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The Eyes of Mount Agni and The Fire Sea

Chapter One - The Dragons of Treul

By E MPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 14 min read
1

There weren’t always dragons in the valley. It was once a place reserved for only the most delicate creatures of the Universe. A safe haven of unparalleled beauty and lush green grasslands, the valley was known across time and space as a peaceful land, somewhere not fitting for beasts such as dragons. Out of desperation and survival, they started to arrive here at least 100 years ago, after the destruction of their natural home, Mount Agni near the Fire Sea in the far-east corner of Treul.

Mount Agni was named long ago by the ancient ones, out of respect to the fire god of the mountain range where it stood tallest. The complete opposite of the green peaceful valley, the steep, fiery crag towering above the land, was the perfect backdrop for the thriving giant reptilian species. In fact, the dragons had made it their home since the beginning times, long before humans walked the earth and her many realms.

Treul was just one of those realms, in which the dragons still lived. An ancient land hidden from human senses by the Mists of Zowra. Third realm from the Earth's inner core, magic, lore and spirituality ruled. For many thousands of years myths and legends trickled through the Mists of Zowra to the human realm; fairy-tales, giants, goblins, fairies and dragons, all adventure stories on human Earth but very much real life in Treul. It's true what they say, every story has its beginnings in truth, and every story you ever heard had its beginnings in Treul.

It was a sight to behold when the firebreathers first came to the valley. I was not born then, but mother and father remembered it well. There were scorching's and burnings all across the countryside. Terrified farmers scuttled to town, yelling and warning the townsfolk of the large salamanders from the far-east coming to eat them all. Of course they did not eat them all. In fact, it came to light after many years of coexisting that dragons do not like the taste of human flesh and bone. They will not kill to eat you, but they will kill in defence and draw-in your soul, the living essence that adds to their own life force and ensures their survival, but only if necessary.

The dragons in the valley had been quiet though for many, many years. They had grown weary being away from Mount Agni and her fiery formation. Like all true reptiles, the dragons needed the heat of the earth to warm their bellies and without it, they slept.

My one true love, Geoffrey Knightingale had slain the sleeping mother of four small dragons the night he proposed to me. Under the light of the yellow half moon he stabbed the dozing creature through its heart with a ruby crystal dagger, flames projecting skyward as her scaly back arched and writhed in pain. She shrieked her last puff of smoke as her fire was extinguished and she fell to the ground before his feet in a slump. Her warm, scaled body lying lifeless, the crystal dagger still in her heart.

Drinking dragons blood on the night of a yellow half moon is said to give you unyielding power and my darling Geoffrey yearned for it. Unfortunately for him, a mere human, drinking dragons blood did not agree with him and it certainly did not bring unyielding power. For you see, one must only kill a dragon respectfully in a battle. If you slay one whilst it’s at rest or unprovoked the dragon steals your soul and your earthly body becomes a husk of its former self, hollow and weak and cursed to walk through the rest of life alone.

It was hideous to watch. The change in him was instant. His ruddy cheeks drained of all colour, his flesh taking on a greyish-white tinge. His eyes turned black and hollowed and as he opened his mouth to speak, he screeched instead. The bright white light of his soul came out of him and went straight into the dragon. He stood there a moment, his body now bent over and weak. The dragons body started to shudder and wake. She was no longer lifeless, she had my beloved Geoffrey’s soul within her belly and her flame was reignited. Geoffrey turned to me, his black soulless eyes bore into my sight and with a look of sorrow and pain he tried to move his body towards me. First his feet but they did not move like before. He fell to the ground, arms flailing as he hit his head on the muddy path. I was close to the edge of the forest and I knew if I ran I could get back to the village before the dragon could even stand up. And so I did. I left my beloved and I ran to the relative safety of home, Geoffrey’s diamond engagement ring still on my finger.

****

Three days had passed since the dragon stole Geoffrey’s soul. I hadn’t dared tell mother and father and I was lucky that no one had yet noticed he was not in town. I went about my daily duties and pondered a life without my beloved in it. Maybe I would find another man to marry. Maybe all was not lost, I thought to myself as I churned the butter in the cowshed, thinking about Geoffrey’s hollowed out black eyes boring into mine. I started humming a song to help clear my head when unexpectedly, a small creature made its presence known to me. It was a Treul Gnome. I could smell him before I saw him. A mixture of bog-peat and leaf-mould, I turned to my left where the smell was strongest.

“Aha!”, I said loudly, as I pointed my finger in thin air in his direction. There was a popping noise as he made himself visible to me. A small, thickset creature with large forest-green eyes and a tuft of soil-brown hair on the top of his head. He was wearing the traditional clothes of a Treul Gnome, trousers, tunic and waistcoat, all in differing shades of orange, brown and green, making him look like a tree preparing for autumn.

“So, here we are”, he said menacingly with a large grin that lined the lower half of his face. His crooked teeth yellowed and much pointier than a humans.

“Yes indeed, here we are”, I said just as menacingly. I was not scared of him. We learnt years ago in school how to stand up to the many different creatures that lived in Treul.

“I know what you’ve done”, he said as he wriggled his fingers in front of his chest in delight. You see, Treul Gnomes loved to watch humans squirm and if you let them, they’d make you do a deal with the devil just to get out of your tricky situation.

“I’m not scared of you! And I haven’t done anything - except get engaged!”, I exclaimed as I watched him dance about the cowshed.

“Ahh but you were there! When it happened! When the dragon was slain and then brought back to life. The forests of Treul have eyes in all sorts of places you humans can’t see”, he said delightedly. His voice was croaky and thick with excitement.

“And so what if I was? I won’t deny it! I didn’t slay the dragon”, I said in my defence.

“No, but you left your beloved there, cast him aside. What kind of a human does that?”, he asked, judging me.

I had to think for a moment. What kind of human does do that? Me? Surely not. I quickly convinced myself that I left him there because I was scared.

“What’s all this got to do with you anyway?”, I asked, ignoring his question.

“I can help you make it right again”, he said, mouth still wide in a yellow, crooked toothed grin. “I can help you save your beloved Geoffrey”. I thought silently for a moment in-case he was trying to trick me.

“What if I don't want to? Who ever heard of a damsel in distress saving the knight?”, I said indignantly, because I truly did not want to get involved with the deviltry of a Treul Gnome. He ignored me and moved closer.

“Here, drink this”, he said, pulling a flagon out of thin air with another pop. I looked at it in surprise and curiosity.

“What is it?”.

“Dragons blood”, he said, grin widening whilst his eyes creased.

“Never would I dare!”, I exclaimed. “I saw what that did to my dearest Geoffrey! I will not drink it”.

“Don’t be afraid! Geoffrey slay an innocent, resting dragon. He was not honourable, he was not valiant. This dragons blood is different. Taken from the very first dragon slain in battle in this very valley, I have procured it from the Green Witch in Bryerwood. She has kept it for occasions such as this one. One sip from the flagon and you shall receive the dragons unyielding power”. He nodded his head in agreeance with himself as his hand holding the flagon outstretched to mine.

I did not believe him, of course I did not, but something deep inside of me made my arm move, made my hand grab the handle and made my mouth take a sip. Rich, smooth and surprisingly sweet, the blood flushed my mouth with warmth and before I knew it, it was down the hatch in one gulp. Shocked at my actions, I wiped my mouth clean with the back of my hand and thrusted the flagon back at the Treul Gnome.

“What’s going to happen now?”, I asked panicked, but I needn’t have bothered. Before he could answer I felt it. A stirring inside of me, deep inside. A place I had not bothered to know before was evoked. Like flint hitting a stone, the spark kindled and then it grew and grew until I felt that I was outside of myself, like I was taking up the space of the whole cowshed and quite possibly the whole world. Humming with a great power, I felt strong, I felt big, I felt invincible.

“You are ready”, he said as he approached the cowshed door and pushed it open. His head peered around eagerly so he could check if anyone was outside. I looked down at my hands and turned them over, inspecting them first, then patting my legs and head and face. Everything felt physically normal, physically the same but inside I felt big and limitless. Unyielding power, I thought to myself as I started to feel stronger and stronger. I followed the Treul Gnome out of the cowshed and down the cobbled path towards the linden trees in the field beyond the paddock.

“Where are we going?”, I called out to him, turning my head to glance back at home. If anyone had seen us, they would think I was talking to myself as Treul Gnomes cannot be seen in the rays of the sun. He did not answer me straight away so I followed the stench of bog-peat and leaf-mould to the linden trees and in the shade of their canopies he appeared to me once again.

“You are going on a quest. Far beyond the ruins of Mount Agni and the Fire Sea. You must bring back the eyes of the ancient dragon. The Soothsayer of the Great Salamanders lies deep in a cave since the beginning times. His eyes hold the truth and secrets of their species and they are the windows to his soul. Take his soul and we find the way to take the dragons souls, or in your case, return Geoffrey’s soul to him. The Green Witch in Bryerwood is waiting for you.

“But I’ve never been to Bryerwood, how will I know where to go?”, I asked as he disappeared from sight again in the suns rays. A bodiless voice answered me.

“The leaves of the linden tree will blow you in the right direction, follow them and you will find the Green Witch”.

Just as he finished his sentence, out of nowhere, a large gust of wind came up around the linden trees and their leaves started to blow off their branches one by one and land on the ground like arrows pointing the way. Without thinking, I followed them and knew they would lead me all the way to Bryerwood.

****

I walked on for what seemed like an hour or so, turning occasionally to see the last linden leaf that I stepped over, twirl up to the sky and float on the wind back to its branch on the tree, just like the ones before it had. No breadcrumb trail left behind for me to return home again. Yet I suppose I wasn’t really that bothered. The pull from deep within was driving me onwards whether my feet and head liked it or not. A gnarled and knotted tree in the path ahead kindly pointed me in the direction of Bryerwood. It was a small place, only a handful of cottages surrounded a water well in the middle of the square. The Green Witch was easy to find thanks to a sign above her front door and so I approached and knocked three times.

“Yes?”. A plump, dishevelled woman stood on the threshold wearing head to toe garments of green. Her brown frazzled hair looked like twigs poking out in all directions under a green cloth bonnet. Her face was warm in a witchy kind of way and her eyes looked upon me with great curiosity.

“A Treul Gnome sent me. I’m here about the dragons”, I said in a half whisper.

“The dragons? Oh no my dear I think you must be mistaken. I’m expecting a warrior, and you certainly don’t look like a warrior!”, she said as she went to close the door. I moved my hand quickly to stop her and slid my foot between it and the doorframe. Her eyes darted to mine.

“I drank the dragons blood from the flagon”, I said confidently.

The Green Witch leaned closely towards me and turned her ear to listen at my chest. After a few moments of concentration she spoke.

“Hmmmm yes, I hear it now, the humming. It’s getting louder. Well then you best come in”, she said as she straightened up and allowed me to walk through the door.

The cottage was smaller inside than what it looked from the outside. Simple and shoddy, it was a workstation more than a homely home. There was a large wooden table in the biggest room with shelves all around the walls carrying jars of what looked like eyes. Twigs, branches and herbs hung from the ceiling and pots and pans surrounded the large cauldron atop the violet fire in the hearth.

“Are those eyes?”, I asked worryingly as I pointed to one of the shelves. She nodded her head and smiled proudly.

“Yes indeed. My precious collection. I’ve got almost every creature belonging to Earth and her realms”.

“What for? Spells?”, I asked.

“Never! I do not make spells. I make potions from plant and herb. I grind them to make tinctures. The eyes are sacred. They allow me to know the souls of the creatures, to see the world through their eyes. Let me show you”. She pulled a jar off of one of the shelves and brought it to the wooden table in the centre of the room. She unscrewed the lid and carefully, with her long fingernails, pinched an eyeball from the jar and placed it on a small golden stand. Immediately the eyeball started rolling around in the prongs of the stand and then suddenly stopped, the iris and pupil facing the window. The Green Witch clapped her hands together in joy.

“Ah, it’s ready!”. She bent down to table height and leaned in to look through the eyeball from the back of the pupil, as if looking through a telescope lens.

“Aha! Why there he is, Geoffrey, your beloved! Or what’s left of him that is”. She looked back up at me as she moved aside and motioned for me to look through the eyeball sitting in the prongs of the golden stand. I leaned in and sure enough there he was. It was like looking through my very own eyes, so clear and vivid. He was in the forest, trudging alone, soulless, lifeless, despondent, probably looking for a way home. I could hear the faint rustle of wind through trees and a caw of a bird.

“How are we seeing him?”, I asked, standing up straight again. The sight of Geoffrey like that had shaken me.

“Through the eyes of the raven. They’re on every branch of the forest. I see everything everywhere at anytime through these eyes”. She gestured to all the jars on the shelves holding the different creatures eyes and folded her arms in front of her with a smile on her face.

“That’s why you want the ancient dragons eyes? To add to your collection?”, I asked knowingly.

“The Soothsayer of the Great Salamander”, she replied seriously. “We must find him. He resides in a cave beyond the ruins of Mount Agni and the Fire Sea. Ancient as the land that bore him. I must have his eyes to collect his soul and release the souls of the helpless wonderers who roam the Earth and her realms. The time of the dragons is coming to an end. We must be ready. We cannot have a war with them, we will never win. Their scales repel Treul magic, the only way to kill them is by ruby dagger to the heart but it will take too long to kill each and every one. We must take the soul of the Soothsayer and be done with it. Bring me his eyes and I will extract the soul”.

“But how will I get to him? How will I even be able to find him?”, I asked, surprised that I was even contemplating going.

“You now have the unyielding power of the dragon. You drank it’s blood which now mingles with your blood. You will take the eyes of the raven to help you forecast your journey and you will have help along the way. There are many creatures in Treul who will want to see the eyes in my hands. Trust me, the unyielding power that is growing inside of you is the only match for the Soothsayer. No one else can do it. I will prepare a bag for you, some food, a ruby dagger and some gold. Walk to the port of Cagnee and take a ferry to Islan. From there you go north-east in the direction of Mount Agni and the Fire Sea”. She gave me the instructions as if she expected me to remember them. She soon packed a bag and saw me to the door.

“Do I have to go alone”, I asked as she stood once more in the threshold of her humble abode.

“In Cagnee there is a tavern. Ask the landlord for Viktor the Valorous. If you can convince him to go with you, he might just be the extra brawn you need to make it”. I nodded my head in thanks and turned away from her, walking down the path out of Bryerwood towards Cagnee. Thinking guiltily of Geoffrey, the husk of the man he once was and wondering what on earth made Viktor so valorous.

Fantasy
1

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E M

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