The Traitor's Dragon

in #fiction6 years ago (edited)

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This is my entry for the writers block first chapter contest which can be found here: https://steemit.com/contest/@thewritersblock/contestfirstchapterchallenge-29cch5xkpv

I was way more nervous to share this than I ever am with my shorter posts because it's been sitting in my head way longer. Novels take longer to write, so I have more time to re-read things and fret that they aren't good enough. (Which I do almost constantly.) Of everything I've started writing I decided to go with this one because they asked for something that fits easily within an existing genre and most of my other in progress novels are... hard to classify lol. But the one I chose to share can be easily classified as adventure/fantasy, and I think the straightforwardness of that makes it the right choice for this particular contest.


The Traitor's Dragon

Chapter 1

Trel grunted as yet another person knocked into her as they walked past the log she was sitting on. The bowl of stew she had been avoiding eating came dangerously close to spilling its unpleasant smelling contents in her lap. Trel thought that she would eventually get used to the odor of the camp, she was wrong. The smell of unwashed bodies filled her nose and permeated every inch of their cramped lodgings. She poked at one of the lumps floating in the stew dispassionately. She had no doubt that eventually she’d be hungry enough that the questionable color of the meat wouldn’t bother her, but she wasn’t there yet.

Trel examined the visible bruises on her arm. She wondered if she’d ever get to see her skin bruise free again. It seemed that just as one set was beginning to heal, she found another. Aristocrats paid good money to have things made for them in purple, someone should really inform them that all they had to do to achieve the fashionable hue was participate in combat training.

Training that day had somehow managed to go even worse than the day before. She had caught on to the basics easily enough. Her stance and precision with weapons actually seemed to match, and in many cases exceed, that of her peers. She rained wrath down upon one practice dummy after another. Unfortunately striking living opponents was another matter entirely. Trel had learned shortly after arriving that she didn’t have the stomach for violence. She pulled her hits at the last second every single time, and so every single time she ended up with her ass in the dirt sporting new welts from the practice blades. Maybe back home her soft nature would have been tolerated, but here it was considered cowardice at best and insubordination at worst.

If she didn’t perform better soon, they’d give up on turning her into a warrior and find some other way for her to contribute to the war effort. Honestly she thought any task she was given would be better than fighting. She would happily leave the gore and glory to others.

A pair of faces Trel recognized from training were sitting huddled together on the other side of the fire. They were avoiding making eye contact with her and speaking just loudly enough for her to overhear.

“Do you think she’s doing it on purpose?”

“What? Throwing her sparring matches? Absolutely. You saw her at the beginning. She can fight, but now all of a sudden she won’t. I figure that after the wounded soldiers came back from the last scrap all banged up and bloody she lost her nerve. She’s a coward, plain and simple.” Trel’s fist clenched around her bowl. The insult stung but she couldn’t honestly say that she disagreed with it. The thought of fighting for her life terrified her. She didn’t want to die, but she also didn’t want to have to kill someone else. The two paused their conversation a moment as though they were waiting to see if she’d defend herself. When she didn’t, they carried on.

“What about you then?”

“What about me?”

“You scared of when they finally send us off into battle?”

“Course not. It’s why we’re here isn’t it? We’ll win the war and go home as heros or we’ll die trying.”

“It’s the dying bit that makes me uneasy.”

“Yeah, but you’re still here fighting the good fight, aren’t you? That’s the difference between you and her. You’ve got some honor left in you yet. You stood your ground against that dragon well enough.” Trel stood up and left her untouched stew behind. She couldn’t stop them from talking about her, but she didn’t have to sit there and subject herself to it either.

“I think she heard you.”

“Of course she did. She won’t say nothin though. She’ll just sulk away because she knows I’m right.”

Trel walked out into the forest. She liked having the cover of trees and night on all sides, it made her feel safe. She stroked the pendant around her neck that she wore to remind herself of home. Living and working at the palace hadn’t always been ideal, but at least there were never any dragons. She had heard that a dragon and fae had arrived at camp earlier that day as prisoners. The other maids back at the palace had told her plenty of stories about all of the dark creatures they were fighting, but she had yet to see any of them for herself. She had thought that dragons were extinct, but evidently that wasn’t true. She wondered how many were left. Spurred on by curiosity and her need to prove she wasn't a coward, Trel went looking for the dragon.

She reasoned that they had to be keeping it in one of the clearings in the woods nearby camp. There were only a few open areas large enough to accommodate a dragon. As she walked through the trees her mind raced with all of the terrible stories of the dragons of old. The stories were set in different times and locations but they all had one theme in common, dragons were near invincible harbingers of death. Trel wondered how they had managed to capture one. She saw torch light coming from a clearing in the distance and headed towards it.

From the moment she stepped into the clearing where the dragon was being held, she could feel its commanding presence washing over her in waves. The beast was chained to the ground with its mouth clamped tightly shut. Even unable to move, it still unnerved her. It was immense. The air rumbled with the creature's low angry growls. The fire light from the surrounding torches seemed to get swallowed up by the flat black of its scales. The dragon glared at her menacingly. She searched its golden eyes for any hint of the fear she would have felt if confined in such a way, but all she found in the dragon's eyes were seas of rage. Smoke seeped through the cracks of the dragons restrained jaws and the air around Trel began to heat. Her heart rate accelerated. Every instinct she possessed begged her to run. She shouldn’t have been there. As sturdy as the chains appeared, she knew when she looked into this creatures eyes that they couldn’t hold him forever. He would break free through sheer force of will if nothing else, and she didn't want to be here when he did. She turned and walked out of the clearing as calmly as she could.

The farther Trel got from the clearing the less afraid she was of the dragon being held there. She wondered what had gotten into her. Surely her commanders wouldn't have brought something so dangerous that near the camp if they weren't sure they could restrain it. Trel looked up at the soft moonlight filtering through the trees above her and began to relax. She hadn't run away from it, that was the important thing. Even though she had been frightened, she'd managed to keep her composure. It didn't completely negate her fears that she was as cowardly as everyone thought, but it helped.

As Trel neared camp, she noticed a large wooden cage had been erected behind one of the commanders tents. She assumed it had been built to hold the fae that had arrived at camp with the dragon. Trel decided to put her nerves to the test one more time before retiring for the night. She approached the cage slowly. There was a small fae girl huddled in the corner asleep. The fae didn’t look like she could be any older than ten, although if the maids had any of the stories right she was probably older than Trel could imagine. Every inch of the fae’s skin was covered in bruises and cuts. Dried blood was caked on her clothing and in her hair. Her delicate wings appeared to be torn in places. Trel couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She knew the fae were dangerous, but the creature in front of her looked uncomfortably similar to a human child. Trel felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around to see a tall man standing behind her.

“I know what she looks like, and it’s hard to wrap your head around at first, but she isn’t really a child.” Trel flinched at having been caught sneaking around the camp at night.

“Yes. I know. I read about the fae when I was younger.”

“Reading is one thing, seeing is another. You don’t have to pretend seeing what you perceive to be a child in this condition isn’t upsetting. It’s intended to be. It’s perhaps their greatest weapon against us. Plenty of people have hesitated in battle upon seeing a child’s face, and plenty of people have died because of that mistake." He stopped a moment and studied her. Trel tried not to squirm from the discomfort of being so carefully examined. "I’ve seen you on the training fields. It seems fighting may not be your forte.”

“I suppose not.” Trel tried not to let her pride collapse too much under the weight of his observation.

“Well I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Mathias. I am the lead healer stationed in this camp. Since you’re here, would you mind assisting me this evening?” Trel was confused by his polite tone. He was much more cordial than anyone else she’d met since arriving here.

“Of course. How can I help?”

“I need to dress her wounds. I had intended to do it on my own, but a second pair of hands never hurts.”

“You’re healing her? Why?” Nothing Trel knew about war led her to believe that people often wasted medicine on their enemies.

“Simply put, it’s difficult to extract useful information from the dead.” Trel looked more closely at the fae’s wounds. The cuts were small and deliberate. The wounds weren’t from battle, they were torturing her. Mathias cleared his throat.

“I know it’s unpleasant. You don’t have to help me if you do not wish to. My job is to heal, so that is what I will do. You are free to return to your tent for the night if you would like.” As tempting as escape from the grisly scene in front of her was, Trel wasn't done proving to herself that she was capable of standing her ground.

“How can I help?” Mathias handed her a bowl of hot water with a rag.

“Clean the skin around the cuts and then I’ll apply the salve and bandages.”
Trel washed the fae’s wounds as gently as she could manage. The blood made her stomach turn at first but the longer she worked, the less it affected her. They worked for a long time in silence until Mathias interrupted it with a question.

“Where did you get that?” Trel followed Mathias’s gaze to the pendant hanging from around her neck. If he were asking at all, chances were he recognized the symbol and knew exactly where she had gotten it. Although he might think she had stolen it as opposed to coming about it honestly. Trel wondered how much she could say without sounding as though she were boasting.

“It was a gift from a friend.” Mathias raised his eyebrow.

“A very powerful friend. I’d endeavor to keep that better hidden if I were you. I need more salve, I’ll be back shortly.” Mathias walked away and Trel traced the flower design on the round pendant with her finger. It had been given to her by princess Illia before she’d left the castle to come here. She wondered why Mathias would advise her to hide it. Surely it was a good thing to carry a token of the crown’s favor?

Trel turned back to the fae to continue her work. The fae’s hand shot up and caught Trel’s wrist. Trel made eye contact with the now very much awake fae and was utterly transfixed. The fae’s eyes were large, round, and so dark that Trel couldn’t tell if the fae girl even had pupils.

“She has a message for you.” The fae girl spoke without actually moving her lips. A glint of green appeared in the darkest reaches of the fae’s eyes and swirled in a circle that pulled Trel in. When the darkness had consumed her completely, Trel heard a voice. The green light Trel had seen in the fae's eyes twisted itself into a shape somewhere between a human silhouette and a tree.

I have seen both your end and mine. I cannot break the ties that now link our fates. When the time comes, when the branch shakes, let go.

With the last word the green light faded and Trel was thrust out of the darkness and back to the fae girl still clutching her wrist. The fae’s gaze moved to the pendant around Trel’s neck. The creatures jaw clenched and her grip tightened painfully.

Trel heard a commotion coming from the camp behind her. People were yelling. She fought the urge to look and kept her eyes locked firmly on the fae. She smelled smoke as the agitated voices shifted from yelling to screaming. The flames of the burning camp were reflected in the fae’s eyes.

“Mathias!” Trel yelled, desperately hoping he was still close enough to hear her. She listened for a reply but couldn’t distinguish his voice from the others. Everyone’s panic was overlapping and making their words impossible to understand, but Trel knew what had happened. Her fear had been right, the chains weren’t enough to hold the dragon.


Thank you so much for reading! <3

The image used above is free for personal and commercial use and can be found here:
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Finally got a chance to read this, and really enjoyed it! You have all the hallmarks of a good writer. I guess now you have to keep writing this novel! :)

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it :D And I'll definitely keep writing it! My day so far has been devoted to applying the notes I got from the lovely people at the writers block to this first chapter, but as soon as I'm done with that it's on to chapter 2!

You do have incredible writing skills. Goodluck with your contest. I do hope it also helps to ensure that this doesn't just remain a manuscript... But becomes a book. The world needs to read your work.

Thank you so much! Regardless of the outcome of the contest, I do intend to finish this story 😄

Great read! I enjoyed it from start to finish, and that scene in the clearing with the captured dragon is fantastic. I could feel the strength and menace and especially the fury of that ancient creature just radiating off the page. Respect!

Thank you for reading @ediblecthulhu! I’m glad you enjoyed it 😄

Wow @blueteddy, I cannot believe how absorbed I became, so quickly, in this chapter. I'm normally not one for fantasy, but I'm totally making an exception here, and really hope you finish this for us! Thank you for sharing :)

Thank you for reading! Im glad you enjoyed it, and I’m definitely planning on finishing this story 😄

Well I'm definitely going to be waiting for it @blueteddy 😎

@blueteddy, I really enjoy your writing. I think you have huge potential. Keep polishing your craft!

Some of your scene development and phrasing are truly sublime:

She searched its golden eyes for any hint of the fear she would have felt if confined in such a way, but all she found in the dragon's eyes were seas of rage. Smoke seeped through the cracks of the dragons restrained jaws and the air around Trel began to heat. Her heart rate accelerated. Every instinct she possessed begged her to run. She shouldn’t have been there.

Well done. Keep writing.

Thank you, that means a lot, I definitely intend to keep writing 💙

It was a great read.

I love the scene with the dragon more (before it got loose), how you painted the whole scene is just great. I wonder why Trel was so bent on proving herself though...

Thank you so much for reading, I had a lot of fun writing that scene. As for why Trel feels the need to prove herself constantly, I’m hoping to gradually reveal that over time as well as giveing her some chances to grow 😄

That's awesome! I will be sure to follow the story, I believe its gonna turn out to be an amazing one!

The first chapter is usually a critical part for me. It helps me decide whether I'd bother with the second one. Your first chapter was written well and it made me anticipate for a second one. Would there be one? :D

I like how you built tension and there was balance in being descriptive and trying to build personality. I'm hoping to see some developments in the story. Thank you!

There will absolutely be more, thank you so much for reading 💙

Hey dear :-) Wonderful writing !

You got my up for that great work, because i enjoyed it to read.

Just keep on writing in the future :-)

I absolutely will, thank you for reading 😄

Hi blueteddy,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

Visit curiesteem.com or join the Curie Discord community to learn more.

Yay, thank you! <3

Congratulations for a second-place finish in this contest! There's a real gem lurking in this story, and those of us at TWB will be behind you all the way as you polish this novel into something truly spectacular.

Thank you, the support means a lot and I can’t wait to learn from you guys 💙

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