Sixth Trial of a Dragon Knight
By Robert William Shmigelsky
Like the horned tail of a red dragon, his thick and pronged metal shield was dug into the ground as he knelt down and braced himself.
A voluminous and constantly changing current draped around him, the apprentice’s instructor attempted to defeat his student’s resolve with the sheer force of nature and prove he was not worthy to become a dragon knight.
His gaze kept above the rim of his shield, the apprentice’s mind steeled itself against the dance of storms.
At this moment a whirlwind of dark green color blared in his ears. The dragon knight apprentice had so far managed to outlast his dragon master; but he knew, from what other knights had told him, and judging from his own personal experience with his instructor, his teacher undoubtedly had a trick or two concealed by his dragon-like wit.
Just as it had the times before, the dance of storms shrieked then changed hues and turned bright blue.
Following the same pattern this time the apprentice found himself in the middle of a blizzard, a sheering curtain of ice and snow.
Same as before, the apprentice did not move an inch. He continued to brace himself with his dragon shield.
The apprentice’s eyes lit up. Now, he could see the dark silhouette of his instructor standing just beyond the rim of the storm.
His instructor was undoubtedly stepping closer, prepping for the right moment to end this, thought the apprentice. But little did his instructor know he just had to bide his time, until they were close enough, for him to go on the offense.
In his left hand he gripped tightly the hilt of his scimitar. Its blade – the whirls of his own storm – pulsated and spiraled behind his shield like thunder building up in a cloud-hung sky, a beast ready to pounce at the slightest opening.
The next moment the storm changed again. This time a thunderstorm swirled and crackled around the apprentice. Small bolts of lightning flashed into existence and streaked across the air above him.
Knowing he would fail the trial if just one of the bolts struck him, he stayed as motionless as possible.
The silhouette of his instructor edged closer.
Likewise, the armored form of the student continued to bide his time. He wondered what the hidden, true purpose of this trial was. As was the way for their kind, the apprentice was laconically tossed a shield and told to brace himself. Wanting an explanation, he had asked his instructor: “brace against what?” But his instructor just said “this” and before he knew what would happen next his dragon master pointed his scimitar at him, whirled it around and formed an eddy.
The next moment the vortex forming the blade of his master’s scimitar detached itself from its hilt, spiraled towards him before splitting apart and swirling around him.
The storm changed back to its original green hue as the dance reverted back into a whirlwind.
As before, the silhouette of his dragon master took a step closer. Now, he was at the edge of the storm. One more step and his master would enter it.
The apprentice swirled his scimitar in the grip of his hand; his wind-blade brightened and glowed in anticipation: now, after countless moments of waiting, his master was finally within reach.
He waited for his chance to go on the offensive. He knew he would have to wait until the storm changed again before he got his chance. Every time the storm changed forms, it relaxed momentarily in intensity, granting him a small window of opportunity.
He hated being forced to stay on the defensive: the blood of dragons pulsed through his veins. He was made to be able to stretch his wings between slumbers, soar above the world and unleash his flames, not to be trapped in this net like a helpless whelp.
The dance of storms changed back into a blizzard.
That window of opportunity flashed before his eyes, but a strange foreboding inside him stayed his hand.
The path to becoming a dragon was never what it seemed. He wondered: why did his dragon master take a single step forward every time the storm changed? It almost seemed to the apprentice that his master was trying to tempt him to go on the offensive. As he knew well enough for himself, the wants of dragons were never transparent.
The grimace the apprentice bore on his face tightened underneath his helmet: there had to be something he was missing. This was the first trial he was allowed to use a shield. He knew it was the key, but how exactly? Was this trial perhaps not as complex as he originally assumed?
The apprentice’s thoughts fleeting before him like high clouds caught in a time-storm, once more the storm changed color.
Sensing his hesitation, his dragon master spoke to him; his voice unhindered by the wind.
"Now, is the time to go on the offensive," his dragon master said.
The apprentice ignored him and continued to brace himself against the storm.
The storm changed forms.
"Now, is the time to go on the offensive," his instructor repeated, stoically.
The apprentice refused. Even though the changing of the storm gave him a brief opportunity to attack, it also left him vulnerable to a possible counterattack.
Past the cusp of its power and now not as strong or constant as it was before, the intensity of the storm began to wax and wane. It pulsated quicker.
In his mind the apprentice silenced the words of his master. He knew all he had to do was continue to bide his time and wait for the storm to end. There was no point in chancing it all now. Like a nefarious dragon plotting its various schemes and blessed with long life, he could wait to see how events would unfold.
The storm became a mere shadow of its former self. Beyond the tears in its fabric, he could now glimpse the glistening blue armor of his instructor.
"Now is the time to go on the offensive," the dragon master recited, the words slipping past the barrier in his mind.
The apprentice closed his mind to his instructor.
The storm gave one last gasp before it shied away and retreated back into its master’s sword.
The apprentice loosened his resolve and stood up, sensing this trial was finally over. The sight before him was the same as before: the two of them stood a short distance apart on the grassy green plains of Endeleas and there was not a cloud to be seen on the pristine blue sky beyond.
The student looked at his instructor; the instructor’s eyes were already pressed upon the student.
“Congratulations,” the master said. “You’ve passed.”
“It’s over?” the apprentice said.
“For today…” the master answered, turning to walk away. “You can keep the shield.”
Unable to say another word, the apprentice stood absolutely still in complete silence as he watched his master leave. Slightly taken back, he tried to formulate in his mind and piece together what had just happened.
He realized his instinct had been right, though it had taken this small hurdle for him to evoke the ways of a dragon as was taught and cleverly instilled into him. He now would not forget that there were times when one should go on the offensive and times when one should stay on the defensive as sometimes winning the battle required holding out against all odds and trials.
This trial was one such trial. And now, there was just one more trial for him to overcome before he became like a dragon and took flight.
- - -
Robert, a residential care aide, is unapologetic in his pursuit of excellent high fantasy. Robert has been writing fantasy for himself in his spare time for the last seven years, but has only recently begun writing for others. Besides reading and writing, some of his hobbies include computers and medieval and ancient history. He has a dry sense of humor, which he blames his stepfather for. Also, he has a habit of making history jokes no one but he understands.
Labels: Robert William Shmigelsky