Belle and the Dragon, страница 1
Belle and the Dragon
A short novel
Belle and the Dragon
Copyright 2016 by Tony Myers
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without permission from the author. The only exception is in the case of brief quotations.
To all the fans of my first books, Singleton, and Stealing the Magic,
Thank you for all your encouragement.
It kept me writing on the hard days.
Belle awoke and sat up in her bed. She was breathing heavily. It was early, still dark out. Her dreams had awakened her again. This was a common occurrence. She wiped the sweat from her forehead and looked around the room. Looking to her right, she could see rain beating against the window.
Pulling the covers off, she quickly slid out of bed and walked toward the window. She looked out to the mountains in the distance, admiring them from afar. Belle enjoyed being in a room far above the tree line. For as long as she could remember, she had lived in this tower. It was the highest spot in the castle. Being the only daughter of the king definitely came with its perks. Everyone in the villages greatly admired King Sebastian’s twenty-year-old beautiful daughter, and this quiet tower provided the great peace she needed in her world of fame.
She tried to think of her dream. She so deeply wished she could remember it. Only bits and pieces would come to her. What was it? she thought to herself. It was a strange feeling. Intuitively Belle knew this was the same recurring dream she was having every week. The strange thing, too, was that something was not right with the dream. She just couldn’t place what it was, but she knew something was wrong. A piece of it was troubling. The desire to remember was growing every week. She would have given a lot of gold to help figure out the nature of her dream.
The lightning continued to strike in the distance. She wondered if she could go back to sleep. She walked back to her bed and climbed under the covers. She looked over at the lantern on the table beside her bed. Her medicine was sitting next to the lantern. The nursemaid must have come in and left it while she was sleeping. Picking up the small cup, Belle drank it down quickly. It tasted terrible, but she had become immune to the taste a long time ago.
For as long as she could remember she had taken medicine. The nursemaid would routinely bring it in at night, and she would take it first thing when she woke up. Belle wasn’t totally sure what it was for, but her father always said it was for her demeanor and anxiety. Many times she had asked her father if she would ever be cured. He would always tell her that their doctors could retest in a few years and see if it was helping. She knew it would never happen.
Belle gathered her brown hair in a ponytail and tied it back. She readjusted her pillow before lying down. Shutting her eyes, she tried to relax. She could hear more than just the rain on the window pane. At first she thought it was her imagination, but after a while she knew that it wasn’t. She heard voices coming from downstairs.
What’s going on? she thought to herself. It’s too early for Father to be engaging in matters of business. She quickly got back out of bed and headed for the door. Turning the handle, she opened the door slowly. The voices became louder. She could hear shouting and arguing.
Belle quickly walked to her bed and grabbed the lantern. Lighting the lantern, she walked back toward the opened door. She slowly crept down the spiral steps of the tower. The voices grew louder with every step. Her father’s voice was clear, but many of the other voices she did not immediately recognize.
Reaching the bottom, she peeked around the corner into the meeting room. She could see a large round table and her father, the king, on one end arguing his point. He was dressed in a dark red robe with his crown sitting on the table. His long curly, brown hair could be clearly seen. His advisor, Hector de Serpent, was close to his side, gritting his teeth angrily as a few strands of dark black hair covered his face. On the other side of the table were about a dozen fully-armed knights, who were ready for battle. It looked as if her father, King Sebastian, was angrily arguing and pleading with them. Belle tried to listen in on what was he was saying but struggled to grasp the full context of their conversation. Across the table from the king, the chief knight of the realm, Michael, was arguing on behalf of his men. Belle couldn’t hear him very clearly but could tell he was trying to make a case against what King Sebastian was saying.
Belle knew that Michael de Bolbec was the only person in the whole kingdom who could argue with the king in such a fiery tone. He had proven himself in various battles in defense of the kingdom and had accomplished much, even at the age of 25. He was strong, brave and handsome and, though it was never said, Belle knew that her father was trying to groom him to one day be her husband. It seemed that everyone in the kingdom knew of this fact, which always made conversation with Michael a little awkward.
“Listen, I’m not into the game of appeasement,” Michael said, jamming his index finger on the table. His voice was strong and could be recognized anywhere. “This creature has oppressed us long enough. I say it’s time to strike and time to strike hard.”
The King shook his head, “Michael, what are you talking about? He has left us in peace for years. The people barely remember the last victim.”
Michael hit the table hard with his fist. His blond hair partially covered his face as he shouted angrily, “Peace, you think this is peace? The people live in fear of him. He sits there day after day on our border, waiting for someone from our land to come close.”
“Hold your tongue, Michael!” Hector responded, pausing a moment to lick his lips. His voice reminded Michael of what a human snake would sound like. “You ought to know better than to talk to the king in this way. You ought to be bowing before him, not talking to him in his manner.” Hector quickly pulled a dagger from his side. Michael remained unfazed, not in the least bit scared of Hector.
“Quiet down, Hector. I can handle this,” King Sebastian spoke. Hector lowered his dagger, giving Michael an angry look. Belle despised Hector. He always dressed himself in dark green clothing and seemed to linger in the shadows. She often objected to the advice and opinions he seemed to plant in her father’s mind. She wished he would listen to her warnings, but it was always to no avail.
“Ok, listen, King,” Michael said, brushing his hair out of his eyes. “This creature needs to be shown strength. I’m not sure if my men and I will be able to quietly hunt him down and destroy him, but I’d say at least let’s come to him with swords drawn ready to fight. Some of these creatures are conscious enough to detect emotions like fear and courage. Let’s show him the latter. Let’s show him the strength of the kingdom.”
Though no one directly said it, Belle knew the creature they were referring to… a dragon; a cave dwelling dragon that caused the people of Mendolon to live in fear. On his own, he had created a forbidden territory east of the kingdom that the people stayed away from. His cave sat in the middle of this ten-mile territory. The townspeople refused to enter the area. In the past some of the new travelers to the kingdom thought the dragon was a myth, but five years ago any talk of a myth was put to silence. A merchant was eaten when he tried to take a shortcut by journeying through the area. His bones were later found at the edge of the territory. The dragon left them as a warning for the people.
The king continued, “Michael, we don’t cross into his border and he stays out of ours. This dragon has shown reserve and respect for our kingdom.”
“Respect… respect?” Michael countered, “You think living at our border and threatening to kill our people is a sign of respect? And answer me this, why has he sud
The king shook his head, “You are not listening to me. The proper way to go about this is not through a fight with a dragon. How many soldiers would we lose? Are you willing to sacrifice a few men from your band of knights just to kill a rather small dragon that lives, not in our towns, but outside our border?”
Michael couldn’t help but smile in sarcasm at the king’s use of the word small. Though compared to other dragons he was quite small, this one was no less intimidating. He would still rival the size of an elephant, and his sharp teeth and massive tail would leave anyone cowering before him. “My king, also think about this… if this beast was sent away, the trade routes to the east would be opened. Our neighbors would see it as a sign of goodwill.”
The king rubbed his forehead out of frustration. He spoke a little quieter, “Michael… my knight, you are not even thinking rationally now. Those to the east of us are savages. They would have nothing but war from us.” His voice was rising at this point, “Please, will you just let me explain my solution before you keep objecting.”
Michael took a deep breath and looked back at his knights. They seemed to be waiting patiently while he made his opinion known to the king. Michael had argued his point mightily and, so far, wasn’t getting through. He decided to yield to the king. He spoke in a calm voice, “Ok, King, tell me, what do you have in mind for this creature?”
King Sebastian bowed his head gently in a sign of appreciation, “Thank you for seeing the light. I will proceed.” He turned now to his advisor, “Hector, please bring in the statue.” Hector quickly retreated to a set of large double doors behind the king.
A puzzled look spread across Michael’s face as Hector opened the doors. He beheld the statue that two royal servants brought in on a cart. Hector helped guide it into place by the table. Michael couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing. It was a wooden statue of a dragon. It was about five feet in height, beautifully designed, and very well detailed. Hector was a master craftsman, and seemed to have spent hours on this fixture under the king’s orders. The teeth and the claws were each uniquely crafted, and even each individual scale looked to be crafted with great detail. Hector spoke up, “We plan to overlay it with gold before setting it on the border of the dragon’s territory.”
Michael’s mouth dropped open as he searched for words. On one hand the structure was a beauty to behold. It was possibly Hector’s greatest work. The detail was incredible. But on the other hand, he couldn’t believe what the king was proposing. Offering some type of idol to the dragon was not the road Michael wanted to venture down. “No…. no!” he said shaking his head. “This is definitely not the side of the kingdom we want to show the dragon.”
“Michael,” the king stuck his hand out, trying to calm him, “Hear me out, the dragon will see the time we spent on this and its beauty and he will look on us with favor.”
“He will definitely look on us with favor,” Michael shouted, “because he will think he is a god to us!”
“Listen, my knight. We just need to leave it at the edge of the territory and let him think what he wants.”
“King, you are my king, but in all due respect for you and the kingdom… I will not bring this piece of wickedness before him. This idea is most shameful, and definitely below your dignity.”
Hector could not contain his rage any longer. Before anyone could react, he quickly pulled his dagger again and lunged over the round table toward Michael. “How dare you speak to the king in this manner!” he shouted as he passed over the table.
Taking a step back, Michael quickly picked up his shield to intercept the approaching dagger. The dagger hit hard against the shield. The blade snapped in half upon impact. Hector landed on his feet and tried to gather himself quickly. Turning around, he wasn’t able to react in time to see Michael’s shield being driven into his face. Everyone could hear the crack of Hector’s nose breaking.
Hector fell to the floor. Blood was already starting to flow from his nostrils. Michael walked calmly over to where Hector was lying on the ground face up. An expression of terror was clearly visible. Michael slowly unsheathed his sword and held the tip toward Hector’s throat. “What were you saying, Snake?” he spoke quietly. Everyone watched in amazement at Michael’s poise.
Hector hissed as he spoke, “You’re not man enough to drive me through anyway. Go ahead and do it if you choose. I bet you…”
“Men, stop this non-sense,” King Sebastian said, rolling his eyes. “Hector, get off the floor and get back over here before you hurt yourself.” Pushing Michael’s sword aside, Hector quickly got up and ran toward the king’s side. The blood from his nose stained his mouth and chin. Michael sheathed his sword as his enemy retreated.
The king continued, “Well, like it or not, we are delivering this statue to the edge of the woods. You can either support me as your king or you can…”
Crash! The king turned to see the statue lying flat on the ground, knocked off the cart. A few of the wooden claws and teeth had broken off during the fall, and there were other large cracks in the body of the structure. A mixture of anger and confusion could be seen on the king’s face because beside the fallen statue, he was looking into the face of his only daughter, Belle.
With all the commotion with Michael and Hector, they had failed to see Belle pick up a javelin mounted on the wall and approach the statue. Swinging the javelin as hard as she could, she had knocked the statue off the cart and onto the floor. She now stood beside the broken structure, still in her nightgown, but looking more like a warrior with the javelin in her hand.
“Belle, what do you think you are doing?” her father spoke, a little more confused than angry.
Belle was a little scared as she spoke, “Father, I want to know what is happening. And please,” she paused, just for a moment, “I want to know how I can help.” Though she tried to look and sound tough, her voice was naturally soft and pleasant. It was always inviting to all who heard it.
The room had gone silent for a moment. Tensions had been rising all morning, and it was as if Belle’s presence had brought everything back down to a calm level. All the knights had grand respect for the king’s daughter. She was always kind to the townspeople and sought to befriend them when she could. She truly represented the best of the kingdom of Mendolon.
Michael took a deep breath and spoke quietly, “Belle, the dragon has been coming out of his cave the last two days and traveling to the edge of his border, sometimes into our territory.”
“You can’t prove that,” the king countered.
Michael continued, “Regardless, he is burning the fields on the edge of our border, destroying crops and killing a few livestock. I’m sure you’ve also heard the rumors that he growls at night, giving off a warning to those nearby.”
“Belle, we are debating what is the proper procedure to deal with these current developments,” her father added.
Everyone stood in silence for a few seconds trying to process everything that had happened and everything they had discussed. The mood had become noticeably less tense. Michael and his knights took seats at the table. Belle quietly sat down before speaking up, “Father, I think we should follow Michael’s plan. This dragon has been pestering us for years now, and maybe in the past the people were content to let him live on as long as he left us unbothered… but, Father, now is the time to fight back. He is again bringing fear to the townspeople and threatening us. He is one of the smallest dragons we know of; surely men with half the skill and courage of Michael have slain dragons greater than the one we face. I’d say let’s take up arms and confront him at once.” Michael couldn’t help but smile slightly at Belle’s confidence in him.
The king gently sat down at the table. He shook his head in exhaustion. He was angry at Michael. If it weren’t for his loyalty and valor in battle, the king would have surely demoted him a long time ago. He rubbed his hands through hi
Standing up, the king grabbed for his crown and placed it on his head. He was ready to issue a decree. “Ok, this is what I propose. Today, we lead a procession through the town with Michael and his knights on the way to fight the dragon. Let the people see we are going to strike.”
“I agree, my king,” Michael responded.
“But let me say this,” the king continued with a smile on his face, “At the front of the procession beside Michael will be my daughter leading the way.”
This caught Michael off guard. He did not like the sound of this. “With all due respect, Sire, I do not agree with this decision. Yes, your daughter is skilled with the sword and will be a knight in her time, but I don’t think she is quite ready to face a dragon. I know you want…”
“Let me finish,” the king responded, “Belle will accompany you on this journey in full battle attire, but she will only go with you so far. Let the people see you ride through town and into the territory, but right before you are to do battle with the dragon in his lair, find a safe haven for Belle. Let her see the battle and claim the victory for it in the end. It will unite the people under my throne, and confirm my lineage against rebellion for a generation.”
Michael thought about this proposal from the king. He didn’t like the idea of bringing Belle along, but he liked it a lot more than any plan of appeasement the king had offered. Standing up from the table, he cracked his knuckles as he looked sharply at the king. “We will prepare at once, and leave as soon as the townsfolk begin to enter the markets.” The king nodded in approval.
Belle stood shocked. She couldn’t believe she was about to go on a dragon hunt.