Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chapter 31. Here there be dragons

The Karolinthian Steppes which lie just to the North of the great mountains are beautiful country, home to herds of all sorts of animals and nomads who make their life amongst them.  It was several hundred miles to the coast, where Alcatian influence could be found, along with civilization, and the journey was a fascinating one for me. 

Passing through small villages along the way, I earned my meals and board by hunting, thanks to what Lucas had taught me, but also by selling my services with a sword, once I procured one from a very foolish group of bandits.

Strangely enough, the bards make much of my "exploits" slaying dragons and saving towns from bands of brigands.  There's something to it, I suppose, but not nearly as much as in the ballads. The truth of the matter is, though, that those days were important ones for me, since I was one my own, with no masters, either Kargellian or Alcatian directing me.  After being a prisoner in Kargel, and a soldier before that in Alcatia, living on my own amongst the simple honest people of Karolinthia was quite refreshing.

But back to the dragons.  They didn't breathe fire and certainly didn't fly, but the great lizards that plagued Barsil were a pretty nasty lot.  The fact is, near as I can tell, they'd lived more or less quietly in the caves nearby for centuries, hunting the plentiful wild herds but rarely causing much trouble for humans, until, by some quirk of fate, a Barsilian child somehow caught a baby lizard and took it home for a pet.  The boys parents were horrified when they discovered it, but that was after Mama came looking for baby, and in the process discovered humans were tasty, plentiful and relatively easy to digest.

By the time I got to Barsil, a half dozen villagers had already perished and the villagers had already tried  to hunt the beast with spears, scythes and pitchforks, which had brought the death count to over a score and made Mama a lot more wise to the ways of men.  By that time, thanks to the plentiful supply of human meat, most of the babies were now six or seven feet long, some of them close to breeding,  while Mama herself was closer to fifteen feet.

I guess maybe I did save the village, but it really wasn't all that heroic or anything, and I sure as heck didn't do it all myself.  Basically, instead of either just cowering inside the huts while the things roamed, or stupidly trying to charge the big nasty brutes with pitchforks, I found a couple of men who actually knew how to use a bow and we all stationed ourselves on the roofs and picked off the beasts whenever they came around.  We kept that up for a week, until none of them showed up.
We ended up with ten or so dead lizards on our hands, but none of them was Mama.

Then and only then did I go out with the villagers looking for her.  We tracked her back to her lair, and while most of the villagers dug a really big pit right out front of it, I took two lads with axes and cut ourselves a giant lizard sticker, basically a ten foot long lance made from an entire tree with a sharpened point.  Eventually, Mama came out looking for food, and I put the thing down her throat. No more dragons in Barsil.

The Barsilians were really grateful and generous with me after that.  We had an enormous lizard meat feast, and given all the lizard skin they now had on hand, a local tanner figured he could spare some leather he had on hand and made me a really nifty, if somewhat crude halter and skirt.

But aside from slaying dragons, there really wasn't all that much to tell of my time in Karolinthia, except perhaps for one other thing. As I was packing up to leave Barsil, one of the lads I'd gone dragon shooting with, a really nice little fellow, stopped me and begged me to travel with him to a nearby village where his uncle lived.  To make a fairly long story short, his uncle made me a Great Bow, about seven  feet long, which I immediately found I loved.  The draw was too hard for most men to manage, but I was fine with it.

I crossed the Vulgar river at Pinoste, and after only a few days, found myself on the Costian road, which led straight to Alcatia.  The rest of my journey was fairly unremarkable.