By: Acrocanis, with a little help from Irish Nobody, the CCSOA media center and staff, a wonderful high school history teacher, and an anonymous boy whom I think might be one of the Dunedain (of course he isn't. just play along)
Originally written for the Dunedain boy, 2002-2004.
Sam laid back his head and stared up at the star-filled sky through the branches of the trees. The cellestial points of light drifted slowly by as he considered the coming day. Something big blocked his view -- the scaly dark orange wing of his dragon-creature, his friend and favorite mount, Thas. Not that he could see the color in the dark, but he imagined it easily. He reached up and gently pushed the wing aside. The creature muttered something incoherent in his sleep and was soon breathing evenly again.
Drums beat steadily in the distance; the heavy, demon-skin drums of the enemy, the nameless Enemy which was niether man nor beast, but a demon of sorts, itself. Not a true demon -- those were kept as slaves, pets, and food -- but a twisted sort of thing for which there was no other word. The more decent (though not always good) creatures of Terra had come up with words for the sake of having something by which to refer to the True Evil, but there was really no word worthy of the creatures. The current word in use still never failed to strike fear into the hearts of even the most vile of demons, for demons feared these things more than anyone else. Helhachers, the dark Enemy was called, a word that developed out of Helhadestreacherons, which was doubtless an invention of an elf who had trouble thinking of the right words and came out with something altogether too complex for the rest of the creatures to use in times of urgency. Helhacher seemed to fit better: creators of Hell.
Assuming the shapes of monsters and myths They were otherwise soul-sucking, shapeless concoctions of fears, nightmares, and darkness. They fought in all manners: by sword, bow, spear, fire, and an incoceivable process not even spoken of, it was so feared.
Sam and Thas, together with two of their friends, lead an army of men, elves, fairies, dwarves, and all speaking peoples of Terra -- human form, beast, and sometimes both at once -- in an alliance to end this treacherous Evil that threatened their world, which they so loved. So far, however, all they had managed to do was to drive the Enemy away and get killed -- or worse, but they didn't think about that. Many of them had had to summon the courage at least once already in their lives to speak of it, to tell their children of the danger, but it was only once. No one ever spoke of it again. Subconciously, they all knew it was there, but thinking of it made it somehow seem more real and frightening than it already was. Consciously, but unspokenly, they all knew they were losing this war, for a war it was.
But then Sam remembered something fromt the last battle: a dark shape that drove the demons mad and caused the Helhachers to cry out in fear and make for their camp. Thas, who was about three times the size of a horse and no larger, insisted that such an event had never occurred. Sam swore he'd seen it right in front of them, like a majestic black ghost; which, Thas told him, it probably was -- in a long lost dream.
They would make for the open plains to the east, tomorrow, where the Enemy could not hide and it would be some time before Sam would be able to look for his black ghost again. An apparition of the night with a lantern that shone like the moonlight. A shame it had not come sooner, or Sam would be going with them.
His friend, a half-elf warrior who called himself Felor, had been taken by the Helhachers. Even Thas, who entertained himself by being engaged in an ongoing "battle of power" with Felor, was worried about him -- they would all, and Felor would rather be, dead than taken by the Enemy. *But he's okay,* Sam thought, *I know he is! Not for very long if we don't do something . . . if only I could find that ghost-or-whatever-it-was! Felor is very strong; they won't . . . they won't . . . take . . . him. Not without a fight!* Sam laughed softly to himself, *He has a will of dragon iron, and a heart as warm, soft, and unbreakable as the best silk. They'll have a time with him! All the same, he isn't immortal or invincible; I have to save him.* But the army would be moving onward tomorrow morning! What if. . . .
Sam stood and walked over to a small, sleeping friend, stepping carefully over a Sphinx's tail. His friend was half his height, and powerfully built for someone of that stature. But then, dwarves were always like that.
"Ranin, get up," he commanded. The dwarf turned away, grumbling sleepily. Sam had no patience to deal with this, and kicked him. Ranin sat up abruptly, clutching his left side.
"Ow! Sam! . . .Sam? You look like a man awaiting death, Sam. What's wrong, now?"
"Just take Thas and lead them out tomorrow, we'll do what we can to meet you there."
"What? You're not coming? Who're you talking -- what are you talking about? Wait . . . you don't mean to . . . " he pointed shakily in the general direction of the Helhacher camp.
"I do. Felor is our friend, I cannot abandon him. Begin moving out as soon as I'm gone and tell Thas I said that he is not to follow me under any circumstances. You will need his help and he's too conspicuous, anyway -- he'll give us away. Make sure he understands that the order coming from you is as good as coming from me . . . I don't have to say to his face for it to count, and he knows it. If we don't make it back, for whatever reason, he's yours."
"NO!" Ranin cried. The Sphinx lifted his handsome, maned head wearily and turned to look at the source of the noise, his almost feminine face drawn into a disgusted grimace. Ranin hardly noticed. "You'll BOTH come back!"
"You idiot! Shut your mouth before you wake the whole army! Just do it, okay? Promise me Ranin! Promise!"
Ranin nodded weakly. "I promise," he said in a hoarse whisper.
"Keep your head!" With that, he turned and strode away into the night.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Why me?" Ranin groaned to nobody. The Sphinx was still watching him with golden eyes that seemed to glow in the moolight. He seemed to be looking more agreeable, now.
"You want to help me?" the dwarf asked him. The huge creature -- huge to Ranin, anyway -- stood and nudged a sleeping gryphon.
Ranin walked over to Thas. Thas was not a true dragon, only part dragon -- a dragonic -- but he was similar enough in appearance and appetite -- though not so much in greed, to Ranin's relief. Still: the possiblilty of a lifetime with him and without Sam or Felor was not exactly looked foreward too. He pulled gently, but firmly, at one of the dragon-creature's wings as he'd seen Sam do. Thas looked over his back, and stood abruptly when he saw Ranin instead of Sam. He swung his head around to look at Ranin properly. Ranin explained the situation to Thas as clearly as he could, but the dragon-creature still looked wistfully toward the Enemy camp.
"You're crazy," Ranin muttered, "Now come on."
"We can't leave him here. . . ."
"There's nothing you can do about it so let's get a move on!" Ranin snapped. He pulled at the dragonic's battle armor roughly. Thas stepped forward obediently, but scowling, now. He complained constantly as Ranin worked and did not stop until almost daybreak, when they were on their way. Ranin rode the dragonic, but hated being so far from the ground. He hoped Sam and Felor were alright.
* * * * * NOTE TO THE READER: Ranin and Felor actually have an actue accent over the "i" and "e," but this program is very simple and, like with the italics in Earthship, it can't handle any special letters like that. * * * * *