Dragon of Savon
For Damon, who, I hope just may enjoy this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Savon drew a deep breath in through his mouth, contemplating what he'd just done. His heart raced painfully in his small chest, a quickening rhythmic drum. The stone walls of the castle were eerily quiet, for now. Savon was seized by a pang of guilt, and paused against a cold pillar of granite.
"I am a thief" he lamented.
The teen looked down into his dirt covered palms, which cradled the treasure he had just absconded. A tiny winged creature, a mere hatchling, yawned sleepily and looked lovingly up at Savon. The infant was gold in color, flecked with black stripes, and its eyes were sepia toned brown-- highly reptilian markings, Savon knew from his previous studies of dragons. Yet this was the first time he had ever touched one of the sacred animals, most people of his economic stature would never know the joy of holding one in their hands.
Savon had been born to Emoryra, a woman of ill repute, in a small woodland village. It was a nameless, drab place, one from which Savon longed desperately to leave behind him. All his life, the hopeless bedraggled people of that town had told Savon that he did not fit in well with them.
"The boy has too much energy, he needs discipline" they would tell Emoryra, annoyed. Emoryra disagreed. She would simply look into the cool blue eyes of her son and pray that his destiny would bring him elsewhere. He had no father nor any prospects, but she wished the best for her son. It was far too late for her.
Savon thought of smuggling the wee beast back into the shoddy run-down shack that was his home. It would be an awesome curiosity to show to his younger brother. Oh how Koylin would shriek with joy! But alas, the Imperial guards would be seeking him now. Savon fancied he could hear the rattling clank of their metal breastplates and spears running down the halls of the stone chamber.
Though it was perhaps unwise, Savon did not quite fear the guards. Instead, he nearly hoped that they would give chase, for Savon himself was a most skilled runner. His speed was never matched by any boy or man in the village. He recalled winning every competition the schoolyard had, the sweet, doe eyed teacher telling him he'd make a fine knight. If only the underclass were allowed to enter training for knightdom.
Savon was momentarily lost in his thoughts, until he heard someone running down the long corridor. Fearful that it may be a guard, he quickly ducked behind an ugly old tapestry affixed to the wall. It was made of exceedingly rough fabric and smelled of mold, but Savon stayed there for a long while, hoping the person would pass.
He cautiously peered out from the tapestry, expecting a watchmen of some sort. Savon was quite startled to see a thin girl nearly his age. She was quite pretty, with a pale serious face and a flowing river of blond hair beneath a blue headpiece. The girl was busy affixing a metal hook to the nearby window and preparing to climb out with a very long rope. She was either completely mad or she knew very little of architecture, Savon decided, as he watched her gingerly place the hook to the edge of the sill.
Savon knew it was a terrible mistake, and the hook would tumble to the ground, rope and all; as soon as any weight was applied to the hook. But it was useless attempting to stop her- as the girl had very eagerly swung out the window already. As expected, the little silver hook gave way and the girl instantly screamed as she felt a loss of tension in her lifeline. She would fall to her death.
"Help! Help me, someone please!" the girl shrieked, in a very lovely, but loud voice.
With that sort of noise, Savon knew, the guards would be headed straight for this spot. Savon sighed heavily through his flared nostrils and rushed over to the open window. The dragon knocked from Savon's grip ,flew away, frantic from the high pitched noises. Savon knew it would come back to him once it felt the danger was over. Animals were prone to nervousness. Cold night air streamed in from the open window. He threw himself out, arms dangling out to save the young maiden.
She was only a few feet below, white knuckles gripping the ridges of the stonework. When she saw Savon, she screamed even louder; with her eyes wild and pleading, but he immediately gestured for her to be quiet. Savon pulled on the girl's arm, hoping he could get her inside quickly. He begged her not to make such a fuss. It was no use, as she cried out the entire time.
Savon then distinctly heard men shouting in the corridor inside. The guards had learned of the treacherous theft. In a blind panic, and seeing no other option, Savon jumped out the window entirely, letting go of the girl's hand. The awkward tingle of weightlessness dipped into his stomach for a few seconds, and then he hit the cloth partition of a tent a few stories below. Savon gasped with a thudding pressure. The breath had been knocked out of him from the fall.
The small golden dragon fluttered down next to him, easing its wing-beats as a delicate butterfly. It chirped at him and nudged him. It caressed the entire side of its head along Savon's hand, as a small pet cat would. Savon turned his head to inspect his young familiar, finding it in satisfactory condition. He struggled to turn over and climb to his feet. The imperial guards would be coming soon. He needed to flee, now.
Savon looked around, observing his surroundings. The palace loomed upwards, with its constricting cold walls, and the village lay to the east just beyond. Only a dozen yards away to the west lay an ancient forest, heavily crowded with pine boughs and young ferns. It would provide good cover. Savon leaped from the tent where he had fallen and closed the distance with very few strides. The wind swept by his face, and his feet seemed to never touch the ground.
The trees were massively thick, and strung heavily with wispy curtains of gray moss. The air inside seemed thick and humid. Strange birds were calling amid the darkness in echoing choruses. Savon had just entered the edge of the great wood, when he was suddenly struck sharply on the shin.
"Hey- move stupid!" A female voice demanded
"Hello?" Savon inquired
"Get down, you fool!" the voice hissed.
Savon fell to the forest floor just as a rain of arrows struck the trunk of a nearby tree.
"Who's there?" he called into the darkness.
"A friend, if you must know. I'll explain everything later. But now, silence, the guards will be here soon."
Sure enough, as soon as the voice had stated its bit, the clanking metal near the edge of the wood foretold of the guards fastly coming upon them.
Savon stayed quite still under a prehistoric-looking fern, cradling the tiny animal to his chest. The dragon seemed to sense Savon's needs, and stayed perfectly silent. Savon listened to the guards creep ever closer, and watched as a metal-clad boot set down only two or three paces from his hiding place. He dared not breathe, and his heart seemed to thud in his ears.
"Where did she go?" One of the guards shouted in a booming voice.
A second man answered "I saw her enter this forest- steady men, she can't have gone far. Beat back the bushes- burn the whole forest down if we must. We'll catch her- and she knows the penalty for crossing us"
A third man laughed heartily "I reckon we'll have some fun with her first" he snorted, like a filthy hog.
Just then, the girl that Savon had seen scale out the window jumped out from her hiding place. Her blue hat tumbled off, revealing a wild head of blond hair. The first man was so startled that he had no time to react. In an instant, she had drawn his own sword from his belt-hilt and heaved it mightily- severing the man's head from his body. The body stood for a few seconds, dripping with deep maroon fluids, and then the knees gave way and the entire leviathan fell to the ground with a metallic boom.
The girl swung around to the other two men, who had now drawn their own swords in turn. One attempted to engage her in battle right away, but she was too quick. He lost an arm first, howling with rage- and going in to attack again, he was then stabbed through his armpit directly to his heart.
The third man was equally disposed of as easily, as it took only one swift slash with the sword to fell him, and then it was all over.
"We must move quickly" said the girl, wiping her sword down on the hanging mosses. "Take his sword, in case we need it. Do you know how to use one?" She asked impatiently
"I'm just a commoner" he admitted. "I've never been trained in any of the sacred arts."
"And yet you have a dragon? I can only assume he was stolen, then." She sighed, as if annoyed. "Well then, I have my work cut out for me. I figured as much." The girl moved and spoke very quickly- shoving Savon in front of her and herding him along the path. "Hold onto that sword by the handle- it's not a toy!"
Savon didn't like this one bit. It was his ultimate dream to obtain a magical beast, the opening requirement to enter knight's training. Finally he had the creature in his hands, one step closer to actually becoming someone. He had worked very hard to steal that dragon, and he wasn't about to let some little waif of a girl boss him around.
"Hold on one minute now- who are you?" he turned around to face her, quivering slightly, for she had just killed three imperial guards without remorse.
"Ah- yes, well my name is Aloise. And who might the two of you be?" she referred to the boy and the dragon.
"Okay. I'm called Savon. But I haven't named the dragon yet."
"He's got to have a name." she said it in a prim, commanding voice.
"Okay then his name...is... Excelcor."
"What kind of name is that?" she wrinkled her nose indignantly.
"It's his name, alright!" Savon shouted at the girl.
"Alright then, no need to get crabby. Here- let's take this path up the mountain. I want to show you something."
They climbed laboriously over mossy slopes and wet rocks. The trees here were stunted, mountain trees. Savon noticed the subtle changes to the landscape. He panted at every break, exhausted. The girl seemed tireless, jumping gracefully from rock to rock.
"Have you come here before?"
"Of course. I have a secret hiding place here" she swung her arms around the smooth trunk of a sycamore, waiting for him to catch up. She rolled her eyes. "I never do anything without a plan".
"What are you implying? I had a plan, it just didn't involve rescuing you from certain death. I'd have been fine if you'd picked another night to pull your little stunt." Savon scolded.
"How dare you? If I hadn't been here, you'd be a corpse now, by the hand of those guards. You don't even know how to use a sword! You're completely helpless." Aloise countered.
Both of them stopped, and watched as the dragon lifted its head and began cooing in an adorable way. The poor creature licked its lips and held its mouth open as a young bird does. It cried hungrily at Savon.
"Come," said Aloise "I have food and provisions at the cabin, you can feed the creature there and then we'll go our separate ways."
The two climbed the rest of the hill, finding a modest log cabin tucked away in a cozy notch. The door was unlocked, but the interior of the cabin was neat and well cared for. The cabin opened to a small kitchen with a hand pump for water. A bare wood floor was nicely decorated with cheerful woven rugs, and a small table with two chairs was set by the front window. A ladder led to a tiny loft, which held a few small beds.
Aloise quickly had a fire going in the iron stove. A kettle of water was set on the stove. She then rummaged through the cupboards and found some white powder in a glass jar. She poured some warm water into a bowl and then added a few spoonfuls of the powder.
When the bowl was set before the dragon, it immediately began to drink the fluid. Savon watched happily. He hadn't quite known how to feed a dragon. It was true, he didn't have a plan. Poor Excelcor could have starved.
"What was that powder you gave him, Aloise?"
"Sugar" she answered plainly, as if he ought to have known.
Aloise grabbed a very large bit of parchment from behind one of the chairs. It seemed old, and was marked all over with pen and ink sketches. Upon closer inspection, it appeared to be a map of some sort.
"Here." Aloise pointed to a shadowy section of the scape. "This is where I'd like to go. It's a place called Palmetto Ridge. It's a completely independent country. In fact, I think you'd like it too. It's very different there. There aren't any class systems, anyone can choose their own fate, no matter which economic group they were born into."
"It's a fairy tale. There's no such place." Savon corrected her, disappointedly looking away.
"But is it?" Aloise asked mysteriously. "I've seen it myself- I've been there."
"You're not kidding?"
"No. And if you'd like, you and the dragon can come with me. We can be of use to each other- You can escort me on the voyage and I can show you the way. You could be my servant- and help me, like a page boy. You don't want to stick around here- running from the guards and imperial constables. Wouldn't it be nice to be free- completely free?"
Savon thought about it. He had longed for this many years now, a way out of his present circumstances. Sneaking into the hatchery that night, he could only think of obtaining a dragon for himself- but had never planned exactly how he could enroll in knight's training without the proper lineage. For what Aloise said was true- this country was strictly guided by an unyielding class system.
He would always be a poor commoner, unable to own property or wield weapons. Perhaps this legendary place could be the ray of light he had prayed for.
"Yes, alright. I'll come with you." Savon decided, "but as your equal only. If we're going to a country without class systems then they stop right here, right now. I refuse to be anyone's servant from now on."
Savon watched as Aloise again prepared the sugar mixture for Excelcor, cradling him in her arms like a puppy. Excelcor watched her intensely with his hypnotic brown eyes. Utilizing a glass bottle they had borrowed from the cabin, she nursed the tiny reptile. She had grown rather fond of the dragon in the past six day's journey, and secretly hoped to own her own dragon someday. In Palmetto Ridge, perhaps ladies were also allowed to school as knights. She stared into the small smoking camp fire, wondering how Savon and his familiar would fare in the new country. Savon was quite unskilled, she judged, but his ambition was noble.
Sparse patches of sky revealed through the tiny forest leaves began to glow with a golden illumination. Dawn was near. Morning's approach would mean the trio would begin moving again.
"Well. We'd best be on our way then" Aloise said in her perfect speech.
Savon stretched his back with his scrawny arms up, his hands balled into fists. "Another hour or so." He yawned. It had been cold last night in the mountains, and his body was stiff.
"Errgh! No, we leave at dawn. Which means we go now." Aloise insisted, stamping her foot on the forest floor. Her bejeweled blue slippers kicked up a torrent of butterflies. Spring had come and gone quickly, leaving a steady litter of discarded pink and white blossoms on the ground. Birds resounded in unseen cacophonies beyond the bushes.
Savon rose slowly and began to follow the headstrong girl, down a well lit path through the woods. The trees were straight and narrow here, with silvery gray bark. Birches. A nearby stream flowed in the same direction in which they were walking. That meant they were finally heading downhill.
"I'm sick of mountains" Complained Savon breathlessly.
"Really? I quite like them. I played all over those mountains in my childhood. I remember visiting the cabin and pretending I lived there, it was great fun."
"Who does live there then?" Savon turned his head in puzzlement.
"No one. The cabin is mine. My father had it built for me on my birthday when I was eight." Aloise said it so matter-of-fact-ly that Savon thought surely she must be joking.
"Your father?" He repeated.
"That's right. The King." She confirmed. "I am Princess Aloise."
Savon stood before her with his mouth open in a wide gape. A shock of recognition ran up his spine.
"But wait- why were you escaping that night? I -I had assumed you were an indentured servant girl ...or...or a prisoner. What could you possibly have to run away from?" Savon stuttered out.
"But I was a prisoner- so to speak" She defended. "I was born into a life of unfair servitude, every decision from my first waking moment was already made for me. That's no life."
She ran ahead of him, pretending she had something in her eyes. From behind her, Savon could see that she was furiously wiping at them with the back of her blue sleeves.
They entered a broad green field, sloping gently upward and overgrown with gentle waving grasses. Long weeds tickled Savon's arms, and upon reaching the top of the hill, they could see a great city rising up just below the valley. Tiny panes of glass reflected from churches, homes, and shops; they sparkled brightly in the morning light.
The two approached ever quicker, and paused before a large iron gate, surrounded by high stone walls. Savon slowly lifted his gaze up the dizzying height; perched at the top of the gate, a massive brown eagle stared back at him.
"Halt- Who goes there?" cried the bird in a crackly old man's voice.
Neither Savon nor Aloise had seen a talking animal before, so they could not help but remain silent and dumbfounded.
"Didn't you hear me?" The bird shouted louder this time "WHO GOES THERE?"
Finally Aloise found the courage to speak deep within her stomach. "P...Please um... sir- I am Aloise and this is Savon, we have come to Palmetto Ridge as refugees. I am a skilled worker and Savon hopes to enter training for a Knight."
"Has he a dragon?" the bird asked dubiously.
"Yes sir." Savon held Excelcor out in his hands to the bird's sharp golden eyes.
"Alright then" The bird flew from its perch, exposing his fantastic large wings, and sending a chained weight below him upwards, which opened the gate enough for them to walk through. Once they had passed onto a gravel street, the bird reclaimed his perch, closing the gate once more.
"That was unusual. I suppose he was some sort of watchman. " Savon whispered to Aloise.
"This place is like a fairytale. I feel as if I'd just walked beyond the curtain of reality, onto the crisp pages of fantasy."
They walked together, through the narrow bricked streets lined with quaint shop fronts. Window displays beckoned to early morning shoppers- with delicacies ranging from breads and cheeses to exotic orchids.
Aloise paused before one such display, bewitched by the brightly colored jewels and fine fabrics laid out before her. She had been raised with fine things always, and was not used to the confinement of the same shoes and clothing for six days. In the palace, she had received a milk bath and fresh dresses every morning. This experience was quite different.