“There weren’t always dragons in the valley,” Rorick said raising an eyebrow and leaning towards the young boy across the stained table. He stroked the length of his ill kempt beard for a moment, letting his mind dip into thoughts long forgotten. Like a quill plunged into a well of ink, the memories of those times rushed back with a flowing vibrance. Fondness lingered in his eyes as stories and names steeped in the passages of time came back to him.
He cleared his throat realizing he’d been muttering under his breath. While dusting the catacombs of his mind his gaze lingered, rather absently, on the curious youth before him. The boy still wide eyed and eager, clung to his every pause. “Right, yes,” Rorick huffed, bringing his attention back to the dingy tavern, “You see, before the dragons, in the age of the Aspects, there were the Riders."
The boy lit up at the mention of the Riders. "Heroes of legend," the boy exclaimed, "May they ride swift and proud," he recited, admiration showing across the soft features of his face. "They say a new rider will be born. One who's skin is as tough as scales and who's mind is sharper than a dragon's tooth. One who will deliver us from the dragons"
“So they say," Rorick let on. He frowned in thought, though. Without the Aspects to name new Riders the dragons would find no deliverance. A long standing concern crept back into his mind. An Aspect hasn't been spotted in over two generations. That was most troubling of all.
He smiled to the unknowing boy.
"You must understand, dragons are fickle by nature,” his voice drawing long and low as he thought aloud. “Yes. Always fickle. Majestic, beautiful, fearsome. But fickle.
"They command a great respect most men cannot comprehend. A trust most would dare not give. Dragons require balance, else they devolve into bitter quarrels of greed and power. The Riders were this balance," he spoke with a softness belying eyes that have seen too much, "They were THE balance,” he added emphatically after a pause. “Hmm, yes. Dragons and Riders; a partnership bread of unquenchable thirst, of iron, of blood. But most importantly, my boy, of strength.”
“So there was peace, then?” The boy asked curiously. Hope lingered in his voice. Hope, as one who does not comprehend the darkness within which they exist, as a helpless critter flees the predator lying in wait at the edge of night.
“Peace is a strange word, my boy,” Rorick paused for a moment thinking, his eyes visiting worlds buried under ages of ash and bone. “Some used to call it a coexistence but that betrays the delicate nature of those times. It was tolerance in utility at its best. I spoke with a rider once who --”
“You what?!” Interrupted the boy. His face contorting in disbelief. A hint of excitement tempered by doubt brought a suspicious smile to his face. “You,” he point a bony little finger across the table in Rorick’s face, “You were around when the riders still existed?! How old are you old man!?” He stammered, somewhat taken back by his own outburst.
“Ah yes, my boy,” Rorick smiled warmly as the boy leaned back into his chair, “I’ve seen a thing or two in my day. These hands weren’t always so wrinkly and spotted.” He pulled the baggy sleeves of his robes up over his elbows revealing frail looking hands and bony arms.
The boy noticed strange scars along the lengths of the old man’s arms and several strange symbols etched in dark ink in various locations. The sleeves sagged back over the old man’s exposed skin before the boy could get a closer look.
Rorick took a quick glance around the low lit tavern as several patrons entered and a few more made their exit. It was time. He winked knowingly at the boy, who’s jaw still hung agape in wonderment. “Thank you for the drink and for the company, my boy, but I think it's time I should be going now. A story for another time.”
The boy attempted to protest but Rorick quietly put a finger to his mouth, shushing him. He took one more quick look around the tavern before offering a reassuring smile. “Cup your hands on the table. Quickly now,” Rorick told the boy.
The boy paused for a moment, puzzled and a bit taken back by the sudden request.
“It’s okay,” Rorick spoke softly as he leaned in over the table.
The boy thought again about the possibilities of this strange encounter before doing as Rorick instructed. As the boy leaned forward, Rorick gently cupped his own hands over the boy’s.
The boy felt a strange warmth coalesce over his skin, seeping into his hands and emanating throughout. He could feel something begin to form on the surface of the table, concealed beneath his hands. Spellbound, the boy looked up and the met the gaze of the old man who had been watching him rather intently the whole while. The boy could see an unfamiliar sparkle in the old man’s eyes. Different from any other old man he'd ever met. Like the twinkle of a thousand celestial bodies hovering just beyond the expanse of a night sky. A swirling of knowledge, power, understanding, and control; a comprehension he could never fathom. Eyes like twin beacons of wonder shrouded in mystery.
Rorick winked again and looked down at his hands covering the boy’s. The boy’s eyes followed slowly. A flickering glow, soft but bright, shown through the cracks between their layered hands. Rorick lifted his hands and a moment later the boy, who’s hands had a slight tremor, lifted his. There sat a generous stack of gold coins. On the small fortune sat a gold laced necklace with a small dragon wing embellished in a pendant.
The boy sat there for a moment before stuttering through a confused mess of thanks and concern. He looked up but the old man was nowhere to be found. He sat back briefly, took a deep breath to calm his nerves, and quickly shoveled the lot of coins into the pockets of his tattered pants. He threw the necklace over his head and discretely hid the pendant beneath his shirt. He grabbed the rag he had been using to clean the table before the old man had seated himself there and rushed past the barkeeper.
"What's got you all giddy, Matteo?" the barkeep scoffed as the boy whipped around the corner. Matteo just smiled, his cheeks flush and a spring in his step.
"Keep me tables clean or you're staying late," He shouted shaking his fist as Matteo disappeared around the corner. "Lad's going to get himself a wallop," he muttered under his breath.
Matteo dump his belongings into his pack in the back, shaking his head in bewilderment. He went back to wiping tables, rather absently, as he daydreamed of dragons and men waging forgotten wars in times of strength, power, and hope. Lost in a drift of thoughts, the rapid beating in his chest and the hum of the tavern masked the strange echoes calling from the pendant. Their voices, foreign and layered, whispered into the expanses of his mind.
About the Creator
Very well written. Keep up the good work!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
Original narrative & well developed characters