The Blood Stone | Verso.ink

The Blood Stone

Curse of the Drakku Book One

By Jason Nugent

Upvotes
1
Reading time
9
View count
364
Comments
0
Chapter One

Lailoken’s enchanted leather-clad arms strained against the ropes, his muscles regretting the improvised snare the longer he held.

“Hurry! The dragon’s trying to break loose!” he called to Darlonn and Jor. The other two dragonslayers rushed the Onyx dragon, knowing time was not on their side. Lailoken was strong, but he wouldn’t hold the dragon down for long. Sweat poured down Lailoken’s chiseled face despite the cold bitter winds.

Magus Breen and his novice Myrthyd, both in heavy black robes, stood far enough away to stay clear of the violently thrashing dragon. They stayed close enough only to ensure their enchantments on the slayers remained active. Two crossbowmen, their part in the hunt fulfilled, drew their short swords in case their assistance was needed. If Lailoken had his way, that wouldn’t happen. It was a source of pride for him.

“Hold, hold!” Darlonn called. He approached the dragon from the right, moving swiftly with his broadsword drawn. His dark skin was a stark contrast to the snow around him. The dragon rose, Darlonn staring at its chest as the beast loomed over him.

“Come on, Lai, you’ve held bigger dragons than this!” Jor called, grinning from ear to ear. Lailoken glowered at the woman.

“Finish him or prepare yourself to be my next victim!” Lailoken yelled back. His arms were on fire as he pulled tighter on the rope. The dragon was trying to break its mouth free but they only needed a few more minutes until the two slayers could end this battle.

Jor nodded, the mirth over. She was a great slayer and one of Lailoken’s closest friends. Along with Darlonn, the three of them had been on several hunts in the name of the Black Magus from the Order of Eschar.

Jor crept closer to the dragon, her black handled blade held firm within her hands. Her long red hair flowed in the wintry breeze.

When the Onyx dragon was spotted in the skies west of Kulketh, the Black Keeper issued the call for the dragonslayers to the hunt. The crossbowmen Wendrake and Hilgren were brought along with Magus Breen and his novice Myrthyd to slay the dragon and perform the ritual.

Lailoken didn’t care much for that part. Foreign words spoken over the pieces of onyx were supposed to infuse them with the spirit of the dragon and turn ordinary stones to magical weapons. All he saw were black stones bathed in dragon blood: of his enemy from birth and the creatures who stole his wife.

His thoughts didn’t matter, though. As a slayer trained from youth to perform one function, he did so with a clarity of mind that rivaled many of the great masters within the Black Tower.

“Hold firm, Lai, we’ve got this!” Jor called. Lailoken pulled tight, and with a quickness he’d come to appreciate, Darlonn and Jor attacked the dragon from both sides, their long swords piercing its flesh. Though the dragon’s mouth was closed with the rope, a loud roar of pain escaped. Darlonn withdrew his sword, avoiding a stray claw, and rushed in and pierced the dragon’s side, He missed the bones and found the large beating heart inside.

“That’s it, Darlonn! Again!” Lailoken called. The ropes grew taut in his hands as the dragon tried to free itself. Jor followed suit, slashing at the dragon’s forelimbs to fight them off, slicing at its side, drawing large deep gashes in the thick hide.

Wendrake and Hilgren stood next to the Magus and his apprentice, their swords sheathed, watching the slayers perform their duties.

“Watch the tail!” Magus Breen yelled. Darlonn looked up at him as the strong black tail of the dragon knocked him to the ground.

“Hold, hold!” Wendrake yelled. He rushed toward the downed slayer.

“Get back!” Lailoken yelled. The crossbowman must not have heard. He ran at the slayer, waving his short sword wildly. The dragon broke from Lailoken’s grasp and swung its tail at Wendrake. Magus Breen wove a spell on the crossbowman, hoping to protect him from the dragon’s poisonous saliva.

Wendrake made it to Darlonn, kneeling at the man’s side. “I’ve got you! Come, move with me!”

Darlonn groaned, rolling to a sitting position.

“Get clear! We have to finish this!” Jor cried out.

The dragon thrashed and broke from Lailoken’s grip. It lurched toward Darlonn and Wendrake, the crossbowman placing himself between the dragon and the slayer. The dragon spewed its poison on him, but the Magus’ spell held firm, protecting him from certain death. Wendrake screamed as the poison rained on his skin, but realizing it didn’t burn, he was filled with a false sense of security and ran at the dragon.

Darlonn stood on shaky legs, freeing his broadsword, and readying himself for a fight.

“No! Wendrake, come back! The spell doesn’t protect you from—”

The dragon swiped at the crossbowman, catching him in the face. Wendrake screamed as thin lines of blood appeared on his skin. He fell to the ground, dropping his sword. Before the rest of the slayers could stop it, the dragon leapt on Wendrake and clawed at the man, ripping into his leather armor. It roared loudly and gored him, ripping an arm off. Wendrake howled in agony as the dragon continued tearing into the man and shredding his flesh. His screams grew louder and louder.

Darlonn rejoined the fight, preparing to attack the distracted dragon.

“Now, Jor!” Lailoken yelled. Jor nodded and crouched under the dragon’s forelimb. Lailoken did the same. Both slayers lunged at the beast, thrusting their swords into its side. Darlonn sliced into its back, cutting through its wing, and burying his sword in its bony back.

The dragon cried out but would not let its prize go, shredding what remained of Wendrake.

Lailoken and Jor pulled their swords free and plunged them again into the sides of the dragon. It howled one last, awful time and fell to the ground, a large gasp of breath leaving its putrid nostrils before its tongue rolled out of its mouth.

The slayers pulled their swords free and left the carcass on the ground.

“Do what you must,” Lailoken called to Breen and Myrthyd. He watched as the wild-eyed Magus went into action.

The Magus slapped his novice on the head. “Come on, boy! Hurry before the blood sours.” Myrthyd glared at Breen, a dark, deadly look that spoke volumes of the boy to Lailoken. Myrthyd was sixteen, the same as his own daughter Alushia. He was old enough to know his time as a Magus was close, but the way Breen treated him, it was a wonder the boy didn’t kill him when no one was looking.

Magus Breen and Myrthyd scurried to the dead dragon, their long black robes flapping in the cold wind. Myrthyd opened his leather pouch and fell to his knees as Breen shouted at him.

“Come on, boy, hurry up! We need to be quick about our work. If this dragon’s blood turns before we complete the ritual, I’ll cuff you all the way back to the Tower. Do you understand me? We shoulda left you to die instead of bringing you in as a baby.”

“Don’t you think you ought to lay off the boy?” Lailoken interjected.

Breen spun on him. “If I want your opinion, slayer, I’ll ask for it. This is Order business. You did your part; let us do ours.”

Lailoken shook his head. He tried. The boy knew what he was in for.

“Hurry, boy!” Breen said, smacking Myrthyd across the face.

“I’m doing my best,” he growled back. Lailoken placed his hand on the dagger in his belt. The tension was thick between the two.

Myrthyd spilled the onyx stones on the ground, which earned another smack from the Magus. He quickly picked them up and handed them to Breen. “Remind me to have you punished when we get back to the tower, you worthless novice.”

Myrthyd lowered his head, then stared at the bloody remains of Wendrake near the dragon. He heaved, covering his mouth to hold back his sick.

Breen held the stones in his hands, lifting them high, and closed his eyes. He went into a trance, unintelligible words spilling from his lips. Then he approached the wound in the dragon’s side, spilling blood from it.

“Infuse these stones with your essence. Live on in death. Give your power to those who guard the world from evil,” Breen said. He then took the stones and plunged them into the wound, coating the stones and his hands with the dragon’s blood. A faint glow surrounded the stones, illuminating the deep crimson blood. He held them inside the wound until the glow dissipated and pulled his hands out.

“Boy, the bag. Now!”

Myrthyd opened the bag and Breen poured the blood-soaked stones inside. “Guard them with your life. They’re more precious than you right now. Lose them, and I have Tower permission to kill you.”

“Yes, sir,” Myrthyd replied slowly. Breen must not have noticed it, but Lailoken caught the sinister tone of Myrthyd’s reply. The boy screamed of danger.

Darlonn and Jor stood next to Lailoken, the remaining crossbowman behind them.

“The boy is gonna be in for a long trip back,” Jor said. She smiled. “Glad it’s not me!”

“We live in Kulketh. It could never be you. Maybe if we were in Oakenvault…” Darlonn said. Jor punched his arm.

“Stupid Tower,” she grumbled.

Lailoken wrapped his arms around his two friends. “Another fine hunt, my friends. The tale will be a great one to share when we return.” The three waited for Magus Breen and Myrthyd to finish so they could leave. More than once, Lailoken’s hand flashed to his dagger when he thought the two came close to blows.

Other entries by Jason Nugent

Login or register to vote
Photo of Jason Nugent

About Jason Nugent

USA Today Bestselling Author Jason J. Nugent has been a paperboy, pizza maker, dishwasher, restaurant manager, promotional products sales rep, chamber of commerce director, and one time BBQ champion. He has skated with Tony Hawk, had a babysitter with a serial killer brother, and is followed by rapper Chuck D on Twitter. He and his wife share a home in beautiful Southern Illinois with their son, four cats, and two dogs.

Connect with Jason