Book One, Chapter Three

Scroll 1: Class of Stars

After being carried to Castle Liberum as a newborn orphan, Bellae is now seven years old and a squire. She is talking with her best friend Lontas after finishing an Astronomy class. Both have seen a peculiar winged creature hanging around the castle grounds.

“Ready for my plan?” Bellae asked once they were alone.

“Hmm?” Lontas mumbled. He was dreaming of spinning planets, suns, and moons.

“I have an idea.” she replied, her wide eyes glimmering with innocence.

“Oh, no.” Lontas said instantly. Her angelic twinkle could not hide her true purpose. Any thoughts of the heavens vanished as he was now concentrating intently on Bellae. Listening to one of her “ideas” had repeatedly gotten him into trouble in the past.

“What?” Bellae questioned, trying to sound hurt and innocent.

“Bellae, you don’t fool me. You’re plotting some elaborate scheme. Every time you start with, ‘I have an idea,’ we end up getting into a big mess.”

“Elaborate scheme?” Bellae repeated, sounding offended. “Not this time, Lontas. Really, this is a good and quite simple idea.” Bellae said, persistently. “Plus, someone needs our help.”

“OHHHHHH NOOOHHH! Lontas’ groan stretched out, ending in an emphatic “no.”

“What? Come on, Lontas. You haven’t even heard my idea yet.” Bellae replied, with mock injury. Flashing her sad eyes, she continued, “You have to at least listen to the idea before you say no.”

“Okay, okay.” Lontas relented, all the while thinking, I’m going to regret this.

“I don’t have all the details worked out yet, but we need to find the creature you saw in the cemetery.” Bellae stated harmlessly, as if she were describing what was for lunch.

Lontas turned ashen and Bellae continued, “We’ll sneak out tonight. I’ll get Cookie to give us some food for both a carnivore and herbivore for the poor creature.”

Feeling the pressure of Lontas’ silent dread she added, “I just KNOW this thing needs us. It’s probably hurt, so I will bring a few bandages as well.”

Gently grabbing his arm she asked, “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“No.” he answered and began to walk away.

“Lontas, if it would make you feel better I can get one of the war hounds to go with us.” she added.

“No way!” Lontas declared. He was thinking, Great! Then I can get attacked by a war hound from the ground and some demon from the air.

“Finn is on guard duty tonight so even if we get caught, which we definitely won’t, he can keep us out of trouble,” Bellae argued.

“This isn’t one of your cute and cuddly stray pets Bellae. It’s some sort of demon. There is no way we should look for it.” Lontas insisted vigorously. “If I thought anyone else would believe me, I would have already told someone about it.”

“Let’s think about this for a minute.” Bellae pleaded.

“No, and no!” he said, still trying to walk away. “I draw the line at searching for demons!”

“It makes no sense for a demon to try to help you, does it? I am quite certain it was trying to help you, or possibly ask for help.”

“Trying to help me?” Lontas ranted. “That thing tried to bloody kill me!”

“Come on, Lontas. You said yourself that it only moved to help you when you fell. It could have grabbed you and been gone before anyone even knew what happened to you. It was obviously just trying to get your attention.”

“You just admitted it could have grabbed me and flown off without anyone noticing! Yet, you want to go to the cemetery, at night, to find it? That’s not exactly comforting.”

“Lontas, you’re being dramatic. If it had wanted to hurt you it would have already done so. If we don’t go looking for it, the creature will probably come looking for you.”

“Nah.” Lontas whined meekly. He envisioned stumbling along the dark, twisting path trying to find a creature that was likely going to attack him. Stay strong, he encouraged himself.

His resolve began melting as Bellae continued to outline the reasons why her plan was the only option. Each time Lontas said “no” it was making its classic evolutionary passage. It started the journey with a loud prehistoric, “NO!,” before progressing to a less boisterous “No.” Later they turned into a hunched over, “Nah,” before transforming into a soft, upright, and unassuming “Yeah.” Bellae squeezed his arm in pure excitement. “Is that really a yes, Lontas?” she asked, flashing her best puppy dog eyes.

He nodded, and she added, “Oh, Lontas, you will be so happy you did this.”

I sincerely doubt it. he thought apprehensively.

book one image

Book One, Chapter Nine

Scroll 1: Time to be Annoyed

After a good showing during the start of the Tournament of Flags, a team of five Knights and their squires await their turn to battle a dragon.

BOOM-BOOOM-BOOM!” A series of loud crashes came from the roof above. The Knights shot up and drew their weapons. Ritari looked over at the Red Guard who continued to stand motionless at attention. Several cheers could be heard above as fine bits of dust rained down upon them from the abused ceiling. Loud howls of a beast in pain were followed by shouts and orders.

“The Dragon Battle has started.” Luchar said, excitedly.

Ritari nodded and sheathed his broadsword. “At ease, again.” he said impatiently.

Another loud series of booms rocked the room.

“Will it hold?” Jumeaux asked in a frightened voice.

Before anyone could answer their ears were assaulted by a piercing shriek. Sorea plugged her ears as the beast above continued to howl.

“The dragon is out of fire.” one of the Red Guard commented.

A series of desperate and explosive moves by the dragon rocked the ceiling above them violently. Loud creaking could be heard as the room once again filled with flakes and rubble, slowly wafting down from the battered ceiling.

Ritari knelt down next to Jumeaux who was obviously afraid, “The dragons didn’t seem scary before, did they? Problems separated by time and space, almost never seem intimidating. It is only when we come face to face with the situation that we see its true size and form. Take a deep breath, remember your training and you’ll be fine.” he said, with surprising kindness.

A final thud rocked the ceiling, quickly followed by an almost violent explosion of applause from around the arena.

“One dragon down.” Luchar said. Shouts of joy from the soldiers as well as the muffled voice of the announcer could be heard from above.

 

Book One, Chapter Nine

Scroll 3: I Shall Look Upon You

Finally entering the arena, the Knights prepare to fight their dragon as the squires struggle to keep their knees from knocking.

“Remember your training, Pantteri,” Ritari shouted above the din. “Spread out; don’t bunch up. Get in and get out. Find and exploit weakness. Keep to the basics, frustrate him but don’t become predictable. Protect yourself and watch each others backs. If someone is in trouble distract the demon. Work together; coordinate attacks, and use diversions to play off one another when possible.

“Lovag and Finn, I want a steady stream of hurt coming from those bows.” Nodding to Sorea he added, “Rain down a storm of bolts. It’s a way for us to wear him down from a distance. Remember, the dragon’s fire oil will eventually burn out.”

A loud piercing bellow of anger cracked out of the dragon. A rattling of chains followed. An occasional “twang” signaled the dragon had tensed out the irons holding him to the arena floor. Flames shot violently across the arena as the dragon’s head flailed wildly from side to side. The crowd recoiled in horror but they were protected by the magical shield surrounding them.

“You filthy son of a mongrel; I’ll rip your heart out!” Luchar roared in response. “What do you think, Finn? Do you see any danger in that beast?” Luchar joked, laughing heartily. He couldn’t have been happier to get into battle after all the waiting.

“I’m sensing a little bit of danger,” Finn joked. “I will keep you updated if I sense more peril from the beast.” In reality, Finn’s Elfin vision was a blur of menacing red and orange.

“Bellae, here. Now!” Scelto yelled from about fifteen feet away. The other squires were motioning to her from behind thick stone barricades. Another palpable blast of heat thumped her back, but she did not turn to see the flames. She ran as fast as her wobbly legs would allow. When she arrived, Scelto grabbed and held her.

I will see Finn again. He will be all right. Crann will help him. The Knights will win. There is always a way to win. The thoughts dashed through her mind as she tried to reassure herself. Yet, she could feel the unsettling panic in Scelto’s racing heart.

“Two dragons came into the arena; two dragons are deaaaaaad!” the announcer yelled as the crowd let loose ravenous applause and catcalls. “Welcome to the final Saatana duel. Lets get ready for Dragon Baaaaaattlllle!” Another roar went up from the crowd.

“The Pantteri squad of Knights from Liberum will fight . . .” a distinct cheer rose from the crowd. Bellae scanned desperately for Friar Pallium, but there were too many people moving and screaming in the sea of colors, banners, and shields “. . . they will fight one mean Saatana, HULLUS, in the final match!” A deafening roar went up from the crowd, clearly louder than the cheer for the Knights.

“Bloody swine, cheering louder for the dragon are you?” Scelto shouted. Sparked by the anger growing within him, he gently released Bellae and stood up.

“Listen up everyone, lets get in this battle. Look behind us, we have some weapons, bandages, and water in case any of our Knights need them. Forget about the crowd; let’s watch out for our Knights. The rules are clear. Unlike a real battle we can’t go to them, they can only come to us and they have to be within fifteen feet of the barricades for us to assist them. So stay back here. No one, I mean, no one goes out there without my approval. Don’t do anything foolish that will get us disqualified.”

As Scelto finished a small voice inside each of the squire’s head asked, “Who would want to go out there?” They all stole furtive glances at the other squires to see whether they held the same dread. The prestidigitation dragon conjured up by the Dwarf Pumilus hadn’t really prepared them for the real thing.

The announcer’s voice roared over the din of the coliseum again. “The scoreboard shows us that the Proliator squad defeated the Saatana Furasta in an amazing seven minutes.” The crowd let loose with a fresh round of applause. “The Piscinians defeated their Saatana in twenty-three minutes,” he continued, as the crowd cheered.

“The current leader for Tournament Champion is Red Brigade Commander, Fenik with ten thousand seven-hundred and thirty-four overall points.”

The crowd bellowed again which seemed to enrage the dragon as it let loose an ominous roar in return. The squires could see flames shoot high into the air. The profile of the Knights shone black against the red flame of the dragon’s fire.

“Knights, ready,” the announcer stated, rather than asked.

Ritari raised his spear and the five warriors shouted, “Knights!”

It’s all happening too quickly. Friar, where are you? Bellae thought.

“Brave Proliator Guard, you may disperse!” the announcer instructed.

The Proliate warriors that had been acting as a barrier between beast and Knights broke apart with lightning efficiently and speed. Half went around Lovag and half sprinted around Finn. To Bellae’s surprise, the orderly retreat ended behind them. Their Captain ended up standing next to Bellae. The rest were in orderly rows of two on either side of the barricades.

Glancing down at Bellae, and sensing her fear, the captain said, “Don’t worry miss. Grand Master Veneficus has put an enchantment upon this section and those in the stands. The dragon can’t get to you or them.”

It’s Finn and the Knights I’m worried about, she thought.

Bellae appreciated his kindness but it did little to stay her dread, especially with black scorch marks all over his once gleaming shield. Steam drifted out from it in wavy, snake like dances. She moved her hand, but stopped short of touching the shield when she felt the heat still radiating from it.