Friday, November 28, 2014

Fantasy Friday: A Dowry for Hamelin, Part Three

Eighty-five pounds of Troll organs and meat. Hamelin was weighed down by an additional eighty-five pounds of Troll flank and Troll liver, while his mother carried an enormous green slab of heart meat slung over her shoulder from the beasts own sinew, and twelve vials of the creatures musk, along with a flask of its blood and six foot and half long tusks. After she’d finished harvesting from the Troll for over an hour, she’d climbed down a bit, hanging off the Troll by its shoulder and swung up, slicing deep into the creatures neck. With a savage pull followed by another thrust, the head had gone toppling down to the forest floor, the body remaining stiff and rigid in place in the canopy.

Malory had swung from the branches to her Elven son, passing off the load he was to carry before loading herself down for safe travel. The rest of the day was a slow trek down the hill, past a fork in the road that took them to the valley over the ridge, and down into the River Valley proper, the humid temperatures of summer and the light showers raining down from the canopy above, gathered rainwater constantly drizzling down from the leaves to create a sense of constant rainfall, leaving great puddles on the sides of the stone road leading to Relmut, the village of the River Valley.
They reached the outskirts of Relmut around sundown, Hamelin cheering at the sight of the town. He’d never visited as his hunting parties always camped out in the woods, but he’d heard a lot about the village itself. Full of former soldiers and tradesmen, hunters and trappers alike; they all came to Relmut to hunt in the River Valley. Malory assures Hamelin that they’ll just be stopping off to get some supplies, and to sell their wares.
“I know a man down here, good guy.” She said as they walked through the open gates, the high stone wall keeping the creeping jungle from entering and overtaking the small village. Walking through the maze of earthen mounds that turned out to be partially submerged homes, and around rows of rice being grown in a tiered set up that built up onto the walls of the northeastern corner of the settlement, they stopped at a stone dugout that smelled of the familiar scents of molten iron and copper.
Leaning down into the stoop of the sunken smithy, Malory knocked on the wooden door, rapping her knuckles sharply on the jungle wood. A crash from within, followed by accented swearing in a language that sounded too guttural to be the common Imperial tongue that most of the villages within ten miles spoke. The door flying open, a lantern coming out in the gnarled blue hand of a bald, wide eared creature, the ears like that of a cat as they rotated on its head. At the moment, they laid low, as the creature was obviously annoyed. The rest of the creature was varying shades of blue with only a pair of stitched britches and suspenders keeping him decent.
“Well? Who are you and what do you want?” The creature demanded in a heavily accented tone, pointing the lantern from Malory to Hamelin.
“Phil, it’s me, Malory. I have goods to sell, and my son with me on his first Monster Hunt. We need some arrows that can help him out.”
“Malory!” The creature’s attitude changed entirely, it’s beady black eyes staring up at her, the ears rotating to listen to her speak. “It’s been far too long, living high on the mountain. You need to come back down to the root of it all, move down here and live where the actions at.”
“And what kind of action have you been seeing?” Malory asked, walking inside as the creature moved to the side to allow them passage into its home.
“That one you slew nearly twenty years ago had siblings and one’s taken up residence in a series of caves a short distance away.” The creature said, earning a look of amazement from Hamelin. “It’s learned to stay away from our borders after the archers unloaded a month’s worth of arrows into the hide, but it’s grown too large; we need someone who can handle it like the other one was handled all those years ago.”
“I haven’t come hunting dragons Phil, just to help my son hunt monsters for a dowry.”
The blue skinned creature looked over at Hamelin, causing the boys breath to hitch in his throat. The creatures short-snubbed snout sniffed once, before the creature’s eyebrow rose. He looked back at Malory. “I don’t smell any women on him that aren’t you or elderly. Is he gay?”
Hamelin sputtered at the direct question causing his mother to laugh. “Relax Hamelin, Phil here is a Goblin, they reproduce asexually. Homosexuality is common in their species.”
“Yeah, not as big a deal to us as you humans can make it out to be. I just wanted to make sure Malory knew.” Phil said, turning to head back inside his shop and home, Malory hot on his heels.
They spent the next ten minutes haggling over the gathered Troll parts, arguing over ever gold piece and weight until it seemed like they would come to blows. But after it was all said and done, Phil laughed and began counting out gold coins for her while Malory unloaded the Troll parts on a long work bench for the Goblin, ordering Hamelin to do the same. Once the gold was counted (and counted again), then the goblin seemed to lighten in mood, moving into a small nook in his shop to return with three mugs of frothy ale.
“From the Norturlends, some of their finest Apple ale yet,” He said as he set one down in front of Malory and passed another to Hamelin. His mother nodded at him, signaling it was okay to drink. He did so, and with gusto once he tasted the overly sweet beverage.
“So, you have a dragon,” Malory said, looking at Phil with her one good eye.
“Aye that we do. A nasty blighter as well, some twenty-five feet in length. Been keeping the Wood Elves busy harassing their borders, but their arrows can’t pierce its hide. Not like that sword at your hip could.”
“And what about you Phil? You seem too confident that I could take this beast down. You know I’m just a humble blacksmith now.”
“Bah! Once a fighter, always a fighter! You took on that first dragon without an ounce of training, treating it like an oversized bull the way you rode it.”
“Yes, I know what I did was risky…”
“Risky nothing! That was bravery Malory, through and through. That’s what makes you a Monster Hunter while the rest of us just trap wild game.” Phil said, leaning back in his chair to take a drink. “Won’t be like that soon though. The beast is getting too large, eating too many Trolls. I have something that would help you kill it, if you cut me in for some of the hide.”
“What did you have in mind?” Malory asked, squinting at the goblin.
Ears perking up, the goblin smiled widely. “Only a quarter of the underbelly and a tenth of the armor, along with twelve teeth.”
“Mighty specific,” Hamelin interjected.
“That’s because I happen to have twelve dragon tooth arrows that I would be willing to loan you if you were to take up the challenge of downing the dragon,” Phil said, smiling at Hamelin. “I see that bow of yours bow, and I recognize Wood Elves by scent. I knew Malory had taken in an orphan, but I’d never imagined I’d meet him. If she has you with her, you must be a crack shot with the bow of yours.”
“He is,” Malory said over Hamelin’s mumbled humility. “I brought him down here for some hunting of a staghorn, or perhaps a centaur. But a dragon? With the right equipment, I say we could do it.”
“You really think so mother?” Hamelin said hazel eyes full of doubt.
“You’re the son of a dragon slayer and one of the finest archers in the village. As long as you aim for the neck of the beast you’ll do fine. That’s where dragons bite each other when fighting, and that is where your arrows will have the most effect.”
“And what will you be doing?”
Malory smiled. “I’ll be dancing with it.
The following morning was heavy with fog, the rolling plumes of mist pervading every corner of the River Valley. Phil, armed with a crossbow, bolts dipped in nymph venom, led the way out of the village and out into the open fields of the River Valley, slowly into the marshes. Hamelin, walking with a special quiver filled with twelve dragon tooth-tipped arrows, walked with confidence as his mother pulled her magic sword from her hip, the glow from the red hot end piercing some of the dense fog.
“The beast hunts when the fog rolls in, making it exceptionally hard to track in the marshes,” Phil explained, holding a lantern high (waist high to Malory and Hamelin). “Hopefully our lights will attract its attention.”
“This is madness, hoping to attract an attack from a dragon,” Hamelin laughed.
Malory turned and eyed her son with a smile. “That’s what being a Monster Hunter is all about. You want the best goods to make the finest wares, you have to either pay someone to get them or use your own grit and steel to gather them yourself.”
“Make sure your sword is ready Hamelin, as you’ll want it once your mother mounts this thing like a bucking bronco,” Phil said humorlessly.
“I will not!”
“I have my sword ready,” Hamelin said, smiling despite his mother’s glare. “Just in case, you know?”
“For the last time, I see no reason for me to get on top of the thing if Hamelin has those arrows.”
“Twelve arrows may not be enough to down it, and you’re the only one with a magic sword that can pierce a dragon’s hide. My bolts will most likely be shrugged off, and even if they do sink through the armor, the poison is hardly toxic enough to bring down a bull of this size.”
“It’s a male?” Hamelin asked, confused. “Does that make a difference?”
“The last one I killed was a male as well,” Malory explained, looking back at her son. “They can be vicious, but they don’t protect their young like a nesting mother will.”
“And how do we know it’s a male?” Hamelin wondered aloud, looking at Phil for an explanation.
Phil sighed. “It’s marked a clearly defined territory and attacks anything that enters it. Females roam, looking for a male to roost with.”
“And this is the same type that Mama fought all those years ago?” Hamelin probed.
“Yes,” Phil answered, somewhat annoyed. “Why would you even think it was a different breed?”
“Because I can hear wings flapping in the distance, as well as a rumbling of something’s stomach. Something big.” Hamelin replied, strafing off to the side, pulling his bow.
“Damn elves and their ears…” Phil muttered, loading his crossbow with a bolt and pulling back the bowstring with a crank.
“Hey, he may have just helped us out,” Malory said, seconds before she leapt down into the water, a jet of boiling steam crackling with static electricity blasted through the fog overhead. Popping up, coughing and spitting, she nodded with a smile as she pulled her hair out of her eye. “Yeah, he helped us out.”
“Point taken!” Phil shouted, dashing through the water towards the shadowy outline of the serpentine beast, the creature easily twenty feet in height, with a long sinuous neck, a snapping serpents head crowned by thorny horns perched atop it.
“Wow, they really grow into their necks…” Malory noted, thinking back on the turtle like whelpling she had fought all those years ago. The creature still had a spiky shell covering its main body, with two powerful forelimbs ending in three great talons splashing through the much. The creature’s mottled black and green hide was broken only by the two red spots it had under its eyes. A pair of leathery wings extended from the armored back, covered in hard armored plating near the joints. Splashing behind it was a long thunderous tail, kicking up waves of marsh water as the creature turned its side to them, presenting its armored back as it took a deep gulp of air, ready to breathe once more.
Swift as lightning Hamelin nocked two arrows, one being a dragon tooth arrow, and fired at the creature’s neck. The normal iron arrow pierced the undercarriage enough to draw blood, while the dragon tooth arrow sank deep in, stopping when it reached the armor plating atop the neck. The creature roared, breathing a cloud of electrified mist high into the air, and out of the hole in its neck, destroying the shafts of the two arrows in the process.
Phil, now practically under the creature, took careful aim and fired a bolt into the joint where the left front leg met the shell, piercing the soft fibrous tissue enough to cause it to bleed out.
Malory rose from the water, shaking her hair about until it hung in string patches around her head. “I’m amazed we found it this fast,” she said, hefting her sword up into a defensive position.
“We’re in its territory, and it has been having some problems from the wood elves. Hamelin probably made it think another war party had come to try and take it down.” Phil shouted, cranking back the bow of his weapon and loading another poisoned bolt.
Hamelin fired two more iron-tipped arrows into the beast’s neck, trying to hit the same spot he’d struck before. “Gee, thanks for making me feel special Phil!”
The dragon roared, rearing up onto its hind legs to begin clawing at Malory, who took every chance to hack and slash at the three foot wide shovel paws coming down, raking her blade with claws as long as scimitars. She got in a solid stab into the right paw, drawing a geyser of steaming blood which bubbled in the murky water of the marsh, and another volley of arrows peppered its neck, causing it to rear back and gaze at Hamelin.
“Shit,” Hamelin said as he jumped out of the way of a blast of corrosive gas, the scent of chlorine overpowering as the mist ate away at any vegetation peeking out of the water.
Phil fired another bolt into the same spot, this time lodging the bolt deeper into the joint before pulling a dirk out from his belt and running beneath the drizzling blood. Holding his dirk under the blood, he took a gloved hand and smeared the steaming liquid over the steel, smiling as the weapon glowed red-hot after but a few moments.
“Ha! I’ve got a magic weapon now you grisly wyrm, let’s see how you like it!” The goblin cried out, jamming the dagger into the creatures left leg, just above a talon, pulling down hard to cut deep into what would be the cuticle on a human.
The dragon roared, stamping its feet, an action Phil immediately regretted as he grabbed on and rode the beast’s foot, holding on for dear life as he continued to stab it over and over.
“Die you foul beast!” The goblin screeched as he rammed the dagger into the heel of the dragon’s forelimb, snapping it out as he severed a tendon, rendering the claw limp. “Ha! Fight us now you enfeeble-whoa!”
Phil’s victory cry was brought short as the dragon whipped his injured limb out, snapping it back and sending Phil flying off into the distance, out of sight but definitely not out of earshot as Hamelin learned a variety of new goblin curse words. He put them to good use, cursing the dragon as he fired two dragon tooth arrows into the creatures chest, smiling as they sank in through the thick armor, drawing a good deal of blood.
Malory held its full attention though, having taken a page from Phil’s book and leapt onto a forelimb, using her sword as an aid to climbing up the limb, stabbing the creature repeatedly to form footholds as she slowly crested the chest. The serpentine head lashed out at her, snapping with acidic jaws when not being peppered with arrows. She’d reached the hump where the neck met the armor, and straddled the beast accordingly. The dragon, too wily to allow such an action to take place, spread its wings and began to flap them, taking off from its perch in the mossy water slowly. Hamelin, in a bout of both genius and insanity, ran and clamped onto the limp claw of the left forelimb, climbing up the rough hide until he was comfortable with his position, feet securely positioned on nodules of knotty hide. As they lifted off into the air, he pulled his own sword from his side, wobbling a bit as gravity took a firm hold of him as the dragon banked left.
Malory, on the other hand, was fighting to keep the dragon from doing a barrel roll, slashing into the thick flesh of the back of its neck. With boiling blood flying up to scald Malory in the face and on her hand gripping the sliced section of armor, she gritted her teeth and pushed her blade ever deeper into the creature’s immense girth, chunks of meat and streams of blood showering down on whatever they passed.
The creature bellowed in impotent rage as it couldn’t dislodge the people on it instead flapping ever higher into the sky in a lazy circular path. Once it had reached a certain height, the dragon, now bleeding from its forepaw and neck severely, spun into a nose dive, wings pressed tightly against its body as it allowed gravity to pull it back to mother earth.
Hamelin, in a blind panic, stabbed his blade as deep as he could and pulled the sword free, sliding an arm into the wound so that he had something secure to fasten himself onto should the dragon impact with the ground suddenly. Mallory had the same idea, crawling partially into the hump where the neck met the body, ignoring the steaming blood around her as it cleansed her body of impurities through righteous fire.
The dragon, in one last fit of rage, billowed out a final breath as it came crashing headfirst into the marsh, a tremendous shockwave rocking the River Valley as the behemoth lay dead, crumpling in on itself as the deadfall concussed it into submission, then agonizing death.
Phil, who had come running back up after skipping a few times on the marsh water like a skipping stone, saw the behemoth fall to the ground but saw no sight of his allies. Panicked, he ran forward, pushing a great talon aside as he tried to reach the chest.
“Malory? Hamelin? Anybody?” Phil called, looking around where the head had curled up, the long neck rising out of the water and forming a half circle that he now stood in.
“Over here Phil…” Hamelin coughed, sliding free from his place within the paw, his arm dislocated and most likely broken from the fall.
“Hamelin! You’re alive- good God you are a mess! How much blood was spilled on you?” Phil asked, running up and stopping short as he watched Hamelin stumble a few feet from his place in the creatures forepaw.
“Enough that he’ll make a fine blacksmith once his wounds are healed.” Malory said loudly, standing up from the wound she had carved, drenched in the creatures blood. “Me? I think I might just start sleeping on a bed of coals.”
“You mean it worked like last time?” Phil asked, looking at her with both reverence and disgust.
“Yes, anywhere our bodies absorbed the blood, we’re now resistant to flame.” Malory said, addressing Phil. “You’d best get your hands in here for your own good Phil, before the beast cools.”
“Right on that, excuse me!” The goblin said excitedly, moving with great speed up towards the head with his dagger in hand.

Malory, limping slightly and favoring her left arm over her right, edged her way down the dragon’s side. Looking at Hamelin, she cackled. “Now this is a dowry!”

No comments:

Post a Comment