Fantasy Fiction posted August 22, 2021 Chapters:  ...13 14 -15- 16... 


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The Dragon Slayers

A chapter in the book The Chronicals Of Bethica: The Rise

The Chronicles Of Bethica

by amahra




Background
The Cristofur enters a land that proves more dangerous than any land Gangus had ever seen.


Chapter Eleven (part 1)
Land of the Dragon

Gangus was the first to rise that morning. The Cristofur reached the dark waters of a city that would later be known as Jinelle.

Straight away, something appeared strange in the sky: Black smoke hovered and slowly formed into an eerie being, but it was just a trick of the imagination, Dinary thought as he stood gazing up at it.

As the ship drew nearer to the city, ear-piercing screams rang out. Up high to the right of him, giant wings, nearly as broad as the Cristofur, flapped like ship sails beating against a strong wind. Between the wings were a long, dark tube-like body, four clawed appendages and, a head vomiting fire upon the land.

The fire-breathing creature seemed on a rampage, and it was killing and destroying everything in its path. Even from that distance, Dinary could see the outline of its rough, scaly exterior with ridges along its back. Its long tail tipped with arrow-shaped spikes, and upon its head were two horns.

As the terrorized humanoids screamed and trampled one another, the creature continued to spit fire. The blaze burst forth like a stream of burning water as it consumed buildings, farmlands, cattle, and frightened souls running for their lives. The sadly afflicted animals looked like balls of fire with legs as they stampeded towards a nearby lake.

"Great god of mercy, do you see that!" Celio exclaimed, joining Dinary on the first upper deck. The two stood in amazement--appearing shocked and not knowing what to do.

Dinary exhaled hard. "We have to help those poor creatures."

"With what?" Celio snapped.

"We'll gather our archers."

"Against that thing?"

"We've got to try."

"Are you mad, Dinary? That thing is not like the flying demon you fought months ago. That thing spits fire."

The Cristofur moved closer to shore and the screaming became deafening.

"Well, I can't stand it," Dinary said. He ran towards the stairs; skipping every other step, he dashed down the hall. Celio ran after him, hoping to talk some sense into him. As Dinary turned a corner at the end of the hall, he smacked into Gangus, nearly knocking him to the floor.

"Whoa!" Gangus bellowed with a chuckle. "Where's the fire?"

Dinary never stopped running but yelled over his shoulder, "In the sky, Father...in the sky!"

"What's in the sky?"

"There's a flying creature blowing fire, my Lord," Celio said gasping for breath.

"Holy Zeus." Gangus's eyes grew wide. "Well, why are you just standing there, you fool? Gather the men."

Celio ran off and in what seemed like minutes, the entire ship flew into action. Gangus grabbed his staff. Celio pulled his sword and shield from under his bed. Dinary reached for his sword--his necklace growing warm on his chest; Letty, Pryah, and Alema, grabbed their weapons.

"Celio," Gangus called, "you stay back and take charge guarding the ship."

"Aye, Aye, Captain," he said mockingly with a disappointing frown.

The bowmen and swordsmen met Gangus and the others on deck, and all climbed into rowboats to make their way to shore. By the time they reached land, the fire-breathing creature had gone. Yet, it left burning buildings, smoking fields, dead bodies, and suffering animals.

The victims of the creature's rage who survived knelt weeping over their dead as smoke seeped from their charred bodies. Gangus soon realized they were on Timbakni land. The Timbaknis were resourceful, honorable, and very religious. They despised magic--refusing to allow it among them because they perceived it as evil.

When Gangus and his warriors came upon the grieving humanoids, they were immediately taken aback by their appearance. They appeared human from the neck down, but from the neck up they resembled a golden-face wolf with a dark wet nose and raised ears on either side of their heads. Gangus looked over at Pryah and gestured for her to come close. "Do they understand human speech?" he whispered.

"Many tribal spokesmen, especially priests, speak in many tongues," she said quietly. "They have to in order to conduct trading and peace talks with other tribes."

With that, Gangus turned and said, "We apologize for the intrusion, but we saw from our ship that you were in trouble and came as quickly as we could to help. Sorry we did not make it in time."

A tall Timbakni male stepped forward dressed in a long, loose-fitting white tunic with green headgear to shield his head from the sun. As was the custom in his tribe, he wore a veil pulled under his chin to have handy due to the region's sudden and frequent sandstorms.

"Thank you," the male said. I am Hayman, the high priest in this region. I am glad that you were too late, or I would be burying you and your fellow tribesmen as well."

Delighted that they understood each other, Gangus introduced himself and all who were with him. Hayman, though he showed no fear, felt threatened by the odd-looking staff Gangus leaned upon, and Hayman asked him about it. Gangus wisely didn't reveal its power but said it was only good for keeping his balance due to an old war wound.

Quickly taking the focus off his staff, Gangus spoke his concerns for the numerous injuries and sent Lygone back to the ship to bring Brehira and some of the women to help. Celio was ordered to come as well. In the meantime, Gangus and his men assisted the Timbaknis in the ceremonial placing of their dead.

As they waited for Lygone to return, Hayman invited his guest underground where his people lived. "We only come up to attend to our cattle and farmlands, and fetch water," Hayman told them. He also explained to Gangus how every month for years, many of them died fighting to protect their water and food supply from that evil flying beast they called a Drake. 

As Gangus and Hayman walked the spiraling stone steps, they discussed many things. Gangus fakely leaned on his staff and Hayman strolled with one furry hand behind his back--a symbol of his authority.

He said Drakes had existed in the land for centuries; his ancestors had rid the land of them, they thought. However, twenty years ago, they emerged again. Some said the adult Drakes knew they were dying out and had hidden their eggs; the hatchlings had eaten one another making the last one strong enough to survive on its own. "No one knows if the story's true," Hayman said, "probably a children's tale."

Hayman led Gangus and his soldiers down a long, dim hallway.

"So, you think there's just one Drake left?" Gangus asked.

"We believe so, and it's the biggest and toughest anyone's ever seen. They can live a hundred and fifty years, you know. We've done everything, including poisoning a few of our herd as bait. But not even the deadliest poison seems to phase it."

"But, this is a realm full of supernatural powers. We've seen it with our own eyes on the island of Gorr."

"Oh, no," Hayman said, raising the palms of his hands. "We are servants of our god. We do not engage in sorcery."

"But not all supernatural power is sorcery."

"No good thing can come of such powers in the hands of the god's creations. Only the gods themselves are to use those powers." Hayman said. Then Hayman raised a furry brow and asked, "Are you a wizard?"

"No, certainly not."

"Good," Hayman replied. "I believe you."

Gangus swallowed hard, and thought of Brehira's gift; he wasn't sure if it were wise for the Timbaknis to observe her using it. He feared Hayman would mistake it for magic and order them from his land. Still, he didn't want to accept the priest's hospitality on a lie.

When they entered the main chambers, Dinary marveled at the beauty of the underground. Colorful rugs covered the floors. Furniture was made of dark painted wood. Rooms were loaded with the fine art of sculptures: Short ones were on tables--tall ones in every corner of each room, and engraved images of their ancestors lined the stone walls.

The children were orderly and obedient. The females were dressed stylishly in colorful tunics and wore wonderfully carved wooden jewelry around their necks and wrists.

Seeing that Hayman was a priest of peace, Gangus signaled to his soldiers to leave their weapons outside the main chamber. Gangus, of course, was allowed to keep his staff since, as Hayman believed, it was only a walking stick.

Gangus and his men were fed well: There were tables spread with sweet fruits and vegetables from their trees and gardens; the water that was so clear tasted sweet. They ate roasted meats and drank thick yellowish milk that came from a strange animal they'd never seen before. Gangus didn't offer the priest wine. He didn't think it appropriate--knowing the effects of it was unknown to humanoids of their realm.

After stuffing themselves, at the insistence of the priest, Gangus and the others settled back and listened to the priest give a summary of the Timbaknis' history.

"My ancestors arrived," Hayman began, "in Bethica several centuries ago. It was the first of three great exoduses fleeing a terrible disaster in the west known as The Gloaming. They fought, fled, and traveled across the whole of the southern realms before finally settling here in the Amersis Desert. They tamed the wild jungles along the coast, eventually forging a healthy and stable region of small villages. Much like this one before we were forced to go underground," he said, appearing sad as he looked about.

"We get along fine with other tribes," Hayman continued, "although, recently, there have been a few border disputes with the Nekanians and the Sucari. We Timbaknis love to travel but not so much anymore," he ended.

"Because of the Drake?" Gangus asked.

"Yes. That blasted evil."

"Why don't you just leave?" Dinary blurted.

Hayman frowned. "Leave our land? Never. No black-hearted beast is going to force us from our homes. Why...our ancestor's bones would cry out from the dirt. Our generation would be a disgrace to them all."

Just then, a Timbakni boy came running into the room and whispered to Hayman. Hayman nodded and told the boy to bring them in. He turned to Gangus. "It seems more of your tribe are here."

"Ah! It is the healers that have arrived to help your injured," Gangus said. He gazed at Hayman under his lashes, dreading his reaction.

"Healers! But our gardens flourish with the best medicinal herbs in the land. Many travel from far regions for our healing herbs. Timbaknis receive much wealth for our trade. What could you possibly add but magic?" Hayman snapped.

"And they shall use your gardens," Gangus said, trying to appease him.

Gangus stood nervously shifting his weight when the Timbakni boy entered. Behind him walked Celio carrying his shield with a lightning bolt in the middle of a sky-blue disc--the symbol of the god, Raziel.

First, Hayman frowned at the boy for not insisting Celio put aside his weapons, but when Hayman saw the symbol of the god of his ancestors, he better understood the boy's misgivings. Hayman nearly bowed to the shield but managed to stand straight. The corners of his mouth curled up. Behind Celio, came Brehira and her ladies. Then, Hayman spoke to Celio.

"Your shield carries the symbol of Raziel, the god I serve."

"I am his Holy Templar," Celio said.

Hayman's eyes widened, and he turned to Gangus. "Why didn't you tell me?" Before Gangus could answer him, Hayman turned to Celio, Brehira, and the women, "Please, you are certainly welcome."

Delighted with what seemed as Hayman's change of heart, Gangus stood. "Priest Hayman, this is my wife, Brehira. She is Priestess of Goddess Dahlia."

"Ah...Priestess," Hayman said bowing his head. "You add grace to our home."

"Thank you, Priest Hayman, how kind of you to say that," Brehira said. Her eyes darted around the room. "I understand there are many injured? May we attend them?"

"Oh yes, of course. Pohpi," he said to the Timbakni boy, "take the priestess to the Sick hall, and provide her with all the herbs she'll need."

Brehira and the women followed the young boy out of the room and down a short hall; they walked down the stairs to a long hallway that smelled of burnt fur and flesh. Moaning and groaning bodies lay in a row upon bundles of bloody bedding. Many lay with colorful pieces of cloth placed as death masks over their faces.

The women worked feverishly throughout the night. They cleaned wounds, applied medicinal herbs, and bandaged arms, legs, faces, and sometimes whole bodies.

Brehira's gift allowed her to feel the power oozing out of her hands, under the bandages, and into the skin and bodies of her patients. She sensed the pulse of the pain that thumped throughout their bodies; after locating it, she felt the pain when it suddenly stopped at her touch.

Meanwhile, the Timbaknis marveled at the clothes the Volarian women wore. When Gangus saw how much they delighted in them, he sent Lygone back for silk cloth and Cashmere goat skin--pearls for the females and gold for the males. The Timbaknis, though their garments were simple, were very style-conscious. They longed to be noted for their way of dressing. And these new Volarian clothes and jewelry would quickly bring that longing to reality.

While Brehira led in treating the wounded, Gangus and his men worked from morning and well into the night helping to restore buildings; they searched and rounded up scared off cattle, and salvaged fruit and vegetables from badly scorched trees and fields. As Priest Hayman nailed a plank of wood into the barn roof, Gangus questioned him about the Drake and where he could find it. Hayman's hammer stopped midway a bang.

"You're not thinking about going after the Drake?" Hayman muttered.

"We're not doing all of this repairing and healing just to leave and have that blasted thing come back and attack you again."

"But it's usually months before it comes back."

"And you're fine with that?"

"Of course I'm not fine with it. As you can see, our mates and little ones are safe. We try to fight it off the best we can, hoping it will take one or two animals from the herd and then leave."

"And Timbaknis have lived like this for how long?"

"Over twenty years," Hayman replied.

Gangus shook his head and resumed hammering.

When darkness came, the men stopped working and settled in for the night. Gangus continued to badger Hayman about the Drake--its habits, its escape routes, if it attacked more at night, noon, morning, how early--how late? Where he thought it resided when it wasn't attacking. However, Hayman continued to resist giving Gangus the information he wanted. He liked his new friend and couldn't stomach seeing him killed.

The Drake had already taken enough from him--his brother and sister, his boyhood friends, and many of his fellow priests. No. No more, he thought.

Yet, Gangus was determined not to leave that beast alive. He believed the Timbaknis were an exceptional tribe and deserved to live Drake free. Thoughts of the Drake cluttered his mind and he couldn't sleep.

Around daybreak, Gangus heard loud talking outside his bed-chamber. He covered himself and hurried out to see about the commotion. He rushed down the hall to the room where Hayman, Dinary, Brehira, and others were gathered. They stood half-circling Nahzi, one of the soldiers who was left guarding the ship.

The soldier sat panting, his clothes scorched and face smeared with dark smudges. Brehira handed the soldier a cup of water. Gangus stepped quickly up to him. "Nahzi, are the people all right?" he asked frantically.

With labored breathing, Nahzi squeaked out a yes.

"The ship?"

"What's left of it, sir." Nahzi took a final gulp of his water. "Lord Abram...there was nothing we could do. We shot arrows at it...but the arrows appeared no more than flying insects to that thing." Nahzi took in a deep breath. "And it attacked the ship. The fire roared above our heads. There was nothing we could do, sir." Nahzi dropped his head, and Brehira patted his shoulder.

"Merciful gods," Hayman said looking at Gangus.

"And you're sure no one was hurt?" Gangus asked.

"That's just it, my Lord. It only attacked the sails. I know this sounds mad, but like it was trying to keep us from leaving. We finally got the fire out. But that thing acted like it could think. We kept shooting arrows at it, trying to hit an eye. But no matter what we did, it wouldn't attack us, just the sails."

"Drakes are brilliant, even humorous at times," Hayman said. "They like toying with their food."

A response to that last word caught in Gangus's throat, and every head slowly turned to Hayman and stared.







Image: by Dantegrafice from Pixabay

Main Characters

Lord Gangus Abram Leader of his clan
Lady Brehira (Bree he ra) His wife
Dinary (Di nary) Youngest Son
Celio (Seal le o) Soldier and close friend
Princess Netrekka (Neh trek kah) Dinary's Lover/wife


Minor Characters
Khimah (Kee ma) Eldest Son
Captain Dulcy P Dordrecht (Door check) Captain of the Cristofur
Judian (Jew-dee-in) Second in Command of the Christofur
Kofius (Ko fee us) The Sail Master


 




When Lord Gangus Abram is awakened by a mysterious voice in the night and told to seek out the Oracle Naman, he must make a journey across the Endless Ocean to destroy the Nordoxz, an undefeated race of humanoids that are controlled by powerful forces of evil.

Lord Abrams plunges into a perilous trek to obey the gods and settle in Bethica, a land of dragons, cannibals, Fallen Angels, Amazonians, and Dark Lords. He is joined by his wife, Brehira, youngest son Dinary, comrade and friend, Celio, Shapeshifter and Beast Master, Olutunji, and 750 people willing to risk their lives for land and freedom.
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