A dark ceiling of clouds covered the sky and the rain was coming down heavy. Commander Camrok raised his sword to the sky as the lightening cracked above. His sword shined like the lightening itself.
Camrok was a virtuous middle aged man, with long dusty brown hair that dropped passed his ears. He was tall and sturdy with thick arms. He had a blocky head, and kept a rough-spun cloth wrapped around his head in order to cover his left eye. He had lost his eye many years ago in a battle against the dragon slavers. He wore a patched leather jerkin, trousers and a dragon scale shield that could withstand dragon fire.
The commander reared his white spotted war-horse atop a tall hill near the base of a mountain called the Great Peak.
The Great Peak stood alone at the northern most end of The Green Valley kingdom. The Green Valley stretched nearly four hundred leagues from north to south. People mostly inhabited the southern region where rich fertile fields and forests were abundant. As you made your way north, the land grew dry, and the trees became sparser. As you approached the Great Peak, the lands grew more rocky and barren.
In the field, between the mountain and the hill, there stood a stone perch. On the perch sat three dragons, yet four remained in this world.
Beckoning, the commander lowered his sword in an arc, pointing toward the dragons. "Rally!" cried the commander. “Follow me, men!"
He spurred his horse into a hard gallop down the hill with a one-thousand-man army close at his heels.
The land about the mountain is desolate; it is a barren wasteland ridden with ash and dead trees. This was home to some of the most dreadful creatures such as dire-bats as big as a man, wild dogs and dragons, but these were no ordinary dragons.
The dragons of the Great Peak are the last of their kind and most fearsome of them all. A full grown dragon was forty times the size of an average horse with the strength of two hundred men. Their scales are as black as night but shine a deep shade of purple in the moonlight. Their scales were their armor, as durable as any steel imaginable. They had a powerful sense of smell and eyes capable of seeing leagues upon leagues. They had wings that stretched nearly fifty meters long and a roar that shook the ground beneath your feet.
The dragons of the Great Peak are renowned for their power. However, one dragon rose above all others, for this dragon had the power of the purple haze. This power granted only to the wisest and most powerful dragon of all. The purple haze allowed the Grand Dragon to scorch lands in an inferno of deathly purple fire. It could melt flesh and bone, and even stone. Above all, the chosen dragon is blessed with unnaturally long life. The common people named it Drakroth.
Camrok halted his host at the bottom of the hill. The commander had hoped that their plan to assault the Great Peak would lure Drakroth out of his cave from atop the mountain, but the Grand Dragon can only be moved by greed and anger.
Camrok and his men observed the dragons suspiciously. They were small, only ten times the size of a common man and could not yet fly, but they could spit flames one-hundred feet, and they were quick and had claws as sharp as razors. They had the strength to crush boulders to dust.
"Hatchlings!" a man mocked as the rest of the men stared at the dragons sitting on the perch.
"They are no match for us!" laughed Hyles Trant. He was a buxom man with thick arms, a large bald head and a crumpled smile. Some say he had the strength of five men.
"Nay!" roared the commander in an overpowering tone. "Don't be fools lads, the creatures may be younglings, yes, but they can light you up at any moment and tear you to shreds in a heartbeat."
The dragons watched them from atop a stony surface awaiting the perfect moment to strike.
"Men it is time to send our steeds away." Ordered Camrok. “We'll have better luck on foot from here.” As he did, the others followed.
This was no place for horses. Horses frighten easily, and they rear in the face of fear. Thus, the men dismounted and sent their mounts home.
When the last horse had departed, the warriors reformed the line. Ten rows of one hundred men-at-arms there was. All the men had swords. The middle row also had spears and the two back rows had swords and bows.
These men were no ordinary soldiers. They did not train to fight in the Kings army. These men are known as Flame Eaters. To any commoner who may have seen them fight, their tactics would have seemed odd and their combat skills questionable, but they did not train long hours to fight men. They fought to rid the world of dragons. They fought for peace and for the hope that one day the northern end of the valley might see green once again.
The lines began to march forward. "Weapons!" cried Camrok.
One-thousand whispers of steel upon leather echoed off the mountain’s rocky walls as the men unsheathed their swords. The dragons stared and sniggered as the warriors made their march.
The army broke into three packs going left, right and center. The dragons began to hiss and lash about angrily. The dragon in the middle stood on its hind legs, stretched its neck and let out a thunderous screech. A few of the men fell to the ground clenching their ears at the sheer sound of it. They screamed in fear as blood gushed out their ears and dripped through their fingers. They had gone mad with fear that froze them where they lied. The best part of their army held firm and began the charge.
The rain had stopped, and even miles away, the men's war-cry could be heard echoing off the valley mountains. Just as their cry had faded, the middle dragon gave reply. Its scream pierced through their ranks like a shock wave. It leaped up from its stony perch and spat a ball of flames down towards the center group. The flames whirled and roared as the fire approached the warriors.
"Shields!!!" ordered commander Camrok. Some men were not so quick to raise their shields. The blaze tore through them, melting skin, flesh and steel until nothing remained but a burnt pile of bones where they once stood.
The quicker men dropped to one knee and raised their shields to cover them-selves from the roaring flames. The heat was suffocating, and sweat trickled off their brows. Theirs shields turned black with ash as they deflected the flame. Their shields are forged to fight off dragon fire, but they were not completely impervious.
No sooner did the center dragon touched back down did it spring towards the men. The other two dragons lunged forward too. Flames flew in every direction, and screams echoed through the air as the dragons screeched and hissed. The dragon on the right ran straight through the men’s ranks, clawing and ripping any-thing in its path. His tail cracked left and right, sending men toppling.
Being the smallest, the dragon on the left was frail, and its scales were soft. Archers from the rear row volleyed arrows towards it, sending the beast into a crazed rage. It stumbled up onto its hind legs yelping with pain and anger, exposing the soft skin underneath.
“Now is our chance, lads. Send it screaming to the afterlife!” yelled Hyles.
The men hurled spears, aiming for the soft spots on the creature’s belly. As the dragon was about to retch up a flaming blaze, a spear caught the dragon in the neck and pierced through the dragon's scales and into its throat. As it struggled to spit its flame, the spear’s wooden shaft burst into flames as blood spilled from the hatchling’s neck. A man with a scarred face and broad arms sent another spear sailing into the beast’s chest. The dragon fluttered backwards, yelping, gushing molten fire out of its mouth all over its own face. It staggered and screeched swinging its body back and forth, and finally toppled backwards onto the ground stiff, a small puddle of blood seeped from the dragon’s mouth onto the ground.
Hyles climbed the beast and yanked the spear free from its chest, and then with both hands he plunged it into the beast's heart. When it came to dragons, one could never be too careful. “And stay down.” he thought as he pulled his spear free and turned his head towards his next target.
“Two more to go!” a man cried as he ran past Hyles.
The field turned to smoke and fire. The dragons slashed and clawed. The largest of the dragons breathed fire all over, bringing death with it. It ripped men to pieces with its claws and grabbed others with its mouth and flung them in every direction. This dragon was fearless. The other was smaller and quicker but not as powerful.
The larger beast set his eyes on Camrok. The commander was shouting orders from the middle of the pack, when the biggest dragon bolted after him. It tore through the lines of men in its path, knocking them aside and trampling any in front of it; crushing them with its weight. Camrok stood still as stone, waiting. When the dragon was almost on top of him, the commander rolled to the side, and the dragon ran past. The beast sunk its claw into the ground and swung itself around and roared.
Just as the large dragon opened its jaws to spit fire, an archer loosed an arrow that struck the smaller dragon in the eye that sent the smaller beast flailing into the larger dragon, knocking them both to the ground. The larger dragon got to its feet in a raging fury, unleashing a blaze of fire straight into the smaller dragon. Quick as lightening, the greater dragon grabbed the other dragon by the neck and sunk its razor sharp teeth deep, twisted and tore out its throat. Flesh and blood gushed out as the smaller dragon fell forward and met the ground with a shaking thump.
Dragons are a proud race and do not take it well to have their pride tested. “This one has a temper. Now it’s our turn.” thought the commander. “Archers, rope this scum!” he shouted.
The archers notched strange looking arrows. The tips were sharper than any ordinary arrow, and they were barbed with large bend back claws. At the other end of the shaft was a long rope. They are called grappling arrows.
The men took aim and loosed their arrows at the beast’s winged arms. The arrows pierced through the dragon’s wings. Approximately fifty men held the wings on both sides, struggling to restrain the beast from flailing around. The dragon cried and stomped about, trying to break free. At that moment, a spearman rolled in beneath the monster’s hind legs and plunged a spear into its left calf. The dragon yelped and fell forward while the men held strong and kept the beast down.
“My axe.” asked Camrok to his squire.
Commander Camrok sheathed his sword and took hold of the double-edged axe that was handed to him. He held the axe over one shoulder as he walked towards the dragon. “Your kind has attacked and tormented the kingdom for the last time. Come now, and meet your end!” said Camrok as he positioned himself beside the beast’s neck.
The dragon had stopped moving. It closed its eyes as it panted with exhaustion. When Camrok raised his axe above his head to finish it, the dragon’s eyes bolted open with rage. The dragon swung its head to the side, crashing into commander Camrok, sending him bashing into a nearby burnt tree. Camrok struggled to his feet holding his sides as the dragon jumped into the action and swirled in circles, breathing flames. Soldiers flew in every direction as they struggled to keep hold of the ropes. It was no use, the dragon spat fire everywhere. It clawed and bit and killed any in its way.
“No!” Hyles yelled out in horror. His battle with the smallest dragon had taken him far from the other two. He ran to re-join Camrok, circling around the stony perch, to avoid being ripped to shreds by the dragon. When he reached the other side of perch, he saw Camrok in the distance limping toward the dragon holding his axe in one hand and holding his side with the other.
“You overgrown lizard, face me you coward!” shouted Camrok.
The dragon stopped flailing and turned an eye to Camrok. It let out a quick screech then charged at Camrok anew.
The commander broke into an awkward dash, but as the commander raised his axe to deliver a crushing blow, the dragon leaped straight over him. Camrok turned around to face the dragon, but it was too late. The dragon was on him in a blink of an eye. The commander swung his axe downward, but the dragon twisted its neck outward and avoided the blow, causing Camrok’s axe to get wedged into the ground. The beast arched its head to the side and snapped its jaws down into the commander’s belly. It picked him right off the ground and shook him the same way a wolf shakes its prey. The dragon threw him, and Camrok’s limp body slammed into the stone wall of the perch. He fell to the ground, dead.
Hyles’s face turned as pale as freshly fallen snow. He ran over to Camrok as fast as his tired legs could take him. “My lord.” cried Hyles as he shook the commander by the shoulders. "Wake up, My lord, wake… up!” he shouted. He grasped his commander’s jerkin and lowered his head onto Camrok’s chest, sobbing.
A sudden rage overtook Hyles. He jumped to his feet and pull out his sword. Hyles’ sword seemed to glow as his rage grew.
He jolted toward the dragon in frenzy. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him. He took the dragon by surprise, swinging his sword down and sliced half the dragon’s tail off. The beast shrieked, but did not seem to react much to the wound afterwards. The dragon only swung around and snapped at Hyles. He avoided the blows by stepping into them and ducking sideways. The dragon did not let up as it snapped and hissed. Hyles saw his opportunity, and he waited for the foul creature to snap at him once more. When it did, he dove down under the creature and thrust his sword up into the beast’s heart. He pushed with both hands and twisted his blade to finish the beast for good. The dragon wiggled and flailed, trying to flee. It was no use. Its efforts only killed it faster. Hyles jumped out of the way in time to avoid the beasts crushing weight as it came crashing to the ground. The battle was won.
The men cheered and cast down their weapons. “Hyles, Hyles, Hyles!” the men cried, but Hyles did not join them in celebration. He ran over to Camrok and picked him up and walked back to the men. The noises and cheers died down fast. In their silence, Hyles spoke. “Commander Camrok fought with honor. He embraced his fate and met it face to face. We came here in the hopes of slaying Drakroth, yet he does not show his face. It is enough bloodshed for one day. Men gather as many stones as you can find. We must bury Lord Camrok. Then we make for home.”
Few men survived this battle. Nine-hundred fifty-one brave souls lost their lives that day. Those that remained stood around Lord Camrok’s mound and bowed their heads in silence.
The hour was getting late, and the clouds had cleared. The sun was setting behind the mountain as Hyles, and the men walked among the dead. Hyles drew his sword and walked over to the biggest dragon. He grabbed the dragon by one of the horns and sawed it off and handed it to his squire. “This day was a waste. Drakroth will never wake.” he thought.
The men were making their way up the hill heading south to face the long journey home. Hyles came up last. At the top of the hill, he looked back at the Great Peak. The suns last light was in his eyes. “One day perhaps, one day.” He thought to himself, as though he were speaking to Drakroth himself.
As he turned his back on the mountain and made his way downhill, something echoed in his mind. “Not for you.”