November Challenge: Day 12

Hello everyone. Today I have something special for everyone. I’ve decided to take a break from writing Horror and try my hand at writing some Fantasy. I think I have managed to maintain my personal voice and tone while changing genres.

Let me preface today’s post by saying this: I love the works of Terry Pratchett. I love him. Even before I knew he wrote novels I did. I was given a book for my birthday one year when I was a teenager. It was a collection of short stories dedicated to JRR Tolkien. It was supposed to be a group of stories inspired by Tolkien without ripping him off. One of the first stories in the anthology was a story by Terry Pratchett. It featured a hero setting out to slay a troll. When he finally met up with the troll, the troll asked for the hero’s autograph (essentially), because there just didn’t seem to be any real heroes anymore. The hero, conversely, decided to take pity on the troll, because there didn’t seem to be any real monsters anymore.

That story changed the way I saw the world of fiction. Fantasy that broke the mold of typical fantasy was a new, wonderful world for me. I actually took a creative writing course my freshman year of college and the first story I wrote was essentially dedicated to Terry Pratchett and his casual disregard for the standard tropes of fantasy, while still maintaining its surreal and wonderful attitude.

So, here’s my stab at irreverent fantasy. Let me know what you think. And as always, I hope you enjoy it.

Writing Challenge: Day 12 (Untitled)
By E. W. Morow
Word Count: 2038

Gavros gave the rope a few sharp tugs to make sure it was securely fastened. When the knot refused to budge so much as an inch he smiled smugly. The tying of knots wasn’t the most glamorous skill he’d developed over the years, but it was damned useful. He used to jest that he could tie knots so well that that leprechauns would offer him a stack of gold not to have to attempt to escape them and any attempt by charismatic conqueror’s to circumvent them by simply cutting them would only make matters worse for themselves. Gavros was famous for his knots.

In fact, Gavros was famous for a great many things. He had crossed the Great Desert on foot with no more than a single knapsack and a half a week’s worth of water. He’d once routed an army of orcs single handed, saving countless towns and villages from their ravages. He’d slain the mystical sphinx of Arabatheum without answering it’s impossible riddle. He’d bested Davion Roark, finest blade in the Three Empires, with nothing more than a butter knife and a smile.

It worried Gavros slightly that he had become so famous. He was no stronger, intelligent, or talented than the next elf. Yes, he had traveled wide and mastered a fair many skills in his life, more than most non-elves could have managed in their own lifetimes, but even so it irked him that there wasn’t more competition for the fame he had achieved. People just didn’t think about things properly.

Take the desert, for example. Didn’t anyone realize that it was possible to find food and water in the desert? Spend a few years skirting the edges, learning that flora and fauna and various survival tricks from the natives and crossing it proved no more than a moderate challenge. Desert nomads managed it on a yearly basis and nobody ever celebrated their achievements. As for the army of orcs, it’s amazing what can be achieved with a boisterous attitude and an avalanche. And at any rate, he’d paid a pretty penny for those dwarven explosives, so he felt he deserved a little praise. The sphinx? It was astonishing how little it had known about basic combat tactics. A creature that survives on fear and riddles is rarely prepared for a sturdy lance and a bit of nerve. He hadn’t even needed to give the answer to the painfully obvious riddle. Davion Roark had been a stroke of luck, he’d had to admit. It’s hard for anyone to fight at their best when they have the flu, and the butter knife had been easy to conceal up his sleeve. Once Roark had gotten better he’d laughed and thanked Gavros. Apparently it was now possible for Roark to go to a tavern and get a pint without some ruffian challenging him to a duel.

No, Gavros thought as he rappelled down the wall of the crevasse, he didn’t technically deserve his fame. A little common sense and patience was all that was required to succeed in this world. If he possessed those qualities in more than average amounts then he couldn’t be blamed for exploiting that fact. Already he could imagine what people would say about his current task. Gavros has slain an elder dragon, and he was completely unarmed. Would anyone realize that weapons didn’t have to be pointy and shiny? He doubted it.

Gavros landed on the slippery cave floor at the bottom of the crevasse with typical elven grace. He let the rope dangle where it was so that he could climb back up it later when he’d returned. The old scroll he’d found in a dusty corner of a library had been quite clear: after the initial plummet into the darkness the path was relatively easy to traverse. That particular scroll had taken him several years to track down. It had been the final piece of the puzzle. He’d added the knowledge from the scroll to his personal journal along with the historical accounts and draconic theory surrounding this particular target. After that it had been only a matter of tracking down the supplies and implements necessary for the journey, a task that had taken him another few years to complete, during which he had slain the sphinx he was so famous for slaying. Sphinxes weren’t known for hoarding treasures like dragons were, but rather knowledge. And the knowledge of the sphinx of Arabatheum had led him to the weapons he required.

The path from the bottom of the crevasse was indeed simple by comparison to traverse. A gentle downwards slope that led through a series of chambers, large and small, afforded Gavros time to catch his breath. On a few occasions he was forced to remove his pack and slip it through a narrow opening before attempting to cross himself, but other than that he met with no real impediments to his progress. After an hour of careful progress he came upon a vast, glittering cavern.

Whereas the previous spaces he’d seen had been beautiful in their own way, this portion of the cave was incredibly vast, larger than any enclosed space Gavros had ever seen. Stalagmites and stalactites had joined up in places, forming great stone pillars at irregular intervals. The walls of the cavern glittered, not only in the light from Gavros’s torch, but from the illumination of some unseen origin. Gemstones encrusted the walls and pillars of the cavern, shining in rich purples, reds, greens and blues. The only thing Gavros had ever seen shine more brightly was the mountains of gold resting on the cavern’s floor. Four times the height of the tallest man Gavros had ever seen, the mounds of gold coins were like the dunes of the Great Desert. Unlike on his journey through the desert, Gavros realized he had not been adequately prepared for the sight that greeted him in what must surely be the dragon’s chamber. Surely the walls could not be so naturally abundant in gems and crystals. Even the interior of a geode was not so beautifully adorned, and Gavros had never seen a geode even one one-millionth the size of this grand hall.

Gavros was so distracted by the gilt and glamor of the cavern that he almost didn’t notice the bulk of the dragon rushing past one of the golden mounts to his left. Even though the mount was taller than the great lizard, and even though the accumulated wealth present must have been greater than the fortunes of any three kings, the actual presence of one of the arch-beings of the world was not something that was easily dismissed.

It was enormous. Though it only stood three times his own height at it’s shoulder, it’s complete length was many, many times longer. Sinuous muscles rippled beneath alabaster scales. Great, leathery wings were tucked against the dragon’s flanks. Gavros had no trouble imagining the shadow those wings would cast across the land when fully spread. Its head was nearly large enough to swallow a man whole and could easily manage the feat in two bites. It moved like mercury, quick and fluid, and with a speed that belied it’s bulk. Within moments it was nearly on top of him. Gavros, who had prepared himself for this situation to the point of perfection, nearly lost his composure at the sight. He managed to keep his wits, however, and slipped a small, glass bauble from his satchel. He crushed it with his long, slender fingers and muttered a single word of power. The air around him rippled for an instant and then solidified, taking on a slight golden sheen as it did.

The dragon stopped several hundred feet from his position. It seemed unperturbed by the magical field surrounding him. Its massive tail swung back and forth rapidly, sending great waves of gold flying in its wake. A long, pink tongue lolled out of its gaping maw and dripped saliva onto the cavern floor. The pupils of its eyes, nearly the size of Gavros’s head, were fully expanded, with excitement or hunger he couldn’t tell which.

“Hi!” boomed a voice in Gavros’s head. The dragon’s mouth had moved as the words had formed, but there was no conceivable way that they had been formed by those jagged, reptilian jaws. Something was definitely wrong here.

“Um…” Gavros began. He stopped when the dragon lunged forward, bringing its face to within several feet of Gavros’s protective bubble. “Hello,” he finished lamely.

Once again the dragon’s maw gaped open in an almost grin-like fashion. Its tail began to saw even more vigorously, and Gavros was forced to think of the motion as—a wag. Nothing he had read had prepared him for this.

“What’s your name?” asked the dragon.

“Gavros,” said the elf in a bemused tone of voice.

“Hi!” boomed the dragon again.

“Um….yes. Hello.”

“I’m Alexetrexedevveroxidentivoxillian! But you can call me Alex!” The dragon seemed incapable of speaking in less than an excited shout. At least, Gavros could only call it speaking. Projecting might have been a better word.

“Um…hi, Alex.”

“Hi!”

“What’s up?”

“Not—not much.” Gavros stammered.

“I love you!” shouted the Alex.

“Um—wow.” was all Gavros could say. This was not going according to play. The creature before him, this unmatched engine of destruction and despair, seemed to posses the mentality and demeanor of the common mongrel. He couldn’t bring himself to pull out the Stone of Dragon Slaying, or even the scrap of paper upon which was etched the Word of Pain. He didn’t even have the heart to use the ring of discomfort, the first magical item he had ever discovered, and one he kept for purely sentimental reasons.

“What brings you here today?” asked the dragon.

“I was—um—I was looking for you,” Gavros answered honestly. The dragon’s tail wagged even more vigorously until its whole body swayed with the motion.

“Oh boy!” shouted Alex. “Nobody’s come here looking for me in years and years and years! I knew I loved you for a reason!”

“Oh, really?” asked Gavros in mock astonishment. Old habits died hard. “That’s a shame. And you seem so friendly.”

“I know! Hey! Tell me what you want! I’ll find it! I’m good at finding things!”

Gavros was stunned. Up until this moment he hadn’t thought of the why. Why, exactly, was he on this quest? What had he hoped to accomplish? Oh, fame, yes. That was a given. But Gavros had had his fill of fame. He could already walk into any town or city in the Three Empires and expect a bed and a meal in the finest tavern for no greater cost than his most exciting story. What could he possibly want with a limitless supply of gold and gems? Had he only set out on this quest out of habit, another part of the endless march of the adventurer’s life?

Visions of power swirled in his imagination. What if he chose to forsake his own fame for something more—substantial? After all, he’d never wanted for anything in his life, so what was the point of personal gain? But the wealth before him could so easily be translated into power. Power that could so easily supplemented by his very own pet dragon. Nations would tremble under his shadow. Kings would swear fealty at the merest rumor of his advance on their kingdoms. But was it what he wanted?

Gavros was not a young elf. He had lived for more than five hundred years on the face of this world. Things that had once been important to him had long ago faded into the obscurity of his own legend. Was there any point to personal gain anymore? Or should he focus on selfless gain? The dragon watched him patiently as he pondered.

“You know,” Gavros said after a while, “I’m not sure what I want. I think I just want to rest for a while.” The dragon’s tail wagged furiously.

“Oh boy!” it screamed. “Nobody ever wants to rest! Mostly they want to fight! Fighting is boring! One moment of excitement and then I’m alone again! Stay here forever if you want!”

“I’d like that,” Gavros said, and he truly meant it.

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