Dragon Deep

Dragon Deep

A Story by Paul Velora
"

Real short fantasy story. I have exorcised the demons.

"

Farell stood outside the entrance to the cave. Bow tucked tightly to his chest, barely breathing. Jamie stood across from him, shield before him, longsword resting against his thigh. His blonde hair fell from under his helm in great waves. His locks were his pride and joy. Farell stroked his beard with his free hand and gestured towards Morkineer, the older cleric was crouched behind a boulder, staff cradled easily in his hands. He touched his heart and Farell saw his lips moving in quiet prayer. Arelin neither hid, nor cowered. His greatrobes fell about him in waves. The man's very being exuded power and confidence.


The cave's entrance was enormous, thirty spans wide and at least as many high. It was warm when all about was chilly. Fall was coming on, the nights growing colder, yet the entrance to the cave felt as though a great fire burned within. No winter would ever touch such a cave.


A rustle was heard and a small she-halfing quietly bounded out of a small crevice to the side of the cave's entrance.


“Harmonious as ever Arelin,” Her voice was light and lilting as though still a wonder-struck child. Were it not for the shortswords strapped across her back and numerous knives stuck every which way in her vest and belt, she could be thought a child. Her eyes were bright blue and clever. “Went as far back as I could safely scout and didn't see a thing, living, dead, or inanimate.”


“Lower your voice Evelyn, we don't know what's listening.”


“Scared Jamie?”


The fighter merely rolled his eyes and shrugged, his chainmail shifted as he moved. Jamie reached up and adjusted his helm father back on his forehead. Sweat beaded and ran down his face as though he were standing underneath a summer sun.


“Well, ought we enter, or rather stand about and talk of the weather?”


The party turned and eyed the old cleric. The man was now holding a globe in one hand, his staff, topped with Elohime's star, in the other.


“Mor, feel free to take the lead.” Arelin said, though he started towards the cave. “Eve, take the lead, thirty paces only, we'll not use torches. Farell you're behind Jamie, though not by much. Mor and myself will fall in last. I don't fear any coming up from behind us, though who knows in these mountains.”


Evelyn slunk into the cave, hands on daggers and striding carefully. Jamie hefted his shield, black raven emblazoned against a fiery red background. He started in after Evelyn, eyes and demeanor serious, an imposing figure. Arelin began stringing his magic, words of power intently spoken, a sharp word finished the spell and the cave seemed illuminated by stars and moon for the companions.


“Thanks Arey!”


Morkineen and Arelin could only look at one another, Arelin shook his head in astonishment. Jamie, just up ahead could be seen putting a gloved hand over his face. Mor turned and whispered to Arelin, “That's why we keep her, right? Her fearlessness? Or because we all fight better when we're trying to keep her from getting killed.”


“Quiet, Cleric. Lest we add to the prattle.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The cave seemed to go on and on. After many minutes of walking it began to slope downwards. The heat seemed consistent. Small movements at the edges of the cavernous walls caught the companions attention. A large cavern opened before them. Evelyn stood at the edge of the trail leading on. She was looking down at a what seemed an endless pit, for the limitations of the spell would not permit them to see the bottom.


“Eve, do not.”


The halfling quickly pocketed the stone she was about to hurl into the abyss. A smile sprouted on her cherubic face as she did so.


“Always good to have a stone handy, glad I found that one. And here of all places.”


A scuffling noise behind them didn't immediately warrant attention. Mor supposed it was yet another rat, or rabbit, or any small animal that found the heat of the place inviting. However Farell had enough sense to look behind for the source of the noise.


“Kua Toa, arms!” His bow was already drawn, a pair of arrows knocked. He loosed and the slime-covered fishman slopped to the ground. A pair of arrows embedded in his torso. Jamie acted nearly as fast as three kua-toa rushed him, intent on throwing him from the ledge. He spun and sucked in his middle, the fishman, off-balance, teetered on the edge. Jamie kicked him hard. His boot slurping as it hit the fishman's thigh and it rocketed into the pit.


The mage's hands were moving as soon as he heard Farell call the alarm. He was positioned farther up the walkway and from his vantage could see the fishmen climbing up out of the darkness. Nets and spears that were crudely crafted clutched in their webbed hands. Gigantic fish-eyes appeared black in the starlit vision of the companions.


He bent low and grabbed up a handful of rocks, he spoke in his measure timbre, his hand clenched and the rocks became a fine powder. He spread the powder out while he finished his incantation. Several fishmen fell as though their bones would no longer support them. One immediately in front of Morkineen went down and the old cleric bent down and slashed it's throat with his dagger. Green ick slipped from the wound and Mor stepped back.


The halfling ran at the oncoming fishmen. The startled fishmen began scrabbling after her. She made it all the way back to the water, causing mayhem the whole way. Upon reaching the bank she turned and ran back towards her companions. All this gave Jamie time to head up and face off towards the water. Farell knocked and loosed, knocked and loosed. Fishmen fell. Mor rested, his staff held straight-wise in front of him. Arelin was behind them all. His greatrobes glowed slightly in the darkness of the cavern.


On her return trip a Kua-toa reared back, a net held aloft ready to throw. She leapt forward feet first and the net sailed over her. Her long ponytail whipped about her. She slid on the ick and the slime and water the fishmen had brought up on the rock trail. With more force than she'd anticipated she went straight towards the kua-toa who now stood unarmed and stunned, if fish could be said to have facial expressions. She flipped a dagger at the fishman and it thudded into his stomach. Before she slid past him she kicked out and pushed the dagger deeper into it's innards. A gurgle came from the fish's mouth and it tumbled back and went down.


Evelyn vaulted as her slick ride came to it's end. Up she went and passed behind Jamie, he moved forward, his shield held before him. Three kua-toa still stood, their black eyes staring at the companions. Then they slowly backed up into the water and went beneath. There was silence save for a soft drip of water somewhere in the place.


“Anyone hear if that first one hit anything?” Eve was covered in slime but her smile was bright and cheery. The companions turned as one, save for Morkineen who was chuckling to himself, and stared at the halfling. “The one Jamie kicked?” 


In a girl-like manner she moved her hand through her ponytail and cocked her head to the side. “I'm just curio...”


Before she could finish they heard a splash from far below them.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


A heavy breathing could be heard. Heat emanated from the room before them. With the heat light could be seen. Great light such as a well-lit mead hall on winter's eve. No sound save for a heavy rhythmic breathing came from within. Evelyn was so excited Farell had to keep a hold of her shoulder. Rivers of sweat could be seen on Jamie's face. He had not removed any of his armor, despite the heat.


Arelin whispered, the companions were clustered around him closely, listening intently. Well, trying to, Evelyn's eyes were transfixed on the entryway. It stood even larger than the cave's entrance above ground. She had found a small back way in. Farell had scouted with her, or rather, he had chased after her and brought her back. But indeed she had found an entrance.


“Farell, take Eve and go in that back entrance. Find somewhere to hide. Mor, Jamie, and myself will wait a hundred-count before coming in the main entrance. Will that be enough time?”


Fareel nodded, he had shed his cloak and now wore only his brown studded leather. A small quiver of arrows now on his belt sported gold-colored fletchings. The shafts themselves were black.


“Go, quickly now.”


Evelyn tried to bound away but Farell's hand was still firmly clutching her leather vest. Her ponytail bounced crazily as she rebounded in Farell.


“Eve, don't get me killed. Stay beside me and you'll get to see everything.”


Farell nodded and Evelyn's smile grew into one of mischief.


“Partners in crime, aye Evey?”


“Aye, Farell. Just stop jerking me around like that.”


They crept into the shattered opening. Evelyn moved quickly and Farell stayed up with her. The light was blinding up ahead to their magically illuminated eyesight. As they neared the magic faded and the light subsided somewhat. “Thanks Avey.” Gods be blessed she whispered this time.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“Avelin, what's the count?”


“The count, Jamie, is when we are prepared and enter. Farell and Evelyn will be ready by now. No doubt bursting with anticipation. We're the level-heads though, we must be deliberate and careful. I shall shield us, we must not wake them until we are upon them. I must have time before they attack. Otherwise we will be sorely pressed.”


Jamie nodded, sweat glistening off his face from the room ahead. Morkineen seemed relaxed. His brown robes seemed heavy but the man was not sweating, not was he fidgeting. He was an older man and had experienced trepidation before a fight many a time. He was at peace. Or he was bored. One could never tell.


“We go on my mark.”


Avelin began stringing his words, magic hung in the air and Jamie's breath caught. Something shimmered in the air before him, around him. A blue crystal encased him, he could not hear. He scuffed a boot and the sound reverberated within his shell. Mor and Avelin were similarly encased. Avelin nodded and they crept forward as one.


As they inched into the cavern such a sight became before them that Jamie stopped and stared in awe. Above there was a dome, seemingly hundreds of feet high. Below were treasures heaped upon treasures. Jamie could make out gold, weapons, armor, jewels, and breathing heavily stretched across the heaps was a red dragon. His scales were blood red and his head was longer than Jamie was tall. Great spiraled horns adorned the dragons head. Curved and ivory-white. It's fangs could be seen as well. Scythes drooping from it's huge maw. It's eyes were closed.


Jamie turned towards Avelin, “Where's the other?” He attempted to whisper then realized his foolishness when his words echoed back to him. Encased as they were communication was impossible. Jamie felt a tickling of fear run up his spine. The spanned out, Jamie in the center, Mor headed off to his left and Avelin to his right.


Avelin's arms went up and he began casting. His arms went above him and the sanctuary spell flicked out of existence. Smell and sound once again assailed Jamie, the hot stink of the dragon he wasn't prepared for. The sound of the giant animal's breathing reverberated off the walls. It's great eyes snapped open and focused on Avelin as he completed his spell.


A great spear of energy erupted from Avelin's outstretched hands and hurtled towards the dragon. The spear hit the dragon with a resounding crack. The dragon scrabbled, it's heavy wings beat the air and gold and jewels were kicked as it tried to rise up into the air.


Streaking through the air not a moment after Avelin's spell was a black line, arcing from the back corner of the room. It struck the dragon in the shoulder. Blood ran from the wound. The dragon fell, briefly back onto the piles of treasure. A small figure burst from the heap of treasure and plunged a shortsword, glowing a deep blue, into the creature's underbelly. The wound iced itself over and icicles of red blood began falling. Evelyn rolled off the treasure pile and tumbled into a crevice in the wall.


The dragon roared.


Jamie was running to cover Avelin, his shield up before him. The dragon reared back, once again airborne, it spewed forth a great gout of red flame. Directing it at the mage. Jamie was between the two, his shield was thrown back and into him with a force the likes of which Jamie had never felt. His leggings were red hot as though just brought from the forge's fires. His legs gave out as the flesh was cooked beneath the metal. His shield arm melted in front of his eyes. The shield itself encasing it in white-hot metal. He stared in horror as the black raven drooped and puddled into the bubbling red background. Jamie cried out and fell, his legs and arm completely ruined.


The cleric raised his staff above him, his God blessing it as he did so. The staff took on the likeness of a golden spear, tipped in a bright red point. It ripped through the air towards the dragon holding itself aloft. The beast began to dodge the weapon that had sprouted from seemingly nowhere. It wasn't fast enough however, and the spear struck the creature's wing and tore a great gash in the leathery webbing.


It crashed back onto the pile, spraying gold and jewels all about. Evelyn's arms were pumping, daggers pelted the dragon in the face, the maw, the eyes. The smile was gone from Evelyn's face, determination was in her eyes. She threw a final dagger and leapt for her crevice once more.


Arrows arced and struck with regularity and Avelin, despite Jamie's wounds, was hopeful. Black streaks locked into the beast's body. He began casting once more, energy crackled in his hands as he worked the magic. A globe shot from Avelin's hands and struck the dragon's wing and chest. Great gobs of green acid spilled across it's body. Smoke rose from the dragon as the acid ate at it's scales and the web of it's right wing.

Mor, his staff gone, clutched his crystal ball and prayed. At the height of the prayer he hurled the ball at the wall of the room. It's shattered but instead of falling, the pieces reformed themselves into the form of a great eagle. Pure white it attacked the dragon's eyes. The dragon swatted at the bird, and cried in agony as it wrenched a talon across the dragon's eye. The eye was cut and it leaked, along with the blood, down the dragon's face.


The dragon's tail lashed out like a spear, taking Mor through the chest completely. The old man never saw it coming, his eyes were elsewhere. As he died, the bird shattered into a million tiny crystals. Avelin was once more encased in the blue crystal sanctuary. His mind whirring. The black arrows had ceased, a dozen gold-fletched shafts stuck like pins in the great beast. Jamie hadn't moved since he'd gone down and Evelyn was down to her twin shortswords. It nearly panicked him to think that perhaps they ought to retreat.


His hand darted into his pocket, he drew forth a black crystal and began casting once again. The dragon, now free of arrows, daggers, and birds narrowed his good eye on the mage. Blood and pus oozed from his wrecked eye.


At the height of his spellcasting the sanctuary shattered, it didn't flicker out of existence as it had before, it was thrust from him as though a shield knocked from a soldier's arm. Avelin blinked at this and his spell caught in his throat. Unfinished. The dragon belched another gout of flame and when it passed, the mage was a greasy smear two feet long on the floor.


“Farell, Farell, where are you?'


“Sh, quiet Eve, this way.”


“It's so dark.”


“Hold my hand and stay close.”


They dared not light a torch until well beyond the dragon's lair. They could no longer see it's light but in such a place as they were it wouldn't take the dragon long to find them. They shouldn't even have spoken.


“Did you hear that?”


“Evey, run.”


“I can't see!”


“Run Evey, the dragon!”


Wings tucked to it's sides, shuffling down the corridor towards them, the great beast roared at them. Evelyn saw a flash of Farell as the dragon's breath ignited and lit a portion of the corridor. His eyes were wide with terror and his quiver was empty. He pulled his longsword from it's sheathe with one hand and was shoving Evelyn down the corridor with the other.


“Run Evey!”


With the light from the enraged dragon behind her she flew. Feet barely touching the ground. She ran until she was blind again, but she was dimly aware of what the place had looked like on her way in and so she trusted to hope. She ran until could no longer tell which part of the enormous underground she was in. She could no longer hear the dragon. Her breath caught.


“Farell.” She breathed. “Farell? Are you near?”


She began creeping back towards where she had come. The dragon roared and she stopped dead in her tracks.


“Farell?”


She didn't want to leave Farell back there. She had already had to leave the others. Thinking of Jamie's death nearly made her cry, he'd protected her many times with that shield of his. It was large enough, and she small enough she could easily hide behind it with him. Avelin, she assumed he was dead. “I couldn't survive that, at least I don't think so.” Her words quivered in the still air. “Well, I'll head to the entrance, Farell knows how to get there. We'll meet up there. He's a good runner, not as good as me, but that's a big folk problem. Good thing I decided to grab a few things before I left, hmm?” She lit a tindertwig and drew an object from the pouch at her side.


It was a perfectly shaped, dark-red egg.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


The dragon's good eye glared menacingly at Farell.


“Come on then you giant red b*****d! Come and get Farell.”


It tried to draw a deep breath but it's wings scraped at the corridor was and it's head was kept low by the ceiling.


“Gonna burn me like ye did in there! Let me give you another kiss of steel before I go. Come on then, or do I have to come to you?”


Farell's hands were shaking violently. Sweat poured down his face, his bladder released. The dragon's breath smelled of sulfur. Like a blacksmiths fire untainted by wood or coal or stone. It was the smell of fire embodied.


The dragon reached a clawed hand towards Farell, he hacked at it but his blade merely skipped off the scales and the dragon backhanded him. He flew into the wall, his head making a sickening crack against the stone. He felt blood, hot blood running down the back of his neck. The man stood up, eyes watery, legs wavering.


“Run Evey.” He whispered. “Run.”


Something swam into view. The dragon moving closer? He blinked hard and wiped the tears from his eyes. He tried to focus, his head throbbing. A smaller dragon? The second dragon. Gods. The smaller dragon had plenty of room in the gigantic corridor. It flew at Farell and raked his chest and face with it's talons.


Farell screamed in agony. The dragon, now holding him down with one scythe-like claw, began slowly pressing it into Farell's chest. He screamed and kept screaming as the claw went through his leather and cut into his ribcage. He felt it scraped along a rib-bone and shear into his lung. His scream turned to a gurgle as blood filled his lungs. The dragon took a deep breath and arced flame directly into the man's face. Farell's legs quick kicking and his arms slumped to the ground.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Fresh air felt good. It was crisp and cool. To her surprise it was night. She did not know how long it had taken her to find her way back to the surface. She had not seen Farell. Her curiosity had abated, on her trip to the surface she had not stopped to throw anything into the pit. The kua-toa had been making odd slurping noises. As interesting as fighting a few of them would have been. She didn't want her egg, or anything else she'd filched from the dragon's lair to fall into their slimy hands.


Evelyn decided to hike a bit, to get above the cave, and camp for the night. She was pretty certain that her weariness was simply from worrying about Farell, and from seeing her friends die. She climbed above the cave and found a moss covered plateau small, but perfect for a single halfling to camp on. It was naturally concave, almost like a natural hammock. Eve settled into the soft moss, she used her cloak as a blanket. She pulled the egg from her pouch, it felt warm in her hand. Like a rock heated near a fire.


“I shall call you Juniper.”


© 2011 Paul Velora



Author's Note

Paul Velora
Just a bit of freewriting, getting ready for next semester.

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Featured Review

Wow dude. Your use of detail is excellent. At the beginning, detail helps draw you into the suspended reality of the story piece by piece, and offers you a sense of the characters. Once things get rolling, it gives you a real visceral sense of what's going on, and definitely heightens the reading experience. The fights were satisfyingly gruesome.

I played D&D in high school, so that story really brought me back, the fight scenes really reminded me of a good game. Sometimes I almost thing D&D adapts more easily to screenwriting that traditional prose however. Writing really visual, dynamic fight scenes is really fun, but everything in between requires a lot of change-- random encounters make sense when gaming but in prose suddenly every fight needs more set up and follow up for the reader to make sense of it. Why are those fish-things trying to kill everyone? It works in a D&D game, and in a horror movie (like that one about the Cave), but in writing i almost need more... are they hungry? are they known to inhabit those kinds of caves?

Also, i found myself wondering about the dragon. The fight with the dragon was really well done (it was awesome!), but I feel like if i got a stronger sense of fear and apprehension from the beginning, the pay off of the fight seen would have been even better.

Another challenge about adapting D&D style fantasy is that campaigns have a ton of characters with balanced focus, while prose sometimes demands one point of view at a time, and literary conventions (unfortunately) tend to favor a single protagonist/antagonist dyad. At the beginning you introduce a lot of characters really fast-- because they are all together of course. But I have to admit I got a bit lost trying to keep track of whose who... when a name popped up later I had to go back up to try to remember who that one was. I think that's another limitation of prose vs. screenwriting too-- you can't actually see the characters, so they need a little more time to settle in your mind. I wonder if you had started off a bit longer alone with Farrel (be it placing him physically alone or following him in his mind alone) then gradually introducing the other characters, not all at once, it would have been easier to keep track of who's who. It also would have strengthened the sense of relationships between the characters, making the end even more painful.

I know I offered a lot of constructive criticism, but on the whole that's a really excellent piece of freewriting, (I should probably be learning from you more than offering advice). I loved reading it! Thanks

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Wow dude. Your use of detail is excellent. At the beginning, detail helps draw you into the suspended reality of the story piece by piece, and offers you a sense of the characters. Once things get rolling, it gives you a real visceral sense of what's going on, and definitely heightens the reading experience. The fights were satisfyingly gruesome.

I played D&D in high school, so that story really brought me back, the fight scenes really reminded me of a good game. Sometimes I almost thing D&D adapts more easily to screenwriting that traditional prose however. Writing really visual, dynamic fight scenes is really fun, but everything in between requires a lot of change-- random encounters make sense when gaming but in prose suddenly every fight needs more set up and follow up for the reader to make sense of it. Why are those fish-things trying to kill everyone? It works in a D&D game, and in a horror movie (like that one about the Cave), but in writing i almost need more... are they hungry? are they known to inhabit those kinds of caves?

Also, i found myself wondering about the dragon. The fight with the dragon was really well done (it was awesome!), but I feel like if i got a stronger sense of fear and apprehension from the beginning, the pay off of the fight seen would have been even better.

Another challenge about adapting D&D style fantasy is that campaigns have a ton of characters with balanced focus, while prose sometimes demands one point of view at a time, and literary conventions (unfortunately) tend to favor a single protagonist/antagonist dyad. At the beginning you introduce a lot of characters really fast-- because they are all together of course. But I have to admit I got a bit lost trying to keep track of whose who... when a name popped up later I had to go back up to try to remember who that one was. I think that's another limitation of prose vs. screenwriting too-- you can't actually see the characters, so they need a little more time to settle in your mind. I wonder if you had started off a bit longer alone with Farrel (be it placing him physically alone or following him in his mind alone) then gradually introducing the other characters, not all at once, it would have been easier to keep track of who's who. It also would have strengthened the sense of relationships between the characters, making the end even more painful.

I know I offered a lot of constructive criticism, but on the whole that's a really excellent piece of freewriting, (I should probably be learning from you more than offering advice). I loved reading it! Thanks

Posted 5 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 8, 2011
Last Updated on January 8, 2011
Tags: Fantasy, Short-Story, Dragons, D&D

Author

Paul Velora
Paul Velora

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About
I wanna write... ...Everything, poetry, plays, operas, shows, movies, songs, ditties, motto's, hell ingredient lists if I have to. I want to be so wrapped up in words that they ooze out of my pores.. more..

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A Story by Paul Velora