Gareth’s heart was in his mouth, as he clasped the saddle pommel and the wind streaked through his hair, but despite his absolute terror, oh what joy, what bliss, what heaven, to be riding a real live dragon. He was a Dragon Warrior now, a lord of the air, and ahead of him the clouds and the blue swept out like a magic carpet, and in the distance rose the glittering towers of mighty Pendolis, like a hundred drawn swords.
The noise in his ears was of the rushing winds, but dimly below him, Gareth became aware of shouts and looked down proudly to see Sao and Sarissa, the Dragoman, Mordollon and all the others pointing up at him in wonder. He felt so proud to be astride this great black beast, after he had used the trick that he had read about in a fragment of The Very Dangerous Book, despite his mounting horror of how high he was now. The others must have been two hundred feet below, and even the dragons looked like sheep, with the terrifying change of perspective.
Gareth tried to calm his nerves, and breathe evenly, as his Godfather had taught him once climbing a tree in the country, but clutching that pommel, as the beast’s enormous scaly black wings flapped beside him, like two huge leathery sheets, Gareth Marks suddenly felt a little sick. The reason was, having no lasso, he had no reins either to steer the thing and now the dragon’s behaviour seemed to be changing. Underneath him, Gareth sensed the force of the gigantic, living animal, for the muscles along its spine seemed to be rippling beneath the saddle. Strange noises were coming from it too, grunts and groans, interspersed with great roars, as huge fire jets flashed out in front of it, warming the air that was streaming into Gareth’s face.
‘”Where are you going?” he cried suddenly, “isn’t this a bit fast?”
Gareth wished he hadn’t asked it because as it flew the beast’s back suddenly arched, as a roar came from its belly, as if from some terrible subterranean depth, and Gareth was bounced upwards in the saddle. It seemed the creature, climbing out of the stockade, had not even been aware of his presence and now that it was, Gareth sensed some evil, primordial light awake in its eyes and mind. It’s back bucked again, and then to the boy’s horror it’s great clubbed tail flicked up and forwards, smashing onto the saddle right next to him. It was trying to get its rider off, all right.
“Oh no you don’t” cried Gareth furiously, but even as he did, the Dragon dipped its right wing and to Gareth’s utter horror the creature flipped upside down in mid-air. What had been pure joy suddenly turned to near disaster, for Gareth was hanging in space, two hundred feet above his certain death. His left hand clutched the pummel though and luckily his right had managed to slip between the saddle and the dragon, so he had some purchase.
It was like riding one of those adventure playground pulleys, as the twelve year old was born along, feeling an agonising ache in his arms, but just as he was about to let go, the dragon flipped once more and he crashed back into the saddle with a winded groan. The Dragon had not given up trying to dismount him though, and now its roars and fire jets were getting stronger and more frequent, so poor Gareth was carried through a never-ending cloud of flame. But still the brave boy held on, clamping his legs as tight as he could to the saddle, determined to conquer the beast. The very thought seemed to travel through his gripping knees into the creature’s being and with that the black dragon suddenly roared and lifted, straight upwards, and began to climb.
It was like some rocket, and faster and faster it got, so now Gareth’s legs were trailing behind him. His eyes were watering furiously now, and he wanted to reach into his pocket to find some scrap of a clue as to how to handle this thing, but he knew if he let one hand go he would be lost. A terrible sadness suddenly enfolded him, that his dragon adventure should end like this, when the boy suddenly felt a tingling and then distinctly heard a voice. “Garreth. Listen Gareth Marks, and don’t think, just name it. You can only ride it if you name it.”
“Lethera,” whispered Gareth, “Is that you, Lethera? Where are you?”
“In Blistag, but outside, Gareth” came a distant, gentle female voice “For you are above the Seer guard now. I’ll try to cut a way in. But Quick. Your mind must talk to it.”
The reassuring voice was gone, and the furious wind was screeching, but as they rose together Gareth tried to think of the creature he was trying to ride. ‘”Name it?” he cried desperately, “But name it what?” Now Gareth started to think about the animal. About its giant scaly wings, and great black form, about its huge clubbed tail, and claws on four enormous feet. “Blear..” he sputtered, as the words seemed to come unbidden to his mind, “Blackeer”. But the infuriated dragon was still climbing.
There was something about the terrible intensity of the experience that made Gareth’s mind focus and now he began to think about what he had done in the compound. About its teeth, and its head pinned there by that line in the dust, and about the look he had seen in its bewildered eyes. But the dragon was almost vertical now, and Gareth’s hands were slipping and he was losing his grip. “Blaaa…Bleagar…”” but it was no good.
“BLARAGAK” the boy suddenly cried, and even as he did, it was as if he was becoming part of the creature, “Slow Blaragak.”
Instantly Gareth felt the creature relax and suddenly it was slowing and breaking out of its ascent. Again Gareth was sitting high on its back, as it dipped and its head swung left and right, as though it was seeking instructions.
“Turn, Blaragak,” cried Gareth Marks, commandingly, “Turn back to Pendolis.”
Almost before the words came out, the great black dragon was turning, like a mighty ship in the sea of air, tilting its wings only slightly, so that is descent was slow and measured and again Gareth began to enjoy the extraordinary feeling of riding a dragon. He thought he dimly heard the sound of cheers and clapping, from somewhere far below, but now Blaragak’s great wings were flapping slowly and gracefully, and Pendolis came into view again and began to grow in the young Dragon Warrior’s sight, the burning red ball of the sun like a fire-coal behind it.
“Thank you, Blaragak,” Gareth found himself saying in his mind, without even talking, and those muscles beneath him seemed to ripple approvingly, “I mean you no harm.”
“Good, Gareth,” heard the boy, but it wasn’t Blaragak’s voice, but Lethera’s again, “but there’s danger. HE is close, the Black Warlock, so beware, Gareth. I will try to come, but I…”
As the dragon descended though, the little voice was gone again and Gareth felt that ache.Gareth suddenly felt like a god though, high over the citadel, his mind crystal clear and in tune with the vast powerhouse of a creature beneath him. He sat upright, and now his fear had gone, his sight took in all around him, and with one free hand, his left, he found himself stroking the dragon’s scales.
Ahead, on the ramparts of Pendolis, he could see people pointing and shouting and enjoying the spectacle and, as they drew nearer, he saw a row of Dragon Maidens, and in the centre, none other than Mordana. Gareth remembered Bouchebold’s words about standing out in Pendolis, and felt even prouder and as he did found himself thinking how very beautiful the Lady Mordana was. The crystal on her forehead seemed to be glowing and as he saw the approving smile on her face, he seemed to hear Leretha’s voice again, though different and more beautiful. “Well done, young Warrior, we have need of your kind now.” But as Gareth began to look among the turrets and courtyards of the citadel for somewhere to land safely, he found himself talking to Blaragak again, as they sailed in towards a high balcony, and tall open window.
“I’m an Outlander, Blaragak, called Gareth. I’m from London. I know you’ve been wounded, but where did you originally…”
Even as he asked the question though Gareth felt a terrible cold in his left hand, the hand touching the dragon, and suddenly everything around Gareth was dark. In that void of night, Gareth saw a face, so cruel and furious it looked like the devil himself and the man had flame filled eyes, as terrible as any dragon.
“No,” cried Gareth “the Black Warlock. You serve the Black Warlock himself, Blaragak. The Evil is here.”
There was a bitter, offended scream, as if the dragon had been shot out of the air, and it lurched so violently to one side that Gareth, who had relaxed his hold of the pummel, was thrown off completely. He found himself flying straight through that window, on a turret in Pendolis, as Blaragak wheeled, shot out a jet of fire, and rose into the coming night, breathing smoke and flames.
The new Dragon Warrior was too occupied by his descent and what he would hit, to hear the gasps from the crowd below, but black Blaragak had not being going too fast, and Gareth found himself ploughing into a pile of cushions, that broke his fall. He slid to a stop on stone floor and as he got up felt another jolt of horror, for on the walls all around were the most terrible instruments of torture. There too stood none other than the mute boy though, who they had made the journey to Pendolis with, looking at Gareth in astonishment, in his rather torn school uniform, and quivering like a leaf.
“You,” whispered Gareth, as he got up, “the Dragoman brought you hear to torture you. Pretty stupid, if you can’t speak.”
“But I can speak,” spluttered the boy, bitterly, “and I want my FireCutter back. She’s wounded. Besides, we’ve all got to get out of here.”
David Clement-Davies Copyright 2010 – All Rights Reserved Published by Phoenix Ark Press
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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