Saturday, November 19, 2016

An Encounter - A Farloft the Dragon Tale

As promised here is a short story you can read in one setting. 
We will do this every Saturday through the holidays. 
In January I will start a new serialized story.
Haristaan - Art by Kitsooki of Deviant Art



Farloft and Haristaan had been traveling together for several weeks. The old dragon enjoyed the company of the younger black. Haristaan was quick witted, charming and best of all he was a good listener. The younger dragon seemed to absorb Farloft’s stories like a sponge. He never tired of the old one’s tales of times long gone by.

Farloft swooped to the right, did a flip, and looked quickly up into the puffy clouds above. This morning Haristaan has started a game of tag and currently he was ‘it.’ Farloft was not near as fast as the young dragon, but he did have years of cunning on his side. He knew Haristaan was just waiting for that perfect moment to dive from the clouds and tag him.

“Ha!” he laughed, “I see you.”

Haristaan’s black was hard to hide in those white fluffy clouds. The black dipped back out of sight, his exposed wing tip disappeared.

Farloft feigned to the left and the young black dropped like a stone from the clouds he had veered close to. Haristaan had shot to the other side overhead in the dense clouds. He reached out a wing and tapped Farloft on the tail.

“Tag! You’re it!”

A huge grin greeted Farloft's surprised expression. The youngster was fast.

“You win,” Farloft said under a chuckle. “Let’s find something to eat. I’m famished.”

Farloft began to eye the surrounding landscape. Wild game had been plentiful in the plains below the last few days, along with cultured crops and some herds of domestics. Farloft always stayed away from domestic livestock. He didn’t care to have any issues with humans. Most were already under the impression that dragons were a menace to their herds, they didn’t need to have any additional reasons to hunt the dragons down.

“There,” he pointed with a big green paw, “in the edge of the woods.”

“I got this,” Haristaan grinned. “My treat today.” He nosed down and started a run on the stag. He dropped like an eagle toward his prey…swift…elegant…deadly.

Farloft saw sun glint off steel. There was a hunter already below…A human hunter, and he was fixed on the same target as Haristaan.

“Haristaan! Wait!” Farloft cried. He tucked his wings and shot after the young black. He angled himself so he could put his bulk between the hunters, both human and dragon.

Haristaan hadn’t heard his call, so he roared – a dragon roar that echoed across the valley.

The human hunter had not seen the black descending on their prey, but he now saw what he took to be two attacking dragons on the wing and headed toward him. The black was closer, but coming at an incredible speed. The green dragon was a much bigger target. He realigned his bow and took his first shot.

The arrow would have bounced off any part of Farloft’s heavily scaled skin. His only vulnerable parts were his belly, to a certain degree, and his wings. The arrow hit his right wing and ripped right through the membrane. The big dragon roared in pain. His wing flipped up and on the downward stroke it tore further as the wind ripped through the hole that had been pierced by the metal tipped arrow. He began to careen in the sky as he came plummeting toward the ground.

Haristaan heard the roar, saw the danger and watched as the arrow was loosed and hit his friend. He thought to continue his descent and kill the hunter, but he changed his mind when he saw Farloft start to fall. He had to help cushion the huge dragon’s impact on the ground. If he hit at full speed he would break something, his wing, his neck…

Haristaan tilted his wings and shot toward Farloft as the hunter notched his second arrow.

The black reached Farloft when he was no more than a hundred feet from the ground.

“This is going to hurt,” he warned Farloft, as he gave him a mighty shove.

Haristaan had picked the area of ground that would do the least damage. There was a field of dense heather and it would help break the dragon’s fall. The young black shoved, but he also held on to the huge green as he fell, trying his best with heavy backward strokes to slow the falling dragon. When they landed it was hard, but it was at least a controlled crash. The wind was knocked out of Farloft. Haristaan came to his feet only to find the hunter running toward them with bow drawn, ready to finish his mission as dragon killer, savior of the weak and defenseless humans.

Haristaan turned on the hunter and raising his wings he advanced on him growling aggressively. He wouldn’t let anything more happen to Farloft.

“Wait,” Farloft cautioned, placing his paw on his friends back foot. “He was hunting too. He doesn’t understand.”

Haristaan stopped, but he kept his wings up and his teeth bared, as the hunter came closer.

Farloft struggled to his feet. The scales on his knees and elbows were rubbed smooth from sliding in the heather. His paws were rough and his wing burned like it was on fire where the arrow pierced it.

“Hunter,” he called, “we did not intend to attack you. We were only looking for a meal, as you were.” Farloft waved a paw toward the area where the stag and his harem had been moments ago.

The hunter slowed and then came to a stop. He lowered his weapon and returned the arrow to his quiver. “I thought you were coming for me,” he confessed.

“Why would you think that?” Haristaan demanded indignantly.

“Because that’s what dragons do,” the hunter answered perplexed.

“‘That’s what dragons do,’” Haristaan mimicked the hunter in a sing-song voice. “Oh yeah, we are all just vicious man eaters.” The young black stomped through the heather, ripping it up and tossing it to one side in his anger. “You humans are so unreasonable!” he growled. “We should kill and eat you all.”

The hunter stiffened at the young dragon’s words. His hand went to rest on the knife at his belt.

Farloft cast his good wing out toward Haristaan and draping it over his friend, he pulled him in close. “It was a mistake, Haristaan. I am sure the man is sorry for his actions.” Farloft turned a stern look toward the hunter. He had better be sorry or the young dragon was going to roast him.

The hunter let his hand slip from his knife. He slung his bow over his shoulder and advanced slowly on the two dragons.

“Let me see if I can do anything about repairing the damage I’ve done,” he offered.

“We don’t need your help!” Haristaan growled and bared his teeth at the man.

Farloft squeezed the young dragon with his wing. “Now, don’t be too hasty, my friend. The human is willing to help and frankly, unless you have some magic I am not aware of, we need some help. I can’t fly like this.” Farloft extended his injured wing to show the young black the hole pierced right through it.

Haristaan nudged it gently with his nose. “Does it hurt much?”

Farloft shook his head. “I have had worse. Why don’t you go see if you can catch us something to eat? I think we will probably be stuck here for the night.”

Haristaan eyed the hunter. He was not sure he trusted the man alone with Farloft.

“It will be alright,” Farloft urged him. “I can take care of one little human if I had to, but I am not going to have to…Right?” he asked looking into the eyes of the hunter.

“I will not hurt you any further…I promise,” he vowed.

*****

When Haristaan returned later with the stag, the hole in Farloft’s wing had been plugged with a poultice the hunter had made pursuant to Farloft’s instructions. The hunter had cleared a space of heather and built a fire with Farloft’s help. He spread out his blanket and sat cross-legged across the fire from the dragon, listening to one of Farloft’s tales from his youngling years.

Haristaan just shook his head. Only Farloft would befriend an enemy so quickly. The old dragon always saw the best in everyone he met.

The hunter, who turned out to be named Garrett, dressed out the stag and the dragons helped roast it to perfection over the fire. They all ate companionably while listening to Farloft’s stories, one after the other. The dragon was an overflowing well of tales both sad and funny, wise and silly, long and short, but mostly long. It was past midnight and the moon high in the night sky before the old dragon gave up his storytelling long enough for them all to fall to sleep.

*****

“You missed again,” Haristaan crowed in laughter.

Farloft lay on his belly watching Garrett and Haristaan play hoops and stones. They had found a metal hoop from a decaying barrel on their hunting expedition today and Haristaan was doing his best to hold it as a moving target while Garrett threw stones at it.

“It really isn’t fair,” Garrett protested. “You can fly it out of reach.”

“He is right,” Farloft said in defense of the man. “He can only throw so far. There should be limitations in distance when playing with a dragon.”

Haristaan landed. “Okay, I will stay on the ground.” He took the hoop in his mouth and began to run back and forth holding it out for Garrett to toss stones through.

Farloft watched them play until Haristaan was tired of running and Garrett could no longer lob a stone past his nose, much less pitch it through a moving hoop.

“Come…” Farloft called. “Sit… eat… rest.”

It had been over a week since Farloft’s injury and his wing was almost mended. It was amazing how fast he healed when he had time to concentrate and visualize himself well. He flexed his wing in the evening breeze. He would be ready to move on soon. Perhaps tomorrow or the next day.

The three had taken the time to get to know each other. Garrett was a hunter for the castle’s kitchen and often spent months out in the woods alone, hunting, curing and gathering meat and pelts for the castle. He was quite a talker himself and told tales of hunts he had been on. He also confessed he had never faced a dragon before and was very afraid that Haristaan and Farloft intended to eat him that first day.

He had never met a dragon before and only knew what he had heard from stories. Stories did not paint a very clear picture of dragons or their temperament. He was surprised to find he really enjoyed the dragons’ company. They were wise and funny and both of them liked being stroked and hugged. The human couldn’t help but compare them, in his mind, to a very friendly, albeit talking, horse or dog. He wished fervently that he had not hurt the old one. He loved the dragon’s tales of years long ago and people long since dead and gone.

“I think I will be able to move on tomorrow or the next day,” Farloft said over the evening meal that night.

“So soon,” Haristaan asked with a bit of a frown. “Are you sure. You should probably rest longer.”

“Indeed,” Garrett added to the young black’s objection. “You need to build up your strength.”

Farloft grinned toothily. He knew what drove these two to object. They had formed a bond in a very short time.

“You need not go, if you wish to stay, Haristaan,” he said softly. He huffed over his friend at his side. The breath of the old dragon calmed the younger, as he had intended. “We have had a good time together, but you can stay with Garrett if you wish.”

Haristaan looked torn. His brow wrinkled further as he studied the fire in silence.

“I intended to travel a bit further south,” Farloft explained. “I understand from my father that there are gryphons in Alisteria. I have yet to meet a gryphon and it is my thought to spend the season with them if they are willing to have a dragon in their midst.”

“I have met gryphons before,” Haristaan said. “They can be quite uppity for my taste. The one I knew kept insisting he could out fly me…Me!” The young dragon huffed in a dismissive way into the fire sending embers up into the night sky. He sighed heavily and turned to Farloft. He had made his decision. “I think I will stay here. If you find the gryphon not to your liking, you can come back and look us up.”

Garrett patted Haristaan on the shoulder. He didn’t have to say how pleased he was that Haristaan was staying – it was written all over his face in his smile and the dance of the fire light in his eyes.

*****

“You will look us up if you come back this way?” Haristaan asked Farloft. “You will come back this way again one day?”

“I will,” Farloft assured his friend.

“I have a cottage off that way,” Garrett pointed. “It is two days, as the crow flies. You can find us there or in the woods hunting.”

“Or in the sky, sailing,” Haristaan added. “I intend to teach this human to fly.”

Garrett looked toward his new dragon friend and the two dragons saw his Adam’s apple bob in fright at the thought of riding a dragon. They both laughed and eventually, Garrett joined in.

Farloft’s wing gave him no trouble as he lifted off from the meadow of heather they had made home over the past week. He gained some height and then turned to wave a wing in farewell. He would miss Haristaan, but he could see that the young black would have some interesting times in the future with his new human friend. Who knew, perhaps he would even become a dragon emissary to this land and promote dragons as the kind and gentle beast they actually were.

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