Young Writers Society

Home » Literary works » Short Story » Action / Adventure

E - Everyone

Dragon Hunt

by Radrook


                                                              The Beast

     Where the beast had come from we knew not. Some say from the very bowels of the earth. Others say from the smoldering rock that fell from the heavens. Others say it was an aberration of nature or the leviathan mentioned by Job. We the bereaved say it does not matter.

     Whatever its origin, it left destruction in its wake. Like no other beasts before, its very breath disgorged fire. Like no other beast before it, our arrows, javelins and swords proved useless. Many a knight tried in vain to spear its underbelly or mortally wound it through one of its reptilian eyes. But none had been granted the distance. Cunningly it would not stand still for a frontal assault but  slithered away in the mist or the darkness. Bided its time and then struck as if from nowhere, leaving behind the smoldering remains of its handiwork.

     We the survivors, many of us bearing the grotesque scars of the conflagration, had vowed before our family graves, beneath the weeping heavens to bring this blasphemous monstrosity to the dust or to die trying. We had sealed the vow with a fiery branding so that we might never forget our promise to those made ashes by its sulfurous, malevolent breath. Not many had survived. But we were determined with a purpose etched deeply into our consciousness with the branding iron of cruelty and mindless slaughter.

     After ten years of desperate tracking, we were finally nearing our goal. We had followed the swath of destruction which always marked its passage. Now finally, the great beast seemed to grow weary. Its evasions were not as quick. Its retreats were not as elusive. Even the dragged imprint of its clawed paws told of its age. 

     We beheld the smoke in the far horizon and spurred our steeds into a gallop. Soon the castle's granite, gray towers loomed through the morning mist like two gargantuan sentinels. Windows resembled smoldering grottoes, lightless and scorched black at the edges. Below each one, rusted spears serving as flagpoles with tattered, bloodstained, white flags jutting vertically barely fluttered in the stagnant air.

     We crossed the singed meadow and were soon before the castle ramparts. The gate's metal grating had been melted and forced aside as if by a battering ram. Its center a charred gaping maw as if in a horrified scream. The castle's battlements faired no better. Catapults had been brushed aside effortlessly, many toppling over the edges onto the courtyards below. The stench of death and sulfur infused the air. We gazed in horrified silence at the half-incinerated remains of warriors scattered about. Some had charred arms upraised as if to ward off an attack. Others stood smoldering as if ebony statues with swords still clenched in stubborn defiance.

     Hooves of our steeds echoed in the deep silence of the narrow street leading to the palace. We found its solid oaken door intact. We shouted repeatedly and awaited a response but no one answered. The castle had been abandoned in panic. It was strange how the beast had spared it as well as the Cathedral across from it. We wondered whether it could still hurl fire. We knew it had aged as all things do and that age brings limitations.

     Mighty Baldegar, a giant of a man, had lost his ability to hurl his battle ax the same distance with the same accuracy. Erik, a veritable Hercules, could no longer place his spear through a hoop at three hundred feet. I myself could no longer wield the broadsword with the same dexterity. This beast would be no different. Perhaps its bellow-like lungs had finally given out during this battle and it could no longer light its infernal flames. Perhaps its own fire had begun to irritate its aged throat. Or maybe a catapulted boulder had seriously injured it. Whatever the reason, mercy was not it.

     We tethered our nervous steeds to the balustrade and proceeded inside the castle. A thin film of black ash blown in by the wind covered its once-glittering white-marbled floors and its once- magnificent gilded throne. In the musty semi-darkness were outlines of the dead brought here to die of their mortal wounds. Nothing remained for us but the mourning. But lamentations would never restore the dead.

     Hatred raged as it had never raged before as painful memories were revived. Once again we recited the solemn oath to destroy it or die trying, to seek it out wherever it might be. We would hound it until it turned in anger upon us and slay it mercilessly as it had slayed us all. In the gloom of the castle we renewed the oath and waited for its return.

     Soon it was dusk and deep shadows began casting brooding forms on the narrow bloodied streets. Somewhere in the distance an owl sounded its questioning call and our tethered steeds neighed nervously. As if in response, there followed a deep roar from the nearby forest.

     "It approaches the gate from the north east!" our sentry fearfully announced.. Distant trees snapped like twigs as it lumbered toward the castle like some monstrous feline. Each step was accompanied by grotesque grunt similar to a bull's but a thousand times louder. Then there followed  the slow, painfully- loud creaking of the castle ramparts’ wooden frame struggling to bear the weight of a beast weighing more than ten elephants filled the night.

     As slow as it was moving, it would be upon us soon enough with the same unrelenting fury it had been upon those who had defended the castle hours before. If catapults and the combined might of all the castle's armory had failed, then how could we hope to succeed? I brooded in silence hiding my concern from the others.

     The sound of its approach changed from creaking wood to claws on cobbled stones and its breathing reverberated through the deserted streets and alleyways. It was taking its time, savoring the fear it was sensing. Sniffing the air with its cavernous nostril's each wide enough to enclose a horse. Its tree-trunk-thick tail following its reptilian form sinuously-like a giant monstrous python, its eyes glowing red in the darkness as if reflecting some preternatural inner fire that embodied a heinous soul.

     We stood before the palace entrance waiting with weapons poised, expecting the oaken door would burst into livid sulfurous flame, topple or crumble under the dragon's ponderous weight crushing all before it. Cautiously we stood beyond its reach with archers at each side. All weapons would be trained on its eyes, for if we blinded it, then killing it would be easier. Yet it had survived the full brunt of the castle’s weaponry uninjured. Surely a spear or a massive catapulted projectile must have struck its mark. Surely something had to have found its target. Yet it appeared unhurt, lithe and confident, its shield-like green scales glistening undamaged under the waxing moonlight.

     If we fled It would hurl its flames in broad swathes incinerating all before it. Our only chance was to fight it and so we stood with swords unsheathed, lances at ready, archers poised to deliver what we hoped would be a fatal wound before it had time to react.

     Outside, our steeds began neighing in terror, broke loose from their reins and galloped down the deserted narrow street-the sound of their iron-clad hooves resonating as they went.

     We waited for the rasping gasp of inhalation from the bellow-like lungs and the blast furnace-like roar that always followed, but there was none. Strangely, the steeds were being allowed safe passage. In the distance, the sound of their flight gradually faded as they swiftly crossed the castle rampart and headed toward the forest beyond.

     Weird that it had not incinerated them. An act of kindness from that hideous mind was impossible. The beast had proven far from merciful. Women, children, the aged, it had spared no one. No, there had to be another reason but compassion was not one of them. Suddenly, as if in response to our confusion, it howled near the Castle door.  Strange how its breathing seemed erratic and labored. We thought it a ruse. So we waited. Sweat-drenched and weary, we waited while it bellowed. Soon it seemed as if a dirge, some lamentation provoked by a revealed secret or painful knowledge. The sun disappeared below the distant mountain range and the beast continued to shatter the night's silence with its bellows causing the castle rafters to quiver, but no attack came.

      Slowly, after what seemed an eternity, morning's light illuminated the castle windows. Distantly the birds sang. From the castle watchtower our sentry signaled that the beast was not moving. Still we hesitated. Once when cornered, it had feigned death only to arise when the knights had dismounted.

     Then it had suddenly disgorged destruction on both horse and rider. Armor melted and men were roasted alive where they stood. It had easily overtaken the fleeing, toying with them as a large cat toys with its smaller prey before killing it. But its toying was far more hideous. It would immerse them in a flame that left them alive but writhing in agonies only reserved for the damned. Only after it had satisfied the needs of its dark heart did it deign to put an end to their suffering. No, the beast might still be dangerous so I ordered my archers to make sure.

     Volleys of arrows from upper windows failed to penetrate its armor. But the ones entering its cavernous nose would have infuriated a living beast.. Yet it was with fear that we opened the castle door and approached its tilted head propped against the cathedral steps. Its black, eagle-like claws were clenched and its elongated crimson eyes inert.

     Rising from its back, as if hurled by some unearthly titan, protruded the church steeple which had toppled from its lofty perch and speared the leviathan. Solemnly we all knelt and fervently gave thanks for our deliverance. But suddenly, in the far distance beyond the forest, another roar bellowed in furious protest and we knew that our sacred task had as yet remained unfinished.


Note: You are not logged in, but you can still leave a comment or review. Before it shows up, a moderator will need to approve your comment (this is only a safeguard against spambots). Leave your email if you would like to be notified when your message is approved.







Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
36 Reviews


Points: 172
Reviews: 36

Donate
Mon Apr 02, 2018 4:22 am
GodfreysBouillon wrote a review...



Knights marching off to fight dragons.

Can it get any better?

I love the concept. I love the names you used for the characters, Baldegar, Erik, etc. it really helps set the time and gives it a rustic, ancient culture.

However, I noticed it maybe seems like you're really trying to use the longest, most descriptive words possible, and make sentences into perfect masterpieces. While this does help with visualization as well as making it unique, it can get excessive.
I would recommend lessening things like that, and know when some sentences are constructed perfectly and when some look like you tried too hard.

"Soon the castle's granite, gray towers loomed through the morning mist like two gargantuan sentinels."
- That is perfect, and if you can do more of that you will be very successful as a writer.

"Its tree-trunk-thick tail following its reptilian form sinuously-like a giant monstrous python, its eyes glowing red in the darkness as if reflecting some preternatural inner fire that embodied a heinous soul."
- This is excessive, and has the reader focusing on making sense of each simile and metaphor, preventing them from easily visualizing the situation you are trying to describe.

Overall great story, fun to read.

8/10




Radrook says...


I don't think that the reasons you provide are the cause of the problem.





How so?



User avatar
51 Reviews


Points: 5523
Reviews: 51

Donate
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:36 pm
View Likes
Nobunaga wrote a review...



Hello!

Well, you do have a way with prose. It's hard for me to articulate how I was feeling while reading this. At some points I felt like I was being told a story by my great-great-grandfather; other times, I felt like I was in a crowd of people listening to a soldier as he told his harrowing tale. I love your writing style. It really gives off a very specific mood that's hard to capture at times.

I do have to say that I think this could be much shorter. You sometimes repeated the same descriptions. For example,

Long eagle-like claws, scraping against stone.


Its black, eagle-like claws were clenched and its elongated red eyes inert.


Now, this wouldn't usually be a problem. These two examples aren't even placed that close together in this piece. However, you spend a lot of words on descriptions. The majority of this piece is description. While I love being in your world - and I was engrossed - it became a task to weave through all of this flowery writing and I found myself wanting to skim through until the end.

Trust me, I understand the pull towards purple prose. It's fun to write and fun to read, but the latter is only true in moderation. Not everything has to be a "livid sulfurous flame". Giving everything such a description makes your writing start to drawl. It becomes quite a chore to read.

It begins to feel as if you don't trust your readers to understand the picture you're trying to paint. Sometimes, I saw whole words that could just be removed without any damage done to the scene. This excerpt, for example,

white flags jutting vertically
.

The word "vertically", I feel, can be implied. It's just taking up space.

And I'm so sorry if I sound harsh or like I didn't enjoy this! The only reason I say these things is because I love your work and I think you can do great things with the skills you already possess. But, I digress.

Okay, moving on to grammar. I don't have much to say here. The only thing I noticed was you often either didn't use a comma or misused a comma.

Soon the castle's granite, gray towers loomed through the morning mist like two gargantuan sentinels.


The comma here is not necessary.

Cunningly, it would not stand still for a frontal assault. Slithered away in the mist or the darkness.


There, I added a comma where it is needed. I'm not going to go through and list every instance of this. I trust that you'll be able to find them yourself on a good, slow edit. If you do want more help in this area then I'll be beyond happy to assist!

Also, the previous quote has alerted me to one more thing. There's a lot of sentence fragments in your piece. A sentence must have a subject in order for it to be complete. I'm assuming you do this for dramatic effect, but I would suggest employing a dash or a semicolon instead.

And that's all I have for you! I can't wait to read the next part!




Radrook says...


Thanks for the review. I agree about avoiding using purple prose and flowery speech. So I definitely was not attempting it. As for the other things mentioned as flaws, here are the rules I follow.

Repetition in Fiction
http://www.literarydevices.com/repetition/

Sentence Fragments in Fiction
https://www.thoughtco.com/using-sentenc ... ly-1691852

Use of the Comma
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/Grammar/commas.htm



Radrook says...


I applied your advice and made it shorter. Also I removed a lot of what might be considered flowery purple prose. It still needs work though. Wrote it five years ago and wasn't too keen on those things then. Thanks for the help.



Nobunaga says...


I saw your PM! I'm working on re-reading it now. Thank you for getting back to me on this :3



Radrook says...


Really appreciate your help in making it better. Thanks again.



User avatar
52 Reviews


Points: 1689
Reviews: 52

Donate
Mon Mar 26, 2018 9:54 pm
View Likes



I'm afraid I haven't the time for a proper review, but reading the first few paragraphs, I can already see a refined style of prose that flows very well in the mind and from the tongue alike. I will make sure to read this in its entirety eventually.

Very nice prose! Very nice indeed, and quite impressive as well! I daresay the sheer form is some of the best I've seen around here!




Radrook says...


Thanks for the review and encouraging words based on on the first paragraphs. Much appreciated.



User avatar
9 Reviews


Points: 424
Reviews: 9

Donate
Mon Mar 26, 2018 7:24 pm
View Likes
MaxWagner wrote a review...



Entertainingly, my music selection for homework (that I should be doing right now...) is a two hour Celtic music compilation... and it fits perfectly with the feel behind your piece.

I enjoy the details you put into this. The sense that the story has existed for generations, and that it will continue for many more was predominant in my mind, especially at the ending sentence. I like how the hate-filled survivors were not the ones to ultimately kill the beast. That would've been too satisfying an end to the ten year hunt.

Your lexicon is impressive, and I like your use of "swathes" when speaking of the beast's flames. It made me think of my grandmothers fabrics that overtake her entire basement.

The one line of dialogue confuses me. It feels out of place to me. Were there more lines, perhaps it would take away the serious nature to your piece, but I feel if you're going to put forth the effort to write dialogue, then there should be a tad more.

I like the connection between the beast's age, and its hunter's age. Not going to lie, I wondered why they didn't allow the dragon's years to overcome it for a few moments. If that happened though, there would be no story, and I'm not entirely sure I'd be able to allow something to destroy my family without wanting to go after it with every ounce of vengeance in my bones.

A note about punctuation: personally, I would've used more commas, were I you. However, commas are my thing, and I've been informed by many a professor that I use too many.

All around, I like it.




Radrook says...


Thanks for the informative helpful feedback. Very much appreciated. I wrote this years ago and have considered adding dialogue to make it longer. But the task has proven a bit daunting and I would need to take pacing into consideration and other factors which would make the rewrite a major operation. I will give your punctuation suggestions serious consideration. I am sure that there are places where punctuation was needed and it got past me in my haste. About allowing the dragon to succumb to its age, well, please notice that although it was aging it still had been able to devastate that place and overcome all its defenses.

So it had not gotten to the point of being not dangerous yet. Waiting could have meant allowing it to attack yet another village or castle. Also, as you said, the emotions caused by its killing of family members would cause the knights to seek revenge. You are right about that one line of dialogue and I did hesitate to include it because it does stand out from the rest of the narrative. So your observation is justified. Will see if I might modify or perhaps delete it. Thanks for the help.



User avatar


Points: 0
Reviews: 0

Donate
Mon Mar 26, 2018 7:13 pm
bhargav says...






User avatar


Points: 0
Reviews: 0

Donate
Mon Mar 26, 2018 7:11 pm
bhargav says...



nice. its a little old fashioned in language. u should focus a little on the grammar




Radrook says...


Thanks for the review. The reason it seems old fashion is because the speaker is supposed to be a medieval knight. Telling me to focus on grammar without pointing out nothing in specific doesn't help. It annoys.



bhargav says...


k





'Ye can't ask someone to focus on grammar whilst using 'u' instead of 'you,' for goodness' sake!

Just felt like pointing out the irony. No hostilities intended, just a fair point.




"It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small."
— Neil Armstrong