As the dragon came closer to landing, its large figure covered the moon in the sky and created a monstrous silhouette that rapidly approached the thick forest below. The forest trees began to bend and fold with each mighty gust from its gigantic wings and its massive feet boomed and shook the earth as they made landfall, crushing everything beneath them. The dark figure held its towering head up high to examine the woods, listening carefully to the small cries that came from the forest below. The dragon then lowered its head and used its monstrous snout to track the scent of the crying creature. It quickly honed in closer until one of its sharp and heavy nostrils was gently pressed up against the source of the fragile cries, and with one more careful sniff the dragon knew exactly what layed weeping on the cold ground before it. The beast turned its head until one menacing eye towered over its target.
Laying there on the cold forest floor was a newborn baby wrapped in a small blanket. The dragons fiery eye loomed over the weeping infant. A simple blink from the beasts armored eyelid could crush the child, but it carefully pulled its head away and looked at the toddler with dilated eyes. The dragon then lifted its head up into the starry night sky and released a thunderous roar with all of its might. Again the forest bent and folded as ferocious flames spewed from its mouth and reached into the heavens above, violently clashing with the cold and briefly turning the night into day.
When the flames subsided and the night returned, the winged monster reached its head down, gently scooped the child up with its staggering teeth, then carefully slid the baby into its mouth. The infant landed on a massive and smoldering tongue that was still hot from the flames. Heated saliva began to cover the newborn, who now fought to breathe through the thick slime. The dragon then lifted its head into the air, opened it's jaws wide, and extended its forked tongue far outside of its mouth, being careful to keep the baby within the confines of its teeth. Then with one mighty smack of its jaws the dragon bit off its own grotesque tongue. Despite the tremendous pain it kept its jaws sealed shut, and blood soon began to fill the dragons locked snout. The baby continued to shriek inside the sealed mouth, but its cries subsided once it was fully submerged in thick dragons blood. The pain-ridden beast thrashed and ravaged the forest, destroying everything in its path. Eventually, the mighty dragon fell to the forest floor with its mouth still locked shut and blood seeping from it's nostrils having drowned in its own blood. The bloodied beast was dead and the forest soon grew quiet once again...
A few days later a giant of a man stood looking at the dead dragon, wary at what lay before him. The group of men behind him waited for the man to break the silence as he examined the dead creature and the ravaged forest. The dragon must have only been dead for a day or two he thought to himself. The carcass seemed fairly new and the destroyed trees surrounding the beast were still fresh with little decay. The dark scales that covered its massive body glimmered and shined beautifully in the daylight. However, the thing that concerned the man the most was the bloody hole at the top of the dragons snout. It looked to the man as though a massive cannon was fired from the inside of its mouth and burst through to the other side. Through the hole he could see that a massive amount of blood filled the dragons mouth.
There was an old war song that suddenly popped into his mind, that he repeated in his head as he looked through the hole and examined the foul blood pooled inside.
"Benji", the leader finally broke the silence.
"Aye sir?", the tallest and heftiest of the men answered.
"What names did those old transcriptions in the town library use for dragons?" the leader questioned.
"Hmmm, well they used dragons of course.... and "beasts".... "wyvern".... "drake".... "monsters".... even "flying cunts" once... ", Benji thought hard to quote another.
"Angels yeah?", the leader inturrupted after a long pause from Benji.
"Aye, angels", Benji confirmed, "that they did, but normaly it wasn't anyone in their right mind calling em' angels... just fanatics.... Occultists." Benji added.
"Hmm...", the captain thought to himself. He began to sing a line from the song that repeated in his mind:
"King of the damned, King of the flood,
Baptized in angels blood....", the captain sang.
Benji looked toward his leader perplexed, but finished the next few lines of the tune:
"Kin of the pale, kin of the fell,
Reborn to give ye all hell
If we're alive thou will hear us sing,
We're off to kill the bastard King!"
"That's one of those old tunes that ancient hound at the pub sings every time he wants a sip of drink. I gotta say captain, you're makin' me thirsty." Benji said as he looked at his empty water canister.
"Yes, that "old hound" knows many tunes from the past, he did come from Londanor after all...", the captain replied as he tried to recall more ancient songs.
The group fell into silence once again. The captain couldn't help but think about the war against the bastard king, as he normally did. The war against the bastard and his Dameat army was vicious. For the last 1000 years the battle waged on and scorched the oldEarth, changing life in the realm entirely. The captain worried that this scene before him reeked of some kind of terrible ancient ritual. It looked like the birth of a monster, like the birth of a second bastard king according to some old songs and his own nagging intuition. Another bastard like the one who raised the Dameat army and set fire to the realm for the last 1000 years. One bastard king threatened the oldEarth with extinction, but two would be the end to this world. Humanity and it's allies would succumb under the pressure of a second king. There is simply not enough strength in the realm to resist a larger enemy army and every species and race that stood against the Dameat would now fall.
But maybe this is just conjecture, the man thought to himself. What were the chances that he and his men stumbled across something that hasn't happened for the last 1000 years? He knew his mind usually dreamed up the worst case scenario, it was in his nature after so many lost battles and fallen allies. Plus he had never seen a dragon, and the history of the Dameat and the bastard king had mostly been lost to time. Even the word Dameat was so old that it evolved from the origianl word damnatus over the centuries long war. The real name of the bastard king had also been forgotten and no one alive knew how the bastard came to exist. Nor had they the slightest idea as to what the world was like before the war. Only old songs and lost scrolls had any information of ancient times, which was questionable information at best. Plus if it was true, there would be nothing he nor anyone else could do about it except pray for a swift death. But for now there was a dead dragon in front of him, which no one had seen for centuries. The news of this may throw the town and the rest of civilization into a frenzy, he expected many skeptics. Regardless, there was a profit to be had, and him and his troops may as well capitalize on the situation. With all this in mind, the captain picked up his shoulders and commanded the men.
"Pull as many scales, teeth, and nails as you can carry! Benji, you cut the horns and collect a canister of dragons blood. Arche, you map this exact location and our path home so we can come back and collect more loot before nature takes the beast! Tonight we become rich! Tonight we celebrate!"
The men cheered, and after many difficult hours of plundering the dead beast, they finally set off toward home. As they made their way back to society dread lingered with the leader of the group. And although he couldn't ignore the feeling, he looked foward to a night of celebrating, because he had a terrible feeling about the future. The only scenario that repeated in his mind was that of a second bastard king. All he could think about was the work that the future would require of him, and the work he had already done. He thought about the work of his ancestors and the ancestors before them. 1000 years of work, of fought battles, of winning and losing, of preperations and planning, of destruction and rebuilding. 1000 years just for the enemy forces to gain another monster over night and finally take over the oldEarth. This feeling of dread made him start to realize just how much more work may be on the horizon for him. Humanity and it's allies would have to prepare like they had never done before, and for the first time in a long time, the captain felt extremely tired. A mortal tiredness that he could feel deep in his soul. He was tired of fighting and felt that soon he would have to fight harder and longer than he had in his entire life, and likely fight in vain. He hoped the dead dragon meant nothing, but his soul suspected something dreadful. He felt he had to celebrate all that he could in the next few nights, because they may be all he had left before a tremendous amount of work was to call upon him. He quietly accepted this, and march on with his men toward society in order to deliver the news of their findings. And that he did.
Night had fallen on the men and their long journey home was almost over. The forest trail was dark and lined with short trees that created a sort of tunnel. As they got closer to town, they started to pass small wooden cabins peaking out through the trees more and more often. Seeing the cabins put their minds at ease. They had traveled all night and been awake for almost 24 hours. The cabins were the first sign that they were just outside of town.
The captain was mostly quiet the entire trip. Him and his group of 9 men carried small lanterns to light the path and keep themsleves warm. They also carried a large rucksack and wore thick pants and heavy brown wool and leather coats. They were all armed with swords on their back and five of the men carried bows for hunting. All of them were carrying many pounds of dragons scale, teeth, and nails. Every pocket on every man protruded with dragon loot. They had so many pieces it looked as tho they were going to construct a new dragon out of the parts. Collecting everything took much longer than expected. The dragons skin was tough and it's nails were thick. It took two or three men to pull off a singe scale, and there was a vicious struggle to simply open the beasts jaws. The teeth had to be hit with a make-shift battering ram multiple times to loosen, and once the first tooth was pulled, a waterfall of rotten blood spilled out from the dragons mouth. It was a much harder, messier, and more time-consuming ordeal than they had expected. Half of them were stained with blood, and they had only scratched the surface of the beast, there was much more dragon to be had. They traveled on foot so the extra weight from the loot slowed them down tremendously. Horseback in the military was rare, because most horses were either being used for breeding, war, or farming for the soldiers food. The men knew this. They were part of a small regiment doing a small reconnoissance job. There was no neccesity for horses.
"Captain", Benji inturrupted a long silence, "Is there any more water? We still have a few hours of travel left and my canistered is full of smelly dragons blood, completely ruined my container. The stuff is also heavier than you might imagine."
The captain turned and looked back at Benji, who was holding up his bloody canister in one hand and his latern in the other so the captain could see. His large figure was barley lit up by the small lantern. Benji was a very large, slightly round man. Hefty as hefty can be. He is known among many to be a kind and a talented warrior, and just a little bit shy. He had shaggy brown hair that was dirty from their travels. The bags under his brown eyes and the paleness of his skin made him look tired and dehydrated.
"Aye Benji, here you go. And pass the dragons blood. We'll take turns carrying it for the rest of the way." The captain gave Benji a halfway filled canister of water and took the dragons blood, which he also found to be quite heavy.
"Aye, thank you Captain", Benji sighed in relief then proceeded to drink about half of the remaining water in the canister.
"Captain, do you think the Commander is going to be upset we returned without completing our mission?" Benji asked worriedly.
"Let me worry about the Commander Benji. Even if he is mad, it'll fall on my head, you were just following my orders." The captain reassured Benji.
"Benji! ....Relax." The captain inturrupted Benji. "A dragon outweighs some small rumors. If anything this information is urgent and needs to get back to the Commander immediately." The captain explained.
"Aye sir", Benji listened to the Captain.
In truth, the captain had forgotten all about the original mission until a few hours after they had already departed toward home. But regardless, the information about the dragon outweighed the primary mission ten-fold.
Benji and the rest of them men admired the captain. His name was Eolus Windom, or Captain Windom, usually refered to as Captain, Captain Windom or Captain Wind. He was a local hero that has assisted in the war his entire life, and achieve some notable feats. He and the 9 men with him had been together for countless battles and he knew each of them well and trusted all of them with his life, as did they. He was a large towereing man, build well for battle. His skin was tinted from constantly being in the sun, and scars covered his body. Althought he could fight like hell, age and war were starting to ware on him. This was true of most of his men, but lately the Captain looked particularly worn down. He had messy short brown hair that he struggle to keep short, brown eyes, and a large scar that ran vertically across his left eye, luckily there was no damage to his eyelid or his vision. He found it hard to find the time to shave so he usually had a shadow of stubble if not a full beard.
The rest of the way back was mostly quiet. When they reached the town the dirt trail turned to cobblestone, and a large wooden sign that said "Welcome To Runerock City" greeted them. It was not a large town, but still the biggest settlement within a 2 days ride. It was now sunrise and most of the shop owners were reaching their stores to set up for the day. The men breathed a sigh of relief as they walked down the citys' main street. One shop owner noticed the tired troop.
"Windom!? Captian Wind? Is that you? How was the mission Captain!?" The store owner said with an annoyingly high pitched voice.
The Captain, doing his best job to keep a low profile, simply waved at the store owner. Most of the town knew of the Captain and his troop. He was a local legend and admired by many. Because of this his missions were always a part of the towns daily gossip.
"Is that a tooth?" The store owner asked shocked at the sight, questioning the loot the men were carrying. The volume and pitch of his voice started to make other store owners look more closely at the troop of men. "My word what do you all have?" the high pitched voice continued to question the men. The store owner, who was a skinny well dressed man with slick black hair, stepped out into the road and continued to call for the attention of the captain. This started to cause a scene and before long more store owners were walking out and inspecting the troop. No one had ever seen teeth so large before, or scales so massive and beautiful. The men and their loot truly were a sight to behold.
Before they could reach the cities military post, people started blocking the troop of men. The small group of store owners and early risers questioned the captain and called his name repeatedly to get his attention, bombarding him from all sides. The captain now had to acknowledge the townsfolk.
"Please calm yourself and get back to your day. We will inform the town of our findings after we talk with our commander and the city leaders. But for now please leave our paths clear and let us get back to our duties." the captain pleaded kindly.
The crowd grew quiet and eventually made way for the men. They all respected Windom but none of the store owners immediately went back to work and instead watched the men as they passed with their loot in tow.
The men approached the large fence that encircled the military post and entered a large open gate. Toward the back of the massive military encampment was a wooden cabin painted black with large wooden double doors at the entrance. The men made their way as fellow soldiers gawked at their pieces of dragon and watched the men walk through the camp toward the cabin to report the news of their findings. Front and center sitting at a large wooden table with many maps and far too much paperwork spread before him was Commander Ajax. The room was full of other officers in various corners and desk bustling about. Ajax looked up to see the troop of men enter the room.
"Captain?" Ajax lifted an eyebrow. "You're back early, and what do you all have with you?" The commander and other officers grew more interested as each man entered the building, examining the various objects each man carried with them. The building fell quiet as the men stole all the attention in the room.
"Commander, we have news." Captain Windom started. He put down his bag and pulled out a massive bloodstained tooth and a black dragon scale and laid it before the commander. "Our mission was cut short. We came across the carcus of a dead dragon."
"A dragon?" Ajax asked as he leaned in examining the items closely.
"Aye sir, a dragon. Here is a tooth and a scale from the beast. It lay dead deep in the Flywood Forest. We have the exact route to find the body. Arche?" Windom said without looking at Arche.
Arche approached and laid out a map that showed path to the body of the dragon.
"Thank you Arche." Windom finished as Arche returned to his spot among the troop.
Ajax inspected the tooth and scale and glanced at the map. "A fucking dragon?" Ajax asked again, this time enthusiastically. He held up the tooth admiring the three foot long fang. "Dragons haven't been seen for hundreds of years. What do you think this means Captain Windom?" Ajax asked.
"I'm not sure sir." Captain Windom answered honestly.
"Me neither." the commander agreed, still perplexed by the tooth. "The royal gaurd is in town, we should pass this info along. I want to see the damned thing." Ajax said as he picked up the map. "And the original mission? Any sight of the group you were sent to investigate?" Ajax questioned.
"No sir, I decided news of the dragon would take priority." Windom answered directly.
"I'd have to agree. Tell me more Captain." Ajax ordered.
"Well, as I said the dragon was dead when we found it. But it seemed like whatever happened, happened recently. The thing was a bloodied mess. It's face was covered in blood and there was a large hole in its snout that appeared to have been created from the inside of its mouth, as though something had managed to escape. But the damn thing had a mouth full of blood, anything inside would have drowned. And it was almost impossible to get it's mouth open, it was locked shut. We had to use the biggest logs the 10 of us could carry to use for leverage, and had to ram it's jaws countless times just to loosen it's damned lips a few inches to extract it's teeth. It appeared as though it bit off its own tongue and bled to death but that does not explain the hole in the snout. The landscaped in the area was also ravaged and destroyed for many acres. I'm not sure what events took place Commander, but the scene was bloody and gruesome." Windom explained.
"Hmm." Ajax pondered the information as he examined the tooth again.
Windom thought for a moment then sighed. "May I have a word Commander?"
Ajax nodded his head, then looked at the officers in the room and nodded again. As the officers exited, Ajax noticed a small gathering of townsfolk crowding outside the military post, eagerly waiting for some kind of information about the expedition. Eventually the room was empty except for the commander and the captain.
"Looks like you're loot has gained some attention this morning." Ajax noted.
Captain Windom nodded in agreement. "Something is bothering me, there's an old war song about the bastard king. I think it's about his origin."
"King of the damned, King of the flood,
Baptized in angels blood." Windom sang.
"What are you getting at?" the commander asked impatiently.
"There was enough blood to baptize the entire town in that dragons snout." Windom answered. "It looked to me like some kind of ritual sir."
"Angels blood? How does that relate to dragons Captain?" The commander listened.
"Well the town library has old writings, and some of them refer to dragons as angels. So maybe the song really meant the bastard was baptized in dragons blood."
"I don't want to hear anymore of this, you're making leaps in logic. I'm not quite sure what you're getting at but please, no more. Let the royal guard will investigate. Bring your men back inside." Ajax ordered.
"I haven't told my men of this, it's just a personal thought." The captian informed.
"Good, now bring them inside."
Windom rallied his troops back inside and they all stood at attention in front of the commander. Ajax stood up at his desk to address the men.
"Listen men, until I give the order, you will not speak about any any ideas or theories you may have on this. You can tell the townsfolk that you found a dead dragon, as they seem to already know, but nothing beyond that. No hole in the snout, no ravaged forest, no location, no blood, just a dead dragon. They already suspect something, and not telling them anything will just cause rumors to spread. Any information beyond "dead dragon" is a now a military secret until further notice. The Royal Guard will be involved so take this seriously." Ajax commanded the troops from his desk.
"Aye!" the troop answered.
"And any dragon scales, teeth, claws, blood or pubic hair you may have pulled from the creature stays here in this building until I say otherwise. Understood?" Ajax questioned.
"....aye." The troop answered again, this time with less unison.
"Bring the other officers in and I will tell them the same thing. After that you're dismissed." Ajax finished.
The troops dutifully emptied their bags and pockets of anything dragon related and piled them in front of Ajax's table, then made their exit. When they walked outside they were greeted with a small gathering of curious bystanders who immediately started shouting for the captain. The other officers went back inside to Ajax.
The captain breifly addressed the crowd and explained that they found a dead dragon. It was suprising to everyone, but when they realized there was no more information to get from the captain, a majority of them went back to their daily lives, all but two of them.
Most of the troop went straight to their homes to go to sleep after their long and sleepless journey. All except for Benji, who was still thirsty from the long walk. He planned on sleeping like the rest of the men but first he went to the pub to get some drink. When he entered, he was followed almost immediately by two townsfolk who had more questions for the tired soldier. Benji sat at the bar and one of the townsman sat at the table directly behind him, the other left the bar.
A sweet old middle aged lady was behind the bar. "Little early for a drink, aren't we Benji?" the bartender gently smiled at Benji, who looked oh so tired.
"Aye, but I'm dyin' of thirst", Benji said tiredly.
The bar was empty except for the bartender, Benji, the townsman, and the "old hound" as Benji called the man. The same "old hound" who was always drinking and singing at the bar, probably still there from the night before. Even now he was mumbling some ancient hymm. The other townsman returned with a small crowd of people who soon circeld Benji and started asking him a terrible amount of questions all at once. You could hear non over another.
"God, quiet down now! We're not ready for this kind of business so early in the morning! What's the fuss?" the bartender questioned and tried to calm down the crowd.
The crowd grew quiet enough for one of the townfolk to ask a clear question. "Benji, did you and Captain Wind really kill a dragon?" "No, they only saw a dragon!" Another answered. "No, they found a dead dragon!"
"Shhh!!" The bartender shushed the crowd until they fell silent. "Well Benji?" she asked, now just as curious as the rest of the townsfolk.
Benji looked tiredly at the bartender, who he considered a friend, then at the crowd. "Aye, we found a dead dragon." the crowd gasped at his answer.
"But dragons aren't real, you liar!", one person said. "No they were real, but they all died" said another. "They were all killed!", the small crowd continued.
"Well, I don’t know if there are anymore alive, but there is a dead one." Benji spoke over the crowd. "What does that mean? I don't know, but if you'd all please leave me to my dri.."
"Heheheheeee", a fragile old laugh pierced through the pub and interrupted Benji.
Benji and the crowd looked to see the withered old man pick up his head and drink and start walking through the crowd. Firmly taking a seat next to Benji.
"Dragon, oh dragon, how I wish I was a dragon,
I'd live forever, aye forever I'd be livin'
Cause' nothing kills a dragon, but a dragon with a mission!"
"Heheeee" the old man finished his song and took a long drink from his mug, finishing the glass. "Ye found a dead dragon, did ye boy? Dragons should not be alive, and they most certainly should not be dead! The beasts live until they are killed. They do not die naturally, for they are not natural creatures. And if another dragon didn't kill it, and an army didn't kill it, and I know for a fact that ye didn't kill it, then the dragon must've killed itself. Am I right, foolish boy?" The old mans tone changed.
"Hu...huh?" Benji stuttered nervously.
"I'M RIGHT! You found something terrible! You and your troop went to look for a suspicous group of people, but instead you found a dead dragon. Those people must've done something horrendous, you should have finished your mission and hunted that group down boy! How much blood was there!? Enough to baptize a bastard? Are we doomed to face yet another BASTARD KING BOY!?" The old mans voice shook the room and again pierced the ears of everyone in the pub.
Once he was done a terrible silence took over the pub. In time the startled crowd looked to Benji, who was terrified of what the old man said. With his large size, Benji threw all the coins in his pocket on the contertop and quickly pushed through the crowd to make a quick exit, leaving his mug of fresh drink mostly full. The crowd stood still in disbelief.
"Heheeee," the old man went back to his drunkeness and sang the song again. "Dragon, oh dragon..."
Captain Windom was at his home fast asleep in his bed, resting before the celebrations that were planned for that night. But before he got any meaningful sleep, he was awoken by a very long and sharp sword drawn to his face held by a well armored man.
"Eolus was it? The Royal Guard hereby places you under arrest for violation of the law and failing to follow orders from your commanding officer."
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