The wind ruffled through Beddigan’s fur as he crouched against the smooth rock-face, eyes never leaving the inky dark mouth of the cave. Moments before, the lumbering bulk of the dragon, dubbed Galantus by the villagers of Windermere, had landed on the bluff and stalked into its home. Little did the dragon know that Beddigan T. Mouze had already been inside to set a trap to finally rid Windermere of the winged beast. One hand on the hilt of his sword, Beddigan crouched frozen like a statue, waiting for the boom of the triggered explosion and the howl of the dragon.
Time passed. Too much time. Straightening, he stepped towards the cave, brow furrowed. By now, he should have been well on his way down the mountain to collect his fee from the thankful villagers. Creeping towards the cave, he kept his ears perked for any sound of movement. Silence was all that met him. Stifling a growl he pulled out his light crystal from his pocket, and affixed it to his leather gauntlet, tapping it until a soft glow of green light penetrated the darkness of the cave. Stepping slowly and surely, he winced when the leather of his boots creaked softly. He inwardly scolded himself for not having oiled them properly after his last adventure.
Soon, the hulking form of the slumbering dragon appeared in the faint glow of his light. The iridescent scales of the beast shimmered and glowed as if lit from within. Beddigan froze, extinguishing his light crystal and plunging them both into darkness, for fear of waking Galantus. He stood stiffly, hand firmly on his sword and waited for any sign that the dragon would wake. After a long stretch in the darkness he tapped his light crystal back on and crept behind a spire of rock. From this angle he couldn’t see the dragon’s face. Galantus must have narrowly missed the triggers for the carefully packed and placed explosive crystals when he had lain down. Stepping around the spire he squinted, searching until he saw the tiny pink telltale marks of the explosives near the dragons tail, foot, and neck. Beddigan’s lip curled in a silent snarl of frustration. It should have been an easy end to this adventure. It had taken him time and coin of his own to put together the plan that would earn him enough to take a vacation. An explosion, a dragon buried in rubble, and him with his feet up and a few tankards of ale, counting out his fee gleefully.
Extinguishing the light again, he moved quickly out of the cave, blinking in the bright sunlight as his eyes adjusted.
“Okay Beddigan.. what in this Warbler’s Cursed world do you do now?!” He snarled, pacing around on the bluffs. He angrily kicked a rock off the edge of the ledge and listened while it tinked and thunked down the mountain slope. His eyes settled on a much larger rock, this one about the size of his fist, and an idea was born. He picked up the small boulder and tested its weight. It would be risky. He would have only one shot. It was dangerous. Even if it worked, the chances of being caught in the explosion were much higher this way. It either worked, or he ended up on the business end of a very angry dragon, who had proved his zeal for mouse flesh. Beddigan turned towards the cave, gripping the rock tightly. “May Annilose watch over me.” he muttered the prayer, stepping into the mouth of the cave. He closed his eyes, listening to the dragon’s heavy breathing. He visualized where he was in relation to the undetonated explosive crystals. Tucking the rock into the crook of his arm, he carefully loosened his light crystal from his gauntlet. Taking a deep breath, he activated the crystal to its brightest setting and tossed it into the cave, praying it would provide enough light for him to see his target. Eyes locking on a pink flicker, Beddigan heaved the rock into the cave, just as the dragon stirred, its head whipping around; golden eyes locked on him.
He leapt to the side, trying to escape the mouth of the cave an explosion shook, and the dragon roared. Rock exploded off of the cliff face as the other crystals triggered. Beddigan tucked himself into a ball and covered his head and neck with his arms, waiting for the explosions to stop. He waited several moments before lifting his head. Standing and shaking the rubble from his body, he crept towards the mouth of the cave. Huge slabs of sandstone, broken and jagged, filled the entryway into the cave completely. He leaned forward and listened carefully for any sounds of life within. After a few moments he stepped away, looking out over the forest below, towards the little village with its brightly coloured roofs, with a satisfying grin. I can cross dragon slayer off of my bucket list, he thought, as he started to make his way down the mountain.
Later that evening, after being greeted by the ecstatic villagers of Windermere and meeting with the town elder to claim his fee, Beddigan sat at a small table in the corner of the lively Three-Headed Rabbit Inn. He would always have a free room and a full glass and plate in Windermere, now. The dragon had slaughtered half of the towns population over the past turning, since it had taken up residence in the bluffs of Mount Lileen. Dragons were rare in this part of the world, and few were skilled or crazy enough to try and slay one. The villagers thought it fate that Beddigan had shown up and taken on the task of ridding them of Galantus, but Beddigan had heard the news of the dragon while adventuring to the north. He had the confidence that he could outsmart the dragon, and the desire for the coin he would get for such a deed. But most of all, the challenge of such an adventure lifted his soul and set his blood afire. So, he had made his way south, stopping in the bustling metropolis of San Vincent’s Port to procure the crystals he would need for his plan. It had cost him a considerable amount coin, but the fee more than made up for it. He had enough now to take a long vacation, which he was desperately in need of. He had been on a steady streak of adventures for the past five turnings. Constantly, one job after another, creating quite the name for himself in this part of the world; and quite the list of enemies. He was starting to slip up with little things, like oiling his boots properly, or having a solid Plan B, due to his exhaustion. But at the same time, he didn’t have much desire for down time. He wasn’t the type to lay on a beach or stay in the city for theatre and sporting events. He was happiest when he was adventuring; solving problems, battling beasts, saving fair maidens. He felt most alive when he was sword in hand, battling for his life.
A pang of grief struck his chest at the thought of battles, and the memories of wars before, almost enough to make him set his tankard of ale down. He quickly chugged the remains of his ale trying to drown the feelings of unease; the thoughts of his time in Her Majesty’s Royal Sapphire Brigade. From a child, he had wanted to be a soldier. Just like his papa and his uncles and nearly every man in the Mouze family. He had paid attention in school just enough to pass until he was old enough to join the Her Majesty’s Royal Cadets. The fighting between his home country of Illensdar and the neighbouring kingdom of Mormant had been alive for ages. He had lost papa to the very same war he would grow to fight in turnings later. Mama had begged him not to go to war, never having been the same once papa died, but more than anything in the world, he knew he must. Thinking about mama always brought a tear to his eye, which he quickly blinked away. He had left mama, his little sister Clottie, and old uncle Thomas at their family home in Shillingdell, and made his way to the capital. The next six turnings of his life were spent training and battling in the name of Her Majesty, Queen Elendie of Illensdar. He had worked his way up through the ranks of the army until he was hand chosen to be a part of an elite group of warriors known as the Royal Sapphire Brigade. His time amongst these fine men was some of the best in his memory. He had made some great friends during that time, including Sir Charrin, who was his most trusted friend and ally.
Beddigan signaled the barmaid for another tankard of ale, while his mind flew unbidden into memories he had tried to bury. The shame caused him to hunch down in his seat, and not make eye contact with the barmaid as she delivered his drink. He shook his head, trying to lose the image of betrayal on Sir Charrin’s face as he took his last breath. Beddigan’s hand shook at the memory of sneaking away from the castle in the dead of night, knowing he could never return. Slugging down more ale, he forced his mind away, as he had trained himself to do. He was good at burying things. And running. And never letting anyone get too close. Pulling his coin pouch loose from his belt he started methodically counting the pieces, his ritual to bring himself back to the present.
Soon, having finished his last tankard of ale for the evening, he pushed back from the table and stretched, the room spinning a bit from his impairment. He started to move towards the stairs that would lead him to his room when he felt it: that feeling that someone was watching him. His hand instinctively moved to the hilt of his sword, as he sharpened his gaze and peered around the busy, raucous room. Nothing stood out as odd behavior among the many inebriated patrons. Chalking it up to ale and distracting memories, he continued to make his way upstairs. Fumbling with the key at his door he almost didn’t hear the small voice behind him,
“Excuse me, Sir. Are you Beddigan? The Adventurer?” his back stiffened a bit, listening carefully before turning. A child’s voice. He turned slowly and saw a little girl, no more than eight or nine turnings old, in a tattered pink dress. Her soft gray fur tufted along her cheeks. She stood shyly away, tugging on the hem of her skirt. Beddigan tried to smile, though he was sure it came off weak, and crouched down, holding out his hand,
“Indeed I am, little one. How can I help you?” he asked. The little girl stepped forward, reaching out to gingerly touch his hand.
“It’s.. I-It’s my papa. And my village.” she said with a sniffle. Her mouth quivered, “This a-awful man came and took papa away. He has taken lots of papa’s and they say.. they say he may come for the children next.” A door in the hallway opened before Beddigan could answer, and a tall, striking woman came out, startled to find them together in the hall. Her amber eyes softened when they settled on the child’s distraught face.
“Beatrice.” the woman scolded softly, crouching down and pulling the little girl away from Beddigan, “I told you not to bother him. Go in, go to bed.” she pushed the little girl towards the room she had come from. Standing, she smoothed her dress, looking at Beddigan as he rose,
“I am so sorry. I was going to approach you about helping our village in the morning. She must have been spying on you.” Beddigan smiled,
“It’s alright. I take it you are this girl’s mother? And your husband was taken by some man?” he asked. Tears filled the woman’s eyes but she blinked them away furiously.
“Yes, we need help in the worst way, which is why Beatrice and I came to see if you could help. You rescued my sisters village a few turnings ago. And we heard you were to take on the dragon here.” Beddigan nodded along, but before he could answer, Beatrice burst from the room and wrapped her arms around his legs.
“P-please mister Beddigan. I need my papa.” she sobbed, while her mother tried to tug her away. Beddigan crouched down, hugging the little girl close for a moment and then pushing her back into her mother’s arms.
“Don’t worry, we will find your papa. Now do as mother says and go to sleep.” Beatrice sniffled and rubbed her eyes and headed back into the bedroom. He heard her mother assure her that she would be right in before she pulled the door closed with a soft click. Turning back to Beddigan, fresh tears in her eyes she asked,
“Do you mean it? You’ll help us?” Beddigan nodded and reached to take her hand,
“How could I say no?” he murmured. They made plans to meet in the morning over breakfast downstairs, and Beddigan finally made it into his room, and shut the door. “So much for a vacation,” he muttered before collapsing on the bed.
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