She couldn’t control the blush that stained her cheeks when she thought of what he had said. “I want you” echoed in her head and stirred her blood every time she saw him. She found it endearing that he had stopped teasing her but became vexed as days went by.

Orwell had yet to visit her. He had yet to call on her. He had yet to even look at her. He hadn’t so much as spared her a glance, and that worried her indeed. She had no idea what it could mean. She supposed whatever he had awoken in her had made her lose her ability to slip back into that non-world she went into when no commands were to be fulfilled. She was perpetually filled with thoughts and fantasies of what their next meeting would be like. What had passed between them haunted her dreams. She just needed something, something she could not put a name to. He seemed to have an opinion and word for everything, though. He had also been the cause of this. For the first time in her life, she decided to do something without being asked. She decided to pay Lord Orwell a visit.

She found it alarming how easy it was to walk through the halls unattended at night. She found it even more alarming how well she lied when stopped by guards, saying that her mother wished for her audience in chambers. The guards looked to each other and shrugged. Since Lord Orwell’s room was in the same directions as her mother’s, it posed no threat in their minds. Most alarming, though, was what she found in the lord’s room. Her mother had been right: defiance did breed misfortune.

To her misfortune, she saw Lord Orwell in passionate throws with a curvy woman with ample breasts who writhed in his lap, lips puckered for more kisses. Rage, jealousy, and grief struck Orillia all at once and blossomed into bitterness which spread like poison in her veins and corrupted her mind. It was all she could do not to cry out as she turned away.

“A fool.” “A fool!” “I WAS A FOOL!!!!!!” She internally chastised herself as she tried not to cry, passing the guards on her way back to her room. There she sat in the tall, winged back chair that stood in front of the fire and watched the flames dance. When the maids arrived to dress her for the night, she was outwardly placid like the doll she had always been. Inwardly, however, she raged in anguish.

For the first time in her life, she had silently found something that had brought her stirrings beyond neutrality and boredom. That something had been Lord Orwell. The newness of it had her believing he was the only conduit to happiness, and he had already taken it away. “Cruel. Cruel! CRUEL! That’s what he had been!” she thought as she tossed and turned. “He had to have done it on purpose! And she, the fool, had fallen for it!” To think, she had defied her father and given that boy a kiss! Shame and anger had her shooting upright in bed. Her troubled mind was urging her to one conclusion: she had to punish him. When she was not perfect, she was punished and afterwards everyone forgave her. Perhaps, she could punish him, and then she would feel better?

The rest of the night, and for many nights to follow, Orillia contemplated how she would make the punishment equal to her heartbreak and decided the best thing was take away something he enjoyed. She thought about getting the serving girl she had seen him with beheaded but astonished by her very thought of such an atrocity, came to reason the girl was just one of his many victims. She thought of castrating him to save the world from his proclivities, but his heirs, as her father put it, were important to the realm’s future. Therefore, hurting him thusly would be in defiance of her father. Almost giving up, she stumbled upon the perfect solution during one of her studies of her family history when she came across an excerpt about King Errol the Great.

King Errol had lived in ancient times and his powers had been legendary. It was said he could control dragons with an ember from the heart of the mountains. He had the ember, which had been gifted to him by the dwarves on his victory over the ice sirens of the North Sea, made into a staff by elven artisans. No one had known at the time of its creation that it had the power to compel dragons. That wasn’t discovered until King Errol’s youngest son, Ramoth the Brave, used the staff against the sea demons that the remaining ice sirens had sent as a coronation “gift”. The excerpt didn’t go into much detail on what had happened to the staff, nor was there any mention of it in any other accounts of the kings.

That didn’t stop Orillia from looking. That snippet of information lingered with her the rest of the week, taunting her. She found herself dreaming of fire, with its cleansing and punishing properties. It was exactly what she wanted and she found herself, in her glazed moments, fantasizing about how she would burn Orwell’s lands. They could be rebuilt, but it would cost him his fortune. She stifled a smile and puzzled over the biggest question of all: Where was this staff?

Orillia had a hunch. Great relics were often buried with their kings to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands; for that reason, the crypts were the most guarded area in all Aereness. Almost no one was allowed access past the small holy army that stood watch over the pit that housed Aereness’s most beloved dead with their artifacts. Orillia wasn’t a no one, though, and she used her status and more lies, which she found came quite easily to her, to gain access to the crypts.

Orillia had come to the crypts with a bucket of sloshing water that had rags draped over the sides. She had told the commanding priest that her parents had sent her to clean every ancestral shelf as penance for a misdeed. The priest had looked dubious but was aware of Orillia’s compulsion to follow orders. He didn’t know how a girl would fair in the dark spiral that yawed forever into the earth. Even his guards would not pass the 10th level. They all were thankful they would be long passed away before the time would come to rearrange bodies to accommodate the new generation of the dead. Orillia’s eyes remained glazed and her body unmoving as she awaited his move. He thought, “if she is daft enough to clean, I may as well use her for a few other tasks.”

“I have heard of your misdeeds," he lied, "and I think that is a lean punishment," He looked sternly down at her, "I have torches that need replaced down there, too. Also, some of the graves will require rearrangement in a generation or two, so I will need inventory. I think this will help in your penance.” The priest sneered in Orillia’s face.

Orillia hid her delight at having more access to explore and hulling old torch lamps would be the perfect cover if she did find the staff. Likewise, she could now tell her parents that the priest had commissioned a job to teach her humility so they would not notice her absences while she looked. It was perfected and she wasted no time in complying. “As you wish Priest Farris.”

None of the “brave” warriors would accompany her down to the lower floors. They pushed her into a cage and lowered her for what seemed like hours until there wasn’t even the light from the entrance. The cage clanked to a stop, still nowhere near the bottom where the priests said it was forbidden to disturb. The dark where she hung was all consuming. It was cold, windless, and stifling in its oppression. Fear gripping her, she quickly scrambled to light more torches. When she had enough light, she realized her cage was perched next to a stoop that led to stairs going in either direction. These stairs were broken in places that made them impossible to traverse, hence the need for the cage.

Her spine crawled and her skin prickled in warning, and she wondered if this plan was really worth enacting. A cracking hiss from one of the torch flames told her mind, “Yessssss.” That was all the reassurance she needed. She found, once she was ensconced in her arduous tasks, the fear dissipated completely. She would, first, replace all the old torches and light the new; then she would write their names and the relic they had been buried with—if they had a relic, that was. She found the names she had never heard of fascinating but was daunted by the shear amount she would have to work through to find her relic. She didn’t bother to clean the slabs, she knew no one would come check her work and torches covered her in enough grime to make her work believable enough.

She repeated this process daily, starting at dawn and finishing around dinner. She found that she was actually enjoying this task she had put herself up to. She was excited to wake every morning and discover new names. She was in awe that her body, with each waking day, became less sore as she adjusted to the work. She was getting antsy to find her relic, though. Lord Orwell would be leaving shortly and she wanted to time it so he arrived in time to still see the flames.

Everyone was shocked when they saw her traipse back to her rooms covered in soot and cobwebs every night, not her usually perfect self. It got everyone’s attention, including Lord Orwell. He had been mystified when Orillia hadn’t come calling on him again. He was even more amazed when she had stopped her moon eyed glances at him. He figured her father had asked her to pursue another and something about that rankled him. He had watched her avidly and realized she wasn’t pursing anyone. He came to find out, through his own serving spies, that she was even being punished. The realization that her affections and actions might have been true came as a punch in the gut for him. She must have really loved him and, to his shock, realized he loved her too. He decided it was time he pursue her seriously.

Lord Orwell waited among the tapestries in a deserted corridor that was a part of her route back to her rooms. When he heard the unnatural rhythm of her walk, he burst into view. She jumped out of her skin and thwacked him over the head with a heavy object that had him sprawling onto his backside. He was happy she was not strong enough to knock him completely out as he rubbed his temple and said, “I suppose I deserve that.”

“I am sorry,” She offered immediately, “you startled me.”

“What did you hit me with?” Orwell asked as he messaged the lump already forming on his forehead.

Orillia nervously revealed her weapon. It was a torch so old it had become petrified. “Um, I guess I got so used to carrying these I forgot to leave it with the priests. I, um, I guess I will bring it back to them tomorrow,” she answered uneasily.

Orillia was turning to scurry away when Orwell caught her by her arm. “I am sorry I haven’t been calling on you lately. I have missed your company, but I have been busy with taxation negotiations with your father and the other kingdoms,” He lied.

Orillia had wanted to hear those words and almost melted. However, she knew what he had really been up to with the serving maids, with the kitchen wenches, with widows of the court, and with willing women seeking pleasure their husbands could not provide. She knew just how much he had missed her company, and she reminded herself not to be the fool again.

“I have been busy, too, my Lord. Perhaps when we are no longer busy, we can reconnect,” she said in all her courtly manners and walked away without hearing his reply.

When Orillia got to her room, she dropped the torch onto the hearth and let out a sigh of relief. She had thought Lord Orwell was on to her but had realized he just came back to toy with her more. She was relieved that she had found the staff that day because if ever someone was in need to learning a lesson, it was him! She pounded the metal rings off of the top and bottom with her silver hairbrush, the only thing in her room sturdy enough to get the rings off. The petrified wood planks gave way in a dilapidated gown revealing the staff she had hidden within. She discarded the planks in her fireplace. They erupted in a green that cast a sickly glow over her usually warm room, but she didn’t notice as she looked reverently over the staff.

Orillia had not found it in Ramoth’s tomb. She would have given up, but the priests had expected her to come, and her parents had not noticed her absence, as quiet and docile as she always was. She was glad she had stuck to it, for not a day later, she had documented a woman wrapped in a purple dragon’s pelt. She had never seen a dragon let alone its skins. She couldn’t help herself as she reached out to feel the material. It was not moth eaten nor tattered like the clothes of the rest had been. Under her hand, it felt like sequins, but they still held warmth and color in that dark dank subterranean time capsule. Something told Orillia this was it, so she peeled back the coverings to reveal a glowing purple stone connected to an onyx shaft that was decorated with grooves filled in with silver. The staff itself was carved like a twisted root and the uncut stone was anchored at the top by black tendrils. At her touch, it grew to a perfect height for her use. Its accommodation validated her cause and was a sign to her that the path she was on was right.

Back in her room with the staff, Orillia felt she couldn’t wait. It was drawing her in and after her encounter with the Lord, she felt vengeance should come right then. “It's--- just----- right,” she murmured aloud, entranced by the staff's power. She picked it up and went to the balcony. Her room was in the tallest tower and overlooked the entire valley. From her perch, she could see the lights from the towns that dotted the dark landscape under the new moon.

The stars seemed to hum, and her palms tingled as she surveyed all that was hers. An overwhelming urge to cleanse it all seized her as she clutched tighter at the dragon scepter. “No,” she whispered to herself. “Just Silvermoon Harbor” she willed before slamming the scepter into the ground.

The stars overhead stopped twinkling as they were covered instantly by dark swaths of pregnant clouds. Orillia wasn’t sure if the thunderclap had come from her staff or clouds above as lightning began to streak across the sky. She thought to turn in, but knew it was only right to see her punishment to its end. She watched to the east as the rain began to soak her. She was drenched by the time the dragons had arrived. She thought that nothing would burn with all the rain and was shocked when she saw the twinkle over Silvermoon Harbor blaze brighter. It was too far away to hear the screams, but the light display was mesmerizing to Orillia. It felt just as stirring as that night with Orwell before she had learned of his true nature. Orillia wanted more and this time she would have it!

The next morning, Orillia was woken in the wee hours by her frantic nurse maid, Tilly. “Oh Princess, you must awake! A terrible incident has occurred! They are sending out troops as we speak and your father wants you to wave your blessing as they go!” Tilly hadn’t even paused for breath as she ran to the wardrobe to throw out whatever seemed easiest to dress Orillia in quickly.

Orillia’s sleep deprived state masked her lack of shock. The night before was a bit fuzzy. She had stayed up until she could no longer see the winking burn of the port town; and when she had gone to bed, she had felt drunk. She had hidden the scepter under her bed and fallen instantly into a restless dream of fire and ash. Tilly’s words finally sunk in. “War?” Orillia asked shocked. That had not been part of her plan.

“Mistress, honestly with all the studying…” she tittered under her breath and piped up to say, “Everyone knows the dwarves control the dragons, they clearly are sending a message and the king cannot show himself as weak.”

“NO!” Orillia’s mind screamed. Oh, she had been too rash and now look what she had done! She didn’t mean for anyone but Lord Orwell to hurt. Her defiance really was misfortune indeed! It took everything in her not to confess what she had done! “Out Tilly!” Orillia commanded.

The woman stood, dumbfounded. “Princess! Your father has ordered this. I need to get you ready. They leave at dawn.” Tilly said worried.

“I will be there on time. I just need a minute; this is grave news in indeed!” Orillia choked out.

Tilly was cowed by the odd way her mistress was acting. She had never acted so before and it frightened Tilly almost as much as a looming war with dragons. “Very well mistress.”

When she was gone, Orillia pulled the staff from under her bed. She made to throw it in the fire, but those silver threads moved like mercury and seeped into her skin. She lowered her arms and looked at the staff. “One city was not enough.” She needed more. She needed it cleansed like her so that it could be like her. “Yes, yes, that was the way.” She cooed to herself as she went to the wardrobe and chose something somber.

She didn’t make it to the throne room to say her goodbyes and give a blessed wave to those troops. Instead, she waited on the balcony of her tower for all the knights to trickle out. The last to go across the draw bridge was Lord Orwell. He looked up to see a glint from her tower and made to wave his goodbye only to find a dragon crawling out from behind her tower. She clanked down her scepter and it dawned on him, too late, what had come to be.

“Kill him, kill them all!” She felt no emotion as the dragons leached the earth of life the way Orillia’s heartbreak had leached her soul of good. It left behind a hole that allowed the scepters poison to pour in and fill her with something new and terrible. “Let it all burn and from the ashes we will rise anew!” She cried out to the heavens as fire rained down.

It never ceased, those cleansing fires. The dragons took turns in droves purging the valley of all living things; unable to return to their homes and driven mad by the woman with her scepter. Many natives of the land fled to the mountains and to other countries where they waited for a day they could return, but it was in vain. Generations have gone by, and legends have arisen, but the only way for the valley to be reborn is with her ashes. Assassins and armies alike have tried to reclaim the land, but none has ever succeeded. So, the valley remains fettered with dragons and devoid of all other life as it awaits a hero to free Aereness from Orillia’s tortured soul.


About the Creator

E. J. Strange

I am new to the writing community but hope to publish a novel one day. I am simple minded and sucker for romance.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

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  • Babs Iverson2 years ago

    Awesome fictional fantasy story!

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