Last time, Sprite the seven year old apprentice and pupil of the Knights Vigilant rescued the blacksmiths daughter Lorain for a pack of wolves and have now become friends.
To the great discomfort of poor Sprites nose, life started to change since the day he faced the wolves. For one, Sprite’s daily routine, before, had originally consisted of, wake up, do chores, work at the forge till noon, then head back home for schooling, and of course swordsmanship training with his teacher Greta. In case you don’t remember, Greta is the knight who raised young Sprite. And now, ever since he saved the onion girl, she would be waiting for him at his front gate whenever he came out to head to the forge.
What’s worse is she would walk beside him and Sprite would walk extra fast in order to make it harder for her smell to cling to him. It took him almost an hour every morning just to wash out the onion smell from his cloths.
What’s even more amazing is that you would think that half running to work every day would make it difficult for someone to have any kind of conversation. Lorain on the other hand still somehow managed it. Her questions, stories, and energy seemed to have no end.
After about a week of keeping this up though Sprite eventually got tired of trying to scare her off, and just ended up holding his breath most of the time.
Additionally, whenever they worked in the shop now, Lorain would often hover around him while he fixed and sharpened tools, or made sockets and nails. Instead of Lorain’s constant nagging during work, like before, she might comment on his work every now and again and offer helpful advice, but for the most part she simply watched quietly. As though she expected him to transform into a fairy and fly away.
One day however, after they both finished up work early, Lorain asked him if he wanted to go for a walk. He was supposed to report back to Greta for his lessons but he hesitated.
It had been two weeks since the wolves, and he finally worked up the courage to ask her why she wasn’t afraid of him like the other children.
Her answer “We’re friends.”
Friends was a new thing for him but as long as she stayed down wind he didn’t mind. At the same time though, he made sure to keep their walk short and in the general direction of his house. This time though, Lorain was not the only one talking on their little walks.
Sprites house was small in comparison to the other houses in White Brook. All it really had inside was one room, two beds a closet and a table. Neither of the beds were Sprites as he slept on a fur bed roll, on the floor with a blanket. One of the beds was Greta’s and the other belonged to Kelly her brother. Everything else, like the washboard they used to clean cloths, or the fire pit they used for cooking was outside.
Kelly was normally in his chapel up the road at this time of day, while Greta was normally inside figuring out Sprites next lessons. So when they finally arrived there was no one to great him. Sprite wished Lorain good day, and expected her to leave him to his training, but when he tried to shew her off, she insisted on staying.
When Greta finally emerged from the house Sprite expected his teacher to come down and get angry with him. After all Greta wasn’t the most gentle of parents and when it came to rules, she had little patience. However, Instead of making him run a mile or having him fight some wild animal, Greta simply smiled at the sight of Lorain, and asked her how her father was doing.
Sprite was almost disappointed at not being punished. Then again it wasn’t like Greta to take any action in front of other people so he wondered if there would be consequences after she had Sprite alone.
Greta, in fact, had no intention of punishing poor Sprite. She was actually relieved to see him getting along with at least one of the other children. However, at the same time she was a little worried about Sprite. After all, she doubted this girl would be so accepting of Sprite if she knew the truth about him.
“Do you have any duties to attend to, or are you free for this evening, Lorain?” asked Greta.
Lorain bragged how she had finished early for the day and didn’t have to be back home until Supper.
“Very well. If you promise not to distract young Sprite then you are more than welcome to stay and watch. However, I recommend you bring a book to read next time, as our lessons will continue on well until past your supper time.”
Lorain thanked her and promised she wouldn’t get in the way. She then walked over sat cross-legged on the stump by the fence. Sprite couldn’t believe what was happening. Don’t get the boy wrong he was incredibly pleased by the turn of events however, he had always known Greta for being ridged and strict. Yet whenever Lorain was around Greta seemed to take things easy on him.
True to her word Lorain didn’t make a sound as Sprite moved through one subject to the next. She particularly enjoyed the history lessons as she has always loved stories. The idea of learning story’s that where true, made them even more magical for her.
Then there was the sword instruction. This is what Lorain had been waiting for. Maybe now she would catch a gimps of what it was that scared off those wolves. Maybe she would finally unravel this mystery.
The training was not what she expected however. Greta left Sprite and Lorain alone outside in order to retrieve the weapons. When she came back however, she was only carrying one blade. Her own. The knight took a stance facing the boy. She instructed him to ready himself, and he took his own stance. She then commanded her student to attempt to disarm her.
Lorain wasn’t exactly sure what Sprite was supposed to do. Even Sprite was a little nervous, though not for the reason you might suspect. Sure he wanted to make a good impression in front of his friend just as much as anyone would, he was also eager to learn the lesson his master was trying to teach him. However, he was not like most boys and he knew this. I suppose he was just afraid of scarring off his new friend.
The boy charged. Greta side stepped. He over shot and His teacher gave him a hard rap on his arm with the flat of her blade. Sprite rolled with it which lessened the blow. However it still smarted greatly.
Lorain gasped at her friend’s injury.
“Never attack from the front, if you can help it. Try to get behind your opponent.” Greta critiqued.
Sprite almost laughed. There was the harsh woman he was familiar with. He was starting to wonder if the knight who raised him would ever show up. As it turns out, Greta had only been polite for Lorain’s sake. She was not about to lighten up the boys work load just because his friend was watching.
The boy steadied himself for his next advance. Only briefly nursing his bruised arm before turning his attention back to his opponent. Greta however, advanced on him first. She charged. Sprite then did something neither Greta nor Lorain expected. He dropped down under her blow.
The knight adjusted her weight preparing for another swing. Sprite, reaching down grabbed a handful of louse dirt and pine needles and thrust it up at Greta’s face, this managed to distract, if not, blind her temporarily.
He then rushed forward on all fours and slide under in between his masters legs. He was now behind her. He turned back to face his opponent. Thwack. Grata smacked is other arm with the flat of her blade leaving both arms soar and bruised. The boy staggered back exhausted and out of breath.
Greta granted him no rest. She charged again, only this time, he did not duck, or retreat. Rather he held his ground.
Lorain brought her hands too her mouth overcome with worry. Greta swung. Sprite leaned back and, with the knife he had just swiped from his master’s belt during the last maneuver, deflected the knight’s blow then rushed forward again. He rammed his head hard into the woman’s chest knocking the wind out of her lungs.
Lorain clapped, at her friends triumph.
Greta, however, was only stunned for a fraction of a second. Grabbing hold of the boys head she let herself tumble back. Using his forward momentum and weight, she dropped down on her back and flung the boy clear over her head.
The young Sprite sailed through the air, and landed in the blueberry bush beside the fence adjacent to Lorain. He did not immediately climb out.
“Sprite!” Lorain shouted then jumped from her stump before rushed over to the bush that had swallowed her friend.
“Good effort.” Affirmed Greta “Very resourceful with the distraction, however you keep leaving yourself wide open. If this had been a real fight I would have had you twice.”
“In a real fight I wouldn’t have come at you without a weapon.” Sprite answered climbing out of the brambles with Lorain’s help.
Greta nodded then sheathed her weapon. “Retrieve your weapon from the house, and we will spar like usual for the remainder of the evening.” A spar being just another word for, sword fight, if you didn’t already know.
Sprite didn’t argue. He dusted himself off real quick then went inside to get his sword.
The rest of the afternoon was surprisingly slow after that. Even so Lorain refused to leave. Something still bothered the girl however. Sure one piece to her puzzle had fallen into place however it still didn’t quite fit. She had already guessed that the boy could fight she had learned that before with the wolf. There was still more to this boy then he was letting on.
At first Greta and Sprite seemed pretty evenly matched when it came to the blade. However Greta, was obviously pulling her blows in order to help with Sprites endurance. Every now and again she would shout instruction or point out a flaw in his form. Understandably, he was unable to land a single blow. Pretty soon however, the sun started getting low in the sky.
Out of know were Greta suddenly pause mid swing. She looked form the boy to the setting sun then. Promptly sheathed her sword.
“It’s getting late.” Greta announced. “Jursha!” The boy stiffened at the sound of his real name being spoken out in the open. Something she had never done.
“The young lady will be late for supper if she doesn’t hurry. Please escort her home and I will have your dinner waiting for you when you get back.” Without waiting for the boy to respond she turned and head back into the house, leaving the boy alone with Lorain.
Sprite hesitated, then sheathed his own weapon before offering his hand to Lorain. She took it and together they walked back. Sprite as always walked quietly alongside the onion girl. Lorain as was expected, couldn’t contain herself. She was all: “That was so cool the way you did that one move.” Or “I think my favorite story was the one with John the Titian killer.” And “Wow, we was so brave.” And even, “How on earth do you stand it? Just sitting there, listening to your teacher go on and on and on like that. For the most part Sprite still found this very annoying. I believe he was becoming quite fond of her longwinded nature. Even if he never got used to her potent smell.
A few minutes later the sun had set and they had arrived. It was then that Lorain’s father came out to great them both. He kissed his daughter on the forehead and asked her where she had been all day. She told him about Sprites schooling and his sparring lesson with Greta. Her father pretended to be impressed, though Sprite could tell he was only humoring her.
“All right all right,” chuckled her father. ”We can talk more at dinner.” The man then looked form his daughter to the boy.
“If you haven’t had dinner yet we have plenty extra. Would you care to join us Sprite?”
The boy wrinkled his nose detecting onions. And shook his head. To his relief Lorain explained for him how Greta was already making his dinner and he how he was just walking her home.
“Very well. Feel free to come by any time you change your mind. Always got more soup then we know what to do with.”
“Thank you sir” The boy spoke with the same dignity as always unsuited for someone his age.
Lorain’s father blinked twice from surprise, then quickly ushered his daughter inside. Leaving Sprite alone on the porch, playing with the gold amulet around his neck. With a question he hadn’t thought to ask in a long time. Who was his mother and father?
He had asked Greta once before and she had told him that his mother was a great woman from the south, however that is all he could get out of the old warrior. As for his father, she wouldn’t say anything at all. Whenever he pressed her, she usually got angry and insisted he wasn’t old enough.
Now perhaps at dinner, he thought, he would try again.
Once he was finally home, and dinner on his plate. Greta handled the question almost as badly as before. Flustered and unprepared for this talk, she gave the same response she had before. She insisted she would tell him once he was older. The boy however, would not be turned down so easily this time.
“Please mother. I need to know.” He spoke calm and respectfully. As always he sounded way too mature for his age.
Greta let out a deep sigh. “Fine. You should sit down as we are going to be here a while.”
You would have never guessed from looking at him, how excited the boy was. He had been waiting to learn about his parents for his whole life. Don’t get him wrong he loved the warrior for raising him but he had known since the beginning she was not his real mother and she had never pretended otherwise. She was too different from him. Well actually he was different from everyone. The only person he had ever seemed to connect with was the onion girl.
Sprite collected chairs for the two of them and they both sat by the burning coals of the fireplace.
“Now then. First things first do you know what a dragon is?”
The boy shook his head no. Greta paused and considered her words.
“Since the beginning the dragons have always been the most beautiful of the Great Spirits creations. They are large with armored hides and scales that gleam. Their wings are wide and strong, there limbs are as thick as trees and their teeth as sharp as daggers. But what the dragons are most well-known for is their ability to breathe Fire. In short they resemble giant lizards with wings.” The knight paused her story, just in case the boy laughed at her joke. He did not.
He was far too eager for jokes. Yet he waited patiently for his mentor to continue.
“Do you know the story of The Mother and Father of Man?” she asked. Again he shook his head. “No you wouldn’t have, if you hadn’t heard about dragons. It would seem there are two stories I will have to tell in order to answer your question.”
The boy didn’t budge.
“Very well, in the beginning when the Great Spirit made the world he made all the creatures in it. He made fish, birds, deer, dragons, and man. Man was his favorite though, for he had made the mind of man like his own.”
“He made woman as well but that came later.” She added anticipating his next question then continued. “After he made everything he also made a great garden for them all to enjoy and for a time everything in that garden was good.”
“However the spirt didn’t stop there. In the very center of the garden two fountains flowed from the earth one of life and one of knowledge. So long as they drank from the fountain of life they would not die and would never know sickness or pain. However they were commanded not to drink from the fountain of knowledge and warned them that to do so would lead to their death. For a time they obeyed. This of course is when the dragon comes into the story”
Greta halted, sat up and retrieved a pitcher of water and wooden cup which she filled. Taking a sip she returned to her seat and resumed her story. “You see, like man, the dragon also lived forever. However the dragon was not allowed to drink from even the fountain of life, as it was not made for him.
“Eventually the dragon grew jealous of Man. He wanted to be The Spirits favorite, and it was this jealousy that attracted the attention of another spirit. This spirit like everything else was another created by the Great one. Unlike the dragon however this spirit had grown cold with a different type of jealousy. The Cold One didn’t want to be The Great Spirits favorite. No, instead he wanted to be his Equal.”
“In his cunning, the Cold One told the dragon that if it could trick man into drinking from the pool of knowledge then the Great Spirit would not love man anymore. He told him that the dragon would then be his favorite.”
“The dragon agreed and succeeded in his task. The Great Spirit then cast all from the garden. Man, dragon, and spirit, none were allowed to reenter the garden.
Even though He still loved us, sadly, our innocence was gone, and punishment was necessary if we were going to learn.” Greta paused to take a sip from her water and let the boy ask questions, if he had any
“Why did the Spirit make the other fountain? Didn’t he know they would eventually drink from it?” Greta smiled and nodded
“Yes, but remember, that all the creatures the Great Spirit created where good. Good, is a meaningless word unless the creatures also had free will? Free will meant choices. He wanted his beasts to love him and just like goodness itself, love would have no meaning unless the ones he loved could decide to not to return that love. So he made the fountain.”
Sprite nodded then asked “what happened to the garden?”
“After the banishing, the dragon in its anger burnt it down, and the fountain dried up” She answered flatly, then continued, “ever since that day, Man has hunted the dragon and his kind. Almost to extinction.”
The boy raised an eyebrow. “If the dragons are so powerful then how did we manage to do that?” He asked, obviously confused.
“True, they have amazing reflexes and skills. They even possess speech. However, despite the dragons many strengths they have even more weaknesses.”
“Like what?” he asked.
“Well, for one, dragons are quiet and solitary by nature. Also, on an emotional level, the dragons are a bit unstable and tend not to get along, even with each other. As such, Man has always fought in numbers, the dragons have always fought alone.”
Sprite wasn’t convinced however. He couldn’t believe that a giant, armored, flying, fire breathing, lizard, with teeth, and claws, could be so easily beaten. And he was partially right. The true fault for the disappearance of the dragons was actually the dragons themselves.
What the boy didn’t think to ask, and Greta didn’t actually know, was that, ever since the burning of the garden, it was not in a dragon’s nature to talk out a disagreement. In that sense the dragons settled every dispute just like a wild animal would.
Action was the only way they knew or understood. This is the main reasons they are so solitary. In fact it was remarkably common for an argument or dispute, even among a mated pare of dragons, to result in the death of one or the other. It was even more common still, for a mother dragon to kill her own hatchlings, should her patience with them be pushed too its limit.
Greta continued “Now for the story you have been waiting for. This is the story of how you were born.” Greta announced.
“I told you before how your mother was someone of importance. You may have already guessed it but, your mother, was the late Empress Orlain.”
You would have never guessed form the way she spoke, how heavy those words where. The boy almost fell out of his seat at hearing them. He steadied himself then forced himself to let Greta continue.
He was shaking from head to toe. Sure had guessed, however he had not gotten even close. He clutched tightly at the golden amulet hanging from his neck.
“You heard me right.” Greta affirmed.
“Who was my father then?” The boy asked.
“I am getting to that.” Greta adjusted her seat then continued. “What do you know of the Empress?”
“She was the ruler of the city Eden right?”
“Sort of. More accurately she was the high priest to the Great Spirit there. The king is technically the ruler of Eden, though the position is more that of a governor. Indeed he ran the kingdom. However, when it came to any major decisions the king had to make on behalf of the kingdom, The Empress had the final word.”
“Was the king my father?” Sprite interrupted, unable to contain himself any further.
“No.” was Greta’s answer. She then waited for the boy to regain his composure before continuing. “Almost seven years ago, Eden, the city to the south, was attacked by the Black Dragon. Word of the Empresses power and her connection to the Great Spirit had somehow made to his ear.”
“He had learned that at the end of every twenty years the Empress would make a sacrifice and ask the Great Spirit on behalf of the kingdom for whatever they needed. He had also heard that not once had the Great Spirit ever denied her wishes, and so the Dragon would have his own wish granted.”
“Once the Dragon had his fun burning down houses and shops, he turned his attention to the main fortress. We were no match for his power, he even had magic.”
“Pretty soon he was in the inner sanctuary where he found the Empress praying at the altar of the Great Spirit.” Greta paused out of breath and fighting back painful memories. Sprite noticed tears running down her cheek in the low glow of their fire. “She told me to stand down but I didn’t obey, as was expected, I too was no match for him.” Sprite wanted to know how she survived but he decided to keep his questions for later.
She continued “The Dragon had her. She told me on her death bed that the Dragon threatened to kill me and everyone else in the city unless she granted his wish.”
“What is your wish” She asked.
“I want to be like The Great Spirit” the Dragon answered.
Now Sprite was starting to get a little impatient with his teacher. “Why was she beating around the bush like this?” he wondered. Considering the gravity of what she was about to tell her child I can’t say I blame her for hesitating. Greta asked herself if he was really ready for this burden. No, it was now or never. She decided, and proceeded.
“And so your mother granted his wish. Taking the glass knife to the alter she drew the blade across her hand and on behalf of the Dragon asked the Great Spirit for his blessing. As her blood spilled onto the altar and mixed with the holy water that collected in the temple from the mountain, the Dragon disappeared in a flash of blinding light. In his place.” Greta had to force herself to finish her sentence. “In his place stood a man.”
“His wish had been granted. The Dragon had been made like the Great Spirit. For man is also in the likeness of the Great Spirit.”
Suspicion stretched across the boy’s face. Then Horror.
Greta continued at a gentler pace. “Needless to say the Dragon felt deceived, angry even. When we found her, she lay alone at the feet of the altar. The Dragon, gone.”
“She would not move. Our best physicians did their best to treat her, however no matter what they did, she would not wake up. That is until six months later when she gave birth to you.”
The boy shuddered as the cold blade of truth pierced his heart. “No” he quivered.
“Yes Jursha, you are the son of the Black Dragon.