“Voenllyl sia ivah, Darastrixethe. Heed my voice, Dragonblood,” a hoarse, gruff voice whispered in the darkness, breaking the silence that permeated Storm Dragonheart’s consciousness. “Wer darastrixi di juanth sweekmon dout aso. The dragons of old seek your aid. You must help us.”
The fog that enveloped Storm Dragonheart’s awareness began to dissipate as she became more attuned to her surroundings. As she slowly opened her eyes, she realized that she was on board a rickety wagon and that her hands were bound tightly together. There were a few others with her on the same wagon, less than half a dozen of them, and all were also bound.
“Ah, you have awakened,” she heard a man say, and her blurry vision focused on a stranger’s rugged face, his hair golden like the sunshine and his eyes blue as a clear summer sky. “It seems that we all share the same fate,” the man continued.
Storm winced as the glaring sun reflected some of the snow encrusted on the nearby mountains, sending piercing blades of sunbeams straight to her blurry eyes. The female bounty hunter turned to look at the light-haired man in front of her and asked, “Where are we?”
The landscape was wintry; soft, powdery snow flurry about, carried by the slight breeze that blew down from the north. Yes, they must be heading north. The northern borough of Kirkstead is known to lie just northwest of the summer capital, Semera, the High King’s seat of power. Kirkstead is where the magistrate trials generally take place, and the hold of the High King’s Head Magistrate, Commander Gavros Vinius.
“Lymnos,” the light-haired man replied, and Storm straightened in her seat to take a better look at her surroundings. The mountains that ringed the frosty valley does look like Kirkstead, but then, she noticed that the flora were different. The growing shrubberies were made up of frostberries and blizzardblooms, shrubs that thrive farther north than the perennial mountain flowers and lavenders of Kirkstead.
Storm blinked as the truth struck. “They’re taking us straight to the execution garrison? Without going through a trial?”
The light-haired man nodded. However, before he can say more, the dozen or so wagons carrying the prisoners drew to a halt in front of a looming edifice hardened by ice and snow. Blizzardfort Tower, home of the High King’s executioner, Sir Magnus, the patriarch of House Blizzardfort.
Storm shivered involuntarily as she and the other prisoners were herded down from the carts and lined up along the front of the fortress. The blizzard had grown stronger and Storm can feel her feet growing numb from the cold. Instead of her usual fur-lined boots and bear-pelt cloak, she was clad in a thin rough-spun tunic and pants issued to prisoners of the kingdom. On her feet were cloth foot wraps that do nothing to protect one’s feet. Storm’s breathing began to constrict due to the cold air and the realization that her last mission was a failure. If it had been successful, she would not be here. What had happened?
Sooner than she hoped for, her name was called out. She was second in line to the headman’s block. The prisoner before her was brave enough to face his end, calling on to the Old Gods for a place in the Afterlife. The man must be of noble spirit, if not of noble birth. He died bravely and proudly.
When her name was called, Storm tentatively took a few steps to the block, swallowing the lump in her throat. She knew that the life of a bounty hunter does not end well. She knew that sooner than later, her line of work would catch up with her – she just did not expect it sooner.
Storm was roughly shoved down, making her fall on both knees sharply, the frigid stones and frozen earth biting into her skin, all the way to her bones. She had grown so numb that when she got down on her knees, she closed her eyes in resignation, accepting her fate. It had been a full, rich life. She has no regrets.
The bounty hunter, through the slits of her closed eyes, discerned the movements of the headsman and she can hear orders being issued to begin with her execution. But then, these were cut off by screams of fear from the crowd that came to witness the execution of their loved ones.
Storm quickly opened her eyes to look around and see what was happening. Everyone was in panic. Civilians run wild, trying to find a place to hide while soldiers scurry about, shooting at the sky with a volley of arrows. Some had rolled out several spear-throwing ballistae.
Storm turned her head sideways to look at the direction where the headsman had stood before, ready to bring down his axe and her eyes grew huge, her mouth gaped open. Can it be? Can it really be – a dragon?
© Jennifer Pendon, 2017. All rights reserved.