The King of Dragon Mountain
The History of The Warlord of Peace and Plenty
Chapter One: The Valley Below
There weren’t always dragons in the valley. The valley, which was now renowned as a haven for refugees of all races, was once a dangerous place where a desperate people struggled to survive. Before The Great Dragon and Erik became Queen and King of their respective people, the humans that lived in the valley lived in fear and strife. Now that valley thrived with the food, art, and wealth of many cultures. Those that ruled other kingdoms called the dragons monsters and King Erik a merciless Warlord, but they became heroes in the eyes of their people and to the people whom they saved. The Valley is now the most thriving city in Erik’s and the Dragon’s vast kingdom; also, the most impenetrable. Before their rise to power food did not grow well, hunting was dangerous, and winters were brutal. Small huts were scattered over the hills below Dragon Mountain. The people that lived there, however, were a hardy breed. They were tall and strong; they were always training and always on guard. There were some who tried to leave the valley and find a better life, but they never made it far. Dense forests caged the valley with the mountain blocking the north and the black lake (unpassable for most beings) to the south.
Though they hunted there, they did not go deep into the woods. None knew truly how deep the forest ran and bands of orcs tended to attack the valley with no pattern and no warning. Only the silence of all other living creatures of the wood hinted at a pending attack. They always came in the night, stealing what little provisions the proud people had and killing for sport. Often, shortly after such an attack, some brave soul would try to escape through the forests; emboldened by the fact that they hunted there and knew the lay of the land, confident that the orc had moved on from the valley. Always, one or two days after they fled, the red sun rose, and the smell of death would linger in the air. For there were dark creatures beyond orc that lived deep in the woods.
The Black Lake, vast and deep, now protects the valley from southern attack and provides the people with an abundance of fish and water. However, it was once a barrier from escape to the outside world. Back then, if the fishing boats ventured too far from shore, they were attacked by tentacled monsters and water serpents. No huts were ever made anywhere near the lake and treks there were always in groups with several warriors on constant watch. For there were shapeshifting monsters called Nokken, that dwelled in the lake. Their natural forms were slimy clumps of mud and sludge, but they could shift into beautiful maidens, handsome men, and the most fantastic creatures. Charming men and women would lure a lone villager to waters edge with flattering words and sweet smiles. Gentle creatures would play with the young ones, drawing them to the waters edge. They would tempt and trick the people into going near the water with them, where the Nokken would drown the humans for food.
As for the mountain, it was called Dragon Mountain for a reason. For many years, few would come near the base of the mountain. But the increasing number of orc attacks drove them closer and closer. Years passed with no attack or danger coming from the dragons. In fact, since they moved their meagre crops closer to the mountains they began to thrive as they never had before. For the first time in memory, no child went hungry that winter for the crops yielded enough food to last the whole village all winter. There was not an abundance but to have no one cry out of hunger was a blessing. A blessing they could only attribute to Dragon Mountain, they assumed the dragons fire that once scorched the land had left the soil fertile and ready for new growth. Orc attacks became a rare occurrence, the people believed it was due to the fear of dragons, though none had been seen here for ages.
Curious young folk, most often led by the chief’s youngest son, began to explore the base of the mountain. There they found great dragon bones and would drag them down to the village to make weapons and tools. One defining day for the people of the valley, the young explorers found a huge skull, but even the very young had the sense to respect such creatures and dared not move the skull from its resting place. The Chief’s son, Erik, felt a stirring in his heart when he gazed upon the giant serpent’s head. It was not fear he felt, nor was it sorrow. He did not understand the feeling at first for it was not one he often felt, but he believed it to be hope. Unsure why, he led his small group back to the village. Erik, though only seventeen winters at that time, was very wise and very thoughtful. He would not speak of this feeling until he had spent time considering what it meant for him. His father, sensing something weighed heavy on his son’s mind, merely brushed his hand over his warriors training braid weaved on the side of his head and tugged on the short black tail tied at the back. Unspoken words letting his boy know that his father and chief was there when he was ready to talk.
That night Erik hardly spoke as the village gathered around the bonfire, celebrating the return of spring. The drums and lutes played cheerful music and children danced merrily with each other. The scent of mead and meat permeated the air. Few could remember such a joyful celebration. In the days since Erik became King, children could be seen running through the market gathering sweet treats the merchants kept on hand for the young ones while their guardians shopped. But there were many years before that day would come and this was the first winter in memory that no one died. No one was gravely ill. No one starved. Even the animals had a bit of fattening up; in a way, the people were thankful for the orc attacks. If they had not been forced back, they would never have thought to move so close to an unknown danger. Erik began to wonder if the dragons were a danger to them at all. Of course they were dangerous but to be ‘dangerous’ and to ‘be a danger’ seemed to be different cases entirely. A distinction that would prove to be rather significant in the coming years. Latham, Erik’s father, watched the flames dance in his son’s blue eyes and saw the moment a decision was made. Erik glanced up from the fire and met his father’s gaze; receiving a nod from Latham, Erik rose from the log he was sitting on and made his way to their hut. He had preparations to make.
About the author
I have wanted to be a writer my whole life. I have written many things but was always too afraid to put them out in the world. Like Bilbo, I have decided to take that first step in my own adventure and hope to not be eaten by a dragon.