Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Bold (emotionally) (08/30/07)
TITLE: To Lady Gwendolyn
By Marie Fieldman
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I wish I could relate the story of another victory, glory attained; but I cannot. This quest was disastrous -disgraceful. It plunged me lower than I thought possible. Read, and decide if you still wish to be associated with me.
Ash Mountain is as black as it looks from your window. It supports no plants from base to summit. The rock faces were slick because of rain when we arrived.
Jonathan, my squire, at the beginning would not stop trying me with questions, doubts, fears. Poor lad! I told him that I had only chosen him because he was my cousin. He became quiet. If I had only listened to him!
We started up the slope before dawn; I thought Oscuro would be easier to deal with asleep. The last thing Jonathan asked was to go back down the mountain because we were taking too long finding the den; daylight was approaching. I forbid him speak until we had finished. We found the den by means of a grape-sized pearl that came tumbling down in a rivulet. Tying Fern , we followed the runoff up the slope.
Oscuro’s hoard is awesome! It comprises enough riches to buy the kingdom out of this famine, and seven others as severe. The width of his chamber is covered in currency, flashing gold and silver. Jeweled articles adorn every rocky shelf; pearls of all colors are dispersed everywhere. My mind took as long to adjust to the sight as my eyes had to the darkness.
The air was hazy, smelling like something not meant for combustion. Oscuro slept in a corner, his obsidian scales glinting. He seemed as large as seven draft horses.
I was crazed for conquest. Glancing behind, I saw Jonathan, his visage distorted pathetically. I no longer viewed him as my squire, only as my kin. Pitying, I laid my hand over my heart. He knew that I meant to remind him of my promise to protect him. For whatever reason, he returned the gesture.
The dragon slept open-mouthed. I thought it would be easy to pierce his brain through his palate before he woke. I plunged my sword into him, but missed. He awoke screeching. When he reared up, I had another chance. I lunged for his belly, but the coins slid under my feet. He flapped his sail-sized wings and vanished.
I had lost him. Looking up didn’t reveal him. I hadn’t expected the ceiling to be so high- so shadowy! The downpour sounding outside muted all other noise. I still remember the shock. Duty, glory, and past victories all meant nothing. Only fear seemed relevant.
Oscuro didn’t take long to come down on me. He crushed my breastplate, begrudging me full breaths. He blasted a breath of white flame and turned to me with the empty look of a chicken about to peck an insect. Then, he exhaled over me, deliberately, flamelessly. In seconds, my armor became an oven. I thrashed and screamed like a snared rabbit until Oscuro made his next breath all smoke.
I wanted but one more pure breath. Gasping like that, I was dizzy before I noticed how cold, rain-crisp and rich the air had suddenly become. My skin throbbed with my pulse. My eyes flashed open. I was somewhere on Ash Mountain, rain clouds above me, my ruined armor in a heap beside me.
I took a long time before remembering my cousin. Then I felt like the dragon was crushing me again. I couldn’t remember fleeing, I couldn’t remember bidding Jonathan to flee. I had promised to protect him and I have failed.
By some miracle, Jonathan soon appeared, leading Fern. Embracing me, he said he had thought I would be dead when he returned. Duty awoke in me and I ordered that we descend on the remotest slope, but Jonathan questioned again.
Then I noticed the bloodstain on his breeches. Trembling, unraveling, he related how he had snatched an article of the treasure, hoping that Oscuro would not want to melt it, and ducked into a gap in the cavern. When Oscuro groped for him, Jonathan slashed him under his limb, and bled him dry!
I begged his pardon, blaming myself for mistaking timid circumspection for cowardice. How he responded! Weeping silently, he laid his hand over his heart!
Jonathan is the kingdom’s hero. I owe him my life. I am no knight, and never was.
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