A few years ago, I was challenged to write something comparatively "mainstream", and chose a low fantasy 'Exiled Prince' theme. You can read the full story here
“The sands of the desert are ever-shifting, but the wise man watches them, rather than be caught unaware by the storm.”
-Ancient Noorinian Proverb
There weren't always dragons in the valley.
It was possible that there were none now, though the flighted figures circling overhead seemed too big to be birds. Nor was the dip between towering sand dunes technically a valley. Perhaps the heat and thirst were affecting the boy more than he first thought.
The desert sun beat down harshly on the ragged group, staggering onward through the endless sands, fear and death biting at their heels.
Overhead, birds circled, and the boy clutched the precious bundle in his arms tighter. Tears stung his eyes, but he refused to let them fall; he didn’t have the water to waste. Angry determination forced him forward another step. He couldn’t fail now!
The oasis-city they had fled was far behind them, lost to sight, but the boy thought that he could still hear the clash of steel, the sickening thump of bodies hitting the ground. The image of his father, standing over the cooling form of his older brother, yelling for him to take the other children and run, as he matched blades with the Warlord who thought to take what was never his to claim, was burned into his mind’s eye. So had been the boy’s last sight of his home, with the tall, indominable man who had loved and raised him crumpled in a heap at the gates, his blood staining the thirsty sand.
Curse the thrice-damned Lord Mal to the lowest circle of the Afterlife’s torments! May he suffer as his countless victims had, and if the Gods didn’t feel like setting the Warlord to rights, Owain would happily do it for them! One day, when he was stronger, strong enough to rescue what remained of his people and take back their home.
At the back of the group, someone stumbled and fell. The youth turned back, watching as another boy helped the younger child to their feet. He scanned the rolling dunes that surrounded them; there was little shelter to be had, but they needed to rest. To go on would be to push the youngest beyond their already strained endurance.
There! A small rock formation, with shadows that indicated caves or hollows at it’s base. Better than nothing. The boy led his fellow survivours to the rocks, looking up in alarm as a larger shadow fell across them. They broke into a desperate, staggering run as the shadow grew, swooping toward them.
The shadow went past them, colliding in a lethal dive with a lion that the boy hadn’t even seen, camouflaged as it was against the stone. The shadow straightened up, a tall, dark skinned man with wings the colour of the plums that had grown in the orchard. Outlined by the sun, it was hard to see his face, but the boy did his best to meet the Avian’s eyes squarely. If he died, he would do so with dignity.
The Avain’s stance softened, the beads that tipped braided hair rustling softly. “Della, Meri, it’s all right. Come, boy, I’ll show you how to skin and cook a lion.”
Two more shadows landed, young women, one dark and the other colourful. They picked up the smallest of the band, the youngest children ready to fall where they stood, and glided to the caves. Soaring back, the colourful girl smiled at him. “You’ve done well, to bring them so far. What is your name?”
The boy fought back tears again. His name belonged to a happy young boy, with parents and a home. That boy was no more. “Owain, formerly of Noorinia. We’re all that’s left.”
For now, at least. One day, he would return to his oasis home, and he would make the people who drove him out pay.
The tall Avian laid a hand on his shoulder. “I’m Mas, and these are my daughters. You may stay with us until you choose otherwise."