Seventh Trial of a Dragon Knight
By Robert William Shmigelsky
Bringing with it a thick, engulfing cloud of thousands of tiny ice crystals and mystical blue particles and hailing from a maze or rather deathtrap of identical sights, the frost storm blew on and traveled down the icy, white gorge toward the other valleys, revealing the apprentice and his dragon master standing a short distance apart with their hands down at their sides, ready to unsheathe their swords at the precise moment the signal was given.
Standing in the cold as motionless as could be, the two figures had waited long hours for this signal. Finally, the roar of an unseen dragon pierced the wailing background.
On cue the apprentice quickly unsheathed his scimitar and dashed toward his master. He leapt into the air and caught a current of wind.
Following suit, his dragon master leapt up and caught his own current.
His instructor a shadow to his every move as they danced in the air, the apprentice swung his scimitar and repeatedly hurled bolts of green wind toward his master, attempting to knock him down to the ground and win the sky duel; but his master lithely blocked them with his pronged shield or deflected them with his scimitar, blowing them away with whirling vortexes of air.
When he least expected it, his master slyly directed a bolt straight back at the apprentice.
Having to react quickly, the apprentice veered his blade in front of him and deflected it away with his own vortex to prevent himself from being knocked off his current.
Though his heart almost missed a beat he persisted and kept right at it.
He kept a close watch for further such bolts. Although his master did not send another his way, the apprentice did not allow himself to become lax in his guard. If he did, he knew that would only serve into his master's hand, giving his master the opportunity to knock him down and remind him what it took to become a knight.
Like music changing tunes, the wailing of the storm in the background loosened its grip on the mountain maze and relented. Their dance changed forms and they met on the high winds.
Master and apprentice locked swords and shields. When one had the advantage, the other would skate backwards through the air and retreat and the one would press on.
Pressing his advantage, the apprentice attempted to find then expose any openings or weaknesses in his master's guard. On the other hand, the leeward side of the mountain, his master bided his time, waiting for the aspiring knight to make that inevitable mistake. Well aware of this, the apprentice's resolve strengthened and he made sure not to make it.
The apprentice grimaced underneath his dragon helm. After at least half a dozen attempts, he could not find the opening or weakness he sought. He disengaged and stopped in mid-air. He starred at his instructor defiantly.
His master stayed afloat in the air and allowed him a brief reprieve. He figured he was going about this the wrong way, but how? He did not have the answer to the question he sought so desperately in his mind.
His dragon-like mind sifted through recent memories. He asked himself: what had he learned these past six days.
He recalled the first trial of a dragon knight: when he successfully opened his mind, opened his mind, felt the lure of the wind and heard its words then listening to it made his way all the way to the top of the tower.
He quickly recalled the second and third trials. Those trials taught him harmony and respect for nature and following to the end, no matter where they might lead, where the currents led.
The fourth trial gave him his first real taste of battling in the skies. It taught him to feel that immerse of the air abreast his skin. The fifth trial taught him to use that feeling in conjunction with the world around him while the sixth trial instilled into him the will to fight and the courage when not to.
Without closing his eyes, the apprentice summoned forth and felt the immersion of the air around him. Though unseen, it blanketed him and gave him protection and a sense of belonging.
He saw where the currents led then listened to and heard the lure of the wind. It told him the answer he sought was close but farther away than he originally thought.
Against the wintry background he heard the same dragon that had initiated their duel roar once more.
An idea propped up in his mind. Behind it – a plan formed.
Compelled forward, the apprentice flew up and caught another current.
Initially taken by surprise, his master quickly recovered then leapt up after him.
Riding the wind like it was a beast only he could tame, the apprentice winded around the countless gorges and ravines of the mountain maze, discretely leading his master to where he sensed the dragon. Perhaps being too immersed to sense it himself or not realizing what his apprentice had in mind and thus not seeing it as a threat, the master did not become wary in his pursuit.
A short distance from where they had started but taking twice as long to get there because of the route he had chosen, the apprentice leapt up and disappeared behind a thick expanse of mist, past the spot where he sensed the dragon.
When the master arrived to follow, from out of the mist, the dragon reared its ugly head and blocked his path. It stretched its jaw wide and breathed on him. A long stream of ice crystals and mystical blue particles shot up from between the jagged teeth of its crooked maw and swirled in the air before him as the beast shook its large, heavy neck left and right.
Almost coming face to face with the monstrosity, the master veered up and stopped. He saw the dragon before him; its long, bony wings, opened rib cage and the talons at the ends of its legs glistened in his eyes like frozen sapphires caught in the frost.
Taking advantage of his master's distraction while not taking the beast lightly, the apprentice quickly hurled two bolts at carefully aimed points within the narrow gorge they were in.
Immediately two large avalanches roared to life and tumbled down the two walls of icy precipices on either side of them, collapsing the exit of the gorge and burying the dragon under a heavy mound of snow.
Catching a glimpse, the master veered backwards and barely dodged the blast.
This being the precise moment to strike, the apprentice quickly hurled out a third bolt.
As soon as it hit him, his master plummeted down through the air and his back hit a nearby mound created in the wake of the avalanche.
Their duel in the skies over, the apprentice blue sabatons planted themselves firmly into the snow next to the mound.
Surprised, the master quickly climbed to his feet, leaving a large imprint in the snow. He stood on the spot in disbelief, not believing what had just transpired.
"I assume this means I've passed?" the apprentice surmised.
"Yes, I presume so," the master quickly retorted, slightly dazed. He recovered from his shock.
The apprentice straightened his stance and stood firm. He knew there would be no fancy ceremony.
His master leveled his gaze on him and gave him a cool look. "Congratulations, Idra," he said, referring to the apprentice by name. "You can now call yourself a dragon knight and take your place in the halls of your father and those that came before him."
Idra's chest rose as he felt relief and pride sweep through his entire body on hearing this. He had passed the seventh and final trial in the way of him finally becoming a knight. He did not know what to say.
"In fact," the dragon master continued; he stepped forward. "Given your performance on this day, I even see fit to grant you your last name."
As Idra himself knew, during the height of the Age of Legends, amidst the weight and splendor, those in Palador who were deemed extraordinary such as himself, other dragon knights and those like them were not born with last names. Instead, usually bestowed on them by a peer, they earned them based on something extraordinary they achieved.
"The high winds being my witness... from this moment on and day forth," the master recited, "I hereby etch into the fabrics of time, to be remembered from now to eternity, that, you, the dragon knight Idra, will shed previous conjectures and shall now be known as Idra Dragonguider."
Idra Dragonguider felt further pride sweep through his body. “Thank you, master,” he said.
“Remember – dragons do not say thank you. Nor I am your master any longer,” the master reminded his former apprentice.
Idra shifted ruefully in his armor. His master pretended not to notice.
The mound of snow burying the ice dragon started to move, drawing the attention of the two dragon knights.
"It would appear the time has finally come for us to depart this place," said the former master, knowing that the snow would not hold the dragon forever.
Idra nodded. "Lead on," he said.
The master turned sideways and gazed into the receding wintry blue horizon. He listened intently. "No, this is your day, not mine. Can you not hear it? Already the wind spreads news of your success." He turned and looked Idra in the eyes. They peered into each other's minds and made a connection. "Soon it shall find the White Mountains, fly over them and reach our side of the mountains. When it does – the whole of Palador will come to know your name."
Though not able to tell because of his armor, Idra gave his instructor a look of understanding. Behind his breast, he felt a sudden burst of gratitude.
Without another word being said between them, he leapt up into the air and caught a current of wind. His former master leapt up and did the same. Then together the two of them, one following the other, flew up into the frost storm and disappeared behind its wintry veil as they headed toward their side of the mountains.
- - -
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 Shmigelsky