So I’ve been busily plodding away with writing for the past few weeks, roughly sticking to the 500 words a day target I’d set myself. Sometimes I’d smash it, a few times I wouldn’t quite reach it, but generally speaking I’d average out a bit ahead of where I needed to be. The last couple of days I’ve hit a bit of a block though, so I decided to try stepping back and writing something else to see if I could get my creative juices going again for the main piece of work.
This is a short story of just over 1300 words that I wrote in one sitting today, obviously therefore smashing my daily writing target quite nicely. It’s loosely set in the fantasy world of my novel – all of the characters are new, but the general location is mentioned in the novel already as a far away land. It’s likely on another continent, so it’s a bit like my novel taking place in Europe and this story is set in Asia…
It’s nothing special, but it’s an idea I had kicking around in my head for the novel, and in the planning stages I realised there wasn’t the room for it. It just didn’t quite fit the overall feel of the novel, I described it to Wifey as being like an optional sidequest in an RPG game, it didn’t have any relevance to the overall plot, and to give it that relevance wouldn’t really flow that well.
Anyway, constructive criticism and general comments are welcome – this is Four Against the Wyrm…
Gilraen stalked forwards, arrow notched and bowstring taut. His companions followed at a safe distance – the tall axeman Lorgar, the master bladesman Rhinn, and bringing up the rear with her trusty crossbow, the warrior-woman Kiala. The four companions had been travelling together for several cycles now, seeking adventure across the length and breadth of the kingdom of Charyndar, moving on when boredom struck or when lawmen paid them too much heed. They’d visited every corner and province of the vast country; fighting bandits in Fiornin, hunting down an escaped murderer in Miyana, helping the resistance overthrow an ambitious but barbaric viscount in Henayo.
Presently they found themselves in the foothills of the mountains north of Ocalith, where tales in the city told of a wyrm terrorising farmers and travellers. None of the companions had ever faced a wyrm before, indeed none were yet convinced that the creatures existed outside of myths told by wandering storytellers, but those stories did tell of great treasures to be found where a wyrm made its nest, so a tenday spent in the mountains was surely a small price to pay to satisfy curiosity.
They’d been hearing strange noises for some time now, and had been silently moving deeper into a valley that cut through the hillside as if it had been dug out by some great celestial hand. Rocks to either side bore deep scratches and they’d passed the crushed front half of a mountain goat a short while back. The goat had been ripped in two and the other half of it was nowhere to be seen. Gilraen raised his hand to signal his companions forwards and in a few heartbeats they were lined up next to him, crouched behind an outcropping of jagged rock. One by one they peered over the lip of the rock to see what lay ahead.
The wyrm was huge, a long sinuous body with a sharply spiking fork at one end and a mouth full of razor sharp teeth at the other. It had fangs almost a pace in length – as long as Gilraen’s arm – and the archer guessed that he’d be able to walk into the beast’s mouth without needing to stoop other than to avoid those great yellow spears. Its neck was at least as thick as two bulls side by side and the whole thing must have been a hundred paces from nose to tail. It had no limbs, but reared up to twice a man’s height, sniffing the air and moving its head from side to side as if trying find something.
Gilraen realised it must have picked up their scent and he ducked down behind the scant barrier the rocks provided. Three quick hand signals told the others his plan and they started moving immediately, Lorgar and Rhinn heading back down the trail to a second path they’d seen by the goat carcass. They’d try to cut behind the wyrm while Gilraen and Kiala distracted it with arrow and bolt.
The two companions waited, weapons ready for what seemed an eternity with the constant scratching and sniffing of the wyrm sounding out in the clearing ahead of them. The rest of the valley was silent, any other wildlife wisely keeping quiet or keeping clear. After a long, anxious wait, thinking the wyrm would pinpoint them and bear down upon them at any moment, Gilraen and Kiala heard a new sound, the whistling call of a honeybird – Rhinn’s signal.
They burst out from behind the rocks, both firing at the head of the wyrm then ducking back down for cover while Kiala reloaded and Gilraen fitted another arrow to his bow. A fiery hissing noise came as a stream of acid hit the ground beyond the two archers and then they could hear the shouts of their companions joining the attack. Gilraen stood once more, unleashing another arrow which bounced clear of the scales below the wyrm’s eye, Kiala following with a similar lack of success. They could see Rhinn and Lorgar now, the former diving out of the way as the wyrm spat acid at these new attackers, the latter taking the opportunity to swing his great butterfly-bladed weapon at the wyrm’s tail, scoring a glancing blow only. Gilraen notched another arrow and let fly as the wyrm darted its great head forwards in an attempt to devour Lorgar whole. The axeman dived over the body of the wyrm, catching his leg on one of the many sharp spines bristling down its back.
Rhinn battled the twin spikes of the wyrm’s tail as if accosted by a pair of well coordinated swordsmen and the beast swung its head around to focus on him after losing sight of Lorgar. Kiala’s next bolt took the wyrm in the mouth, distracting it with the first hit from range that had not been deflected by the plate armour of the wyrm’s scales. The great beast lashed out with its tail towards Kiala’s position, then back round to where the now limping Lorgar was once more attempting to hack his way through the thick chitinous scales. The axeman was saved by a tree, which took the full force of the wyrm’s sweeping tail and came crashing down to rest at an angle against the rockface.
Seeing how ineffective he was at range, Gilraen drew twin hunting knives and charged into the fray, closely followed by Kiala. The woman slid her rapier from its scabbard and joined Rhinn in attacking the beast’s tail while Gilraen headed in the other direction, towards Lorgar. The wyrm alternated its attentions between the two, spitting acid to hiss and steam against the rocky ground as the warriors darted towards it.
Gilraen dodged a burst of the corrosive liquid and jumped for the fallen tree, running up its trunk until he was level with the wyrm’s head. The beast had already turned to face Kiala and Rhinn’s joint attack and Gilraen jumped, pushing off the tree trunk and launching into the air. He sacrificed one of his knives, dropping it to focus his might on the other, and landed on the back of the wyrm, stabbing down double handed with such force that his blade broke through the wyrm’s scaly armour.
The wyrm roared in rage and agony, instantly forgetting its other attackers, who darted forward with blades flashing in the afternoon sunlight. Gilraen clung to the neck of the wyrm with his knees, holding on to the embedded knife as the beast wildly thrashed its head around. The archer spotted that the ridge above the wyrm’s eye was barely a handspan’s reach away, so he grabbed on to it for stability then started stabbing away at the wound he’d inflicted on the beast’s head. Five, six, seven. Eight times he hammered his knife into the skull of the beast, dark blood spraying into the air with each upwards motion. Then on the ninth strike the blade sank deeper than before.
Gilraen felt the wyrm jerk beneath him as his blade sank into its brain. He was carried a pace to the right, then to the left and then the ground was rushing up to meet him. The head of the wyrm hit with a solid thump and Gilraen was sent flying forwards. He put his arms out in front of him and managed to hit the ground in a roll, coming to a stop just before hitting the same rock he’d begun the attack from. He was covered in the thick black blood of the wyrm and grey dust from his roll across the valley floor.
His companions approached from behind the fallen beast, Lorgar in the middle, supported by Rhinn and Kiala. “I guess we’ll be calling you ‘Gilraen Dragonslayer’ now,” said the big axeman, voice tinged with the obvious pain of his gashed leg. “Come on then, let’s go see if this beastie was looking after some treasure for us.”