A Chanced Encounter
The night was peaceful, not a sound was made in the vast
darkness, and the moon was but a thin sliver in the sky barely able to shine
upon the small figure running to the canyons. His cloak bellowing in the wind,
boots thudding rapidly as he sprinted through the maze of rock walls, too afraid
to look behind his shoulder.
“They’ll be sure to get me,” he huffed, jumping over a boulder in the way and continuing on his pursuit his grip tightening on the package he carried, he stopped for moment to catch his breath, and then he heard them, the clanking armor and the dull roar of horses thundering hooves over the ground was unmistakable, no doubt they would be upon him any moment now, so he did the only thing possible, taking the ends of his package tightly in his mouth he climbed up the wall before him finding a ledge to hide on, he listened they were getting closer he heard the jingle of heavy chain mail and thudding footsteps coming closer, he hid in the shadows when he saw several torches right below him, the light reflecting off the soldier’s silver chain mail armor and the heads of their arrows, he dared a look over the ledge, six or seven Persian soldiers on horseback were directly below him, one soldier brought down his chain mask and maneuvered his horse to one soldier with gold trimming in his armor.
“General the canyons only narrow from here,” he said, the presumed General nodded and dismounted the others following his example.
“We continue on foot, you there keep back with the horses, the rest of us shall continue forward,” he watched as the horses were tied to stakes planted on the ground and as the line of soldier’s and torches moved farther down the canyon, only a lone soldier standing guard of the horses. He looked everywhere in a desperate attempt to find any other way out but to his dismay there was no way out, the walls of stone were too tall to scale any farther.
“The gods must find this amusing,” he hissed, he watched the soldier sit on a boulder beside the horses planting his torch in the ground, then removing his mask and helmet, setting them on the ground he was a young for a soldier, and an advantage to the one hiding away, he watched as the boy had become occupied with sharpening his arrows and he slowly climbed down the wall, the light from the torch shone brightly should the boy turn and look up he would be finished, but thankfully he made it to the ground and snuck to the horse closest to him gently untying the animal he began to lead it away then that familiar jingle of chain mail returned.
“Oh god’s help me,” he whispered and turned to see in the distance a line of torches coming back, as quick as he could he put his foot in the stirrup and jumped onto the saddle.
“He is here! Quick he is escaping!” he heard the boy say followed by the thunder of footsteps
“Ya!” he yelled digging his heels into the horse’s sides and the animal launched forward into a full gallop, then he heard the hiss of an arrow flying right past his ear and land on the ground, the entrance of the canyon was up ahead he urged the horse to go faster, they exited and rode down a dirt path going around the mountains and canyons, the sound of chainmail fading in the cloud of dust he left behind, once he was deep within the mountain range certain that he was out of danger, he let go of the horse and let it graze on the slight vegetation nearby, he huffed under his breath.
“Why have the Gods forsaken me?” he mumbled.
“Only because you have contravened their laws,” said a voice…extremely feminine by the sound of it.
“Who goes there?” he said.
“Foreign to your kind, but you are no less deserving of punishment,” she said, he looked around and saw that the horse had disappeared.
“Where have you taken my horse?” he shouted.
“This creature is by no means yours,” she said.
“Show yourself! Do not act with such cowardice!” he shouted and a sudden flash of light blinded him and a figure appeared.
“No God is a coward! And should never be addressed as such,” the light faded and he saw a beautiful woman dressed in a deep blue Greek toga, a golden sash across her midsection, gold jewels and broaches adorned the toga, and her silky brown hair was tied back in gold chains but her icy blue eyes burned with fury.
“Who are you?” he said.
“Typical of a Persian to not recognize a goddess when they see one,” she scoffed walking closer to him.
“I am Virbessa, goddess of animal bondage, and sole protector of that relation,” she said
“Forgive me if I do not quite understand what you mean,” he said, her brow furrowed in frustration.
“This horse here,” she pointed and magically the horse reappeared before him.
“His master had raised this creature since he was but a foal,” she said the horse walked to her and she gently petted its face.
“Animals may appear dull to humans, but when they bond whether it be with a mate or a human friend, that bond is sacred to them, and therefore must be protected,” she said glaring back at him
“Which is why you must be punished,” she said.
“Please my lady-”
“You do not address a goddess!” she said.
“I beg you I will do anything you ask!” he cried, there was a moment of silence as he looked up to the goddess with pleading eyes, but she only glared back.
“What is your name?” she said, he let out a deep breath.
“Azdaha,” he said.
“Azdaha, how Persian,” she spat in disgust.
“Do you know the meaning of your namesake?” he shook his head.
“In your brutish language it means dragon,” she raised her hand towards him.
“And such a beast you shall be,” she said a light emanated from her palm blinding him once more, but when the light subsided the horse and the goddess where gone…and he…was a dragon…Azdaha cried in despair.
“I beg for your mercy, Goddess of the Greeks!” he cried.
“There is nothing that you can do to convince me otherwise, you have broken my law and must be punished for it,” he heard her voice but did not see her.
“Please I will do anything,” he said.
“Anything now?” she asked and she appeared again.
“And being a Persian is any different?” she snapped.
“You savages only wish to claim land for yourselves, violence and bloodshed are all that your thick minds can comprehend,” she scolded, the massive beast drew his large head back as if he were struck.
“We Greeks do train for warfare but we hold great respect for our knowledge and politics, what do you have to show pride for other than your blood lust?” the dragon looked down ashamed
“Just as I assumed,” she turned heel to make her leave.
“Wait,” she turned to face the beast and he held a small parcel in his gigantic claw, he held it out for her.
“This is my most prized possession, it may offer some insight,” he said nervously, Virbessa looked down at the parcel, and then back at the beast.
“Do you expect me to change my mind?”
“That would be my greatest hope, but if you do not, I would be content by the fact that I tried,” he said, she studied his face finding only hope in reptilian eyes, she took the parcel in her hands, and unwrapped the cloth, once it fell away she gasped and looked back up at the dragon.
“Where did you get this?” she said uniquely surprised.
“It belonged to my master, the General’s son…” he looked down.
“My father,” he whispered.
“Is that why was he’s hunting you? You’re a runaway slave?” she asked the beast shook it’s head
“This is something the general bestowed to my father, who in turn gave it to me, now the general wishes for it back” he looked away shamefully.
“Seeing as he believed that such a treasure should not belong to a house servant,” Virbessa looked back down at her hands, not believing what she was holding…something the God’s wouldn’t even dare to steal…A fragment of Zeus’s lightning bolt.
“How did they come across it?”
“It is a mystery, not even my father knew,” Virbessa looked to the dragon.
“I must admit Azdaha, this is an amazing discovery, but how is this supposed to alter my decision?” he looked up at her dead in the eye.
“Because I wish to bring it back to my mother’s grave, as my final act of freedom to her,” she only stared at him, urging him to go on.
“I was a delivery boy for my grandfather for since I was eight years old, bringing paper and gifts to anyone he ordered to, and some of those whom I delivered to me gave me a small payment,” Azdaha smiled at the memory, flashing his sharp teeth.
“I saved every single one I was given till I was thirteen, and I paid for my mother’s freedom and sent her back home to Athens,” he looked back at the Goddess.
“My father, Gods rest his soul, was executed when it was found out that I was his son, I stayed by his holding cell the night before he was to be killed, then he told me where I would find the lightning bolt, he said to bury it with my mother, seeing as she is the one who should have it,” he said Virbessa glanced once more at the fragment and placed a hand over it, energy pulsing beneath her fingertips.
“You wish to respect your father’s last act of kindness to your mother,” she said more as a statement than a question, Azdaha nodded.
“Even if it be my last action here on this earth,” he said proudly, she looked at the beast.
“While I still am moved by your explanation, I refuse to allow anyone disrespect any law,” she said Azdaha’s eyes filled with worry.
“However, I will aid you in your mission,” with a swipe of her hand, he was standing on his two legs again, he looked at his reinstituted limbs and then to the Goddess.
“Thank you, a thousand blessing be-” she held up her palm to stop him.
“My laws will be respected, the minute that you’ve completed your task you will retain the form of a dragon for the rest of your days,” the excitement in his eyes was replaced with determination
“As long as if I do what needs to be done I will be content,” for the first time the Goddess smiled and she gave another wave of her hand, a blinding light following, when his eyes adapted to his surroundings they were on a small plane near the mountain side he looked around and then back to Virbessa.
“Why are we here?” Virbessa looked blankly at him.
“I said that I would aid you in your mission and I have,” she turned and pointed to a stone cave on the mountain side, guided by the moonlight he walked inside, there were some distinct Greek markings etched onto the wall over a mound of white marble stones, it brought tears to his eyes as he moved closer, glancing at the writing then turning back to Virbessa.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand what is written,” he said she gave him a comforting smile
“Would you…please translate?” he said through shaking breaths, she nodded and turned her attention to the markings.
“Freedom stolen, Freedom returned, a mother became, her servitude no longer weighing upon her back, may she be granted safe passage to eternity,” Azdaha closed his eyes tightly, and let out a shuddering breath.
“Thank you,” he said.
“The parcel?” he said holding out his hand, the lightning bolt appeared in his hand once again wrapped, Azdaha gripped the fragment tightly in his fist then knelt beside the mound of stones and placed his hand over them.
“I only wished I could have seen you as a free woman,” he whispered, he carefully removed a few stones and placed them gently on the ground, he looked down at the bundle in his hand and unwrapped it, the pulsing power sent waves of warmth over his hands as he clenched it tightly
“It’s father’s dying wish that you have this,” he said to the grave, and ever so carefully he placed the fragment where the stones were, and replaced the stones gently caressing them.
“May you have safe passage mother,” he took a moment of silence and then whipping away his tears he stood up and faced the Goddess.
“I am ready to accept your sentence,” he said, she waved her hand, and he was back in his gigantic scaly hide.
“I do not regret my punishment, but I feel I have deprived this world of a magnificent person,”
“The only difference is that I stand on four legs and my skin is rough as chainmail,” he said smiling, the Goddess smiled back she placed her palm on Azdaha’s nose.
“You will do good I am certain of it,” she said “Despite your predicament, I see a bright future for you,” she said.
“I forever thank you for your help I only hope one day I will repay the favor,”
“Come out from there!” said a voice they both turned their heads to face the source, sure enough torches lit the mouth of the concave.
“I hear your voice! Come out and return what is rightfully mine!” the general said, Virbessa moved to stepped forward, but Azdaha stepped in her way.
“He cannot see me, and he has underestimated me for far too long,”
“Come out and face your fate!” slowly Azdaha crept forward into their view, Virbessa heard the horses neigh violently and the men cry out in fear.
“Now you listen to me, my father has willed that it stays here then here it shall stay,” he growled
“YOU DEMAND NOTHING!” he roared, the men retreated, the sound of hooves thudding the ground rang in the distance over the plane but the general held steadfast in his place.
“I am no longer your slave, and I will ensure that you respect my father’s wish and my mother’s grave,”
“I could care less should they both rot in Duzakh!” the general exclaimed, the anger that built up in Azdaha was burning through his entire being.
“I shall not even consider the respects of that bastard and his whore!” the general said, that was the last straw, roaring with all his might, Azdaha sent a torrent of fire from his mouth straight at the general, feeling satisfied with the anger being expelled from his body, he closed his massive jaws, only to see a pile of ash and melted metal on the ground.
“Impressive,” Virbessa said and she walked before him, he seemed genuinely amazed
“I never had the courage to stand up to him, at least till I was something stronger than him,” he said Virbessa smiled and placed her palm fondly on his nose.
“You have and always will be stronger than him,” she said he smiled his teeth flashing in the moonlight she placed a kiss on his nose and then stepped back.
“I bid you farewell Azdaha, and a thousand blessing,” she said and she disappeared with a flash of light, the dragon turned to go back into the cave, but he saw that the etching on the wall was now words in gold on the marble stone, he smiled and lay down to sleep keeping watch for his mother’s grave ensuring that she be left in peace.here ...