The Girl in Glass
A Captured Foe
A thick tail covered with shimmering blue scales slid through the thick muck and disappeared around a narrow recess in the circular pit. A moment later a long snout with barely visible fangs emerged around the bend and a tiny dragon head no bigger than a plump rabbit poked out followed by a skinny frame, wide feet, and then, trailing behind, that oversized tail.
The light drizzle splashed in the muddy trench that the little dragon was digging deeper and deeper as it endlessly circled the pit with its bedraggled wings wet and folded underneath its body. It seemed incapable of raising its head although every once in a while rolled big eyes up towards the two men standing at the top of the trap and looking down on it.
“How can you say that is evil?” asked the first man of the second. He wore a long gray tunic and idly fingered a dagger that glimmered in the dim firelight provided by a sputtering campfire not far away. He turned his head slowly and gazed at the second man with his gray eyes wide open in the dim light trying to catch as much of his companions reaction as possible. His lips were closed and narrow and his face showed no sign of agitation.
The second man leaned on an immensely long and thick blade that drove itself inches in the soft earth beneath them. His hair was matted from the rain and the glint of heavy chain mail peaked out from under a jerkin that depicted the head of a dragon. He picked up the sword and wiped it casually on the side of his high leather boots, stitched with the same dragon symbol in silver, and pointed it at the beast below. “It … is … evil. By its existence.”
“Your logic is circular Trandus,” said the first man his eyes narrowing slightly and the dagger twirled perhaps a spin faster in his massive hand.
“I have no logic,” replied the first man. “I have faith.”
A soft snort came from the feeble campfire where two more men sat waiting, seemingly endlessly, for a pot of water to come to a boil. A pair of freshly gutted rabbits lay out on a stripped piece of bark nearby and one of the men poked at them with a sharp knife.
“What was that Tarragon?” Asked Trandus spinning around towards the campfire his arm pulling up the massive sword that that it stood directly in front of his face and exuding a palpable menace. “Nothing Trandus,” said the squat dwarf not even bothering to look up. “I grow weary of waiting for the water to boil and my belly simply gurgled. You know how you complain about my stomach noises.”
“Look at it,” said the first man again pointing to the little dragon as it circled endlessly in the pit. “Its mother dead thanks to us it will starve to death soon enough. It doesn’t know how to fly or hunt. It can’t be more than a few weeks old.”
“Evil is evil. It must die,” said Trandus sticking his sword back into the mud. “I’d have killed it already if not for your intervention Vol of the Gray. I will pray to Bahamut for guidance this evening but I already know what answer I will receive. The beast must die and on the morrow it will.”
“If you know the will of your dragon god then why take the time to pray at all?” asked Vol of the Gray the edges of his lips turning down.
The broad shouldered warrior turned back and looked up at the gray knight with narrowed eyes and tapped him on the chest with a heavy finger, “Out of courtesy to you. I believe in loyalty, friendship, and values. If you had the same moral code as me you would never ask to delay, even for a moment, running that abomination through its belly.
“Is a baby evil when born?” asked the first warrior again.
“I will pray to Bahamut tonight and that is the only reason your foul beast is still alive. But, I warn you Vol, if at the rising of the sun you stand between me and that … that thing I will slay you and then it.”
“I have heard your warnings Trandus,” said the man in gray staring down at the other man. “Then you will have no complaints whatever fate Bahamut has for you in the morning then,” said the second man thumping Vol in the chest again with his index finger before spinning on his heel and stalking off into the darkness. “Are those vile rabbits cooked yet?”
“Not yet,” said the dwarf looking at the pot of not boiling water with a shake of his head. “The fire sputters in this mist and …”
“By the breath of Bahamut,” said the powerful man coming over and kicking at the feeble fire knocking logs askew. “I’ll remake it myself you fool.”
The sudden outburst started a small hawk that was settled on a branch hungrily eyeing the skinned rabbit and it took to flight with a sudden beating of its wings and disappeared into the night.
“Blast you Trandus, you’ve terrified Ophelia”, said the dwarf rising from the ground in a swift motion that seemed to odds with his great bulk. He then turned to the gray knight still standing above the pit and looking down. “Amble over here and help me retrieve her,” he said with a bark like order.
“Tarragon,” said the tall man his lips now turned upwards and his gray eyes shining brightly. “How is that a man so fat as you moves so quickly?”
“I maneuver like prime gazelle over the plains,” he replied with a laugh and turned around and peered into the dark night. “Was that her?”
“You wobble like a hippo is more like it,” replied the gray knight clapping his companion on the back. “If I know that bird she’ll sneak back into camp and grab one of those rabbits while were off stumbling in the dark. Come along. It’ll keep my mind off Sir Always Right and his god complex.”
“Your irreverence when it comes to the religious beliefs of our companions shocks me Vol,” replied the dwarf his eyes darting about in the darkness, his head swiveling, and canted at an angle.”
“All right, all right. But there is going to be trouble in the morning. I’m not going to let him slaughter that little dragon.”]
“Simonius will throw in his support with the paladin, you are aware of this already but I state it in the hopes that it might alter you current course.”
“What about you Tarragon? I can count on you can’t I?”
“I reserve final judgment until the culmination of our little drama.”
“That’s what I meant by I can count on you,” said the warrior with a smile and slapped Tarragon on the back with a massive hand.
The rotund druid staggered forward a step but caught himself and avoided falling to the ground. “Let us corral Ophelia already that blasphemous bird will spend the entire evening chasing rabbits and then slumber the day away tomorrow.”
The two men strode off into the night their voices slowly fading into gentle murmurs and then silence.
At the sputtering fire the broad shouldered man returned with fresh kindling and kneeled alternately blowing on it and piling on more of the small sticks.
“It’s too wet Trandus,” said the robed figure shaking his head and going back to fiddling with a short string which he tied into small knots, pulled taught, untied with dexterous fingers, and then retied in a different configuration.
“Blast and damn,” said Trandus scattering his remaining wood into the air with a flourish of his arm. “I never wanted to come this far south anyway. Nothing but rain and lizards, damn blue dragons.”
“Relax Trandus,” said Simonius pulling a small red crystal from his pocket and holding it out towards the dying fire. “Dry from damp, shine out like lamp!”
With this the sputtering fire suddenly roared to life the now dry twigs catching the blaze with ferocity.
“Blast and damn,” repeated Trandus looking at the mage. “Why didn’t you do that in the first place?”
“It’s temporary Trandus, as you well know. I’ve done it before. Now, gather up that kindling and keep it around the blaze to dry. We might be able to keep some small fire going through the night but there is little chance of rabbit or anything warm to eat. That will inflame tempers even more come the morning.”
“Do you think I care,” yelled Trandus at the mage but obeying the order to lay the kindling around the blaze. “What Vol the Gray wants? He pretends to be leader but who led the attack against that blue dragon in the old keep? Who broke its spine when that blasphemous gray bastard was crawling on the ground with his belly half torn open? Who? Who?”
“It was you of course,” said Simonius resuming his string games while the warrior tended to the fire which was already beginning to dwindle.
“What do you think Vol will do tomorrow,” asked Trandus without looking at the mage. “Once the Gray One’s mind is set I have yet to see it change,” replied Simonius looking up and staring into the night where a faint call of “Orpheus” penetrated the darkness.
“He is stubborn,” said Trandus. “I’ll give you that. Perhaps it’s best if I don’t give him a chance to defy the will of Bahamut. I will pray.” With that the thick warrior unfurled a bed roll near the fire and began to prepare for sleep.
The mage put away his string and began to finish up the work by the fire arranging the kindling and medium sized sticks close to the blaze and feeding them into it when they were dry enough. After about twenty minutes of this work he had the fire going fairly well and the water in the pot even began to show signs of boiling.
At that moment the dwarf and the human came back into the camp with the missing hawk perched on the shoulder of the druid.
“I perceive young Trandus has decided on an early retirement,” said Tarragon. “That leaves Vol and me for the evening watch. Get some rest Simonius. We’ll awaken the paladin at midnight. I dare say you haven’t a spell left after our tussle with the dragon.”
“I’ll go to bed all right,” said Simonius, “but I don’t relish the morning. I’ve enjoyed our companionship but not only for its profit,” he said pulling out a large red ruby from a satchel at his side, “but also for the conversation.”
“You act as though this is our last night together,” said Tarragon looking sideways at Vol. “I believe it is. Tend to the fire.” With that he unfurled his own bedroll and climbed on top. He was snoring almost immediately.
“Might I ask your reasoning in fighting for the life of the dragon?” asked Tarragon of the tall warrior. “It will sunder our fellowship, this is certain.”
“I’m not certain Tarragon. Perhaps it is evil. I’m not sure. I know this. I grow weary of religious fanaticism whether it come from Trandus or some Orc shaman who boils little human girls in his pot and calls it the will of Svarog. I don’t say Trandus is a bad man … well perhaps I do. In any case, in the morning I will fight him to save that dragon although I don’t doubt he will slay me. He might be an ass but his ability with the sword and shield I cannot deny.”
“Always explore the alternatives,” said Tarragon.
“What alternatives?” asked Vol. “Ruminate my old friend. The mind is a powerful weapon.”
With that the two men lapsed into silence only broken by the crackling of the fire which they carefully attended.
The rain had stopped when Vol stretched his arms from outside his bedroll. He felt a small pain in his stomach where the druid had healed his wounds from the battle with the dragon and then a sharper pain in his shoulder that always reminded him of the battle long ago with evil wizard who once was the master of his family.
He stood up and noted that the fire had died in the night and looked about the camp and quickly gathered up some of the small pieces of wood left over from the evening. It was only a few moments later that he noted Trandus standing, fully armed with his massive sword drawn at the brink of the pit.
Vol stood straight up and rushed over to the pit knocking Trandus to the side. Inside lay the hacked corpse of the dragon its head severed and tossed into one corner while it belly was split open from end to end. Only the oversized tail was spared assault. The gray warrior turned towards the knight of Bahamut with his eyes blazing and his hand went to his belt but the sword was over by the bedroll.
“You killed it!”
“I said I would. Bahamut’s will be done.”
“You waited until I was asleep you coward!”
“Are you calling me a coward?” replied the knight smiling. “That is a deadly insult to a man who has sworn the oaths I have. Repeat it if you dare.”
“Cowardly scum,” repeated Vol turning his back on the warrior and heading for his sword.
“I’d strike you dead now,” said Tarragon following after him, “except your back is turned and I would not kill a man who is defenseless.”
Vol spun again, “Unlike a defenseless dragon?”
“There are exceptions,” and with a swift movement his sword flashed and blood poured from a wound in the shoulder of Vol.
The gray knight stared for a brief moment and then looked at the sword on the ground nearby. Tarragon and Simonius, awakened by the tumult sat up and watched the interplay.
“Go for your sword then,” said Trandus gesturing toward the weapon. “I’ll give you a chance.” His own armor glinted in the morning sunshine whereas the gray knight only wore a light tunic.
Vol turned, faced the paladin of Bahamut, and then with a sharp glance at the dwarf druid stood straight up. “Go ahead paladin, cut me down,” he spread his arms and made no move to defend himself.
The knight of Bahamut stared at him darkly and raised his sword as if to strike but then slowly lowered it. “It … it is enough that your foul beast is slain. You may live but I will travel with you no more. A man who would let a blue dragon live is likely to stab me in the back while I sleep.”
Vol the Gray looked at him his eyes blazing his lips tightly held together and then looked towards the sword on the ground again.
Trandus noted his gaze, “Take it, fight like man. You dare call me a coward. Come on, fight!”
“Here now,” said Tarragon suddenly standing and moving towards the two. “Vol, I grow weary. Will you come with me?”
“Come with you where Tarragon?” asked the knight looking in all directions.
“Gather your equipment my friend,” said the druid and suddenly his body began to shift in a strange transformation. His arms grew long feathers and became wings as he legs narrowed and sprouted talons at the end.
Vol gathered his equipment and a moment later the great eagle that was once Tarragon grabbed him by the shoulders and they were winging their way towards new adventures.
“Good riddance,” said Tarragon to Simonius as they watched the two fly away.
“I imagine you’re not the only one who feels that way,” said the mage with a shrug.
“What is that supposed to mean,” said Tarragon turning towards the wizard with a flourish of his sword.
“It means what I said,” said the wizard gathering his own equipment. “I will travel with you as far as Ko’dala but then perhaps I will set out alone.”
“Fine then,” said the knight of Bahamut with one last look at the dwindling figures in the sky. “Never again will I travel with anyone who has no faith. Companions without honor are no companions at all!”