The Dragon Room

I entered the Yeah Write Super Challenge #4 this year. There’s so far been 2 rounds to this event, and I’ve successfully moved forward on both rounds. I thought I might share the round 2 piece here, since I’ve been quiet the past few months. 

Group 1

Scene: An arched corridor

Event: learning a nonviolent skill

Summary: Custodial apprentice, Pip, sees his clumsiness landing him in so much trouble that he is led into the castle dungeons. Down there a room awaits him, a dragon room, filled with nothing but stone and obsidium to keep him company, and maybe a few dragon eggs.

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The arched hallway of the castle dungeons was much darker than Pip had imagined. The stone path was cold and coarse beneath his bare feet.

“Wh-what are we doing down h–ow!” he asked as his toes caught on a gap, causing him to stumble forward.

His heart raced, and sweat beads formed on his pasty skin.

No one has ever entered the dungeon before and come out alive!

“This is your fault,” Gregory harrumphed. The castle caretaker and master custodian pushed his way past the young man.

Pip sighed. He knew the old man was right.

The castle halls had not been the same since Pip received the custodial assignment at this year’s Naming Day. He remembered the trials – success judged by a series of events. Turned out, his skinny frame and tiny hands were ill-suited for sword-wielding, his archery skills were non-existent, and his attempts at magicka had disastrous consequences.

He knew he was rather unremarkable in almost every way.

“Did you have to spill the king’s chamber pot on Queen Symphonia’s baby gryphon?” Gregory stopped in front of a large double door.

Pip straightened himself; tears filled his eyes, “Please, don’t lock me away.”

Gregory chuckled, “Oh, dear boy, what kind of kingdom would this be if we locked every clumsy apprentice into a cell?”

“Bu-.”

Gregory shook his head and reached for the metal rings of the door.

“We can’t have you getting clawed to death by an angry gryphon, now can we?” Gregory pulled the doors open and exposed a large chamber with oval stonework covering the floor.

Pip squinted and cocked his head to the side.

“When I was young and nervous like you, the king sent me down here to work. There is naught but stone and obsidian.”

“Nothing to break?” Pip asked nervously.

Gregory shook his head, “And no one to harm.”

He gestured Pip inside, but the frightened young man hesitated. What if it’s all a trick?

“There are no locks on the door, boy,” Gregory sighed.

Pip swallowed, nodded, and stepped forward. “What is this place?”

“The chambers of the great dragon the first king slew two hundred years ago.”

Pip followed Gregory inside and put his hand on top of one of the oval statues. “Ow- It’s hot!”

“Obsidian,” Gregory said. “It retains heat.”

“What are they supposed to be?”

“Dragon eggs,” Gregory shrugged his shoulders, “or so I’ve been told, but never mind that fairy tale.”

Gregory handed Pip a thin cloth.

“The king. He asked for you to polish these dragon eggs.”

Pip raised his eyebrows, “Really?”

The caretaker narrowed his gaze, “It took me years to master. It’s far more complicated than it sounds.”

Pip watched as Gregory showed his expert skill. The motion of his polishing was methodical and unlike polishing a table or benchtop. Pip tried to understand it, but as he followed along with the master custodian, he saw dust and dirt reform on his egg while Gregory’s remained spotless. He couldn’t ever imagine being able to match that skill.

*****

For months, Pip practiced and practiced. He languished over the eggs. With every passing day, he talked to them, sometimes without even speaking, and from time-to-time, he thought he heard them talk back. He dismissed it as nothing more than loneliness. There were often voices in the corridor outside the chamber, so it could have just as well been that which he was hearing.

One afternoon, nearly three months after his assignment began, Pip heard the familiar voices again. Two men must have been in the halls, and for the first time, he listened.

“Your brother, the king,” he heard, “he knows something.”

“Nothing that he’ll be able to stop now. The unicorn horn has already been added to his stew for tonight. He’ll be eating it within minutes,” another voice said. His hushed laugh made the hairs on Pip’s neck stand up.

Unicorn horn! But it’s poisonous. If he eats that-

Pip backed up and fell backwards with an oomph.

“What’s that?” he heard. The door slowly opened, and Pip scrambled to hide behind an egg. His hands touched the obsidian, and he cried.

Please don’t let me die!

A crack appeared across the egg. The sound of shattering glass echoed through the chamber.

The Earl stood in the doorway with a disbelieving look on his face as each of the eggs burst open. Whelplings. Hundreds of them burst forth and circled the diminutive Pip.

With a shriek, he sprinted down the halls of the dungeon, up the stairs of the castle, and into the king’s sitting room only just scrambling past the guards.

The king was lifting a spoon to his mouth. Pip screamed and dove at him.

“Unicorn horn!” he cried pushing the king’s hand.

Outside screams and a flurry of wings echoed through the castle halls. The man pushed through the dining hall door narrowly missing the fiery breath of the tiny dragons. Despite the chaos, the king remained resolute in his chair.

“This man tried to poison you,” the whelplings cried in unison. “Pip told us.”

Pip gasped at the words, at their meaning. They understood him. Every thought, every word, every emotion. The connection was real.

“Thank you, dear boy,” the king said. “You confirmed what I had already suspected and saved the kingdom.”

The little dragons swarmed into the room and surrounded Pip. The would-be assassin struggled against the strong embrace of the castle guards. The king stood up and patted Pip on the shoulder, “Oh, you unremarkable boy. You broke their sleep and have bonded with the dragons. Just as I knew you would.”

Pip squinted at the king, “Wha-?”

“You’re the third born in the third generation of dragon masters.”

The whelplings sang, “Master, protector, friend.”

Pip’s eyes grew wide, and a smile spread across his face. Their joy was his joy, and suddenly for the first time in his life, he understood his place in the world.

The Arcade

Rachel’s stomach churned as the acrid stench filled her lungs. She tossed what remained of her chocolate bar aside and steeled herself through the broken glass door.

It was well past midnight and well past her bedtime too. She could hear her big brother, Vinnie, laughing uproariously. Somehow, he had coerced her to tag along with temptations of wholesome fun. So far his version of excitement was breaking curfew, trespassing, and vandalism.

“This used to be the place to be,” Vinnie said. His voice rebounded off the grey walls.

“What happened?” Rachel asked nervously. Shards of glass cracked beneath her feet.

Ash and dust settled into her throat, and she tried to expel it with a cough.

“A fire. Bad wiring or something,” Vinnie said.

Rachel shuddered. 

“Doesn’t look like anyone has had our idea,” Vinnie snickered. “Throw me the bag.”

“There won’t be any money left in them,” Rachel said with a grunt.

“Don’t be such a girl!” Vinnie said as he grabbed the bag mid-air.

The temperature was dropping inside, but Rachel tried to ignore it. Her nerves were already frayed. This was not her idea of fun.

The video arcade was a shell of its former self. The pinball machines and games still stood, but not much was left of them. The marquees, sides and bezels were either blackened or destroyed.

Rachel shuffled around the arcade and rubbed her arms. She was at the next aisle of machines when movement caught her eye. With a jump, she turned to see if it had been Vinnie.

Vinnie was still pulling out screwdrivers from the bag.

She walked down the aisle, heart in throat, and attempted to investigate.

A streak ran past her and knocked the wind out of her. 

A light breath touched her ear, “You should not be here!”

The hairs on the back of her neck stood up. With a scream, Rachel ran, and the arcade sprang to life. 8-bit sounds echoed, and the machines flashed shades of green, blue, red, and yellow.

“Vinnie!” she called as she rounded the corner. His hands were on a pinball machine, and his eyes fixed on the flashing lights. He didn’t even acknowledge her.

She pinched herself and blinked to make sure it was real. All around her the arcade games were playing themselves. The buttons were moving up and down, and the sticks moved left and right, forward and back.

Panicked, she sprinted back to Vinnie. The pinball machine buzzed with messages of “High-score! Double!” Vinnie high-fived the air as cheers and laughter rose in the room.

Rachel shook her head and rubbed her eyes. When she reopened them, she saw group of kids standing around her brother. Their heads turned toward her with toothy grins and villainous eyes.

With a shriek, she stepped back; her hand landed squarely on the closest machine, sending a jolt through her body.

“Play,” she heard.

She pulled away and called out to Vinnie. He turned to look at her.

“Play,” he said. His soulless gaze peered right through her.

She coughed and held her hand over her mouth as a haziness settled on the room.

Her mind cloudy and her chest tight, she spun towards the door. Smoke filled the room and blanketed it in a fog, but still she tried to push forward. She stumbled and struggled to regain her balance. Somehow she knew if she touched the machines, she’d be lost.

The sound of the games echoed in every chamber of her mind, and she longed to play. One game. That’s all. Just one round.

Her fingers grazed the machine. She pushed away but returned a second later, unable to resist the chilly invitation.

“Your turn,” the voices echoed.

Mesmerized, her hands clutched the joysticks, and she started the game. 

“You’re mine,” a single voice said.

Her reflection shone through from the monitor. Her own sinister eyes and venomous smile stared back, but she just smiled deeper and laughed.

Rachel ignored the cold embrace, ignored the pulling on her soul, even ignored the fire surrounding her. Her eyes stayed fixed on the little 8-bit hero on her screen, on her opponent, and on her score. She was one with the machine, and she was never leaving this arcade.

 

 

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The Midnight Hour

The wind howled outside Nadia’s darkened room. Her gaze focused on the red moon illuminating a tiny patch of the floor. The midnight hour was nearly upon her.

A creak on the boards echoed through the derelict house, but she remained motionless. Rickety shutters burst open sending a scream through the tight space.

She had waited for this moment for five years. She was ready.

*****

Sixteen, going on seventeen, Nadia sat in her room and hemmed a skirt. Across the room, her litter sister, Dorencia, danced in her new petticoat, her bare feet exposed like a commoner. The candlelight sent a hundred shadows of dancing figures all around her.

“Darlings,” she heard her mother say from the doorway, “remain here. We have another urgent visitor.”

Nadia didn’t miss a beat. She continued her sewing and hardly acknowledged her.

“Alright, Mother,” Dorencia said.

“And lower your skirt, Dorencia,” her mother scowled, “act like the lady you will become.”

Dorencia let out a derisive sigh and stopped her dance. “Yes, Mother.”

The door closed.

“Who do you think it is?” Dorencia asked Nadia.

“I don’t know… Mayhap someone that needs healing from Mother.”

Dorencia slumped. “Boring.”

“You are boring,” Nadia said with a straight face.

The preteen’s laugh was cancelled out by a hair-raising scream.

Nadia jumped to her feet, but before she could move any further, the door swung open and air escaped with a loud roar putting out all the candles and darkening the room.

A shadow was all she could see. The form was humanoid, but she could see neither the hands nor the feet. Her imagination went wild as she pictured hooves for feet and claws for hands. The sound of scratching echoed through the room. Dorencia clutched Nadia’s arm and let out a tiny whimper.

The shadow advanced and grabbed Nadia’s free arm. She shrieked both in fear and from the searing pain. An image filled her mind of her sister: older, eyes burning red, skin paled and hair black. She pushed the thought away and tried to kick the shadow, only it was just air and Dorencia was gone.

Fire erupted all around her. She ran out of the house, screaming for help, but none came.

*****

For years, Nadia had searched for the name of the shadow. She asked, pleaded, and demanded answers when none could be found. Who was he? Where could she find him?

The only answers given were the gift of healing and two words, “Midnight. Blood moon.”

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“Fool,” a voice whispered in her mind breaking her out of her musing.

The room lit up, and a shadow stood in the center of it.

“She’s mine,” he laughed.

Nadia stood with her hands clenched at her side.

“The years have not been kind to you,” he hissed.

Nadia’s sunken eyes and cheeks deepened into a scowl. The dark circles around her eyes made her green eyes look fierce.

“Show yourself,” she growled.

He stood at her height and didn’t look nearly as imposing as he did when they first met, but she hardly noticed.

She yelled, propelling a terrifying image into his mind. The scream forced him to take a step back, but no sound escaped his lips. He stood still in front of her, otherwise motionless.

“What have you become?” he mocked.

Nadia stepped forward.

“When did your light fade?” he laughed.

She forced another terrible thought into his mind.

“You will pay for what you did to me,” she said.

With every step forward, she sent another blast, and every time he stepped further back. Until, at last, he was cornered.

“When did you learn to use your healing power to manipulate and terrorize the minds of others?” he whispered.

“When you stole everything from me,” she sneered.

With one final blast, the shadow crumbled to the ground. Nadia smiled. This was the first life she had extinguished, and she reveled in the excitement of the moment. She laughed as victory drew near.

The illusion faded, and Dorencia laid there. Blood trickled out of her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Nadia broke out of her trance and screamed.

“You were my goal all along,” she heard in her mind.

She crossed her arms to her chest and shook. She did this to herself. All those interrogations, the bastardization of her gift.

“You’re mine,” a clawed hand settled onto her shoulder.

As Dorencia’s life faded, the lit room faded to black, and Nadia embraced the darkness.

“I am yours,” she conceded.

The Red House

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Claudia stood at the entrance of the big house and stared at the dark red curtains along the great staircase in front of her. Aside from a few candles on the handrails, there was not much light, and in some ways, the shadows seemed bigger because of the tiny flames.

Claudia sniffed and swallowed.

She turned her head to the front door, but when she saw a bit of light from under a door above the stairs, she was drawn to it.

Forgetting her fear, Claudia stepped onto the stairs. Her eyes watched her feet, and she saw her pink pajama pants and fuzzy bunny slippers move up the stairs.

She was dizzy when she reached halfway. She thought she heard whispers, but she didn’t know where
they came from.

Wind blew in the room, and she stopped as she shook the cold away. The candles blew out. She was in darkness.”Don’t go!” she thought she heard.

Claudia shook her head and looked back down the stairs. Vertigo overwhelmed her, and she swayed towards the bottom.

The sound of someone singing brought her back to reality, and she looked back at the light. It called to her, and she imagined how warm and bright it must be inside.

Claudia ran up the remaining stairs, or at least as much as her tiny legs would let her, and placed her hand on the doorknob.

Whispers from every direction screamed, “No!”, but it was too late. The knob turned, and the door burst open. Light flooded her entire body, and in an instant, she felt warm and happy.

At first all she could see was the bright light. She stepped forward, and the door slammed behind her. She jumped and yelped her terror.

She heard a giggle as a response, and somehow, Claudia’s fear abated.

She thought she knew that voice.

“Are you going to play with me today, Claudia?” she heard.

Claudia rubbed her eyes.

“Gerdy,” she said with a yawn.

She blinked, and for a second, she thought she looked like an old woman, but the image was gone as soon as it came.

Gertrude was surrounded on three sides by dolls and dresses. On the far side of the room, there was a rocking horse and a doll carriage. A table and tea set was in the middle of the room.

Her eyes had focused on Gertrude’s, and with a big grin, she skipped to the corner with her. “Of course!”

She sat down across from the toddler.

Claudia picked up a doll and started to dress it up for the tea party. They always played tea party first.

Playtime went on for hours, as it had three other nights this week.

Tonight, though, Claudia felt an urge. Every moment she looked at Gertrude, she was compelled to say something, but she pushed the thought away. She was being silly. But after an awesome game of chutes and ladders, she just blurted it out. “I never want to leave your side!”

Gertrude’s grin stretched from ear-to-ear, and her eyes grew wide with excitement. A hiss swelled in Claudia’s head.

She felt something in her throat and coughed.

Gertrude laughed, but the sound of it was husky.

The room spun. Claudia’s chest tightened, and she felt like fire burned her from the inside pulling out her heart.

“I’ve waited for so long to hear you say that,” Gertrude said.

Gertrude grabbed Claudia’s hand. Only it was an old woman’s hand. She pulled to escape the embrace, but inside she was being ripped away. She couldn’t see anything on the corners of her eyes. It was like she was in a tunnel, and her mind was being pulled out of her body.

She realized it was. She was outside her body now, and she watched as her hand tightened around Gertrude’s. She heard her voice laugh, but she had not done it.

“You never have to leave again,” Gertrude cackled.

Her tiny child-like body hugged the old lady. Gertrude’s withered form started to change shape. Her wrinkles less pronounced.

Claudia’s mind was still drifting further away. She was dragged down the stairs and out through the front door.

As her eyes filled with darkness, she thought for a moment she saw herself standing in the doorway waving goodbye with one hand and holding a young woman’s hand with the other.

As the darkness took her, the husky laugh echoed all around her. “Thanks for your youth.”

Sylphling

Keirhyn lived in a tiny sylph village on the edge of the Land of Air – an incredible island in the sky.

But hey! What exactly is a sylph?

Well, a sylph is a small creature, no taller than a child. They’re thin and wispy and have giant wings. Not just any kind of wings, either. Not bird wings or even fairy wings (though fairies do appear in this story); no, they have big butterfly wings – beautiful, multi-colored, and varied.

Keirhyn was different, though. Not bad different. There’s no such thing as that! No. She was just different.

Keirhyn was fifteen, but in sylph years, that’s more like seven. Somehow she grew her wings fives year early.

One day Keirhyn flew out of class to escape the boring lectures of her teacher. She’d heard the lesson before – of the world below, and she wanted nothing more than to explore it all. So on that day, she decided she was doing just that.

Keirhyn flew out of her village without anyone even noticing. From up high she saw all the sylphs busily working on their cloud making, the port workers flying up ships with supplies from the world below, and the curious-looking creatures on the ships.

The Land of Air was particularly cool because it was a floating land mass, but it could be rather dull. Those below sent supplies to help the sylphs with their weather-making – a skill all sylphs had from the time they were born. (All except Keirhyn, that is. Keirhyn was able to use a magic far cooler – one of illusion. Whatever she thought of in her head could be projected and believed to be real.)

Keirhyn was ready to fly aboard when she saw the curious-looking creatures marching out with swords and axes and spears. When the villagers started screaming in the streets, she became suddenly very afraid.

She turned from her kin and flew as fast as she ever had before, straight into the Fairy Forest, and hid in a giant hole in a tree.

“What are you doing in my home?” a little voice asked.

Keirhyn turned to see a whole family of fairies buzzing around. They were no more than two inches tall, but armed with little knives and an urge to use them.

“I…I… I’m hiding,” Keirhyn said as tears filled her eyes.

“What from?”-“Some boy I’m sure.” – “Go away.” – “Should we be hiding too?” – “Can I poke her with my new dagger?”

She heard all questions at once. They’re little voices barely seemed to change between each one. Keirhyn turned her head to each in an attempt to figure out who was speaking.

“Are you dim-witted, girl?”

“Err… Sorry. Who’s talking?”

“You can speak with me,” one little pink fairy said. “Name’s Myma.”

“There’s,” she said, “there’s bad men out there. I saw them.”

The fairies started flying around in a panic, their wings hitting parts of Keirhyn from all around. There were over a hundred of them, and they were too fast for Keirhyn.

“Enough!” Myma finally said. “We shall hide. It will be safe here.”

The other fairies stopped their panicked flying and slowly settled onto Keirhyn’s head and shoulders and arms.

“I know you,” Myma said. “You’re the little one with the power of illusion. Langford told me about you.”

Langford was a traveling wizard that was only Keirhyn’s favorite person in the world.

“Langford!” Keirhyn exclaimed before clapping her hand over her mouth for speaking so loudly.

“Hide us, Keirhyn, friend of Langford. We shall be forever grateful.”

So Keirhyn, the slightly weird little sylphling, used her power and hid the group of fairies and herself from the nasty things that invaded her land. She concentrated so much that she never heard the cries for help, and by nightfall, she fainted from exhaustion.

Myma buzzed around the little sylphling sprinkling healing magic across her tiny body. Healed and awake, Keirhyn took the fairies back to her village. Only no one was there! They searched high and low for the sylphs, the sylphlings, anybody, but they came up short.

They had all vanished. Taken. Taken below to the world of man and elf and dwarf. Of minotaurs and mermaids and dragons. A land filled with all manner of creatures both awesome and frightening.

“I’m going down there,” Keirhyn announced, “and I’m going to rescue them. Who’s with me?”

Only one little fairy answered. “I will,” Myma said.

And with that, they were off.

 

 

 

 

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