Part One: Dragon-Slayer
Drake strode down the dusty dirt path that led to the village gate. He was quiet as per his habit, focusing on the sights, sounds and smells surrounding him. The cruel undertones of the children’s laughter. The tired sighs of the dogs lying lazily in the sunlight. The various depths of the shadows that grew shorter as the sun rose higher. The flecks of dust in his lank hair as he swept it behind his ear.
Drake Gellcomar was a fairly odd boy, and not only because of his highly perceptive senses. More thoughtful than the other boys of his age, he cared for more than merely hitting things with large, wooden swords. Aged fifteen, he was skinny and nimble, with long, dark, greasy hair and deep black eyes. His father, Bershond Gellcomar, swore that he looked Elvish. Drake wasn’t sure of that. He hadn’t met many Elves, mostly on account of them being legendary and generally mythological beings.
His full name was Drakendrar Arthemir Gellcomar; Drakendrar meaning Dragon-slayer in the ancient tongue of the realm of Belecostar. Drake would sometimes wonder about his name, given to him by the village elder; he was fairly certain that if he ever met an actual, fire-breathing dragon, he would scream and run. If he hadn’t been roasted by then.
His father, on the other hand, was famous for bravely joining a quest to save all of Belecostar; and also for being the only survivor, on account of not having done much of the actual life-threatening work. That had been done by the other three heroes on the quest; who, as a result, had all been killed. Drake had pondered the possibility of it being a vital survival trait to let everyone else be heroic and die as a consequence: it would mean that, in the end, you were still alive.
When his father had returned to his home village of Torresten, he had founded an organisation of warriors to defend the boundaries and surroundings of Belecostar’s only four Human villages – well, three Human and one Halfling – and prevent further invasion. Drake, being his father’s son, had of course been obligated to join. He had turned out to be amazingly proficient with a blade, though hadn’t really had the chance to kill anything with one.
He now stood in the outskirts of the village, in the wide circle of grass between the hill that was Torresten and the forest surrounding it. His father had often spoken of one his best friends, an Elf named Selebriar; Drake had met him once or twice, and was looking for him now, mostly since he had nothing better to do and not many other people he could talk to. Sometimes Selebriar would sit amidst the branches of the trees surrounding the hill and watch over the village; Drake could sometimes spot him if he was lucky.
The boy was wearing light cotton clothing, but he had with him a gold-plated shield he wanted to show his Elf friend. The shield had been a birthday gift given to him by his father the week before, and was carved with spiralling knots and runes. His father had told him that it was Dwarf-made, and couldn’t be broken, or even dented. Drake had tested this theory one night by hammering it repeatedly with an iron mallet. After about five minutes, the mallet had been bent into a half-moon.
Drake snapped out of his reverie. Just at that moment, time seemed to slow for a second: he picked up a faint whizzing sound behind him, and ducked just as a flat stone sailed over his head. ‘I still don’t know how you do that’, said a voice behind him, with the tones of a bully far too arrogant to admit to bullying. Drake sighed inwardly.
‘Nice to see you too, Krish’, he mumbled wearily without turning around. Krishten Discendore, another of the boys training to be a guardian, was notorious for the colossal amount of contempt he displayed towards others. While intellectuals such as Drake were admitted the status of rivalry, the more ordinary village children were regarded as inferior and so became prey to his torment. Physically, he looked a lot like Drake, save that he was fitter and taller. Drake, while holding a certain admiration for his skill with the spear, held a considerable amount of animosity towards the rest of him.
‘What are you doing just standing there like that? You’ve been frozen there for ages.’ Krish’s frown contorted into a smirk. ‘Oh, I know; you’re looking for widdle twinkwy fairies prancing about in the daisies, aren’t you?’
‘No’, said Drake absent-mindedly, ‘Elves.’ He immediately regretted this. Krish didn’t believe Elves existed; he thought the entire concept was idiotic, and that it had been invented by drunken bards. Of course, if any Elf found this out, Krish would probably be going home with his teeth in his hat. But Elves preferred to remain mostly disbelieved-in, and almost never came near the villages.
Krish’s eyes widened. ‘Elves? You seriously believe in those stupid fairy-tales?’
‘Yes. And they aren’t stupid, as they are non-sentient concepts’, Drake responded calmly. ‘“Fairy-tales”, though, is an accurate term, since Elves do appear in tales that often involve fairies.’ Krish wasn’t stupid. He prided himself on his intelligence, which was considerably higher than the average in Torresten. What he didn’t like, though, was being out-smarted. Or rather, out-smart-assed. And Drake was very clever indeed. He read books.
‘Makes sense’, he conceded, ‘But you do realize you’re making a fool of yourself, waiting for mythological creatures to turn up.’ Drake turned to the arrogant boy.
‘They are not mythological’, he continued in the same, cool voice. ‘I know this because I have met one on several occasions.’ Krish grinned unpleasantly.
‘Right, just after you’d had a whole barrel of Dry Jonny.’
‘I don’t smoke’, said Drake simply, and turned back toward the trees.
He never heard Krish creep up to him. The boy could be surprisingly quiet when he wanted to. Drake only realized he was behind him when his bright golden shield was yanked out from under his arm. ‘Hey!’ He cried, and turned to see Krish sprinting away with his birthday present and making rude gestures at him. Drake did the natural thing. He gave chase.