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.
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.
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?”
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.