Hey folks. I know the whole dragon slayer thing is a tad overused and perhaps cliche, but this is a slightly different kind of dragon slayer story. If you've read my other works, Pages Of Nightmare, which is the same world that this story takes place in, you'll know that dragons are sacred and wise creatures, so why does my protagonist want to kill one? You'll see. Give it a chance, you may be surprised.
Oh yeah, and the noble sword-toting knight? Replace him with a gunslinging, pissed off farmer with nothing to lose, and enjoy.
Zeck stared out at the wavering sands that stretched before him and closed his eyes. Frustration at his pointless quest caused a shudder to rack his frail body, even in the intense heat. He was currently underneath a large outcropping of rock in the Othargian Wastelands, and he knew not how he had even made it this far. His gun dug painfully into his kidney's, but he barely felt it. What he felt was his dry and cracking lips, his parched throat, and his boiling skin. What he saw was the blowing particles of grit that blew across the dunes.
Yet he did take pains to move the pistol from his side. They were still new inventions in Terras, and not terribly trustworthy. The last thing he wanted was to have come so far only to be blown away by his own weapon. He doubted this one held any ill-will towards him, but he took no chances. His failing hands slipped about the wood handles and he pulled the weapon from his belt and set it beside him. Would he die here? He thought he might. His eyes slipped closed and he allowed an hour of sleep to overtake him. So he slipped into the darkness of his mind, and he remembered...
The rain, the grass, the wind... And the smoke. He felt he could lay there forever, but his mind screamed at him to get up. Something was wrong. Oh, wrong! It was all wrong! But what? Zeck didn't know. He tried to sit up, and got about halfway before collapsing again. His head throbbed, and the pain was like a dagger in his brain. He could taste blood as well, and it didn't take a genius to know it was his own. He lay for a moment longer, before his mind forced him to move.
He rolled onto his stomach and tried to push himself up. His vision was returning, and he knew he was in a puddle of mud, ash and his blood. More pain raced through him, this time from his arm. He scanned his right forearm and was not surprised to see a large splinter embedded there. The bit of wood must have been at least six inches long. Zeck noticed the ground was littered with shards of wood. Bits of what had happened raced through his mind and he paled.
The memory was all he needed to push himself to his feet. "Taisha?" He screamed, and his voice cracked painfully. He was nearly deposited on his ass back into the filth, but he somehow remained standing. He scanned the area that had once been his home. Part of the house was still standing, though dying embers of flame still licked about. The house was without it's right side and most of the roof, but that was enough to send him shambling towards the ruin.
Something nagged at him, and he finally figured it out. He had been inside when the wyrm had struck, in the shed, so where was he now? He whirled, and realized. He had been in the woodshed when he came to, or where it used to be. The damn hell-bird had just smashed it to bits with him inside! What was this? What in the name of all things was this? The slivers of ek tree had been the shed at some point, and as he looked around he saw the remnants of the chickens that he had kept there. Two were still alive, astoundingly. The poultry did not seem too phased by their surroundings, and only clucked stupidly as they pecked the earth.
Zeck again turned towards the house and staggered forward. "Taisha!" He screamed again, and this time his voice did not break. Where are my neighbours? Zeck thought in frustration. Where are the people who welcomed us so warmly when we moved here? He already knew the answer. They were hiding of course. When a dragon swoops from the sky and begins to slaughter everything that moves, one does not stand in the open. Besides, most of the neighbours were a fair walk away. If they had seen the carnage, it would take them a while to get there.
He reached what had been his doorway and stepped into the house he and Taisha had purchased with the money Taisha's father had given them as a wedding gift. The flames that had earlier ravaged it had long since died, and not much of the place was left. Hints that a happy couple had lived there dotted the desolation, but not much more remained. A nightable was overturned, it's contents strewn about the floor. Their bed was mostly burned away, and Taisha's knitting still lay beside it on the floor, where she liked to work on it before she slept.
Zeck always harassed her about it, saying she was turning into a housewife too fast on him. He scanned about the wreckage and breathed a sigh of relief at lack of blood or any sign his wife had been killed. That didn't quiet the voice in his head, however. She's dead, Zeck. It nagged gleefully. You passed out like a bitch when the beams from the shed hit you. Oh isn't this just rich! Zeck groaned and his stomach heaved. He managed to keep his breakfast down by sheer willpower alone. He made his way back into the rain and stared at the sky, daring the monster to come back.
Again Zeck asked himself what had in fact happened. Hadn't the sight of a dragon's shimmering wings been a sign of fortune in Terras forever? Were not dragons creatures of diplomacy and wisdom? Everything that he had been told on the knee of father seemed meaningless now. and why not? One of the demonic lizards had swept and rained death from above. The stared at his two remaining chickens before snapping out of his trance. His eyes again swept the dooryard for any sign of his beloved.
There was nothing, some planks, dead chickens, strewn feed, and a small pack... But a pack of what? Even as Zeck sauntered forward to inspect, his gut rolled. Whatever it was, it was splattered with crimson. He remembered the bonnet Taisha had bought only days ago from Aeth. It was quite the wagon ride down to the village, but they had decided to treat themselves. He saw the same intricate designs upon this pack that had been on that bonnet.
He knew even before he turned the pack over what it would be. The severed head of his only love stared back at him, her sea green eyes dull and filled with rain water, her lovely brown hair stained with blood and muck. He turned and the sick he had been keeping down leapt forth and spattered on the sodden ground. The thunder that rolled across the hills did not come close to drowning out the heartbroken screams of the farmer, and newlywed of three weeks. As he crawled to the wreckage of the shed, sobbing and screaming Taisha's name, his hand caught on cold steel.
His vision, now a shimmering gauze of tears and rain, made out the shape of his pistol. Another gift from Taisha's father, who had the money to waste on such things. He wiped his eyes and looked upon the grim weapon. It was scratched and the grip was chipped deeply near where it met the steel, but he thought it would fire. It was one of those big steel monstrosities with the spinning thing where you put the bullets. Zeck thought it was called a revolver. One of the chickens clucked and Zeck fired on instinct. The bird dropped and Zeck looked down at the smoking gun in his hands before blacking out.
The neighbours had come eventually, he'd known they would. They had consoled him and taken him to their home, but he barely noticed. Zeck sat, nodded when he was spoken to, and ran his hands along the revolver. The chicken had been brought by the man who had loaded him onto the wagon, and was presumably being cooked now, judging by the aroma that was flooding the large farmhouse. He did not know how long he'd been here. It was as if he came to sitting upon the quilted bed in the strange room. From the mirror, he noticed his wounds had been cleaned, but the ugly gash upon his forehead could not be hidden.
The wooden door to his right slid open and who he presumed was his savior's wife entered and looked at him. She was a short brunette, like Taisha, except Taisha's hair had been straight. This woman's was very curly, and her eyes were brown, instead of the beautiful aqua-marine of Taisha "Will you be eating?" She asked nervously, and Zeck could feel her questioning gaze.
"Yes." He humored her. "But I'm not hungry." He put the gun on the bed and looked up at her. She looked away from his red-rimmed eyes, but spoke to him.
"I'm sorry for your loss. Nobody knows why what happened happened, but we will be there for you, if you need us." She went to turn from the room but was stopped by Zeck's voice.
"Thank you, so very much for everything." He was weeping again, but his voice did not give this away. "I will be leaving tomorrow though." His hands were on the gun again, and he studied the steel cylinder that held the bullets.
She turned back. "But why? You've been through so much, where will you go?"
It was a good question, one he'd asked himself many times already. He didn't know where he'd go, or why, but he knew he would. "Wherever it went." He said. She didn't need to ask to know what he was talking about. So instead she turned away again.
"Dinner's ready." She said and slipped from the room. With a grimace of pain he lifted himself to a stand and followed her. He felt a wave of disorientation as he saw her go down a flight of stairs. He could not remember going to an upstairs level, and had been sure he was on the ground. Then again, you don't remember even going to that room in the first place, so stop fucking whining, He told himself. Be damned if that wasn't one of Taisha's many philosiphies. During the move he had broken one of the wedding gifts, an antique dresser. He and Taisha had been moving the damned thing with no help, as they knew no one yet, and he'd stumbled on one of those blasted chickens.
Needless to say it went down, and caved in. He had turned red, sure that Taisha would be stricken, which just went to show how little he still knew about the woman he'd married. Instead of bawling, Taisha had laughed. "Don't worry about it, Zee." She said through tears of laughter. "Life's too short for whining." She'd kissed him then and led him inside, where the dresser had been promptly forgotten. Mayhap I should break things more often, he thought with a smile before he was reminded of where he was and exactly why. The grief threatened to break him again, and he fended it off for a few moments before he sat down, hard.
The woman came rushing back up the stairs, sure he'd died. Could anybody handle as much as he had and live? He was not dead, but by the state he was in, Myranda thought he may as well be. He did not sob, but tears rolled silently down the front of his eyes, and his breathing hitched violently. She felt a wave of pity and went to him. "Come on now, let it out." She said and put a hand on his shoulder. "You're entitled to it." Zeck said nothing, but he was very grateful. Her touch was warm and motherly, but it would have been better were it Taisha...
But it was not, and Taisha was gone. He may feel her yet, but for now he needed to proceed. Zeck Liotis was not a religious man, and never had been, but he thought he would see her again in time. So for now he would fill in the time between as best he could. He wiped away the salty streams from his face with the sleeves of a shirt that must have been put on him in that blank state, and stood again. "Sorry..." He mumbled.
"Oh, shut up!" Myranda scolded him. "If anything I should apologize for leaving you up here by yourself. Can you take the stairs?"
Zeck nodded, and she guided him forward anyways. He decided to humor her further and allowed her to assist him down the steps. The smell of chicken and potatoes grew stronger and he realized he may have been hungry after all. His body ached terribly, particularly his head, arm and legs, but his stomach needed food. He was again curious about how long he'd been here. He didn't know. But he did know where he was going next.
He was going to track the damned monster that had done this, and Zeck was going to put a bullet in it's brain.
Well, I hope that was enough to hook everyone's interest. Don't worry all, this won't be a very long story, unlike everything else I seem to write. I'll give it five chapters at the most, and that's really pushing it. I'll get on two as soon as I can. Thanks.