This film is by ‘thedragoshi’, based on an original idea by Phoenix Ark, and is under Phoenix Ark’s copyright. The music is The Courier Arrives at Eskank, by Arnaud Conde. You can see the original Phoenix movie if you click above on ‘The Beginning’.
NOW READ ON…
Gareth made for the stream as quickly as possible, and as the Dragon Warriors climbed down, began to wash himself clean again. It was cool and refreshing, but he was still smarting badly, and it irritated him that Sao kept looking at him so consolingly. Although Sao and Sarissa’s attention was soon taken up by what was happening now, near the smaller stockades, where several of those bear-chested trainers stood, with tatooes on their arms, that they now saw were Dragon Eggs. Here Mordellon had called the expectant Dragon Warriors into a circle, and was holding up his own lasso, as he pointed gravely at the extraordinary creatures beyond.
There were six dragons inside the first stockade, and as Gareth dried himself, and walked towards them all, he saw a stirring of leathery wings, and jets of flame sweeping left and right, like search lights. These dragons were much smaller and finer than the noxious Gas Dragon, light aircraft compared to a Jumbo Jet, perhaps, and they were a beautiuful mottled grey, with tails sharply ridged with spiked scales, and vicious looking clubs at the end. Their eyes were huge, and they were sniffing the air, and surveying the humans warily. In the enclosure Gareth noticed several wooden pegs in the ground, and on a long pole, by the entrance, were perched six heavy leather saddles, which two of the trainers had just finished polishing.
“Now,” cried Mordellon, as Gareth drew up by Sao and Sarissa, wanting to ask her about what she had found in the dragon dung, and the hard faced young warrior who had be so sneering before lifted his nose in the air, “The older trainees could tell you what comes next, although they have their dragons already. Who can guess?”
“We are choosing dragon,” cried Count Uri Oblormov.
“Or it chooses you,” said Mordellon portentously. “You can’t ride a dragon that will not have you on its back. Impossible. So look carefully, use your thoughts and feelings, and if any seems to like you, step up with your lassoes. It’s very, very important to match a dragon to the right warrior. It may truly save your life, one day. You must become as one.”
There was much muttering among the Dragon Warriors, as they peered nervously at the waiting creatures, but at last six of the boys stepped forwards. Their golden lassoes were trembling in their hands.
“First you must coral them,” said Mordellon, making a slip knot in his lasso, “then saddle them. Then we’ll see if you can actually break them in.”
Mordellon was climbing through the gate, into the enclosure, and he indicated for the six intrepid boys to follow him.
“And what part of a dragon should you catch in the lasso?” he asked in a whisper.
“The tail,” said one.
“Around the neck,” suggested another.
“By ears,” said Sergei Oblormov, who was in the group too.
“Nonsense,” growled Mordellon, as the trainers crossed their arms and shook their heads, “And pay close attention now. You always lasso a dragon around the snout, so it can’t use its flame on you. And when you have, you apologise immediately, and stroke its head. Then it might just lie down, and let you saddle it too.”
“Oh,” said the Count, looking even more nervous.
“But as you approach them, keep the lassoes behind your backs,” said Mordellon, as six young arms shot behind their backs. “And don’t look them straight in the eye, either. They haven’t fed, and won’t use their flames on you fully, unless they get really angry, but it’s best not to take any chances.”
Sergei Oblormov had stepped forward first, and both Gareth and Uri noticed the adoring look on Sarissa’s face, and felt rather jealous. The Count was making for a dragon on the right, while the other boys began to fan out towards their targets. They all lowered their heads, or tried to look away, almost sidling towards the beasts. Sergei got the closest first, and looked back towards Mordellon, who nodded encouragingly. “Go on, lad.”
Suddenly Sergei turned and began whirling his lasso. They must have learnt to do this the day before, because he was rather good at it, and even Gareth was impressed, since as Sergie cast, the loop went sailing straight over the dragon’s nose. Until Gareth realised that this dragon was actually helping the Count, for its eyelashes were fluttering at him wildly, and it had lifted its snout, so the cord closed perfectly around it. Sergei hardly had to pull at all, before the dragon lay down supine and seemed to purr.
“Easiest I’ve ever seen,” muttered Mordellon, as Sarissa sighed, “they must have a true bond.”
Not so with the Dragon Warrior next to Sergei, who had just cast his own lasso. It hit the dragon in the side of the face, and it turned and glared at him evilly, before lifting its club and smashing it angrily in the dirt, with an indignant below. Suddenly all the Dragon Warriors were running and casting, dragon wings flapping, dragon heads pulling and bucking, and among bolts of fire, the enclosure descended into a melee of moving forms. As the dust cleared, three of the boys had lassoed their dragons by their snouts, but one of the lassoes had snapped, another been dropped, and the last of the dragons had turned on its prospective rider and arched its wings, in a sinister looking v shape. Its eyes were blazing, and it suddenly dipped its head menacingly.
“Get out,” cried one of the woman trainers, “It doesn’t like you at all. Run for it, boy.”
The Dragon Warrior turned and scarpered, as the dragon came lumbering ferociously towards him, and as he scrambled back through the gate, the dragon gave it such an enormous buffet with its head, that the whole structure shook. The two other dragonless warriors had seen this, and given up on their mounts, who clearly did not like them either. They were dashing for the fence, as the three free dragons stomped off into a corner, to brood and blow smoke rings.
Sergei was already stroking his dragon fondly, but although the other two were apologising as loudly and sincerely as they could, they were still struggling violently to hold the creatures. But hold them they both did, and at last the dragons seemed to tire, as the boys crept forward and started stroking them, at which they lay down too.
“Quick,” cried another trainer, “The saddles.”
The Dragon Warriors, and Gareth too, suddenly realised what those pegs in the dirt were for, as Sergei and the others tied off their lassoes on them, and ran for the saddles. There was a lot of heaving and straining with the weighty things, and a clinking of metal box stirrups, but Mordellon and the trainers would let no one help, and made it quite clear you had to do this yourself.
“Now,” said Mordellon, “as soon as a Dragon feels a saddle on it back, it will rise in anger. That gives you the chance to run under its belly, and do up the girth. Watch your heads though – dragon bellies can be very rough on the scalp.”
Sergei gulped and smiled back at Sarissa, but his twin seemed straining to have a turn too.
“Then you must turn those lassoes into reins,” said Mordellon, “Stroke its head again, ask permission to ride it, then slip the lasso off. Throw the loop onto the saddle pommel, then tickle it under the chin. That makes them sleepy, and as soon as its mouth opens, slip in the rope, run around the other side with it, and up you go. Simple.”
The three young warriors looked very doubtful indeed, but almost as one, they cast the saddles onto the dragons’ backs, on the space were their backs met their necks, in front of their wings. Immediately there was a muffled grunting, and the dragons all rose again, their tails lifted. The boys dashed under their bellies, catching the swinging hemp girths, and although the onlookers couldn’t see it now, did them up quickly. Soon all three of them were at their dragon’s heads, stroking them warily but looking very proud too.
It seemed to calm the saddled beasts, and Sergei was the first to slip off his lasso. He cast the loop perfectly onto the saddle pommel and as he stroked his mount’s chin, its mouth opened wide and it yawned. Sergei popped in the rope, carrying it back to the other side of the dragon, and lifting his left foot into the stirrup, rose, and swung right up onto the dragon’s back. Gareth felt a twinge of jealousy, for the Count looked very fine sitting there, pulling on the lasso in both hands.
“Bravo,” cried Mordellon, and Yuri looked a little sour.
“Well I could do that,” said Sarissa, “I always won the Blue Ribbon at the Pony Club.”
The fifteen year old Dragon Warrior who had tried to put Gareth down earlier turned and glared at Sarissa Hallet, and her friends.
“Silence,” he hissed, “Men ride Dragons, not girls, and especially not spying scullions.”
Mordellon cast Sarissa a sympathetic look, but now the second Dragon Warrior was up in the saddle too. He had copied Sergei, and although his dragon had started to buck a little, it was settling again. The third Dragon Warrior made more of a hash of it, because his dragon let out a jet of flame, when he tickled its chin, then another, that almost burnt through the rope. Worse than that, as he ran around and swung up, he pushed too hard, and went crashing down on the other side, much to the merriment of his companions.
He mounted again, quivering, and now the three dragons had begun to stomp around the enclosure, swinging their tales and looking rather scornfully at the unsaddled dragons, as the warriors tried to find their seats.
“Go on then,” cried the third boy proudly, and gaining in confidence as he looked up at the wooden crossbeams quite high above him, “Fly!”
“Fly?“ cried Mordellon immediately. “Nonsense. They won’t fly for you until they really trust you, and you’re both sure it’s the best fit. It happens as you learn to name them. Besides, first you have to learn the real key to dragon training – namely feeding your dragon, grooming your dragon, and tending to its every need. That’s the true responsibility of a Dragon Warrior, to put his dragon first.”
The newcomers outside the enclosure looked rather upset, although the older trainees were nodding sagely. So the day began properly, as three more trainees tried and succeeded in saddling the remaining dragons in this stockade, and Mordellon led the others to new enclosures, to find their own mounts, or to re-saddle dragons well-known to them. There were many bruised limbs and hurt egos that day, not to mention scorched backsides, as the trainers used their lasso’s as whips to help their charges, but most seemed to manage and the sun was beginning to sink, as they wandered towards and empty enclosure and he turned to the last of the group, the very Dragon Warrior who had so put Gareth down, and looked at him rather guiltily.
“I’m sorry, Jarquin,” said Mordellon, “but you know your dragon escaped last season, and now you’ll have to wait, lad. None left. They’ll be bringing in some more from the Painted Desert soon, if the Black Warlock hasn’t got to them first. He’s building his attack force.”
“Wait?” said the lad called Jarquin indignantly, “But that, what about that one, Mordellon?”
The enclosure was not empty at all, for to one side Gareth, Sarrisa and Sao spotted the most horrible looking black dragon, with truly monstrous scales.
“Not a chance,” said Mordellon, “that’s gone wild again, Jarquin. Very nasty temper too. We’ll have to reintroduce it into the wild soon.”
“Why’s there no roof?” said Sarissa, looking back at the enclosure.
“Poor thing,” whispered Gareth. “It’s got a cut. Perhaps it can’t fly.”
“Oh shut up,” snapped Jarquin angrily, furious to be left out, “you’ve been all hanging on all day, when you shouldn’t be here at all.”
“Give me your lasso, and I’ll show you who should be here,” muttered Gareth indignantly.
“Don’t you understand, idiot?” hissed the Dragon Warrior. “It’s not permitted. You’re not a Dragon Warrior, you’re just a smelly scullion, and Outlander, and scullions never, ever get to ride dragons. It’s against the Lore.”
“It’s true, I’m afraid,” muttered Mordellon.
“With ONE exception.”
The voice had come from behind them and they all swung around to see none other than Lord Cracken himself, with that D emblazoned on his chest. His horse had come up unnoticed, for he had wanted to check on Mordellon’s training. He seemed rather pleased.
“Exception, Dragoman?” said Mordellon.
“Of course, Mordellon,” belowed the dragoman, “there are always exceptions in Pendolis, especially with the Teller wounded. But I wouldn’t recommend it.”
“Would you tell me, Sir?” said Gareth, as the Dragon Warrior glared at him.
“No Lasso,” said Lord Cracken, raising an eyebrow. “Any may ride a dragon, if they are brave or foolish enough to saddled one without a lasso.”
Gareth gulped and Jarquin’s eyes flashed with a hateful light.
“But their flames,” whispered Sao.
“Not to mention their teeth,” nodded the Dragoman. “Some Dragons can swallow you in a single gulp. Still, with the wars, it would be good to see such courage, and to use any talent we have. I’ve grave fears, Mordellon, with a missing Maiden and what they say of this spy, and his Firecutter. He won’t talk to us at all, despite several means of persuasion, but something’s happening all right.”
“Go on then, show off,” said the Dragon Warrior to Gareth, opening his hand and dropping his lasso coldly on the ground. Gareth had gone crimson, as he looked down at the thing.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Gareth,” said Sarrissa, as Gareth started to shake, yet his eyes were locked on the fearful looking dragon in the enclosure.
“Stop it, Gareth,” insisted Sarissa, “I won’t hear of it. It looks like a killer. You wouldn’t have a chance.”
“The girl’s right, boy,” said the Dragoman, “it would depend entirely on your subduing it with a stroke, so best to get back down to the kitchens, where you belong. Not even Herbert could help you out here if you were bitten, or burned. Bouchebold has sent word of your skill too.”
Gareth Marks had started to walk though, straight towards the enclosure now.
“Don’t lad,” cried Mordellon, “you can serve in other ways in the wars.”
Gareth stopped, looked back at them, smiled at Sarissa and Sao, and then, with gritted teeth, the brave twelve-year-old picked up a saddle much too large for him, pushed it through the gate and climbed inside. A whistle had gone up, and the Dragon Warriors were dismounting now, tethering their dragons to their pegs, and climbing out of their enclosures to push past their annoyed trainers and run over to see what was happening.
“Here,” said Mordellon, running after Gareth now, “put these on. They may help.”
As Mordellon held out his hand, Gareth saw a pair of golden Dragon spurs dangling there, Mordellon’s own. He took them proudly, took off his sandles, strapped them to his feet, and, very slowly, began to walk towards the dragon beyond. He made a slight clinking noise, as he went, and Sao clutched Sarissa’s arm, as they all crowded in at the gate to watch.
Twenty feet, ten, five, Gareth was nearing the dragon’s head, whispering an apology, and reaching out to stroke it. But just as he did so, it’s left eye opened wide, blazing a terrifying, swirling crimson, and it lifted its head and swung it straight into Gareth’s stomach. Gareth was knocked clean off his feet, and as he flew backwards, badly winded, the dragon roared and sprang up.
It’s wings opened, its tail raised and swung, and it let out a jet of flame that left a scorch mark in the dirt, three inches from Gareth’s flank.
“Run, Gareth, Run,” screamed Sarissa.
The Dragon was lumbering towards him now, opening its mouth to reveal the most terrifying array of jagged teeth, as Gareth sprang up. He hovered there, wondering whether to jump left or right, and as the dragon snapped at him, he threw himself to the left. The dragon’s whole body wheeled in a circle and luckily Gareth rolled, because that monstrous clubbed tail came sweeping towards him, and only just missed his ducking head.
Gareth scrabbled up again, and started to run towards the opposite side of the enclosure, but as the dragon came crashing after him, Gareth tripped on one of those pegs, and went slamming down onto his face.
“No, Gareth,” cried Sao, and even the bullying Dragon Warrior shouted “Look out, boy.”
It was too late. The murderous, wounded dragon was on him, and Gareth scrambled around on his front to see it roar triumphantly, snap its jaws on the air, and then arch its back in the ugliest fashion, as it dropped its head to the ground, to stare Gareth right in the eyes and sniff.
“He’s finished,” said Mordellon sadly, as its huge tongue licked its lips. Yet Gareth had risen and pulled himself backwards and, as he did so, his hand grabbed the peg, pulled it from the ground and was dragging it through the dust, as Gareth kicked away from the killer, on his back.
Suddenly Gareth was up, up and running towards the saddle, as the most extraordinary thing happened. Or rather, didn’t happen. The huge dragon was quite motionless, it body still arched, but its head flat on the ground and it seemed quite unable to move, pinned there as if it was mesmerised. Gareth was running back towards it with the saddle, and, in an instant had thrown it on its back.
“It’s magic,” said Sao, as Gareth caught the girth and dipped under its raised belly, “Awesome.”
“Not magic, Sao,” said Sarrisa, pointing at the dragon’s nose, “look.”
Now they all saw the thin straight line Gareth had drawn in the dirt with the peg, running from the dragon’s nose, straight ahead of it.
“Chickens,” whispered Sarissa, “I’ve seen them do it with Chickens, in Hertfordshire. If you put a chicken’s head on the ground, and draw a straight line from between its eyes, it can’t move at all. It sort of gets stuck. Dragons must be the same.”
“But how did he know?” said Sao Cheung admiringly. “He knows everything.”
Now a cheer had gone up from the watching Dragon Warriors, “Doing well, Gareth,” shouted Sergei, for Gareth had tied the girth, and swung up onto the monster’s back. The 12 year old sat there, almost feeling like a King, yet as he did so the peg shot out of his hand, and unfortunately it bounced right on the dragon’s nose, then fell into the dust, breaking the line. The creature seemed to come out of a trance, and feeling not only a saddle, but an unwanted rider on it’s back, roared, shot out a monstrous jet of flame, and flapping its wings frantically, it rose straight into the air.
“Whooooah,” cried Gareth, holding onto the pommel for dear life, and, lasso-less, quite unable to steer the beast, as it began to climb, higher and higher into the sky.
“Gareth, come back here,” ordered Sarissa, feeling smaller and smaller and wondering if she would ever escape the kitchens, as she and Sao were left among the pointing party, the admiring Dragoman, and an amazed Mordellon.
“Well, this is a day indeed,” whispered Lord Cracken, “if he survives the flight. Quite remarkable. But I think we have a new Dragon Warrior in our midst.”
Gareth Marks of course, could not hear this at all, as the screeching dragon picked up speed, and, in the light of a dying sunset, turned and began to wing its way straight towards the soaring turrets of Pendolis.
David Clement-Davies Copyright 2010 – All Rights Reserved Published by Phoenix Ark Press
PS Can you spot the not so deliberate mistakes in the film?!
The right of David Clement-Davies to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988
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