War with the Dragons
When bad rulers meet difficult decisions
There weren’t always dragons in the valley
Nor were there wyrms in the pass
Once krakens were myths of the ocean
But alas, good times don’t last.
Such songs the bards sang in taverns scorched by dragons’ fires, in the ruins of once-grand port cities, and in villages now isolated amidst broken, desolate land. Once the fields were green with abundant crops. Once towns boasted exotic trade partners, and nobles retained knights in shining steel armour to guard their mansions. Once the trade roads stretched unbroken from the Blue Sea in the west to the Dead Wastes in the north-east, full of farmers and merchants and wealthy lords and ladies.
To and fro the roads led, past landmarks, villages and forests, places full of noteworthy sights, trading posts, and the pleasant fields of a wealthy, peaceful kingdom.
But then the invasion happened.
It began with a lone figure, high in a lonely blue sky, a dark figure with outstretched wings, a long tail and a horned head sparkling with gold and gems. It sailed out of the Wastes, snout pointed south and west toward the capital.
The city of Chal was a bustling city, as most wealthy capitals are. The king’s castle presided over districts both wealthy and poor, over markets and squares, gardens and inns. The dragon came upon them suddenly.
It landed with a crash in the King’s Square, an open area in front of the castle’s main gate. The marketplace that served those coming to petition the king was crushed under uncaring claws. People screamed and ran at the sudden appearance of the beast.
The deep blue dragon paid the peasants no mind, but turned to face the castle and bellowed, “I am Renegal of the Draconich Mountains, and I come to parley with the ruler of Chal! Come and meet with me, O Ruler of Humans.” His intent declared, the dragon sat and waited with the patience of a statue.
When the castle gate was opened, however, there was no delegation ready to discuss terms of a parley. Instead a ballista bolt sailed out, striking the dragon along his side before tumbling to the cobbled street, dripping dark blood.
Renegal let out a roar, causing the city to erupt into full-blown panic. He reared up, spreading his wings as he shouted, “You have made a mistake, O king! I, Renegal, ambassador to the Dragon King, came to negotiate passage to the sea for my people. Instead you have treated me, and my king, with contempt. It is a decision you will regret!”
Clattering and clanging sounded from the castle as its guards assembled, no longer hiding their activity. Orders were shouted, and slowly a regiment of knights on foot emerged from the doorway. Swords and spears glinted in the sunlight in front of shining armour. Half the men wore helmets, the rest grim expressions.
In the alleys around the square the town guard gathered, debating in low voices the risks of sneaking up on a creature of myth and legend that was also larger than a house. Some braver peasants watched the scene from the corners of buildings, terrified but fascinated to see a real, live dragon.
Renegal snaked his head side to side, taking in the surrounding city with its terrified citizenry. “I will return to these lands, I vow this in the presence of all of Chal. But when I return, it will be with the same aggression you have shown me!” He flexed his limbs and launched into the air, narrowly avoiding a second bolt that came careening out of the castle’s open door. It slammed into a building on the far side of the square, embedding half its length in the wooden wall.
Renegal circled the city, a hawk rising on updrafts, as his voice echoed down over the roiling city and countryside.
“Prepare, Chalem. Prepare for war!”