Welcome to the adventure. This story’s bones came from the amazing imaginations of some very creative nieces and nephews I know. When lacking inspiration, they’re an awesome source of fuel for the muse. =) Hope you enjoy.
“It costs a King’s ransom, though,” the doc warns you.
“But a cure exists?” you ask again.
He nods and lays a sympathetic hand on your shoulder before leaving your one room cabin. The dirt under your feet and the paper over the windows just accentuates what the doc meant. You’ve no money.
You take a steadying breath before heading into the lean-to off the back of the cabin. The lean-to, and the only private part of your home, belongs to your mother. You built it for her when she fell ill in hopes she’d sleep better. But no amount of sleep will cure her.
You’re mother smiles at you when you look at her. You stop, taken a back. The haunted look in her eyes from moments before when the doc told her she had only a few weeks left has been replaced with a gentle sort of peace.
“Mom, are you all right?”
Instead of answering you, she points to a book on the table. It’s the history book she taught you from when you were younger.
“Flip to the back section on regional myths,” she says.
You sit on the three-legged stool beside her bed and do as she asked. She never covered this section in your education, so you’re unfamiliar with the picture of a large dragon that graces the top of the page. The picture’s colored in red and highlights the dragon’s tail that hangs like a scorpion’s over its head. Even the end of the tail has a stinger but clearly the rest of the creature represents the fire-breathing drake.
“Read there,” you mother taps the page.
The island of Scorpus sits far off the coast, and looks like nothing but a pile of rock and sand to passersby. But myth claims it the home of the scorpion dragon who sank Princess Maya’s ship in 1102, capturing her gold and keeping her prisoner. According to the myth, Maya is kept in a castle in the cliffs of the island and is forced by Scorpus to polish his red scales daily.
You frown at your mother. Perhaps the disease already took her mind, but she’s looking at you with such hope. You shrug, not getting why she showed you this.
She points again at the page.
“Look,” she says, pointing to the bottom of the page at another picture.
It’s a detailed sketch of a sword. You pull the book closer and then glance from the lean-to into the main room of the cabin. The only thing of value the family owns hangs over the fireplace mantle. A family heirloom, a sword with bluish steel.
You glance between the sword and the picture several times but there’s no mistake. The sword’s distinctive engraved handle is perfectly depicted in the picture. Below the drawing is the caption “The only weapon known to hurt the scorpion dragon.”
“I never showed you this because everyone in our family dies looking,” your mother admits, “but if the sword exists, so might the island and the princess’ treasure.” She flips the page to show you a poorly drawn map. “Find the island for me?”
“How do we still have the sword?” You ask. Surely someone thought to take it with them.
“They all took the sword. It finds its way back, they do not,” she shrugs, clearly hurt at the memory. “Find the island for me?” she asks again.
The hope in your mother’s eyes when you said yes lends you strength as you row toward the island. This is the third such island you’ve checked out but this one just feels right. And if any island simply looks like a pile of rock and sand, this is the epitome of rock and sand islands.
You row one more time and your boat hits the sand. Far out in the water you can still see the Wind Born. The captain agreed to wait for two days while you explore. If you’re not back, he’ll chalk the rowboat up as a loss and leave you behind.
You heave the rowboat onto the beach and retrieve the sword and your pack from inside. All you brought were food and water. Wasn’t like you owned anything else to prepare you for this trip.
The book stated the castle of Princess Maya is hidden in cliffs but it doesn’t say if the cliffs are inland or on the beach.
A. Explore inland?
B. Explore the beach?
Scorpion Dragon Option A: Explore Inland
The beach lays barren around you except for the occasional rock that breaks up the smooth, dark sand. But before you, toward the center of the island, the rocks grow bigger until you’re pretty sure they turn into cliffs. It’s hard to tell for sure because of how the rocks break up the skyline, but if a castle’s hidden here, you figure it’d be back where it’s hard to get to.
So you strap the sword around your waist and sling your pack over your shoulder and head inland.
Almost immediately the slap of the sword against your leg makes you stumble. You hold it with your hand but that hinders you climbing over the rocks. Sitting down, you take the sword off and use the belt to attach it to your pack. Satisfied, you slip the pack back on and head over the rocks again.
Not two steps in, you realize the sword wasn’t your only problem. The rocks, although they appear stable, move beneath your feet like each one sits on a pivot similar to a teeter-totter.
The pessimistic side of you grumbles with each step. The optimistic side delights in the fact that, the more secure the island is, the more likely it’s that way be design and you might actually be in the right place.
You’re trying to focus on that brighter side when a tiny giggle catches your attention. Rocks and sand meet your confused glance. The place seems dead of other life. You scour the area one more time before attacking the next obstacle, a larger rock, a boulder really, that requires you to climb over it.
Stuck half way up and scrambling for a hold on the top of the boulder, the giggle sounds again, a tiny chirping like a cat with the hiccups. You give a desperate shove with your feet, catch the top of the rock and haul yourself up by scrapping your belly on the rough surface.
You roll over and lay on your back to catch your breath. The giggle comes again.
“Could’ve helped me there,” you accuse aloud.
“No, I really couldn’t have,” whistles a soft voice.
“Why not?” you ask. By this time, your patience is limited.
“Well, look and see.”
You keep from giving a cry and rolling away only because the tail’s raised, ready to strike and you’re not sure you’re fast enough.
“Oh, sorry,” the scorpion says, lowering his tail.
Now that you’ve relaxed, you see the creature’s only about an inch and a half long.
“I couldn’t help you, see, because I’m not big enough. But I can show you an easier way.”
“Easier way to what?” you ask, still eyeing the tail.
“The castle, of course. What else?”
“Why would you help me?” Your mother’s words, the ones about none of your family returning home, ring loud in your mind. This island’s full of pitfalls. This scorpion could be helpful…or he could be out to get you.
“Scorpus likes to eat us for fun.” If a scorpion could look morose, this one would have. As it is, his shoulders slump and his tail hangs near his head. “And showing you the castle’s my little way of getting back at him.”
Aa. Accept his help?
Ab. Decline his help?
Scorpion Dragon Option Aa: Accept His Help
The scorpion jumps in glee and you flinch back, away from his wildly swinging tail.
“Oops,” he covers his face with a claw, “sorry about that.”
You just shoo him with your hands.
“Right then. This way,” he turns and leads you along the top of several boulders that, thankfully, don’t turn under your weight.
On the fifth such boulder, the scorpion uses a small vine to scamper across and you jump the gap. Your foot touches down and the boulder shifts. You throw your arms wide but there’s nothing you can catch yourself on as everything tilts.
You try to roll when you hit the ground below but the sand sinks, sucking you downward. Your stomach hits your throat. Then the downward sensation stops and you’re hanging with sand still moving downward.
Sand continues to fall but you’re suspended by the sword strapped to your back like a pig over a roasting pit. You take stock and see the sword caught the edges of the hole you almost fell through. Now that the sand’s slowed to a trickle, you make out the trap door and a dark hole below. A chill wind rushes up from that hole, bringing with it the smell of mold and sweat.
“Well, that’s just awkward,” says the scorpion.
“Easier way?” you growl at him.
He shrugs. “It gets you into the castle. I never said how.”
“And where does it put me in the castle?” You watch him scamper off the rocks to circle the trap. He makes his way to the hilt of the sword and gives the end an experimental shove with a claw. Your weight holds the sword in place and his shove only pushes him backwards.
“The dungeons,” the scorpion admits, testing the hilt of the sword again with more vigor. It doesn’t budge.
You sigh in relief. You can’t reach the edges of the hole from where you hang, suspended directly above the center of the open trap door, but at least the scorpion can’t push you in either.
“That just won’t do,” the scorpion says. His words deepen toward the end and you look over in surprise. He used to be only an inch and a half long but, right before your eyes, his body starts to thicken and his tail grows.
He grins at the shock on your face.
“Scorpus,” you realize, the dragon.
He’s still growing bigger. In no time he’ll be large enough to pick you up and drop you in the trap door like a tiny doll…or pick you up and eat you. You sway your weight to see if you can touch the edge of the hole with a little help. Your fingers brush the sandy edge.
Scorpus snaps his claws experimentally. They make a snapping sound similar to the clap of two boards thrown together.
Aa1: Swing for the edge?
Aa2: Drop into the trap?
Scorpion Dragon Option Aa1: Swing for the Edge
Scorpus continues to grow bigger.
You consider the dark hole you’re suspended over and shudder. You can’t see down into the darkness beyond your feet and Scorpus admitted it leads to the dungeons. Sounds like you might be jumping from the pan into the fire if you drop to get away from the dragon.
Instead, you swing for the edge. On your third swing, you land your entire palm against the sand but all you get is a handful of grains before swinging away.
Scorpus laughs and the ‘hahaha’ echoes off the rocks.
You swing again and aim for a rock. You catch it but it slides with your weight and falls into the hole.
Just as you let the rock go, you realize you could have used it as a weapon since the sword’s inaccessible at the moment. But too late, the rock disappears into the hole.
Claws close around your waist and you’re lifted into the air.
Scorpus’ red face fills your vision.
“Got quite the fight in you, I see,” he grins. “Most just drop into the dungeons.”
You struggle for the sword while he’s gloating. Strapping it to your back may have helped you crawl over the rocks but now you can barely brush the hilt with your fingertips. With a twist of your torso that makes your back pop, you grasp the hilt firmly in your hand and draw the sword.
The grin on Scorpus’ face disappears. You swing, trying to catch his shoulder so he’ll drop you, but your aim’s thrown off as the he squeezes with his claws.
Apparently he can’t breath fire. You go to swing again when his tail comes over his head and a stinger the size of your arm hits you in the chest. You can’t breath. All the strength drains from your arms and your vision swims.
Scorpus plucks the sword from your limp fingers and tosses it. A moment later, there’s a far away splash.
In your fuzzy mind, you can’t get the thought out of your head that, somehow, the sword’s going to return to your mother.
Scorpus laughs again and you see his maw open wide. Blessedly, your blurry vision goes dark.
I’m sorry to say the dragon Scorpus ate you but the history books change, with out anyone knowing how, to mention the scar left on his snout by the brave soul who dared defy him.
Sorry this ending did not go your way. =( I promise, this adventure will happen again so you can find a happier ending but for now, have a wonderful weekend!