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Dragoon's Handbook - Chapter 1 - Wild Dragon

AnonLich Apr 24th, 2015 (edited) 629 Never
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  1. The sound of metal scraping and clanking against metal echoed through the woods, sounding out from a single figure rushing through the trees, steadily making his way up the incline of the mountainous hillside. The twilight sun reflected off of the steel scales of the figure's armor as he came to a stop, the ground beneath him evening out somewhat. One armored hand rested against a tree as he caught his breath, looking around the slanted woods as he sucked in slow breaths. His eyes came to rest on a few trees further around the mountain he was working his way up.
  2.  
  3. His breath steadied, he pushed off the tree, walking over to the trees that had caught his eye. To most, not much seemed different about them, but that their branches drooped slightly on one side, mirrored by their neighbours, creating a path of sorts leading further up the mountain. Most would view this as a convenience, and not let their thoughts linger on it. But the young man scaling the peak now had been taught to look for a faint sign just like this.
  4.  
  5. He approached the beginning of these, kneeling at the start of the 'path'. Reaching one gloved hand down, he dipped a pair of armored fingers into the mulch lining the forest floor, raising them up to his lips. His tongue darted out, tasting the dirty mix on his fingertips, his mouth instantly forming a grimace as he looked away and spat whilst shaking the dirt from his hand. His expression quickly brightened into a grin however, as he spoke a single word, "Ash..." before rising up, quickly dashing between the trees.
  6.  
  7. The narrow path through the trees came to a stop at the edge of a cliff overlooking a small valley nestled between the mountains, thick forest filling it up entirely. Looking directly down, the knight was quite easily able to spot a trail of sagging branches snaking its way through the forest below. His eyes followed it until it stopped at the face of another mountain across the sea of trees. His gaze trailed directly up the sheer rock face, his grin widened when he spotted the mouth of a cave, resting on a small cliff near the peak. His goal in sight, he spun on the spot and began to make his way around the valley.
  8.  
  9. Deciding the quicker route would be to follow the mountains around the valley, rather than climb down into it, cut through it, and climb back up, it still took well over an hour before the knight pulled himself up before the cavern he sought. Looking around the mouth into the mountain, his gazed dropped to the numerous scorch marks around it, burnt bones littering the ground. He swallowed heavily, reaching to pull the winged spear from his back as he advanced beyond the blackened rock, into the darkness of the cave.
  10.  
  11. He moved cautiously deeper into the cave, taking each step slowly and precisely, careful not to let his armor make too much noise. He held his spear out in front of him as he slowly circled, eyes flicking about as they adjusted to the darkness. The cavern occasionally branched out, cursory searches revealing only small, unused spaces, and so he continued down the main tunnel. The silence was beginning to unnerve him when at last he spotted a glimmer of light coming from the depths of the cave. Quickening his pace ever so slightly, his posture relaxed as he reached what was likely the back of the cavern.
  12.  
  13. The deepest chamber opened up greatly compared to the rest of the cave, and was lit by a few torches roughly jammed into the stone walls. These served to illuminate the hoard hidden there, flickering fire light reflecting off the numerous mounds of precious treasure piled throughout. Golden coins, jewellery, gemstones, royal tableware and regalia, even a surprising amount of raw ores and stones scattered about. It was enough to make a king's ransom several times over, with more to spare. Anyone who saw it would be ecstatic, even the smallest fraction enough to keep them comfortable the rest of their lives. Yet the armored knight standing there now looked rather disappointed, frowning as he looked over the treasure piles.
  14.  
  15. He wandered about the hoard, caution forgotten, the steel scales making up his armor clinking as they shifted against each other. "I guess nobody's home?" He concluded with a huff, turning to leave the treasure behind, not stopping to pick up so much as a coin.
  16.  
  17. Barely moments later he again stood just outside the cave, planting the butt of his spear in the ground. Armored fingers reached up to his thick brown hair, running through the curls before he ruffled his hair, letting out a groan of frustration. Dropping down to the ground with his legs crossed, his hands moved to rest on his knees as he glared out across the mountains, watching, waiting.
  18. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  19.  
  20. She didn't particularly like screaming. Well, it wasn't a necessity at least. Though she had to admit, there was something about hearing people howl with fear when they caught sight of her. Watching the ant-sized people far below flee in terror. How to phrase it? It wasn't their terror itself which appealed to her. Rather, it was what it meant. That they were afraid of her. It filled her with pride, self-satisfaction at the intimidation her mere approach could instill. And it brought a wide, toothy grin to her face.
  21.  
  22. A slight shift of her leathery wings and her body tipped downwards, sending her soaring closer to the ground. Tucking them in, she began outright hurtling towards the village below. The screaming and shouting of its citizens were muffled by the howling of the wind about her body as the hard ground grew closer and closer. At the last possible moment, her wings snapped open again, her body leveling out mere feet above the Earth as she rocketed down the town's main road. She felt rather satisfied by the fleeting glimpses of some peasants ducking, rolling, even jumping out of the way, lest they be battered aside by her mighty appendages. She rapidly approached the town square, a small gathering of people watching her grow ever closer to them.
  23.  
  24. Her toothy grin widened still as they stood their ground, shrinking back as she came to an abrupt halt in the square before them. She rose up, hovering before the small crowd, wings shuddering as she slowly floated to the ground. Long, lustrous red hair flowed about in the wind, contrasting heavily against the brilliant cerulean scales that glinted in the sunlight. Dark fuchsia eyes flicked over the few gathered villagers cowering before her, and at the pile of packages behind them. Her previous toothy smirk had been wiped to a stoic expression by the time she rose up before them, but it was slowly replaced by a rather menacing, smug smile as her claws touched the ground.
  25.  
  26. "Oh good, you've already got everything gathered for this month!" She exclaimed, her voice far too sweet for how afraid the humans in front of her were. Not that there was an ounce of sincerity to her tone.
  27.  
  28. Shakily, one of the cowering villagers took a step forward. He was the eldest of them by far, and dressed in the only vaguely nice clothing of the bunch, a somewhat official looking set of robes, a long white beard falling over a crest emblazed on the front, "O-Of course, O'Dragon of the High Mountain. As always, we have gathered..." He paused briefly, a hateful grimace forming beneath his beard. If the dragon noticed, she didn't care to bring it up, nor let it break her pleasant facade. "Seventy percent of our yield..."
  29.  
  30. The deep blue dragon smiled a bit wider, her claws raking across the ground as she strode forward. The human villagers quickly parted to allow her to step closer to the gathered boxes and packages behind them, lest she swat them out of the way instead. She moved a couple of bags to the ground, letting her easily rip the lid off one of the boxes, a noticeable shiver running along her back right down her tail as she reached a great scaled arm in, running her claws through the chunks of ore contained within.
  31.  
  32. "You know, there's no need to have such a look, 'Mister Mayor'." She spoke, replacing the lid after a moment of self-indulgent inspection, "Am I not a kind dragon? I could easily take everything you have, yet I ask only for seventy percent. Why, with such bountiful yields, thirty is more than enough for your people to live off, is it not?"
  33.  
  34. The village's leader growled faintly, averting his eyes when the dragoness glanced over at him, still smiling with her false sweetness. He could give no response but a beleaguered nod, to which the dragon responded with an amused chuckle. No other villager gathered dared speak against the dragon either, their only protests being silent groans of impotence.
  35.  
  36. "Ah, but this isn't all that I was promised this week, is it..." The great winged monster raised her gaze, looking out among the crowd, not noticing or caring that they'd all tensed at her words.
  37.  
  38. Her gaze soon settled on one villager in the small crowd, eyes narrowing to dangerous slits, holding her own transfixed with fright. Grinning widely in anticipation, the dragoness raised a claw to point at her, curving one finger to beckon her forward. The others moved aside to let the woman she'd pointed out walk up to her. She looked to be in her thirties, with dark hair mostly covered by a bandana, the rest of her clothing looking rather rugged, with numerous pockets holding a variety of small tools. The woman came to a stop before the dragon, quivering in place as she raised her head to meet the greedy monster's excited stare.
  39.  
  40. "Well Little Miss Goldsmith? Where is it? I was so looking forward to my special little commission, I'd be absolutely heartbroken if it wasn't ready." The particular emphasis she put on "heartbroken" left the woman shaking even harder than  before, if that were possible.
  41.  
  42. "I-I-I-I...I'm...I'm te-terribly sorry O'Dragon, but it was...it was...s-stolen..." The goldsmith averted her eyes, practically whimpering out the last word.
  43.  
  44. An incredibly tense, awkward silence hung over the crowd, no one daring to so much as breathe. The dragon tipped her head, gazing down at the woman, still wearing her falsely sweet smile, "Stolen...you say?" She repeated the word slowly.
  45.  
  46. The goldsmith nodded her head faintly, barely managing to return her gaze upwards. The instant her eyes met the dragon's, she let out a quickly obscured scream. The dragon had almost instantly wrapped her tail around the woman's neck, hoisting her well off the ground so that even she had to look up at her, the other villagers shouting in horror, yet too afraid to move any closer to take action. "Stolen?!" she shouted out, all pretense of niceties gone from her expression, her eyes alight with rage, "I ask you to do one little, insignificant task for me, and you say it was stolen!? Does your incompetence know no bounds?!" She bellowed, the woman futilely grabbing and clawing at the tail, shrieking in pain as it tightened around her neck.
  47.  
  48. "P-Please stop this!" The elderly mayor cried out, daring to take a single step towards the enraged drake. He instantly shrank back when she turned her furious gaze upon him, yet persevered in speaking, "Sh-she speaks the truth! There was nothing to be done! The man was armed and obviously trained, we had no choice but to give in to his demands!"
  49.  
  50. The dragon narrowed her gaze just slightly on the old man, relaxing her tail just barely around the struggling goldsmith's neck, "Oh? And you feared some simple bandit more than I? Enough to hand over what is by all rights mine?!" she spat out, practically screaming "mine", "And just what other demands did he have, hmm? It seems as though the rest of my tribute is still here, after all."
  51.  
  52. The elder again shrank back a bit, barely managing to meet the powerful monster's intense glare, "When we told him that what he desired was for a dragon...he demanded that we tell him where your lair was, that he might raid your hoard..."
  53.  
  54. The goldsmith dropped to the ground in an instant, coughing and gasping for air, "What."
  55.  
  56. "I-If I had to guess, he's probably there...right now." The elder managed to speak as the suddenly bewildered dragon stared at him.
  57.  
  58. Besides the sputters of the woman the dragon had been choking, silence again dominated the group, before the dragon reared her head back, releasing a deafening roar that caused all the villagers, not just those in the square, to wince and cover their ears. A single beat of the dragon's wings, and she shot up into the sky, the displaced air knocking several people around her over, "I'll be back for my tribute!" she barked down to them, before another beat of her wings propelled her off towards the distant mountains.
  59.  
  60. With the fearsome creature gone, several of the village men moved to aid the still-struggling goldsmith, while others still looked off as the dragon flew away, quickly becoming just a dot in the distant sky.
  61.  
  62. "...do you think she fell for it?" one young man asked, coming up beside the elder as he watched the dragon become smaller and smaller.
  63.  
  64. "I don't know...I don't even think it matters. There'll be hell to pay either way if she makes it back..." the mayor responded, shaking his head wearily.
  65.  
  66. "Why do you think that so-called Dragonslayer wanted that of all things as payment anyway?" the young man questioned. His elder could only shrug in response. He was none the wiser to the man's motives either.
  67.  
  68. High up in the sky, the cerulean serpent glanced back at the rapidly shrinking village below as she sailed through the clouds, "Hmph...Dragonslayer? I'm going to have to raze a few buildings, aren't I?" She turned her gaze towards the rapidly approaching mountain she called home, "But...first things first..." she growled, seething with rage.
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