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Expedition of the Lost Valley

Some things were meant to stay buried.

By Kevin McLaughlinPublished 2 years ago 7 min read

There weren’t always dragons in the valley. Long before the large, winged serpents, there had been giants, tall and magnificent, towering above all the other creatures of the land. Then one day, as all things do, they died. Local legend was that the towering white mountains covered with thick, crawling trees on each side of the valley were composed of their bones, eroded into fine jagged points. Although, had these mountains truly been made of bone, then by God, Marcus would have known it. Dr. Marcus Koenig was after all a paleontologist by profession, and one of the most experienced when it came to a certain kind of fossil, those of dragons.

After being hired by a man he had only been introduced to as Mr. Moulin, Marcus found himself quickly transported to the airfield outside of his home city of Ottomark, where he had then been flown to another on the outskirts of a small rural town called Alberth. Alberth was located some 200 miles or so east of the valley. It had been Marcus’ strong professional opinion to touch down there rather than risk flying a 130,000-pound metal bird too close to the valley and proving his hypothesis that many of the larger species of dragons claimed to have been seen exhibiting a behavior of an aggressive territorial nature.

It was here in this small brick and mortar town that Marcus was then introduced to the others who would be joining him on the expedition into the valley. One Dr. Giuseppe Esposito, a botanist of a short stocky build and the thickest glasses Marcus had ever seen; the zoologist Dr. Hilde Klein, a sharp thirty-odd year-old expert in dangerous reptiles; and one Mr. Seamus Walsh, a cartographer of little renown. Aside from the four of them the expeditionary crew was made up of what Marcus guessed from a rough headcount, about 30 soldiers brandishing the same dull green field uniform and with rifles strapped to their backs. These were led by a terrifying-looking man, Sergeant Richter.

The 200-mile journey from Alberth up the ridgeline overlooking the valley had been a long and arduous one. Marcus had done his best to stay out of the way of the armed soldiers, choosing to ride in the less crowded of the two canvas covered trucks, which to no surprise of his had also been the choice of his intellectual colleagues. They had briefly tried to converse together, but the rev of the engines and jostling of the truck had made it nearly impossible to hold any sensible conversation. Defeated, Marcus elected instead to stare deeply out of the back of the truck bed, gazing at the trees and brush as they drove on, and making awkward eye contact from time to time with the driver of the truck behind them.

“Stop the truck!” Dr. Klein’s voice rang out, as Marcus watched the zoologist jump from the back of the truck, peeling off to the left through a small clearing in the trees.

The truck stopped almost immediately. Marcus found his boots slapping heavily into the mud road and following after Dr. Klein out of pure curiosity. His experience in the field told him the other two, Dr. Esposito and Mr. Walsh, were already behind him even as the sergeant called out angrily at them.

“What the hell is going on!” the sergeant shouted. “Disembark quickly now and set up a perimeter. Idle the trucks here, and quiet the engines. God only knows what's out here.” The sergeant's voice trailed off as Marcus made his way after Dr. Klein, who raced excitedly to a nearby ridgeline.

“Dr. Klein,” Marcus called after the zoologist, “What is this all about?”

“Quiet doctor. Come here take a look down there.” The zoologist pointed a thin finger down into the distant trees that filled the valley below. Marcus squinted trying to make out where she was pointing but saw nothing.

“What are we looking at?” Dr. Esposito adjusted his glasses and knelt next to Marcus and Hilde on the ridgeline.

“Quiet,” Dr. Klein hissed at the botanist, who as it happened had taken a liking to one of the nearby flowers, a nearly silent gasp escaping his lips as he noticed it.

“Dr Klein.” The sergeant sauntered up behind the four of them, accompanied by the footsteps of ten or more soldiers. “What the hell is the meaning of this? I insist that you make your way back to the convoy at once.” The sergeant exclaimed, obviously angered by the flippant Dr. Hilde Klein.

“My God,” gasped Seamus, peering down where Marcus’s eyes were now locked, unmoving from the canopy of the trees down below. Two massive, green-brown membrane wings like those of a bat broke through the cover of the leaves. The wings beat strongly and soon a long densely scaled body followed it above the trees, flying low and away from where the company stood, none believing what they now saw.

“A short thick neck, two powerful hind legs, no forelimbs, and a long snake-like tail for balance in flight. I’ll be damned, that’s a wyvern,” Marcus expelled with a gasp. “I’d have to get closer and see it better to say which kind it is for sure, but that’s a real live wyvern.” Marcus turned to speak to the others, his excitement barely contained by his anxious babbling. “Wyverns haven’t been seen alive in the last millennia, oh hell, much longer than that. Do you know what this means? Do you have any idea what this means?”

The others stared at him, waiting, he smiled eagerly.

“They’ve always been here, alive, hibernating, or some sort of migratory pattern we haven’t uncovered yet. But my God, this is going to change everything we know about these creatures!” Marcus ventured excitedly.

“You’ll have time for examination and conjecture later, doctor. Now all of you back to the convoy,” Sergeant Richter said, picking Marcus up with a fierce grip and tug on his arm that threatened to pull it right out of its socket. “I won’t have this expedition botched on the first day by your carelessness and damned curiosity. I am still in charge here, the next time you try a stunt like this I won’t use words to coax you where I want you.” The sergeant said, making a display of the black pistol strapped to his waist.

“But Sergeant, please give us a moment here, what’s the harm, you can practically see the whole of the valley, and look in the distance you can see other flying shapes, other dragons.” Dr. Esposito emphasized, waving a hand wildly at the horizon.

“That, good doctor, is why we should not have strayed from the path,” said the sergeant, taking a step back and dropping Marcus’s arm, dropping him to the ground in the process.

Looking up Marcus’s gaze caught the blue shimmering of two scaled legs, and two long, scaled arms, each the thickness of a young ash tree. Held up by the blue scaled limbs was a muscular serpentine body, with two wings folded against the back of the dragon, its long neck reaching up towards the tops of the trees and its throat drummed with a guttural THUM, THUM, THUM, as the beast stared down at them.

Richter’s men all grabbed for their rifles, aiming at the dragon which barred its fangs and hissed in a threat display. Marcus scrambled to his feet, putting up his hands and waving madly at the soldiers.

“Wait! Wait! Wait! Don’t shoot.” Marcus turned to the dragon, which now regarded him with its large green eyes, the black slits in the center homing in on his own.

“Dr. Koenig,” whispered Hilde, “Dr. Koenig, get away from it, we don’t know if it’s aggressive.”

“No wait,” said Marcus, outstretching his hand towards the dragon palm up, like he would often do with dogs or cats in an effort to show he was harmless. Slowly the dragon reached its head down, inching it closer to Marcus’s hand. It glanced from side to side, regarding the soldiers as it crept closer to Marcus.

Then there was a shout and a flash.

“Richter, no!” Giuseppe yelled, muted by the firing of a small bullet, one from a 9mm black pistol, pulled from the waist and fired at point blank range at 1500 feet per second into the skull of the dragon, breaking scales and cracking bone before shredding a hole through the other side of the skull and plastering gray matter into the brush. Marcus flinched, the hot, red blood splattered across his face, hand, and clothes. The dragon slumped to the side limp, toppling over and crashing into the small trees breaking branches as it collapsed on the ground in front of Marcus.

“What have you done,” whispered Marcus. The gunshot echoed into the valley. “What have you done, you idiot!” Marcus shouted, grabbing Richter by the collar before feeling the hot metal of the pistol against his head, Richter’s blue eyes staring directly at Marcus. The sergeant said something, but Marcus didn’t hear him. In fact, Marcus hadn’t even seen the sergeant's mouth move. All Marcus saw was the billowing swarm of wings that erupted across the valley at the echo of the gunshot, covering everything as far as the eye could see in a great fluttering shadow.

Fantasy

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Kevin McLaughlin

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    Kevin McLaughlinWritten by Kevin McLaughlin

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