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Beyond Here There Be Dragons (standard:fantasy, 2169 words)
Author: ComshawAdded: Sep 14 2000Views/Reads: 3040/1613Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
An Apprentice discovers a Dragon invasion, and learns for the first time of the Dragon wars.

Beyond Here There Be Dragons 

"All four legs were aching, for this apprentice had been climbing since
daylight. This apprentice had determined to be amongst meadow flowers 
no later than high-sun the next day. The Hunt Master and this 
apprentice had climbed to the meadow atop that mountain last hot 
season. He wished to know how the hunting would be after so many 
seasons; By command of the Elder Council the "taboo area" scent posts 
had been removed three sun-cycles before. The Hunt Master said they had 
been placed there while he was still in the egg, for reasons that the 
Elders would not reveal." 

"The trek consumed two sun cycles, and when we stepped into the meadow,
we were astonished. The game was thicker than Wen birds on a ripe patch 
of Marsh Berries. We saw many Three Horned Runners, a group of 
Scurries, several flights of Green Fowl and two Dagger Beasts in the 
time from  high-sun till dark. That is why this apprentice had asked, 
and been granted, the boon of making the Proving Hunt on the mountain." 

"The Hunt Master and this apprentice had followed a ridge top on the
pervious trip, but both carry Slap-Stick Bush scars because of that 
route. This apprentice had decided to try following a gully, the kind 
shaped like a deep 'V', running straight down the mountain side." 

"Both banks were covered in moss and the trees must have been 200 tails
tall. The undergrowth consisted of a few patches of Pucker Brush and 
Devils Club plants; There is not enough sunshine through the trees to 
let anything else grow. The light that does make it gives everything a 
subdued green glow, as if it were filtered through an emerald. And the 
silence--after half a cycle in such a place the fall of a twig sounds 
as if the whole forest is falling." 

"As this apprentice has said, all four legs were beginning to ache. A
short rest in a sun-warmed spot would remove the ache and  rebuild 
energy to continue the climb. A runner trail came into sight; It 
started at the little stream in the gully and went up the bank and 
disappeared at the crest. This apprentice decided there might be a gap 
in the trees where the sun could shine through, and perhaps a fat 
runner for a meal." 

"As this apprentice followed the trail up the bank, no runner tracks
were sighted. You, as Elders, know that the earth on a runner trail 
will stay loose from the runners' hooves cutting up the ground; This 
trail was such, and there were tracks, but ones not made by a runner. 
The animal that had made the tracks did not have the thrice split hoof 
of a runner; The tracks were made by a solid hooved animal." 

"This apprentice followed the trail over the crest of the gully; The
trail continued up the mountain on an angle. There was not a sunny spot 
within sight, so this apprentice continued following the trail tasting 
for scent every little while. The tracks must have been old, for no 
scent was present. After several hundred strides this apprentice 
glimpsed sun light reflected from a sheer rock wall up the mountain. 
After leaving the trail, and climbing another sixty or seventy strides, 
this apprentice stepped out of the trees at the base of the wall." 

"In one direction the wall reduced in size until it disappeared back
into the trees, a hundred strides away. In the other direction the wall 
curved and disappeared at a large stone protuberance, twenty strides 
distant. A flat area extended out from the wall, with a mixture of 
sandy patches and boulders covering it. This apprentice found a sand 
patch large enough, stretched out in the sun and relaxed. The sand was 
warm from the sun, and the ache in the legs began to ease." 

"This apprentice fell asleep; When his eyes opened the sun had moved
down behind the trees. There was little time before darkness came. A 
sleep area must be. . ." 

"Apprentice," rumbled the youngest of the three Elders. His gold 
colored hide the evidence of his comparative age. 

"We are aware of how a sleeping area should be selected. Thou are a fool
for napping so deeply on a Proving Hunt! Thou will proceed with the 
story, and be quick about the telling!" 

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