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Free Short Story (IVAR The Dragon Master)
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Just for fun, I thought you might like to read a short story I did for a contest a few years ago. We had a photo prompt. The story is around 2,500. I didn’t have time to do audio on this newsletter. But if you’d like audio reply to this email and let me know and I’ll get it on here as soon as possible.
This is a fantasy story about a young man and his dragon. It is a bit different from my usual stuff. I hope you enjoy it. :)
And there are lots of book deals after the story!
IVAR - The Dragon Master
The iridescent blue dragon took three running strides before extending its wings and gliding with an effortless elegance over the edge of the cliff and out toward the valley.
Ivar stood helpless, watching the dragon as it soared away from him.
He usually loved watching this dragon fly and would have done so now, except for the man who held his head in a vise-like grip, a knife at his throat. And if the dragon, who typically had Ivar’s back, front, head, feet and everything in between as his first priority, had not been flying in the direct opposite direction as himself.
The dragon, Bayard, belonged to Ivar, although most days the young man had to admit it felt the other way around. Ivar was a Dragon Master, descending from an ancient line of Dragon Masters. His entire family was, in fact, part of the guild in one capacity or another. And while there had been a time when the Dragon Masters were looked up to, yes, even revered on some level—that was no longer so.
Instead of esteemed, his family was disrespected and scorned. Once in a shameful encounter that Ivar would never forget, his uncle, to the boy's mortification and humiliation, had even been spit upon.
Not just a little ptooey either but a huge, disgusting hocker sucked up from the bowels of the man's throat and blown out at a high rate of velocity.
Ivar had to admit, he would have been quite impressed by the feat had the huge gob of spit not just narrowly missed his own face to hit his uncle. Yes, things had been going quite badly for him and his family these past few years, and it wasn't even their fault.
The problem was this, and everyone forgets about it until they can’t—it is that a dragon likes to eat. Dragons eat a number of small animals, but their favorite is sheep, especially the tiny ones. And while a roasted tiny sheep, also known as lamb, sounds very tasty to a large, hungry dragon—it does not go over well with the general populace.
Sheep owners want those sheep for their own dinner tables, women like the wool to make clothing, and children, especially girl children . . . Well, they just cry and cry when a dragon eats a little lamb, particularly when it is right in front of them.
"I understand it, I really do," the young man thought. "But, you know, a dragon it needs to, well, eat."
So even though dragons had provided safety and protection from any number of invaders coming from all over the continent, from their grandfather's grandfather's time until this very day, people could no longer abide the dragons or their masters. And so they . . . Well, they spit.
And while none of this helped the boy's predicament, it did explain it. Because the man who held the Ivar's head in a viselike grip with a sharp blade to his neck was a sheepherder.
"So he claimed," thought Ivar. The sheepherder also claimed that he had seen the aforementioned blue iridescent dragon hovering over his meadow full of tender little baby sheep. "So he claimed." The sheepherder had said that he had been sure his baby sheep count was ten less coming back in that night than going out that morning.
Ivar thought this was a bunch of horse-pucky. "Really, exactly ten sheep?" It wasn't as though the dragon could count and thought he should polish off one or two more just to make it a nice round, even number.
Ivar himself had never seen Bayard eat more than eight at one setting with his own eyes, so he doubted very much that he had eaten so many of the sheepherder's little lambs unless they were very little indeed. The teen rather thought that the sheepherder had padded the number a bit hoping for a little extra reimbursement. "Joke is on him. Like I have the money to pay for even one sheep, little or big," the young man laughed to himself.
As if the man knew Ivar's thoughts, he tightened his already strong grip on the boy's head until Ivar felt his head may indeed mash in like a rotten apple—as the man had threatened to do more than once in the last five minutes. The boy rolled his eyes back and to the right until he could just see the man out of the corner of his eye.
"And look at him, look at how he's dressed. Sheepherder, my left butt cheek! Maybe. If he offers murder for hire on the side."
Ivar now realized his salvation depended solely on himself. There was not even a dot on the horizon. Nothing that indicated Bayard was returning to be his savior yet again. He patiently waited for a slight loosening of the man’s grip and then took matters into his own hands... or rather head.
A firm headbutt backward had both man and boy reeling. But, as Ivar had hoped, he was the first to recover, and like a shot, he ran for the nearest door.
It just so happened to be the door to the kitchen of the bakery that created his most favorite meat pie and a baker who stalked him.
And while Ivar loved those meat pies—and in fact—could not devour enough of them, he did not love the baker. Oh, she was a fair enough woman, blond, blue-eyed and buxom—most men's dream, really.
But her behavior was out of line for a young lady. She often proclaimed she loved him—loudly and insistently as he stood in line for his favorite treat.
Yes, she was one of the very few fans still left of the Dragon Masters, and what an unrelenting fan she was. Ivan was surprised she hadn't started some sort of Dragon Master Fan Club. What he neglected to realize, or perhaps tried to ignore was that the fan club she wanted to start was the Ivar Fan Club.
Holding one hand to his aching head, the young man gathered his courage and shot through the bakery door, and almost landed in the arms of the baker.
The young woman's face normally lit at the mere sight of him, and on seeing what she thought was him making a beeline for her arms, it fairly glowed.
In a fluster, she quickly looked, in vain, for a place to set the huge and undeniably heavy tray of pies she carried so she could wrap her apparently strong arms around him.
But Ivar was through the kitchen and out the front of the building before she completed her task.
Looking back, he thought, "That's right lady, I'm not buying what you are selling unless it is a meat pie—or maybe two or three. Or, umm, maybe the apple and the cherry. They aren't bad, actually quite good now that I am thinking about it."
Ivar turned for a final glance at the bakery, a sorrowful look crossing his face over the lack of time he had for meat pies. Or in fact, the eating any food at this moment.
The lovely baker, stood forlornly at the open door of the bakery. Sunlight lit up her golden tresses, but she had a desolate look on her face.
It instantly brightened when she saw the sorrowful expression on Ivar's face as he recalled the taste of favorite meal.
Someone jostled her, nearly knocking her over. The rude man looked rough, and was chasing the man of her dreams.
So this was the reason her love couldn’t stop for any kind of nourishment, be it for the belly or the heart. Her emotions lightened and before Ivan turned away she offered him her most radiant smile, and brought her hand to her mouth and blew him a kiss.
Ivar's sorrowful expression turned to confusion then panic as he turned away and picked up his pace.
There was no doubt that the baker was a lovely woman. And that no man in her care would ever go hungry—not through his entire lifetime. And would be feed in a fine manner not to be scoffed at, but Ivar had higher dreams than being the husband of a baker.
No, what the boy was saving himself for was a princess.
A princess may seem like a tall order for a disgraced Dragon Master, who was a downtrodden relative of the spit upon and was almost being murdered at this very minute. But Ivar had his reasons for holding out for one of the fairly hard-to-get lovely ladies.
Once, when dragons and their masters were all the rage, princesses were regularly and freely given, out of thankfulness and gratefulness that everyone was still, you know, alive.
So he thought, why shouldn't it be like that again?
Only one thing was needed. Dragons needed to be forgiven for their admittedly disgusting eating habits, and to become at least fashionable again. Though what the young man was really hoping for was adoration, if not actual lionization. (Yes, I know it is an odd word, but hey, we are living in at least medieval times. Maybe even a different planet or dimension altogether. I'm not really sure. Anyway, I am just a narrator repeating words—odd or not.)
Ivar raced down the street and into an alley. Up another street. Through a ditch. Still, the man continued to concede chase.
"Oh give up already!" the boy hollered. His eyes raked the streets, frantically searching for a place to run next in the dismally small town.
To his right, Ivar spied a small, though brilliant flash of blue, through the trees. His heart leapt. He changed direction making that his immediate goal.
Getting closer, the teen saw that it was his beloved, though seriously in need of a talking to, dragon. Ivar would soon be high into the sky where he could look down on the sheepherder/murderer-for-hire in safety and, well, derision—downright mockery even.
The young man cut through the final stand of trees coming face to face with the dragon. "Bayard," he called out, "where have you been?"
To which Bayard gave his usual dragon look, which Ivar, though he had known this dragon his entire life, had, in fact, grown up alongside him, had yet to ever decipher.
The sheepherder/murder-for-hire man had caught up to Ivar. The boy could practically feel his breath on his neck.
The man gave an ear-splitting yell. He took desperate leap toward Ivar.
At the same time, Ivar swatted the nose of Bayard and took his own desperate leap onto the dragon's back.
The dragon, who'd had enough of this nonsense, especially the swat on the nose which he did not like at all, knew there were more important matters at hand.
He turned his head toward the man and gave a loud growl or roar or whatever you call the sound that a dragon makes, causing the man to fall trembling to the ground. He then took three running strides that lifted him up off the ground and started a graceful arc in the sky.
Ivar, enormously relieved to be away from the murdering man, laid back on Bayard to catch his breath while enjoying the lovely and peaceful blue of the sky. Enjoyed it that is, until he could feel the dragon circling.
Ivar sat up to see why Bayard was going around and around, as that behavior was usually reserved for hunting—as in hunting and eating little sheep. After what the young man had been through, he wanted no part of that kind of business.
"I mean I know that he has to eat, but I don't have to sit here and watch him," Ivar reasoned. Especially because he was fairly sure this was the property the murderer had claimed was his.
When Ivar looked down, however, he did not see little lambs, being readied for the slaughter.
Well, maybe one little lamb but not the dragon's kind.
An elegant carriage bedecked with colorful banners sat below them, and it was in trouble. It was, in truth, surrounded by a number of bandits.
"Just the type of thing that can help us get our good reputation back," Ivar thought joyfully. He patted Bayard, thanking him for finding this disaster of which they could be the heroes.
As the dragon descended, the bandits scattered, which was often the case. Only the very brave stood their ground against the several ton, fire-breathing animal. This was why Ivar could usually rely on the mere presence of Bayard to ward off any deadly advances. Usually. (Obviously not this morning, hence the story.)
Bayard lightly came to rest on the ground with just one small hop. Figuring that his part of the job was done, he turned away, distracted by what he thought was the barest hint of the sweet scent of small sheep wafting through the air.
From a distance, Ivar heard an older man happily yelling out, and waving to Ivar his appreciation at the rescue, as he made his way over to him.
Fleet of foot, a young woman, pink gown whipping out behind her, and long dark hair flying, ran around the older man, not stopping until she reached the young man.
Ivar's eyes widened as they took in not one but two flashing ankles on her speedy course across the lawn. "I don't think they teach that at Ladies Academy," he thought shocked and yet exhilarated at the sight.
It took quite a bit of internal dialogue to be the gentleman and drag his reluctant eyes up to her face, after which a slow smile started to curve his mouth.
Upon reaching Ivar, the girl smiled, what the teen thought, was assuredly the most beautiful, magnificent smile he had ever seen. Then she kissed him tenderly on the cheek in joyful appreciation of being saved, as a lady should, and gave him a one-armed hug.
That hand came to rest just where the nape of his neck met his broad shoulders. Her other hand was at her glorious head of curly brunette hair, steadying her gleaming, golden crown.
Ivar beamed. “My Princess, it is my pleasure.”
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