Caleb’s Story (continued)

Man-size vampire bat

Chapter 2 Episode 3

     Owen, Floren, Misa, and Calebth stood at the mouth of the cave, staring down at the baby dragon. What were they going to do? None of them knew the first thing about how to take care of him. What did he eat? What did he drink?

     Floren scratched behind his ear. “Can’t he fend for himself? He is a dragon, after all.”

     “Mowg’s only a baby. He’d starve.” Tears welled up in Calebth’s eyes, and he swallowed hard, hoping no one noticed. “Either that or those wretched goblins will come back for him.”

     “The boy is right,” said Misa. “I overheard one of those idiots say something about Morogon wanting them to bring Mowg back to him. They may have run off, but they haven’t given up. They’re not about to go back to the mage empty-handed.”

     Calebth’s heart lifted. He knew his opinion didn’t carry any weight, but maybe Misa could have some influence on the other two.

     Floren growled. “I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to play nursemaid to a baby dragon, orphan or not.”

     She gave him an indignant sniff. “First you want to eat the poor thing, and then you suggest leaving him to Morogon’s mercy. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

     “I don’t see you volunteering to take care of him.”

     Calebth swiveled his head back and forth between the two, listening to them swap insults. He was about to step between them and offer to take care of Mowg himself when Owen spoke up. “We’ll take him to Dragon Island.”   

    “Only one problem with that,” Misa said. “We need to hire a boat to take us there. How are we going to do that? We have no money.”

     Floren grinned. “I have an idea.” He pointed north. “See that mountain ridge over yonder?”

     “What about it?”

     “It’s the Mountain of Mines. I used to work there. It’s been abandoned for a long time, but I’m sure there’s more than enough gold left to get us passage on a small boat on its way to the island.”

     “B-but isn’t that place haunted?” Calebth can hardly get the words to come out of his mouth. “That’s what the old dwarves who used to work there always say, anyway.”

      Floren glared at him. “Have you got any better ideas?”

     Nobody did, so the travelers headed toward the mines. They rode the rest of the day and part of the night before they reached their destination. Everyone wanted to stop and make camp. Continue in the morning, but Owen insisted they keep going. “We’re being followed.”

     Calebth rode behind jim, his arms around Mowg, who was sound asleep. He’d been fighting it himself for the last hour, but when he heard those words, his heart lurched, and his eyes snapped open.

     Floren sniffed the air. “I smell goblin.”

     Misa eyed him. “The idiots from the cave, no doubt. I told you we hadn’t seen the last of them.

     “How much farther?” Owen asked.

     “We’re almost to the Tunnel of Darkness,” Floren said. “Don’t dismount. Ride inside, and I’ll stay behind to close the gate so they can’t follow.”

     They urged their tired mounts to move a little faster until they reached the entrance a short time later. It was pitch black inside. Mira struck a match and lit some torches she found left in a niche on the wall. Calebth felt a little better once he could see. Until he glimpsed the sign.

     Misa held her light up high and read aloud. “Beware.” Beneath that, there was a crude drawing of a skull and crossbones. “Man-sized vampire bats ahead. Proceed at your own risk.”

    She groaned.  “This wasn’t such a good idea, after all.”

    All out of breath, Floren trotted up to them. “Don’t be such a chicken.”

    “I’m not.” Misa rolled her eyes. “I just don’t want to die in this wretched cave.”

     Calebth swallowed hard. He didn’t either. And he fancied he heard the sound of wings flapping in the distance.

     Floren puffed out his chest. “If I have to die, at least I’ll be laid to rest in my home place with all my kin. My father, my grandfather, and his father before him.”

     As the noise grew closer, Owen drew his sword. “Enough talk.”

Caleb’s Story (continued)

Chapter 2 – Episode 2

 “Tomorrow, you will be given provisions. You and your brothers will leave at daybreak and travel to the hills above Raintown. My sources have brought me word there is a dragon sheltering in one of the caves there. She is guarding an egg that is about to hatch. Slay the mother and bring the offspring to me. Unharmed.”

     Ollie blinked with confusion. “But–whatever for? Baby dragons are helpless. And it won’t survive without its mother’s care.”     

     “And if by some miracle it did, it would be useless,” Lleroy added.

      Lleon nodded, his jowls shaking. “What he said. It would end up being far more trouble than it was worth.” 

      Morogon bellowed at them so loud the force almost parted the brother’s hair. “Are you questioning my orders, you insignificant creatures?”

     They huddled together, shaking so hard their swords rattled. Ollie cleared his throat. “No, my lord. Of course not. We will leave on the morrow.”

      Morogon the mage had big plans for the fledging. He wasn’t about to share his plans with these three nincompoops, but he’d recently discovered that if he could take possession of a dragon young enough, it could be trained to do his bidding. It would give him great power.

* * * *

      Even though skeptical, Ollie, Lleroy, and Lleon left the next day at first light, muttering all the way

     “I still don’t understand what Morogon wants with a helpless dragon.”

     “Makes no sense to me, either.”

      “Doesn’t matter what we think. We’ve got our orders.”

      And so they made the long trip over the mountains to Raintown, checking every nook and cranny. With no luck. They were about to give up hope when they came upon a small cave. Strange noises were coming from inside. 

     “What’s that noise?” Lleroy asked.

     Lleon shrugged, but Ollie cocked his head to one side. “Sounds like snoring.”  

     They climbed down off the goat they were riding, crept up to the entrance and peered inside. Sure enough, the mama dragon was inside, her dark blue and green scales barely visible in the dark cave. She slept with her wings curled around her egg, her claws extended, protecting it.

     They stood staring, their eyes as big as saucers. Lleroy gulped and whispered. “Sure is a big thing, ain’t she?”

     Ollie eyed him. “Well, what did you expect? She is a dragon.”

     Lleon hissed. “What’s the plan?”

     Ollie pinched his chin between his fingers and thought for a long time. “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll be real quiet and sneak inside without waking her up. That way we can steal the egg and get away before she knows what happened.”

     While the brothers were busy discussing their plans, Owen, Misa, Floren, and Calebth came up the trail. They’d been following the brothers’ tracks for miles. When Ollie, Lleon, and Lleroy went back inside, they hid beside the entrance, waited and watched.

     The egg was almost within reach. Things were going great until one of them stepped on the dragon’s tail. She blinked opened eyes that burned with light against her scales. The brothers froze in a pose.

     She let out an angry roar that started an avalanche. Scared out of their wits, the brothers came at her screaming like maniacs. When the dust settled, they discovered the rocks had fallen on her head, crushing her.

     Ollie elbowed Lleroy. “Go make sure she’s dead.”

     “Why me? What about you?”

     “Cause I said so.”

      Leon whined. “What makes you the boss?

     “I’m the oldest.”

     “That doesn’t mean you should be in charge.”

     “Okay. Then do it because I told you so.”

     While they were arguing, Owen, Misa, and Floren entered the cave with their weapons drawn and stared at them.

     “Do you hear the three of them?” Misa laughed, and Floren rolled his eyes. “You guys are morons.”

     “Drop your swords,” Owen demanded.

     “Says who?” demanded Ollie.  

      Floren snorted and pointed to Owen. “Don’t you recognize him?”

      “Wait a minute. I know who you are.” Lleon turned to his older brother. “Morogon never said anything about fighting a ranger, especially not the best in all the land.”

     “But what are we going to tell him when we come back without the dragon’s egg?”

     “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” They backed out of the cave, turned and ran.

      “Is this what they were talking about?” Caleb had followed them inside the cave. He held out a large egg shaped object with a jagged crack across it. When it began to glow, he fumbled and dropped it. A few minutes later, a baby dragon poked its head out of the shell, blinking up at Owen who had squatted down for a closer look.

     Misa shook her head. “What are we going to do him?”

     “Can’t we eat it?” Floren asks.

   “There you go again. Always thinking about your stomach.”

     The dwarf threw his arms up in the air. “It was just a thought.”

      “Honestly.” She turned to Owen. “Do something with him before I do.”

     “We’re not eating any baby dragon. That would make us no better than better than a mage.”

     “Poor thing.” Misa smiled down at the little creature. “He doesn’t even have a name.”

     “We can call him Mowg.” Calebth reached out and stroked the hatchling’s bright red, yellow, and blue head while he made a purring sound.

      Floren snorted. “That’s a dumb name.”

      “I think it’s cute,” she said. “And it fits.”

      Owen turned to them. “Cute names aside. What are we going to do with a helpless, baby dragon?”  

Caleb’s Story (continued)

Morogon – The Evil Mage

  

Chapter 1 Episode 3

     Calebth was beside himself with joy. At sunup tomorrow, he’d be leaving Raintown, the only home he’d ever known, in the company of the greatest Ranger of all times. He couldn’t believe his luck.

     Never mind that Owen had only consented to let him accompany them after he blurted out that he knew a shortcut to the dragon’s lair that would let them get there before any of the other bounty hunters arrived.

     “You can go with us that far and no farther.”

     “But–”

     “No buts. Take it or leave it.” And that was the end of that.

     But Calebth had a plan. He’d make himself so useful that Owen would see he couldn’t get along without him. And once that happened, he’d figure out a way to talk Owen into training him to use the sword.

     When he went to bed that night, he couldn’t sleep a wink. And no wonder! Every time he thought about what tomorrow would bring, his heart began to pound, and his stomach quivered with anticipation.

     “No, Ma’am.”

     “You’d better not. They’ll be leaving first thing in the morning and good riddance. Things can get back to normal.”

     “Yes, Grannie.” He didn’t want to get into an argument with her. Especially since this would be their last evening together for who knows how long.

     He jumped out of bed and ran to the window. His heart sank when he saw Owen and his companions leaving without him! How could he do such a thing? He’d promised that Calebth could go with them as far as the cave. And rangers never lied.

     When Calebth didn’t put in an appearance, Owen must have thought he’d changed his mind. He dressed in a hurry, slinging his knapsack over his shoulder and pulling his grandfather’s sword from under the mattress. He crept downstairs, grabbed a couple loaves of day-old bread, fruit, and sausage, and left a note on the table to Grannie, telling her that he loved her and not to worry about him before running out the door and down the road.

     Never mind that Owen had only consented to let him accompany them after he blurted out that he knew a shortcut to the dragon’s lair that would let them get there before any of the other bounty hunters arrived.

     “You can go with us that far and no farther.”

     “But–”

     “No buts. Take it or leave it.” And that was the end of that.

     But Calebth had a plan. He’d make himself so useful that Owen would see he couldn’t get along without him. And once that happened, he’d figure out a way to talk Owen into training him to use the sword.

     When he went to bed that night, he couldn’t sleep a wink. And no wonder! Every time he thought about what tomorrow would bring, his heart began to pound, and his stomach quivered with anticipation.

     At supper, his Grannie had noticed. “What’s wrong with you? You’re as jumpy as a hog during butchering season. You haven’t let those rangers fill your head with nonsense, have you?”

     “No, Ma’am.”

     “You’d better not. They’ll be leaving first thing in the morning and good riddance. Things can get back to normal.”

     “Yes, Grannie.” He didn’t want to get into an argument with her. Especially since this would be their last evening together for who knows how long.

    Calebth finally fell into a deep sleep just before dawn, waking with a start at the sound of a goat bleating.

     He jumped out of bed and ran to the window. His heart sank when he saw Owen and his companions leaving without him! How could he do such a thing? He’d promised that Calebth could go with them as far as the cave. And rangers never lied.

     When Calebth didn’t put in an appearance, Owen must have thought he’d changed his mind. He dressed in a hurry, slinging his knapsack over his shoulder and pulling his grandfather’s sword from under the mattress. He crept downstairs, grabbed a couple loaves of day-old bread, fruit, and sausage, and left a note on the table to Grannie, telling her that he loved her and not to worry about him before running out the door and down the road.

Chapter 2 – Episode 1

 

    Miles away in his lava castle on top of a volcano, the evil mage, Morogon, sat on his throne in his chamber brooding.  He had sent for the goblin brothers and was waiting for them to appear.

     After a loud bang and the sound of something falling, the massive double doors opened, and three goblins stumbled inside, shaking in their boots. They were sure they were in some kind of trouble. They’d been arguing over which of them was to blame all the way to the mage’s chambers.

      Ollie, the oldest of the three, puffed up his chest with false bravado. “Whatever it is, Lord Morogon, we are innocent. We had nothing to do with it.”

     Lleroy, the goblin in the middle, pointed to his brother. “He spoke the truth, my lord.”

     The youngest, Lleon, nodded rapidly. “Aye that he did, that he did.”

     The mage sighed and pressed his fingers to his forehead, wondering if this was such a good idea after all. “My sources tell me you’ve been spending a lot of time down at the tavern, bragging to anyone who will listen that you are dragon trackers. Is that true?”

     “Umm—something like that, Lord Morogon. Hard to recall my exact words.” Ollie swallowed and hung his head. “We’ve been drinking a lot of ale since we lost our jobs at the quarry.”

     “Did you or did you not claim to be the best when it came to finding and killing the beasts?”

     “Oh. Well. Umm—I may have said something like that.”

     Lleroy jabbed Lleon with his elbow and muttered out of the side of his mouth.  “What he meant was we’re the only dragon trackers around.”

    “Aye that we are. That we are.”

     Lord Morogon held up his hand, and the brothers fell silent. “Be that as it may, I have a job for the three of you.”

     Ollie gulped. “At your service, my lord.”

Caleb’s Story (continued)

Owen The Ranger              Floren the Dwarf            Misa the Elf

Chapter 1 – The Journey Begins (part 2) This episode picks up where the last one left off. I’m sure you can see a LOTR influence as well as “How To Train Your Dragon.” Writing this story has been a fun adventure.

     “You might know.” The trio probably wanted to order a meal. Calebth sighed and got to his feet, making his way over, all ready to rattle off an explanation as to why they’d get nothing but ale this time of day. Halfway there, he stopped dead in his tracks.

     A dwarf with a scar that ran down one side of his face, barely missing an eye, barreled over to a table by the door and sat down so hard it’s a wonder the bench didn’t splinter into kindling. “I don’t care what ye say. I’m starving. Ma belly thinks my throat’s been cut.”

    One of his companions, a tall, slender elf with braids in her hair, rolled her eyes and joined him. “How could you be so hungry? You ate three rabbits for breakfast and washed them down with a gallon of goat’s milk.”

     He patted his rotund belly and grinned. “It takes a lot to keep this physique. Besides, folks have been talking about this place. It’s got a four-star rating.

     They continued their debate while the third member of their party, a tall man dark-haired man, took a seat with his back to the wall and glanced around the room. Something about him caught Calebth’s attention. Not his appearance so much. More the way he carried himself. Quiet. Watchful. Piercing eyes. Tension coiled through the man’s body like a spring as though he was ready for trouble at any minute.

     No farmer or merchant. Not even a soldier. Something else. Calebth gasped and swallowed when he realized he was standing face to face with Owen, the greatest Ranger of all times. What were the chances?

     His stomach twisted when the ranger spoke to him, but his heart was thudding so loud he didn’t hear a word.

    The dwarf waved a hand in front of Calebth’s face. “Are ye deaf,? Did ye not hear what Owen said?”

     The elf frowned. “Don’t be so hard on the boy, Floren.”

    Calebth stuttered. “I’m sorry, sire. What did you say?”

     “Ale all around.”

     The boy backed away and ran into the kitchen where Granny was stirring something in a kettle over the fire.

     “You’ll never believe who just came in.”

     “Some Johnny come lately, looking for food? What does he think this is? An all-day buffet?

     No—well, yes.” He sighed in frustration.  “It’s Owen. The Ranger! Can you believe it?”

     “Oh, him.” She wasn’t impressed. “He must be here to deal with the dragon.”

     “What dragon?”

     “The one Cedric told me about when he delivered vegetables this morning. It’s been holed up in an abandoned Goblin’s cave for the past week or two. Stealing livestock and wreaking havoc in general. So the farmers got together and posted a reward.”

     “Seriously?”

     She nodded. “Twenty gold coins to whoever gets rid of it.”

     Calebth rubbed his hands together. He had an idea. As soon as word got out, there’d be bounty hunters swarming the hills, looking for the cave. And he knew a shortcut. He could lead Owen and his friends there. Surely they’d be so grateful they’d led him squire for them. Nothing like good fortune to make people agreeable.

     With that in mind, he talked Granny into letting him serve them a fresh loaf of bread and bowls of stew along with the ale he poured.

     “I don’t know why. It’s not like those rascals deserve it. They do what they do because they think it’s fun, not because they’re trying to be noble.”

     “What if it was Pops? I’d like to think someone took pity on him from time to time when he was traveling and gave him a home cooked meal.” Long ago, Calebth’s grandfather had been a ranger.

     She didn’t say another word, but he noticed she also added butter and honey to the tray. When Calebth brought the food to the table, he told the three of them about the dragon. “And, I know a shortcut to the cave. I’d be glad to take you there. On one condition. Let me join you on your journey.”

     The dwarf swallowed and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “You’d only be another mouth to feed.”

     The elf glared at him. “Don’t be so hard on the boy, Floren. He could be a big help.”

     “That’s a thought, Misa.” He scrubbed the side of his face. “Can you cook?”

      Calebth prayed his Granny wasn’t listening from the kitchen. “Of course I can. I made the mutton stew you’re eating. And baked the bread.”

     Floren smacked his lips and rubbed his stomach. “How are you at preparing dragon meat?”

     “Is food all you think about?” Misa tossed her braid over her shoulder.

     “What d’ye mean by that?”

     “It’s all you ever talk about.”

     “No, it isn’t.”

     Own slammed his mug down on the table and shut them both up. He poured himself another drink and eyed Calebth. “Thanks for the offer, kid. But it wouldn’t work out. You’re a little young. And besides, I don’t have the time to teach you.”

     “Please, Sire. There are other things I’m good at besides food.” The boy wracked his brain, desperately trying to come up with something. “I-I can tend to your animals. Do your laundry. Polish your boots. Anything it takes as long as you to teach me how to be a ranger. It’s what I want to be more than anything. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since I heard about your adventures.”

     Owen raised his voice. “You don’t understand, boy. What we do isn’t just fun. It’s dangerous.”

Caleb’s Story

Written and illustrated by my twelve-year-old grandson with a little help from me. This is a learning experience for both of us. He’s learning what it takes to write a book, and I’m learning how to point him in the right direction without stifling his imagination. We plan to post it in episodes as the story progresses. Let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.

Chapter 1 – The Journey Begins

     Calebth smothered a yawn as he lugged the wooden bucket full of scraps left over from the midday meal out to the pen full of pigs behind the tavern. Since his Granny took over Meats and Grains customers had been coming from far and wide. Word had spread that the new owner of the tavern in Raintown could cook up a mighty tasty meal.  

     He couldn’t complain. Business had been brisk. There hadn’t been a dull moment in the day. If he wasn’t clearing the tables or washing dishes or scrubbing pots and pans, he was hauling bath water emptying slop jars or changing sheets in the rooms to rent upstairs.

     The busier it was, the more coins filled the bag Granny behind the loose bricks of the hearth in the kitchen. Granny counted them by candlelight late at night after locking up. The less they had to pinch pennies. Or worry about paying the bills

     Granny could afford to pay for other things they needed. Like the clothes and shoes he had the pesky habit of outgrowing. The visit to the dentist when he developed a persistent toothache. Or the herbs from the apothecary to ease her painful joints. She even gave him spending money on fun things like an occasional visit to the fair for spun sugar candy or a front seat ticket to see the juggling act.

     Still, he sighed. Not that he didn’t appreciate their good fortune. He remembered how it was when they had to scrape by. But lately, life had been less and less fun and more and more work.

     He’d complain to Granny, only it wouldn’t do any good. She worked harder than he did. Got up earlier and went to bed later. But he didn’t understand. What good did it do to be making so much money if they couldn’t enjoy any of it? Even just a little.

     Lately, the boy had spent a lot of time daydreaming. While he slaved away, working from sun up to sun down, doing chores that never seemed to end, he had an inspiration.

     If things kept going like they were, he’d be making more than just spending money. He’d started his own stash. So far he didn’t have enough coins to rub together, but he had plans When he’d saved enough, he’d leave the tavern behind and do what he’d always wanted to do. Go on an adventure.  

      By the time he finished feeding the animals and got back inside, the tavern was deserted. Lunch hour and come and gone, leaving a short lull before customers started trickling back in for supper. He’d done everything Granny asked. For the moment his time was his own.

      Calebth hurried over to the nook beside the hearth, in the hopes of catching a little shuteye. It was warm and cozy. The one place Granny couldn’t see when she poked her head into the room looking for him so she could give him another task.

      He crossed his arms, leaned back into the corner and closed his eyes, letting visions of his future filled his head. He wanted to be a ranger just like his grandfather had been. He even had his sword. He kept it under his mattress, wrapped in a soft cloth. It was a beautiful thing. Never mind that he had no idea how to use it. He had that all worked out.

     Why not learn from the best? He’d heard stories all his life about Owen, a ranger with the reputation of being the best fighter ever. A brilliant swordsman. Afraid of nothing.

     If there was only some way to track the ranger down and pledge himself to him. He could teach him how to use the sword. Never mind that he had no idea how to find Owen much less convince the man that his services as a squire would be invaluable. He’d cross that bridge when he came to it.

     Just as Calebth dropped off to sleep a loud noise made him jump. His eyes snapped open. Three figures stood in the open doorway silhouetted in the winter sunlight.