The Dragon King
Copyright© 2015 by Allan Kindred
Even at the traveling fair that once a year came to Christopher's neighboring town, Christopher had never seen so many people. They are of all colors, shapes and sizes. They belong to all classes and kind. Seeing the urchin children running dirty and shoeless in the dark alleyways almost sends him over the edge into the darkness of a berserker, but he is so fascinated with what is going on around him that he puts aside the bloodlust for the moment.
Old timers in colorful robes and pointed hats seem to get the most respect from all the different peoples, even the enemy forces. There are women, too, that seem to equal who Christopher later finds out to be magic users, mostly wizards, but they wear earth tones and seem to have a grace about them that makes his heart ache for he wonders if that should have been Sarah's destiny. Christopher soon sees other magic users dressed in dark and demented clothes, and they seem to get a respect of a different kind.
The mixture of so many different smells combine to make an odor that will stay with him until the very last seconds of his life, and even then he can't describe it to one who hasn't experienced it themselves. The noises, though deafening and incomprehensible at times, have a musical quality to them. The sites are so numerous and dazzling that Christopher often runs into people because he isn't watching where he is going.
"I had never seen a building with more than one story to it. Here I could swear that some went as high as four stories tall. In the village in the mountains there was one dirt road with buildings to either side of it. Here every fifty feet or so another road came into view, and when you looked down it all you saw were more buildings and turnoffs for as far as the eye could see, before another big building forced the road to split."
Every road Christopher had ever seen was a simple dirt road, but here most of them have stones sunk down in them in such a way that you will never have to walk in the mud if you take your time. It is wonderful.
"It was upsetting me."
Christopher has been leading Shadow by the reins since shortly after they entered the hustle and bustle of this town, and after they made so many twists and turns, that he figures they'll never be able to find their way out the same way they came in.
Christopher walks until he comes to a huge courtyard with a massive stone and wood building on the other side of it.
"Our mom had told us magical stories with knights and princesses that lived in castles. I figured this had to be one of those."
Of course, later Christopher finds out that it is just the government building, which the enemy forces have taken over. There are many enemy soldiers standing all around the building. Then something else draws Christopher's attention in the middle of the courtyard, and that is three men hanging dead from some kind of wooden platform he has never seen before.
"I could feel my temperature rising until I chuckled at myself, saying look whose talking."
Christopher turns down a dimly lit alleyway of a road to his right and goes away from those thoughts and sights.
The further he goes the less people he sees, but amongst the ones he does see many of them start coming up to him asking him for money or food, but mostly alcohol.
A little blonde haired boy runs up to Christopher, he can't be more than six years old, and asks him, "Kind sir, might you have some food to spare?"
Christopher gives him some jerked meat he has been nibbling on as he made his way through this chaotic but weirdly harmonious place, "Here you go, son. I don't have much, but I'll share this with you."
"Oh thank you, thank you very much." And the happy boy takes off down the road.
An unsavory looking dark haired man tells Christopher, "You shouldn't do that, because now they will never leave you alone."
Christopher replies, "That's okay, because if I run out of food I will just kill you and take yours."
"He thought about it for a second, I'm sure he measured me by my age and found me wanting, but surprisingly shrugged and walked off. I guess death surrounded him too, so such talk was bottomless gibber."
Christopher keeps walking until almost no people make their way about the street, and then he stops at the first inn he comes to. He is hungry for real food, and he thinks maybe he'll try this alcohol everybody keeps asking him for.
"I secured Shadow outside on a pole that was obviously meant just for that very thing, and went inside."
If Christopher had thought the town's odor was strong, the smell that wafts him in the face when he walks in almost sends him reeling back out. It isn't that it is bad so much as it is so very strong. It is coming from the food and drink, no doubt. Smoke from lanterns and a fireplace adds to it. And the unmistakable odor of hard working or hard playing people.
As soon as Christopher walks into the front door, he sees that the whole far side of the wall is a counter and entrances to the kitchen. The room is in the shape of a rectangle. To the left are tables spaced about in what seem random patterns. It is the same on the right side. The only differences are on the right side in the back corner are stairs that lead up to the second floor, and built into the left wall is the fireplace. That is where Christopher finds an empty table.
"I wasn't sure which smell was the strongest, and I really didn't care at this point, but it most definitely added to the ambiance. For some odd reason the smells, warmth and the over-all atmosphere made me feel comfortable. Not to mention the people looked at me with great concern and suspicion, and that was okay with me."
Christopher sits down at a thick wooden round table, puts his back against the wall in the similar high backed chair, and motions for the server lady to come over.
"Yeah." She is a short plump gal with peppered color short hair with at least fifty summer seasons on her. Though her face and her hazel eyes speak of a harder road still.
"Steak and potatoes, ma'am, and I think I'd like to try that mead I've been hearing about." Christopher says with his most innocent smile, but he can tell she isn't buying any of it as she sees the tragedy in his eyes.
"How old are you, boy?"
"Seventy-four and a half. Why?" She snorts and walks off.
What cheer there is in this place ends abruptly when a tall lean dark man with pale skin wearing a jet-black robe walks in after sundown.
"I could tell why the less fortunate and those that have lost most avenues of hope liked to drink mead. It definitely made many cares go away. It did so by going straight to the head."
Christopher has even laid down his hatred and rage unintentionally, for he strikes up a couple conversations with a few of the other patrons. Everything he tells them are stone-cold-lies of course. In fact it gets so wild and he is having so much fun with it, that once he has one too many drinks he starts contradicting himself with every other sentence. No one seems to care much. In fact when he shuts up long enough to listen to the others as the night wears on, they pretty much do the same thing.
"I guess when your reality sucks so much that a few exaggerated words allows you to get away for a while, at least until the dark robbed mage walked in."
The darkness within is many
Those who have experienced horror are not alone
Some have lived it
Some have caused it
Then there are those who have embraced it
You can see it in the eyes
You can feel it when it is time
Those who have crossed the line
Can tell when they are amongst their own kind
Not necessarily friends or allies
But an understanding of how and why
Embrace the horror
It is time
Even through the fog of the good time Christopher was having, he could feel a kindred connection with this intimidator of the mind. He flows in like a phantom spirit. Though there is not a breeze to be found, his robes move as if alive.
"I felt no friendship or fear for the newcomer. I gave him nothing but an initial glance as he disrupted my high time, but he walked right to me and sat down at my table."
Not a word is spoken between them. There is no need. And Christopher is quickly becoming not in the mood.
The stranger orders dinner and drink.
Christopher doesn't know if he expects him to move from the table and or run in fear. "Yeah, right, not a chance, you son of the abyss." Christopher thinks with a grin that doesn't escape the mage's attention.
"He finished his meal and was well into his second drink when he folded his hands on the table in front of him and stared at me."
"Is there something that I can do for you? Maybe you would like me to hold your hand in the dark?" The inn has been silent up to this point, but a few patrons get up and leave. The rest try to move to the other side of the room. The inn lady is walking over to them to see if they want more drink, but when she hears that she turns around and disappears into the kitchen, which she can do from either side of the counter.
"He didn't answer me. He just cocked his head a little to the left."
Not missing a beat, Christopher folds his hands in front of him just like he is doing and stares back in the same way. He obviously hasn't encountered one that is willing to even be near him.
"There was no doubt I could feel an unexplainable power emanating from him, but I was long past caring, and if he was truly a magic user like I figured him to be, he was still within reach of my sword."