I've had this in some other material, but it was hard to find or read that way, so here 'tis :)
Gwydion made his way through the heavily forested path. Young King Arthur’s companions lay encamped in the meandering swamps surrounding Avalon for the winter. The Saxons would not penetrate the mysts and the treacherous pathways without giving notice to Arthur’s recovering legions. The weather cooled as the young mage traveled northward, the undergrowth still somewhat green, it being shaded from the frosts by the thickened branches overhead. Gwydion bore a message to King Lot, overlord of Lothian, in the foothills separating upper England and Yorkshire from the wild land of the Scots.
The light woolen mantle was designed with enough folds to make a hood against the increasing cold and wind. The material was a bluish-gray color, much like the young druids eyes, and concealed him well in the lessening light. Underneath the mantle was an old roman breastplate of dulled bronze …a much worn reminder of an ancient army which had brought their own stamp of civilization upon the land. The legions left with the last contender for the roman purple, and did not return.
In the fallen leaves to his right behind the thick trunk the young mage heard the muffled sounds of thrashing. He pulled the weary war horse to halt-- this was no place for an ambush. The evening chill brought the horses breath in small clouds and Gwydion laid a hand across the stead’s warm neck to comfort him. The thrashing sounded like the kicking of a lamed doe, and briefly the thought of fresh venison caused the young man’s stomach to knot tightly. Too many days on lean rations made this too good an opportunity to let pass. Gwydion did not take time to question whether this was a gift from his own tribal goddesses or the gentle shepherd of the growing Christians in the Isle, but quietly slipped from his saddle and knocked an arrow to his bow.
The soft leather of his boots made no sound among the wet leaves, these were not the hard hob-nailed caligulas of a legionary, but the supple doe skin of a druid priest. The blue woad serpents tattoed on his forearms corded tightly as the bow was drawn, reminding him briefly of his duty to the great dragon of Britain, of the taking of life to give life in an unending path, and he silently offered thanks to the doe. He would take only what he needed and give the rest to the earth and forest.
Staying down wind he approached the thrashing, coming easily around a great beech tree to take aim at the center of the noise. His instinct had placed him well for a clear shot, but instead of looking into the deep brown eyes of a doe, he was caught instead by the even deeper brown pools of a dragon. Each of them froze. This was no dragon from his ancient religion, neither green nor gold with scales like armor, but a shimmering red, soft looking, supple and catlike in its movements. The saucered brown eyes were dulled in pain…both a wing and a leg looked badly broken, the creature had silently thrashed among the leaves in an attempt to free itself from an ugly pine branch which pinned it to the spot.
No sound was made, no offer of battle, but no look of pity either. There was proudness in the great serpent that lie before him, and neither fear nor panic. Gwydion lowered his bow. There was still no movement, the deep brown eyes seemed to look into his very soul.
“One is trapped.” a melodious voice softly echoed. The arrow fired dully into the damp earth as the young man’s grip let go in stunned surprise. “The language of the man-things are not beyond One…there is no danger.” Gwydion seemed to hear the voice twice, once with his ears, and once in his head. The dragon lay its head across it’s forepaws in a somewhat painful gesture.
Gwydion eased forward, cautiously, the battle between his curiosity and the urge to flee in full tilt. The compelling eyes of the dragon brought him closer. The branch was driven through the broken wing deep into the earth. The branching of the fork not only kept the wing from being removed, but had also roughly damaged it during the thrashing. Gwydion drew his sword and the serpent’s head drew quickly back with a soft hiss. “The branch,” Gwydion started, “I’ll have to cut it free.” The dragon laid her head back down to rest on her forepaws. “Her,” he thought, “the dragon is female and not very old.” Gwydion struck the branch swiftly with his tempered steel, the blade humming as it sheared the pine. Carefully he pulled the branch through the wing and the dragon gave an audible sigh... “One is thankful.”
A light snow had begun and darkness was beginning to settle heavily on the pair. “You can’t move like you are…I will make a litter…there is a cave not far from here.” Gwydion spoke in brief spurts, still not quite believing what he saw in front of him. Seeing a fire-breathing dragon after eating certain mushrooms was not uncommon among the druids, but this was quite something else.
Gwydion whistled for his war horse, which approached without hesitation, nodding to the beast before him and blowing a quick snort in greeting. The young mage quickly fashioned a litter and the pony sized dragon was pulled to the cave where Gwydion had planned to camp. With steel and flint he made a fire and began boiling different herbs for a poultice. The dragon remained quiet, her brown eyes calmly watching his every move, much like an overgrown housecat would watch the human she owned in the disinterested way of felines. The sleekness and dexterity of the animal kept bringing the thought to mind, and as he set the leg and poulticed the wing a deep purring from the beast contended against the wail of the wind outside.
Gwydion went back to the fire, the dragoness still calmly watching him. “One’s mate will come. He will slay you,” she said. Then, very catlike, she arched her back, yawned and stretched her claws…and went to sleep. Slack-jawed, the young companion of the brave King Arthur simply stared.
Early the next morning he and the war horse made their way across the new snow and tracked a deer which he brought luckily down with just one arrow and no chase. They carried the animal back to the cave where he selected parts for his own future meals and gave the remainder to the dragoness. Again he noticed the catlike manner in which she batted her meal about and then settled down amidst great purring to eat. He changed the dressings and poultices again. “You are not of this land, Dragoness,” he mused. “No, One is from very far away,” she replied. She told him of a land with a great wall stretched across it, and great cities, where, like Britain, the dragon was honored and revered. Gwydion’s mind was filled with pictures of strangely armored men with even stranger helmets and swords who spoke quickly to one another in sing-song cadences.
The next few weeks were spent in the exchanging of stories. Gwydion told her of the land and its struggle, of the great ring of stones where the druids met and the dragon was worshiped, of the stars over Britain, and of the lands before them that drowned in the sea. He played a small harp before the fire to pass the time away, with the dragon’s sleek head resting on his shoulder, adding her purrs to the strumming of the harp.
“Does One have a mate?” the dragoness purred. “No,” Gwydion was slow to answer, and finally spoke of the red-haired green eyed willowy lass who had come from across the Irish Sea to become a priestess at Avalon. How they shared time as both friends and lovers. He spoke of the young man who had come in from the fens as the Year King to make the great marriage with the land and how Diedre had caught his eye and had given herself to him as the Spring Maiden. His voice became somewhat softer and lower when he spoke of the rituals of the Holy Isle, that Diedre could not simply go with the Year King, but that the Year King would have to fight for her. The dragoness sensed the dilemma in the tone of Gwydion’s voice…the Year King would fight him to the death for the right to Diedre, but Gwydion would not be able to kill the Year King…Diedre loved him. They were friends before they were lovers…. Gwydion left his druid robe and his life behind in dishonor and set off. He would find a new life in Arthur’s legion. He spoke brightly of the brotherhood of mounted knights that Arthur had trained, of his best of friends Pelli and Cai, and how they all loved Arthur, of the great round mead hall table that they had captured from a Saxon chief, and how they would built a castle around it and tell their tales when the land was at peace. Gwydion and his dragoness sang and storied the days away and the cavern echoed with gaiety and laughter.
Gwydion woke to the nudgings of his old war horse and with the chilling sense of alarm. The very air vibrated with the heavy beat of wings, dust and smoke filled the cavern as an enormous winged mass blotted light from the entrance of the cave. Small rocks tumbled and the floor trembled as the double-head of a monstrous griffin shrieked forward into the cavern. It’s talons tore the earth as it forced its way deeper into mouth of their winter’s home. The dragoness looked pained “One has let you linger too long, One’s mate has come.” Gwydion looked briefly at his small dragoness, grinned and shrugged “I thought it a jest.” Quickly he snatched sword and a small round shield. The beak of one head smacked against the shield, his sword glancing sharply off the other. The heads reared back and one of the talons ripped across his breast plate with a screech. The cavern constricted the wings, but the shrieks of the double heads made the young mage wince. The men of Cornwall carried the figure of a griffin on their standards that resembled this beast. Gwydion had considered the totem from the dour rocky coasts to be another myth, like harpis or the fabled phoenix. But by all the gods the furor coming against him now was no myth. Beaks smashed against shield and sword parried against slashing talons as Gwydion was forced further back into the cavern. His war horse lay smashed against the rocks, ripped and shredded, the embers of the fire glowing hotly as they sailed through the roaring air. Gwydion struck for the head but was jarred to his teeth as talons tore through shield and into his arm and hand. He struck the rock floor, his sword flying, his mouth wide as he gasped for breath that was no longer there. The griffin was caught in his shield and not being able to withdraw pressed more tightly against him. Gwydion braced his arm under the beak of one head and forced it back, but the other head dove in attack and battered at his breast plate in an effort to take his throat. Only the distance Gwydion could keep against the one head kept the other from finishing the fight. Sweat and dirt stung his eyes and the pressure increased, his head thrummed from the screeching and the lack of breath as his breast plate was beaten down closer against his chest.
An angry hiss joined the other noises in the cavern and the talon pierced shield was torn out of his grip. Gwydion sputtered and kicked his way backwards against the rocks and caught his breath. With huge wrecking gasps he wiped the dirt from his eyes and face to see the young dragoness baiting the griffin out of the cavern with her life. Still lame she spit and struck and clawed, but her soft flesh was no match against the razor sharp talons. They clutched at her breast while beaks gouged savagely at her. “Noooo!” Gwydion guttered from deep within his throat, caught up his dagger and threw himself against the griffin. He buried one hand into a host of feathers and the other buried the dagger into the back of the griffin’s neck. He struck again and again with blind savagery until the beast collapsed.
He eased the wounded dragoness into his arms and carried her back into the cave, her breathing ragged and shallow. He held her head gently in his lap and began to cry. The dragoness opened her great brown eyes and looked at him tenderly… “One wondered if you had learned at last to fight for what you love.” He held her head tighter to his breast with great shuddering tears, “Yes, I learn slowly, but I learn.”
As the tears fell from his eyes they caressed the form of the young creature, they melted away the red skin and the soft scales, drop by precious drop they washed away the outer features of the dragoness and her wounds. But Gwydion saw not, his eyes were red and raw and blurred with the tears of his sorrow.
Gwydion felt a differing warmth in his hands and opened his eyes. There now in his lap and against his breast was an angelic figure much his own size, with long dark hair and rose bud lips. Her outer garment was no longer soft red skin with scales, but a long silken gown with the same red hue, with small figurines of the dragon that he had known patterned into the fabric. Instead of paws there were delicate hands the color of cream that rested gently against his chest, and her breasts rose and fell with soft warm air. She looked up at him with eyes of deep brown, eyes full of calmness that had looked deep into his soul that same first winter’s day in the wood. They kissed.
“Does One have a mate?” she purred. He looked down at his angel, “Yes,” he smiled. and held her closer.
They say that on a bright star lit night that Orion sweeps across the southern ecliptic of the sky. They say if you watch Orion closely enough that he will show you a painting among the stars. In the painting among the stars, they say, you can see young Gwydion…. holding his Angel, for ever, and ever, and ever.
By Silk on Friday, February 14, 2003 - 08:28 pm:
Superb!!! Absolutely superb!
By Accasbel on Friday, February 14, 2003 - 09:46 pm:
You may not breathe fire, but you certainly breathe warm air.
(And sometimes heavily :)
By Gwydion on Wednesday, February 19, 2003 - 07:12 pm:
*grin* thanx one and all :)
By Gwydion on Tuesday, December 23, 2003 - 09:32 pm:
Published! I can't believe it :) One of the local publishers sponsored a short story contest, so I chopped it down a little and submitted it. I didn't win any money *sigh* but it was accepted for publication. I even got to sit down to a book signing at a local book store last night. *while visions of nubile story fans danced in his head* ohh, I mean sugar plums :)
By Silk on Wednesday, December 24, 2003 - 01:20 am:
WAY TO GO GWYD!!!! Christmas came early for you by the sounds! Well done and congratulations! *high five*
So where can nOggers purchase a copy? Are you going to have a website to promote and sell your work?
Alternatively, what's your publisher's name so we can all order our copy of Dragoness!?
...signed of course Gwyd! :)
Have a great Christmas and a productive new year!
By Guest on Saturday, December 27, 2003 - 07:32 pm:
Way to go Gwy
By Ghost on Sunday, December 28, 2003 - 09:32 pm:
Well done, You can't buy a Christmas present better than that !!
Congratulations and enjoy the fame!!
By Gwydion on Monday, December 29, 2003 - 06:04 pm:
*grins, makes sweeping bow* Well, not too much fame to enjoy, and certainly no money, but what the heck :) The publishers site is www.mspbooks.com and the title is Trail of Tales: Talent Among Us III
It's one of the 15 stories they selected, and then they left room for some of their 'feature' writers. I think they're supposed to update the webpage sometime to include the writer's names. They've got a few pictures out from the signing, but of course I don't show up in any of them *giggle, that's the way my luck generally runs*.
Big thanx goes to Accasbel for giving us a spot to try out our fledgling talents :) I know I wouldn't have been brave enough for a contest if I hadn't tried it out here first. *Drinks toast to the Tir*
By Silk on Monday, December 29, 2003 - 09:29 pm:
Well put Gwyd!!! *also raises glass to Acc, for supplying space and site and encouragement to freedom of expression and a space to hang out when lonely!*
All the more reason for all 'nOggers to support the site...Tis a gift that goes on giving!