“Don’t let those claws get you, Roci!” Grilland Olsdo called as he fought to gain control of the dragon he was riding. “He might look soft, but those claws can really kill! Stop bucking, you dang creature!”
Grilland grabbed his whip and brought it down hard on the dragon’s back. The dragon screeched in pain and fury and leaped, twisted, and struck out all the harder. The setting sun beat down on Grilland and made him sweat so that his tunic clung to his thick body. He yelled and kicked the dragon’s flanks. When the dragon was tired out, Grilland leaped off of it and, grabbing a large coil of rope that hung around his stout body, threw it over the dragon’s head and tied it’s muzzle shut. Then he wrapped the long rope around the dragon’s legs. The dragon struggled to walk and then fell hard on it’s side and whimpered.
Grilland grinned and picking up his whip again, smashed it down on the defenseless creature. He spat, and then remembered Roci, his partner. He turned around and saw the tall, thin man on his back, with a Taold (a little dragon) above him, raising it’s fearsome claws to kill.
“Roci!” Grilland leaped forward and struck out with his whip in a flash. The tip snapped and wrapped tightly around the Taold’s claws.
He jerked the whip, and the little dragon was thrown to the ground, squirming and screeching. Grilland grabbed some rope that Roci had dropped, and tied the dragon up.
He then turned to his companion and held out a hand. Roci smiled slightly, and then took it and was hoisted to his feet.
“Thank you, Grilland,” Roci Maker said as he brushed himself off.
“Roci, dang you!” he hissed. “I warned you about those claws, but you wouldn’t listen!”
He stalked forward, and Roci, though much taller than the short and stout Grilland, backed away. Sweat rolled down his clean shaven face, and dirt was smudged in his red hair, making it a rusty color.
“I’m sorry, Grilland! I’ll do better next time, I just didn’t have much luck …”
“Luck?” Grilland roared. His beard billowed in the wind of the stout man’s breath, his eyebrows lowered and his coal black, bushy hair stood out every which way. “To heck with your luck! If you have any.”
Roci nodded and smiled weakly.
“Come on, let’s get these dragons back to the training grounds to be tamed,” Grilland turned with a huff and walked to his captured dragon. He looked up, and the wind blew harshly, cooling Grilland’s sweaty face. He sighed. His temper slowly dropped down. He looked over the mountain tops, and then down to the valley, which was just a large shadow, now that the sun was setting.
He untied the dragon’s legs just enough for it to be able to waddle around. The dragon gave a menacing glare at Grilland.
Grilland unfurled his whip and let it fly.
When they got back to the valley and dragon training grounds, it was very dark, and the sun had entirely set. Grilland wrapped his cloak tighter about him.
He glanced over at Roci, who didn’t seem to be bothered by the cold, and was just walking mournfully with his head bowed. He was a good dragon catcher when he had the mind to be. Today, something must have been wrong. Maybe he hadn’t had enough breakfast.
Grilland snorted and walked to the dragon stables. He let his newly captured dragon enter a large stall and then shut and locked the metal door carefully.
Roci stepped into the stable and did the same with his little Taold.
“I’m sorry, Grilland,” Roci stepped forward. “About today …”
Grilland shrugged and grunted.
“Don’t be, Roci. It all happens to the best of us. Get a good night’s sleep, and a meal!” Grilland said, and letting out a huge grin underneath his beard, he patted Roci fiercely on the back so that he nearly lost his balance and fell over.
Roci smiled weakly and stumbled off to the main dragon trainer building. Grilland left food and water for the new dragons, and then walked on after Roci. The building had been his home for eight years. Training dragons had always been his wish. He had wanted the power of dragons, the strength, the fierce pride, the huge bodies. But when he realized he couldn’t have the power, he chose to tame the power, so that he could ride them, fight beside them. Unfortunately, after he had trained the dragon and asked to be in the army with it, they had said he could not. He was too short, too weak. That had got him angry.
Grilland smiled grimly at the memories. He had been so mad at the soldiers with his short temper at calling him weak, he pledged his life to catching and taming dragons, but only the big ones. His helpers captured small ones, he caught the large ones. They were the most challenging.
Grilland climbed the steps to the building and opened the unlocked door. He shut it, locked it, and then walked to the kitchens. The pantries were stocked with dried fruits, meats, and fluffy pastries. He grabbed a meat pie and began munching at the crunchy, flaky crust and the warm, delicious vegetables and meat that fell into his mouth afterward.
It was a good life, considering everything, Grilland thought. He slowly finished his meal and then walked off to his room, and its bed.
“Sir, another dragon escaped this morning!” Ember Mock said worriedly when Grilland stepped out of the building.
“What?” Grilland roared.
A good way to start off the morning, he thought. With my temper flying, and dragons escaping. Oh, what a day this will be.
He snatched his whip from it’s peg on the side of the house and began running as fast as he could toward the mountains.
“Sir, he went that way!” Ember pointed in the opposite direction Grilland was running.
Grilland grunted in annoyance, spun around on his heel without missing a stride, and continued running.
He raced passed Ember for the second time. She sighed and looked on as he slowly disappeared from the valley.
Where is that dang creature? Grilland thought as he walked. He had been walking non-stop through the mountains, watching and listening for the escaped dragon. He checked all of the nooks and caves he came across, just to make sure it had not holed up in one and waited for him to walk past it. He came upon a large cave then, and decided to have a look.
“Might have come in here,” Grilland pondered, and slowly stepped inside. He didn’t have a light, so he stopped at the mouth of the cave to wait for his eyes to adjust from the brilliant sun to the dim interior.
When they had adjusted, he continued on. It was cool inside, and Grilland was pleased. It was good to have a break from the hot sun.
Just then, Grilland heard a growl, and then a rumble. Grilland knew the sound. It was the sound of a snoring dragon. Was it the one that had escaped, or was it wild? Grilland did not know. He moved forward and unraveled the whip. He came on the large form and peered at it, leaning forward to see it better. It was the dragon that had escaped all right. Grilland recognized it’s long sleek neck, and the scales that were a peculiar shiny purple.
Grilland pulled the rope from his back and slowly slipped it around the dragon’s muzzle. The dragon woke almost instantly.
Grilland let the whip fly. He darted back and forth, dodging the surprised dragon’s claws. He smashed the whip down again and again, it’s metal edge biting between the purple scales to the softer flesh below.
The dragon whimpered. Grilland continued lashing it until it squealed and fell hard. Grilland leaped forward and, planting one foot on the dragon’s head, tied it’s legs up. He then led it back to the camp. Every time it was too slow for him, he whipped it again. It was bleeding now from several different spots, oozing from underneath the shiny scales.
Ember was outside feeding the dragons she was in charge of when he came back. She cried out and ran over to him.
The purple dragon reared away from her.
“The poor thing!” Ember cried out. “Did you have to whip it so?”
“Nothing will get a dragon tamed without a little bite. It’ll be fine. Brute force against brute force is what I say,” Grilland replied roughly.
Ember looked up from patting the dragon, who was curiously sniffing her, to glare at Grilland. She sniffed.
“Grilland Olsdo, you know nothing about taming dragons the right way. Brute force against brute force is not right.”
She whirled on her heel, and walked away. Grilland stared after her curiously. The purple dragon turned and looked at him, and it looked like it was grinning.
“Stop that,” he mumbled at the dragon, and slapped it softly on the back. The dragon turned away.
Later, Grilland was just finishing training three of his dragons to turn around at a horn signal, when he decided that he would go see Ember’s area of training.
“If she doesn’t use brute force or even harshness, what does she use?” he mumbled curiously to himself. “Not that I’m interested in learning from her,” he reassured himself. “just curious.”
He put the dragons in their pen and walked up a hill. Over the hill was Ember’s training grounds. He hiked to the top of it, and then began to walk down. There was a large, penned in area for the dragons that had wings to fly in; a long, high fenced area for the dragons that liked to run; and piles and piles of dragon training equipment.
Grilland saw a huge pack of dragons all huddled around something in the running area. He quickly walked down the hill and stopped behind a pile of large pallets and dragon saddles. He leaned over and peeked from behind it. He gasped!
The thing the dragons were huddled around was Ember! She was stroking their head fondly and talking to them.
She’s being nice to them? She’s talking to them? What is this? How is this supposed to tame a wild, blood thirsty dragon? Grilland thought in curiosity.
He moved over and hid behind another pile of equipment, closer this time. She walked over and patted one gently on the head and it squealed with happiness.
It fell hard on it’s back and puffed out it’s soft stomach. Ember giggled and scratched it. She then turned and walked over to the flying area.
“Let’s check out the new dragon,” she said to herself.
Grilland followed her, darting behind rocks, equipment, and other things he could hide behind so she would not see him. He wanted to see her training when she thought she was alone, not when she knew that someone was watching her technique.
She opened the large door and walked inside. Curled in the far back of the dark cage was a huge, black dragon. It’s red eyes opened when it noticed she was inside with it.
It growled menacingly and stood up. It stood several heads taller than Ember, who was not very big, and looked even smaller next to the large, black dragon.
Ember walked forward, smiling and talking. The dragon lunged at her, opening it’s giant wings and flying up.
It fell down then, dropping to the ground right in front of Ember. It reared it’s head back and then lunged forward, roaring.
Ember smiled and nodded.
“You’re a big guy, aren’t you?” she said in the same, soft tone.
She’s still not running? That thing could kill her in an instant! Why is she not scared? Why did she not bring any weapons in case it did attack her? Grilland was confused and worried for her life. He grabbed his whip and was about to run over and push the dragon away from Ember, but suddenly, the dragon stopped roaring. It sat back on it’s haunches and peered curiously at Ember. She laughed.
“There we are, don’t be mean. Let’s be friends!”
She walked out of the large cage with the black dragon staring at her back. Locking the huge door behind her, she made her way back to the other, tamer dragons.
“Alright, let’s do some drills!” She clapped her hands.
The dragons stood at attention.
“Sapphire, around the yard as fast as you can!” she called to a flaming red dragon. “Thunder, Napok, fight, but keep those teeth in and those claws sheathed! I don’t want injured dragons.”
A blue and orange dragon growled playfully and began pawing at each other, pushing and snapping.
Grilland watched in amazement as the dragons followed Ember’s friendly instructions and soft voice.
“How do you do it?” Grilland said, stepping from behind a boulder.
She whirled and saw him.
She smiled and raised an eyebrow.
“Jealous?” she said.
“No,” Grilland said quickly, and then sighed. “Yes. They follow you so well. And what you did with the big black dragon … it was amazing!”
“Thank you,” she smiled. “Brute force against brute force makes more brute force. A little kindness against brute force, a little gentleness against brute force, equals a tame dragon.”
She leaped astride a winged dragon.
“Come on, Tillmon. Let’s go!”
Tillmon, of the dragons with wings, screeched happily and rose up in the air, beating it’s powerful wings.
Ember flipped a wave at Grilland and then shot off into the sky.
Grilland stared until she and the dragon were just a dot in the sky, and then turned away and walked back to his training grounds.
To be concluded next week in Dragon Ways: Part 2
Dragon Ways: Part 1
Caleb E King
Copyright © 2018 Caleb E King
All rights reserved.