Careful now. This is no place for your kind.
I know, I’ve heard the whispers as well. Untold wealth, vistas never before spied. Who knows how much of it is true, but I can tell you this: go any further, and you may never return. This is your one chance to turn back, because…
This week’s writing group prompt is:
Here be Dragons
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
Almost synonymous with “here be monsters”, the whole thing is an assumption. A blank space on an old map. An attractive rumor.
There’s something about the promise of danger that provokes a human need to probe. If there’s danger, it’s to be bested. If there’s a place we cannot go, surely there’s some reward in finding a way to do it anyway.
We’re like this. It’s amazing, it’s terrible.
Mostly, it’s fraught with good story ideas.
So this week, instead of just writing a story with a dragon in it (although we do want that as well), I want to challenge you to feel out the spirit of the prompt. What is a dragon in this context? Something large, fierce, indomitable. What is it doing? Preventing.
Here be dragons. We don’t go here, because dragons.
This could be your alcoholic father’s bedroom; he could be your dragon. This could be an emotional space you’ve never toed in a relationship before; they might become your dragon. This could be a cave with a big, scaly, fire-breathing monster in it.
Just know, the important part isn’t the dragon. That’s the fun part.
The important part is where the dragon lives, and what that means to us.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least six stories during each stream, three of which come from the public post, and three of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
Text and Formatting
- English only.
- Prose only, no poetry or lyrics.
- Use proper spelling, grammar, and syntax.
- Your piece must be between 250-350 words (you can use this website to see your wordcount).
- Include a submission title and an author name (doesn’t have to be your real name). Do not include any additional symbols or flourishes in this part of your submission. Format them exactly as you see in this example, or your submission may not be eligible: Example Submission.
- No additional text styling (such as italics or bold text). Do not use asterisks, hyphens, or any other symbol to indicate whether text should be bold, italic, or styled in any other way. CAPS are okay, though.
What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
- No fan fiction whatsoever. Take inspiration from whatever you’d like, but be transformative and creative with it. By submitting, you also agree that your piece does not infringe on any existing copyrights or trademarks, and you have full license to use it.
- Submissions must be self-contained (everything essential to understanding the piece is contained within the context of the piece itself—no mandatory reading outside the piece required. e.g., if you want to write two different pieces in the same setting or larger narrative, you cannot rely on information from one piece to fill in for the other—they must both give that context independently).
- One submission per participant.
- Submit your entry in a comment on this post.
- Submissions close at 12:00pm CST each Friday.
- You must like and leave a review on two other submissions to be eligible. Your reviews must be at least 50 words long, and must be left directly on the submission you are reviewing, not on another comment. If you’re submitting to the private post, feel free to leave these reviews on either the private or the public post. The two submissions you like need not be the same as the submissions you review.
- Use the same e-mail for your posts, reviews, and likes, or you may be rendered ineligible (you may change your username or author name between posts without problem, however).
- You may submit to either or both the public/private groups if you have access, but if you decide to submit to both, only the private group submission will be eligible.
- Understand that by submitting here, you are giving us permission to read your submission aloud live on stream and upload public, archived recordings of said stream to our social media platforms. You will always be credited, but only by the author name you supply as per these rules. No other links or attributions are guaranteed.
Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
You ARE a Dragon
The professor walked in wearing the tailcoat of a stage musician. He tipped his top hat and addressed the lecture hall: “By the end of this, you will all become dragons,” said the professor. He grinned. “I know — ‘But this isn’t a transformation class!’ No matter. To turn you, I need no magic. Only your attention.”
“What even is a dragon? It isn’t its physical form — no one can agree on how they look, or what they’re made of. We must plunge deeper, to the meaning of a dragon. So we must strip that down.” As the professor spoke, he took off his watch and glasses.
“Such a creature solidifies our deepest thoughts and drives. A dragon is defined by want, by power, by fear, and something more.” Off came his hat.
“Want! Greed — everlasting need, to grow and collect; to leave something of the self in the world, perhaps.” He stepped out of his shoes.
“Power. You cannot deny the power a dragon holds — mastery over the sky and everything below, the capacity to destroy and render rubble at will.
“And equal ability to build up, and create the world around it. The dragon can impose itself on its environment, on cultures, and so many of our stories.
“With power like that, the dragon cannot help but inspire fear! Its forms combine the predators and sneaking things that endanger us, and its essence reminds us of our own inner weaknesses, our holes. The dragon comes in to nest in those gaps. You feel it now.
“It has always been there. Those defining aspects of the dragon resonate deeply in all of us, because they are our own powers. The dragon is a perfect inner mirror, and so… I AM a dragon!”
With a flourish, the professor spun in a circle. His coat disappeared; in its place was was a long, green dress shimmering with scales. His appearance hadn’t changed, yet the man felt undeniably Draconic.
“All this is in you, dear audience. The last thing you needed was this awareness. You ARE a dragon. Welcome!”
The Singing Dead
“Draw not their ire, speak not their names, seek not their nest, lest you wish to burn in scorching fire. Lest you wish death come to us all.” Words of wisdom spoken then, ignored as mere legends now. Men grew complacent, withdrew from old covenants and broke ancient oaths, and now their elder foes haunt them again. They fell not into their doom, but fostered it. Such is man’s way, for left alone he follows not goodness, but embraces darkness.
Here, upon mountain’s cliff does the final alliance wait. Warring kings together now for the final fight of men. Their knights armored in gleaming silver, their spears raised with faces proud, and in their mouths are spoken prayers of hope avowed. The sun in distant horizon sinks, the clouds growing dark with dread. Light at last them left, plunging man into his final night.
And in that somber darkness, the armies did not waver. Victory would not to them come, yet they smiled all the same. For here on the mountain, awaiting their foes of yore, they won the greatest battle, conquered the mightiest foe. They rose above their fears, set aside their senseless squabbles and united together against the edge of immolation.
Unity at last. Such was victory enough.
Their tears would not fall on forgotten winds, for no tears to them came. Instead these winds would carry songs and cheer. All men die, but in this death there would be peace. Peace of unity and fellowship. Brothers united to the end.
And so they sang as the sky cracked, they sang as majestic winged beasts rose above the horizon. Dragons. Their plate shone of crimson and their eyes fumed with rage. Streams of fire scorched the skies.
Though an ashen end it may be, these men sang and cheered. Their smiles glowed as they found eternal rest. Not one of torment, but of peace. Even as they burned their smiles remained strong.
Death finds us all, but happiness finds few. Unite together, rejoice together, for such a death is worth a thousand lives lived in sorrow.
A Dragon’s Sleep
By Jesse Fisher
The metallic sand yellow dragoness peered from behind one of the gates to the bottomless arena. The armored humanoid with mismatched eyes looked behind them at the many sleeping griffins, feather serpientes, and other draconic relations.
“If it wasn’t for the fact I can tell these beings are of the same lineage and this world lacks tech to do genetic experiments, I would do asking what madness would have brought some of them to life.” The armored being committed as the jeers of the crowd drew their eyes to the…was fighting the right word here.
The scene in front of them of Demon jumping from the wall to land on the griffon with wyvern wing before catching on the wall again.
“Is he just playing leap lizard?” Orlander asked, somewhat confused.
“No he seems to be kicking him in the head.” Korun replied as the near naked wolf kept hopping around.
Korun then looked around and had a thought.
“Sweetie?” He asked with a cheshire grin. “How many people can you put to sleep before you get too exhausted?”
“My love,” Orlander said, creasing his chin under the helmet. “I would knock out a whole world just to be alone with you.”
“You know you’ve been very forward ever since we got that letter.” Korun commented leaning into the crease.
“What can I say the armor brings out the dragon trope in me.”
“Making a note for the next time we are alone.” The grin turned to a smirk as the dragoness began to let her toga flap by a wind that was not there and the sounds of the crowd died down while the fight was still going on.
With the roar of the crowd silenced other voices could be heard.
“Foul thing what new form of spell have you cast!?!”
“I’m not a spell caster, transfiguration maybe, but I’m more a rogue or a barbarian.” A familiar voice responded.
“I say Bard could also work.” A third, female voice chuckled before a growl ended that.
“Would augur that but given this, damn tropes.” The familiar voice responded.
A Very Special Date (Corespace Universe)
By Calliope Rannis
“Nearly there!” the golden-haired woman trilled, leading Clay by the hand to a clearing in the simulated wilderness.
“Freya, you know I’m ah, not a massive fan of long walks in the wild areas right?” Clay’s digital feet stumbled on the digital ground. “I was hoping we could stay home and watch a movie…”
“Nope!” Freya said cheerily. “This is our 1000th date together Clay. I want to make it a special one!”
“You- you kept count??”
She turned and gave him a sunny smile. “Of course I did! It’s not like it’s hard for me, really. And it matters!” She continued, as they walked towards a large stone outcrop at the centre of the clearing. “You’re only the 32nd of my human relationships to last this long. That’s really something special. YOU are special, Clay.” Her cheeks went a little pink. “So I wanted this date to match.”
“Aww, Freya…” he blushed too, though much less subtly. He looked at the stone, marked only with a strange abstract drawing of a tree. “Why here, though?”
Freya smiled again. “Because here’s the gateway to a special place. Humans can’t come in, normally. Honestly, they can’t really DO anything much there anyway.” She looked deeply into his eyes. “But I want you to see it. You ready?”
Clay looked at the stone before him, and back to her shining face. He nodded, uncertain but trusting. Freya’s hand tightened on his, and she stepped into the stone, pulling him in with her.
Clay awoke under a sapphire sky, standing in an endless field of emerald grass almost as tall as him. “….Freya? Freya!? Where are-”
A great gust of wind from behind almost blew the grass flat, as something huge beyond belief flew directly over him. A creature larger than any megatower Clay had ever seen, with shining silver scales, wings the size of capital starships, and what looked like miles upon miles of beautiful golden hair flowing from their spine. As they landed, he stared into brilliant blue eyes the size of lakes, and realized that Freya hadn’t left at all.
“We’re here.” A crewman, peering through a crack, motions to Belle. “I count six deckhands.”
Upon hearing this, another crewman looks up, his eyes sparkling with relief and a grin on his face. “FINA-”
Belle instantly smacks him on the back of his head. He looks at her with sad puppy eyes, only to be met with her piercing glare. She then looks to the other two, hunched over in the cramped space of the wooden box.
“Remember,” Belle whispers, her usual stern tone still apparent, “no one moves a muscle until I say so.”
The men look at each other and collectively sigh. They lie on their sides, arms wrapped around each other. During the briefing, Zeke told them this was the best way to keep the crew from moving during transport. He insisted that this was purely utilitarian, but Belle’s snicker says otherwise.
“A biggun’, eh,” a gruff voice from outside remarks, “c’mere and help me, ya’ gits.”
With grunts and heaves, the box is carried away. After a while, the box is lowered again. Belle watches the men as they walk away, tired from their ordeal. Once the coast is clear, she slowly lifts the lid and steps out of that prison. The rest of the group tries to follow suit, but end up struggling. Belle sighs and kicks the box over, tipping it to its side. Its occupants unceremoniously fall out with a thud.
Belle turns to find her prize. Before her, the massive hulk of wood, brass, and steel rests on scaffolding like a dragon deep in slumber. Colossal engines sitting at the deck’s tail end and cannons peeking through gun ports, Belle can only stare in awe at the monstrosity. A wooden frame encases the balloon, steel-tipped to a point at its front end. On its hull, painted in scarlet, is the word “TIAMAT”. Belle approaches the behemoth and caresses its hull, the smooth finish unlike any she had seen before. She turns to her crew, a smirk on her face.
“Men, we’re taking her home.”
The God Below
The emperor descended the steps into the cavernous abyss, each step feeling heavier than the last. The darkness of the cave stairwell only allowed him to see the next three steps before the path returned to a hungering void.
Everyone in the imperial palace knew about the system of caves beneath, a natural labyrinth of tunnels and passageways that the builders thought would make for good escape routes or further expansions to the palace. Tremors shake the foundations and pillars of the palace from these caves and a low constant rumble echoes endlessly through them as if the tunnels were the gullet of some enormous beast. None dared venture into these rocky veins, none except the emperor.
As he continued to descend the flame began to flicker. A warm and humid gale began to sweep through the tunnel, drenching him in sweat. He reached the last two steps of the staircase and entered the decaying hallway of some ancient ruin. The low rumble grew louder and began to resemble a sort of breathing sound. The vibrations alone caused the emperor’s whole body to tremble.
Willing his quivering legs forward he pressed on down the crumbling hallway. He went further and further into the void, unable to see the stairs behind him or the horrors that might be lying ahead, waiting for him to stumble into their clutches. Finally, he reached an opening. He was standing in an open chamber so tall that the void consumed the ceiling itself. The wall above the door was covered in tapestry carvings of a war lost to the ages.
“Well,” A voice boomed behind him. “A visitor. This is quite the surprise.”
The emperor froze upon seeing the source of the voice, stricken with fear. A gargantuan creature with scales and wings loomed over him. It was a Nihdroghaal, one of the ancient gods.
“One of my brothers’ experiments as well! Most intriguing indeed.” The serpent continued, his voice reverberating and shaking the enormous chamber. “Perhaps it’s time I performed my own experiment. Let’s start with who you might be, little guinea pig.”
The Dragon Flies
By Derek McEldowney (Deviacon)
“Where we going, Papa?”
“Someplace special, squirt.”
“Is it someplace magic?”
“Heh, you’ll see when we get there.”
“Is there gonna be treasure? Like one of your stories?!”
“Just wait and you’ll see.”
His adventuring days were long behind him now. Ever since meeting that sweet girl, the thought of not seeing her again finally made him fear for his own life. There were still a few places he liked to visit, to bask in the scenery and memories they carried with them. This place was his favorite, it’s why he insisted they make their home at the base of the old Drake Mountains.
The hike used to be easy for him, and he knew it was more than just the weight of his tired kiddo slowing him down now. But still nothing would stop him from making that trek and sharing that place with those close to his heart.
As the sun had reached its apex in the sky, the adventurous pair cut through a deep thicket into a small clearing. A gentle stream trickled down the mountainside, pooled around a mound of mossy earth where a single tree grew, and then cascaded down the nearby cliff.
It would have been beautiful at sunset, cast in a myriad of colors, but that could be seen any day and would be a few dozen less colors. There was only a few weeks every few years they could catch the sight they could today.
It was warm and sunny and damp. The air of the clearing was filled with dozens—hundreds—of humming, darting dragonflies of different colors. They’d dart and glide and zip with such smooth grace, snapping up any mosquitoes they found along the way. Their iridescent colors glinted like jewels in the sunbeams as they passed. Sunset could wait, they’d still be here.
“Wow! Is this the treasure Papa?!” A familiar look of awe and amazement graced his daughter’s face.
“It sure is, kiddo,” he smiled. Her eyes were the brightest gems of all. “It sure is.”
Dragons Breath Diner
“Dragons Breath Diner” flashed the neon tubes of the restaurant’s sign, and underneath it spelled out in individual plaque letters, “Here Be Dragons.”
Efa didn’t have the luxury of being annoyed. Her air conditioner had started belching hot air at the last truck stop and the sun setting did surprisingly little to help. She had to get out of the heat, before her human form popped under the oppressive weight of the humidity.
She missed the days of mist and cool rain, when the unknown was home and her wings could take her anywhere.
The tingle of bells and a puff of blessedly cool air greeted Efa at the door. She shut her eyes, drinking in the relief. She opened them to find herself being stared at.
The elderly woman in the corner made no secret of watching her over the rim of her coffee cup. The waitress waved a greeting.
Efa scurried across the linoleum to the bar.
What a strange place the world had become, where human scrutiny made her nervous.
“Cheers! Don’t get too many visitors out here this late.” The waitress chirped, surprising Efa with her English accent. “What can I get you?”
“Water, please.” The smell of fried potatoes and sausage. “Maybe a menu?”
The glass appeared first. Efa drank half of it in one gulp. It helped.
Somewhere in the distance, there was a warning rumble. Thunder? She groaned. Hot rain. Awful.
A metallic crash shook the windows. Efa startled and for an instant, her magic fell. Her claws scraped the counter.
This was the end, she was sure.
“Christ sakes girl, you scared us half to death!” The old woman barked, lighting a cigarette off the shower of sparks it caused. “Making us think you were human!”
“No ashes on my clean floor please, Julianne.” The waitress plopped the menu down, hovering off the floor with the delicate membrane wings at her shoulders. “That’d be Jake scaring the foxes away from his chickens. His roar sounds dead like a car crash.”
Efa stared at her dumbly.
“Didn’t you see the sign, love?”
“The Dragon’s Hunt”
By Aaron Fleming
“I’ve come seeking you to resurrect someone,” said the young woman with a flintlock rifle strapped to her back. She unceremoniously tossed the bag of coins at the wizard’s feet.
“I should warn you, returning someone like this often means they are never quite the same as before,” the wizard responded. “Many things happen to spirits in the spirit realm and the return is not always clean.”
“That doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’ve killed him once already. I just want to kill him again. I want to squeeze the life from him.”
The wizard raised his eyebrows. “Do you now? Interesting. What would you gain from killing a man twice?”
“The man murdered my father. He deserves a thousand deaths. I would give him this many at least.”
“And you think that doing so will quench the fires of that vengeful beast inside you. Like the dragon who pursues the thief who stole the single golden cup from its horde? In the story the dragon leaves all the rest of its wealth behind, holding so dear the thing that was lost. Do you really wish to hunt forever for the one golden chalice leaving behind all other treasures?”
“My father’s murder –”
“Has already been avenged,” the wizard finished quietly for her. “Do you think more murder will truly give you peace? Did the first murder give you peace?”
She paused in thought. Finally, she responded, “You’re not what I expected from a wizard.”
The man laughed. “Nor am I what I expected of one.”
“My name is Adara of Marwether,” she said finally.
The older man nodded. “I am Arith, son of Jyohan.”
What Was the Point?
By. T.S.G. Sager
The four brave heroes trekked up the mountain to the dwelling of the dragon, hardened by their trials of Thesran, the mysterious land which they had been teleported to many months ago.
“This is it. Are we ready?” Jacob bolstered, standing proudly in front.
“Ready to get out of here and back home? Fuck yes.” Myoni spat, winded from the treacherous climb.
“Can it, Myoni! You think you’re the only one tired of this place?” Nabiki snapped. “I’m sick of tavern food. I’m sick of not being able to properly bathe daily. And I am sick and tired of dressing skimpy because my ‘bard class’ demands it.”
“Guys! Enough!” Ayase interrupted, the voice of reason. “We’re here to kill the dragon, not each other. Let’s stay focused on that. We finish this ‘stupid genre break’ and we go home!”
Myoni and Nabiki fell silent, and the four pressed on into the mouth of the cavern. The cave was littered with the remains left by the foolhardy who attempted this before them. After what felt like eternity, the four heroes finally reached the cave’s chamber, and in the centre was a black, blood eyed dragon.
“Who. GOES. There?!” The wicked beast bellowed.
“It is I! Jacob Zander, Hero of Amberwell, and my fellow companions. And we have come-”
“No, I’m not talking about you, you dimwit. I smell that of another dragon.” The dragon sniffed the air once more, then stared directly at Ayase. “You there. What is your name, young one?”
“Ahhh, Mikage. That explains it.” The dragon snorted. “What do I owe the pleasure to Ayase, descendant of Leviathan?”
All eyes were on Ayase as she stepped forward, “We would like to return home, so could you please stop terrorizing Amberwell?”
“Hmm? The town at the bottom of my mountain? I suppose, if Leviathan’s descendant wishes, I shall grant it.”
“Wait… No…” Myoni grunted.
“Thank you, dragon-sama.” Ayase beamed.
“What? You’re kidding me…”
“No worries, Mikage-sama. Please have safe travels.” The dragon bellowed, as a glistening portal opened up.
“WHAT WAS THE POINT? FIVE MONTHS FOR NOTHING!”
by DukkiFluff (gift this spot to Frogfire if I’m chosen)
Jarl Hindrik paced back and forth, chewing on his thumb.
The door to the Hall opened, catching his attention and stopping him in his tracks.
Gjohl approached, followed closely by a tall, stocky warrior with several scars over his face.
“I… I finally found him, my Jarl.” Gjohl huffed, standing to the side to let Hindrik meet the warrior.
Hindrik stepped forward, “Thank you for coming! I’ve a desperate need of your aid, Beast-Slayer. I—”
“It’s Arendt.” The warrior corrected, his deep voice reverberating through the hall.
“A-Arendt. Right. Listen, I—”
Arendt crossed his arms. “I hear you have a dragon problem?”
Hindrik nodded, wringing his hands frantically, “Please! You must slay it! It’s taken refuge atop the monastery out of town and everyone else I’ve sent has perished! I will pay you handsomely!”
Arendt sighed, and held out his hand.
Hindrik looked confused. “U-upfront?”
“Tis a dragon. I want to be sure it’s worth my time.”
Hindrik glared. “Worth your time?! You’d dare?! In my own Hall?!”
Arendt shrugged, turning and starting back towards the door as he spoke, “Then good luck with your dragon.”
“Wait!!” Hindrik exclaimed, quickly sending Gjohl off for the money, “Upfront it is! Just please don’t leave!! You’re all we have!!”
Gjohl returned just as fast as he’d left, dropping a heavy pouch into Arendt’s hand.
After some careful consideration, Arendt nodded.
– – –
Arendt sliced away at the hanging vines covering the path. He paused, studying the path itself, and giving an irritated scoff. “They’ve perished, have they? You have to send them first, little man…”
He approached the monastery. Sure enough, a gargantuan, pure white dragon sat atop it, its massive claws digging into the roof like it was holding on for dear life. A few shingles fell as the beast trembled.
Arendt stored his blade, placing his hands on his hips as he beheld the dragon, “I’ve had complaints about you.”
The dragon whimpered in response.
“You’re stuck, aren’t you.” Arendt laughed, shaking his head. “Would you like help down?”
The dragon lowered its head, “Y-yes, please…”
Retrieving a Soul
A gunshot rang out, and Cristian’s head snapped back. Time seemed to stand still as everyone stared in shock.
“You bastards!” Erykah scooped Cristian’s body up and retreated with it around the corner. “Everyone, we need to withdraw!”
The team raced for cover and carefully retreated from combat. Everyone piled into the back of the van again, and it drove off as fast as it could.
“Melissa!” Erykah called out.
Melissa crawled over and looked at Cristian’s face. Part of his skull was gone.
“Melissa, we need you to do your thing now,” Erykah said.
Melissa stared down at Cristian, her hands shaking. “I…I haven’t done a resurrection in a long time. And never with this much damage.”
Erykah grabbed Melissa by the shoulders and shook her. “Melissa, you’re Cris’s only hope right now! Now get it together, and do what you need to do!”
Melissa dropped to her knees and placed her hands on Cristian’s chest. The trembling lessened, but it hadn’t completely faded. She closed her eyes and fought to get her breathing under control. After a few seconds, her eyes snapped open. “Francis!”
The former priest climbed from the front seat, and knelt down in front of her, Cristian’s body between them. “What do you need from me, Mel?”
“Put your hands on Cristian. You’re going to help me with the resurrection.”
Francis stared at her in awe. “I’m…what?”
“You’re the only one that can do so,” Melissa explained. “Now put your hands on his chest, and concentrate on healing his body. It’s going to be hard, his soul has left.”
Francis gingerly placed his hands on Cristian’s chest and closed his eyes. “So, what’s going to happen?”
“Well, we’re going to go get Cristian’s soul back. I haven’t done this very often, so it won’t be easy.” Melissa’s smile tightened grimly. “But if you thought raiding Rikke Farlund’s base was scary, crossing the River Styx to retrieve a soul is going to stay with you for the rest of your life.”
by Lunabear (If I’m chosen, I give my spot up to T.S.G. Sager)
Stephanie had never once thought her training would be used for THIS. His huge arm hung limply across her shoulders, and the walk to the lava pit was too slow for her liking. She couldn’t bear to look at his injuries again; her strength would fail if she did.
This war with her kin had only escalated, and she shouldn’t have expected him to sit by while his clan had charged into battle.
Sweat droplets glistened on her skin, and her tired eyes danced when they took in the glorious colors. She kneeled and relieved herself of his weight.
“We’re here, my love.”
He rested on all fours. A gurgling groan was his answer.
“Blithe, please. You must go.” She removed an arrow from his side and tossed it away. A rumbling growl filled her head.
“You can be angry with me AFTER.”
She nodded, and a surge of pride flowed through her as he stood on damaged legs.
She stroked the blue dragon eye amulet around her neck. Before he got too far, she caught up with him.
“Wait.” She placed her hands on his chest. His heart pounded, and hers sped to match it. She moved the heirloom from her neck to his.
“I won’t hear it. I can at least give this to you.” She stroked her barren stomach. “But you and it have to return to me. Otherwise, I’ll come in after you.”
He shakily chuckled, but his wince advertised what that action had cost him.
Stephanie stood on tiptoe and kissed his lips. Her tears left heated tracks down his face. He hated that he lacked the strength to erase her sadness.
“Go.” She stood aside. The more she cleared her face, the more she cried.
Blithe dragged himself forward and fell ungracefully into the scorching, bubbling lava. Stephanie retreated to a safer distance.
She held her breath. It felt like ages passed.
Blithe finally burst upward, his golden scales and smoky grey wings shimmering.
He circled overhead and mightily roared. He swooped into a landing, transforming back.
They met halfway and embraced.
The Magic Stone
It was a warm and sunny morning in Dragon Springs. The sleepy dragonflies were resting on top of the saw grass to warm their wings in the sunshine. All the little dragonlings came out of their caves to play. Their favorite sunny day game was called “Wake up, Dragonfly!” The dragonlings would lay on their dragon bellies. They would slither into the tall saw grass. You had to be sneaky, and you had to quiet. You had to wait until the time was just right. Then… “Wake, up Dragonfly!” the dragonlings all shouted together. All the silly dragonlings laughed except one. Where was Daphne Dragon?
Daphne Dragon was laying on the floor of her cave. She did not want to go out to play in the warm and sunny morning. She was too busy holding her treasure. It was not gold. It was not diamonds. Her treasure was a stone. If she stayed in her dark cave, the stone would glow. It would show her anything she wanted to see. She was afraid to miss anything the stone showed. While the other dragonlings grew, she did not leave her cave.
Daphne stared into her stone for a very long time. Her wings were stiff. Her tail was sore. Her tummy rumbled. She dropped the stone. It stopped glowing. Her cave was cold and dark. The door was covered in moss. She pushed it open and went outside.
The sun was bright and hurt her eyes. She looked for her dragonling friends but did not see them. She only saw older dragons flying in the sky. She spread her wings and tried to fly but she did not know how. She called out to the dragons flying high above. They all soared down and shouted, “Daphne, where have you been?!” Daphne was embarrassed and shy. All her dragonling friends had grown into strong dragons. They helped her exercise and she learned how to fly. Soon they all flew together, and Daphne forgot about the stone in her cave.
A dragon for you[Aleph null]
We exit the spaceport.
The city is an onslaught of the unfamiliar. Strangely shaped vibrantly colored houses and stalls populate my vision. The sounds of life echo through the city. The smell of fresh spiced foods of varying types is almost overpowering. It’s so much.
The children’s eyes have gone wide. They seem to be looking over every stall.
One notices a small ramshackle stall, with a simple sign on it. Here be dragons.
Soon, all three of them surround me, echoing the same demand. “can we get a dragon? Please!”
“Maybe just one. You’ll have to share.”
Each of the kids glaces around, evaluating the others, trying to determine if they can share something so precious with the others.
“Ok. We promise” they say.
I walk over to the stand, pulled by the kids.
The stand is selling custom holoprojectors. I pick one at random and ask the vendor “how much for that one”.
“27,000 heat credits”
I begrudgingly pay the inflated price.
Before I go, I try to activate the device. It flickers, but fails to turn on.
The vendor sees this and says “oh, probably a wiring issue, pass it to me for one moment.”
The vendor inspects the device briefly, before aggressively shaking it. A rattling noise is heard.
The vendor continues “god dammit. Would you like to take this one?” They turn it on, and I swear a small dragon appears before me.
“Yes please, thank you very much”
The kids clamor to see it before the vendor turns it off.
I hold onto it until we get to the hotel, and then let the kids play.
The Dragon and the Goat
“Get out of here!”
Akashor tumbled out of the tavern door, face-planting into the street. The shattering twang of strings drew his sight to his lute, snapped in half and covered in mud. As he reached for it, a boot drove itself into his hand.
“You freak! What even are you? Did your mom make love with a man and a dragon at the same time?”
Akashor’s long hair parted to reveal the left half of his face, coated in patches of scales and a single horn winding up his skull. A yellow slit eye contrasted the crystalline blue sheen in his “human” eye. A swift jab across his cheek sent Akashor’s face back down into the stone.
Under his heavy breaths, he heard a clopping of hooves from the tavern door. “Hey, piss off, why don’t you?” a voice called out. Akashor’s aggressor tumbled beside him, with the shape of a Faun standing over them.
“Now how does that feel? Don’t make me kick in your teeth!”
The bully shuddered in fear, only to scramble and flee. Akashor sidled up to the tavern’s stoop, only for the Faun to sit herself down beside him.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just a little-,” Akashor answered as he reached towards his forehead and inhaled from sharp pain.
“Hey hey hey, hold still.” The Faun waved her hand, and a set of floating lights hovered in her palm. The insectoid motes then whizzed over to his wounds, lapping up the running blood and slowly stitching his gashes shut.
“Thank you for that. What’s your name?”
“Imifey, but you can call me Imi. You?”
“Akashor, huh? I’ll say, your voice is pretty.”
“Thank you.” The silence allowed the night’s ambiance to surround the duo.
Imi then broke the silence, “So, do you have a song to sing for me? After all, I did save you.”
An Adventurer’s Rebuttal (Froggyquest)
By minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
Okay, Let’s get the record straight.
I. Am NOT. A dragon.
I know, I know, my reputation precedes me. The Wandering Dragon, Mage of Blaze, Crisper of Criminals. I’ve become somewhat infamous for my adventures, but I’ve come to tell you the truth of the matter. And that truth is… I’m not a dragon.
I’m a frog.
A Frog girl, to be precise.
Now, some might think this detail is irrelevant. Isn’t the whole point of the nickname to invoke the image of fire breathing beasts? What better tag for someone with a rare form of fire magic? Especially when they aren’t human!
Well, yes. That’s not the problem
The problem comes when some folks think that nickname is literal.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been just going along my journey, when I find myself stopped by a knight or alchemist intent on either ridding me from the world or harvesting my organs! Seriously, how hard is it to differentiate!? I don’t have wings or a tail, I don’t have scales or sharp teeth, and I don’t lay waste to the countryside!
Well… I have scorched a couple fields…But those had bandits in them! And they were an accident!
Oh, don’t give me that look! I tried my best! Sometimes my magic just gets out of hand. Don’t tell me you’ve never done something you regretted. It’s the same for me! Only my mistakes end up charring the landscape. And… hurting people.
Th-that’s not the point, though! My point is, as much as I appreciate the cool ways folks have been spinning my tales, I’m not all that special. I’m not a winged beast, I’m not an ancient evil, I’m just a normal girl.
A normal humanoid frog girl.
With an ultra rare, dangerous form of magic.
Which is tied to her emotional state.
Which she’s horrible at regulating.
And ends up… Scorching the countryside as a result.
Y’know what? Maybe just… keep the nickname.
By Hemming Sebastian Bane
Shanmori no Hanako burst through the door, staff in hand and a fire in her eyes. Two of the guards drew their shortswords, but the man on the throne held up a hand, stopping them.
“Hanako, so nice of you to join me in my estate.”
A chill went down the kitsune’s spine and her stomach churned. “You know I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t abducted my little brother.”
“Now, now. ‘Abduct’ is too harsh. I arrested Sannao on theft charges because that is what he is.”
Hanako struck the ground with the butt of her staff, filling the room with a loud boom and making a small crater in the ground. “Lies!”
The man on the throne chuckled as he picked up an orb beside his throne. “Oh it’s true. Because what I decree is law.”
Hanako charged the throne, lashing out with her staff. The man caught the blow with his hand and extended the orb towards her. Lightning danced around the orb, his eyes becoming serpentine as black scales formed around them. A bolt of lightning slammed into Hanako, pushing her back and leaving her convulsing on the floor. The smell of ozone filled the chamber.
“A pity, Hanako. I thought kitsune were more resilient than this. How pathetic. And now you shall be tried for treason.”
He motioned for the two guards. “Pick her up and bring her before me.”
Hanako watched as one of the guards from the door picked her up and dragged her towards the golden throne.
“Zhuyama, you’re…you’re him,” Hanako managed. “The Black Dragon of the South.”
Zhuyama smiled evilly. “There’s the kitsune intellect I have heard of. Too bad I will not be able to enjoy your company much longer.”
Suddenly, a bolt of lightning streaked over Hanako’s head and slammed into Zhuyama. The dragon in disguise spilled out of his throne with a slump. Hanako broke away from the guards. An older gentleman strided in, holding a similar orb to Zhuyama’s.
“My, my,” the stranger said with a smile. “It seems my former student lacks any discipline.”
“The Pile of Bones”
by Carrie (Glaceon373)
She cut her way through the undergrowth with a silver machete, sweat sliding down her forehead and past the bags under her eyes. Soon, her blade clanged against something stiff and solid. Brushing the plants away with a gloved hand, she smiled.
And they tried to tell her this place couldn’t exist.
It didn’t take her long to find what looked like a sealed up entrance, or the nearby panel with a handprint carved into it. She removed her glove and placed her hand on it.
She tried applying force, turning her hand; nothing. She sighed, then pushed a small amount of magic through her fingers.
The door opened immediately.
Those Witherleaf idiots tried to tell her magic was a recent anomaly. That she was a moron to search for its history.
Now who were the morons?
No modern architecture could rival the intricate stonework or elegant carvings. There were handprint panels next to every door, and when she channeled magic through them, they also illuminated blue lights in the walls and ceilings, which gradually dimmed as the magic she charged them with ran out.
She had nearly completed a map of the main floor when she found the massive staircase. At the bottom was one very large door. She opened it and gasped.
The room was larger and taller than a medieval audience chamber. Her magic wasn’t strong enough to fully brighten the room, but it was enough to guide her towards the elevated platform in the center.
On the platform were bones. A skeleton of a creature larger than any other. With teeth the size of her forearm and wings larger than those of a passenger jet.
And four massive shackles chaining it to the edges of the platform.
She stepped around the bones and was almost on the other side when something moved in the corner of her eye. The smallest bones of the tail twitched, then twitched again. From the skull of the bones came a low, menacing growl.
She grinned. The head magi-scientists were going to flip when she got back.
Dragons, here be not.
By Larissa (Lari B. Haven)
Both were sitting in silence in his living room. But she was the one making her disdain for his slack clear. After all, he was making her write the fifth apology letter with another half-baked schematic to boot.
The professor knew that she worried about his well being, more than she would like to admit. He was drowning himself in that endeavor, and Alexandria couldn’t understand his current interest in dragons.
The men from the factory were growing tired of his endless delays. But he paid them no mind. Even if he was short on money and with past due bills; he could not bring himself to finish it anymore. He needed something that didn’t make him think about the clogged water turbines problem.
He kept on reading about the myths of giant scaly creatures from distant lands. Ignoring the obvious threat.
“I really don’t see any rhyme or reason for you to keep bankrupting yourself in favor of silly stories, Professor…“ She declared, tired of his dismissive attitude.
“I like my ‘silly stories’, they make me as happy as a child.” He answered. “There are so many types of dragons in different countries… I’d love to travel and meet them!”
“Meet them?” Alexandria dropped the pen and crossed her arms. “Why though?”
“Who doesn’t want to shout ‘Here be dragons!’ and find them in a dark cave, full of dangers, and hopefully don’t get scorched by their breath of fire.”
She rolled her eyes and got back to writing.
“How about a forest? Venture in this jungle, and you might even see it…” She raised a grin that sparked his interest. “It’s a gigantic snake-like thing, taller than a hill, glistening like pure fire. Everyone knows the story!”
“It’s a local myth?” He beamed with excitement, closing the book.
She chuckled and shrugged: “But I can only tell you, if you send them a complete piece, Professor!”
He recognized the defeat. His young friend was as cunning and ruthless as any dragon. He grabbed his material from under the counter. Sometimes he was too curious for his own good.
The Dragon’s Elegy
“Hey, Iliya, over here, check this out!”
Kirill beckoned at the girl who was following him, as he entered and old crumbled building, the facade looked similar to a normal storefront like you could find anywhere in the Ark-City, But here, on the surface, things haven’t been maintained by anyone in centuries.
The interior of the building was quite dark, with only the light from the sun outside highlighting the shelves and hundreds of tattered and ruined books and surprisingly a small number of rubbles inside. Some books were still on their ran down shelves.
“Are you sure we should be here?” she responded in a patronizing tone. “We’re quite far
from the rest of the group and we have no idea when that thing will show itself again.”
Kirill crouched and picked something from the floor, then looked back at Iliya and excitedly said.
“Look! This one is mostly intact!” he then whispered the title to himself. “The Dragon’s Elegy…” He held a small book, the cover was hard to decipher but you could still see a red beast drawn on it.
Uncertain, Illiya approached him and asked.
“Are you sure we’re allowed to do that? What if it’s unregistered material? What if we get caught?” and after a short pose followed with “anyway, what’s it about?”
“Don’t worry… our helmets are turned off, there’s no way they can monitor what we see here.” He said, still focused on the pages.
“it’s about some knight sent to kill a dragon. But as he goes on his quest, and kills the dragon, he learns that the beast’s true nature isn’t really what he was told it was… After that, it’s kinda hard to read.”
Iliya looked down, pensive,
“It kind of reminds you of what we’re doing, huh.”
A few more minutes passed by before both of them heard a faint “Fwishhhh” coming from outside.
“Someone shot a flare, something’s up.”
Said Kirill as he put the book back on a shelf. Instinctively, they both put their helmet back on.
“Yeah, we best hurry up.”
A Martial Affair
The hangar was bustling with even more activity than usual, and if the chief engineer had a say, he’d have shooed all of them out.
But he had been assured this was an important state-function and that his workers could keep working, even with all the silks around.
A vain hope.
“Ahh, Johanson, right?” an exceptionally loud voice shouted, causing him to wince. Why were they all so keen to shout? He turned, facing the plump man that approached.
He wore the colours of the martial branch but had no medals pinned to his chest. And given that Johanson hadn’t seen him before, he most likely was a bureaucrat. The worst of them all.
They treated the machines like toys to marvel at. Not like the weapons of war and defence they were.
Now the man was pointing past Johanson to the heart piece of today’s ruckus.
“Is that the beauty I have read so much about? The Zenithblazer? Is it gonna be done soon?”
It was an enormous automaton, like the steel horses ridden by the lawmen or the iron watchmen guarding the heart of the Chandry. But this one would not walk. This one would fly.
Most of its front was finished, enough to give a good presentation to the silks at least, even as the workers crawled through its insides.
It had a vaguely reptilian head, crowned with an impressive set of horns. It was armoured, but this would not impede the flexibility of its long neck.
“Well, we need to finish the internal mechanisms, and the installment of the core and base functions.” Johanson pulled one end of his thick mustache.”With flight and weapon tests I’d Say…half a year.”
With a chuckle, he shook his head. “But it’s not like we are on a deadline here. We are not at war.”
Disturbingly, now the other man chuckled.
“Indeed! Indeed, it’s a time of peace! Keep up the good work!”
With that, he turned to leave, and Johanson remained with the feeling that there had been a ‘for now’ hiding in those sentences…
Here Be Mathesons
In retrospect, Mr. Duncan would later say, the house should have tipped them off.
“… who did you say this school friend of yours was, Jimmy?” Mrs. Duncan glanced around the ornate ballroom. Tall ivory pillars flanked each side of the hall, stretching upward into the distance, farther than the eye could see.
Jimmy looked up. “Carter! He’s so cool, mom! He sits with me at lunch, breathes fi – ”
A voice creaked out from directly behind the family. “Mr. Matheson will see you now.”
Mr. Duncan turned and gave a start. The man – butler? – was hunched over, with skin tinged with a slight green. “Oh! Uh – lead the way, Mr. Igor – oh! Er, sorry!” He chuckled in embarrassment.
Mrs. Duncan peered at her husband over the rims of her glasses. “Honey…”
The man sighed. “Please follow me.” He loped across the room, quickly arriving at a massive archway. “This way,” he said.
“Let’s go, mom!” Jimmy dashed towards the arch, unsuccessfully trying to pull Mrs. Duncan along with him.
After many complaints, the family passed through the doorway – walking, not running – and were guided to the parlor. It was a massive room, only slightly smaller than the ballroom they had just left. Piles of antique furniture, coins, and an occasional painting were scattered across the room.
Mr. Duncan blinked. “Er, sir… ” he paused. “Weren’t we supposed to be meeting this Matheson fellow?”
The door closed behind them with a thud, locking shut.
Jimmy grinned. “Don’t worry! I think we’re right where we’re supposed to be!”
“Er… hello? Mr. Matheson? Mrs. Matheson?” Mrs. Duncan called out. “Are… are you in here?”
Mrs. Duncan stumbled back as a plume of steam erupted from behind a cabinet. Items fell and shattered as the pile shifted, displaying a figure within.
A massive, scaly dragon pulled itself from the pile, awakening from a nap.
Jimmy lunged towards it. “Carter!”
Mr. Duncan flinched, and quickly steeled himself. “Aaaah! Er, Mr. Matheson, I take it – ” he paused. “Wait, that’s the kid?”
Steam erupted from another, significantly larger pile in the distance.
Mr. Duncan blinked. “Oh.”
Burn the Holdings
By Astrid Jones
“Why have you called me, youngling?” the great Night Dragon, Gloama, asked as she materialized from the shadows of the trees. “Are the human kingdoms warring again? Have they finally killed each other off?”
Tessa, sitting beside the fire, raised her head from her knees. What Gloama saw on the woman’s face halted her approach.
“Who hurt you?” Gloama growled. “I will see them buried.”
“Tears are not always from a wound, Gloama,” Tessa said, wiping her cheeks with her sleeves.
Gloama encircled her friend and the little fire with her fur and feather bulk. She sniffed Tessa to be certain there were no wounds the woman was hiding from her. There was no tell-tale scent of blood or medicine, but she still smelled pain.
“You are hurt, though,” she said.
“It is nothing, dear friend. Just a broken heart.”
Gloama snorted angrily, sparks fluttering from her nostrils. “That is one of the worst wounds! Who has broken your heart? I will break their bones.”
“No, Gloama.” Tess patted the Night Dragon’s foreleg as it curled around her possessively. “I do not wish anyone hurt because of my silly heart. I called you for comfort. You always knew how to ease my pain when I was little.”
“You are still little,” Gloama said, pressing her snout to Tessa’s damp cheek.
They sat, watching the flames dwindle for a time before Tessa spoke again.
“You were right. The human kingdoms are full of misery, sorrow, and pain.”
“You are looking at them through the lens of heartbreak, youngling,” Gloama said. “Though it hurts me to admit it, there is some good to them. You just need time to heal before you can see it again.”
The great Night Dragon stood, stretching.
“Come home with me,” Gloama said. “You need time to mend your heart. That cannot be done here.”
“I do miss your cave,” said Tessa, finally smiling. With Gloama’s help, she clambered onto her friend’s back.
“But first, we shall burn the holdings of the one who wronged you to the ground.”
“Please? It will be fun.”
Do Not Disturb!
Marilynne shook me awake with the fervor and relentless strength only a seven-year-old can muster. Reluctantly prying my eyes open, I look out the window behind my niece. The sky was a hazy grey, cloudless and cold.
“Linny? What time is it?” I croak as I fumble for my phone.
“It’s time to see dragons! I promised I would show you!” She was trying to whisper, but her voice was still too loud. “Come on, get up. Get up! GET UP!”
I am half aware of her pulling me from my warm bed, and I distinctly remember something about shoe laces, but by the time my mind catches up with my body we are hiking out behind the house, the morning mist lazily trailing through the surrounding pines.
“Where are we going, Linny?” Do her parents even know she is out here? What am I even doing?
“Shhhh!” she hisses dramatically at me. “We don’t want to scare them.”
I finally recognize our surroundings. We were almost at The Lookout, a spot on my sister’s property overlooking the valley below. As we approach the clearing, Linny crouches low, motioning me to do the same.
“We have to be very quiet,” she whispers “they’re easy to scare.”
I follow her to the clearing where she points down. I am prepared to ‘oooh’ and ‘aaaah’ at whatever she is showing me, giving the typical enthusiasm for a game of make-believe, but my breath sticks in my throat like peanut butter. The morning mist had pooled into the valley below, lazily wrapping around the foothills. From this far up, it looks like wispy white dragons writhing in the valley. The breaking dawn gently lights up the mist with an ethereal light, the misty dragons glowing and iridescent gold.
“See them?” Her voice, full of wonder and awe, reflects my own as I answer.
“Yeah, Linny. I see them.”
When we got back, I helped Linny make a wooden sign. As far as I know it’s still there, painted white with big red letters;
Do Not Disturb The Dragons!
Buried long ago
by Gage Jarman
The stone corridors were musky, masked slightly by the smoke of a solitary torch. Ancient murals were cracked and flaking away. The knight traced his finger along one and continued onward. The labyrinthine ruins opened up to a large chamber. Large bones filled the arena, falling over themselves and up the walls; battles left deep scars on the walls. The knight trepidatiously stepped into the arena.
“What happenstance is this?”
The knight looked up at a sorceress looming over the rim of the dilapidated stadium seating.
“Why do you pursue me?” The knight stood firmly in the pit of bones.
“Pursue?” the sorceress scoffed. “You act as if I care what happens to your paramour.”
“Do not sully the purity of The Twilight Maiden.”
“Pure… So, she left you pining in your fallow bed. I’m here, if you desire companionship.” she chuckled.
The sorceress shot two bolts of magic, shutting the arena gates.
“You will not impede my charge again!” the knight shouted.
“Heroes must struggle. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make a very grand tale. I wonder how your ballad will sound?”
Dark energy pulsed in her hands. The bones cracked and shattered like thunder. Essence seeped from their hollows, gathering into a black mass. Spiraling, shifting, the darkness grew teeth and scales and claws, and it roared emitting a deafening wave of malice and pain. The knight braced himself, raising his shield. The chamber shook. A section of wall collapsed. The sorceress fell, striking her head. Her vision was going dark. The knight moved, shielding her from the ethereal drake. “Why?” she thought.
The Sorceress awoke next to fire. She was hyper aware of her body. Nothing was different besides her throbbing head. She looked at the knight, sitting several feet away, with fear.
“Did you…” she wrapped her arms around herself.
“Yes, I tended to your wounds.”
The sorceress stared with confusion.
“I don’t intend to kill someone so pitiful.”
“Pitiful! I’m a master of the soul arts.”
He looked down at the woman wrapped in a heavy blanket. “Not your abilities, just your heart. It’s weeping…”
Hic Sunt Dragones
By Giovanna J. Fuller
“The Map of a Thousand Planets…” He whispered in awe. “Do you know what you have, madam?”
“Yes.” Mistress Ylon took a drag of her cigarette. “And you are The Cartographer…?”
Dr. Peters stroked his beard. “I am, but I fail-.”
“You want the map.”
“Anyone would want this-.”
“I know.” She took another puff. Her voice crackled like the static of a tv set. “But I’m offering it to you. You’re the only one who can read it, doctor.”
The young man eyed the aged woman warily. He was wise enough to know that nothing came for free. Everything in the world came with a price tag or some sort of nasty little catch. The doctor laid the map back on the table and put on an air of indifference. “And so what if I am? I am The Cartographer.”
Mistress Ylon sat back in her seat and gave a low whistle. “I’m willing to give you the map.”
“For what price?”
“You’re smart, for a rich kid.” She smirked. “You and I will be great pals.”
“The price, madam. Or I walk.”
“Alright, alright. Don’t get your knickers in a bunch.” She leaned over the table, as though the small, secluded alcove needed more privacy. “You’re taking me to The Pit.”
Dr. Peters froze. The Pit. ‘No…she can’t be…’ He thought as he stared at the woman’s face. She was serious.. He gulped.
“Aw…don’t be that way, doc. Think about it.” She slid over in the crescent shaped booth. Their hands touched and her breath tickled his neck as she spoke directly into his ear. “You get The Map of a Thousand Planets…and all you have to do is take me to The Pit. Think of all you could do with this map.” She ran a finger over the item Dr. Peters had coveted for so long. It was so close. “What’s a measly bit of danger when something like this is up for grabs…?”
The Chains that Bind
By L. L. Marco
Daniel was jerked awake by the sound of chains in his empty bedroom. A strange sensation built up inside him, guiding him to the open window to gaze out at the forest. He didn’t want to go. Daniel knew better; his mother had spent all seven years of his life warning him the woods were dangerous. Older kids had told stories about a ghoulish cult. He had a healthy dose of fear that should have protected him. But the chains of fate had entangled him the moment he’d bumped into that strange witch; his life had changed forever. He just didn’t know yet. And so, alone and frightened, the boy found himself wandering into the forbidden woods without knowing why.
The bramble cut into his feet as he stumbled through it. The forest grew darker with each step. Soon, the moon was blacked out by a thick canopy of mostly dead, barren trees. Daniel thought the branches looked like crooked hands clawing up at the sky to steal away the light. He shivered and looked away, taking a moment to rub the sleep from his eyes. But when he opened them…
Fog. There hadn’t been any before, but now it coiled around him like a massive serpent, thick and unyielding in all directions. A yelp escaped him as he fell back into the dirt. The spell binding him had dissipated. It had served its purpose.
Voices swirled around in the fog. Whispers, cries, and even screams all rang out in a symphony of chaos that overwhelmed his senses. Daniel cried. It was all too frightening for a seven year old to handle. Clamping his hands over his ears, Daniel cried out for his mother. It was only then that the maddening whispers ceased and the forest fell still.
The sound of chains caught his attention. Bleary eyed, Daniel gazed up at the woman who had emerged from the fog. He thought he recognized her but the memory was a distant dream he couldn’t quite reach.
The witch smiled. “Forget her. That life is over now.”
by Matthew (Handsome Johanson)
“Hey Ollie?” Rebecca calls out.
His voice rings out from the other room. “Yeah?”
Ollie sets down the box of Rebecca’s stuff that he was unpacking and walks towards Rebecca’s voice in the hallway.
“Need some help?” he asks, flashing her a smile.
“Oh, I was just wondering what was in this closet?” Rebecca gestures to the white door with the phrase “KEEP OUT. MONSTERS/DEMONS INSIDE.” written on it.
Ollie’s eyes suddenly grow wider. “Oh! I forgot about this room!” He quickly stands between her and the door.
“Uhhh. It’s just dangerous cult stuff.” He says, a bit embarrassed. “You wouldn’t want to get entangled with that.”
“Aw Come on!” Rebecca frowns. “It can’t be THAT dangerous can it?”
Ollie sighs. “Ok. Are you absolutely sure you want to see what’s inside?”
Rebecca nods quickly, then remembers her manners and puts on a serious face. “Only if you are OK with it, dear.”
“Haha I can see that look in your eye.” He says. “I’ll show you what’s inside, but remember, you asked for this!” Ollie turns around and slowly opens the door.
Rebecca watches until Ollie opens the door and reveals…
A fairly large closet with some shelving units for storage and a freezer in the back.
Ollie gestures with his hand for her to come inside, and Rebecca heads in to inspect the storage shelves.
“What’s so demonic about…” she rummages through a box. “Cypress mulch?”
“Well…. The demon bit was kinda an exaggeration.” Ollie removes the cover on the tank behind him. “Now, don’t get scared. I would like you to meet: Corn Flakes, my albino Burmese python.”
Rebecca’s eyes widen as she gazes at the fifteen foot long, yellow and white beast.
“BABY!” She rushes to the window and starts making kissing noises at the curious gentle giant.
“Why were you afraid of showing me this cutie?” Rebecca asked.
Ollie rubs his neck a little. “I really didn’t want to accidentally scare you off.”
“Honey, you could never scare me off.” she says. “I guess you are stuck with me forever!”
Olga was worried, as was Mikael. Ever since Baldr had snuck away during the spring solstice, he hadn’t been the same. The bard she had known and grown up with was so different. He was no longer staying to crack jokes and have their small adventures in the nearby woods. He was no longer playing at the tavern and making young maidens swoon. He was now always traveling up to that treacherous, and oppressive mountain.
He had always been fascinated with that mountain, ever since he heard stories of the supposed dragon that rested up there. Olga and Mikael thought he would eventually grow up and move on to make his own legend. Mikael told Olga he had encouraged Baldr to travel up there in an attempt to expedite the process. But now they barely saw their closest friend and when they did, he seemed so different.
Baldr always had a bright personality that demanded to be looked upon. Everyone noticed him when he walked into a room. He was fit enough to serve the entourage of a Jarl from any of the clans. His skill with the hurdy-gurdy was unparalleled by anyone in the nearby towns.
But now, his smile was different. It didn’t look like the party animal she knew, but more like her father’s. His voice and songs seemed to carry a weight of melancholy that seemingly came from nowhere, except for that contemptible mountain. It felt like he had aged ten years ahead of them. Like he had seen the world, without his childhood friends ever knowing.
For a day, Olga wondered if it was her fault…
But she knew better…
It was that mountain that took her friend. She needed to save him.
She confronted him in his home one day.
“You need to stop going up that mountain!”
Baldr looked confused. “What? Why?”
“I don’t know what you found up there, but it’s changed you. And not for the better.”
Baldr simply shook his head and pulled out a white, reptilian scale. “What I found was the love of my life, Olga. That’s all.”