The Dragon Within

Threat of the Crowns

by Arrendle

Eshney lives in Wazari Eren, a peaceful world with a secret past.

When a mythical dragon named Char comes to confer with her father about an ancient crown stolen from the dragon’s lair, Eshney’s world is changed forever.

She soon learns of an ancient battle that split her world, of fantastical realms existing in isolation, and of magical crowns capable of enslaving all of dragon kind.

Now, Eshney, Char, and her father, Aubra, must embark on a perilous journey through unknown realms to recover the stolen crown and save the dragons of the world.


Chapter One

The sound of cracking bone echoed against the steep walls of the crater like electricity popping in a storm. In the torchlight, he could see the dragon, its jaws gnashing on a lump of red pulpy carcass. Blood pooled like an oil slick on the floor at its feet and he heard a sickly wet splat as a portion of the carcass plummeted to the floor of the crater. Giant dead fish lay strewn about the dragon’s feet, with mouths frozen open and round eyes aghast, as if in protest to the dragon’s feast. The briny smell of blood wafted through the evening air of the crater and seized him. He was rapt to the sight of the dragon feeding, and moments later, Samil realized he was grinning.

The dragon’s snout glistened with blood and its eyes glowed with a silvery radiance. It threw its head back and swallowed a lump. Then, in a lightning-quick wave, it recovered the portion it had dropped on the cavern floor, threw its head back again, and swallowed. The dragon selected another victim from the dead and another sucking crack of bone rung out. Samil’s body quivered. He shut his eyes and listened to the rhythmic noshing, then his tongue slithered out and wet his lips. He imagined the taste of the salty blood in his own mouth and the sounds of the dragon eating became a beating pop and crack with a melody of blood spattering the crater floor. He sucked the air and opened his eyes. It was the first time he had ever seen a dragon, and he was delighted to see it was covered in blood.

The beast was larger than he expected, deep black and glistening against the dim light, as if tiny chips of diamonds were embedded in its shark-like hide. Its membranous wings were folded back, and it was seated on its hind haunches with its powerful front legs firmly planted for stability. Its head towered high on a sleek neck, lined with a row of glossy black barbs that met an explosion of black spikes jutting out of the back of its skull. Two black horns shot back off the dragon’s forehead in dangerous spirals, and wisps of heat seemed to rise off the beast and dissipate into the salty air.

Battle scars dug deep into the dragon’s hide. There was a three-pronged scar clawed over its right brow ending in a single laceration running down the side of its face, and another jagged three-pronged scar on its left shoulder, streaking down to the dragon’s pectoral. He stared at the scars and concluded that another dragon inflicted these old gashes in a vicious attack. It must have happened in the ancient war he read about.

In his mind, he imagined the fight. The attacking dragon rocketing through the sky in a deadly strike, leaving gashes to this dragon’s brow and shoulder. He imagined the two dragons colliding mid-air and twirling to the ground, cracking the earth on impact. The fight continued in his head as fangs and claws drew more blood. He imagined this dragon finally ripping the throat of the other and then standing upon the dead dragon’s carcass as if reigning over the dead.

Another jagged grin sliced across Samil’s face. He knew the fight scene was his own fantasy, but the scars this dragon bore were real enough; they were mementos of a past that would never heal.

Samil shifted his attention upward. The crater was open to the night sky, affording the dragon access to his lair, and Samil watched the stars twinkle through the archway as he contemplated his mission. It will be easy to thieve the treasure this beast hoards, its mental capacity has diminished over the ages, and its lack of intelligence is how I will gain my prize.

The treasure he sought was something else he had never seen before; a crown made of an ancient dragon’s gold. But the descriptions in the ancient texts were clear enough. He imagined what the crown must look like, sparkling ruby adornments winking against the brilliance of the dragon’s gold. The crown shone in his dark mind like the rays of a sun.

Something at the back of Samil’s mind interrupted his fantasy of the crown and he attempted to swat the nagging thought away. He imagined the heft of the treasure and his fingers found the strong leather strap of the satchel he would use to secrete the crown away. But again, something was distracting him and the image of the crown faded from his mind. He worked to bring the image back, using the dead silence to gain control of his thoughts.

He snapped back to the present. He felt a tingling on the back of his neck. He heard only silence. No gnashing. No bones splitting. No blood splattering. Just silence.

The blood rushed to his head and his mouth went dry. He looked back to the dragon and saw its head, turned toward his direction, laser-like beams of glowing silver scanning the crater floor. Samil’s heart began to beat with a fight-or-flight ferocity and he jerked his head back behind the column where he was hiding, he could feel his insides trembling. Did the dragon see me?

As his fears pitched out of control, he stepped even farther behind the column and pressed himself into the corner where the column met the lava rock wall. He could not move, he strained his ears and tried to imagine what the dragon was doing, yet he heard nothing; there was only stillness.

He held his breath and slipped down as every muscle in his body slackened. Then his body jerked violently, as if every cell felt fear. He sat on his haunches with his arms around his knees and his head buried in his lap as if hiding in the shadows behind this column would save him if the dragon’s head should emerge from the archway and pivot its skull in his direction.

A crack of bone caused another involuntary shudder and Samil’s eyes widened as he caught his breath. He froze as another report of breaking bone popped through the air. He heard a wet slap, like meat flung against a carving board, and a slurping grunt from the dragon, then another bone-splitting crack. The dragon had gone back to feasting.

He clenched his jaw as it jutted out uncontrollably and his lips disappeared into his teeth. His head felt as if it would pop and he darted from his weakling position to a forceful stand, clenching his fists at his sides. His trembling fear changed to a shaking rage. I cower to none, he thought, the crown housed in this dragon’s volcano will be mine, and once I have all the crowns, I will rule! His eyes narrowed and his desires sharpened through his silent tirade. They will all bow to ME!

Samil adjusted his satchel and straightened his belt, which held his weapon at his side. He smoothed his tunic and wiped his mouth, calming himself and gaining control. He would need to listen for the appropriate time to pass the crater entrance. He waited until he heard the dragon select another dead fish for dinner. He heard the bones crack from the power of the dragon’s jaws. He heard part of the carcass hit the floor and he imagined the blood splatter high onto the crater walls. He heard a few more chomps from the dragon and then Samil broke into a silent run, with one eye trained to the crater entrance, trying to gain a sense of where the dragon was focused. Just as he suspected, the dragon had thrown his head back in a swallow and Samil passed by undetected.

Now on the other side of the crater entrance, and out of the dragon’s line of sight, he stopped and took a loud seething breath, proving he was not afraid. He nodded, congratulating himself. The dragon is completely unaware of my presence. Samil felt power enter his soul and a sense of utter control filled him as he stood in the lava-hewn corridor that snaked through the lair of a fire-breathing dragon. No one knows I am here, I can do anything I wish. With my weapon and the surprise I command, I can rip that dragon down!

Samil yanked on his weapon. He visualized the dragon’s carcass, split on the floor, dragon blood mixing with the blood of the giant fish in a tsunami wave, bursting from the dragon’s wounded carcass. Another snap of bone yanked him back to reality. He sheathed his blade and sprinted down the corridor, rationalizing to himself that his mission was more important than the death of the dragon.

Soon, he came upon another chamber. The light emitting from the room brightened the dark corridor and he could see this new archway was also flanked with columns on either side. Samil stepped into a shadow and peered around the column. The brilliance temporarily blinded him, and he blinked to regain his focus.

The torchlight was amplified by shining treasure. This chamber was smaller than the feeding room and also open to the night sky. The dragon could enter from above, but not much room would be left for it to maneuver. The crater was cluttered everywhere with mounds of gold, silver, and jewels. Piles of ingot and bricks of gold made heaps on the crater floor. Samil could see glinting statues of great kings and queens. He could see giant chests filled with coins, and a multitude of shelves, lining the walls of the chamber, filled with golden cups, silver plates and multi-colored jewels. Great urns were shoved in corners, filled with golden staffs and spears. Jewel-encrusted swords, clearly not used for combat, leaned idly next to ceremonial battle-shields that would be useless on the battlefield. There were ornate golden plates and jewel-covered bowls with necklaces and gems everywhere he glanced. A most splendid trove of dragon treasure.

He surveyed the room for the crown that had been handed to this dragon for safekeeping. The dragon was there to keep the crown safe, to protect the world from the mayhem the five crowns could release. A smile cracked across his face. That mayhem will soon belong to me, and only I will have the power!

There were three guards in the chamber, and Samil glanced over them as he took in the wealth. The guards were at a wooden table situated in the very center of the treasure. The table was square, and the guards were seated, one at each side, with the side closest to the chamber entrance empty. They wore long leather tunics emblazoned with their sect seal. Samil tittered at the foolishness; the guards were of a secret sect, no one in the realm knew they existed and he scoffed at the useless advertisement. He focused on the man in the middle, who appeared to be the superior guard. He was older and graying, yet he appeared to be in fine shape for battle. The other two guards were young and built for it.

Samil’s eye caught sight of his prize, just past the old guard’s head, shoved in a niche carved into the far wall of the crater. The crown glowed in the torchlight and its jewels sparkled blood red. The head guard laughed and slapped a younger guard on the shoulder. Samil’s eyes darted to the dice tumbling out of a clay jar onto the table and he deduced, from the stack of coins on the table, that a wager had been made.

The guards defending the lair were twelve in all, and they joined the secret sect to protect the crown. But no attempt had ever been made to steal a crown of dragon’s gold, not here, nor in any other realm. These guards sit here night after night, never being challenged. Each day, the same as the next and never has anyone engaged them in an attempt to take their burden. He ran his fingers along his jawline, the taking will be easy, and when the crown is mine, the guards will begin a search but they will find nothing, no evidence implicating me. And what could a mere twelve guards accomplish anyway, my cleverness and skill are far superior.

A plan of action began emerging in Samil’s brain. Once he had the crown, he would run back through the corridor past the chamber where the dragon was feeding and leave the volcano through the last entrance he passed.

But first, what to do with these guards? He assessed their mass. He watched them throw the dice. As he studied them a feeling grew in his gut. An overwhelming urge to leave nothing but death and treasure in this chamber.

He visualized the chamber covered in blood, treasures spewed with the blood of these men, like the blood-soaked floor of the feeding room. Samil smiled to himself and he wondered, who will clean this room when I am done and the blood is dripping from the walls?

His lips thinned as he whispered his first utterance in the many days since he had entered the volcano maze to search for the crown. “Once I am done, there will be no one left.”

Samil watched the old guard pause from the game as if he heard something. He squinted and cocked his ear toward the archway. Samil smiled as he watched the guard survey the chamber and entry. He thinks it’s the crackle of the torch fire or the scraping of a rat’s claws on the ground. He watched the guard let go of his apprehension. Both were fine explanations for what you thought you heard, my dear guard, both normal sounds of a dragon’s lair.

The guard turned back to the game.

Samil extracted a sickle-shaped sword from his side; the blade whispered against the scabbard. His eyes lingered over the weapon with pride and he ran a finger along the blade, shaving a thin ribbon of skin from his finger without drawing blood.

He looked back to the guards. He would first need to immobilize the old guard who faced the entrance and would see the attack first, but the right and left guards would need to be incapacitated immediately after the old guard was hit.

Samil found himself flying through the air in a twist that ended with his foot hammering down on the old guard’s head and his blade slicing through the neck of the guard to his right, ripping straight to the spine, splattering blood everywhere. Samil bounced from the old guard’s head and planted his feet on the table. Blood jetted from the neck of the guard on his right, across the table, onto the third guard’s face who was frozen in surprise. He grinned and hurled the blade down onto the third guard’s collarbone, and hacked a gap deep into his neck, severing his carotid artery. Samil was caught in a rain of blood as he wrenched the blade from the guard’s neck and heaved another brutal strike clear down through the guard’s breastbone. Both the young guards would be dead within minutes. He then turned to the old guard, who sat immobile, still stunned by the blow to his head from Samil’s foot.

Standing on the table, Samil took the blade in both hands, raised it above his shoulders, and with all his might, he brought the crescent down across the old guard’s chest, cutting through the sect seal inscribed on the leather tunic, and cleaving down through the chest bone. The guard slumped over and fell to the floor.

Samil breathed hard. He licked his lips and tasted the guard’s blood. So easy, he thought as he jumped from the table.


"The Dragon Within"



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