I’m back! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks, but I’m here to continue the spree of short stories from my backlog. Today’s tale is an oldie; I don’t remember exactly when I wrote it, but I believe I was 21 at the time, if not, younger. It’s the story of a fledgling dragon who goes to some pretty serious lengths to prove to the older, stronger dragons in the land that he’s no helpless whelp.
Seeing as how this story comes from some of my earlier days when I was making a determined attempt to become a published writer, it’s not exactly a reflection of where I am right now with my language and ability to spin a good yarn. My raw, unrefined craft of years ago is definitely on display here, but I still find this story entertaining, and I hope you do, as well.
And once you’re done with this brief tale, I hope you take the opportunity to make a stop at The Geekiverse and read my reaction piece for the show Gravity Falls, which aired on Disney X.D. and recently concluded its hysterical and heart-warming 40 episode run.
Proving His Fire
To most eyes in the kingdom, Raldigo would have merely appeared as a red speck racing against the pale blue canopy over the land. But many who saw the bright spot moving in the sky that day knew exactly who it was, for many had the privilege of beholding him up close at some point in their lives; some even had the honor of speaking with the friendly, courageous creature.
Raldigo beat his wings and sped straight into the cloud. A moment later, the scarlet dragon burst through the other side of the white zephyr and soared across the afternoon sky. The sun shone brilliantly upon the kingdom that warm summer day, providing the young dragon with the perfect weather for a carefree flight over his home.
From his place in the sky, Raldigo could see all throughout the land, which was certainly at its greatest beauty this time of the season. His far-reaching dragon eyes could see all of the wondrous sights that painted the landscape; the rolling plains, which were like vast blankets of gold, the forests which were thick with curtains of lush leaves, and entire fields of vibrant flowers which dotted the countryside in every direction.
But not far ahead, Raldigo’s vision was blocked by a chain of mountains which rose high above all else in the land. The black and grey towers of pure rock pierced the clouds in the sky, while one great cloud of fog hung just beneath their peaks. Mountains were always the ideal place for a dragon to rest, and if the ones before him were as cool and quiet as they appeared, they were exactly what Raldigo would like in a place to stop and slumber.
He felt the air grow chill as he passed into the mountains. The sun’s blistering rays were incapable of finding their way through the thick fog. A breeze also swept through the peaks, blowing a gentle mist with it. Most creatures could never survive in such a part of the world, but to a dragon, it was comfortable, peaceful haven.
Raldigo quickly found a spot to land. In the middle of the rocky towers was one such peak that wore a flat top and a crown of gigantic boulders about it. He was not sure for how long he slept before felt a familiar presence approach. He felt several powerful gusts of winds race across his body.
When he opened his eyes, Raldigo found that he was no longer alone at the mountaintop. Four dragons had surrounded him on the crown of rocks, each one many years older than him, and much larger. One dragon had scales that were like charcoal, another deep green, the third dark blue, while the last had scales which gleamed like rubies.
This was the dragon that landed just before him, and the one which Raldigo was least excited to see. The ruby-colored dragoon was the biggest of them all, with a tremendous wingspan like few others amongst their species, prodigious horns that displayed his many years, and a malicious grin which could petrify any living creature.
Raldigo had seen that grin before, and had wished he would never have to again.
“Well look at that, Terroth, you were right,” said Graeldar, the thick charcoal dragon behind him, “It’s little Raldigo up here, all alone in the mountains.”
“And he’s hardly even grown since we last saw him,” said Azuro, the blue dragon, with a tone that was just as condescending as Graeldar’s had been.
Terroth, the huge red dragon, snickered at the smaller beast in front of him. “That was quite some time ago, too,” Terroth added. “So, Raldigo, where have you been flying these days since you ran off from all of us?”
Raldigo’s eyes narrowed. “None of you need to know,” he answered. “But I prefer to be as far away from most of you as possible.”
“Why, what’s so bad about us?” the green dragon, named Malaphite, asked mockingly. “You still must be embarrassed about the last Summit of the Dragons, is that it?” The four larger dragons laughed, while Raldigo gulped. The mere mention of the Summit made his expression droop, displaying the humiliation that still haunted him.
“I told you never to come to that in the first place,” said Terroth, while he shook and his head and continued to chuckle, “But you were too headstrong to realize that a dragon your age didn’t belong with the eldest and greatest of our land.”
“You never told me that they’d all be a bunch of bullies, and gang up on a dragon half their size…” Raldigo replied, with little strength in his voice.
“You should have been smart enough back then to expect that,” said Terroth. “Dragons only respect the wisest and the strongest of creatures, and that’s precisely the only kind which we will associate ourselves with, especially when we dragons should gather to preach our wisdom to the others.”
“But even after we were nice enough to teach you that lesson, you’ve still managed to become such good friends with all of the humans in the land,” Azuro spat.
Raldigo’s expression flared up once again as he shot the blue dragon an indignant glare. “There’s
nothing wrong with speaking to any of the humans. A lot of the dragons do it, and I know that you four have done so before.”
“But we’re not friends with them,” Graeldar argued. “We only see the humans when we have to help them protect the kingdom, or when it means that we dragons can claim more land or treasure for through our aid.”
“Alliances are one thing, but friendship with such lowly creatures of this world is nothing that any respecting dragon would have,” Malaphite added.
“Although, that may be difficult to understand for a hatchling who foolishly believes he’s already a real dragon,” Terroth said, sending yet another barb Raldigo’s way.
“Then why do you even bother to come find me and talk to me?” Raldigo asked while he curled his lip. “If I’m not a real dragon, why be in my presence at all? Is it because you all aren’t as strong as you love to boast?”
Terroth’s grin vanished from his face, and his eyes lit up with fury. The great red dragon released a stream of golden flame from each nostril which sped straight past Raldigo and surrounded him with fire. When Terroth ceased, Raldigo stood encircled by a charred outlining from the flames, which had come mere inches from searing his scarlet hide.
“Do not test me, Raldigo, I will have no difficulty with silencing a big-mouthed fledgling like yourself,” Terroth growled. “I do not need to hear a whelp hardly half my age and half my size explaining whether I’m a real dragon or not.”
Despite the display of power that Terroth tried to frighten Raldigo with, the young dragon never even blinked while the golden flames leapt around his body or when Terroth threatened him. The scarlet dragon only stared back at Terroth with the same confident gaze.
“Then let me leave this mountaintop in peace, so that I never have to see any of you again,” Raldigo said.
The three larger dragons all bellowed with deep laughter. “Leave him be, Terroth, he’ll just be a waste of your fire,” Azuro said.
Terroth did not acknowledge Azuro, but he appeared to agree with the blue dragon’s advice. Still glaring coldly at the young dragon before him, he stepped to the side and out of Raldigo’s way.
Raldigo did not waste even a moment. As soon as Terroth opened his path, the scarlet dragon beat his wings and lifted himself into the air, soaring away swiftly from the mountaintop back toward the countryside.
“If only he had a little more backbone to him, he would maybe be a dragon to admire,” Malaphite scoffed as the four great dragons watched him fly off.
“Do any of you think that he’ll ever become a true dragon like one of us?” Graeldar asked with another deep chuckle. While the other dragons looked upon Raldigo with the same demeaning grins as before, Terroth’s expression had changed. A smirk had crawled across his face, and there was a faint glint of respect in his eyes while they gazed into the distance where Raldigo flew.
“You may laugh when I say so, but I believe that he will indeed, someday,” Terroth said. “And perhaps that day is not far off.”
* * * * *
Raldigo flew low to the land, just above the rolling hills which ran from the south of the mountains. If there were other dragons in those parts, they would be soaring much higher in the sky, and the scarlet dragon wanted to see no other of his kind for the while.
He silently grumbled to himself as his wings carried him across the kingdom. The way that Terroth and the other larger bullied him frustrated Raldigo, particularly because much of what they said was true. Raldigo recalled how Terroth warned against attending the last Summit of the Dragons, that a dragon his size and his age would be looked down upon by the older and bigger dragons.
Raldigo had long tried to forget the way that they mocked him, and then drove him away from the summit. No matter how bold and spirited the young dragon was, his strength was far beneath that of the greatest dragons, and on that day he learned that he could never fend for himself against even just one of them.
Being taunted by Terroth and the other dragons that afternoon was the first reminder he had of it in many days, and Raldigo wished that the wait had been much longer.
Something eventually caught his eye that momentarily made him forget his troubles. He spotted a beneath him on hilly floor of the countryside. She was running, as fast as her legs would carry her. Upon closer inspection, Raldigo made out an expression of panic on her face. Tears streamed from her eyes while she ran, until suddenly she stumbled.
The girl took a hard fall, and when she stopped, she immediately reached for her leg.
Raldigo felt as though he could almost hear here sobbing in a mixture of terror and agony. The scarlet dragon made a quick turn in midair and soared toward the land below. He landed nearby to the young girl, who was even more frightened when she caught sight of him.
“NO! Leave me alone!” she shouted, crawling backward in a futile attempt to get away.
“There’s no need to be afraid,” Raldigo calmly assured her. “I don’t want to hurt you.” But as soon as the dragon began to approach her, the girl threw her arms over her head and coward in terror.
“Please don’t hurt me! I beg you, please don’t hurt me!” she continued to yell.
Raldigo saw that there was no hope in trying to speak to the young girl, at least until he proved his sincerity.
Once he was closer to her, he took a breath and extended his long neck towards the girl. Raldigo gently blew his breath over her, and the girl’s expression of dismay and pain vanished from her youthful face.
Raldigo smiled warmly. There was an astonished looked in the young girl’s eyes as her gaze bounced between her healed leg and the scarlet dragon before her.
“What did you do to me…?” she asked.
“We dragons have special abilities to heal, especially for smaller creatures like yourself,” Raldigo answered. “Now, do you mind if I ask you why you were running across the countryside here? And why you seem so frightened?”
A look of horror came over the girl’s face once more, and she was unable to answer him right away. “I just escaped from my village a short while ago,” she eventually said, fighting back emotion. “A great monster came by once again and demanded we give what gold, jewels, or treasure we have.”
“A monster, you say? What did he look like?’
“He-he looked like a dragon…almost. He didn’t have wings, and his neck and his tail were not anywhere near as long as yours are. Bu-but he still looked like a dragon…”
“From what you say, I would guess that he is a wurm,” Raldigo surmised. “They are similar to us, but they are not true dragons; although they often act as if they are.”
Raldigo hid a hint of apprehension from his face. Wurms were terrible creatures known to cause great destruction wherever they crawled. Next to dragons, they were the most powerful monsters in the kingdom. Some of the very strongest were capable of killing a dragon on their own, especially young, small dragons.
“The people in my village had heard stories recently about a monster who was roaming the countryside and threatening to destroy any town he came upon,” the girl spoke up once again. “He seems to be trying to find as much treasure as he can to build up his own horde, like many dragons do, but we never believed he would come to our own village.”
“Do you have any idea if he still there at your village?” Raldigo asked.
“I-I think,” the girl answered worriedly. “I was able to escape without him seeing me. My parents told me to run as far away as I could and find safety somewhere. The wurm said that he would only leave the village in peace if the villagers brought him as much treasure as he wanted.”
“No matter how much they bring him, he will never be satisfied, I can assure you that. There’s only one way to properly deal with a monster like that, and it’s to show him that he is merely a greedy beast nowhere near as strong as he believes that is. Tell me, what direction is your village is?”
“It’s to the north,” the girl said, pointing in its direction. ” “It’s just beyond that forest up ahead. You’re not going to go there, are you?”
Raldigo’s only response was a firm nod.
“Bu-but, it’s dangerous! That monster is at least twice your size!”
“But he is not a dragon, as I am,” Raldigo declared, and crouched down onto his belly. “Now then, climb onto me, and I will fly us to your village to rid it of that vile creature.”
The young girl appeared reluctant, but obeyed Raldigo. She gradually clambered up onto his back, where she then wrapped her arms tightly about his neck.
“Hold on, my dear,” Raldigo told her, and with a beat of wings lifted himself off the ground. As soon as he was flying through the open air once more, the girl pressed herself against the back of his neck, clinging desperately to Raldigo’s scales as he soared over the countryside.
The flight was not a long one. As the girl had indicated, her village was only a short distance away across the hills and past a sprawling forest. A human on their own two feet could have covered it in little time, never mind a dragon with his wings racing through the air.
Even before they arrived, Raldigo caught sight of the hamlet, and the most notably the great wurm. He was a massive beast, with a body that appeared to be of pure muscle and bulk. He was covered in dark grey scales that looked like stone. His limbs, though short unlike a dragon’s, were gargantuan, and certainly wielded frightening power.
Most imposing was the gigantic, boulder-like head which wore a toothy grin of horrible fangs. As the wurm sat just on the outskirts of the village, residents continued to drag valuables to the huge pile of treasures which lay before him. But for a pile that already towered above each man and woman who came to it, the wurm dwarfed the mountain of riches.
As soon as Raldigo was nearby, the wurm took notice of the approaching dragon. The villagers immediately turned their attention to him, as well, and were nothing short of astonished when they spotted the young girl clinging to the dragon’s neck as he descended into the middle of their hamlet.
Once Raldigo landed, the girl jumped off of him and ran back into the arms of her parents, who asked her why she came back in the first place, and with of all things, a dragon.
“He means to help us, he’s going to save us from the monster,” was her answer.
Raldigo wasted no time in proving his intentions.
“You would be wise to turn around and amble back to where you came from,” Raldigo announced to the wurm in a booming voice. “You may have seen little difficulty in attacking villages like this, but you will not harm these people any longer while I stand here.”
The wurm replied with thunderous laughter. “Well now, this is indeed a rare sight—a dragon who wishes to protect the miserable humans of this land!”
“I do not jest with you,” Raldigo said, assertively. “If you do not leave this village in peace on your own accord, I will see to it myself to you shall.”
“Do you truly believe that I will listen to what threats spout from your tiny mouth?” the wurm
replied as a grin crept across his huge face. “I’ve had the pleasure of killing your kind before, and most of them were even larger than yourself. You appear as if you’ve just emerged straight from your egg!”
Raldigo’s eyes hardened at the wurm’s derisions, which sounded exactly like how the greater dragons often spoke to him. The young dragon slammed his tail upon the ground and lifted his neck.
“Then you should leave this very moment, before you would have to suffer the embarrassment of retreating in defeat from a creature of my size.”
“Show me any decent reason to take you seriously, little dragon, and perhaps I may just spare these humans from being a part of my meal tonight.”
The wurm had hardly finished speaking about devouring the villagers before Raldigo felt his fury take over. His mouth fell open, and a blast of white fire flew out from within the young dragon’s throat. So sudden was it that the wurm could not even blink before the flames washed over his massive head and seared his hide. As he was blinded by the attack, Raldigo beat his wings and rushed straight into the wurm.
But it was as if Raldigo crashed into a mountain. The wurm barely so much as moved backward when the scarlet dragon slammed upon his bulk, and Raldigo found himself jarred by the impact.
The wurm took his advantage, and batted the dragon down with one powerful swipe of his claw. Raldigo landed hard on the ground, and then felt himself being driven into the dirt. The wurm had placed a hand over his neck, and pressed the down on the dragon as he tried to crush Raldigo’s head into the dust.
Raldigo could not even see what was happening, and lashed out instinctively, if not, desperately. His whip-like tail snapped, slapping across the side of the wurm’s head and striking him clear in the eye. The huge monster let out a deep, agonized growl, and for a brief moment freed Raldigo of his grip.
The scarlet dragon was up in a flash, and with a roar threw himself at the wurm. Raldigo was a storm of ferocity as he attacked the monster, slashing madly with every fang and claw that he had on his body. So terrible was the onslaught that even the enormous wurm had to cower under it.
But the wurm would not be overwhelmed for long. In the middle of the flurry, the wurm struck with his head. His skull punted Raldigo away from him, throwing the dragon clear through a nearby hut which shattered under his weight.
Still blinking rapidly with the eye that Raldigo’s tail had scored, the wurm took a moment to regain his composure. When he had his bearings back after Raldigo’s furious assault, he saw the dragon struggling to get to his feet among the rubble of the building he was hurled into. The wurm threw his head back and loosed a devilish laugh before he slowly began to advance upon Raldigo.
For the villagers who watched on in horror, it felt like an eternity as the wurm neared Raldigo with each thundering step. But just like the wurm, they did not anticipate what kind of strength the young dragon still had beneath his scales.
When the wurm was right before him, Raldigo lifted his head and released a mighty stream of white flame unlike any which had emanated from his jaws before. The blast was so powerful that it nearly carried the wurm clear out of the village’s reach. At first when he landed, the monster was stunned, but quickly chose that he wanted no other part of Raldigo’s fire.
With his hide still blackened and smoking, the wurm frantically scampered away. He headed toward the mountains in the distance, where perhaps he would hole up and never emerge from again.
Raldigo considered giving chase after him, but when he saw how fast the bulky monster desperately moved his stumpy legs in retreat, he decided that there was no need.
Raldigo had not even caught his breath before every person in the village came storming to his side. Every man, woman and child cheered and hollered as they threw themselves upon him, hugging and thanking him graciously for saving them that day. A wide smile stretched across the scarlet dragon’s face, and as he tried to speak to the joyous humans, something else in the distance caught his attention.
When he looked ahead once more, Raldigo’s spotted a large red shape at the very top of a mountain beyond. As he peered further, Raldigo recognized the shape.
It was Terroth. The great dragon was perched at the peak, with his wings outstretched and his neck arched as he watched Raldigo from above. There was a long smirk on his face and a glint in his eyes which showed an expression Raldigo had never seen before, as though Terroth was impressed with what he saw.
Raldigo’s warm smile curled into a proud grin. The young dragon threw his head back with a roar and released a jet of white flame high into the air.