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Tales Of The Father

by James U. Rizzi 6 months ago in Short Story · updated about a month ago
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Memories Trapped in Time

Tales Of The Father
Photo by Angus Read on Unsplash

"There weren't always dragons in the Valley," my father shouted. "The world is changing, hastily it would seem, drastic transformations conspire yearly. And now we don't even have to wait till seasons end." Father adjusted his seat with a hefty grunt. "Dragons don't belong in the valleys, so why do they roam the grassy flats? Whispers would suggested there homes were destroyed by war and the incessant behavior of tyrannical men. Others would say the odd patterns of weather brought them their. Either way son I've never seen anything like it in my time!"

Casting his eyes to the greying clouds I could see him stir with unkempt emotion, swirling around in visions of the past, haunted and delighted by his tales of yesteryear. Not fit to see him lost in his own conciseness, I beckoned him to share.

“Tell me again, the story of the dragon of Ellengrand, father.”

A sharp sideways glance revealed a lengthy grin under his tobacco-stained beard. A gleam of contentment twinkled in his eyes as he turned toward me

“Alright then ma boy, never lack curiosity do ya? I’ve told the story bout’ a hundred times by now, but who am I not to make merry of the past?”

The sharp night wind whistled through the sky and brushed the fire separating the two of us. A lick of embers traveled upward, disappearing into the heavens. Father took a long draw from his pipe and began my favorite tale from the archive of his memories.

“Let’s see, from what I can recall, the morning had just peaked, and me and the guardsmen stood at the ready, watching and waiting. The problem with dragon attacks is that they are sporadic. No one precisely knew why that was the case. Some of the greatest beastologists of our time surmised it as a resting pattern. Such a massive creature would only attack with a proper pause. Others say they can sense high volumes of movement. You know what I think?”

Father let out a puff of smoke the biggest I’ve ever seen: it hung in a gray cloud suspended in the cool night air

“I think they do it because they’re proper pests, that’s what I think. Their heart set on gold, and eagerness for chaos is all that ever drove them, and boy the city of Ellengrand had its fair share of gold in its depths. Luckily, me and my men were well-rested and prepared for the sky beasts’ attack that fateful morning. At the sound of the alarm, we all scattered like mice near an owl. We took our post as the elves of Ellengrand took to safety in the caves below. Boy, when I tell you it’s the biggest I’ve seen, I tell no lie. Out in the foreground, she unfurled the entirety of her body. Wings outstretched so far, they blocked the sun, creating a silhouette born from nightmares. She thrust her powerful wings and began making her disastrous trek towards our position. Reaching just above the outskirts of the city far up in the sky, she hugged her wings toward her body and began the sped-up descent toward us. Like an arrow shot from the clouds. As the dragon approached the highest points of the elven structures, she spread her wings and caught the evening air gliding just an oar’s length from the tallest building. Rearing her head, she built up flames inside her snout, unleashing a bellow of fire on the streets and people below.”

“That day’s attack was relentless; the fiery beast was fit to leave the city in ash. My men fought courageously. We knew the variety of dragon was one of the devil serpent species, which meant the underbelly of its neck was soft and unprotected by scales. So I told them to concentrate their attacks on the throat. Alas, it had little to no effect. By the time my archers and catapult reached the giant, the power was no greater than a sting from a bee.

I watched the smoke whirl into the sky as she took her pick of the buildings fit to be charred. ‘Fall back, retreat, there is nothing we can do!’ I heard my lieutenant cry. And perhaps there wasn’t. I looked down from my perch at the city below. All I could see was its people, screaming and yelling, scattered and dashing for safety in the caves below. Black dirt-caked their face as they tried hopelessly to help one another. Mothers cradling their babies in their shawl, protecting them from the enveloping smoke and infernal destruction. I had to do something. I had to think quickly.”

“From my time at my post, I noticed the devil serpent would coordinate its attacks, seeking out the unclaimed by her fire. From that, I guessed where she would attack next. I searched for the tallest building in that area. Without hesitation, I grabbed Margen, my ogre infantryman. ‘Come Margen, we’re going to end this, and grab your big shield.’ Ungrudgingly, Margen followed me to the base of the tower. We hadn’t much time. ‘Margen shallow your breathing and move close to me.’

Father adjusted his seat rising for a moment to dust the dirt from his clothes and bring some fire back into his old brittle bones. He took a replenishing inhale of the crisp air reclaiming some of his lost energy.

“Ah me boy when you've lived as many winters as I. Your body feels like that of a marionette, stiff and creaky”

We both had a chuckle as he returned to his spot along the seldom-traveled dirt road

“Alright, then where was I son…Aye tattered memory I'm afraid, a foreseen condition that also goes along with elderliness. ”

“I believe you and Margen were about to enter a tower that was slowly being consumed by flames.”

“Oh right! Me and Margen almost being burnt alive, how could I forget.” My father said with a short guffaw

“The interior was hotter than a stone oven. Still, we forged on, battling barking coughs from the taste of smoke, falling beams of fire, and intensely increasing heat. Just before being cooked alive, we reached the top outdoor deck. I shimmied my way to the peak at the center and instructed Margen to do the same. Using his giant shield for balance, he greeted me at the peak with a smile. ‘Quite nimble for an ogre. Listen carefully Margen, she’ll make another pass just through here, hopefully in just a spec of sand. I want you to propel me upward as hard as ogrely possible. I balance on your shield as you kneel underneath me and, on my signal, launch.’ Aside from his immense size and unrivaled fighting prowess, I chose Margen to join me because of his loyalty. He was never one to scoff away at my peculiar requests, instead, he embraced them. Trusting that as long as my intentions were pure, the plan would never falter.”

“I’m ending this now!’ I shouted, Margen responded with a nod and gripped my forearm and mine to his. ‘For my brothers, now.’ And I respond in kind with, ‘and forever.’ I gained my bearing atop the shield as I nervously waited for the dragon. An earth-shaking growl drew my attention to the south. ‘Here she comes.’ I steady my stance and my heartbeat. Her massive head was barreling toward me. At this height, I could see her piercing green eyes.

That evil vibrant leer had a mystifying presence that can shoot straight through your soul rendering you unable to move out of sheer terror alone. That stare could cripple giants, and shake the bravest of men. Alas, bravery was not what drove me from her spell. It was my sworn duty as a protector of the realm to thwart evil and keep the peace. My allegiance and overwhelming belief that the world around me was full of magic, light, and those who would sway its balance to make it shine brighter. So you see it wasn't bravery at all:

For I was afraid every step of the way… what set me free was love.

I'm not sure how long I stood there atop the tower, staggered in my thoughts because Not a second later, she was on top of me. ‘NOW,’ I shouted. Margen let out a growl of his own and heaved me into the still air, with my blade extended far out in front of me.

The world stood still as time itself slowed. My blade caught the low part of the throat closest to its torso. It wriggled and twirled in the air as it writhed in pain. I curled into a ball for stability, hanging on for dear life. My blade was made of elven metal forged in the fires of Ulagad, hammered away by the greatest dwarfish smiths, and quenched in the drink of the Yeldand river. It wouldn’t let go and neither would I. Hours and hours went by. I held steadfast as I felt my grip weaken. I picture the elves below running, crying, and fighting for their lives trying to save the younglings, and my strength returned. Black blood spurted through the wound, showering me with its being, stinging my eyes, and rendering me blind. ‘I will not let go until you or I die, beast, or both. Your reckoning ends today.’

I don’t remember much after that, just my men greeting me on the shores of Ellengrand where I had washed up. My comrades surrounded me, cheering and applauding with the townspeople. I rose to a seated position, coughing up the sea. Margen was among them, full of scorch marks, and tattered armor he clapped the loudest. My mind remained in an exhausted haze, as I couldn’t fully grasp what was happening. With blurred sight, I scanned the crowd next to me, yelling and crying. ‘You’ve done it, by Zarzans beard you’ve done it.’ The lot of them were pointing just beyond my gaze towards the ocean. I took the hint and set my eyes to the water. An emotion of utter pleasure and triumph filled my soul as I saw her. The devil serpent only moved from the waves below. Big and mighty, she was. Desperate and fighting she fell.

That’s why every time you travel through Ellengrand you will hear the tale, and sing the songs of the man who ended a dragon’s tyranny.”

“Alright ma boy, that’s enough for tonight. The moon has risen and we have a hefty trip ahead of us tomorrow. Quell the fire and retire to the night.”

Early on the next day’s morn, we wasted no time. We packed our belongings and set on the trail just as soon as the sun-splashed through the Wiloway trees. “Ah, what an absolute delight,” I thought. My father had been yearning to make the trip west and witness the blossoming of the marigolds for quite some time now. I am ever so pleased he chose me for the journey. Be that as it may, I have to question why a man who has seen everything across the great seven realms would want to watch the birth of a flower.

After some time on the road, our feet weary, and packs heavy, we took the first of many rests. Seated on the stumps of the great Wiloway trees, my father started to whittle away at his Sorsee fruit. Usually, our time spent idle was spent with my father telling one of his famous stories based on my inquiries. This time, however, I was stuck. I wasn’t sure which tale I wanted to revisit.

“Father, what’s one of your favorite stories from your days as a Balder knight?” I asked.

After quite a bit of pondering and a lengthy chew of the Sorsee fruit, he looked at me with a gentle smile.

“Well, my boy, my favorite story was the day I found you. I remember it clearly. The night was brittle and cool. It was the first and beginning cycle of winter when me and my men were called to arms. ‘Another goblin raid, just south of Orchid’s gate’ they cried. We traveled as fast as our steads permitted. Aye, ma boy a frivolous attempt, the goblins had come and gone, leaving a trail of desolation in their wake. Fire, bodies, and dismantled huts were all that was left. After taking care of the stragglers, our efforts turned to saving who and whatever we could. Storming through the straw huts searching for any signs of life, none to be found. Until amongst the rubble and smoldering straw, I saw a youngling no older than three winters sitting there all by his lonesome, crying and irate he called out for his birth givers. But the cries meant nothing, for his birth givers had left this earth. A casualty of a sometimes cruel world. I held you, and just for a brief time, your cries ceased and you looked me directly in the eyes.

"From that moment, call it what you will, fate, destiny. I knew I had to be your caretaker.”

Each and every time I heard that story, I could never truly reciprocate how thankful I was.

Finally, after a week-long trek down the coast of the Grnichfig mountain range, we had reached our destination. The vast fields of the Marigolds. Tangled webs of greenery top with tufts of golden flowers. We got there at the right time because the blossoming always happened at night.

“Come, boy, sit next to me, it will begin any moment.”

I settled myself on the overturned Wiseper tree next to father, and just as he said the blossoming began.

The flowers closest to us began to expand in a speckle of illumination, crackling and sparking, punching tiny holes of golden light in the darkness of the night. One by one, the flowers nearest us emitted the same gentle explosion. Surrounding us in a calming, dim glow.

“Look son,” my father points out into the expanse.

Just like the ones closest to us, miles and miles of field took to light. The immense sparkle of gleaming radiance mirrored the stars above.

I looked to my father to witness his reaction. I watched with a heavy heart, knowing that perhaps his time of merry adventurous was drawing to a close. He softened his gaze and continued to stare straight ahead. It seems as if he shares the sentiment.

“Father, I have to ask, of all the things you’ve done, all the things you’ve witnessed, why this, the blossoming of a flower?”

His gaze unwavering, he answered simply with, “because I’m here with you.”

“Everybody has a book, son, filled with stories. While mine draws nigh, yours is just beginning. The blossoming of the marigold is your first chapter. I’m proud of who you are and even prouder of what you will become.”

For the rest of the night, we sat and reminisced about the stories of old, and revealed in the ones yet to be.

Short Story

About the author

James U. Rizzi

I cant wait to see what I can create here.

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