Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Covinous Dragon Tooth
By Fred Ollinger

The drizzle was so fine Erman hardly felt it at first. The droplets didn’t fall as much as they hung suspended in the air above the grass. From afar, the earth was an even green plain. Up close, most of the ground was black mud. The grass had gathered itself in knee-high clumps.

Lumbering across the plain, the nomadic Hasara people were covered with layers of grime, sweat, and blood that had built up over their weeks of warfare. All were soaked except for Erman. As soon as he began to feel the damp through his animal hide, he reached into the pouch tied to his waist, and grasped the petrified tooth. As soon as his skin contacted the tooth, the mist ceased to touch him. The damp that had all ready alighted on him would soon dry. While the others suffered more and more from the wet, Erman walked warm and dry.

Erwan believed the stone tooth was magic because of its origin; it was the last extant piece of the old Dragon Mage who had been slain a thousand years ago. Erman’s mother had told him the legend while she cut up roots she had gathered for dinner. According to her, it was vanity that had led to the downfall of the Dragon Mage. The dragon had began life as man, but through a life of study he had worked out the esoteric practice that led to the creation of the Dragon Wand that allowed him to become a dragon. Unlike mundane dragons, the Dragon Mage could become one of several types of dragons. This power filled the mage with excessive pride.

Of all the dragons, the mage chose to become a glittering Gold Dragon. It’s eyes bulged out like giant rubies. Its head had a series of horns that ringed his head like a crown. Its scales were gold coins. Even its claws shone like rows of metal daggers. For all its glory, the thing that made it most unique was that a Gold Dragon had no natural habitat. After he gorged himself on seventy-four virgins, he returned to the home he had built when he had been a human mage, The Palace of Mirrors.

If he had only chosen a different form, he’d probably be alive. A Stone Dragon was nearly invulnerable. The others were safe due to their natural habitats. A Fire Dragon, slept in molten rock. A Water Dragon lived at the bottom of the sea.

While the Dragon Mage slept, Greggenwart the thief, crept up with a beaker of magic acid. For a moment, he watched the dragon’s scintillating tongue flickering in and out of his mouth as he snored. The moment the tongue came out, he put the glass container on it. For a moment it just sat there a glass speck in the beast’s mouth. Then the dragon pulled in his tongue and swallowed. The beaker didn’t last a second in the powerful machinery of the dragon’s gullet. Once the acid was free it dissolved the Dragon Mage from the inside out. As the magic acid ate a hole in his stomach, the shiny beast clutched his wand and began to utter the incantation that would turn him into a stone dragon. Dull brown color oozed down the dragon’s body as if someone had dumped mud on him starting at the dragon’s head and moving down to the tip of his tail. At the same time the dragon changed color, he continued to dissolve from the inside out. The dragon corpse looked like a dragon built of sand after it rained. When Greggenwart touched it though, he found it was hard stone.

The thief climbed the massive dragon statue toward his foreclaw to get the wand. When he got there, he found both the dragon’s paws empty. The beast must have dropped it while he died.

Greggenwart got down and searched around. He found the wand behind the tail that had curled up as it petrified. He reached out to pick up the legendary Dragon Wand, but his hand hit something solid and clear. He realized he hadn’t found the real wand only its reflection. He turned around and reached for the wand. Another mirror. He bent down hundreds of times each time only to bump into a mirror. Panicked, he ran about for a bit fearing he would never leave the Palace of Mirrors.

He managed to get back to the dead Dragon Mage. He chipped out what was easiest, a single tooth from the Dragon’s mouth. The tooth in his hand, the deed done, and Greggenwart found himself hungrier than he had ever been. Not expecting to find any food in the palace, he hastily left promising himself that he’d return.

Later that night, Ichte, the One-Legged Sorcerer took over the Palace of Mirrors. He used a spell to fog all the walls to a lusterless grey so he didn’t have to look at his bent body, his worm-eaten nose, and craggy cheeks. With the mirrors gone, he found the wand immediately.

Hearing that the One-Legged’s power was now augmented by the Dragon Wand, Greggenwart fled. He disappeared from history along with the Dragon Tooth. "Know your place, like Greggenwart, and survive," his mother concluded. "Don’t be vain like the Dragon Mage, and show off what you have."

Greggenwart disappeared from history, but the Dragon Tooth resurfaced in legends that prisoners of war told Erman with the hopes that he’d spare their lives. The tooth had been ground and sold to cure illness, it had been carved into a ring, it was gathering dust in a treasure collection of the Raj Zelenyj. Everyone had a different story.

Even as an adult, Erman took all his mother’s stories literally, but before he found the Dragon Tooth, he never thought he’d come in contact with magic. His life was that of a nomad warrior: blood, dirt, and metal. Then he met the Hird and felt he was getting an insight into the world of sorcery, and he didn’t like it.

One day the Hasara were out looking for food in the form of a village to raid. When they first saw the ribbon of brown, they thought they had found it. Then they noticed that what looked like huts were moving about. Closer, they made out the beast’s two heads, one atop another. They had more legs than two–sometimes Erman counted four, sometimes six.

A weaker race would have fled, but for the Hasara this danger, far more then they’d ever experienced, was an opportunity to show their courage. Erman raced toward the strange beasts. A black swarm flew from the beasts–Erman thought they were insects. Then all around him men began to scream and fall. He saw that they were stuck through by tiny spears. The spears cut down men before they could even engage the Hird. Erman turned and fled. He could hear the terrible thunder of the beasts behind him. Luckily that day was overcast, Erman found himself safe in the fog.

As he wandered around, he found more and more of the other Hasara. A nod of their heads, and they regrouped in their normal marching formation. Erman made contact with a half a dozen men when he heard a scream. The accent was Hasara. Brave to the point of suicide, Erman ran toward it. Several large spears stuck out from the brown beast. The rider harassed Erman’s comrade with a short sword. Erman ran toward the beast and plunged his spear into its neck.

Pressed in on all sides the Hird were butchered. Dead piled up all around Erman. He felt himself being pulled down. A quick thrust of his sword ended the struggle. A body came down on top of him. He moved to push it aside. Something heavy fell on top of him, blocking his arm. He felt more bodies piling on top as the weight on his back increased. His air cut off, Erman reached blindly in front of him to pull himself out. His hand chanced upon something hard like stone and sharp like a knife. A surge went through his body starting where his hand had contacted the hard stone moving all the way down to his groin. The feeling wasn’t quite sexual, rather it was a warm feeling in his chest that one had when celebrating with friends after a victory. Erman felt as if he had just eaten and rested. Best of all was the air. Though he was still covered with the dead, he breathed the fresh clear air of an open field at dawn. Sensing the stone was the source of the miracle, he held onto it.

He pushed the fallen warriors who hemmed him in aside as easily as if they were small children. He climbed to the top of the pile of the dead, and found himself surrounded by the Hird. From the number still living, he knew the battle was far from over.

Picking up a spear from a fallen Hasara, Erman threw himself into the battle once again. Holding the stone in his left hand put him at a disadvantage. He had only one hand free to fight with. Still, each spear thrust was unerring in falling the enemy. Each attack against him missed. A wind picked up at the last second turning an enemy arrow aside. A Hird who was going to spear him slipped on blood. That day the Hasara won the battle.

Only after the battle did Erman look at the stone in his palm, and realize that it was shaped like a very large tooth. From its size and its power, he surmised that it must be the lost tooth of the Dragon Mage. He found that it gave him luck in everything he did even keeping the damp off him as they walked in the early morning rain. He used the tooth’s power sparingly, he didn’t want any of his fellow Hasara to know he had it. His people shared everything, if they found that he had the tooth, they’d expect him to pass it around among them. That’s what they’d promise. In practice, someone would steal it.

In time Erman learned the Dragon Tooth was not omnipotent. Its powers only worked when he held it in his hand. After a few hours of holding the tooth, Erman’s hand cramped up, and have to set it down.

Now his grip was good, for the first time that day he touched the tooth to dispel the cold and damp. He had been saving his energy for a fight, but now that the cold had at last begun penetrating his clothing, he sought its protection to keep his skin from getting wet.

Out of the mist, a long line of brown horses spread across the green plain. Even with his new found power, Erman felt terror when he saw the Hird return. Just like the first time, swarm after swarm of arrows arced up into the misty sky. Erman and the other Hasara covered their heads with their hands. After a moment when there were no moans of pain, Erman looked up. Another barrage of arrows arced up into the sky. The arrows flew straight for a while then they turned away falling harmlessly far away from the Hasara as if the hand of God himself were keeping them from hitting them.

With his right hand, Erman lifted his spear high into the air, then he brought it down, planting its blunt side deep into the ground its sharp edge facing outward at an angle toward the Hird. The rest of his men followed his lead. Then they all stepped back. They stood behind a spiky wall that surrounded them on all sides.

Erman had feared the Hird would see the set spears and stay back content to shoot them from afar. Indeed, another flock of tiny spears buzzed at them. Still, Erman ordered his men to stay where they were. He was proud that all the Hasara stood their ground. Thanks to the mist and the wind, few of the arrows hit home.

The enemy thundered toward them. They must have seen the spears at the last second because they pulled hard on their horse’s reins turning half around. But the horses were caught up in a stampede. The ones from the back pushed the ones up front impaling them. The inhuman screams of the horses were truly terrible to hear, but Erman had no time for pity. His short sword drawn, he rushed forward slicing the nearest man in the leg. Both armies merged into a single mass of writhing bodies. Grunts and cries rose all around him.

Erman fought without fear, cutting up his opponents one by one. He dispatched each horseman with a few strokes of his sword then he moved on to the next enemy. Since he no longer felt fear, he moved through the battle as if in a dream lost in thought. All around him the fight moved in slow motion. The sounds muffled as if he had mud in his ears.

So lost in thought, it took a while for Erman to notice what was going on around him. He looked about for someone to engage in combat, but everyone was at arms’ reach away from him. The fighters had all pulled away from him leaving an empty circle. Only a few bodies of the dead, many still bleeding from fresh cuts, lay around him. Outside the circle, swords still flashed, men cried out in anguish, and bodies fell to the ground. For a moment, Erman watched the fight as if he were a spectator. While he watched, Erman felt that the combatants watched him as well. They still stabbed at their foes with their swords, but now their eyes seemed to glance over at him. They didn’t stare, there was just a flicker in their eyes. And it wasn’t just the enemy, when one of the Hird glanced at Erman, his opponent also looked.

Erman tried to tell himself that they really didn’t look at him. The reason that they were away from him was by chance, only. They’d get close enough soon. A hole appearing in the middle of combat, was rare, but not unknown. By chance, even in the biggest struggle, pockets of relative empty appeared once in a while. But they didn’t last for longer than an instant.

Now the circle only got wider. It wasn’t perfectly round, warriors got a bit closer as they jostled around, but they all stayed out of reach.

At this time, Erman became conscious of the murmuring. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he caught the word ’invulnerable’ repeated quite a few times. Though there was chatter, the fighting still had not ceased, but it did get further and further away.

Finally, Erman ran into the crowd. The men, Hird and Hasara alike broke into a full rout. Erman ran after them for a while. As he ran, his left hand beat against his side as he tried to keep a hold of his Dragon Tooth. After a while, his hand cramped, and the tooth kept slipping out of his sweaty grasp. Erman found a spot where there weren’t too many dead bodies, and made his camp by himself.

That night, while he slept, a bent over shade of a man limped up to where he was sleeping and slit Erman’s throat. Another slit freed the leather pouch from around Erman’s waist. The tooth was a black fang in the moonlight. Tooth in hand, the hunchback slowly rose up like a stalk of grass, his back straightening. Walking upright, like a man, he strutted proudly away.

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Like many writers who can't stick with one thing and can't hold down a day job,
he assumes other identities as well including: Novelist, Ex-technician, Unix
hobbiest, Bicyclist (touring and commuting, NOT racing), Wanna be surfer, Wanna
be comedian, Meditator and wanna be Buddhist, and unemployable despite an
active RN license. He writes about anything that catches his interest.


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