Drawful the Awful Part XIII: Black Water, Green Fire

Drawful the Awful is the ongoing series/novel in progress following the pursuits of the dragon, Drawful, who is awful at being a dragon, and his “kidnapee” the Princess Brooke. The full series can be found here.

Chauncey felt a bit useless. His father’s knights had insisted, in their own ways, that he save his strength and that they would row him across the final leg of the journey over the black lake to the gorge now/always known as Fallon’s Labyrinth. The trio had secured a row boat from a hermit living on the northern bank, and were now gliding over the inky water. Claro and Lucinda each had an oar at the boat’s midsection while the Prince sat at the stern facing them.

Claro had insisted on it as a matter of proper respect for rank and file. Lucinda had gone along with the notion seeing a jet of green flame shoot into the sky over the tree line on the opposite bank that divided the lake from the steppe.

They had each mused, in their own ways, what might have set the dragon off. The thoughts were verbalized rhetorically by each of the two soldiers in turn every so often as the jets of green fire shot into the sky.

“That’s quite the flame.”

“I wonder if he’s already battling another knight?”

“He keeps shooting them in the sky, but I don’t see any attackers in flight?”

“They’re all going in more or less the same direction, curious isn’t it?”

Regarding the latter couple notices by the soldiers, Fallon of the Terrible Fire and Much Meanness had endeavored to leave his cavern during the night, but found the task took some work. The imaginers responsible for constructing his cavern from the collective think space were majority human, or at least relatively humanoid in shape and scale (there were some satyrs among the lot in Hubrista who had contributed their own ideas and notions to the matter of his legend and subsequent reality). Thus, carelessly, the collective populous had only imagined human sized ways in or out of the cavern.

Admit it, two chapters prior when the cavern with the treasure was described, you likely only imagined entries large enough for human knights or treasure hunters to find their way in. Fallon was close to twenty feet tall when on its hind quarters, and close to forty feet nose to spear pointed tail, was not fitting through those entries quite so easily.

Thus, Fallon had to spend the night using his eponymous terrible fire to melt and carve out the stone of the passage. It had been a slow deliberate process of first softening the granite rock under his inferno, and scooping it like molten ice cream to widen the passage. What Claro, Lucinda and Chauncey were seeing was the last leg of Fallon’s efforts as he continued applying flame to the last narrow sphincter of granite imprisoning him that caused the flames to overwhelm the lip of the passage and shoot into the sky above.

Chauncey had undertaken a number of years of study with wizards and other learned, skilled men of the seven Kingdoms- mostly as a means of appeasing his father on his delay in finding a Princess to wed, or quest to undertake, or damsel to rescue. Chauncey was a very particular kind of lazy unique to people in their early twenties. He was constantly exhausted by the thought of doing anything that he might have to do until and beyond his next birthday- like rule a kingdom or be married- but was cheerfully enthusiastic about anything he could accomplish within a month.

So, Chauncey was not unprepared for a probable fight with a dragon, even one so fierce that it could produce a jet of green flame with such intensity that it could shoot seventy feet into the air, uninterrupted or swayed by winds. He’d studied dragons extensively and thus knew all the facts and information that would have collected to construct Fallon from the Plebo and the population’s collective imagination of him.

Chauncey had even taken plenty of time to study combat itself. He was more than adept with blade, spear, and bow. However, his favorite weapon was his bass guitar. Not so much the actual fight with a dragon, but the result of said fight: becoming a champion for a Princess’ hand, betrothal, marriage, ruling a kingdom- that all sounded terribly wearisome (and worrisome) to the Prince.

Chauncey’s shoulders slumped and he hung his head at the whole ordeal. Lucinda glanced at Claro thinking it was a matter of more immediate fear gripping the Prince. Lucinda, though herself skilled with the sword, had never practiced with the Prince and was unaware of the Prince’s capability as a warrior. Thus, given everything else she knew of the Prince’s more artistic inclinations, presumed his posture to belie lack of mettle rather than merely lack of enthusiasm.

Claro took it to mean the Prince was resting up for the fight, and continued rowing with his eyes fixed on the horizon over the Prince’s shoulder.

Lucinda tried not to sound too coddling, lest she offend the Prince with an overly motherly tone. “Prince Chauncey, are you preparing yourself mentally for the task ahead?”

The Prince only groaned but did not raise his head. Lucinda glanced at Claro, who kept his gaze stupidly fixed and his rowing mechanical.

“Sir, perhaps I could offer some counsel on facing a dragon? Tactics we might employ in the battle?”

Chauncey did not groan, but there was a tired sigh from the depths of where Chauncey’s head was hung between his knees. He rattled off a strategy based on the team present laconically: “Archer will take up position as high or far from the Dragon as possible, work as a decoy to use arrows to cover close combat swords. Arrows won’t penetrate the hide, but will distract the dragon long enough for swords to approach and tighten distance through lateral movement, and also possibly delay the dragon’s fire breath by distracting it.

“Once the swords are close enough, one should attack the tail the throw the Dragon off balance, and get it more defensively on four quarters. With the neck more within reach, the other sword should go for killing blow by stabbing the blade into the softer hide at the throat, and unzipping the dragon from there.”

Lucinda did not mask her surprise at the Prince, and was even more stunned at how automatically Claro took a hand from his oar to salute. “Sir, yes sir!”

Lucinda looked back at the Prince, who had not raised his head and let out a tired gust of breath from where he was still hiding his face. “Sir, are you,” Lucinda struggled for a tactful way to search out the Prince and decided to just be frank, “sir, you’re not scared then?”

The Prince snorted which made his shoulders bob with indignance. “Of a dragon?”

Lucinda did finally note that nothing in the Prince’s tone bespoke fear. “Are you just… not interested?”

Chauncey finally lifted his head, seemingly with monumental effort and when he sat back, it rolled back as if his neck didn’t have the strength to keep it upright. “Yes! Of slaying a dragon and being king? Ugh, there are so many better things to do.”

Claro, once more did not respond in any way to the Prince’s pronouncement. If it wasn’t a direct order, or relevant to strategy, Claro seemed to feel his place as a soldier was to be dumb as a door jamb.

“Sir, you’re a Prince, what better thing is there for you to do?” Lucinda asked, completely baffled a Prince could say such a thing.

“Well, it’s not like I asked for this privilege. What if there are better ways for me as an unique individual to contribute to society other than ruling? Like music? Studying? Writing? I didn’t ask to be a Prince, the whole monarchy system is kind of unsettlingly nepotistic, I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d make great kings who just aren’t born into the right families.

“I mean, do I enjoy living in a palace? Having servants? Having access to teachers, books and everything? Sure. But I feel really bad about it. Especially since it all comes with having to someday be king. It’s terribly unfair.”

The Prince, thus roused, continued on in this manner until the finally reached the opposite bank, which Lucinda watched approaching with desperation that the boat hitting soil might shut the Prince up.

Lucinda had been focused on the bank itself. Claro had remained fixated on the opposite horizon and his rowing. None of them had noticed that the jets of flame had stopped climbing into the sky over the trees some time ago. What they did notice, as soon as they disembarked and dragging the boat up the shore, was the trees being threshed and parted as an enormous dragon burst from them onto the bank of the lake.

The dragon had be reared up to use its forepaws to tear through the ashen trees of the southern bank of the Black Lake. Seeing the trio, clad in armor, the dragon bared its gleaming fangs and adopted a threatening posture on all fours.

Claro seemed to be reading the terrain to try to enact the plan Chauncey had described in the boat, but Chauncey stopped the soldier with a sharp command of, “hold!” Survival instinct was a damned exhausting motivator, Chauncey thought sadly.

Chauncey kept his hands up, and gave a slight nod to Claro and Lucinda in turn that they should keep their hands from their respective weapons. On the wide open bank, water behind them, the dragon before them and thick trees creating a tight lane of soft soil, they were at a laughable disadvantage. Chauncey was grateful they had been put in pursuit of an intelligent creature like a dragon and not a blockheaded one like a minotaur or troll.

“Are you Fallon?” Chauncey asked.

Yes, I Am Fallon Of The Terrible Fire And Much Meanness.

“Wow, you guys weren’t kidding.” Chauncey shot a look at Lucinda who, will momentarily appreciative quickly tilted her head urgently for him to focus on the steely black serpent of doom leering threateningly at them.

“I am Prince Chauncey of the Kingdom Anathema, and I have come seeking a blade tales say is among your treasures that can slay Drawful.” Chauncey intoned deeply, having read that dragons are by nature both possessive and egotistical- typically anyway. He knew first to respect Fallon’s dominion, but also to be humble.

Yes, The Blade Of The Unbidden Is Among My Treasures. It Is The Blade That Can Slay A Dragon, Particularly a Dragon Named Drawful.

The Prince considered this. Fallon was aware of Drawful, and what was more, was aware of the blade being used as a weapon against Drawful? The dragon lowered itself closer to the ground, less pared for battle, but still growling to kindle tongues of green flame that flickered out between his fangs. “We seek this blade, oh Fallon of the Terrible Fire and Much Meanness.”

Chauncey checked with his companions wordlessly to confirm he had gotten Fallon’s lengthy name correct. The dragon lowered its head in a half nod knowingly.

Our Aims Are Complementary. I Too, Seek Drawful. More So, I Seek The Princess Brooke. If You Would Challenge Drawful, I Can Offer You The Blade You Need If You Can Aid Me In Finding The Princess.

Chauncey was perplexed by this offer, although it seemed a much preferred solution to having to fight or challenge the dragon in any sort of contest to win the blade from him. “I can offer you information. You seek the Princess?”

Yes. Drawful Is Insufficient As A Dragon. I Would Serve As A True Jailor Of The Princess. If You Would Slay Drawful And Then Challenge Me, It Is To My Advantage If You Also Help Me In Finding The Princess Sooner.

Chauncey considered it. Drawful, he worried, did not seem that bad. He didn’t want any harm to be visited on the dragon, especially after Drawful had tried to be so helpful. However, he was caught between a lake and an inferno. He had to offer something, but perhaps he could have the behemoth negotiate with himself. Chauncey’s first plan was to relate was he knew and only relate simple facts until Fallon himself was satisfied.

“To the North of us is the Kingdom of Hubrista, further North is the Alabaster Kingdom. Drawful took the Princess South from Alabaster yesterday.”

Chauncey went stock still. Fallon’s low humming growl had risen in volume and rumbling ferocity suddenly. Electric fear raced up and down all of Chauncey’s limbs and back. The flames that had flickered around the Dragon’s teeth and gums became a bonfire until Fallon reared his head back and shot an intense jet of green fire into the sky with a roar.

I Shall Journey North Then, To Hubrista To Find The Princess. You, When You Have Found Drawful, This Will Serve You On Your Quest.

Fallon’s tail lolled out from behind him and flicked out a blade in a black sheathe into the dirt at the Prince’s feet. Chauncey picked it up and read the inscription down the length of the sheath: the Blade of the Unbidden.

If You Are Victorious Over That Doddering Dragon, Then Perhaps You Might Then Try To Win A Princess From A True Dragon. Fallon Of The Terrible Fire And Much Meanness Will Welcome The Challenge When The Time Comes.

Fallon spread his black leathery wings and produced a gale from opening them, then flapping them to take off from the shore with such force that it knocked all three onto their behinds. Lucinda watched the mighty dragon soar over the lake towards the Kingdom over the swamp in the distance. “Geez, that’s a mouthful of a name,” she remarked.

Claro clambered to his feet and dusted himself off, beaming proudly at the Prince. “Sir! You have the blade to slay Drawful! Mission success!”

Chauncey grimaced at the blade. “Except now it’s not Drawful I need to slay.” He looked over his shoulder at the dragon that had already crossed half the lake’s span, “it’s Drawful I’m worried about.” The soldiers both looked down at the Prince in confusion who was still lying in the mud of the shore. The Prince complained quietly, “more immediately I need to worry about changing into a fresh pair of pants. Lucinda, mind heading into the thicket there for a bit?”

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