Written by OrdDiff
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.