A Villain, A Hero, and a Cave Full of Treasure – by Gabby Fringette
There are three Kingdoms on the huge island of Starfall. There are other creatures, Dragons, Sphinxes, ogres, and elves, who are similar to humans, but generally more disorganized and solitary.
The Lindeye of the east and the center, a large kingdom, with lots of trees and gold, but considered by the other two kingdoms to be silly. They have a silly religion where they worship small dogs. The women all wear large hats and own at least one small dog, the richer the woman, the bigger the hats, and the smaller and more dogs. Their inhabitants are all either blonde, or the dark-skinned people who came in boats, supposedly chased by monsters. This was a thousand years ago, so nobody is sure.
The Brindeye, of the south, and the southwest, are more serious. They export glass and clay, and have a very complicated religion, and one of the best knight-in-shining-armor-training schools on the island.
True Brindeye have dark hair, and blue eyes, but are mixed largely with immigrants from Lindeye, so someone with the attributes is rare.
Then from the north and northwest, are the Fayleneye.
Indisputably the most scary of the Starfall island people, these people export boats, hides, and metals, and of course, mercenaries to protect against pirates and monsters on and around the islands.
The Fayleneye worship De-Adeine, goddess of battle. There are also, of course, other gods and goddesses, but she is their matron.
It’s so cold up there, that the people have grown huge. A person from Fayleneye will be up to thirty percent larger than a person from anywhere else on the island, of the same age, and gender.
But it is not true that they are insensitive barbarians. They know how to fight, and they are hardy. But they are also very smart. Two out of three great scholars in the history Starfall have come from Fayleneye.
Alyma Ha’grate, the first person to hypothesize that Starfall actually broke off of another land mass.
Jeke Lemt, author of the Saga of Arki, one of Starfall’s best pieces of literature.
Lolah DeLev, the great historian who detailed the battles of Center Den.
The list is huge, numbering in the hundreds, just in the recent history of two thousand years.
But we must get back to the original story.
But who am I? I am the Narrator, Ner’Ater. I’m from Fayleneye myself. Oh, you could tell?
Our story follows Princess Laurinda of Fayleneye. Or Rinny for short.
Chapter One: A Stroll
Princess Rinny was in her room, the top of the castle’s stone tower. The whole castle was made out of stone. Hard to knock down with a battering-ram, and fireproof.
The castle had been built after a tiff with the other kingdoms.
Anyway, the Princess was acting out her favorite part of the Saga of Arki, the really action-y part where Queen Cavla was making her speech, right before she killed Lord Kest.
“And so! You dare to presume you can take my castle so easily!” Rinny was pointing her bow at a piece of wood on a high shelf, which was intended to represent Kest, in the balcony of the Queen’s castle. He had, in the Saga, taken the castle in question, and was currently standing in the balcony.
She launched an arrow into the piece of wood.
“It is I! I who has defeated you!” she yelled. She picked up a doll, to represent Kest’s best friend, and second in command.
“You have slain him! You wench!” she said in a high voice.
She cast the doll away, and put down her bow.
Her older sister used to play with her, before she was captured by an ogre, and was rescued by Sir Korinth of Brindeye.
It was Starfall Capture Law, adopted after the ‘tiff’, that if a person of the upper class was captured, she/he would have to marry the rescuer. If the rescuer was already married, or of the same gender, his/her sibling would wed the rescued.
If the rescued was already wed, then she/he would have to pay a hefty sum of money, or be wed off a sibling, or a child, if the child was of age.
It was all code and law that kept power circulating.
Usually the rescuer was a knight, or a Chief, if they were from Fayleneye. The Fayleneye did not have knights, but they had War Chiefs, the main difference being anyone could be a War Chief, they had to earn it in battle, where as Knights when to expensive schools.
Her sister had been captured by an ogre a year ago. One pitch-black night, she was returning from a skirmish with some pirates, as a training War Chief it was her duty to fight, when her horse was terrified by an ogre, twelve feet tall, and it threw her.
Fortunately (depending on how you look at it) she was caught by another ogre before she hit the ground.
Three days later, Sir Korinth and his company stormed the den. According to her sister’s story, the knight had distracted the ogre pair long enough for her to escape from her cage, which was made from bones, and get her sword.
Some people believed this, Rinny being one, and others though she was only trying to protect her ego.
Rinny herself was now only just fifteen. She had brown hair and brown eyes, characteristic of a Fayleneye, she was also full bodied.
She was bored of being alone in her room, so she decided she would do one of her favorite things. She’d go on a ride with her horse, Krista. She could go whenever she wanted, in her family’s privet forest.
Not many creatures would mess with a Fayleneye person, it takes, as everyone knows, a dragon.
Or an ogre ambush at night.
Krista was a stocky horse, but short by horse standards, at fourteen hands high.
They rode one of their well known paths, as they had dozens of times before.
One thing was not as before.
There was a large dark thing in the sky. It was not a cloud, or if it was it was a strange one.
Rinny rode into a small town, just outside her forest. There were people milling about; buying and selling things, going in and out of their houses, and going about their lives. Rinny slowed to a trot as she entered the village. Some people bowed or saluted, but then one girl screamed.
“Dragon! It’s coming down here!”
Everyone was in a panic. They were running for shelter, as the huge beast plummeted to the earth.
There were so many people about, and Rinny didn’t want to hurt anyone, and everyone was rushing around screaming, throwing her horse into a panic.
“Shh! It’s okay!” she cried, trying to calm her horse. This tactic was not working, and the horse bolted towards the forest.
She struggled to hold on, she pressed herself as close to the horse as she could. But then it stopped, and reared up, and nearly threw her.
“Holy Swords and Blades!” Rinny exclaimed upon seeing the huge silver dragon, sitting in the path, just a few feet in front of her.
The dragon reached one huge taloned hand over and plucked her off of her terrified horse.
It flew off, the princess in it’s grasp.
Krista ran back to the castle at full speed. She sped into the castle, right into the throne room, panting.
Just the lack of her feminine rider was enough to say something had gone horribly wrong.
King Heran and his guard followed the horses tracks back to where the princess had been taken. The tell-tale imprint in the soft ground told the story.
“She’s been taken by a dragon. Alert all War Chiefs! And don’t let a word of this get out to any other Kingdom!” the king yelled. His courtiers rode off, leaving him staring, dumb-founded, at the clear imprint of a dragon’s hind end.
Chapter Two: A Quaint Den
“Okay. A Princess. That must be fifty thousand. Added to the gold and goods I already have, that must be seventy thousand. Wait, are you the older or younger Fayleneye sister?”
There were many human attributes on the dragon. His hands, for example. His fore and aft extremities were very hand-like, with five opposeable digits on each. They had, of course, scales and talons on each digit, but he was able use them as a human would hands.
Another disturbingly human-like attribute is the fact he was talking.
“Well? The older or the younger, I can’t tell you humans apart for the life of me!” he exclaimed.
“Oh. The younger. I’m Rinny.” She said.
“Oh, I didn’t need to know your name.” he said impatiently. “If you had been the older, with a shot at the throne, you might be worth more to the Grand Dragon Council.”
“I have a ‘shot’ at the throne! My sister is off married, and I can put in a claim to be queen!” she indignantly yelled, forgetting to ask what the Grand Dragon Council was.
“Certainly not! I should know, as I already refused the capturing. I don’t capture for political reasons. I capture so I can retire.”
“Political reasons? What reasons! I was always told Dragons captured people to eat them.”
“Foolishness. You humans are always stringy, with too many bones for all of the rancid fat you have. It’s simply not worth the trouble. No, we capture humans, mostly rich ones, because you are worth something. Or because other humans pay us to. Aren’t you familiar with the Capture Law?”
“Yes of course I have! I have been briefed in all laws and rules! I’m going to be queen, for crying out loud!” she yelled.
The dragon looked at her distastefully. “I’m not going to eat you, but I might flatten you, even if you are worth something. Let me explain. Certain peoples of power pay creatures, dragons, ogres, Spinx, and some others, to kidnap other peoples of power. It’s so that the first party can rescue the captured and absorb their power. Haven’t you ever noticed how often no creature is slain? Only in rare incidents that the capturing party meant harm to the captured, or there was a disagreement, and the plan went to pieces.”
“I-I can’t believe it. So what are your intents for me here?” But she could believe it, really. It actually made sense.
“I just need you to sit there, and wait until the Grand Dragon Council has approved my horde, then I can officially retire. After that, you may go. I’m not going to eat you.”
“Horde? Retirement? Council? Stay? How long am I going to have to stay?” She asked. Might she be rescued during this time, and have to wed what ever spoiled knight or surly Chief rescued her?
“The Grand Dragon Council is the like the king and his or her advisers. They make and enforce the rules. They state any dragon of free will must have a horde worth seventy thousand units in the surrounding market. Which at this time, happens to be human. You’re little economy has taken a severe dip, things are worth less and less, and I was nearly done, and now I’ve had to kidnap a princess.
Anyway, I want to retire, because then I don’t have to pay taxes. And I also can’t be called into battle by the Grand Dragon Council. Anyway, you must stay here, until an agent of the council verifies you exist, and my horde is worth what I claim. Then I can retire, and you can go.”
“How long is this?” she asked.
“About two weeks.” the dragon said, nearly sheepishly
“I might be rescued by then!” she cried out.
“Oh Skies! Forbid!” The dragon cried out in return. He needed her to complete his horde.
“We must hide you! Into the back of the cave!” he said.
The back was full of loot of every imaginable kind.
Some of it was brought from over seas by traders, there was ivory, silk, and fine carvings in ebony wood.
Other artifacts were priceless antiques, some of them over a thousand years old, knives, pottery, jewelry.
But most of all, there was gold. Ingots, coins, nuggets.
Everything was stacked neatly, but only be shape, not by value, so there were one Pathern coins in with fifty Pathern ingots. There were no piles, but there were lots of shelves carved out in the stone wall of the cave. There was a big pile of bear, deer, and cow skins where the dragon slept.
“A few weeks ago my elf left. He used to tidy all of these things up. A nasty little fellow he was, but he was instrumental in the procurement and care of most of these items. But let’s not tell the council. What did you say your name was again?”
“Rinny. Actually, it’s Laurinda, but I’m always called Rinny.” She said, marveling at all of the treasure. It was surely worth more than he thought.
“My name is Daindyn. I’m commonly known as, Daindyn.” The dragon said.
“This is a very nice place. Perhaps I could help you while I’m here? I have a very good idea as to what things are worth.”
“Good, good. Taldum wasn’t very good at that, and he couldn’t find an appraiser who would work for a dragon.”
Chapter Three: A Rescue
Rinny and Daindyn got along very well together, Rinny was able to appraise Daindyn’s horde much more accurately, and it was worth much more than he knew.
Simply knowing how much each currency was worth boosted his horde’s value.
But then something happened.
Somehow, word had leaked to Brindeye that Rinny had been captured by a dragon.
One knight, accompanied by a few squires rode bravely up to the base of the cliff, which had Daindyn’s lair.
Daindyn could hear their armor and weapons clanking, and smell them and their horses.
Rinny and Daindyn crept closer to the edge of his cave.
“Release the maiden, or we shall fight!” a young knight yelled.
Rinny threw a loose stone down, which hit his helmet.
“Go away! I haven’t been captured!” she shouted.
Daindyn stuck his huge head out over the ledge, and puffed out a ball of fire.
Two of the four squires fled.
They weren’t going to marry the princess if they fought the dragon, anyway.
Now, Allium wasn’t just in this for a chance at the throne of Fayleneye. He knew that even if he did get married to the princess, the pot would still got to Rinny’s older sister, and her husband.
His own father had decided that the glory would be enough. That his future generations would have a chance at the throne.
So that’s why the young knight, not even a prince, just the son of a lord, was standing at the bottom of a cliff, about to lay siege to a dragon’s den, to ‘rescue’ a girl who had just pelted stones at him.
He was beginning to wonder where he had gone wrong.
“You must come down!” he yelled.
“No way! I’ll come down when I’m ready!” she shouted down. She also threw another stone. Allium was able to dodge it this time.
“Go away!” Daindyn growled. He puffed fire out the came mouth.
This caused the horses to spook, and the men to falter.
“Think they’ll go away?” Rinny asked as she moved into the back of the cave.
“I hope so, but I don’t think so.” Daindyn said.
Rinny found a spyglass amongst the dragon’s horde. She went over to the cave mouth, and looked at the would-be rescuer.
“He’s not ugly. In fact, he’s rather handsome.” She said. It was true; he was of a fine physique, he had black hair and fair skin as well.
“Think, woman. Do not consult your reproductive organs when under siege. It always leads to mistakes.” Daindyn said from the shade.
It had begun to get quite hot, the noonday sun was at it highest, and it was hitting all surfaces directly.
Allium was sweating profusely under his armor. He had to move into the shade of a large tree.
“We must tell father that the mission failed.” Allium said. He was reluctant to face the dragon, or the maiden, for that matter.
“I think not!” Cried his personal squire, Gallant, said. “You know how angry he gets!”
“You saw what he did when your other brother failed to procure Queen Saliente of Lyndeye’s pet after that Spinx captured it!”
“Yes, I know. I was there when he flew off the hilt.”
“Yelled! He cursed!”
“I recall.” Allium said disinterestedly.
“He pounded! He stomped!”
“Indeed. You may stop now.”
“He roared! He screamed!” The squire continued.
“I think I’ll eat my horse for dinner tonight.” Allium said, seeing if Gallant was listening. He wasn’t.
“He ran around and pounded his chest like an ape!”
“I think the princess is coming down.” Allium said. “Oh wait, no princess, it’s just a man in a dress. We can go home.” Allium looked at his companion, astounded he hadn’t heard a thing he said.
“He ran through he hills shirtless! Sightings of grizzly bears went up twenty percent!”
“Are you listening to that idiot as well?” Rinny asked the dragon, as they watched from the cave.
“Yes. The knight stopped listening long ago.” Daindyn said.
“Oh, look. The smaller one took his shirt off and now’s he’s flapping his arms.” Rinny said with a laugh. Sure enough, the squire had removed some articles of clothing, and was now waving his arms to illustrate his point.
“They can’t get up here. I’m going in the back.” Rinny said.
She went and sat on Daindyn’s pile of animal skins, amongst the cool, shiny coins.
“I say, Princess, why don’t we just leave? They can’t get up here to get my gold. We could go, and get a representative of the Grand Dragon Council, and he’ll verify my fortune, and file my wealth. Then you can leave.”
“But those idiots will try and rescue me, and I’ll be married to the shirtless flapping man’s friend.” Rinny said.
“Then I’ll take you back to your home, once it’s been verified” He said.
“Then we have a deal. I haven’t got anything with me, so I’m ready to go right now.” Rinny said.
“I can hunt on the way. Climb onto my back, and whatever you do, don’t let go. Hold onto my saddlehorn.” He said.
“What?” She asked, looking at him blankly.
“Yes, all dragons have a horn off either side of their neck, right where a knight who was on the dragons back between the shoulders of the wings would grasp. It’s rather handy.” He said. She shrugged, then clambered up his leg, finding the seat quite comfortable.
“Why is this here on your back?” She asked.
The dragon looked back at her with a droll stare. “Honestly, I have no idea. Somedragon once told me one of the gods made us that way. Holding on tight? If you fall, you’ll need another set of wings to rescue you.” He said.
“I’m holding on tight.” She pushed herself to the back of his neck, holding onto the horns with all her might. The dragon tensed all his muscles, and jumped from the cliff edge, spreading out his wings and catching himself moments before crushing the knight and squires.
They with two powerful pumps of his wings, they were in the air, and gone.
“The dragon carried the girl off.” Allium said in disbelief.
“I can see the grizzly bear reports going up now.” Gallant said, in reference to the hairiness of Allium’s father, who will, when Allium returns single, run through the hills nude. Again.
“We must pursue!” Allium said, mounting his horse. “And we must have the villagers pursue as well. Tell them we’ll give them a share of the dragon’s horde when we catch them.”
He had a plan, and though like many plans where someone chases a dragon, it may end with incineration. But it was his only plan, flammable or not.
Chapter four: A Piece of My Mine
“I can’t believe I’m crawling back.” Muttered Taldum under his breath. His full name was Taldum Archreal Alkert, but he was commonly known as Tal.
The elf stomped as best he could with his light frame, to the cliff where Daindyn lived.
Some lore claims elves to be tall and thin and magical, living forever in perfect harmony with everything. Another far-fetched story claimed elves to be short little creatures, hardly bigger than gnomes, living in a frozen wasteland making toys for a fat man who has a sled pulled by flying reindeer, who drops down chimneys and delivers toys or coal to all of the children in the world in one night.
Neither is the truth, as elves are very similar to people, except that they tend to be more solitary and nomadic, and they’re very petite. They’re also very capricious, and in all elves, their mood changes quickly, almost to the point of being a mental illness.
Tal was no exception, he had been stomping angrily one moment, because he had been unable to adapt to life without the dragon and had to return to the sour old hermit, but now he was skipping along, his bare feet raising up clouds of dust, because he was so overjoyed with the thought of seeing his old friend again.
Then he stopped dead in his tracks.
Another defining elf feature, is that they do have a very keen sense of smell, sight, and hearing. Better than humans, but not as good as an animal.
He could hear some people milling around up ahead. He could smell roasted meet, horses and horse plop, leather, and armor oil.
He could hear the horses nicker, about six people chattering softly, and the clink of pots and pans and dishware, and the creak of armor.
He silently crept forwards, until he could see them. Yes, just as he had suspected, there were six men in armor, all of them hiding in the shade of the forest.
Tal listened closely, puzzled as to why they were camped out under a dragon’s den.
“He just flew off with the princess.” Whispered one squire to another.
“I know. I was there. I also saw Gallant’s impression of what Sir Allium did.” Said the second one back, pulling at his hair and rolling his eyes, in mimicry of this one called Gallant.
“What do you think we’ll do?” Asked a third.
“I don’t know. Think Sir Allium will try and track them?” Asked the first.
“With just us? After that dragon. And the Princess? She seemed pretty dead set against being rescued. Say, who do you think orchestrated this capture?”
“Don’t know. It wasn’t our lord, though. But then again, we’re the only ones after the dragon.”
“What if it wasn’t orchestrated? What if it really was an outright capture, and the princess just thinks it was planned? Think the dragon means to harm her, and she doesn’t know?” Asked one in a panic.
“Oh my! We must save her now!” Said the first. They ran off, to try and find their knight, no doubt.
Tal sat down on a mossy log. Daindyn was no hen mother, but surely he wouldn’t mean to harm someone? For De-Adeine’s sake, Daindyn didn’t even like to eat humans! They tend to be stringy and bony.
Even so, the dragon had been acting strangely when Tal left. Tal stood up, he was going to rescue that poor girl himself, even if those bumbling squires and whatever spoiled toad acted as their leading knight couldn’t.
“So, that’s the head quarters of the Grand Dragon Council?” Rinny asked Daindyn, yelling against the wind, referring to the large quarry below them, with the huge bored out mine in the north wall. A good hundred yards away from the edge of the quarry, smoke was rising from the ground.
“No! That’s where Quleine lives!” He shouted back.
The dragon slowly circled down to the earth, landing in the middle of the square quarry.
“Who is Quleine?” Rinny asked.
“She’s a dwarf. She’s also… difficult.” Daindyn said. As if right on cue, a short, stocky woman in man’s clothes came hurtling out of the mine like a greyhound at a race track.
“Who’s tressapassin? Ye wants a bit o’ me gold, a piece o’ my mine? Well, I’ll give ye a piece o’ my mine!” She picked up a sizable rock, the size of her head, actually, and threw it fifty feet at Daindyn and Rinny.
“Quleine! For De-Adeine’s sake, calm down.” The dragon said in an authoritative voice.
Then the blind fury seemed to clear, and she could see her friend, who had a princess on his back.
“Oh! Sorry Daindyn! Didn’t know it were ye!” She scrambled up to him, and patted him on the leg. “Didn’t hurt ye none, did I? Or you, girly?” She asked.
“No.” Daindyn said.
“I’m fine.” Rinny said.
“C’m in, c’m in.” She said, turning around, and with surprising grace, dashing into her house.
“Why do we need her help?” Rinny asked quietly.
“She’s a registered representative of the Grand Dragon Council.” Daindyn whispered back, as quietly as he could. They followed the dwarf into the dark maw of the mineshaft, stalactites and stalagmites positioned just so, to make it looked like the toothy mouth of a fearsome creature big enough to swallow a dragon whole.
He walked in with her on his back. She cringed slightly, the image of food sliding down a throat popped into her mind.
In truth, Quleine’s home was rather cozy. Though it was quite large, large enough to comfortably accommodate a dragon, in fact, she had made it up very much like a cottage. Her house was inside a large, natural cavern, just off from the main shaft. There was a large fireplace against the back wall, burning cheerily, the smoke rising through a hole. It was no doubt the source of the smoke Rinny had seen.
Near the fireplace, there was a kitchen. Large, flat, polished granite boulders were the counters, and an underground spring bubbled gently up into a basin.
There was a few smaller caves off the main cave, Rinny could only guess they were bedrooms and a lavatory.
“Daindyn, always a pleasure ta see ya!” Quleine said.
“Sadly we aren’t here for pleasure. You see, I need a representative from the Grand Dragon Council to evaluate my horde. According to my human princess that I have, as part of my horde, the material goods of the horde put us slightly above what I need, added to her own worth. I need to take you back with me to verify. Can you do this?”
“Aye. I could, but, I’fn I leave, summate’ll an’ sundry will come and steal my own gold, and ransack my lovely home. I’d suggest goin’ to Lex Hatley.” Quleine said.
“Oh, buck.” Daindyn muttered. Rinny suspected the even-tempered dragon was substituting words in that instance.
“What’s so wrong with this Lex Hatley character?” Rinny asked.
“Not so much him, as his location. He’s a GDC rep like Quleine, and an ex-assistant. He and his dragon had no need to worry about the theft of his horde, in part more because he lives on an island that is very hard to reach. The dragon long since left, but he’s still there.”
“That sounds like an issue.” Rinny said.
Chapter Five: A Matter of Size
“If I were a large, surly dragon, and I wanted a private place to dispatch of a human, where would I go?” Tal asked himself. He was inside Daindyn’s cave. He had, rather than climb then scorching cliffs and be shot down by bumbling humans, used the back door, which Daindyn had made especially for him, in the stump of a very large tree.
The elf sat down on a large, carefully organized stack of coins. Then he jumped up, and stared at it in wonder.
“I didn’t do, that, and neither did Daindyn!” He looked around the neat cave, with all of the treasures and artifacts sorted neatly. “Oh Skies! He’s replaced me! With a princess, no less!” Tal burst into tears. “He didn’t need me after all. And I needed him! What am I going to do?” His self-pity and wallowing was interrupted by a crash, an ‘eeeeek!’, and the sound of a horse galloping off.
He jumped up.
“Of course! I’ll get her rescued! And I certainly don’t want to marry her, so I’ll get that knight and those bumbling little men out there to do it!” he said to himself excitedly. “I’ll start by leading them to his friends, and the Grand Dragon Council. Since this was a human princess, she must know how much his horde was worth! It must be much more than I estimated, if they’ve gone to the Council!” He began to think about how, exactly, he would tell them where the princess was. Then he began to feel bad, that he was setting this mystery princess up to wed some knight.
He picked a spyglass up off of a stack of things taken from a ship, and crept to the mouth of the cave, so as not to be spotted.
He lifted it to his eye, and peered at the handsome young man, in shiny armor.
“Wowza. Not bad for a human.” Now his slight guilt was alleviated. Then a thought popped into his head: Daindyn wouldn’t be going to the Council it’s self, he’d find a representative.
He knew who the closest representative was, and how to get to her. What he didn’t know, was how to get the knight and his men to actually talk to the boulder-lobbing, foul tempered little woman.
He shook his head. That was a rickety bridge to cross when he came to it.
“Who’s that?” Gallant asked, nudging Allium, and gesturing at the slender figure skipping down the road.
“Not the muddiest clue. He’s not armed, he’s not even wearing shoes!”
Gallant picked up a spyglass, and looked at the slender dark-haired creature. “Its and elf! Wonder what it wants?” He put the spyglass down and looked at Allium with a childish expression. “Think he’s here to grant wishes?”
“That’s fairies. This is an elf.” he noted with dismay, that Gallant was obviously not paying attention. “He does look happy, though.” Allium said, peering at the bouncing, grinning mensch through the spyglass.
Tal ran down into the clearing. Some of the squires picked up their swords, and he stopped, skidding to a half about nine inches before crashing into Allium.
“I know where the dragon is with that-that girl!” He said enthusiastically.
“Who are you?” Allium asked.
“I need a new suit of armor. One that’s about two sizes bigger than this one, so I can fit my winter gear on underneath. I heard it get’s chilly up in this part of the island! At this rate, we’ll be here for winter!” Gallant said.
“He’s gone to the Grand Dragon Council, or rather, to a representative. I think the one he went to is a nasty little dwarf, named- are you listening to me?” Tal asked, standing with his hand on his hips.
“You know where he is?” Allium asked, thinking it almost too good to be true. Maybe elves did grant wished.
“- and a jar of juniper berry jam. I need it to go with the four-by-five canvass I asked for.” Gallant said.
“Stop talking.” Allium said, pushing the strange little man away. “Where is he?”
“Our best bet is to check with Queline. However, a note about her, anti-personality in general, she only likes Daindyn. So we’re going to handle this delicately. She especially hates me. I don’t know why, but dwarves just seem to hate elves. While not very nice in general, that take person insult for the existence of elves. Fortunately they’re too disorganized for war.”
“Is there only one dwarf, where we need to go?”
“Shouldn’t be much of a challenge. One.” Allium smirked to himself. Finally, things were getting easy. He was glad he hadn’t sent people after the dragon yet.
“Erm, you have not met this one.”
“Is that it?” Allium asked. He and Tal and the squires, including Gallant, were stnading at the edge of the quarry, looking down at the mouth of Queline’s mineshaft.
“Looks are deceiving in this case, Mr. Wants-To-Be-Prince. As far she she’s concerned, everyone other than Daindyn is a gold thief. I’d take us to the second most likely place, but it’s a far second, being on an island even smaller than this one. Let’s walk down. Leave the horses. If she think you’re intentionally trying to be taller than her, she’ll take personal offense. The one thing you don’t want when dealing with Queline is for her to take anything personally. Remember; slouch, so you seem shorter, compliment her décor when/if we’re inside, and last, keep Gallant’s mouth shut. That way he won’t be able to put both his feet into it, which I imagine to be incredibly difficult with all that armor on.”
“I manage. It’s the flexibility from my father’s side. Did you know, we’re originally famous for being the first people on record actually flexible enough to insert the head up one’s own anus?” Gallant said.
“I bet.” Allium muttered.
The group of heroes and Gallant walked down the narrow path, zig-zagging the face of the cliff. The path was so narrow they had the leave the horses tied up in the shade, rather than decorating Queline’s patio with splattered horses.
“Who in Hell’s fiery blazes is tresspassin’ NOW!” shrieked a shrill voice from the mouth of the mine. Tal closed his eyes to compose himself for a moment.
“Brace yourselves, boys.” He said to Allium and the squires as Queline came barreling out of the mine. She deftly grabbed a rock the size of her head as she ran, and hurtled it at Tal. Tal ducked, and it smashed into the metal plated chest of a squire behind him. Said squire fell backwards.
“Gah! Queline! Queline, it’s me! Tal! Stop throwing rocks!” he screamed as she lifted another one.
“I know it’s ye! I just don’ like ye.”
“I only need to know where Daidyn is!” Tal said. “Was he here?”
“Oh, aye. He was lookin’ for a rep of the Grand Dragon Council. I couldn go with him to look at that big horde o’ his, so he went to find Lex Hatley on that tiny old island o’ his.”
“Oh, thank-you. That’s all we needed to know.” Tal said. “Nice seeing you again, I’ll just be leaving.” he said as he ran off, the befuddled men in their clanking armor following as closely as they could.
“Where is this Lex Tatley?” Allium asked. Now things were getting difficult, as he feared there might sea faring necessary. Sailing was one of the few things he hated.
“It’s Hatley. He’s on a small island off the northern coast of Starfall island. It would be easy for Daindyn to get there with the girl to get there.” Tal raised both brows, as he noted Allium’s face turn a shade of green. “They’ll probably be there for a while. I’ve met Lex Hatley. It’s hard to convince him of anything, so by the time we get, there, a day’s sailing, they’ll still be there.”
“I feel I must confide in you. I don’t enjoy sailing, and I hate boats. I’m not looking forwards to this.” Tal rolled his eyes at Allium’s statement.
“Dear knight, this was no great secret. But you’ll get the girl.”
“I don’t want the girl!”
“She doesn’t want you either. Oh well! You’ll find sailing on a very large boat will make the matter much more pleasant. It’s all a matter of size.” Tal said cheerfully, oblivious to the very large storm brewing on the coast.
The sea and the sky trashed and boomed, fighting a freezing battle against each other, massive dark waves erupting like mountains in De-Adine’s lore. The sky threw bolts of lighting at the sea, and spit back all the sea’s water in defiance.
The terrible melee was great enough to dwarf even the massive dragon who flew between the angry realms.
An extraordinary gust of wind grabbed the dragon, and threw his this way and that, tweaking his wing. He felt fortunate that he had his saddlehorns, and that Rinny had such a grip, otherwise he would have lost the girl to the ravages of the sea.
He plummeted downwards, in a rough tumbling spiral. He managed to keep his injured wing working until he could get to a small key.
He landed on the tiny landmass, which was only a few hundred yards long and wide. Waves reached all the way to the middle of the island, where Daindyn sat, curled so that he could shelter his head, and this girl.
They were both so exhausted, they fell asleep.
Chapter six: Rinny Meets Tal
“Erm, are you sure this is a good idea?” Allium asked, nervously tapping the tips of his fingers together.
“It’s the best on so far. The storm has cleared, it was short but brutal. Anyway, it’s safe now.” The captain said. Now, Brindeye were no fools when it came to the sea, but they were far inferior when compared Fayleneye. Allium was uncomfortable, especially after seeing what a sea storm could do on land.
“If the sea storm was this bad on land, how bad was it on the sea?” He asked.
“We aren’t sure. Nobody ever sailed in one and made it back.” Said the captain. Oh, well, we’re all going to die, then. He thought. They boarded, piled, is a more a more accurate term, the small Brindeye boat. It was very small, he figured they could only fit the princess on if they abandoned another person, most likely Gallant.
The launch was uneventful, once everyone was in place.
Tal charged around the boat, with much more ease of movement, being a foot shorter and thirty pounds lighter than all the humans. He raced past Allium, who was leaning against the cabin wall with his eyes closed. Tal skidded back, and stood in front of the seasick knight.
“Why is it, exactly, that you are going after the princess?”
“Whatever do you mean?” he groaned, reluctant to speak, lest a stream of his lunch spew forth.
“You were the only ones camped beneath Daindyn’s den. I knew a few War Chiefs were bungling about, but it’s only you and a few Fayleneye. How did you get wind of this?”
“My father did. You see, we’re only lords. He thinks is I marry the princess, I’ll have a chance at bringing truly royal blood to the family.”
Tal frowned. By helping this knight find the princess, he secured his own position, but he was practically forcing two strangers to wed. He could hear the trepidation and lament in young Allium’s voice. He suddenly felt very bad, because he was thinking about the princess, Rinny. She certainly wouldn’t want to marry Allium. In fact, Daindyn need her for the same reason Allium’s father did, Tal realized. It was because she was a princess.
The pieces began to fall into place for the elf.
Royal people were considered to be part of a horde, a large part. Being a princess, she would fetch a lot, enough to complete the horde’s value. She would also not want to get ‘rescued’, by a knight like Allium, so she would help the dragon by sorting and appraising his material horde, and going with him to find a rep to confirm the horde’s value, including the princess.
Once the horde was approved, a dragon could do anything he wanted with it.
Including let it go.
Tal felt sick to his stomach. He had just ruined life for the princess, which he hadn’t wanted. Obviously, Daindyn would have let her go, or even taken her back to the castle.
“Oh dear.” Tal whispered.
“What?” asked Allium, hardly hearing the elf over the roiling of his stomach.
“There’s been a terrible mistake!” Tal ran off, to somewhere he could maybe collect his thoughts. He his below decks, amongst huge coils of rope.
Rather than thinking of a way to fix it, typical of elven emotionality, he burst into tears.
“I’m afraid my wing is too injured to carry your weight. I can make it to Lex’s island, but just barely. He had a large boat there, and he can come and fetch you.” Daindyn said.
“Oh, be safe. How long until his boat shall arrive?”
“You should see it by dawn tomorrow. If another storm breaks, try and take cover on the very center of the isle. Make a hut, sturdy as you can, out of all this flotsam.”
Without further ado, he took a running start, and shakily took to the sky. He wobbled a bit, and Rinny was afraid he would fall from the sky. But he didn’t. She watched for a while, as he disappeared into the blue.
She dutifully went to work, and built herself a sturdy hut out of drift wood.
She waited pensively for a while. She noted that the fluffy white clouds had gone, and in their place were angrier, gray ones. She knew another horrific storm was coming.
Another hour, and the gray clouds were black ones. They were larger.
She saw a ship approaching, for a moment thinking it was Lex’s, but the realizing it couldn’t be, as it was coming from the wrong direction, and a night early. She went in her hut, as soon as she saw it had a Brindeye flag. She hoped they would pass her by, and not try and rescue her, or she would have to marry the captain, or what ever night was aboard.
“Do ya see those clouds forming?” The captain asked Allium, pointing into the distance.
“The storm clouds?” he responded in a small voice. He wondered where Tal was, or why he had given himself such a fright.
“Aye. The storm clouds. We’re in for some trouble.” said the captain grimly.
“How long until it hits?”
“Two hours. You best go find your elf friend, we may need him for rigging. He’s very fleet of foot.”
Allium walked around the poop deck, and the main deck, then went below decks.
There seemed to be no sign of him, as though he just disappeared. The he saw a bare foot peeking out from behind a coil of rope.
“Tal! There’s a storm, and the captain wants you to help with taking down the rigging.”
“Hmm?” the elf asked. He seemed distracted. “Oh. Here I come.”
They went to the main deck, where Tal nimbly helped lower the sails. Then it began to rain.
The wind blew, and the waves crashed. To Allium’s horror, the boat moved with the waves.
And so did his lunch. He threw up repeatedly on the deck, before sliding to one side, about to plunge over the rail, only to be grabbed by a determined Tal, who seemed to defy gravity’s pull. He scrambled along the deck, without sliding more than a foot.
Then the boat moved in the wrong place at the wrong time, and hit a forest of rocks, sitting just a few feet under the surface.
The rocks had been offshore a small island. Tal and Allium fell into the waves, Allium being pulled down by his heavy armor. Then he was hit in the ribs by something huge. Part of the mast. Though he felt the dizzy pain of what was certainly his cracking ribs, the six foot long segment of the mast floated. Tal was weakly clinging atop the mast, obviously having been smashed into without armor. A huge wave pushed them halfway up the island.
They stumbled blindly ashore, and Tal crashed into a big pile of wood. Oddly enough, there was a slight glow coming from a small hole.
They crawled on their hands and knees in the pounding rain, and slipped into the hole.
“Who in Sky’s sake are you two?!” shouted a sturdy brunette over the wind.
“We’re Sir Allium, and Tal!” Tal shouted back.
“SIR?!” she screeched.
Rinny considered whether or not to kick the two strangers back out into the rain, but then she saw how injured the poor elf was. His face was pale and sallow, especially in the lamp’s light, his black curls were stick to his face, and he could hardly crawl.
“Very well. I’ll be frank with you two, especially since we may not live the night. I’m Princess Laurinda of Fayleneye.” She said.
“Oh.” said the knight with a blank expression. “I was supposed to rescue you.”
“We’re all in need of rescuing.” She crawled over to the elf, who just looked like he might cry, possibly not from his broken ribs, if his guilty expression was anything to judge by.
“Please lay down. I’ve had to treat battle wounds before, maybe I can asses what’s wrong.” She said. He lay down, and she gently touched his ribs one by one, and he cried out whenever she touched a broken one. He cried out on most ribs.
“I haven’t anything with me to treat your ribs.” She said apologetically.
“Pr-princess, I’m sorry.” He stammered.
“Why?” both she and Allium asked simultaneously.
“Because! I knew where Daindyn was going to be, and I though you were his new assistant! I saw Allium and all the squires, who are probably dead now. I thought that if you were ‘rescued’, I could get my place with Daindyn back. But then, partway into the boat trip, I realized you were part of Daindyn’s horde, and you didn’t want to be rescued, so you helped him, making it seem like you were his new assistant. Then I also realized that Allium really, really doesn’t want to marry you, and that you wouldn’t want to marry him, either. And I put everyone out in a boat, in the middle of a storm!” he exclaimed.
“You were right. I am part of Daindyn’s horde.” Rinny said sadly. “It doesn’t matter what Allium and I want, it’s all part of Capture Law.” She said bitterly.
“Um, where is the dragon?” Allium asked.
“Oh. Daindyn set of a few hours before the storm, to find Lex’s island. Lex has a boat, you see. I hope he made it to the island.” Rinny said.
“I’m sure he did.” Tal said.
“But he had an injured wing!” Rinny exclaimed.
“Oh, then I’m not so sure.”
Chapter Seven: There’s a Mrs. Alkert
The thing about elves is, they heal quickly. Within two days, Tal was half healed. This, of course, required a lot of food. Food Rinny hauled up the beach. Food like the large, floating barrels of apples from the ship.
Fortunately, no bodies had washed up.
Tal was still feeling incredibly guilty, though. The three of them learned a lot about each other: Allium had a girl back home he fancied, Lady Lendria, the daughter of a neighboring lord. Tal had been the companion of Daindyn for fifteen years, and helped him acquire more than half of his horde. Rinny wanted to be a great adventurer, like the ones in the great sagas, and having had a taste of adventure, wants it even more.
The third day, Daindyn hadn’t shown up, and neither had Lex. They were forming a plan. It was unlikely that Lex’s ship had been destroyed in the storm, so if they could get to the last island of the key, where Lex lived, they could get home.
Island hopping was simple, as you could see each island from the one before it. They made a makeshift raft out of part of the boat that had floated up.
The first the isles were very little trouble, until they actually got to where they wanted.
Lex was a strange little man. Like Quiline, he was the type one would associate with the Grand Dragon Council, if you weren’t a dragon, as they take the GDC very seriously indeed. He had a beard down to his waist, and could, it seems, shoot an apple from the tree at fifty yards. Or he could shoot a loud mouthed elf in the face at fifty yards, which is just what he treated to do.
“The reps of the GDC just don’t seem to like me.” Tal said sheepishly as they retreated behind a rock.
“Maybe we can steal the boat?” Rinny suggested.
“We don’t know how to sail.” Allium said. Rinny rolled her eyes.
“I know how. It’s not a big boat, but it looks fast. Listwen design, if I’m not wrong. We’ll be back to land before another storm starts. Listwen are famous for being easy to handle.” She said confidently.
“But, isn’t that wrong?” Tal asked.
“We’ll find a way to return it.” Rinny said.
“If we go back, you’ll have to marry me.” Allium said.
“That isn’t important, anymore. Let’s just do it.” Rinny said.
They navigated around to stay hidden from Lex’s little house, and they swum out to the boat. Tal scurried up the guideline, and threw down a ladder.
Rinny had them pull the anchor, height the sails, and release the ropes.
They were on their way in no time.
They were approaching the mainland, and hadn’t see any sign of Daindyn. The feared the dragon had been claimed by the sea.
“We should have a memorial.” Allium said. But all he could remember of the dragon is how he was nearly roasted. Then, to his surprise, it was Rinny who burst into tears. Tal sat down next to her, just her height, and gave her a hug.
“Don’t worry. Don’t you know De-Adine had a special place in the sky for dragons?”
Even more to Allium’s surprise was, Rinny turned and returned the hug, burying her head in his shoulder.
Then he knew what he had to do. He sneaked over to the other end of the boat, and lowered a dingy into the water, and climbed down the rope.
He thought silently of all his comrades, even Gallant, who likely died, just like Daindyn.
He sniffled as tears ran down his cheeks.
“Allium is gone!” Tal said.
“And so is the left dingy!” exclaimed Rinny. They pulled into the royal port. They flew no flag, and guards ran to meet them, swords drawn. Tal bravely faced them.
“I present you, Princess Rinny! In one piece, not even gnawed at.” Tal said smugly. Rinny’s eyes widened.
“Wait-” she started.
“You brought back the princess?” Asked the puzzled, and suddenly pale, captain.
“Yes.” he said, before he realized what had happened.
“Tal, shut up.” Rinny hissed. Tal’s eyes widened.
“Wait! I don’t mean like that!” But already, the guards whisked the up to the castle, where the king sat.
“YOU? You rescued my daughter?” He asked. Tal nodded nervously. Then the king laughed. “Is this a petty grab at the throne?”
“No, it was an accident, honest.” Tal said.
“You aren’t human you can’t even marry her!” He said with a jolly, relieved laugh. Then a squire brought him Sanctions of Rules, the Starfall universal law book. The squire deftly flipped it open to the chapter of the law of Capture. The king read it for a moment, before spluttering, and turning red.
“And elf is a non-monster, and therefore is eligible for law of Capture.”
There was a moment of silence, before Tal fainted.
Just as Rinny was trying to fan her fainting groom-to-be, a guard burst in.
“A massive silver dragon has been spotted flying over the castle!”
“Daindyn!” Rinny exclaimed, dropping Tal’s head back onto the floor with a groan and a thunk.
Before anyone could say anything, she bolted for the stairs to the highest balcony. Tal sat up.
“What’s happening?” He asked.
“Something called a Daindyn, son.” Tal sprung to his feet, and followed after Rinny.
“We though you were dead!” Rinny shouted above the sound of Daindyn’s hovering wings.
“No! I became disoriented during the storm, and flew around Starfall Island! How did you get back?”
Tal quickly explained everything that had happened between him leaving with Rinny, to stealing Lex’s boat.
“But there is one other thing.” Tal said hesitantly.
“What? I’m losing energy!” Daindyn exclaimed.
“Well, there’s going to be a Mrs. Alkert soon.” Tal said.
“WHO IN SKY’S SAKE IS IT?!”
“Erm, it’s Rinny. See, they misunderstood when I said I brought her back, and that knight jumped ship in a dingy.” Nothing happened for a moment, then Daindyn roared with laughter. He continued to laugh, and he laughed so loud that it shook the castle and all the pigeons flew off.
This is actually the story of how my grandparents met, and came to be my grandparents.
Rinny and Tal were married. It was awkward at first, but Daindyn called them off on another great adventure which brought them closer. They didn’t get to rule, but they did go on many more adventures.
Allium did get to marry the girl of his fancy, because a few months later, she was taken by an ogre. This was obviously an arranged capture, but whether Allium arranged it or not is up for debate, especially since she had been pining after him for years.
Lex never got his boat back, but he got a better one, bought by Daindyn, who received a large sum of money, large enough to pay off the last of his horde.
He was free at last!
Oh, and nobody drowned when the ship went down. They were all washed onto another island, and were picked up the day after Rinny and Tal got home.
(All commercial rights are reserved by Bernadina DeVita)