Before getting into the story I would like to go ahead and promote an upcoming guest blog. Eric from Sinistral Scribblings has graciously accepted an offer to write a blog post to feature on Scholarly Scribe. Because of his talent as a fiction writer and his familiarity with the comic books, he will be writing a superhero short story. Look for that to be featured around October 26th!
Ava had no time to ponder the cohabitation of the ogre and the dragon. The ogre had circled around the treasure horde with unusual quickness wielding a large tree trunk for a club. He slammed it down with a powerful overhead strike but Ava rolled out of the way. Shards of bark shot into the air from the impact, flying into the walls of the cavern. As Ava got to her feet the ogre swung the trunk again. She ducked as the weapon passed over her head and took a small step backward.
The ogre let out a grunt that echoed in the chamber. Moments later another stream of fire came pouring out through the side tunnel, preventing Ava from moving further back. The ogre moved to the side, his huge frame blocking the passage out of the cave. She was trapped between and ogre and a dragon’s flame, and she didn’t care for her current odds of survival.
She reached into one of her pouches and grabbed a fist full of sleeping powder. It wouldn’t knock the ogre out, but it might slow it down and irritate its eyes. A lucky throw might even blind it. She feinted a strike with her sword and the ogre responded by swinging the trunk. She dodged the blow and moved in close, tossing the powder into its eyes. The ogre roared, dropping the trunk as it tried to rub the powder out of its eyes. She took advantage of the opportunity and drove her sword into its chest up to the hilt, black blood oozing from the wound. It staggered back and swatted the air, but Ava had retreated back near the center of the chamber.
The ogre stumbled forward, swinging its arms in an effort to catch her. Its meaty hands slammed into the walls and the ogre cried out in pain. Ava slipped under its blind groping, stabbing its limbs with quick dagger strikes and darting back out of its reach. She was damaging the monster, but not fast enough. Every attack and retreat moved them further into the chamber and closer to the range of the dragon’s fire. Every once in a while Ava could feel the heat from the flames behind her. She had to think fast.
She ducked under another blind strike but wasn’t fast enough. The hand crushed her up against the wall and the ogre grunted in satisfaction. She stabbed its wrist furiously, hoping the pain would make it release her. It brought its other fist back to strike her while she was immobile. She stopped her attacks and began to squirm, trying to free herself from her cloak. Inch by inch she slipped down in its grip. The ogre’s fist sped toward the wall and her head vanished beneath the cover of its other hand in time to avoid the attack. The ogre roared in frustration, letting up enough for Ava to get free.
The flames from the dragon had stopped for the moment. It was likely trying to get another belly full of fire to blast through the tunnel. She moved across to the other half of the room and paused a moment to regain her wits while the ogre searched in vain for her on the other side. It crashed into the treasure, toppling over gold coins and old shields. Ava did her best imitation of the ogre’s roar that started the fire in the first place. The ogre tripped over a suit of fallen armor, landing on top of the remaining stack as a stream of fire blasted out from the tunnel.
The smell of burning flesh filled the air as the ogre was incinerated. When the flames stopped Ava grabbed an old axe that had fallen from the pile and chopped off the ogre’s charred head. She wrapped her trophy in her cloak, retrieved her father’s sword once it was cool enough to the touch, and then left the cave. She had what she came for. The dragon would have to wait for another day.
They sky was still grey and overcast, but a few stray rays of sunlight managed to pierce through the cover. The fog in the valley had dissipated, making her journey out much easier. The sun had nearly set by the time Ava climbed her way out of the Valley of Kismet and found the road leading into Andover. The baron of the city was probably enjoying a lavish feast, and Ava was about to brighten his day and lighten his coffers. It was time to collect the bounty that she had nearly died for.
She was forced to wait in the great hall for the baron to see her. He was not allowing visitors during his meal, no matter the reason. Apparently uninvited guests must ruin the taste of his mead. So Ava paced in the empty room, her cloak slung over her shoulder. The doors eventually opened and a rotund old man stumbled his way into the room, his attire in disarray. He hiccupped and plopped down on an extravagent throne in the center of the room, beckoning for her to approach. Ava sighed, thinking that a fool like this deserved to part with his gold crowns.
She bowed before him, ringlets of red hair dropping to cover her face. When she rose she looked him square in his brown eyes and tossed the bundle at his feet. He frowned and bent over to grab it, falling flat on his face in the process. He pulled himself to his feet, the bundle in his hand, and smiled at Ava. She rolled her eyes, wishing he would get on with it so she could reach the next town before nightfall. He pulled the cloak open and his face drained of all color.
“What have you done?” he asked, suddenly sober enough to function.
“I’m here to collect my reward,” Ava answered, “for killing the ogre.”
“You can’t kill the ogre,” the baron stuttered.
“You have its head as proof. Once I have my gold I will be on my way.”
“We’re doomed! The dragon will return and raze our town.” He started shaking as he rang a bell. A servant appeared and he issued a silent order.
“You knew about the dragon?” Ava asked. The servant disappeared into an adjoining room.
“It was our agreement. We would lead adventurers into its lair with promises of glory and gold for an ogre’s head. For years we have maintained a peace with the monsters, and now you’ve ruined it.”
“Not my problem,” Ava said, taking a step toward the baron. “I expect payment. Consider yourself lucky that I don’t burn the town myself to avenge those you’ve lured to their deaths.”
“Take the gold,” the baron said as his servant returned. “Leave at once before you bring greater disaster upon us.”
Ava took the bag of gold from the servant, shrugging. She got what she came for. She bowed her head and spun around, heading out the door. The fate of Andover was not her concern. Some day she would return to avenge her father and slay the dragon, but she needed a plan. And help. Until then she would ride from town to town, seeking jobs until the time was right to strike.