Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Gathering of Dragons - Chapter Twenty-one

Rymit arched his back under the soil. The ground rose and undulated beneath two of the three catapults stationed before the castle. One tipped and its boulder flew wild and over the castle wall. It teetered and fell over. Men screamed and ran. Most making it beyond the falling war machine and back into the field behind them.

The second tower rocked on its four footed base, but remained standing. Rymit backed up and with his head as a ramrod, he charged at it through his tunnel, raising up just in time to collide with its base. The second tumbled over in a screech of twisted metal and broken timbers.

Fafner and Royster descended and hit the toppled catapults with burst after burst of dragon fire. Soon they were ablaze.


Archers moved forward trying to stop the dragons before their killing machines were no longer salvageable, but it was no use. The dragon’s breath was accurate, and the men had no way to pull the large machines back upright. The horses that dragged the catapults there in the first place were long since led back behind troop lines.

“Watch the archers,” Fafner warned his son.

Several arrows flew their way in quick succession. The pair dipped and swooped to avoid the projectiles.

Rymit was busy digging further to reach the third catapult. He could feel the vibrations in the ground each time it flung a stone. He rose up under it, but it refused to fall. It teetered, but stayed upright, slinging its payload again, and again. The humans manning it stayed at their posts. As the machine rocked, it slung a boulder wild and over the wall into the castle grounds.

Fafner and Royster heard the screams of the humans behind the wall.

“I can catch the next one,” Royster boosted to his father.

“Stay out of their way,” his father ordered. “If they strike your wing, it could break it, and once down, you would never make it out alive.”

The young dragon was fired up and anxious to join the battle in a more aggressive way. His nostrils flared and smoke rose, but he obeyed his father. That had been his promise in order for his elder to agree that he come on this quest.

Rymit tried several times to ram the last standing catapult, but it must have been up against a boulder because it would not fall. He began to dig deeper, and in a circle, creating a funnel below the machine. The ground was soft from the spring rains, and as he dug, he pushed large stones and boulders to the top creating a sinkhole beneath the catapult. The machine started to rock.

Royster, impatient to act, dove at the machine and hit it with a glancing blow. The tower rocked, but stayed upright. An archer saw his chance and his aim was true. He shot at the furry dragon and the arrow lodged in the youngling’s shoulder. He faltered, but he did not fall.

Fafner roared his anger and dove at the archers spreading fire across their lines, as Royster tried to gain altitude to escape any further attack.

Rymit was still churning the earth beneath the catapult. He eventually made it so muddy, it was like liquid and the tower began to sink. The men around it ran for their lives. His assignment from Farloft accomplished, Rymit decided he would wreak havoc on the battlefield at large. He took off in a zigzag pattern, the mound of soil pushed up from his tunneling toppling horses and men alike.

Fafner followed Royster to a peak in the Westridge where they both settled for a moment away from the battle. Fafner did not chastise his son. He felt the arrow in his shoulder was lesson enough for obeying his father in the future.

Fafner reached up and tore the arrow from its target. Royster growled in pain.

“You can sit here and be the lookout for the sons of Thrax. They will no doubt arrive soon,” Fafner ordered.

Royster flexed his wings and though there was a grimace on his face, there was determination in his eyes. “I can go back and fight. I can fly,” he insisted.

Fafner pinned him with his copper colored eyes. “You can do as you are told.”

Royster’s ears flattened, and his fur slicked back. “As you wish, father.”

“Do not engage them. When they come call a warning and then come join me.” Fafner spread his wings in anticipation of leaving. “This is not punishment. The catapults are down and until they move more into place, our assignment from Farloft is finished.” Fafner dropped his wings. “From what Farloft told us, these eastern dragons are ruthless. Your early warning will save lives.”

Royster nodded his agreement and Fafner smiled his pleasure.

“Rest now… Heal… Call when you spot them and then come to me. Quick as you can.” Fafner did not wait for a reply. He spread his wings and caught a down draft to sail back to the battle below.

*** 

Farloft stood in the courtyard with Theresa and Sarah. The pounding of the catapults had ceased.

“Stay here,” Farloft warned. “I will check on the battle.” He spread his wings and launched into the sky.

“Let’s get our men ready,” Theresa said and headed toward the Great Hall. “Once we have them out here, we’ll take our places in the tower.”

The two women had it all planned. They were going to direct their troops, including the gargoyles from the highest tower, so they would have a good line of sight throughout the battle.

Theresa and Sarah marched their men out of the Great Hall and had them form up in the courtyard to wait. The Healer and Sorceress called to the gargoyles. They came to life and moved from their various stone perches around the castle to cluster on the front overlooking the battlefield.

The two women, both dressed for battle in pants, tunic and light armor, vaulted up the long flight of stairs to the highest tower of the castle.

What they saw there chilled their souls.

*** 

Farloft saw immediately that Rymit, Fafner and Royster dealt with the catapults. He could see evidence of Rymit out in the field of battle toppling troops as he dug. He spotted Fafner coming in from the Westridge and Royster out in the distance on a peak. No doubt, Fafner had stationed him to keep watch for anymore approaching enemy. It was good the youngling was out of harm’s way.

Clearair, James, Snow, and the gryphon flock were dealing with the troops who made it through the gorge before Snow obviously had sealed it with an avalanche. Farloft spotted the purple uniforms of the Queen’s guard among those fighting alongside his family to stop the enemy troops. The gryphons were on the ground and in the air fiercely fighting with beak and claw.

Farloft needed to unleash Mokum and Arrud on the mass of attackers, but keep them away from Larkin’s men. He turned back toward the two dragons he stationed on the peaks above the castle.

“Feel free to join the battle,” Farloft called. He waved a wing toward the gorge. “Stay away from the gorge. We have friendly humans there.”

Mokum and Arrud did not need to be encouraged to join in. They had set idly and watched Rymit, Fafner and Royster take out the catapults. Their blood was pumping, and they were anxious to do their part. They witnessed the bombardment of the helpless humans in the courtyard below. They took to their wings and began to spread paralyzing gas and toxic acid across the battlefield.



Farloft spotted Lemira. The ships she attacked were floundering in the river below. There were men in the water and some pulling themselves ashore, but the ships were going nowhere. Lemira had seen to that. She still carried the two harpoons in her back. Blood from her wounds left a red trail in the river. Farloft tucked his wings and dove from the castle to her side.

He called to her as she floated downriver, letting the current drag her toward the pool by the rapids.

Farloft walked along the river’s edge. There were no soldiers down this far. Lemira sang to him of her joy in ridding the world of the pirate, sea dragon hunters, but her song faltered and quivered in her chest. She was dying.

Farloft followed her to the shallow pool where she had lived for the past few months. He waded out into the river and pulled the harpoons from her back, while humming soothingly to her. She studied him with her opalescent eyes and told him she liked his humans, especially the Healer.

He stroked her as she took her last breath as the sun began to set. Such a waste. War had no winners.

He awoke from his thoughts to the trumpet of a horn not far from where he stood. It was joined by another closer to the battle, and yet another, until the whole area behind him echoed with the call.

It could only mean one thing… The enemy forces were summonsing the sons of Thrax.


Trumpets of War by Elizabeth Babicz

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