Sunday, February 8, 2009

Narrow Gate (Final Chapter)

Coming Home

Another torturous evening has descended upon me. Not only has Althalo failed to arrive, but only an hour prior a messenger delivered yet another burden. It seems a clan belonging to another kingdom has laid camp only miles from our city gate. As of yet their intentions are unknown, but fear among our people is growing. Even those lacking details sense our vulnerability.

Tonight I am honored to share my table with royalty; it is a strange night indeed. During my years of service as wizard to the king I have never known this man that sits across from me. Tonight he wears no robe or crown and his scepter sits idle. These tired eyes and furrowed brow belong to a father consumed with worry for his only son.

As the candle burns low and I prepare to retrieve another, there comes a knock upon my door. The man who stands in my doorway is difficult to describe. Familiar, yet not at all the same as the night we stood together at the narrow gate. Rags of insecurity have been stripped from his body and he is fully clothed in the armor of service and humility. A welcomed sight indeed; and I hope to hear in great detail the adventure that spurned this transformation as well as an introduction to the dwarf standing by his side.

“This is a great night in the history of our kingdom and deserving of equal celebration!”

As father and son are reunited I usher Althalo’s friend towards the cupboard to assist in the preparation of ale.

“I recognize you from the vision, Quintara, but did not anticipate your return here.”

She offered only a wink, “Neither I—but your new king is quite adept at the art of charm and persuasion.”

While the first round sat comfortably in our bellies I filled our cups again. “Tell us Althalo, tell us every gory detail. I shall not sleep until I learn of this three-headed dragon.”

He settled deeper into his chair and my eyes widened as he weaved the tale I had longed to hear.

Our meeting, the dragon and I, came in a state of sub-consciousness, or perhaps a dream; it makes no difference. Watching from a distance I spied a man in a field tilling the ground. He was transparent and my eyes saw his heart brimming with things he loved. He toiled in simple deeds but the sun shone brightly upon him and the birds of the meadow sang sweetly.

After a time I no longer watched, but became the man in the field. The handles of the plow were still warm and freedom flowed from the ground filling every void. My heart would not mind if that moment in time could have endured forever, but quickly the sky turned black and a shadow loomed over me like the clouds of a storm. Stillness in the air gave way to turbulence as the flapping of his thunderous wings caused the ground to tremble. As he drew near a poisonous fear welled within me and for a moment I considered hiding amidst the shadows of the forest. His talons were immense, but if he fancied me in his grasp I should not make his task easy.

Our battle raged for an eternity and more than once I lay wounded, resigned to defeat. The innocence of the meadow crossed my mind as the green hues of life become stained with an unholy mixing of blood; perhaps more of my own than I should attest. Prompted by the expectations of many I stumbled to my feet again. During a final thrashing of beast of man my blade found its cause. I snatched the life from his chest and in the firm grasp of my hand his heart struggled to find a final beat.

On each side of the dragon lay a head; neither recognizable as my sword sliced cleanly through, but once separated from the host his powerful grip over me became obvious. On the left of me lay fear; not in pure form, but the feeling one warrior has for another as they stand together on the front line of battle. A dread that he might not find in himself what is required to defend his friend’s life with the vigor of his own. On the right of the beast lay the hideous head of pride; an abomination that no man wishes to see in himself, while those surrounding him can see nothing else.

While still digesting the dismantling of my own shortcomings, out of the mist rose a second dragon. It clearly did not belong to me, but instead to a part of me that was destined to make me whole. Despite my broken state the passion of ten-thousand men boiled within me, for I knew my own victory meant nothing if this battle ended in defeat.

We clashed in the air, and with a screech that shook the heavens loose, he bore the brunt of my weapon. Lying on the ground wounded, I perched upon his mighty chest. Grasping the hilt with both hands I made ready for a final assault. In the waning hours of day the blade of my sword glowed with a cobalt sheen. With the power of my own slain beast surging through it, I delivered a crippling blow.

Exhausted I fell to the ground. The severed head lay within arms reach and I struggled to pull it near, for I wished to gaze into the glassy eyes of regret that I should never fail to recognize it. A heavy sigh rushed past my lips. In the distance I glimpsed Quintara shaking free of the chains that had so soundly bound her spirit.

She rushed to my side with great urgency and caressed my brow with lingering fingers. The moment her lips touched mine my spirit soared to the heavens. If there are words tender enough to describe our love they have not yet been written. Should they ever take form they will be whispered from the lips of angels.

“Father and King, if it be your wish I shall take the reigns of this kingdom tonight.”

With tearful eyes the elder nodded in affirmation before Althalo continued.

“In this dimly lit chamber, among elite company, I avow my allegiance to this kingdom and my new queen. Until my last breath I shall defend both with my honor.

From this day forward it is my vision that man and dwarf may serve side by side and my solemn duty to see that not even the least in my kingdom shall face their dragon alone, but that we might as a whole bring a united force against any foe that should seek to limit the potential of this great and blessed land.”


terrymcdermott said...

Great story. I also loved the pic!

Jo A. T.B. said...

Well Dan, your wonderful tale is finally done! The dragons have been slain, and the wisdom gained for a mighty and brave king. So nice to know Althalo found his queen, mostly the reason I liked stories set back in that time. But this time the queen was not a damsel in distress, but a strong warrior too! I enjoyed reading this story, thank you!

CordieB said...

Beautifully written, Dan! Althalo was able to defeat his dragons. . . and in such even inspire spirit in another being whose spirit felt defeated-despite their differences, they were connected in spirit and realized this. The two inspired each other to be better people. . . such is the power of love and such is love.

CordieB said...

Beautifully written, Dan! Althalo was able to defeat his dragons. . . and in such even inspire spirit in another being whose spirit felt defeated-despite their differences, they were connected in spirit and realized this. The two inspired each other to be better people. . . such is the power of love and such is love.

CordieB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob said...

Hi, Dan... enjoyed your story and its metaphoric treatment of life's values at any time of human history. I would encourage you to tighten it up by maintaining either first or third person narration throughout so that the reader is always sure who is narrating, then supplement the action with your very realistic dialogue. Well done.

Jo Janoski said...

What a satisfying chapter, eloquent in the depiction of man vs. his demons. Triumphant. Loved it!

Rob Kistner said...

Greetings – Interesting site you’ve created! I came by to say hi …and to invite you to stop by Image & Verse for a visit, or just to say hello.

Selma said...

A dramatic ending. I like it when things work out, even in this genre. You captured such a sense of grandeur and glory. Most enjoyable!