The precisely balanced steel in Alaric’s hand trembled with excitement as it resonated with the Dragon’s roar. Alaric slowed his breathing, poured all thoughts onto the flame he had created within the void inside his mind. Adrenaline flowed through him, heightening his senses to the point where it almost bordered on painful. His eyes were locked onto the ancient creature circling him above. Seeking steady footing, he firmly planted his feet and readied his blade.
The sun shone hot, gusts of wind swirled up pillar of dust into the air. Alaric could feel the tension in his muscles as they coiled like serpents waiting to strike. The erratic behaviour of the wind was the prelude, forced as it was to dance to the rhythm of the Dragon’s massive wing beats. Inhaling, Alaric controlled the amount of air that remained in his lungs, he would need all the support they could offer. Striking the Dragon would require all the strength he could muster, and probably more beyond even that. It did not matter. Death would descend on him in the winged, scaly embodiment of Earthmother’s fury.
The Dragon roared, proclaiming its intent, an apex predator that had evolved without anyone or anything to challenge its arrogance. Alaric gripped the sword with both hands, steeled his nerves and waited. The booming thunder of his heartbeat echoed through him, he inhaled. Again it echoed as he exhaled. The Dragon drew closer, diving straight for him. Inhaling, his heart beat for a third time as the Dragon opened its maw. Staring into its gullet Alaric kept the air trapped inside his lungs and felt his muscles uncoiling.
With the speed of a mongoose he danced aside while he struck like a viper at the Dragon’s soft underbelly. The forty-seven techniques bestowed upon him by his master were extensions of himself. If the Dragon embodied the fury of the Earthmother, he was the embodiment of the secret arts. The blade sliced through skin, flesh, and bone. The ground trembled as the Dragon crash-landed, intestines spewing out of a gaping wound. In a desperate attempt at his life, the Dragon exhaled a final breath of expunging flames at him.
Alaric stepped into the Dragon’s shadow, avoiding the flames entirely and stabbed the dragon through the eye. The creature twitched, and a final tremor shivered through it before it collapsed, unmoving. A soft breeze picked up and caught some of Alaric’s hair, playing with it. His master’s words came to him, as if the old man was still lecturing him from beyond the veil.
Although the mountain stands unmoved through time, even the immovable titan is eroded by the waters of life. Flow like water, and you’ll achieve the strength of the mountain. Only then, will you be able to kill a Dragon.
Alaric wiped clean his blade and went over to where he’d dropped his scabbard. As he sheathed the sword he looked up at the cloudless sky and said, “Someday, Master, someday I’ll understand what the hell you were talking about. I promise.”
He wasn’t sure, but he could have sworn he heard the old man’s laughter carried away on that playful wind that had stayed with him for a while. You have a lot to learn still, it seemed to say and Alaric, well, for once he was keen on agreeing. The more he learned, the more he realised how little he actually knew. He closed his eyes and smiled into the warmth of the sun. A lot to learn still.