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The Dragon’s Bane: Prologue

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Alright folks! Here it is – the prologue of The Dragon’s Bane! (sorry for not getting it up quite as soon as I hoped, thank you for being patient!)

It’s a bit lengthy for a blog post, but I wanted to see what you thought of the whole thing. Please, criticize it as much as you like, but don’t copy or steal or anything like that, because I’ve already got a whole book to go with it (already protected by copyright).

Ok, no more ado…

****

The Dragon’s Bane

Prologue: In the Year 1622 First Bell
Burthra’Lhondøl

 

Tårtagh hated his shifts atop Dagvintra’Lanvøl Mine. Even from behind the windows of his sheltered vantage point over the shaft, he could feel the blast of icy winds bouncing off the cliffs on the other side of the channel.
Dagvintra’Lanvøl. The cliffs of deadly winds. The only place along the coast where the shores of Fråthrin’Havendøl and the ice cliffs of Yktra’Lan nearly met—the channel’s narrowest and most dangerous crossing. Right where the Deadly Winds Island and Mine were situated.
If Tårtagh had it his way, the mine would’ve been as far away from these cliffs as possible—he would’ve put it in the forest just on the other side of Ghirganat-Viri on the mainland, right in the warmth-pockets of the volcanoes. Though, if things were up to Tårtagh, there would never have been a reason for the Dwarves to come to Fråthrin’Havedøl in the first place. There would never have been Daghunds like in the tales, and there would never have been Simeadure to make the hounds. The world would’ve stayed as it was before the Breaking—if indeed the tales were true and there ever had been a ‘before the Breaking’.
Or if there truly was more to Asunder than the land of Fråthrin’Havendøl and its prison of icy cliffs that formed Yktra’Lan. The barren, freezing barrier of ice between the Dwarves and what was supposed to be the rest of the world seemed forever, the one thing that would never change no matter what. The old tales, of course, said it would one day melt as well.
But Tårtagh had grown old in Fråthrin’Havendøl without ever seeing anything more than the land he’d been born in. He found it hard to believe the old tales anymore—the ones that told about the Bell-Maker creating the world. Bur, who had created everything, a perfect world, and then let one of his servants ruin it and break it so it was ‘Asunder’. And then the next tale, of a Giant called Thunderfoot who rose up against the Breaker only to be destroyed in the fight and lead onto yet another tale, which supposedly was yet to come: the Champion of the Bell-Maker, the Heir of Thunderfoot. That one was supposed to be good, the Breaker destroyed and Asunder made whole again.
They were grand tales, of course, but Tårtagh was almost a hundred and seventy, and he’d never seen anything of anything besides the wintery, miserable land of Fråthrin’Havendøl with its mines and its flooding and volcanoes. Nothing of the cold and the dark ever changed. Yktra’Lan always stood there, sometimes cracking in the brief summers and yeilding icebergs to float on the channel; more water to flood the mines.
There was no sign even of the Breaker, let alone Bur or Thunderfoot. Nothing from the old tales—not even the famed sword and shield of the Giant, which were supposedly hidden somewhere in Fråthrin’Havedøl!
How could they stay hidden a thousand years in a place as small and dug up as this one?
And, really, if the tales were true, how could a being like Bur let a being like the Breaker exist in the first place, let alone destroy the world?
Tårtagh hated to admit that he doubted such tales that had once inspired him to become a great craftsman like the Weaponmaster of Thunderfoot, who made the sword and shield, but he did. He doubted there ever even was a Weaponmaster these days, because how could such a renowned craftsman leave behind no monuments to his trade? How could such a person not even have a tomb?
Tårtagh wasn’t alone in his doubts either. Most of the Dwarves slogging away in the Dagvintra’Lanvøl Mine for the faintest glimmer of Ghirstøl felt the same way these days, he could tell—even if they didn’t say anything.
Except for an annoying old Dwarf named Ghrœfan. One of the last remaining true smiths on Deadly Winds Island.
Tårtagh could hear him now—singing a rendition of the Prophecy of Burthra-Lhondøl; Thunderfoot’s Heir. The last part of the old tales. It was supposed to be a terrifying creature of some kind, like a flaming lion or a griffon-thing. A hero greater than any that ever walked tale or turf.
The old Dwarf’s voice was the only bit of music left in this place, a relic from before the Breaking if that were possible, and Tårtagh could hear it now above the shrieking Deadly Winds, ringing in time to Grœfan’s hammer on his anvil.
It made Tårtagh sick. Part of him wanted to feel bad for the Dwarf, hammering away at tools for the miners and clinging to the song with every ounce of strength in his failing body… But most of him hated it. He hated it almost as much as the frigid winds.
He hated everything about his floodwatching shifts above the mine, straining his eyes to make sure he could sound the bell if there was so much as a ripple on the channel.
Sighing, he tried harder to ignore Grœfan’s song and turned on yet another circuit of watching the black water. Nothing. As usual. The mine hadn’t been flooded in ninety years, and even then it had only been a small bit. He couldn’t understand why they made such a big deal about it at the castle.
Tårtagh sighed again, letting his eyes drift up the white ice across the channel. Nothing.
“Under Northern Lights!” rang out Grœfan’s voice, followed by the crash of his hammer.
Tårtagh rolled his eyes towards the sky. Nothing. Just a glimmer of green and purple ribbons in the sky. Some Dwarf scholars called them the “Northern Lights” as if there was a world southward. They were a bit brighter tonight than they had been in a long while. So were the stars. Of course, the logical explanation was an unusual lack of clouds tonight…
“He’ll come across the ice!” sang Grœfan, still oblivious to the hour.
Just as Tårtagh turned, ready to end his shift with a shout to the old Dwarf about quitting time, he saw something—on top of the cliffs.
“He’ll come across the ice!”
The something—a little blackish shape—moved as the song ended, causing Tårtagh to jump back in surprise, knocking his elbow against the alarm bell.
Dwarves down below, all just coming out of the Mine, looked up—ready to see waves from the channel crashing down on them.
“It’s nothing!” Tårtagh called, starting down the ladder. “Just—just an accident—I—“
But someone cut him off. “What’s that?” they shouted, pointing to the cliffs.
The shape was still there, motionless now on the ice. It looked shorter than a Dwarf, but not at all animal.

“Let’s go see,” a young, adventurous Dwarf named Andjør said, dropping his pack and running down to his father’s boat on the docks.
“Come on!” said another. And several rushed down towards the docks, piling in the same large boat.
Tårtagh stood there, staring at it. What it was or how it had gotten there—whether it or not it was even actually alive—he didn’t know.
What he did know was that it pulled at him, like a magnet. He’d never felt so strong a pull towards anything. And as soon as he felt the pull, it no longer mattered what was up there. He just knew he had to be up there too.
Dropping his lantern, he ran down to the dock as fast as his legs could go, his feet keeping perfect time with Grœfan’s hammer. He got there just as the boat was leaving with at least ten other Dwarves, and he jumped.
Tårtagh had never been partial to athletics. The most activity he saw in a day was the walk from his house to the Mine. Sometimes, he walked to Yslok Castle with the rest for celebrations. But that was it. No long hikes, no volcano-climbing, no pony-riding, and certainly no jumping. It was a miracle he’d even made it down to the dock as fast as he had.
Suspended half a second in the air between the dock and the boat, he felt sure he would next thing feel icy water closing over his head and that would be his end: frozen and drowned.
His feet thumping onto the flat bottom of the boat was the next—and most welcome—sound he heard.
Andjør and the others in the boat rowed as fast as they could towards the Deadly Winds Cliffs, as though they too felt the pull—the need to be there, regardless of what folly it seemed.
Fortunately, icebergs were small and few in this part of the channel, easily dodged.
A thin strip of ice lay at the bottom of the cliffs, and that is where Andjør cast anchor, using the heavy metal barb to pull the boat ashore.
There were very few footholds in the ice, but several of the Dwarves had brougth their picks and ropes from the Mine. Half the group, lacking supplies, were forced to wait at the bottom until the others got their ropes up a ways, then all climbed up behind.
Tårtagh felt he had never worked so hard in his life as he did to get up those cliffs. Sweat ran down his forehead, dripping off the end of his nose, stinging his eyes. The ropes cut into his already-frozen, half-numb hands. His feet kept trying to slide down the ice, even with the rows of spikes in his shoes. His great weight and rotund form did not help, and his arms, though used to working in the Mine, wore out quite quickly moving along the ropes. And the wind kept slamming him into the cliff!
Still, he managed to make it up top, over the edge, and onto the ice, within mere moments of Andjør, whose rope he’d used to climb up. It didn’t occur to either of them at the time, but they were the first two Dwarves to set foot on the ice since the Flight of the Dwarves a thousand years ago—if you believed the old tales.
And, all in a single moment, standing breathless under the stars and lights, on the great cliffs of ice, Tårtagh did believe, as he could see did every Dwarf present.
On the ice lay a dead woman. Young, dark-haired, bloody, and frozen. Beside her lay a dead creature of myth: a Daghund, appearing slain by the woman before she succumbed to fatal wounds and cold. But it was neither of these that made them believe—no matter how convincing such evidence might be. A dark creature spoken of only with shudders when some related the tales, certainly made evidence enough for them, did it not?
Yet it was the third body’s presence that instilled this belief: the only living body. A small child, possibly three years old, standing wrapped in what must’ve been the woman’s shawl.
Crowned with auburn curls, the boy stared back at the Dwarves with wide, fearless eyes. “I’ve been waiting a long time,” he said, breaking the spell of hush in the shrieking, snowy winds.
“I bet you have,” Andjør said. “And it’s cold up here. Will you come with us? You can stay in our camp tonight and we’ll take you to the king tomorrow.”
The boy nodded.
“Is there anyone else?” one of the others asked.
The boy shook his head.
“And,” Tårtagh said, swallowing as he spoke for the first time since ringing the bell, knowing he stood on the edge of something far greater than the world. “What shall we call you?”
The boy smiled, looking up at the Dwarf with a knowing expression. Far too knowing for a three-year-old human. “I am Burthra-Lhondøl.”

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