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lies dead but dreaming
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Lets see if this one is short enough to post here! this is another one I wrote some time ago.


It was cold, the north wind swept down over the barren hills chilling Kevian as he watched. Soon, the beast would emerge from its lair, all too soon. As he watched the blackened hole in the earth he thought back to the events that brought him here. His mind inevitably returned to Christianna. More than three seasons had passed since he had seen her. Nine long months he had spent searching for the creature that had, in an instant, turned his life to ruin.


It seemed years, not months, since he had stood at the forge watching with an expert eye as the steel turned glowing red. Pumping the bellows he was oblivious to the cacophony of sound that filled the shop, the ring of the journeymen's hammers on the anvils, the scream of hot steel being quenched in oil. Barely a month before she had ask him to make for her a dagger. It was not to be the cold thing that a mercenary carried at his belt, but a thing of beauty. Its twin edged blade, polished to a mirror finish, should never have been tested. Rather it was to hang at her side as an adornment to her green velvet gown she planed to wear at the celebration of Winters End. She had looked glorious that night. Her hair was braided into a coronet of burnished copper. The dagger at her side on a belt of silver chain sparkling with emeralds and sapphires.

The night of the celebration itself seemed like a ritual torture and his life's greatest reward wrapped into a single parcel. To be so close to the woman he loved and yet, not allowed to clasp her hand in his own any longer than required in the measure of the dance. The old women of the town cast knowing eyes upon them and gave a misty smile as they remembered a Winters End long past when they had known such joy and sorrow. They knew what was to come that night as winter turned to spring. They made their way in the patterns of the dance. Now bowing, offering up a hand only to step aside and pass one another. It was courtship set to music. The evening lingered on, as if it were loath to let them part company for the coming ceremonies.

All at once, as if obeying some unseen cue the music stopped. Those who had danced now faded quickly from the floor. The traditions of this moment were drawn indelibly within their hearts by more than one hundred years of history. To the north the elders and married couples of the town. To the south were the children, those older caring for the young and infants in this moment. In the west the young men who had yet to marry, and in the east the maidens stood. Slowly, as if time it self were creeping on the hem of his cloak, the Town Master stepped to the center of the square. Each step he made was even and measured with grave purpose. Carefully placing one foot before the other, he made no sound in his approach save for the soft and muffled sound of his leather soled boots across the stones. The square was silent as the breath of snow as he stepped into the silver ring inlaid into the stones that marked the center of their lives. An eternity seemed to pass, and then his wife began her progress out into the square.

"Husband" said she, "the winter is over. The world will now renew itself in spring. Is it not meet that we should now renew our bond, one with the other and thus renew our selves?" Without turning to face her he called out in a loud voice, "It is not. For this is now is the moment of new beginnings. Let those who would make new bonds come first, that the bonds of old may be reforged in the flames of passion newly kindled. Till then we wait and hold our peace." The time had come at last. Boldly Kevian stepped from his place on the western edge. Measuring his stride just as the Master had, he approached the softly glowing circle of silver. His hard soled boots ringing clearly through the silence. Now, as ever he wandered how the old man knew who approached, never once looking anywhere but to the south where the future stood embodied by the children. "Hold fast young smith. For this is the time of Joining. You may not enter into the circle lest one other come with you." His heart pounded so loud he thought surely the whole town must hear it. "Then it is now, great Master, I do call her who I would have share my life, my home, my children yet unborn. I call her who I would call my wife to join me in the circle." Without word he reached out a hand in the direction of his beloved. In that one moment his heart began to pound. Sweat beaded on his brow and his throat felt dry as iron, he thought that he should die should she refuse to join him. All at once he felt a sob of joy catch in his chest, tears of joy flowed freely down his young face as she stepped away from the east and began her slow and measured progress towards the circle, to join her life with his.

"Father, This man comes not alone for I am with him. It is I who will share my life with him, my home, my unborn children, it is I who will joyfully call him my husband" The Master, her father, nodded and her mother spoke. "We bid fare well to children grown, no longer to share their parents hearth. Husband you will bind them as one and their fates shall be together." As Kevian and Christianna stepped into the circle, the silver laid into the bricks shone like a small sun at their feet, an affirmation of their love for all to see. Her father bound their hands together then with silken cord, her right hand to his left in a pattern of knots as old as the circle of silver. None would question the union. The Master stepped aside as they walked thus bound towards the north, the married couples there parted that they might go immediately to a month's seclusion in a house that had been prepared for them.

Kevian couldn't remember what he noticed first. Was it the ruddy glow upon the path, the sound of a hurricane wind, or perhaps it was the smell of sulfur? In truth it did not matter, for only a second after he was aware of such things he heard her scream rend the fabric of the cold spring night. He heard the fabric of his being, begin to ravel at its edge.

In broken moments he could still remember what happened next. His left arm pulled forcedly into the air, something wet and steaming hot pouring down upon his face. Now in the stillness of the moment he could understand it was her blood. The bond that tied their hands together was strong and he was lifted high into the air his shoulder giving voice to his brain an agonized symphony of dislocation and pain. He heard another scream. Kevian reflected now, he might never know whether it was his own or Christianna's. His mind divorced itself and watched with grim, unwholesome fascination as the house to which they traveled lit the night in flames. The skeleton of its framing timbers giving parody to the hope it once held in his heart. In this state he looked up to see the beast, as if it sensed the extra weight the dragon looked down into its talons. That hideous scaled head now etched forever into his brain and nightmares, the revolt he felt for the unholy pleasure in its eyes. The horror and fear as from its jaws he saw the blossom of blue white flame a hundred times the heat of any forge. The sweet release embracing what he thought must come as he fell burning from the air to land in black oblivion.

In the morning they had found him. His left arm burned off just below the elbow, the rest of his arm withered like a roast shank of meat. In the delirium that followed he thought he heard the voices around him speaking to each other. "It would have been kinder should he have died." "As good as dead." "Both his craft and his bride are taken by the beast." "Poor soul." They had buried her remains before his fever broke. Healers fought to keep him in his bed as his body healed. In private counsel they worried that he would not recover, "The body can not heal when the spirit does not wish to live."

It was three full weeks before they stopped trying to keep him in the house of the apothecary. As he walked out to Christianna's grave he clasp the only thing of her that had remained to him. The dagger he had crafted for her. He had to search for some time before he found which grave among the hundreds of fresh plots was hers. The dragon had come like a storm of death and fire on the town. Fully two thirds of the folk had died either by the beast itself or from the fires that marked it's passing. The great ring of silver that was the center of their lives had been ripped from the earth and was gone.

He was not alone in his despair. Few in the ruin of the town had hope. Even the small children would stop at the gaping whole in the square and look with tears for what had been the symbol of their home. Kevian healed and his body grew strong again, though the little family he still had left to him was fearful of his despair. It was then that he knew he had to kill this thing. The dragon that had slain his beloved, this creature who had nearly slain his home.

Staying near the forge was agony. The scars left on his body by dragon fire would shriek agony in his brain at the proximity to such heat. Still he stayed and worked the bellows. The journeyman would stop his task and look into his eyes, then redouble his efforts as if fearful of his gaze. Soon enough the shield was finished. Most of the town had set to planting. Many had come to leave him in his silence, but all came to look upon him the night he sat his vigil. One by one they came. Then more came in small groups of two and three. They made their way to the place where once the argent ring had given anchor to their existence. They gazed silently upon him, some murmured a prayer for his soul, others murmured prayers for their own. The shield, black with a silver circle graven upon it, hung at his back. It had been made to fit the remains of his left arm, and on his knees as he sat through that sleepless night, was the dagger. At sunrise he stood and walked from the square. He went unto the stables, saddled his horse and road out upon his quest.

It had taken him the summer to follow the tale of woe the beast left in its wake. It wasn't hard to find the trail. From glen to glen he wandered asking always after the dragon. Many, where loath to speak of the beast, though in area's where the creature fed he was not hard pressed to find some measure of it's passage. More than once he surveyed the blackened remains and fresh graves that marked the places where the serpent had been but scant days before he came. In these places, where the pain of loss was still new, Kevian dared not tarry long. He had a dark fear upon him that should he stay in such a place its sadness and his own would drag him down to cold earth.

Always the tale was the same, the sudden attack from above, fire, and confusion. Always the first attack had come from the north, towards the Barren Lands. As he rode towards the rolling hills he could feel the winds shift and start to cool. Daily the trees thinned and the wind rose stronger against him. Then came the day his horse would go no further. Cursing he spurred the beast onward, but though he bloodied its flanks, it rolled its eyes in fear and finally after some time reared throwing him to the ground. He watched in silence as it ran at full gallop for the southern lands and forest.

He did not blame his mount for doing what any sane creature would as it neared a dragon's lair. Slowly he turned once more unto the north and walked into the hills. A half days march he could smell the sulfur stink. The grass was burned and blackened to ash in areas where the dragon had surely lain to sun in high summer. One night he made to sleep in one of those dark patches his shield held over his body to block the piercing winds. That was when he found the beast. He roused him self to the sound of muffled tearing followed only by loud cracks and sounds like the grinding of a mortar and pestle. Creeping up to the crest of the hill Kevian looked down into the next valley. There stood the serpent, it's talons tearing meat from the haunch of a dead horse. How close had the creature been when the horse had thrown him? How close had he come to being food for this stealthy, silent hunter? How close had he come to failing in his quest?

The dragon was half again the size of the horse that now it feasted on. He knew that in the towns only young men and women had been carried off, or accounted 'missing.' The dragon killed for sport and claimed its prize of treasure. It was a cunning and crafty beast. Kevian had watched it with cool detachment, not unlike the way he once watched iron in the forge. It was well equipped with tooth and talon, but its legs were short. He thought to himself, "A beast that hunted from the air would have no need of long, reaching limbs. They would foul the wings." He watched long into the night, learning of his prey, planning his attack.

The blackened hole of the dragon's lair now lay silent beneath his watchful gaze. He must act soon. Aware the creature must be awake; he crept slowly toward a small outcrop of stone to one side of the cave. "Dragon!" He roared as loud as he could, hoping to bring the beast out into the open. A low rumbling issued from the ground. A cloud of steam began to flow around his feet from the opening in the side of the hill. He smelled once more the sulfur stink of the beast. "Come get me you foul thing!" he cried into the air. Stepping out from behind the stones he saw its head emerging from the cave. Warily swaying its head from side to side, the serpent moved fluidly trying to quickly cover ground out into the open. Kevian saw the quick movement and raised his shield in time to avoid being engulfed in flame. With strength born of sorrow he held against the fire blast, The metal of the shield glowing and burning into the stump of his arm, he charged. Leaping and wrapping his arms around the neck of surprised beast and fouling its wings with his feet, he slowly lost all thought to hot, consuming rage. Time and time again his hand fell driving the dagger home in a sheath of flesh. The dragon howled its defiance even as the dagger came down into its eye, extinguishing its fire once and for all.

Kevian heaved in pain. He could not die, not yet. His very soul screamed in the agony of the moment. Down into the dragons lair he went and by such strength as he could summon dragged the great silver ring out into the open air. For weeks he pulled the thing behind him simply refusing to succumb to death's welcoming embrace. It was one week before Winters End when they found him, cold and nearly dead in the square. In silent tears they helped him push the ring back across the brick to settle into the hole from whence it had been torn. The new Master of the Town reached to help him to his feet, but now he was done. With tears he had not shed a year before, he whispered his final spoken words, "I love you Christianna."

They buried him next to his beloved. In the center of the silver ring they built a simple pillar of stone to the height of a tall mans chest. On it they placed the dagger that in the name of lost love had slain a dragon. In the one hundred years that followed it became tradition that a new couple lay their hands together on the blade, and it would gleam like fire so long as their love was true.
 
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