By Force

Written by OrdDiff


“Dragons. Beautiful creatures, aren’t they?” The magician said, gazing out of her tower’s window. “Faster and tougher than any beast in the natural world, yet fully aware and able to speak. There isn’t a single adult dragon that hasn’t mastered the arcane.”

The group gathered in the magician’s study was diverse. A military commander fidgeted in ceremonial armour, protecting him from the cold and not much else. A long-nosed bureaucrat scribbled away on a sheet of parchment, recording the meeting for any fuel he might use to ascend a rung on the political ladder. A kind-hearted nobleman sat with rapt attention, while his aide scanned the room for the closest exit.

“You like drakes. We get it,” the bureaucrat interrupted. “Can we please get to the point?”

The magician eyed the bureaucrat with disdain. “Very well. As you know, the secrets of flight have eluded us for the longest time. My predecessor,” she spoke the word with unconstrained vitriol, “declared it an impossibility, stifling any and all research into the area. Young apprentices were intimidated into dropping it, and sponsors were encouraged to invest in more stable research.” She turned her golden gaze to the rich man. “I must thank you again for your trust.”

The nobleman beamed with pride. “You have always done right by me, it was the least I could do.” He said with misguided humility. The bureaucrat made a particularly aggressive note.

“We knew that the secret of flight would never be found on our own,” she continued, “so we turned to the natural world. Thanks to recent accidental discoveries by the military, we gained solid groundwork on the mechanics of mundane, or physical, flight. We found out how birds and other small creatures flew and, through collaboration with the mountain dwarves, created a prototype glider.”

“Which failed.” The commander interjected, much to the magician’s chagrin.

“Indeed.” The magician countered with a sly grin. “While it was capable of carrying an amount of weight over a short distance, it was impossible to create one sturdy enough to carry anything as heavy as an elf, let alone a human or dwarf. So, we left the designs with the dwarves and turned once again to magic. Clearly, birds did not hold the answer.”

“Let me guess,” the bureaucrat said snidely, “dragons did.”

The magician smiled. “Exactly. According to our previous understanding of flight, dragon wings should never be able to carry their immense bulk. We needed their secrets.”

“And that’s where we came in.” The warlord grunted.

“That’s right, and I thank you once again for your sacrifices.” She said somberly.

“Weren’t my sacrifices.” He said, accusingly. A glare from the bureaucrat reminded him of his place, and his brow, previously furrowed, slowly smoothed once again. “Did you get what you needed from the specimen?”

The magician nodded. “Yes. With the live dragon you captured, we were able to study its magic and biology. After several weeks, and a lot of accidents, we finally got it. Gentlemen, you may want to step back.”

She ushered them away from the desk and moved to the edge of the chamber, pulling on a silken rope. The large table the group had been sitting by moved aside, revealing a large, dark hole. The sound of metal chains clinking against themselves filled the air, and slowly a wrought iron cage ascended from the depths of the tower. Inside, bound by the wrists, was what was once a human. Crimson scales covered her back, leading up to two massive, Draconic wings sprouting from its shoulder blades. A small pair of horns pierced the creature’s forehead, and a thin wisp of smoke escaped from her nose.

The three visitors looked upon the sight in horror. For the first time all night, the scratching of quill-on-parchment could not be heard as the bureaucrat’s board fell to the stone floor. “This is what we have accomplished, gentlemen.” The magician proudly declared. “A successful chimera! The dwarves can keep their gliders, this is the weapon we have truly been searching for. Take note, for we have taken flight from the dragons.”


Inspired as part of a past Half Hour Challenge, OrdDiff’s fantasy piece gives us the chills somewhat. A human turning into a dragon, though not by way of skin-changing it seems. It feels a little like a Marvel or DC superhero comic – swapping the science-fiction for pure fantasy here. By Force closes out our “Tipping the Scales” content for July, and it’s a rather apt piece to conclude on, don’t you think? If you enjoyed OrdDiff’s work, consider viewing his other short stories, including “Hunter and Prey” and “Bronze Regrets”. 

Featured Image CC // Kenneth Lu

 

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Hunter And Prey

Written by OrdDiff

frost_dragon_skyrim

In the vast world of Skyrim, only the Dragonborn can slay dragons. Image // Bethesda

The hunter breathed in.

Kale crept through the undergrowth as quietly as he could. He knew his prey was near, and the slightest disturbance would alert it to his presence. The midday heat was stifling, making every action ten times harder than it should be. Flying insects harassed the woodsman sneaking by their homes. Kale did his best to ignore them.

Passing a spectacular oak tree, the large hunter spotted the gleaming scales of his quarry. It was seated over a waterfall, looking over the lands it thought of as its own. “Such arrogance,” thought Kale. He strung the massive bow he’d been carrying on his back, the bowstring resembling more of a rope than the twine of traditional limbs. He nocked the great arrow, almost as thick as his arm, and braced the weapon in the ground. The beast had still not noticed. Kale drew the string back…

“Stupid hornets”, thought Kale. “What a place to build a nest.”

The determined hunter ascended the rocky face of Heaven’s Key mountain. Frost coated the light beard he had grown in his travels, and he could barely feel his fingers. The hornet’s sting had cost him one of them, impairing his abilities and causing pain with every handhold. The thick coat he had bartered from the villagers down below did little to protect him against the bitter mountain winds, and he worried that the chattering of his teeth alone would alert the beast. Wiping his goggles clear of white snow once again, he crested the ridge and gained footing on solid ground.

Over a chasm, Kale spotted crimson scales. He could barely make out the beast’s details through the blizzard, but he couldn’t waste this shot. Fumbling with numb appendages, he strung his bow and nocked an arrow. Just a single shot…

“Damn winds,” thought Kale.

The weary hunter trudged across the plains, longing for home. When he had taken it upon himself to down the monster, he had underestimated the sheer scale of his task. The dragon could cross immeasurable distances in a day, leaving a hunter with weeks of travel. Kale’s supplies were running low, and he had been forced to ration harshly. As long grass brushed against his thick leather boots, he drank the last of his water. His beard scratched his neck as he forced himself to continue, knowing that stopping now meant certain death.

The hunter’s ears twitched. “No,” thought Kale, “it couldn’t be.”

Now alert, he strung his massive bow. The great limbs groaned in protest at the lack of maintenance, but submitted to the will of the hunter. Kale’s ears twitched again; he’d heard the flapping of giant wings. He dropped his pack, the travelling pots clanging and sounding throughout the valley. It didn’t matter if the beast heard him now.

From behind a peak, Kale spotted the dragon. There was fire building in its maw, and it was circling the hunter. With resolve, Kale drew his bow for the last time. The dragon dived at the man, and then hunter and prey locked eyes.

The hunter breathed out.

“Sir!” The squire burst into the warlord’s tent. All eyes fell on the young boy, just twelve years of age.

“Well?” The grizzled old general demanded. “Spit it out!”

“He grounded the dragon!”

OrdDiff’s Half Hour Challenge was submitted as part of last month’s theme, Chase. He’s done a remarkable job in building the tension in such a short piece, and we love it. Given the 12-year-old boy’s impressive performance – hunting a dragon, of all things – it was a sure shoe-in for this month’s content. If you enjoyed OrdDiff’s piece, you can check out his first published work for Inkblots, “Bronze Regrets“, at the link.