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Valley of the Damned

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Valley of the Damned

My Year of DragonForce, Volume 1

Jesse Beeson-Tate

Published by Jesse Beeson-Tate, 2015.

This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

VALLEY OF THE DAMNED

First edition. September 15, 2015.

Copyright © 2015 Jesse Beeson-Tate.

ISBN: 978-1516318421

Written by Jesse Beeson-Tate.

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Rules of the Game

Invocation of Apocalyptic Evil

Valley Of The Damned

Black Fire

Black Winter Night

Starfire

Disciples of Babylon

Revelations

Evening Star

Heart Of A Dragon

Where Dragons Rule (Bonus Track)

Further Reading: Achilles vs. Mecha-Hector: A Bronzepunk Adventure

Also By Jesse Beeson-Tate

Rules of the Game

So lately I’ve had the writer’s block. Bad. Like really bad. Pretty much since I wrapped up editing my first book Achilles vs. Mecha-Hector (http://bit.ly/MecHector [Shameless plug over]). And like all wide eyed amateurs who managed to spit out one weak novel without dipping their delicate toes in the waters of shortform, I’ve always kind of looked down on genres like flash fiction, microfiction, and generally most things shorter than a novella.

Well, not anymore. To help combat my writer’s block I decided to jump striaght into the shoals of flash fiction. Head first. No goggles. And I didn’t alert the embassy that I’d travelling in this region during my stay. To help ease the passage I gave myself a challenge.

There are six studio albums by DragonForce currently out, not counting a live album and pre-debut demo. Without the bonus tracks there are 52 songs. Coincidentally, there are 52 weeks in a year. See where this going?

The Challenge:

  1. Each Monday, post one piece of flash fiction per week.

2.  Each piece has the same title as a DragonForce song.

3.  Pieces written in chronological order. Ex: first piece takes the title from the first song of the first album and so on in that order.

4.  No genre constraints, but the piece must contain either the title or a snippet of lyrics.

5.  The song length = the word count. Ex: a 6:12 song is equivalent to a 612 word piece.

6.  Bonus tracks will be used as well. Those will be posted on Wednesday. They will be posted within the same timeframe as stories from their album (Hence, Valley of the Damned bonus tracks will be posted before the end of theVOTD song/story cycle.)

7.  Have fun. Try not to slip into insanity.

Invocation of Apocalyptic Evil

(14)

“Arise! Arise? That’s it? What kind of pathetic demon only needs the same two-”

Valley Of The Damned

(712)

“Hurry up, Freedom!”

“Oh shut it, do you know how hard it is to climb in this form?”

“You picked it,” said Eir-Li the Swordsman.

“Yeah, when I thought we were assigned to the jungle. Do you know how ninja this form would be if we had?” The green, purple streaked velociraptor scrambled up the rocky slope next to Eir-Li. Freedom Crom-tegis was as fond of the matter transmodder as he was bright colors to decorate the borrowed forms. Eir-Li had settled on his own natural body for this mission after some deliberation. And after hiding the location reassignment orders from Crom-tegis.

“I’m sure it would’ve been the most kickass thing ever,” he said to cover his chuckle.

“Damn rocks,” Freedom muttered, followed by a small avalanche of stone and pebbles. Eir-Li brought his rifle to bear. Something foul was in the air. Something besides the smell of sulfur and rotting flesh that usually pervaded the Valley of the Damned. Once it had been green, a lush verdant forest before the Wizard’s meteor had struck it. Now the only green was through his rifle’s night scope.

“You hear anything?” Crom-tegis asked. “We should’ve run into something by now. Komodospawn, skeletrons, manticarnies at least. I didn’t tip my claws with titanium because they look sparkly.”

“It is a nice touch.”

“Right? Haha, I love this form. If it wasn’t for the lack of a penis I’d totally stay this way. Like full time. Hell, between missions they could stick me in a zoo cage stuffed with hay. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve shit in a corner in front of people.”

“Focus…” Eir-Li shouldered his rifle then drew the weapon that gave him his title: The Swordsman. Not since his great grandfather had anyone in his family been given that court title.

“Right.” He could hear the whirring metallic sounds of Freedom’s shoulder mounted blaster cannon unlimbering. When he glanced back, the aiming attachment clicked into place over Freedom’s right eye. All business now. That’s why they were partners. They were the best at what they did. The banter and carefree attitude was just a bonus in Eir-Li’s eyes. In a firefight, he was vicious.

They were coming closer to the Wizard’s tower now. The glittering meteor-plated tower caught every bit of stray light peeking through the black, viscous clouds. Freedom was right, there should’ve been guards covering the approach. They should be wading through blood at this point. The Wizard should be hurling death spells at them like students throwing rocks at the elderly.

“FOOLISH MORTALS! YOUR DOOM HAS COME!”

“Oh, shit!” Freedom yelled, his blaster cannon firing with indiscriminate abandon. They both closed in on an outcrop of rocks that offered some small protection. Fire spells made the air hot as an oven, but none caught them. As Eir-Li dove behind it, he saw the gaunt, long bearded Wizard standing on the stoop of his tower. Stupid. He’s grown bold. He should be up in his tower, not down here where a stray blaster shot could ice him like a new recruit on his first live fire exercise.

“Cover me!”

“Screw you!” Freedom yelled back as he ran from cover. The speed of his velociraptor form kept him safe while his indiscriminate fire kept the Wizard from getting a lock on him. The Gates of Hell opened. The minions of the Wizard flew at him, eager to finish him, but his sword was too mighty. The black sword crafted from the famed blacksmiths of lost Chromisium cut through them like butter. Or cream cheese that was left out too long.

“Christ, I could use a bagel right now,” he said through gritted teeth.

“Embracing your Yiddish roots so late in life? Tsk tsk.” Freedom’s titanium claws tore out the throat of a charging komodospawn while his blaster locked then fired on its own volition. Eir-Li ignored him.

“Wizard!” He was scant feet away from the hellspawn leader himself. The Wizard’s eyes widened as his head was struck from his body. The body fell as a keening wail signaled the retreat of his minions. Eir-Li thrust his sword into the Wizard’s lifeless body.

“Two down, fifty to go.”

Black Fire

(547)

“Unleash the black fire!”

“No!”

“Release the black fire. We have them pinned. It is time to end this war now!” In front of me another square of cavalry slammed against the beleaguered forces of Adept Misrone. Charge and counter-charge. Pike to hem them in, crossbows to cut them down. Now black fire to end them once and for all. A squire found me amidst the chaos of the officers’ tower.

“Sire! The Adept…his force are regrouping beyond the river. Battlelord Mattinsen has rallied his men. His regiments are marching towards us!” I dismissed him then turned back Mistress Celeres. She stood surrounded by her acolytes in the black shrift of her Order.

“End this now, Mage.” I tried to suppress the anger in my voice, but to no avail. The young, black haired woman flinched momentarily before regaining her resolve.

“I will not. It is forbidden by the Concord of Aster. Signed by both governing bodies.”

“Tell that to the people of Mor and Ettleden.” Her face fell, but I continued. “You can’t. They are dust. Less than dust. Because the Adept broke your precious Concord. Now we have him cornered. This war could end now. All those people, is it fair to make their deaths in vain? Sons of the Dragon to fall because you won’t strike? To be free there must be black fire!”

Her slight frame seemed to crumple in on itself under the barrage of my words. Only my quick motions caught her before she hit the floor. For a moment, I could only stare into her eyes. Blue, like summer days on my farm. Before the war began. Before the sky turned dark from the industry needed for war.

“I will bring black fire.” She was almost too soft to hear over the cacophony of battle. She repeated herself as the acolytes lifted her to her feet.

“I will bring the black fire.” Her voice had changed. It had once been soft, hesitant even in the face of my own brusque mannerisms acquired in the field. No more. Now it was if a whole new person stood before me. She brushed away her companions and advanced past me to the edge of the tower. The battle still raged on below. The men surrounding the banner of the Adept were smaller, but no less fierce.

“Look at me, Marshal. Witness what I will do.” She gripped the rails as if to steady herself then abruptly thrust her hands skyward. Black clouds, thicker than any the smithies could ever produce swirled in the sky. Thunder boomed and lightning lit the newly come darkness. I gripped the rail to steady myself as the blackness in the clouds coalesced into something truly terrible. Something I could not turn away from. A great wail arose from the ranks of the Adept, then was snuffed out as the black fire consumed them like a snake striking its victim.

My men pulled back in fear from the knoll that once held the Adept’s army. Now there was nothing, but barren, decayed earth. I had never seen black fire in action. Yet now…now I had witnessed its awesome power. I placed a hand on Mistress Celeres’ shoulder.

“Gather your strength. The Battlelord’s men approach us soon.”

Black Winter Night

(630)

“It sure is cold in here, Captain Tootsie.”

“That’s because you’re a dame.”

“What?”

“Nothing…have a Tootsie Roll for warmth.”

*While camping out in the woods, the intrepid Captain Tootsie and his four young companions discover a wrecked campsite. Amidst the destruction is a series of footsteps leading further into the forrest. Following the trail, they come upon a strange stone building guarded by several sinister looking men. After defeating the guards, using the power of Tootsie Rolls, the group descends further into the strange stone edifice rising out of the trees. *

“I wonder what these strange markings on the wall mean?”

“Its Indian I suspect. The redskins had a thriving culture that our leading scientists claim was based on beads, blankets, and rain dances as a form of currency. Quiet now, I can see a light up ahead.”

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

“What was that?”

“That’s Cherokee, unless I’m mistaken. I suspect we’ve stumbled onto one of their primitive gatherings to celebrate the spirit of the buffalo.”

“I don’t think that’s Cherokee, Captain Tootsie…”

“And when did you become a linguistic anthropologist, Nancy?”

“Sorry, Captain Tootsie.”

Our intrepid group hides behind a stone table and witnesses the strange ritual being performed. Over fifty men, a mixed, degenerate looking lot, dance and writhe before a stone statue. Every so often they pause to yell in their strange language.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

“I don’t like this, Captain Tootsie. I want to go home.”

“It looks like they have old Mr. Castro tied up on that stone table. We have to rescue him!”

“Do we really, Captain Tootsie? I mean we could leave and find the police. I bet they could take care of this.”

“What are you, Timmy? A dame like Nancy here?”

“…no…Sorry, Nancy…”

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn

“Now everyone eat a Tootsie Roll for strength.”

“Maybe you should’ve brought a gun or something.”

“Nonsense, watch this. Halt there! Release Mr. Castro and come with me to the police station!”

The cultists pause in their dance to stare in wonder at our intrepid heroes. Then as if awakening from a trance, they roar in unison, a deafening blast of noise that rips at the very souls of our heroes.

“My ears hurt, Captain Tootsie!”

“Here, eat a Tootsie Roll for- AURGH! MY SOUL! MY SOUL IS BEING UNDONE. THE BLACK WINTER SUN. IT HATH COME. HAIL TO ITS RISING! SEEKING! DESTROYING THE WARMTH OF THIS WORLD! HAIL! CTHULHU! CTHULHU! HAIL TO HIS RISING! CTHULHU, THE BLACK WINTER SUN!”

“Run! Everyone run!”

“What about Captain Tootsie?”

“Leave him! The Cherokee’s possessed him with their Injun magic!”

“Run! Run! AIEE-

“That all of them?”

“Yes, Inspector Legrasse. Five of them dead and forty seven arrested. You ever seen anything like this before?”

“Never. Whatever voodoo ritual happened here is completely unfamiliar to me.”

“…There was one other thing….”

“Yes?”

“We found those missing children.”

“Sweet Jesus! The ones kidnapped last week? Are they alive?”

“Yeah, they’re alive, Inspector. Hurt pretty badly, but nothing a little bedrest won’t fix.”

“Are they talking?”

“Only the girl, the rest haven’t said a word. I don’t think one of the boys has so much as blinked since we pulled them off that altar.”

“What’s the girl saying?”

“Nothing coherent. Mutters something about the sun…a black sun of some kind. She’s not making a lot of sense, but she’s asked for all the blankets we have. Seems she’s caught some kind of chill.”

“I don’t blame her, no telling what she saw here. Any sign of Captain Tootise?”

“No, sir.”

“Damn, still on the loose! I want men posted on every road out of here. This menace is finished, but Captain Tootsie is still on the loose!”

Starfire

(553)

“Is everyone evacuated?”

“It seems so, sir. Or as many as time allowed.”

“Then launch the fleet.”

“Aye, sir.” There was barely any tremble in his force. I heard it loud enough. 50/50 he would sneak on board one of the civilian transports. I couldn’t blame him, or any of those who deserted. They had families, people who cared for them. No one wants to be a dead hero. Assuming we can stop the Endari long enough to be declared heroes, posthumously or not.

I touched the command console and felt the ship move forward, away from Terra and the fleet containing the billions of civilians that could be evacuated in time. Likewise, the half a hundred ships remaining in the fleet lumbered forward together in a rough firing line. A volley of plasma torpedoes from the battleships provided a bit of color against the bleakness of space. Pretty, but useless at this range.

“Sound the bells. Everyone to battle stations.” Moments later, the alarm klaxons rang out through the bridge. I accepted a battered helmet from my XO then turned to face the oncoming Endari fleet. They defied easy explanation; their ships weren’t really ships, rather they were great cubes that seemed to drift through space. No source of propulsion could be seen, but nonetheless they were making straight for us. Only three of them. Yet every fleet sent against them had fallen. Once there had been four, yes, but the Confederation’s ships had numbered in the thousands before the Endari emerged from deep space.

“Deploy the Rapiers, place the Lancers on reserve.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Captains, aim for their weapon embankments. We must neutralize the starfire turrets immediately.” Innumerable voices came through my link as the vessel captains echoed their assent.

Soon the Rapier fighter ships appeared like so many gnats on my screen. Tiny pinpricks of light indicated they were engaging the defensive droneships deployed by the Endari.

“Deploy Lancers and Tomahawks. Full assault on their shield ports.”

“Aye, sir.” The heavy bomber ships deployed alongside their escort fighters.

“All ships, ready your cannons. Full broadside on my word then fire at will. Keep their shields busy and create holes for our bombers to attack.” We were entering firing range, for us and them.

“…Steady….Steady…FIRE.” For a brief moment, the darkness was space was briefly pushed back by the illumination of our guns. The next volley cut through space even as the first splashed harmlessly against their shields. Starfire, the fiery liquid mana of the Endari ripped into the fleet. Shield and ship disintegrated at the first touch of that terrible fire harvested from the very cores of the constellations. The bridge rocked as shockwaves rolled over us.

“Hit them with everything you have!” Fewer voices came through the link. Ship after ship exploded, snuffing out more voices, but those who remained laid down a blanket of withering fire. For a moment, it almost seemed like the Endari fleet stopped advancing.

“Sir, the last civilian ship has entered the Portal.”

“Thank you. Alert the fleet. Fall back to defensive positions around the Portal. Recall all fighters to cover our retreat.”

“Aye, sir…sir? They can’t come through the Portal after us, correct?”

“Correct.”

“Then have we won?”

“No. But we’ve bought ourselves more time at least.”

“Aye, sir.”

Disciples of Babylon

(717)

When we last left our heroes, Brazen Abbot and is faithful companion, Barll the Indestructible, had stolen the Life Stone from the Temple of Moog. But, with escape in sight, the two inadvertently walk into a trap set by the vile Wasp Woman….

The silence of the tunnel was broken by the sounds of innumerable steel-shod feet running towards them. Underlying it was the faint buzzing of wings, as if a horde of locust were about to descend from the heavens. It was not a horde of insects, it was one woman. Wasp Woman swooped down from the high peaked tunnel ceiling. She pointed her jeweled trident at the two heroes and cackled with malice.

“Muahahaha! Did you really think I would let you escape so easily, Brazen Abbot? You have been a thorn in my side for too long!”

“I thought we were rid of her outside Samarkand, Baz.”

“Hmm, this changes our plan considerably. But as Master Ping would say ‘Death comes quickly to the unyielding.’ We shall need to improvise a new one quickly. For now though, good Barll, we must survive! Hee-yah!”

Brazen Abbot’s fist struck the throat of the nearest man before using a Flying Tortoise kick to disarm him. Meanwhile Barll laid into the great host of temple guards. He had lost his axe in their flight and was now using his club to crush anyone slow enough to be caught.

“Get them, you fools!” Wasp Women yelled. “Kill the fat one, but bring me the barbarian alive. He will make excellent breeding stock.” She hummed and buzzed above the melee, exhorting her minions, but to no avail.

There were too many of them packed into the tunnel. They tripped and stumbled and impeded one another. Meanwhile Brazen Abbot and Barll fought in perfect unity, each one’s style complimenting the others for maximum destruction. Blooming Lotus flowed into Rampaging Boat into Irate Stepmother, each attack more powerful than the last. It was not enough. There were simply too many to take on at once.

“Let’s get back to the temple!” Barll yelled.

“Indeed, from there we can use the Life Stone to teleport outside. First, we must get past these foul disciples of Babylon and their cruel mistress. Concentrate on the foes to our left. We will must break through them.” They went back to their brutal work. Bones broke, flesh was pummeled, and the ringing cries of the injured filled the tunnel with a horrible cacophony. Even for a man of his size and girth, Brazen Abbot moved like a hummingbird through the enemy. To the untrained eye he seemed a man at the height of corpulence, but his discipline was called the Path of the Iron Gut for a reason. There was nothing soft about him, even the jowls on his cheeks were hard as forged steel.

With a last Lotus Palm to the face, the two broke through the mass and fled back towards the Moog Temple. The narrowness of the tunnel and unevenness of the floor hampered their pursuit. The sounds of curses and mutters followed through the tunnel and into the narthex of the temple.

“Cover the door! Collapse the idol!”

Barll pressed on the stone idol until it began to topple precariously. It was a large stone butterfly with three monstrous dragon heads rising from its bizarrely scaled body. The sounds of pursuit were growing closer.

“Care to join?” Barll asked through gritted teeth. His eyes fell on Brazen Abbot, sitting cross-legged in his meditation pose. “Oh c’mon! Not the time, Baz!”

A good-natured eye peeked open. With an almost lazy casualness, Brazen Abbot unfolded himself from the floor. Gently, he placed a hand on the statue as it continued to teeter. He then assumed the Blue Footed Booby Stance, a more deadly offshoot of the traditional Crane Stance, then struck the statue at the precise moment of farthest incline. With a deafening crash the statue smashed into the wall, breaking into hundreds of pieces. The tunnel was sealed.

“We’re safe,” Barll said over labored breaths.

“For now,” Brazen Abbot replied. “Recall that I did not kill the Balrog, I merely lulled him to sleep with my flute. I imagine he will wake soon. No doubt he will be hungry, too.”

Revelations

(653)

At the end of the day, what really did Josh in was the sneeze. It was a revelation he would’ve laughed at given the chance. But he couldn’t, crouched as he was in the bushes. There was nothing he could do to stifle the sneeze. At most he could’ve buried his face in the mud, but it would’ve made no difference. He would’ve died with mud on his face.

The sneeze ripped through the quiet of the forrest. Birds leapt from their perches in the tall trees just like in the movies. Silence came again. Not the peaceful kind normally associated with woodland glens. This was the kind of quiet that came before hurricanes, tornados, and artillery strikes. Aside from a few wary birds returning, there was only one animal nearby.

“Maybe its gone,” Josh thought. “It has to be full by now. The damn thing had killed enough in the past couple of days to warrant some rest.” Eight people gone. Just like that. Well, maybe not quite ‘just like that.’ It had stalked them for days, trailing them as they ventured deeper into the back country of Utah. First Jojo disappeared. They called for hours until their voices were hoarse. Then came the discovery of that damn Swampman hat he always wore. They found it at the base of a tree, covered in blood.

“Keep Swampin’,” Josh muttered, oblivious to the sound of snapping twigs. “If ol’ Jojo could see me now, up to my dick in swamp and Lord knows what else.”

The team buried the hat and sung a brief hymn. No one knew the words to Amazing Grace, but they managed well enough. That was only the beginning. Their boom mic operator, Ron, stayed behind to watch the camp. When they returned, he was gone and the camp was ransacked. Footprints lead into the forrest, but after the death of Jojo, no one volunteered to go look for Ron.

Instead, they built a bonfire, as high as they could. They huddled as close to the fire as they could tolerate, casting fearful glances over their shoulders into the night. As the sun crept over the horizon they all fell asleep. Surviving the night had seemed such a huge accomplishment that they all passed into the deep sleep of the exhausted. When they awoke, the sun was well past its zenith. And Ken was gone. Well, the bottom half of him was gone.

They didn’t bother burying him. They grabbed whatever they could carry and ran back the way they came. The days and nights past quickly. No more huge bonfires. Just small individual ones each person built. Each night someone disappeared. No cries, no screams, just a patch of blood on the ground.

Soon there were four of them. Then three. Then two. Josh and Kim. Then it struck. Some blind luck had Josh bending down to tie his shoelace when something large whooshed over him. Kim had time to give a strangled yell that descended into a guttural gurgling as blood flowed out of her mouth. Josh ran. Dropping his pack and crashing into the woods at full speed. Pure instinct told him to escape. And now pure instinct had led him to this puddle of mud under this damn bush.

“Damn instinct,” he said, louder than before.

The sneeze was still what did him in though. The second sneeze to be precise. This one was louder, full of pent of adrenaline and fear. He lifted his head clear of the bushes, nose held high in the air and let out the great blast of air and snot. When he opened his eyes, he was face to face with the predator. A low growl escaped the beast’s mouth. Josh didn’t have time to react, let alone release the third sneeze he felt coming. The last thing he saw was a set of jaws leaping towards his face.

Evening Star

(640)

“One night in the cemetery. It’ll be easy for a brave kid like you.”

Like it was ever that easy. Chester debated turning around and heading back to town.  But then what would his classmates think of him? He’d claimed not to be afraid of anything. So when Janey Handlen challenged him to a night in the old cemetery, he couldn’t very well so No. Besides, it was just an cemetery full of statues and worn out stones. No different from camping out at the creek. Except Chester had worn his beat up old sneakers instead of the hiking boots his stepfather had gotten him for his birthday.

“And what kind of direction is that? She could’ve just said head east through the fields.” he thought. Still, Chester kept plugging forward through the damp grain towards what he assumed was the brightest star in the sky. Abruptly, the fields gave way to manicured grass and a garden of statues and gravestones.

“Strange place to prove how brave I am.”

“Ah, a visitor at last…” Chester nearly jumped out of his skin. He wheeled around, but only saw a large statue of an angel perched atop a gravestone. Its face was locked in a rigor mortis of sadness. It held a trumpet in one hand and a spear of some kind in the other.

“Who…who’s there?” he called out. “Janey? If you think you’re gonna scare me off, then you got another thing coming!”

“I know of no Janey, I assure you.” The statue was talking! Slowly with the sound of grinding stone, it rose into a standing position and looked down at Chester.

“Are you a monster?”

“Yes.” Its rigor of sadness was gone, replaced by something resembling amusement.

“Are you going to eat me?” When faced with a monster, what child doesn’t want to know the answer to this question? Too often though, they don’t like the answer.

“No,” the statue said. “I am bound by ancient laws. Punishment for my myriad sins supposedly. I am not allowed to feast on the flesh of Man anymore unless three questions and an insult are spoken. Don’t bother asking why, its a long story and you seem like the type with a very short attention span.”

“Why?” Chester asked. It was almost reflex, honed over long years of trying to annoy his elders. The stone angel smiled.

“Well, fine. I’ll give you the short version. Because the god you worship is a vindictive bastard who never lets go of a grudge.”

“That’s not what the teacher says on Sunday,” Chester said. “She says He loves us.”

“Yes, because you are Man. He always loved you more than we of the angelic host.” The statue’s voice was like sand sliding through an hourglass. Chester knew he should run, but something kept his feet planted in front of the grave.

“So you’re an angel?” Another smile.

“Once. These days I go by many names. Hesperus to my friends, Evening Star to those trying to summon me. You might have heard of me…”

“Nope. Were you a messenger?” The third smile slid into a glower.

“I was never suited for such mundane tasks. No matter, what is past is past. Now young child, you stand dangerously close to a precipice.” Chester looked around him, but only saw flat grass. “Run along now before your fourth strike undoes you.”

With more grinding of limbs, the angel struck his original pose. Chester stood there for another moment, wondering if this was real or a dream. The statue refused to move anymore.

“You sure are a boring monster,” he said finally.

Suddenly, the statue smiled, sharp teeth peeking over his lip. His neck craned down towards the chubby little child wearing shoes unsuited to running.

“And that, my new friend, is three questions and one insult.”

Heart Of A Dragon

(551)

Scene: A woodland glen in the countryside.

A host of Satyrs dance, frolic, drink heavily amidst a giant dead looking dragon. Into their clearing stumbles a minotaur.

Satyr 1: Hail, mighty Minotaur! What brings you to this woodland glen? Have you come to hear told of how we tricked and trussed this mighty dragon?

Minotaur: No, dad kicked me out of the Labyrinth again.

Satyr 2: For shame!

Minotaur: Eh, he’ll get over it in a couple days. Plus I took some of his best wine.

All: Hear, hear! Share it!

Satyr 2 makes exaggerated lunges for the wineskin, but the minotaur easily keeps it out of his reach.

Minotaur: Stop it, you’re making me dizzy.

He falls to the ground and the satyrs steal the wineskin from him.

Minotaur: Ah, I’ve had too much. I could use some grub. Some meat maybe…

He eyes the nearest satyr and licks his lips loudly. Satyr 1 jumps in his line of sight.

Satyr 1: And there is nothing tastier or meatier than dragon!

Minotaur: I would think it would be too….scaly.

Satyr 1: Oh, yes most of it is, but there is a secret part of the dragon which the gods themselves dine on.

Minotaur: Tell me!

Satyr 1: Why, the heart of a dragon is the most tender and succulent. If you are hungry then why not dine on that portion?

Minotaur: Hmm, it would be a welcome change from the usual Athenian cuisine I’m forced to eat. Far too much garlic in them for my tastes.

Satyr 1: Then it is time to time to dine on dragon!

The Minotaur steps towards the chest area of the dragon.

Minotaur: I’m convinced. I’ll just chop through his chest-

Satyr 1: Hold, noble minotaur! You will ruin the meat by whacking at it with that great cleaver of yours! It is a delicate operation to retrieve a dragon heart. You cannot simply cut through its flesh and dig the heart out like that of a common deer.

Minotaur: What must I do?

Satyr 1: You must travel within to find the heart. Retrieve it intact from the chest of the dragon and it will help preserve its proper flavors.

Minotaur: That seems a bit dangerous.

Satyr 1: The greatest prizes often are.

Minotaur: And you say the meat is the most succulent of all?

Satyr 1: Truly! Now go on, the mouth is already open for you. Off you go!

The satyrs shoo and shove the minotaur into the mouth of the dragon.

Satyr 1: All right then. That should do it, Echidna!

The dragon’s eyes abruptly open. It shoots a great blast of flame out of its mouth. The blackened form of the minotaur falls out onto the table.

Dragon: Awk! He tasted terrible. I hope I burned most of that filth off.

Satyr 1: Think of it as seasoning. Now we will dine on him first then the leave the rest to you.

Dragon: You will only eat the ribs?

Satyr 1: Yes, it is all we desire. We will leave the most tender part of the Minotaur for you, great Dragon.

Dragon: And what is the best part of a minotaur?

Satyr 1: The heart of course.

The satyrs begin to dance around the body of the minotaur.

Where Dragons Rule (Bonus Track)

(557)

“No! Please! You don’t understand-

“I understand plenty!” The Jarl’s axe fell, cutting a bloody gash from the collarbone to the man’s waist. After a few pitiful spurts of blood from severed arteries, the wizened body dropped to the stone floor. Several neophytes of the temple fainted at the sight of the Head Priest’s blood slowly pooling into the intricate circular patterns carved in the stone floor. One of the few still standing began to babble in his native tongue, pointing and gesturing towards the terminus of the channel maze: a concave drain in the middle of the floor.

“Steinar! Come here and tell me what he’s saying.” An older warrior with heavy gray streaks in his otherwise blonde beard approached.

“I know you can speak their tongue. What is he saying? Hurry now.” If the bluster and threat in the Jarl’s speech made the older warrior uncomfortable, his stony face gave no indication. Steinar had been raiding more years than the Jarl had been alive. Let him bluster. He was no different the fifteen previous leaders he had fought under. Doubtless there would be many more before the valkyries called him home.

“I can’t understand him.”

“I can’t understand him, Jarl.” Steinar’s gray eyes hardened in an instant. There were limits to his patience. The Jarl turned away quickly to berate other men while Steinar attempted to calm the man down, or at least get a word in edgewise.

“Jarl…”

“Not now, Steinar!”

“Jarl!”

“What is- oh!” The temple rocked on its foundation, as struck by a giant’s cudgel.

“The blood!” Steinar yelled. The blood was still running in the carven channels on the floor, racing towards the drain as if possessed with a will of its own. “Stop the blood! It will release a dragon! The temple is its prison!”

The Jarl’s blood ran cold; feet refused to move any further towards the drain. Disgust and fear lit up Steinar’s face he raced towards the blood rounding its last curve. Too late. The Temple heaved itself off its foundations, throwing Steinar to the ground. He tried to stand again, but another quake sent him tumbling again.

Only the Jarl stood on his feet still, staring down as the floor splintered and cracked. His eyes were wide as the bloody axe fell from his hands into one of the fissures forming. He distinctly heard it tumble, rebounding off stones walls that stretched down into the distant darkness.

It landed on something with a meaty thump and an ear splitting roar. No, it was close. The bottom was far too close for comfort. Steinar leapt to his feet.

“To the boats! Leave it all! Run!” The remaining men in the war party hesitated only a moment before following him out at a run. The Jarl remained stuck to his spot as the floor buckled and a great black scaled dragon rose from its slumber to stare down at him. Emotion flickered across its serpentine face. Confusion. Annoyance. Hunger. Moments later, a thin puddle of urine and blood was the all that remained of the former Jarl.

Once outside, the group piled into their longboat, hastily pulling in comrades and the few neophytes who had chosen to follow them. All looked to Steinar.

“What now, Jarl?”

“We sail, and pray for fair winds. The dragons have come again.”

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Did you love Valley of the Damned? Then you should read Achilles vs. Mecha-Hector: A Bronzepunk Adventure by Jesse Beeson-Tate!

“A steampunk novel that hits hard and never lets up!” 

Bullfinch meets Tarantino in what readers are calling “a thrilling steampunk alternative to the traditional narrative of the Trojan War, jam packed with action and humor!” 

After his fatal duel with Achilles, Prince Hector of Troy is brought back to life by a rogue adherent of Vulcan. Thrust back into a world he no longer understands, Hector and his geriatric companions must navigate the mystery surrounding his resurrector’s death, a sinister plot by Lovecraftian gods from Troy’s dark past, and their own alcohol-induced incompetence. All the while, the assembled Greek nations still seek the utter destruction of Troy. 

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this gloriously irreverent reimagining of the ancient world will send readers on a wild ride through one of the strangest What If? scenarios to hit to the genre in decades.

Also by Jesse Beeson-Tate

My Year of DragonForce

Valley of the Damned

Roma Universalis

The Crown of Grass

The Bronzepunk Age

Achilles vs. Mecha-Hector: A Bronzepunk Adventure

Standalone

Dusty Green Nights

Fall of the House of Atreus

TimeCenturion! (Teaser)

Sabertooth To The Face!

TimeCenturion! (Coming Soon)


Valley of the Damned

Invocation of Apocalyptic Evil - A dimwitted wizard attempts to summon and control a demon from the Nether Realms of Hell. Valley Of The Damned - A court swordsman and shapeshifting sidekick take on a space traveling wizard bent on the destruction of the universe. Black Fire - Sometimes the only way to stop a horrifying war is to commit a horrifying act of magic... Black Winter Night - Captain Tootsie and his intrepid gang of children explore a sinister ruin in the swamp and encounter a being of incomprehensible horror. Starfire - An admiral and his fleet are the only thing standing between the human race and utter to destruction at the hands of an implacable alien foe. Disciples of Babylon - A warrior monk and his faithful sidekick kung fu fight their way through the minions of the vile Wasp Woman. Revelations - When you gotta sneeze, you gotta sneeze! Evening Star - Never, ever, ever play word games with the Devil. Heart Of A Dragon - A band of satyrs expound of the wondrous delicacy that is dragon heart. Where Dragons Rule - Terror takes flight when a gang of Viking warriors unawaken a slumbering dragon

  • Author: Sol Invictus
  • Published: 2016-02-01 16:05:09
  • Words: 5884
Valley of the Damned Valley of the Damned