The two kings

The two kings

A Story by Crashbang
"

The King of Men and the King of Dragons play chess, and their memories reside in the pieces. But what are the consequences for the victor and the defeated?

"

Ke’man’de’harlan...”

Methridas, king of dragons watched upon the young man before him, its forked black tail flicking back and forth, back and forth through the thin cold air. A long white snout pressed towards the war scarred veteran. It's eyes were black and appeared to the man to be eternal, endless, omniscient.
Leo stared back into those knowing eyes, watching and waiting, observing the stone yet feathery plates that rippled and ground together across the dragons back. Methridas' long neck stretched across and above the stone table, grasping its sides with diamond hard claws that could have torn the table in half, if it had wanted to.
Leo simply watched. Any other place then here, and he would have unsheathed his sword.

He could understand Methridas, which stunned him. No-one had ever talked to a dragon before, at least, not in his lifetime. He had merely heard legend of great kings who could.
He, Leo of Phoenix, understood the dragon perfectly. Could hear the dragon's rustic, rippling tones and decode them almost instantly.

‘We spin the table...’
The claws flicked, and with a grating sound and growl, the dragon whipped the table, spinning it on the stone base. As Methridas stood back from the slowly revolving table of chequered black and white the dragons wings twitched, shaking off a few stray snowflakes which began to layer the dragons back with another coating of white.

The table continued to spin. Two of it's sides were lined with egg like rocks, sixteen on each side in all. One side white rocks. One side black.
After a few moments, it stopped with a click.
Leo had the black pieces on his side. He faced the white pieces.
‘So it is.’ Methridas moved closer to the table, his gigantic form looming over the table, his front claws planted either side.
‘White goes first.’ Leo indicated toward his opponent with a simple flick of the fingers.
Methridas brushed a claw delicately against the edge of his side.
His pieces began to crack, fracturing from head to toe of every piece like eggs. So too, did the Kings.
Out of the dragons breaking pieces sprang dragons of all kinds. Every dragon that populated the haunted mountains was represented, arrayed on that table.
Opposite them, emerging from the cracked shells of the chess pieces, were statue like pieces of Leo's army which had tried to destroy them.

-----------------------------

A long time ago, the wind howled in the mountains.
It ripped across narrow passes, freezing moisture, guaranteeing a plummeting death to anyone who slipped just once.
But the woman making her way up the mountain path could not afford to slip. She would soon be going into labour.
A call floated across the wind to her. She looked up and around, fearing that angered voice that carried across the chasms and snow. Calling her...
She hurried onwards. Her robes, carrying insignias of the royal crown, gave way to a large and noticeable bump that pushed outwards from her stomach. With one hand she cradled this precious bundle, the other clutched around a small leather bound package.
More calls followed. Echoes from far below, but still, much too close. And suddenly, the young mothers water broke.
She was still going up the mountainside, despite the fear of that dagger-esque cold.
I’m having a baby...I am having a baby with no aid or maid to ease me through it!
As if the gods were smiling on her, luck came as she thought those despairing words. A cave entrance, hidden well in a cliff side cul de sac. Yet inexplicably, she had noticed it through the blistering snow fall...

Hours had passed, and she was screaming.
She didn’t care any more, didn’t care about hiding from the king and his soldiers. She had pushed and pushed, but the baby refused to leave her womb, and she almost wanted her kingly husband to find her...just so he could help expel his cursed child!
She had had no choice but to light a fire in the cave as she laboured. Parchment from her satchel, cloth torn from other expensive clothes gifted to her, flints used to desperately try to light it. Eventually in her agony she had succeeded, and the rocky gloom of the cave as cast into dim amber light.
And as the fire grew, and after all the pushing she finally felt her womb begin to give, she saw the fire reflect off something in the dark.
It didn’t matter. She felt that she needed to push...a last time.
Finally the child came. The mother breathed heavily, in ecstasy now her child was born.
Her child wasn’t even crying. His eyes were closed. Strands of hair clung to the boys wet head, the umbilical chord trailing through the cave dust. He was smiling...
He was perfect.
The mother, weakened from the child birth, folded the babe in sheets from her satchel, ones that hadn’t been torn for the fire. She cut the umbilical chord with a knife, cradling the babe in her arms after casting the chord aside.
But there was something in the dark, that caught her attention. Light from the fire flickered off its shiny surface...like a rock...like.
Hypnotised, she laid the babe aside. The babe still not crying.
She crawled on all fours into the shadow, reaching out for the shining rock in the dark.
One of her fingers brushed the hard, smooth surface of the thing.


A screeching roar tore through the cave air, .
There had been a dragon in that cave that day. An old one, sleeping its remaining decades away.
But when it's egg was threatened...
A scaled, armoured head leered into the light, its sharp hooked face gleaming the colour of flame. Beady red slitted eyes staring down at its new prey with something like desperate, feral rage.
She couldn’t even scream before the dragon sank huge barbed fangs into her chest, picking her up like a rag doll and shaking wildly. Blood splattered the floor as the fangs sunk into the mothers back and chest, and she cried as her life blood slipped away, her ribs crushed and splintering with every second.
She slipped a hand into the package she always kept close. A gunpowder pistol emerged; something the mother had taken care to keep dry in the cold and wet outside.
With a dull bang, the dragon fell to the ground. A hole through its unprotected chin and into its brain.
The dragon didn’t move. Neither did the human mother.
They both lay in the fire light, lifeless.
The baby boy still didn’t cry. The boy still didn't move.

Soon, the egg began to break.
Every so often its surface would splinter. Flakes of the rock would fall away, the flakes growing bigger and bigger until the egg previous smooth sheen was replaced with a scaly surface, bigger and bigger shards falling away, scattering the cave floor.
Finally, the egg surface was smashed apart.

A baby dragon flopped out close to the flickering flames, cawing raspily. Like a lizard with feathery scales and tiny, useless wings. It flopped around on it's back for a moment, it's caws growing louder until the ground fell away sightly beneath it, flipping the babe onto his back.
Away in the shadows its mother faded into dust and then into nothing, unnoticed by the little baby dragon.
The hatchling was all white at this early age, a mere ghost created by the light. Its pale white skin would become rock hard carapace, but for now its belly scratched against the stone as it scuttled over to the dead woman.
It sniffed at the blood, and then at her face. With sharp fangs the young dragon tore away her nose and chewed it enthusiastically in its few sharp teeth.

Suddenly the young dragon turned away from its meal.
A baby was there, lying in the rags a short distance away. Not crying. Not breathing.
The white dragon scuttled over, sniffing at the other baby curiously. Sniffing at the baby's face, breathing up the babes nose.
The baby coughed and spluttered, before starting to cry as if stung. The little dragon backed away in surprise, bleating for help from this new unknown threat.
There were voices outside the cave.
The cul de sac entrance burst into violently bright light. The baby dragon averted it's gaze from the cave entrance.

Three men stood there. One heavily cloaked in finely stitched garments, royal insignias on everything he wore, a ball of blazing light hovering in-between his two hands. Two guards, one to either side, wearing what looked like feather cloaks, finely crafted two handed spears in hand.
They took in the scene immediately. A dragon about to pounce on a new born child, the boys dead mother lying in her blood. The kings fiancé.
‘Kill it.’ The king said.
One guard threw his spear, the blade whistling through the air as it smoothly glided towards its target. It nicked the dragons leg as it bolted, spattering more blood over the gruesome scene. But the little white dragon was away, bleating in distress as it fled deeper into the cave.
‘Go after it!’ The king shouted at the guard who missed his assassination attempt
. ‘I want its head on the doors of Ferast!’
The guard ran down the tunnel after it, seeming to fly at blinding speed down the cave. But he wouldn’t catch the little dragon.
The king looked towards the child, which his other guard had abandoned his spear to pick up.
‘Take him to the maidens in the valley.’ The king flapped a dismissive hand at the child. ‘I want him checked. If he is insufficient, leave him in the snow.’
‘Leave the woman here. She is a traitor to the crown...’
The King turned and walked back into the snow storm.

--------------------------------

Leo moved around the table, checking the angles and the possible moves. He reached out and grasped a bishop – looking like an eagle rider - upon the stone chequered table, moving it diagonally onto a black knight square. It didn’t look like a knight – it was one of the wyvern, agile rulers of the mountain skies – or, at least, they were.
In that moment, Leo remembered vividly, watching an eagle rider in the sky, duelling with wyverns. The massive golden bird had its beak around the brown wyverns long thin neck – and was snapping it. The wyvern was plummeting down into the mountains, as Leo had marched-

He suddenly noticed the white wyvern knight had disappeared. His bishop, the eagle rider, stood in its place. So had happened to most of the pieces.
Each brought back memories, mostly of the battle just passed, that final, apocalyptic battle.
Some of the exchanges brought back other memories, memories Leo didn’t even know he had.
He looked up at the dragon. It clicked its talons on the edge of the table, stretching its wings out behind it.
Familiar, is it not?
Leo looked up into Methridas’ white eyes.
This tablet is memory. It is our lives. For all of our lives we have been the commanders while aides have perished around us. Said in its otherworldly tone, a dark sadness in its deep throated language.
The dragon grasped his queen, the two headed sky dragon. It had been myth. Mere legend, even to those who kept watch on the mountains and the dragon lairs. Untill today.
We are the kings, surveying our troops. They fall while we survive.
It’s talons moved the queen, diagonally, into a pawn exposed by his bishops move.
A flashback came to Leo again. The twin headed dragon had plunged down from the clouds, and with a violent flash of light and an etherly roar...
Leo opened his eyes. He saw the two headed dragon, where his pawn was.
Methridas had lost both bishops, one knight, and a few pawns. But Leo had lost his queen to one of the knights, a wyvern very early on. And Methridas still had his queen, the twin headed dragon.

-----------------------------

‘My lord, where are you going? My lord!’
Too late. Leo, prince of Ferast literally flew down the hill side. It didn’t matter that it was too steep for any man- his cloak saw to that. It was magically bound- he could literally run down the mountainside without losing balance or falling. And it was useful for getting away from the hunting party. All he’d to do was hide it beneath his royal robes.
A hunting party was no way to hunt anyway. Better to hunt alone, in the lower regions of the forest.
Where it was more dangerous.

Ignoring the calls from the higher forest above, he pulled out his bow and moved into the gigantic lower forest.
Leo wanted a Springers head to add to his room wall. It would keep his father happy for a while, at least. Springers were notoriously hard to catch, very smart, quick to attack if cornered. But with his cloak and bow? There was no vex to be had. It was a bow of the whipping leaf branch. The enchanted arrows would hit what you aimed at, so if you could an insect, you would hit an insect.
He saw something flit by a stray beam of light piercing the canopy. He turned his bow towards the source, then this way and that, hoping it had stopped close by.
He saw it. It ran away, blindingly fast. Springer.
Leo bolted into pursuit, his feet literally like the wind. He flew with his speed through the trees, following the springer, watching its movement to see which way it darted next, and-
Stopping in the next clearing as what he saw stunned him.
The springer was being dragged upwards by its neck, killed stone dead by the jaws that wrapped its neck. Dragged upwards into what looked like a nest. A huge nest, like a platform in the trees above. The tree trunk having been ripped away to make way for the platform.

But that wasn’t what Leo noticed first.
It was the long neck, the savage spiked head that withdrew up towards the nest with its prize.
Dragon.
It dragged the springer up towards its nest, its fangs sinking deep into the dead springers neck as it pulled the previously elusive creature up to its nest. Black, white and brown tinged carapace rippled along its back as the spinger finally reached the nest, made up of destroyed trees smashed and crushed, brutally ripped apart.
Leo slowly tried to nock his bow, eyeing the massive beast too distracted with its next meal to notice the young but ambitious hunter.
‘LEO!’
The dragon looked up from its new meal. Leered downward at the newcomer to its lair.
It scuttled out of its nest and moved downwards, keeping its eyes on Leo.
As the predator touched its first paw on the forest grass, Leo saw the scar on its left foot.
Suddenly he remembered what his father had told him.

The dragon in the cave...

‘You...You killed my mother...’ Leo whispered, watching the taloned paw with the scar, a pulsing bubbly wound.
The dragon stopped on the spot. It’s slit eyes narrowed further, and it growled in its grated tone.
‘Karmafelarken.’ It hissed.
Then it lunged. Leo didn’t know whether he screamed or not- it didn’t matter at the time.
The dragon didn’t touch him. It sprung away, and was gone with barely a sound.
Leo looked about for it, knowing it would have been such a kill. Yet he may as well have hunted an ant in long grass – it was as well fled as it could be.
'LEO!’
Leo looked up, his fear resurgent.
His father, the king, was walking up to him.
The next thing Leo felt was the grassy floor beneath his head a few seconds later. The side of his face burned like a hot poker. A familiar feeling...
‘Never before did I encounter such an idiotic boy.’ His father snapped unmercifully at him, dragging him back up onto his feet. ‘You expect to leave the hunting party and garner yourself a kill down here?’ His father laughed, snidely. ‘I expected you to be speared on a branch more than spear a springer with your shite shot. Shame you were not speared.’
Leo watched his father with bitter resentment.
‘But what is this you have wandered across here?’ His father asked, looking up at the dragons platform.
‘Nothing.’ Leo muttered.
‘IT DOESNT LOOK LIKE NOTHING, YOU INSOLENT LITTLE SQUIRT!’ His father screamed in his direction. Then he turned away, his cloak sweeping behind the king as he leapt and landed on the platform.
‘ Great beasts of the sky...’ Leo heard him mutter. ‘GET UP HERE WORM!’
Leo was there in a leap, his feet like feathers on the back of his cloak, knowing it would not be good.
‘A dragons egg...’ His father muttered.

He hit Leo across the face again, his gauntleted hand sending Leo sprawling across the platform.
Leo didn’t try to get up, or even open his eyes. He didn’t want to be struck down again for his trouble. Instead he listened, his heart hammering as he listened to his fathers heavy bootsteps...
‘For so long I’ve had to put up with you. So long...but no longer. Not with a demi-god as my own...’ Through a squinting eye Leo watched his father pick up the egg, mesmerised by its smoothness, its priceless fee, its unyielding black.
‘What little use I have for a son when I can rule immortal with a dragon by my side...’
He watched his father unsheathe a bow. Only it was no ordinary bow. Long blades extended from top and bottom of its carved runic structure.
‘My son, you have been killed by this eggs accursed mother, and I was too late to save you, although I did succeed in slaying the monstrous tyrant that spawned this egg.’ His gleaming eyes focused on Leo’s face with a look that made Leo's tiny heart thump ever faster.
‘Time to meet your mother.’ Father whispered.

Methridas unnoticed, cast off its camouflage like it was a simple cloak. It was clinging to the edge of the high nest, slit eyes wide.
It's roar was a thing that tore through Leo's soul. A thing that flickered the leaves in the trees around, and shivered the branches.
Leo’s father yelled similarly as he swept around to focus his bows aim on the dragon, the blade on the end of his bow slicing into the egg dropped at his feet.
Mucous liquid spilt out of the black shell, spilling over his fathers leg.
As Leo rolled away his father screamed, the liquid eating past the leather and into his skin. He stumbled around the nest, trying desperately to get the mucus off his leg, only for it to begin eating into his hands.
Leo watched his father flail. Part of him hoped he would trip and fall. He would feel the guilt for the rest of his life.
Leo's father did trip. His half eaten boots snagged on a branch unknitted into the huge nest, and he fell.
He fell away from the nest.
Leo heard the crack. It was all he needed to hear.
He got up and turned face to face with the dragon.
It started up at him.
It cried. Cried out to the skies, a grating howl of mourning.
And then it flew away, wings beating air onto Leo’s head as he watched it disappear into the clouds above.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

The death, Methridas knew, would stop here.
Among its brethren, the mysterious creatures which lived in the haunted mounts and the forests in the valley below, the white dragon was a young king. It had never understood precisely how. It was just the way it was.
Methridas did however understand many things. The bond of kings. The fateful chessboard, and all it meant and did. Beyond this day and year, many generations in the past the board had ended wars, and it would many more times. Because that was just the way it was. Races rose, and fell. Great civilisations would crumble in mere years. Kings would rise, and fall, and die.
Methridas had let the young king declare war, and it had let the kings armies tear through the forest valleys. Leo gained that savagery from his own father, although Methridas would not tell the young King this.
The white dragon had even let dragons die – and dragons were precious. It's brethren were powerful, of limitless potential, but they grew slowly, very slowly, like forests grew across landscapes.
Methridas had almost let an entire race die. Simply because, that was the way it was supposed to be.
Now the dragon wondered as his queen the twin dragon moved across the board, which king would be the last soul to die here at the table.
It seemed the board favoured the dragon
------------------------------.


The dragons queen, the two headed dragon, destroyed his bishop. Then his rook. It had destroyed everything. Leo had been unable to stop it.
On the battle of the stone table, there were but a few combatants remaining.
Two kings. One king of men. Another the king of dragons.
The king of dragons was joined by the two headed dragon. It cast a shadow over the chess board, an ominous darkness over Leo's one remaining piece.
‘I know what Karmafelarken means.’ Leo said, looking up at Methridas.
Death makes no barters.’ The dragon replied.
‘If your death comes, your death comes.’ Leo followed.
At that moment, the cloud above them split open.
Down through the clouds came the two headed dragon.
It was the colour of the clouds, gills like a fish next to its two, small heads. Massive wings folded as it sat on a smooth rock overlooking the table, its titanic form casting shade over the chessboard and both combatants, before all was relit by the simple light of the twin dragons breath, blazing like the sun...
Leo had lost this battle of chess. Just like the one he had lost far below.

---------------------------
'Steel your hearts men!' Leo screamed. 'Steel them in the face of hell!'
War raged around him as he kneeled in the dust. His knights used rifles and sword and shield to fight the waves of dragons that came from above, their talons scything at horse legs or knight plating.
Above that deep valley battlefield, eagle riders dueled with their counterparts. For every five eagle riders that fell they could kill one dragon, and they would still be victorious.
But Leo screamed into the night sky because painful tears dripped down his face like acid.
He clutched a woman in his arms. Her breast plate shorn open by a casual flick of a claw, blood dribbling from her beautiful lips, her beautiful eyes glazing and her beautiful face grimy with Leo's fingers which stroked her, grimy with his tears.
I love you...I love you... Leo found his words weakened by sobs.

Foot soldiers charged past him, arrows at the ready. Soldiers of phoenix flew past him at blinding speeds to join the fight, their cloaks carrying them across the swirling wind. Their battle cries mixed with the draconic screeching that rippled the air, Leo's ears feeling numb from the cacophony.
Then, one screech thundered across the air, louder then all others. Grander, then all of the other dragons.
The etherly roar. The one which reverberated through body, soul and mind.
The one which announced the coming of the twain headed dragon.
Down through the darkening clouds it swooped, graceful, slow like a cloud. It's body largely black in the face of the sunlight. One head, had one sideways looking slitted eye. The others eye was bulbous, yet it was almost peaceful. The way the dragon swooped through the skies, its monstrous form eclipsing all upon the battlefield below. Its four wings catching wind currents, carrying the gargantuan creature effortlessly through the air...
Men stared up from their fighting. Dragons looked toward the high dragon for an instant, before to a one like a flock of birds they flew away, scattering north, south, east, west.
Leo saw his men drop weapons and fall to their knees in disbelief, perhaps surrendering even as others shrieked their defiance – yet the creature just hung in the sky beneath the low cloud, observing the insect like people below. Arguably the greatest army ever seen on a battlefield stared up at this one dragon in awe, stared at a dragon which hadn't been seen in more then a century.
Leo didn't care.
Then the creature roared. It's two jaws opened impossibly wide as it circled above, and It's new roar was like an explosion.
The fire erupted from it's two mouths, like rain. A rain of apocalyptic lava upon the world. A waterfall of boiling embers plunging down upon the king. Upon the king's army.
Around him, his army screamed. Leo could do nothing but watch as they melted away like dust. Could do nothing but scream as his queen, her face pale and dead, turned to ashes in the heat.
Yet Leo was untouched. He still felt the cold of the mountain, even as his army melted around him.
A few moments later, the fire stopped.

Leo opened his eyes to see nothing but dust. Coiling ash. Bones.
He stood up. He could now feel the heat – although it had died down, the air was still hot as he breathed it down his throat, mixing with the ash, choking him.
Leo coughed as he stumbled onward. The dust and ash began to settle. The king's army lay still.
Leo looked up into the sky to see the twain headed dragon gone.
Leo wandered onward. His metal boots kicked up dust and ash. The landscape about him was blackened with the dust.
The king, the dragon slayer, wandered onward.
Hours passed. The sun was beginning to drop out of the sky, sinking toward the mountains. Leo strode ever upward.
The clouds dropped to meet him.
Leo unsheathed his sword as he walked.
Then he tossed it aside. He had dropped his shield when Elena, his queen had fallen. He hadn't bothered to pick it up.
Leo continued to climb.
The clouds fell away, and then he could see all before him. The towering rock, which towered in a circle around an arena of flat stone.
In the middle of the arena was the chequered stone table.
But that wasn't the first thing he saw.

Methridas, king of dragons lay across the arena. Its deep slitted eyes watching Leo on the cliff over the arena. As if the monster had known Leo would arrive, had always known.
Leo accepted it easily.
He walked down the rocky path toward the dragon. There to play out the two's first and last battle.

---------------------------
Now Leo stood, ready to die.
That was the barter. That was what would end the battle, and the war between dragon and man.
Leo’s king was trapped. Cornered against the side of the chess board. The two headed dragon ready to make his last strike.
Just one move left.
Yet Methridas didn’t make the move. He stared down at Leo.
Our lives are on this table, those surrounding us fall. So have been our lives. From birth to this table.
Yet we never fall. We can only watch as those we are bound to fade away while we remain, battling until all stars go out...’
The dragons claws moved toward the two headed dragon. Claws locked around the finely crafted chess piece.
The twin headed dragon roared its victory to the skies, it immolating breath bursting out of its throat and evaporating cloud air.
Checkmate.

No.
The queen had not moved onto the right space. The two headed dragon instead was moved next to Leo’s king. Ready for capture.
Leo took the queen with his king, half expecting to be incinerated as he looked up at the twin headed dragon, wondering what would happen next.
So it ends.’ Methridas grated in his ancient language.
The twin headed dragon looked down upon the battlefield with knowing in each of its four eyes. Standing to attention as its skin began to glow, brighter and brighter like the sun had come to earth.
Then it roared, its last last roar for many decades to come.
Strands of light began to separate from the dragons body, drifting into the clouds above. It was as if the twin headed dragon was turning to sun dust, its body simply drifting to the sky. Its ear-splitting roar rumbled across the skies, for many leagues, as the last of it disappeared into the cloud line above. There to make the sun ever brighter...for a while at least.

The two kings stood silent.
The two kings stood alone on the table.
The battle was stalemated.
‘Why?’ Leo asked. ‘Why would you spare my life?’
Methridas leaned towards the little king. His claws brushed the cracks in the stone ground they stood upon, which seemed to suddenly fill with growing weeds.
‘Death...’
The dragon rumbled. ‘Too easily a second resort...too easy to sit back and see it happen around...’
‘You are sparing me...’ King said, sheathing his sword and watching life grow from the stone beneath him, cracking open ancient stone in its urgency.
‘No...I am sparing both of us...’
The two kings retreated to their original positions. Each Shrinking into the egg it had been, along with the rest of the piece which now reappeared to the table, rising out of the squares of the stone table.
‘So it is.’
So it is...’


 

© 2009 Crashbang


Author's Note

Crashbang
This is one of a few stories that I'm looking to publish, so enjoy!

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Reviews

Hi, this is a little but strange but I really interested bay the reasons you named the king "Methridas". Is it a hazard or anything else ? Could tou tell me more about this ? Thanks a lot

Posted 11 Years Ago


Wow this was great! It pulls you in right from the start. You have good grammar and punctuation. Although in some places you did repeat some words a little frequently. "The Springer" appears a lot in the same paragraph. Other than that it was very well done. Great Job!

~Wolfbaby

Posted 13 Years Ago



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Added on December 4, 2009

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Crashbang
Crashbang

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Hi, my names Rob, and I am working towards being a writer, be it screen writing or novel writing. I always look to write originally, am always looking to improve. My writing is highly versatile - I ha.. more..

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