A fire raged against a stormy sky. The air filled with the smell of brimstone, melted flesh, and an odious acidic odor the people of Deerhall hadn’t smelled for a decade. Lucrais could only watch from afar as the only home she’d ever known was melted and devastated by the great corrosive dragon Kuvrig.
At twelve meters high the great emerald serpent towered over any who dared to go against him. His hide was thicker than that of whales, its claws and teeth as sharp as knives, and worst of all was its ghastly breath which dissolved the armor and flesh of those foolish enough to get close to his jaws.
The three nations of Astines each had a different approach to dealing with the creature. The Jigurians revered the monster to the point they celebrated its reappearance every decade. Helfetians abandoned the lands where Kuvrig emerged choosing instead to live in the more coastal regions of the continent. Leatians like Lucrais on the other hand rightfully feared it but refused to leave their ancestral lands and simply rebuilt whenever Kuvrig slumbered once again.
The kingdom of Leath sent their able-bodied knights to protect their people and fight for their homes even though they knew what the outcome would be before the fight even began. Lucrais’s husband Garth was one such knight risking his life to fight the beast while she was stuck in the next village over, Yarrin. She yearned to be by his side fighting to the death and would have been if it hadn’t been for their newborn, Seren. She adored the child and knew how difficult life would be if she grew up without parents yet the thought of not dying next to her husband hurt deeply.
Every night she’d head to the village’s center with Seren while new fires would ignite and messengers from the battlefield would come to the village with news for spouses who were just widowed. This went on for days. She prayed to the gods everyday she wouldn’t be one of them yet found herself at the village center every night knowing it was bound to happen sooner or later.
“Are you Lucrais?” Asked a woman behind her.
She didn’t turn around, she couldn’t. Instead she just nodded while keeping her eyes on the smoke rising to join with the dark clouds overhead.
“Ma’am, I don’t know how to tell you this but your husband… He fought valiantly, but as you can see, we’re not gaining ground on the monster.” The woman said in a slightly lower voice.
Lucrais’s throat tightened, she gripped Seren tighter against her chest. Even though she expected the outcome it still hurt worse than she imagined. “How did it happen?” She asked steadily. She didn’t know why she asked, it didn’t make a difference how it happened the result was still the same.
“The knights attempted to reach Kuvrig’s head by sneaking up its back. For that to work we needed a few brave souls to distract him… Your husband volunteered.”
Of course he did… Lucrais thought sadly. Ever the hero. If there was even a tiny chance, he could’ve help he would have jumped at it…
“The bastard didn’t go for the bait though. He stomped the men in front of him and simultaneously killed the men behind him with a flick of his tail. I’m afraid there was nothing we could do…” The messenger continued. “In a few days when Kuvrig moves on to a new village we’ll probably be able to retrieve the body for a proper burial. Once again, we’re sorry for your loss, your husband was a brave man…”
Lucrais laughed despite herself as the messenger walked away. Collect the body? She wasn’t naive enough to believe there would be a body to collect once Kuvrig’s rampage was over. Her husband would be an unrecognizable green pool of acid mixed together with the others. All he ever was melted away by a single enemy.
She stood there rooted to the spot watching the fires, surrounded by the mournful cries of other widows, yet her eyes remained dry. Tears would come later when Seren wasn’t with her, at that moment her head was filled with painful memories of Garth and fearful thoughts of having to raise Seren alone. The cries seemed to affect the child though as she began to fuss and cry in her mother’s arms. It was time to go, there was nothing else for her there.
Back at the temporary hovel she called home she laid Seren to rest and got in bed herself but didn’t sleep. Instead she lay awake wondering why the gods allowed Kuvrig to kill their people. There were tales of gods killing beasts a dozen times bigger and stronger than Kuvrig, yet the dragon was allowed to continue his rampage unbothered for decades. It was nearly enough to shake her faith. She rolled to her side to stare out the window.
It was funny. From that side of the house the night was still and Kuvrig’s destruction wasn’t visible. It was as if she could shut out all the world’s miseries just by looking away. Even if reality would crash down on her in the morning, right then she could enjoy the peace of night.
Her eyelids began to droop as her mind finally began to go blank. She was just on the verge of sleep before she saw innumerable golden chains fall from the heavens like comets a distance away from the village. She jumped up startled, she had witnessed shooting stars before but what she saw out the window was different. While shooting stars were a sight to behold the chains she saw moved much slower and were much more enchanting for reasons she couldn’t explain. Even with just the seconds she was able to see them they captured her attention so quickly Kuvrig and Garth were completely put out of her mind. She opened the window to get closer to the chains even if only by a single centimeter.
Seren gave a small knock against the side of her bassinet and her attention was returned to the space around her. Her face drooped ashamed of what she had almost done. It was crazy to even think about going out there, she didn’t know what the chains were and Seren was already down a parent. If the golden beauties were hostile there was a possibility the child would be an orphan. She took a cursory glance towards her old war sword and then back out the window. The chains were so bright she could still see them from the village, they danced and swayed in the moonlight as if the devastation and death right next door to them wasn’t happening. She made her decision.
With little hesitation she grabbed her belt and sword and picked up Seren’s bassinet. The baby stirred a little but seemed unbothered by the disturbance. Walking carefully not to wake her she reached her neighbor’s house and knocked gently.
“Lucrais…” Answered the woman at the door. “I heard what happened to Garth. If there’s anything you need don’t hesitate-”
“There is something I need!” Lucrais said quickly. She didn’t feel like being pitied. “I need you to watch Seren for a couple hours. There’s something I need to check out and I need to know she’s okay.”
The woman looked puzzled but held out her hands to receive the child. “Is everything alright?” She asked.
“Yes. Or at least I think so. It’s just something a little ways out of the village. I’ll be back before sunrise.” Lucrais said. Before turning to leave she touched Seren’s warm cheek and the baby sighed making it a little more difficult to leave. Before her resolve could be shaken, she turned on the spot and sprinted for where she last saw the chains.
Under the cover of night, they shined more brilliantly than the sun, she couldn’t understand how something could be that bright. As she approached, she noticed the chains were dancing over a black lake she didn’t think was there prior. The image of the chains over the silent water was instantly burned into her memory, it was something she’d never be able to forget even if she tried.
Out of nowhere the chains stopped their wild dance and swam through the air towards Lucrais. They stopped just before her and began to converge and take shape. Soon she could make out the figure of a colossal man. She grasped her sword’s handle just in case as the light began to break and the man was revealed. She gasped and lowered her hand.
Ogmios . A god described only in legends was standing before her and looked just as old and wise as the stories described. His skin was dark and swarthy but not to the point he looked like the darker-skinned Helfetians. Draped in the skins of lions she could tell why one wouldn’t want to face the herculean figure in battle. From his mouth hung golden chains that went down the gargantuan god’s sides to the ears of a band of men who followed behind him.
Lucrais almost instinctively went to one knee and bowed her head waiting for the god to speak. It was best to show respect as many of the gods were known to be temperamental, but she didn’t think Ogmios was among them. If what she heard was true, then the god was not only one of great fighting prowess and binding but also great eloquence. The men surrounding him were said to be people enthralled by his very speech.
“Raise your head child,” The jovial god said. His voice was as calm as a river but strong like a raging ocean current. Lucrais raised her head but still didn’t dare to speak.
The god laughed. “Speak child while the night is young. I have heard your prayers, your anguish, and the cries of my people. There are those who do not wish to do anything about the encroacher, but I cannot stand by and watch my people suffer. Speak now and I shall receive any request you may have.”
As she thought would happen some of the god’s words went over her head. She had no idea what he meant by Kuvrig being an encroacher but gazing upon the god’s face only one request came to mind. Revenge. “My lord, my husband was murdered at the hands of that overgrown lizard,” She said pointing in the direction of the fires. “Is there any way for it to be defeated once and for all? Is there something I can do to avenge my husband and protect my child’s future?”
Ogmios laughed once again but this time his booming voice shook the ground. “Anything you can do? How unusual. Most mortals would have asked me to handle the problem for them. You possess a warrior’s spirit Lucrais.”
She gave a thin smile at the god’s praise. Just him knowing her name would have been enough for most people but for her being called a warrior by one such as Ogmios was the highest praise she could ever receive.
“There lies a problem though,” Ogmios continued. “The creature you know as Kuvrig is most unusual. It originates from quite far beyond our world where the rules of their mortals are different than ours. We fear if the creature is killed its soul may linger and do further harm to the planet.”
The god’s talk of other worlds was well beyond her, yet she felt she got the gist of the problem. If Kuvrig’s soul was anything like the dragon itself, it would wreak havoc wherever it went. She also felt she knew a possible solution. “So if the soul was able to be bound then could it be controlled?” She asked.
Ogmios crinkled his nose. “It’s possible… But you do understand what you’re asking don’t you? There are problems you couldn’t possibly comprehend with the gods interfering directly with Kuvrig, so I dare not bind it to myself. If it were to be bound to something inanimate, I fear its wicked power would leak out of control from its prison. And the lifespan of humans is terribly short, once the host dies the soul would be free once again.”
“That’s right… And that’s why I ask you to pass the dragon’s soul down through my descendants. Our family will act as torch bearers one after another guarding Astines against Kuvrig!” She said. It wasn’t a request she made lightly. She would be cursing her family with forever guarding the planet and her progeny wouldn’t have a say in the matter. Her mind instantly went to Seren as she wondered if the child would be forced to bear her curse if she died an early death.
“Your conviction is sound, once again I must admire your spirit,” Ogmios said still smiling. He held out his hand and a small round illegible tablet formed in his palm. “Touch it and the fate of you and your descendants shall be forever intertwined with the dragon.”
The time for hesitation was over, she put her hand to the tablet and looked up to Ogmios. There was a bright blue flash where her hand connected with the tablet, heat raced up her palm. It was over just as soon as it began but she could still feel the strange power the tablet conferred. It was as if something within her chest was being squeezed.
“Thank you, your grace,” Lucrais said with a quick bow. “What must I do now?”
“A warrior so quick to grab her sword should already know. Kuvrig’s soul cannot be tamed while he still breathes. A daunting task but I assure you that you already have everything you need. The gods are watching over you young one.”
Lucrais could barely utter her thanks as the god and his followers disappeared in a brilliant flare of golden light. Without the presence of the god the night was still once again.
Armed with the knowledge of what must be done Lucrais gripped her sword’s handle and turned back towards the village. She wondered if Seren was still slumbering peacefully without her but shook this thought away quickly. Thinking of her would only make her hesitate in what she needed to do.
“Seren, wait for me…” She whispered as she started off to where the great dragon was.
Even running at full speed, it took Lucrais three hours to get to the remains of Deerhall. Night was still laying over the land as she rested against the side of what used to be someone’s home. The corrosive smell that had reached Yarrin was much stronger there, stinging her eyes and forcing her to cover her nose.
It was nearly impossible to believe she lived peacefully in the village just a week ago. The food stalls her and Garth went to nearly every night were now nothing but nubs of green-stained wood littering the ground. Every so often she stumbled upon a body or a pool of ooze wondering if one of them could have been Garth. She didn’t even dare go looking for her former house.
What’s worse was the dragon itself. She believed in Ogmios’s words that she’d be okay but it didn’t make seeing the reptile up close any easier. As she slowly advanced towards it she observed its movements for the coming battle. The way it craned its neck back before biting or blowing its acidic breath; the way its tail swept the ground of knights as it pivoted; and how archers nested on the remaining rooftops couldn’t pierce its hide. These were all important details if she was to stand any chance with the beast.
Finally, she was upon the scene of the frantic battlefield. Knights ran headfirst for the lizard’s legs which ended in most of them getting crushed beneath its powerful feet. Medics did their best to drag bodies away from the onslaught although Lucrais thought this a pointless effort; from her vantage most of them were beyond saving.
She saw a single archer climb a roof before taking aim at Kuvrig’s neck. Right as he loosed the arrow Kuvrig immediately stopped what he was doing and blew an awful green haze the archer’s way. The archer’s screams were terrible to hear but his death provided perhaps the most crucial information she needed to know.
For all the time she observed him Kuvrig didn’t treat the other fighters with the same attention as the single archer. She realized the reason her husband must have been killed so quickly was because he and the others positioned themselves beneath the dragon’s head. The dragon was vulnerable beneath its neck. He could be killed.
Communicating her theory with the rest of the knights would be nigh on impossible with Kuvrig not stopping his onslaught and she couldn’t tell who was in charge with everyone moving so quickly. With no other options she chose to believe in the god that believed in her and dashed towards Kuvrig’s head.
Running was easier if she didn’t think about what she was doing. If she had even thought about the melted bodies around her for a moment she may have hesitated.
Finally, she got beneath the great beast’s head and drew her sword. Kuvrig locked its great viridescent, serpentine eyes with hers. She knew what would come next, the dragon wouldn’t allow anyone to get near its neck.
“Lady get away from there!” Came a frantic shout from one of the knights. But Lucrais didn’t move, she kept her eyes locked on the monster that killed her husband.
As she expected Kuvrig craned its neck back to attack yet she still refused to move. Just before the dragon could throw its acid once again a great club fell over its head. The dragon roared and stumbled backwards crushing more knights in the process as it tried to see what made the blow.
Lucrais smiled as she saw Ogmios riding the dragon as if it were no different than a common horse. With one hand he held Kuvrig’s neck and in the other his club. He laughed as he continuously banged on Kuvrig’s head like a drum. The crowd of soldiers around the dragon fell back confused at what they were witnessing.
Kuvrig must have realized what was happening as he unfurled his powerful wings and prepared to take to the air. His efforts were in vain though as the men attached to Ogmios’s chains threw their own chains over the dragon’s wings and pulled.
“That’s quite enough I think!” Ogmios yelled. He gripped the side of Kuvrig’s head tighter and swung his club into the dragon’s head once more. This strike was so powerful the dragon swayed on its feet before toppling over.
Ogmios leapt off its back before the dragon hit the ground but Lucrais stayed where she was. She tried not to think about what happened to the knights who didn’t have time to move away from Kuvrig’s body.
“Madam, it has been a pleasure serving you. The rest is up to you.” Ogmios said before he and his men disappeared in another flash of light.
Lucrais ran full force at the dazed dragon’s exposed neck. He trembled slightly as she neared so without missing a beat she raised her sword and struck down into the dragon’s soft tissue.
There wasn’t time to get away as a deluge of blood rushed from Kuvrig’s neck carrying Lucrais away from him and soaking the battlefield red. She was able to get to her knees just as the dragon shakily raised its still bleeding neck. He threw back his head once more and Lucrais prepared for the worst, but the acid never came. Right as Kuvrig’s neck went back his eyes rolled back and the great dragon’s head collapsed once again. The monster that killed Garth was no more.
Lucrais sat stunned at what had just happened. In one night she not only met Ogmios but also slayed the beast that plagued their lands for decades. She always assumed whoever did the deed would become part of Astines ’ history but never dreamed it would be her. She didn’t want the attention, what she wanted most in the world at that moment was to get back home, be able to cry next to Seren, and finally grieve for Garth. But she knew she it wasn’t over yet.
Amongst the silence that followed Kuvrig’s downfall a shout of joy rang out through the night. Others came out of their trance until a chorus of triumphant cheers and shrieks blocked out all other sound.
She understood their joy but while they were hugging and crying, she had to keep her eyes glued on Kuvrig’s corpse. It was small at first but she could see a jade aura rising from the body. Her breathing quickened as it rose higher and higher before it started swirling around her. Ogmios hadn’t mentioned any pain that might occur with the ritual, but she could only imagine the dragon’s soul would be unpleasant. Preparing for the worst she clenched her fists and shut her eyes as the aura slammed into her.
Lucrais screamed. The pain was much worse than she could have imagined, it felt as if her blood ignited, burning her from the inside out. She couldn’t help but convulse amongst Kuvrig’s blood intimately aware of what she must have looked like to the remaining knights.
So this is how I die… Lucrais thought. I won’t get to see Seren grow up but at least she’ll get to live in a world without Kuvrig… The world was going dark, she couldn’t think, and soon she even became numb to the pain. She had no frame of reference for it but she couldn’t help thinking it must be the calm that came right before death. She’d never have to feel pain again, rest was just around the corner. Wait, that’s not right.
“And that’s why I ask you to pass the dragon’s soul down through my descendants.” Her own words echoed back to her. The suffering she felt now would be passed to her next of kin. Seren.
Lucrais grit her teeth and pushed herself back to her knees even as every cell within her screamed for relief. She wouldn’t let her daughter suffer the same pain she felt. With one large breath, she felt Kuvrig’s energy swell in her chest and exhaled letting a corrosive stream flow from within her. The pain eased up at once, she collapsed to her side exhausted and watched as people rushed to her aid.
She had done it, Seren and Astines was safe and she could finally sleep. Anything that came next would be up to her and her descendants. She prayed that decision wouldn’t haunt her.
And here’s the beginning to this story! It was supposed to be posted Monday but my inner critic wouldn’t shut up before I put it through three different edits on three different platforms (Thinking about doing a post Monday on tools of the trade) but I’m glad I did I could a bunch of errors.
Anyways this is the first part of a planned eight part fantasy series. The rest won’t focus on Lucrais but we will see how this one decision affected one of her descendants once many years pass.
I don’t believe the other parts will be as long as this one was (3.7k words) and I want to do a poll Monday to see how longer posts like this should be handled even if not many people vote on it.
It was harder to put myself out there for this one for some reason but I’m glad I did. I think it needs some feedback but I liked the way it turned out. If you liked what you saw here throw a comment or a like, and give the blog a follow for more.
Thanks for reading,
(Credit where credit is due. I found a lot of the names I liked and used from this name generator it’s run by an awesome lady so give it a try. And the picture of the dragon was marked as for reuse without giving credit needed so I don’t know the author.)