The Hero's Apprentice

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Ch. 25 Dragon Slayers

Rye left prison madder than all the people who lost the lottery that day. He could sense his spell on Walter fading and realized that he must have found Cro, and Cro had of course declared him the victor of the duel. It was affirmation that Walter was currently of higher mystic skill than Rye and therefore had a right to live in Ando and to be there. Rye marched through town asking about any place where he could acquire knowledge. He found a few places. A school, but they wouldn’t let him in cause he wasn’t a student. A computer lab but Rye couldn’t operate the thing and got shooed away when he tried to read over people who were getting info they wanted. Finally Rye found a library and was amused about the number of books available.

Ryes’ English improved through his reading. There had been books in prison. But they were confiscated when he tried using pages to draw runes and create spells. Here Rye was nobody as long as he wasn’t loud and he left when the lady at the entrance told him to. Rye spent evenings and mornings looking for the things he’d read about, and of course food and the basic necessities. He had to commit his crimes far away to avoid being detected. And also had to wear a disguise when he saw his picture popping up out of no where on walls and on sheets of paper someone had posted everywhere. Rye couldn’t believe how clever Walters land was. Being bad was impossible in public. You still had to do all your business somewhere hidden like the forest of Ando or you had to do nothing bad like everybody else.

Rye hit a wall when he found that nuclear weapons were banned, and even if he got one, getting such a large thing to Ando was impossible even if he spent years preparing a spell or taking individual parts. This wouldn’t work. Rye needed a simple plan. The gun had been simple. Just foiled because Walter happened to be in the right place at the right time. If Rye was early to the party, then he could make the rules. Rye would go back to Ando early, and make it sure it was when Walter wasn’t there. He also needed something small from Walters’ world to take with him. There were many candidates. A smaller bomb, various poisons, and then Rye saw something amusing. While looking up detonators, Rye found a reference to a branch of creatures from Walters’ world. Extinct now, but millions of years ago the mightiest creatures of ocean, land, and sky. Rye delighted in these. Who needed to make these in his world if he could just capture one or steal and egg and raise it to do his wish? Such a massive creature would be difficult for magic to kill, and even more so if Rye trained and made it immune to it. It was a gamble and would cost more magic than Rye had ever used in his life. But it was Walter, no one else had ever defeated Rye, and if Walter couldn’t beat this, than no one could.

Rye found a few choice species he’d like to obtain if his travel spell back in time did work. It would take many tries probably. The secret was to keep trying until you got it right. Ryes’ spell to send Walter home had been countered by a time spell. And one made by accident under the impression that doing something was better than doing nothing. Walter had no more luck on his side. No army in Ando could deal with one of these. It would terrorize more than a thousand spells, and the people would surrender and submit, or become food for Ryes’ new favorite toy and pet. The weeks storing up magic and trying were agonizing, but Rye got closer each time. And found that as he finally mastered time travel, that each time period was a different world if enough time went by. Many diverse people, animals, and even weather conditions happened in Walters’ world. Rye eventually did reach somewhere between the Jurassic and Cretaceous period as he had written down in his spell book. Along with all the other tips he had on raising and caring for animals so they would be obedient and loyal. Rye was proud of all the leaps he was making in magic, and taming beasts as minions was one he was sure would never be surpassed. It would take years to hatch, train, and raise one of these if Rye managed to catch it. But Walter found one he had absolutely hoped he found. Allosaurus it was called in the book. Large, fast, and very dangerous. The egg was Ryes’ treasure, and worse he took three because he knew personality was unpredictable sometimes. Two would either be too stubborn or too tame. The third the perfect blend of ferocity and obedience. Too much of either and the creature would be useless. Plus the eggs didn’t necessarily hatch. Nothing ever went perfectly according to plan.

But Rye found he liked this land. No humans, just test subjects for him to learn more about magic than any wizard could ever dream. And no Walter or Cro. They wouldn’t find him here. He was far away, his aura and scent all over Walters entire worlds history. He could be anywhere? And Rye patiently raised Wiv, Sla, and Drago. Wiv was mean, Rye used him to learn ways to stop Sla and Drago. Sla became obedient, but always wanted to be fed, she never did anything unless fed. Drago was the one. He always obeyed and Rye rewarded him always to encourage the behavior. Drago grew larger each year. And soon Rye had him taking him throughout the land. Together they were unbeatable. Oh there were other dinosaurs that tried, but together they slew them all and soon there weren’t many left or that were too far away who dared challenge them. And Drago was magical. His skin was spell resistant, but non-magical fire did harm him. He could be tricked, but Rye had commands to fix such problems a clever wizard might try on the creatures mind or senses. And he didn’t let anything harm his master. Rye was small and it was only when Drago was off drinking or feeding that Rye was vulnerable to packs of smaller and strategic dinosaurs. Rye usually could handle himself and often used the smaller dinosaurs for his experiments.

Walter had shot Rye and Rye suddenly realized just how close it had been for him. Walter could’ve killed him, and death was something that had to be subdued if he was to beat Walter. If he didn’t die, if this plan didn’t work, he could just try again, and each time he would relish it. Walters summoning was a blessing Rye realized. He had Drey, but soon Rye would have everything. Walters’ little adventure he was enjoying so much was about to enter a whole new level of play. And Rye had the things that Walter and all of Ando would be powerless to stop. Walter would die, and Rye would reign forever if possible. Rye was finally beginning to have success in stealing magic out of his subjects, and he was assimilating their power, their strengths, their instincts. And he was enjoying the power. He became paler, darker, and soon the only thing not afraid of his form was Drago.

Soon Rye decided it was time to go home. And not just any home. He’d go when Walter wasn’t there. After he’d taken them to prison. Walter and the bullet holed Rye would be in his world. Rye called Drago and performed a shrinking spell. Originally Rye had wanted to raise the three delights in Ando, but hiding them would be too difficult, and they’d get far too hungry for sure. Rye had practiced shrinking on many dinosaurs because it was a trick they couldn’t do anything about. It was fun and Rye would do it so he could one day use it to bring Drago to Ando if he got too big to take there.

Soon they were back in Ando. And Rye restored Drago to his original size, which was full grown at that point. He was as tall as the academy. Maybe he’d smash it just for kicks? Rye had decided a staff and hat were just a bother. But he still carried his knife, wand, and spellbook. They hadn’t failed in battle. Only the gun and his staff that had failed to beat Walter who had somehow acquired a new oak one.

Rye found he had landed them just a little east of where Ando was in a valley. So Drago was taking in the scenery and would need to feed soon. Rye started things by finding a farmers field and told Drago it was meal time. Drago devoured four sheep and the farmer was killed by Ryes’ knife. The duo continued this little exercise until Ando where he hoped to usurp the throne and make the villagers feed Drago while he organized things and prepared a trap in case Walter came back and Cro organized defensive measures, which were about to be tested in an unprecedented way.

Cro and Drey had returned to the castle and hoped Walter was having success in Gant. Cro sensed Rye immediately because he was riding something big and booming with more magic than a giant. Cro ran to the academy and summoned all the wizards, students, and knights outside. When Rye entered town on Drago nobody recognized him. But the danger was apparent and the wizards began firing flames and the soldiers fired arrows. The magic fire tickled Drago and Rye was repelling it to keep his vision clear. The arrows couldn’t quite pierce his skin, and Rye just let Drago shield him.

“Kill Drago.”

Drago began what he had been trained to do in order to get rewarded and began attacking anything within the reach of his massive feet and teeth. Drey looked from the castle roof and knew what to do. She pulled off her ring kissed it and said Walter.

Walter was preparing to find Rye and kill him in a place he’d have overwhelming advantage in when he suddenly found he was being called by Drey. It was faint, but Walter sensed his Drey needed him. Walter told the time spear to take him to Ando three years from now to just after he and Rye had been sent to prison. It worked and Walter started sprinting to the castle.

Walter arrived and found the village was fine and all was well. Walter knew though that he might just be in a commercial break, and the scary part was about to come back on any minute. Walter got to the castle and climbed the stairs. Then he sensed Rye and ran up the stairs even faster. He got the Drey just after she had called him with the ring. Walter called out to Drey and she ran to him. Walter was still a little uneasy because Drey had had second thoughts only a moment ago for him, even though it was three years later.

“You called?”

“What’s wrong?”

“You told me you couldn’t do this in Gant.” Dreys’ guilt came back.

“I’m sorry, you had just saved me and somehow I was still afraid.”

“I got lucky, your fear was rational.”

“I want to make up, but first outside.”

Walter saw the Allosaurus and realized this was impossible. But not in his world.

“I have to go handle this Drey.” Walter exclaimed.

“I’m not afraid, if you die you did more than any of us.”

Walter kissed her cheek and said to tell the wizards and knights to flee in every direction so the Allosaurus as he called it would do less damage to people. Houses could get rebuilt. People were harder to put back together. Drey said she understood and Walter spoke to the time spear, vanished, and was home again in his room, which he realized might keep happening unless this really was his ace in the hole for Rye.

Rye was surprised when the soldiers and wizards got orders to retreat and flee in separate ways. Drago couldn’t chase them all so Rye ordered him to destroy the academy. Drago rammed and smashed it. No one was inside so the real damage was only done in the library. But the books would simply have to be restacked. An annoyance, but fixable. Drey was worried Walter wouldn’t get back in time but then saw he was back and had appeared with five men in green, round hats, with instruments she couldn’t even begin to guess the use of.

“Listen Special Ops. This movie scene has an Allosaurus attacking the village. You are to run down these stairs, exit the castle and kill it with just the five of you. Don’t care how you do it just kill it, and kill it fast. The robot dinosaur has limited power time and is already destroying the model village. I’ll pay each of you three million dollars to do this scene in one take and in less than five minutes. Every additional try and minute it takes I’ll shrink the paycheck to keep the movie budget. Don’t worry you wont be held responsible for any civilian injury or such. Everyone has signed a waiver, use your real equipment, no props. Ignore the cameras if you manage to see them. Try to pretend this is actually happening. Any questions?”

The five soldiers looked at each other and the captain simply reconfirmed that they got three million dollars each if they did that. Walter said they’d better hurry or it would only be two. The captain ordered his men into two teams and the squad began their descent and exited the castle. The team saw the monstrosity and its rider and were wigging out at how real it all seemed. They saw that the villagers were scattering so there was plenty of room for them to do their job. The captain ordered two team members to draw the creatures’ attention while the second team prepared and set up a land mine. Rye didn’t see Walter so he was curious who these green guys were. When two of them started firing at Drago, Rye realized they had guns. This was Walter. When the three man team had set up their trap they had their man with a flame thrower come out and he sprayed Drago who was about to eat the two gunners who were firing and running in segments. The two fighters joined the second team and began provoking Drago to walk over to where they were. Rye had ducked because he didn’t expect bullets, and because he hated them now. He had no idea there was a small bomb on the ground.

The land mine was state of the art. Motion sensor, pressure sensor, and proximity sensor. The special ops with the flame thrower stopped the flame and Drago thought maybe the fire was empty. Drago was mad. The bullets hurt and he hated fire so he was enraged and since Rye was hiding from the bullets he went all out. The landmine exploded flawlessly and Drago lost his entire left foot. Rye spiraled off his pet and hit Drago hard, then hit the ground. Just before Drago came crashing to the earth shaking the soldiers almost to falling. The soldiers were afraid they’d done a little too much damage but were surprised when Walter came forward with the knights who started busying them selves getting Drago while he was on the ground. Rye knew he had to act quick so he quickly drew runes in the dirt and managed to end up in the forest. When he wasn’t sure, but at least he was alive. And he hadn’t time to decide, anyplace was better than there. Soon though he’d find that wasn’t true.

Walter said the soldiers had done well and that their paychecks would come in the mail once they wrote down their names and the mailing address. The soldiers did so and were a little suspicious that the dead and bloody Allosaurus seemed so real. Walter said it was going to be a great film and thanked the soldiers again and said he might use them again if they chose to do a scene where they killed the rider of the beast. But no harm, they had been ordered to kill just the dinosaur and they could go home now. The soldiers were about to inquire as to how they had gotten here so quickly and what special effects were being used when they found they were back at headquarters where they had just been.

Weeks later the captain found a large package at his front door on his day off. Inside was an Allosaurus headskull with a list of museums and bidders who were willing to buy it for anything between fifteen to twenty million dollars. And there was a note saying he should split it with his men and that he was to tell no one what had happened or what he had done because then his hard earned cash would be wasted on therapy. The note burst into flames and the signature vanished last. The special ops captain and his men visited the skull that took residence in a museum once a year and reassured each other that they weren’t crazy. The cash was real, and when people asked, they said that it was a secret classified mission where they had taken down something that made the legends of fire-breathing Dragons seem to make more sense.

Rye soon found himself in the marsh, and feeding off the local wildlife of all things. Ando was off limits, Walter might or might not be there but no more risking it. Rye made his way to Gant. He knew the way, and also found out really fast that the marsh was filled with vile creatures like himself. Rye took out all his frustration on them, killing them, toying with them, and soon found that some were in fact the things he had created back in Ando in Krells’ day. So his magic had failed back then, and it had failed just recently. When Rye encountered his biggest test subject he stayed clear of it. It was gross and he had wasted a lot of magic on it and Drago and needed time to recover.

When he spied the man in the marsh he followed hoping to find Gant that much quicker. When his hunger overtook him he tried to feast on him like he did the small dinosaurs, but this warrior had some spells and managed to give Rye some choice gashes. Rye only managed to break his staff. He would have wanted it but better that neither of them had it. Besides he had his wand, he had just not thought of using it, his instincts said biting and slashing was funner, more enjoyable. When he came across another staff in the forest made of fine oak, he instinctively smashed it too cause it reminded him of Walter and his failed attempt with the other mage who was skilled in fighting. Rye then realized that the second staff meant there was a second man in the marsh, or close by. When it turned out to be both Walter and the man called Ber he had failed to kill he watched and followed. They saw him as they exited the marsh. And Rye plotted to spend time waiting, and sensing for when they returned. Several years Rye hid in the marsh, preying on those foolish enough to enter. Soon few if any came there. That was why when Walter and Drey entered and left he almost missed a chance to kill them. He smelled Drey more, and found her right when Walter came back.

Rye didn’t wait, this was his final chance, whichever Walter this was. He was not bound by duel rules. He could kill Rye if he chose and nature would understand. Rye wanted to kill Walter first, but Drey was Walters’ only reason to live, so it would be worse in fact to kill Drey. Rye was fast now and was surprised when Walter threw his staff that was now a spear. Rye wanted to slash Drey and drink any power she might have. But it was a special occasion so he decided Walters’ staff would make it even more painful. He wouldn’t use what had killed Drey to fight him, and he would finally kill Walter. And then nobody would be able to stop him. As he prepared to kill Drey he suddenly noticed Walter was smiling. Walter didn’t smile, that was Ryes’ motif. When Walter pointed to the staff, Rye eyed it and found the runes. A traveling staff, amazing. With this Rye could easily kill Walter anywhere and any when. So why was he not afraid that Rye had it. The last rule said any with cruel intentions would be sent to the worse place in the holders’ history. That was an odd rule. It should’ve been the owners’ history or some unreachable place. But instead it was whoever was holding the staff. So Rye was going to his least favorite moment in his life. Rye couldn’t believe the defeat. He eyed Walter and Walter said have fun in hell. When Rye asked where and when that was. Walter left it unanswered. Rye knew, but Walter didn’t. Rye vanished and he appeared in front of his former self.

The young Rye had been sent as usual to regularly purge the forest of any creatures that threatened the realm, and caught site of Rye in his grotesque semi-human form. Young Rye realized this was a vampire and he would slay this creature and claim fame and glory. Rye realized when this was and realized this was his younger selves’ biggest mistake. Rye tried to tell him to stop but young Rye eyed his spellbook and wand and assumed this vampire did magic. Rye instinctively tried to attack, then realized he should run away. It was too late, young Rye charred his other self and ran his knife through his heart. Just before Rye died he realized that Walter was not his biggest rival. It had been himself. His own ego. And in the end, Rye was no longer Rye, but Walter was still Walter. Rye was bested by his former self, and Walter was no match for his own future self. Rye began to burn. His spellbook, wand, and knife destroyed beyond recognition like his body already was. Rye understood now, Walter had wanted something else. Something greater than the thrill. Something Walter knew that made everything possible. Rye had no idea what it was. He had thought killing Walter would somehow give him this power. But no. Walter had it always, and no matter what shape or form Rye twisted him into, this power would find a way to manifest itself according to his desire, no matter how limited or permitted. Rye turned to ash. And the young Rye went to report there had been a vampire in the vicinity. He was disappointed at how easy it had been to slay.

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