The Dragon King
"Demons, hellfire, and fury, my vengeance will be total. Not only will I take their lives, but I will damn their souls as well. I will not rest until their blood mingles with mine. I no longer see the faces of the people, I only see the ugliness of my enemy. How dare they! How dare they! I swear on all that which has been taken from me that I will not rest until they are all dead.
"Time has no more meaning for me. Day and night blur together and blend with the darkness of my soul. I have become a predator who preys on anything that lives and breathes. If you cross my path you will pay. I wander the countryside becoming more savage with each and every day. With each massacre I leave in my wake I become more enraged. More enraged! More enraged!
"I thrust my dull and rusty dagger so far into her eye that it sticks out the back of her skull. The warmth of her blood running down my hand is the only warmth I now know. Why? Why! Why did she have to cross my path? She did nothing but look my way and now she is dead. Can't they tell from the hell written on my face that they should stay away? Can't they tell that my compassion left when I went insane? Insane. Insane! I'm insanity enraged!"
But it wasn't always this way. Once Christopher was a gentle boy on his way to being a decent man. His mother and father raised their four kids in a loving home in the village of Diffident, which lies in the northwestern corner of the Westlanders Plains in the country of Hisperia on the island continent of Krokaw, which is one island continent of many on the world of Verve.
More than once they laughed themselves to sleep. His two older brothers Jessip and Jarid, even though they played rough, it was easy to tell that their bond was one of love. It is also easy to tell they are brothers, for they all have sandy blond hair and blue eyes, just like their father.
Christopher's baby sister was a gift. Oh, his sweet baby sister Sarah. She was born into this world so that he might know the love of the gods. She is so beautiful and so smart. Christopher was nine years old when she is born. From the moment he laid eyes on her he makes a vow to protect and watch over her throughout life. Christopher may have been just a boy when he made that pledge, but he swore before the God of War to give him the strength and courage to do it. Every time he looks into her big brown eyes, which looks just like their mom's, his vow is reborn. Her eyes are her mother's, but her hair is even more blonde than her brothers and father's.
If Christopher's life was bliss before she was born, it is divine once she arrives. As she gets old enough to go out, and at a time when Christopher's older brothers think they are too cool to be around ones so young, at least in front of their friends, Sarah and Christopher become the best of friends. Everywhere Christopher goes she follows, but he doesn't mind because she is his little buddy. She is his baby sister.
From the ages of nine to sixteen are the best years of Christopher's life. He watches her grow and learn of the world around her. At the age of seven it is obvious to everybody in the village that she is going to be someone special. With her long blonde hair and big brown eyes she can have anything that her little heart desires. But she is not that way. Her endless beauty is only over-shadowed by her heart and mind.
For sixteen years Christopher has known peace, love and family. He grows into a young man of five foot ten marks tall, and is getting thicker and stronger all the time. Never does he believe that there is a force strong enough in this world to take that away. Of course he has never seen war. His father and brothers ride off to defend the land.
Christopher wants to go, but dad tells him, "Please, son, I need you to stay and watch over the girls."
Christopher is sixteen years old when he watches them ride away. He is not happy about being left behind, after all, his dad and brothers taught him how to be a warrior. He is excited about the war and is waiting impatiently for his turn.
Later he realizes, "I was young and naive." Never did he believe that his dad and brothers would be killed, never to return home again.
His kingdom loses the war and becomes a conquered land. This is the beginning of the end for him.
"I protected my mom and baby sister the best that I could."
Christopher becomes the man of the house and works hard to keep food on the table and all of them safe. They are treated like dirt and their things taken away. Christopher is sure they even hurt his mother once or twice, but she will never say anything about it one way or the other.
It is shortly after Christopher's seventeenth birthday that things start to slip away. This is truly where the story begins. Would you like to hear it? It's not pretty.
It is three days after Christopher's seventeenth birthday and Sarah is now eight. You see the bond between Christopher and his baby sister is more than just family, they were also born on the same day, just nine years apart. The ones that study the stars for signs of prophecy and design say they were born under the sign of Leo. Destined for strength and greatness. Supposedly a lion is a creature that is a ruler of the wilderness kingdom. Christopher has read many wonderful and vicious stories on them, and reads them to Sarah to help her fall asleep at night, but he has never seen one.
His beautiful mom, with her long brunette hair and the same soft brown eyes she gave to Sarah and who always has a wonderful grace about her, says, "They must be real, though."
"But I had no idea."
On this third day of his birthday he is working in the garden, as always Sarah is in the garden right at his side helping with the chores. It is a hot and dusty summer day, and it takes all of their efforts just to get the ground to give them enough food for just one more day. Christopher is wearing his brown breeches and a green shirt mom made for him, and Sarah is wearing her favorite summer dress that is white with red designs in it.
Their village that once numbered around a sixty now barely has half that. The men are dead and the vibrant women are taken away. All that is left are old women, mothers with their children and old men. Even they are dying.
"Our conquerors did not care."
They take what they want and leave them in despair.
The village of Diffident is entirely on a hill rise, the highest hill in the vicinity. There is one road winding its way southwestward up the hill through the village and back down the hill rise again, disappearing westward into the rolling land of the Westlanders Plains. As soon as the road comes up into the village it turns westward and snakes its way through the twenty-three cottages. Sarah and Christopher's family home is the fourth cottage on the south side of the road. The cottages are made from stone and mortar. The stones are light gray, dark gray, almost black and some mixed brown, but the mortar is a reddish brown because of the high clay content in the soil. Some of the nicer cottages have wood trim around them, stained to a dark brown color, but still highlighting the natural patterns in the oak wood. It is ... It was a nice place to grow up.
Then on that third day from out back of their cottage where the garden is, Christopher is gazing southward out across the plains when they hear riders come up to the front of the house and dismount. Sarah and Christopher hear the banging on the door. Christopher meets Sarah's fear filled big brown eyes and is also concerned. They can hear the soldiers struggling with their mom as they drag her away.
Sarah and Christopher can hear her screaming, "What about my children?"
Christopher runs around the front of the cottage just in time to see his mother scratch out one of the eyes of one of the soldiers. The soldier becomes angered and pulls his dagger across her throat. She gurgles as she falls to the ground, and just before she dies her beautiful brown eyes meet Christopher's. And then a pool of blood starts expanding.
"I remember little of the next few minutes. It was as if I was in a dream. I looked down and saw a hoe in my hands. I remember my legs walking me towards the three soldiers, but I don't remember telling them to. I remember the soldiers looking at me and laughing. I could see the hoe flashing, but I don't know how it was swinging. Flash after flash the hoe flew by my vision. It lasted an eternity or maybe just a second or three, but it was the sound of Sarah crying that brought me back to my senses."
Christopher looked over his shoulder and saw Sarah leaning against the stone and mortar cottage sobbing horribly. He looks back to see what she is staring at, and he sees the three soldiers hacked to pieces.
He remembers thinking to himself, "Who did that?"
When he notices his mom lying dead on the ground he drops the hoe and kneels down beside her and Sarah runs to him.
"We cried and cried, but not one neighbor came out to help us. These were the people we had known our entire lives."
The fog starts to lift from Christopher's mind and consciousness comes to his waking dream. He realizes the danger they are now in.
He tells Sarah, "Sarah. Sarah! Go pack some clothes and food for the both of us."
First, Christopher pulls his mom inside their cottage and covers her with her favorite quilt blanket, and then apologies to her for not risking the time to bury her. Sarah comes over and puts her little shaking arm around his shoulders as they are looking at their mom one last time. The both have tears in their eyes and sorrow in their hearts, but they cannot let their grief flow yet because Christopher must get Sarah to safety.
Then Christopher goes through the enemy soldiers stuff and takes all of their weapons and supplies. He thinks about taking a horse for each of them, but if they have to run it will be safer if they are on the same one. Just before they leave, Christopher looks down at the dead soldiers and at their dark gray and black uniforms with the higher-ranking one wearing chain mail. It is the look of his enemy, and one he soon will not forget.
"It was the first time I had killed and a chill started to surround my soul, but Sarah was my beacon of light and our love kept us strong."
They are seventeen and eight. They are alone and afraid. Christopher's vow is to protect her, but she is his strength.
Even the nights this late into summer stay warm. Christopher had once traveled to the forested mountains with his father and brothers to camp and learn the skills needed to survive there.
"I guess it was a good thing that my father had been a soldier before the war."
It is nearly a week's travel to either the east or the north, but it is the only place Christopher can think of that they might be safe. All they have to do is get there, and hopefully he will remember enough so they can survive and disappear.
As the word and the search spread for them nobody would help them. Their own people turned their backs on them. They would not give them food or shelter.
"Once Sarah was asking this lady, "Ma'am, if we could just have a little food, please." An old man walked out and pushed her, telling her to get away. When he pushed Sarah she fell to the ground.
"I drew my sword and walked towards the old man to kill him, but Sarah stopped me."
Christopher was angry with the enemy for taking his family away and sending Sarah and he into hiding, but at their treatment from their own people he began to become enraged.
"Fear or no fear, you don't let children starve."
They are hungry. They are scared. In a kingdom full of their own people they are alone. Christopher had never become that great of a hunter to begin with, and with an occupying enemy army around the hunting game becomes even harder to find. What they can't hunt or pick for themselves they steal. Even though they took with them all the food they had at their home, they begin to run out after the second night. Another five moons through the sky and they should reach the Harken Mountains.
They are riding through the foothills at night doing their best to cross as much of the rolling plains as quickly as they can. Always finding a safe place to hide during the day. It is an odd lesson that Christopher will remember, that things are better in the folds of darkness.
It is just around sun up of the fourth night when they hear an enemy patrol approaching from the south, "Shh, Sarah, listen." Christopher wraps his arm tighter around his baby sister who is sitting in front of him.
They duck behind a hill covered with trees that are full with their dark green leaves, and hold their breaths as the soldiers ride by heading north. Christopher's heart nearly stops when he realizes they are coming around the hill.
"We can't wait for them to see us." Christopher kicks the horse as hard as he can and points him northeast. They tear through the foothill plains for all they are worth. Having to dodge the occasional group of trees or rock outcropping, and even on one occasion they have to jump over a small creak. Unfortunately the horse is also under nourished and tired, and soon begins to falter. Christopher looks back over his shoulder and notices that pursuit has begun.
"I could see the enemy patrol disappearing in and out of the foothills as they got closer to us."
Just then he hears Sarah scream and turns around just in time to see their horse collide with another horse of yet another enemy patrol. They all go flying and their horse comes up lame. Christopher quickly checks on Sarah and holds her close as the eight enemy soldiers of the two patrols surround them. It is obvious they don't consider a seventeen-year-old boy and an eight-year-old girl a threat.
Sarah and Christopher stand up, and as always Christopher tries to keep himself between Sarah and the soldiers.
"It became increasingly hard as they encircled us completely. Despair and fear began to set in. Not fear for myself, but for my baby sister."
Just then Sarah looks up at Christopher with those trusting big brown eyes, and he remembers his vow and a cold numbness comes over him. Christopher can tell that Sarah is shaking beneath her brown peasant style dress. Christopher is back in that foggy dream. He pushes Sarah to the ground and stands over her. He draws his nicked up old sword and a rusty old dagger that his dad had given him to practice the arts of war with. He waits for the enemy to come to him. There is a searing pain in his back left shoulder, but it only brings clarity and a warm feeling.
Without turning around Christopher thrusts his sword backwards and feels it hit flesh and hears an odd tearing sound. As the battle heats up the fog of the dream grows thicker. Things move as fast as time will allow, and then suddenly every thing slows down and he can see the enemy's moves before they make them, or at least it seems that way. Christopher feels the exultation of pain as he is wounded again and again. He continues to swing and thrust until he begins to realize he has met no resistance for some time. The fog begins to lift. Christopher blinks himself back to reality and sees the enemy dead at his feet.
"Then I remembered Sarah under my feet. I looked down; she was covered in blood and my heart screamed."
Christopher shakes her, calling out her name again and again until finally she comes around. "Sarah. Sarah!"
"It was not her blood; it was the enemy's and mine."
Christopher picked her up and carried her out of the area before she saw the horror. From the glazed look in her eyes he guesses that she had seen at least some of the battle.
They take another horse and all of their supplies. They ride caked in blood until they find a stream to wash in. The cold stream washes the blood from their bodies, but it cannot wash it from their souls.
Sarah's brown peasant dress is so covered in blood and gore that they just leave it behind as she puts her white and red summer dress back on. Christopher's brown breeches are salvageable, but his green shirt is torn and soaked with hatred, so he throws his shirt in the same pile as Sarah's peasant dress, and he puts on his only other shirt that is brown like his breeches.
"Even through all the horror Sarah remained innocent and sweet. It was I who began to die. Sarah was the only thing holding me to reality."
As they rested by the stream, Christopher began to think back to a story his father had told him about Northerners who when angered could fight off a whole army. What was that name? Oh yes, berserker. From Christopher's memory lapses and the aftermath, he begins to wonder if he is one of those.
After the last battle he decides that they will ride straight through to the mountains. At this continual pace they will reach them within a day or two. Already the terrain begins to get rougher and grow steeper with every stretch. At least the trees are starting to get more numerous, so Christopher thinks that as soon as possible they will stop for the night and begin to journey during the daylight hours.
"It's much safer that way."
"Christopher, maybe we should ride day and night until we get there." Sarah, always the smart girl, makes Christopher smile once again.
Christopher figures they will ride so far and high into the mountains where the snow still remains, that nobody will ever come look for them up there.
"Sarah, I will build us a cabin and camouflage it to look like the land. I will become a great hunter and fulfill my vow of protecting you." Then Christopher silently thinks to himself, "Maybe when Sarah gets older, I will take us to another land so she can be around people and maybe find a man to marry."
But for now it will be enough just for them to survive.
"The traveling was rough. My sweet baby sister Sarah never complained a single word."
Whenever Christopher thought he couldn't take another step, all he had to do was look into those big beautiful brown eyes that shine from out of her blonde hair and sharp-featured pretty angelic face, and that pushed his five foot ten mark frame with blonde hair and blue eyes beyond being a boy and into manhood.
"Sarah, we are each other's family now."
"That's right, big brother." That always brings a smile to Christopher's face.
Christopher will stand vigilant over Sarah for as long as she needs him, but when the time is right he is going make someone pay for his parents' and brothers' deaths.
They have been traveling day and night for half a week now, and they are now in the mountains prime, even though they are still at an elevation the deep mountains would scoff at, they have made up the distance well.
Their horse has been killed by a pack of wolves just two days ago, and they barely escaped with their lives themselves. With his sword in one hand and Sarah in the other Christopher ran for the nearest sanctuary.
"If it hadn't been for a nearby tree, which were almost everywhere at that point, we would have died also."
Christopher vowed to protect Sara from all danger, but in reality he hadn't thought about the other dangers the mountains had to offer. He thought it would be a safe haven from the enemy patrols. In truth, the further into the mountains they got the less of the enemy they saw, but new, and at times it seems worse dangers arose.
On the eighth day they walked into a village unlike any Christopher had seen before. There are but four buildings. One is a supply store and the other three are taverns. They have no money for the supply store, and even Christopher is too young for the taverns.
"It didn't matter though because we were hungry and tired."
Christopher picks the tavern that seems less active and Sarah and he walk into it.
"I was young and didn't understand the ways of the world."
Christopher figures that the place is less active because it is a decent type of place. Wrong. This place is less active because most people don't have the courage to walk into it. Christopher doesn't know it at the time, but this place is a hangout for assassins, murderers and wanted men. The lighting is dim, the atmosphere thick, and the odors that greet them are pungent to the senses.
On one hand the danger is extreme from the type of patrons that visit the establishment, but on the other hand the danger is less because these people won't bow down to the enemy occupying force and rat them out or turn them away.
"They may murder us, but not because of the enemy soldiers I killed."
At sixteen Christopher was a happy go lucky kind of kid. At seventeen, after he saw his mother murdered, his baby sister in danger and the soldiers he had killed, he is now more an outlaw just like these retched folk he now sees staring back at them as they walk into the tavern.
The dim lighting flickers when they open the door, and when the floor creaks beneath their feet as they walk in, a hush falls over the room. Besides the little sweetheart at his side, Christopher is beyond caring about courtesy or fear.
"We were hungry and lost and I was going to feed us and get us the information from these people to get us back on track into the best part of the mountains to hide out in, or I was going to kill everyone in this place or die trying."
Of course he would have Sarah wait outside. She had seen too much horror already in her young life.
If the patrons were surprised to see a young man and a little girl walk into this place, they didn't show it. It seemed once they realized they weren't part of the enemy occupying force they went back to their whispering and drinking.
Christopher bangs his fist on the table until the barkeep comes over.
He tells him straight out, "I have no money, but my little sister is going to eat and that is final!" The bar keeps head flies back and his eyes widen in anger as he looks at Christopher.
He stares for several seconds not knowing what to say, but then all of a sudden he laughs boisterously and says, "Aye, young sir, the little one will get all the food she desires."
Christopher is becoming tired and he can feel his world slipping into darkness. His only light is the blonde hair girl with big brown eyes. She is his tie to sanity.
After the other patrons see the show of bravery, they come over to their young countryman and truly fierce looking men greet them openly. After they tell everybody in the tavern the troubles they have been through, they are given all the supplies they need and all the information they can assimilate.
"How odd that assassins and outlaws would be the ones to help us."
These people are their countrymen. They have no love for the enemy occupying force. Of course none of their people care for the enemy troops, but these are brave enough or perhaps just crazy enough not to care. Unlike the flatlanders who turned their backs on them and slammed their doors in their faces.
"I will never forgive them for that, no matter what the reasons were."
They sleep at the tavern's table, and the men make sure no one disturbs them. In times of peace these people might have turned them into victims, but during a time of war, "My enemy's enemy is my ally."
The world has been turned upside down for Christopher. He can't imagine what it is doing to sweet little Sarah.
"I was no longer growing up. I was just going insane. My world was changed forever. If not for the love of my baby sister, who knows what I would become."
The tavern keeper, though rough and uncouth, turns out to be quite accommodating. "Aye, young sir, if you help clear the tables and do the dishes I will allow your sweet sister and yourself safe harbor in the back storeroom of me tavern." To look at the long brown haired thick bearded man you might think he is fat, but he is as solid as any. The scar that runs from above his left eye down to his left cheek and that has left his eye milky and unusable might turn some away, but to Christopher and Sarah he is a beautiful man.
"Though I had to put up with no end of jibs and grief from the patrons, the deal suited Sarah and mine's needs for the time being. I even met a man named Whisper who thought enough of me that he agreed to teach me the ways of war, and to be an expert swordsman and survivalist."
As the weeks progressed, Christopher learned that Whisper was a soldier for his kingdom during the war and is now a wanted man. Christopher tells him their tale and he understands all too well.
"I took what he taught me and added it to what little my father and older brothers had taught me, before they rode off to be killed in the war that was meant to repel the enemy invasion, and I became an accomplished swordsman of sorts."
Christopher was beginning to think that a journey deep into the mountains wouldn't be needed, that perhaps they had found a safe haven here, and he has even taken to sweeping up for the other taverns. The tiny and always under stocked supply store even puts Sarah to work cleaning.
"I was just beginning to feel happy that I had found a safe place for Sarah, when a man ran into the tavern and informed everybody that a patrol of enemy soldiers was headed this way."
For people that do nothing other than sit around and drink all night they certainly moved quickly. Even before Whisper could suggest they should leave, Christopher has Sarah and their supplies in hand and is heading for the back door and the mountains.
Just as Sarah was becoming accustomed to their new place, they have to leave.
"They will all pay for this."
Higher into the mountains they climb.