Chapter 4: Into the Den of Dragons
- Jun 13, 2017
Chapter 4: Into the Den of DragonsGlaurung coiled languidly in the hearth-room, probing the air with his tongue as Madelgarde paced.
The chieftess rolled out a map of the world. "The dragons, or Angevins as you call them, they come from a large island to the west?"
"Among other places. The islands, the western lands, they rule the lands there. Always one more to replace the last one." He tapped a claw onto the map. "One more, more, more."
Madelgarde swallowed. Glaurung smirked. He found her lazy. Flighty. Prone to hiding behind others. Seemingly born yesterday. Oddly alluring in a practiced way, perhaps, but far better a raising a mug than a weapon. Potentially steerable. "What? Did you think we all crawled out from holes in the ground?"
She rolled her eyes. "Enough, physician. I am your leader." She raised a burnished eyebrow and turned a corner of her mouth up. So practiced. "And do you all have hoards?"
Glaurung's nostrils flared. She knew the answer to that. She's fighting back. "I don't, unless you call your meager pay--"
"You wouldn't be here if you wanted fortunes."
"We take what we can get."
"Excellent. Then you'll be happy to help me get to the hoards that do exist."
She may be a vixen, he concluded, but a vixen is still a fox.
Madelgarde sailed down the entire gulf, daring not step foot in the Lands of the Pyre. They were at the front of the land of the dragons, and since she could simply sail past, she did. As she passed she noticed the sky turning black over the lands, the smoke of countless fires coalescing as it rose heavenward.
There were lots of fires. The dragons did not rest, but instead took the initiative to consolidate. Lord Pyre was only one of many warlords. She started to hear legends of the tyrants that ruled these lands: Morzas the Monster. The Cannibal of Wiltshire.
The Kemi raiders landed first in a land called Essex, but they left quickly as Morzas' forces proved too numerous.
Further down the island's coast was a place called Dorset, and here, too, she had to leave quickly as the Cannibal of Wiltshire was quick to make quick work of her men.
As Madelgarde's men dashed from village to village along the coast, dragons flew overhead. Facing down an army of warriors is always fearsome, but more so when dragons lead the charge. The Cannibal swooped in, routed the Kemi, and in a single charge flew off with Hildoin.
Rumors of the cruel feast that came afterward convinced Madelgarde to leave the island for good.
Still, she was not satisfied with what she had found. A few trinkets here or there, but nothing as sure as a dragon's hoard. Yet it became clear that there was some limitation to the rumors. Dragons had a hierarchy just as suredly as any man. Not all of them had hoards; only the leaders like Morzas or the Cannibal would have anything resembling a treasure room. And Morzas was known for having an empty treasure room.
The Kemi landed next in Caen, ruled by Medeus the Abomination. Their warriors had been spotted elsewhere along the coast, so Madelgarde's raiders set up camp near the village by the shore cliffs, and lay siege. After how her men were assaulted at Dorset, she decided she needed a new plan. She raided the fishing ports, and gathered all the nets, ropes, and lines she could. While in camp, her men were put to work stringing everything into a large net. Masts from a large vessel were salvaged and erected on the corners of the encampment.
Scouts reported the troops approaching. She noted that the numbers were significantly reduced; whatever battles her foes had been in, they had taken their toll. She knew her warriors, fresh from plunder, would be able to meet the challenge.
And so, the Kemi held steadfast as the air darkened and the dragon commander crested the hill before him. "Medeus the Abomination sends his regards!" the draconian warrior roared, and strafed. The Kemi were trained and ready, and hunkered under large shields as he passed. The commander circled high above, preparing for another pass. The long, slow moments gave the Kemi time to stand and rush the Caen clansmen.
Madelgarde held back, and left the encampment behind the warriors. She looked up at the commander, and let loose her outer garments. Her furs were light, pale ermine, and they unfurled like a flag from around her, heralding her presence on the battlefield. She bared her head, and let her fiery locks catch the wind. The colorful play of red atop white pronounced itself as a beacon, clear as dawn.
I may know nothing about leading an army, she mused, but I do know how to make an entrance.
The commander spotted her, knew instantly that this was the invaders' leader. His tongue licked the air, he grinned, and descended, talons at the ready to snatch her up and return her to his chief.
Madelgarde watched carefully as her would-be captor swooped in, and listened to the crashing surf below her. Not here. I am Madelgarde, and this is my surf.
She unpinned her fur cloak, and let it catch the breeze. As the obvious distraction rose, she dropped, tucking tightly into a crouch. The commander looked with confusion for a second, realizing he wants to reach for the girl, not the cloak. For this reason he missed the net rising from the ground with the cloak, hoisted into the air, suspended from the masts. The chieftess' diminutive form slipped between the lines of the net, and the dragon's outstretched claws caught on the net and dragged him off center. Their position at the cliff edge was precarious, and he could not afford to be entangled over the water and plunge. So he landed hard on the ground, stunned, and even more wrapped in the net.
The Caen clansmen were routed and retreated. The Kemi surrounded the captured dragon, and Madelgarde approached.
"You address Madelgarde of the Surf, the First Few and Chieftess of Kemi, Rovaniemi, and Kantalahti. Who are you?"
The dragon wrestled with his pinioned wings, and grunted, "I am Glaedr, commander of Medeus the Abomination, Scourge of Caen and Maine."
"Are you expecting rescue?"
"No." Glaedr bowed his head. "I am defeated."
"Where is your hoard?"
"I... have no hoard."
"Ah. Then you are doubly useless."
"What do you know of dragons? Fool, thinking we all have hoards! I hold no hoard, but I know where they lie!"
Madelgarde tilted her head and smiled, approaching the beast and caressing his cheek. "Do you like Medeus? The one who would deny you a hoard?"
"Then serve me. Show me these lands. Teach me your ways."
"As you have defeated me, I must accept."
Glaedr joined with Madelgarde as they sacked Mortain, dragging back meager treasure. Glaedr chuckled as the Kemi dragged a large chest aboard.
"There! This is a dragon's hoard!" Madelgarde bellowed to her men.
"No," Glaedr observed. "Not a hoard, per se." He reached down and opened the chest with a deft claw. A smooth, ivory surface lay within. "But something even more valuable."
Glaedr did direct Madelgarde to one place she had not considered: Frankfurt, at the end of a long, winding river. She rode atop Glaedr as she and Glaurung descended upon the village and temple there, and finally, the hoard was found and taken from the Chieftess, Semoth.
And with the hoard, she was able to establish herself as High Chieftess, all the lands under her her own, someone to be considered on par with Lord Pyre.