There weren’t always dragons in the valley. Our community was peaceful and thrived, that is until they came.
The Red Dragon Riders came to our Valley claiming to be protectors, but they act more like an invading militia. They take our food and water, they steal our money, and spend most of their time drinking and smoking at the local bar paying much less than they owe. The town folk began to feel hopeless. Then came the girl with the Black Blade.
I was only fourteen when it all happened. It was an ordinary day. I went to the market with my grandfather to sell some fish after a long morning on the river. I had caught twenty fish, but my grandfather caught three times that. And his smallest fish was bigger than my largest. I never understood how our catches could differ so much while we fished from the same boat.
Anyway when we got to the market there was a somber air, as if something tragic had just happened. I analyzed everyone’s faces as we made our way to our stand. They all looked like they were in some kind of haze. They were going through the motions. Ordinary behavior and greetings, but no heart behind any of it.
After we got the stand set up a dragon rider was the first “customer” to approach.
“Give me ten fish, old man.” He grunted to my grandfather.
“You got money this time, rider?” My grandfather asked plainly. “Because you still owe me for twenty fish.”
The dragon rider put his hand on his sword hilt. “Do you really want to play these games, old man?”
“No games here, sir. Just business.” My grandfather sat on his old wooden stool. “Now unless you pay up front, you’re not getting a single fish from me.”
“Gr-grandpa.” I stammered as my body trembled. “I think…”
“No, no, Rel, I won’t be bullied by a foolish rider that picks on the people he’s sworn to protect. Now pay or you can go.”
I could see the rider’s hand tense as he was about to draw his sword, but then a woman in a black cloak dropped a bag of money on the stand.
“I’ll take all the fish you have.” She said, “Will that cover it?”
Her face was hidden under her hood. My grandfather gleefully glimpsed the contents of the pouch and nodded his head.
“This more than covers it.” He tossed the bag up in the air, “Rel, help this fine lady take the fish wherever she needs them.”
I didn’t respond. I kept my eyes plastered on the rider and the woman.
“Look, lady, I need these fish to feed my dragon!” The rider insisted. “You can’t just come and take it.”
“I paid for it, didn’t I?” She said.
He partially drew his blade, but the next thing I knew, he was on his knees and she had him by his wrist.
“Now now, let’s use our words, rider.” She said and slowly released his wrist from her grasp.
The rider got to his feet and brushed himself off. He stormed off cursingunder his breath.
I gathered up the fish and slung them over my back.
“Shall we?” I asked the mysterious woman.
She led the way without another word. When we made it out of the market we made our way towards the eastern edge of town. My grandparents always told me to stay away from there. It’s where the old cemetery and church were. There were all sorts of rumors about the place; ghosts, monsters, curses, etc. Superstitious nonsense I never really believed in, but that place always had an intimidating aura about it so I headed my grandparents’ advice.
“Ex-excuse me, ma’am.” I stammered, “It seems like you’re not from around here and…”
The woman stopped dead in her tracks. I turned around to see the same rider we had encountered in the market with five other riders.
“I saw through your illusion!” The rider exclaimed.
“Hand over the blade, and this won’t have to get messy!”
They all drew their swords, but the woman continued walking.
“Det!” The rider yelled.
Suddenly one of the rider’s vanished and reappeared in front of the woman. He swung his blade at her but it passed through her body. Then she disappeared in a wisp of smoke, like she had been a mirage all along. Out of nowhere the rider went flying several feet to his left as if something had struck him hard.
“Stay vigilant, men!” The lead rider commanded. “This must be the witch’s magic. Call your dragons!”
They each pulled out a wooden, dragon shaped whistle that hung on a leather cord around each of their necks. They all blew into the whistles that created a subtle high pitched ring through the air.
I could hear the woman’s voice mutter a few words, but I could not tell where she was. When she went silent the whistles burned up in the riders’ hands.
The leader chuckled. “Too late now, witch. Our dragons will be here any second.”
She started muttering again, but this time the riders started levitating off the ground. They rose ten feet into the air. She stopped and they slammed into the hard earth, as if gravity had doubled on them several times.
“What kind of dark sorceress are you to manipulate so many kinds of magic?” The leader said as he strained against the extra force.
She materialized a few feet from where she had just vanished from. I just noticed then that she held a sheathed sword in her left hand. It was completely black, and its scabbard was covered in intricate designs and markings. A large red gem glowed in the bottom of the handle. I felt strangely drawn to it. She held the weapon like a wizard holding their staff. It seemed like she had no intention of using the blade.
A noise rang in my head. There were no words but it felt like someone was speaking to me. The noise got louder and louder, but it felt oddly calming. I couldn’t focus on anything else. I could not tell how long it lasted, but when it finally stopped I was surrounded by the riders strewn upon the ground. I thought it must have been the sorceress, but when I looked at her she was just staring at me. The scabbard was still in her hand, but the sword was gone. I looked down at my hands and I was holding the sword. The blade was just as black as the hilt, and it had blood on it. I yelped and dropped the weapon. I looked at the sorceress again and she still stared at me.
“What happened?” I asked.
“It’s you?” She said dumbfounded. “How is it you? After all this time! After everything it’s just some kid in the Valley! Are you serious?”
She paced around for a few moments. I tried to think of a response, but I was not sure what she was even talking about.
“What do you mean, ‘he’s the one if he can draw the sword?’” She exclaimed. “He’s a kid. I’m not pulling a kid into your war like you did to me. Destiny be damned. You always act like I’m trying to make things hard, but you’re the one telling me to do these ridiculous, stupid things!”
“Ma’am, who are you talking to?” I asked.
“Oh no don’t you tell me to calm down! Three hundred years of this nonsense, and it’s a kid who’s scared of blood! You need to leave me alone for now!”
She stopped pacing and approached me. She extended the scabbard toward me.
“Take it.” She ordered.
I sheepishly took the scabbard unsure of what to do with it.
“Pick up the sword.” She said slowly.
I followed her instructions and started to sheath the blade.
“No, wipe off the blood first.” She used a bit of her cloak and cleaned the blade. She looked me in the eye. “What’s the matter, it’s not like you killed any of them.”
I looked around at the scattered bodies.
“I didn’t?” I asked.
“You only gave them flesh wounds.” She assured me. “And probably some concussions, but other than that they’ll be fine.”
I sighed in relief. “So can you tell me who you were just talking to, and what happened?”
She scanned our surroundings. “Can you send them away first?”
She pointed behind me and I turned. Five dragons of different sizes and types stood before me. The only physical feature they had in common were their bright red scales. I flinched at the sight of them and stifled a scream.
“How am I supposed to send them away?”
“Not you, just hold on a moment.” She passed me to stand directly in front of the dragons.
The same sound that distracted me earlier came back, but it felt different, like it was not just in my head. The dragons picked up their riders either with their mouths or claws and flew away in a hurry.
The sorceress removed her hood and I could finally see her whole face in the light. She was a small woman but her aura was the size of a building. She had short , curly, brown hair that framed her face. She had purple eyes and black marks that traveled down her face from her eyes to her chin, like tattooed tear trails.
“Your name is Rel, right?” She asked.
“Yes.” I answered.
“I’m Tey.” She said, “We’re going to get to know each other very well.”
“Um… Is there a specific reason for that?” I asked.
“Because you’re the one who can draw the sword.” She answered.
“What does that mean?” I felt like she was never actually answering my questions.
“What do you know of the Great Dragon Wars?” Tey asked.
“What does that have to do with…”
“Just tell me what you know.” She insisted.
I instantly recalled the stories I had been told over the years. “There were once three Dragon Gods, the White Dragon, the Black Dragon, and their mother, the Golden Dragon. The sibling dragons often quarreled with each other. Eventually each sibling laid three eggs; the White laid blue, green, and yellow eggs, and the Black laid red, orange, and purple eggs. Eventually different nations were founded in homage to each dragon color. As the dragon population grew, people started taming and riding dragons. The sibling Dragon Gods began to notice their influence and granted a sacred spell that would bond rider to their dragon. But the Black Dragon decided to call upon the ancient races to eradicate any of their sibling’s followers, thus sparking the Dragon Wars. Eventually the bravest of riders under the Black Dragon’s influence defected to the White Dragon’s side, and the war ended three hundred years ago with the Black Dragon’s death.”
Tey chuckled. “Sometimes I forget how ridiculous that story is. Look there’s a lot wrong with that version, but what you really need to know it that the Black Dragon isn’t technically dead, and you’re going to be their next rider.”
“Wait, what?” I asked in disbelief. “You can’t be serious. That story has been told to me the same way ever since I was a small child.”
She groaned. “Look I can tell you more, but you’ll have to meet me here later at nightfall and I will explain everything.”
She took the fish and the sword and kept heading toward the cemetery. I went back to the market and my grandfather was almost done breaking down the stand.
“How’d it go?” My grandfather asked.
It took me a moment to respond as I gathered my thoughts.
“It was good.” I lied, “Easy as pie.”
I smiled and helped him finish up. When we were done we went back to our home. A small cottage right next to the lake at the edge of town.
He began to gather up the fishing gear to catch some more before sundown. I opted out of fishing for the afternoon. I spent the day in my room going through my old books about the Dragon Wars, but I could not find anything that differed from anything I had told the sorceress. She seemed pretty sure that I was wrong, but nothing recorded told any version of the story where the Black Dragon survived.
While I was deep in my research my door opened up and my grandmother stood in the doorframe.
“Is everything alright, Rel?” She asked.
“Yeah.” I answered, “Just got an itch to read I guess.”
I smiled to hide my anxiety, but my grandmother had a way of sniffing it out.
“Rel, what’s going on? Don’t lie to me.” She sat on my bed.
I turned my chair around, contemplating whether or not I should tell her the truth.
“There was this woman…” I trailed off trying to find the right words. “She bought all the fish we had so Grandpa told me to help her carry it, and a rider harassed us because he tried to take some fish without paying before she showed up. It got a little intense, that’s all.”
She met my gaze and analyzed my eyes.
“I think you’re telling the truth, but not the whole truth.” She said, “I suppose you can keep your secrets as long as you’re safe. I’m here if you want to talk more.”
She got up and approached the door.
“Grandma.” I stopped her.
“Have you ever heard a story about the Dragon Wars where the Black Dragon didn’t die?” I asked.
She shook her head. “The story I was always told was that the Black Dragon had been killed and all of the ancient races with it. The White Dragon created our Valley as a place of protection from the Black Dragon’s influence. Have you heard something different?”
“Someone told me there was a different version of the story, and I just wondered if you knew anything about it.” I answered.
“Well don’t believe everything you hear. Some people just want to lead others astray.” She said.
“I don’t suppose you’ve heard about any of the Dragon Gods having riders, have you?” The question popped out of my mouth.
She looked puzzled. “No, that would never happen.”
“Right.” I said, “Just nonsense.”
She quietly left my room.
I waited until the sun was almost down before sneaking out of the house. I was not sure what I was seeking other than answers to what had happened that day, but something told me this was going to be the beginning of a very different life.
About the author
Hello all, I am a young man from Akron OH. I have loved writing my entire life! I am a huge nerd and it shows in my writing. I hope you all enjoy my stories! Thanks for any and all support!