There weren’t always dragons in the valley. Our town of Tal-Ulir rested in its heart. Although we weren’t rich or prosperous, we built our farmsteads on fertile lands and we had plenty of crops and livestock to get by. Everyone had a place to call their own and we had plenty of food to share with our neighbours. Money was scarce, but we didn’t have a need for it in the days before the dragons attacked. It all started when Val Ulmer set off on his fated adventure one summer night. That was the day everything changed…
At first, we heralded him a hero, and rightfully so— he had brought unimaginable prosperity beyond all of our wildest dreams combined to the valley and its inhabitants. Everyone praised his name as he spread the wealth amongst everyone, regardless of age, background, or profession. Even the babies were given their own cut of the wealth. Although he had been celebrated at first, that was quick to change when we realised the curse he’d brought upon us with his return. The riches beyond measure greeted us alongside the bards who sang songs praising his glory and might leading up to the final moments of our celebration.
“Val Ulmer the Dragon Slayer has brought us riches, fame, and glory beyond measure— he’s killed the Dragon Lord!” they chanted for all to hear, though their songs quickly turned to screams, curses, and cries as the dragons followed in their wake.
“You fool!” the village elder shrieked as dragons descended upon our tranquil valley, razing the farmlands as the livestock fled before their wrath, “Look what you’ve done; you brought the wrath of their entire horde upon us!”
“I only meant to help!” Val Ulmer cried out in response as the townsfolk fled for cover between shrieking curses at him and crying out for their loved ones to follow them to safety— if there was anywhere in the valley that could be considered safe on that unholiest of days.
“You’ve damned us all! You’ve cursed our town with your greed! Damn you, you bastard!”
Those were my father’s last words. I still remember that day. That was the day I’d decided to join the Couriers— Tal-Ulir’s only hope of survival in the apocalyptic wastes our homeland had become…
My name is Kira Aliera, one of the few Couriers to survive more than three trips. There were only a dozen who’d managed to make a single trip in their life, though my burning hatred was what enabled me to survive thrice in these inhospitable lands. A Courier’s job was to deliver the stolen gold of the dragons to the neighbouring towns in exchange for the food and goods that were imperative to our survival. My mother and father would have told me it was no job for a woman, though thanks to Val Ulmer, I’ll never truly know their thoughts on the matter. They died the day of his return— the day the dragons attacked. Today marks a year since the fateful day of Val Ulmer’s return; ironically enough, it also marks my eighteenth birthday. The minimum age for Couriers is sixteen, and today the town chief decided to wed me to his son— the town’s greatest warrior. It had been decided that wedding the town’s most powerful warrior with the most successful Courier would be in the best interests of all, though I don’t think anyone was thinking of my interests when they made the decision.
“Kira, are you alright?” Suda spoke up, snapping me out of my reverie.
“Are you?” I rebutted irritably before continuing, “How do you feel about it all— have you heard the news? They’re going to marry me to Nial Shay today once I return.”
“What about us!?!” Suda replied, totally appalled as a look of shock and horror spread across his face.
“As if they care— the only thing they care about is what’s best for the town.” I replied scathingly as he piped back up, still not having given up hope.
“Surely you have a choice in the matter! You’re their best Courier! Perhaps if you tell them you already have a lover—” he started, though I interrupted him before he could continue to get my hopes up any further.
“They don’t care. It’s not as if I have a choice anyways… Either way I have no choice but to make these deliveries or we’ll starve the same as everyone else. They only care about themselves.” I softened my tones before continuing as I saw the look of despair spread across his face, “It’ll be alright— there’s plenty of fish in the sea anyways.”
“Not since the dragons evaporated the waters… Besides, you were my fish.” Suda replied bleakly with tears in his eyes, “Sometimes I wish the dragons would just put us out of our missry and burn this whole place to the ground…”
“And every time I make the trip I wish to myself that I’d be going back to my parents on the other side, but fate has a way of giving us the opposite of what we want. Val Ulmer is the perfect example of that.” I answered equally dismal in my tone as I grabbed my gear to depart, “They say this is going to be my last trip— a lady’s place isn’t in harm’s way after all.”
“So they just expect you to breed Couriers for the rest of your days?!? What about what you want? Don’t they even care about your feeling or desires at all?” Suda snapped back helplessly.
“If they cared about anyone but themselves, perhaps the dragons never would have descended upon our valley in the first place. Their greed is the source of all our misery after all— never forget that.” I answered with finality as I prepared to depart for the convoy.
“I can’t believe we spent our whole lives fantasising our own marriage, just for it to be stolen from us by those who were supposed to have our best interests at heart.” Suda griped as he watched me go.
“I still can’t believe one man’s greed damned our whole people.” I concluded, hopping on the back of my horse to depart from that place in rank with the other horses. Part of me didn’t even want to return, though I knew if anyone had a chance of coming back in that group, it would be me. It always was— all thanks to the violent hatred that consumed me. Three times I’d ridden off with my fellow Couriers and each time I was one of the few to return with success. The dragons patrolled the skies night and day waiting for us to reveal to them their stolen gold, and each time, I was one of the few tasked with delivering it to our neighbours who succeeded in the endeavour. For better or for worse, this would be my last time making the trip, however, though I still couldn’t figure out whether death or survival would be the better outcome. Is it better to live a miserable life in comfort, or to die happily knowing that the suffering is finally at an end? Before I could come to an answer, my fellow Couriers greeted me as I came upon the convoy even as the familiar blood-curdling shriek of our enemies roared from the skies up above us.
“Dragons!” one of the Couriers cried out as the caravan’s drivers whipped the horses to charge forth, “Fly as quickly as you can!”
Even as my fellow Couriers cried out, I heard the Dragon overhead as the all-too-familiar hiss that preceded its deadly jets of flame pierced each of the Couriers’ hearts in the caravan with fear before engulfing their bodies in the horrendous flames that melted their flesh before turning the bones to ash. The caravan itself had barely managed to evade the hellfire that scorched the earth its horses tred upon, however, the dragon hadn’t lost sight of its greater prize and objective either.
“What are you waiting for? Hurry up and get out of here!” I shrieked at the drivers even as they turned in their seats to take aim with their longbows before turning back around to follow my command.
Nocking an arrow to my own bow even as my trusty steed bounded across the valley we inhabited, I selected my mark before releasing the arrow even as the dragon reared its head back to usher forth a sea of flames to greet me. The arrow sang through the sky, whistling as it soared straight and true towards the dragon’s eye as flames rolled down to greet me like hellish rain in the night.
“This one's for you, Mom and Dad—” I said aloud to myself as I shut my eyes, feeling the fire’s embrace even as my trusty steed lunged forth through the fiery wall that enveloped us in a final desperate attempt to dodge the dragon’s fury and pass through to the other side unscathed…
About the author
Kelson Hayes is a British-American author and philosopher, born on 19 October 1994 in Bedford, England. His books include Can You Hear The Awful Singing, The Art of Not Thinking, and The Aerbon Series.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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