Of Mages And Dragons – Part 1
The small group stood before the cave entrance. It loomed over them like the mouth of a beast ready to swallow them whole. Green moss hung over the entrance like a curtain. It swayed in the gentle afternoon breeze. The faint smell of Jasmine tickled their noses.
Axel looked to the man beside him. He had only seen the rogue in the briefing before this quest. The rogue, Rowan, had been calm in his dealings and spoke of danger as if it were an old friend. Rowan shifted from foot to foot to contain either his excitement or nerves.
The girl beside the rogue was small in stature, almost like a child. She had been quiet in the briefing. Although, rumors said even though she was young she had more knowledge than the best alchemist in the kingdom. Axel watched as she gripped her book. Her knuckles resembled snow as she looked at the cave in front of her. He recalled the rogue called her Luna.
Axel took a deep breath. Breathe in courage and exhale fear, someone once told him. He was a mage and he had confidence in his skills. Using his staff, he took the first steps into the cave. The small group of adventurers followed him in.
The cavern was damp. He could taste the earthy mold on his tongue. Axel shook his staff with the thought of light. The jewel atop his staff glimmered and lit the rocky cavern better than any torch.
Axel led the small group into the depth of the cavern and continued to breathe. He was the leader, the best of the best. He could not fail. If they were to save the kingdom, they had to do this. His majesty’s realm was already at odds with the neighboring realm. War looked to be on the horizon. The last thing the King needed was a dragon. It was terrorizing his subjects along with the tyrants of the neighboring kingdom.
“Do you think the dragon is down here?” Rowan asked. Even in a near whisper, his voice reverberated off the dark coarse stone walls to mock them. There would not be any stealth on this mission.
“This is where the king said his spies tracked it. Dragons prefer to hoard their treasure. Where better to stash it than a place with only one way in and one way out?” Axel said. He rolled his eyes. The rogue should have been taking notes during the briefing when this information.
“The dragon is here,” a small voice said behind them. Axel and Rowan turned to look at their final member. The white cloth of her gown shimmered like a star in the night as the light from his staff caught it. She ran a small hand ran over the rocks that littered the cave walls.
Axel stepped closer to lend her the light from his staff. In the stone, deep thin gouges littered the walls. She placed her hand on one of the long gouges. The stone was coarse and edges sharp under her fingertips. The rough walls ran in stark contrast to her gentle touch.
Axel moved away from Luna and held up his staff. The jewel illuminated the ceiling. The light caught on the edges of thousands of gouges. They littered the walls, ceiling, and floor like deep scars.
“How could a dragon do this?” Axel asked.
“Dragon scales did this,” Rowan breathed.
Axel could almost hear the rogue trying to swallow the nervous lump in his throat.
“Yes, dragon scales. Scales are stronger than any stone,” Luna whispered.
Axel sighed in relief. The girl at least had some idea of what was going on. With any luck, she would not get in the way as he killed the beast. He looked to his left. Even dressed in red and black armor designed to blend into the darkness, he could see the rogue take a few steps backward. Axel seized his arm.
“You will not run. You knew exactly what you were getting into. This dragon poisons our lands. We must stop it before it causes any further damage,” Axel snarled to the rogue.
“I ain’t runnin! Don’t ya talk to me like I’m some coward.” Rowan shook him off. He walked back towards Luna. “Alright, little potion maker, have ya come up with anything to make this dragon task a bit easier?” The girl began to dig through the leather bag at her side.
Axel could hear the clinking of vials and bottles as she searched for whatever one she was looking for. As she dug through the bag, Axel watched the rogue pull out his blades and study them. The blades were pristine despite the lives it had ended over the years. The mage scoffed at the thought. That they had brought a lowlife rogue onto this adventure. It was as if the rogue thought he was equal someone of equal caliber to a mage in the King’s service.
“That would have been a great question to ask after the briefing.” The words had slipped out before Axel could stop them.
“I don’t need any high flouting briefing. You either go in and make minced meat of the bad guy, or you don’t. It ain’t like it’s hard. Briefings are nothin’ but a waste of time,” Rowan laughed. The words echoed back off the walls.
“Being part of the king’s guard is an honor. Attending the briefings is a privilege. Someone like you could not understand.” Axel could not believe the audacity. The rogue acted as though he was one of them.
Fire danced in Rowan’s eyes. He took a step towards him intent on teaching the mage a lesson, but Luna stepped between them. She held a yellow vial. It gave off a strange glow. Without a word, she poured it onto his boots.
“There is not any potion in the world to make your blades sharp enough to penetrate a dragon’s scales. However, the underbelly of the beast will be soft enough to pierce if you need to. This potion should make you fast enough to get there,” she said.
Rowan took a couple of steps forward and was out of sight before appearing beside the mage. The smile on the rogue’s face split his face in two.
“This’ll do the trick! Let’s get a move on.” Rowan moved forward, dragging his feet to keep from dashing off due to the potion.
They barely spoke as they continued down into the cavern. The deeper the cavern got, the more their hearts seemed to thunder within their chests. As they walked, the smell of sulfur burned their senses. Luna wiped at her eyes as they began to water and covered her nose with her sleeve. The smell assaulted her senses and burned her throat. She looked to her companions and found they were in the same state. She paused and mixed three potions. The colors swirled and twirled within the vial creating a red liquid.
Luna took a sip and passed it to Axel and Rowan. They drank after a moment of hesitation. It was as if spring had washed over them. The smell of jasmine perfumed the air. Their eyes dried, and their throats cooled.
“Thank you, Luna,” Rowan smiled. He began forward again, dragging his feet.
The cave opening gradually expanded into a large cavern. As they moved deeper within the cavern, the heat began to rise. It became so warm that Axel felt himself sweating under his fine robes of satin. As they entered the large cavern, they saw the beast.
Featured Photo by darksouls1 and edited by Lindsey Gruden