The Guardian by Carin Marais

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SUMMARY: Entry for July FF - Redemption

Liuter went to the town expecting to be killed. He was chosen, as a Dragon Guardian, to rid Tonburg of a wild dragon. Around him the town lay in smouldering ruins. Almost none of the people dared to remain in the gutted town. The dead had been buried and most of the people had fled to the farmlands. It had taken a Liuter a week to reach the town. At first, when the Dragon Guardians had heard that a dragon had been spotted to the south of the Great River, they had rejoiced at one of the stolen kin returning to the coast. But then the beast had started to wreak havoc on its way south, burning and killing and it became clear that the dragon was one of the wild ones that had escaped the clutch of Marcus of Guldargan.

Liuter switched his shoulder bag from his left to his right shoulder. In it he carried some rations, a field book and a vial of distilled Dragon's Bane poison. At his hip hung a short sword. Around his neck hung one of the stones called a Dragon's Gift. He hoped that he would not need to use the poison or the sword.

He made his way from the town; following the charred land to the ridge the dragon had made its home. He did not try to sneak up to the beast its sense of smell was far too good. But he did start to sing a song in the ancient tongue the Dragon Guardians used to communicate with the great beasts. He sang for calmness and rest and to let the dragon know that he was coming in peace. The poor thing must have been through hell in the fighting force of the old king. The king had sent out mercenaries to steal dragon eggs from the southern coast. He even kidnapped some of the Guardians to be able to communicate to the beasts. None of the Guardians were seen again and the dragons had become wild, dumb beasts.

Liuter stepped up to the overhang where the red dragon laid, stretched out and apparently asleep. The young Guardian seeing that the dragon was entirely scarlet in colour, instead of the sapphire hue of the sea. He started speaking to the dragon in the ancient tongue that held the Talent to communicate to the beasts. He asked the dragon its name. A yellow, cat-like eye glared at him from beneath the bony blood red brow ridge, but did not give an answer. Instead, the thoughts that pelted him were wild, wordless and full of malice.

He took the Dragon's Gift from beneath his brown tunic. "See," he said. "This was gifted to me by some of your kin. I've come to take you home." He went on to tell the glaring dragon of the shimmering sea and the tall cliffs where his kin lived. The language was melodious and musical and even put him at ease before this great dragon.

The dragon stirred and lifted one of its great claws slowly, stretching it out to the Guardian; his eye fixed on the stone he held in his hand. Luiter glanced down and felt bile rising in his throat, for beneath the scarlet claw was a severed human limb. When the beasts pulled back its scaly lips to reveal its great teeth, Liuter saw that they were stained with gore. He quickly uttered more words of peace to place the dragon at ease and then bound it in place with an old rhyme used only as a last resort, and only to those beasts fallen to the shadow.

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