by Rich Rurshell
chili beer"We're doomed!" cried the Innkeeper as he pushed past Ghenya on the walkway of the south wall. He ran down the steps to join the crowds of frightened citizens fleeing towards the north gates of the citadel.
Ghenya stood alone. She watched as Malum beat his great wings again, rising off the ground from amongst the dense clouds of smoke, only to blast the remainder of the citadel's soldiers into ashes with another stream of searing flame. She watched as the silhouette of the last soldier disappeared into the inferno that erupted from the dragon's mouth. Malum bellowed loudly into the air. That was it. The last of the citadel's defences. The real army had been wiped out earlier that morning. Some of the citizens had formed a militia. They were supposed to support the army if needed. Now they all lay dead, incinerated on the southern plain.
Ghenya descended from the walkway to the ground and made her way to the southern gates. There was no one guarding them now. Long had Ghenya dreamt of walking the plains, but had always been prevented by the guardsmen.
The plains are no place for a girl like you. Your place is in the laundry.
She had remained inside the walls of the citadel her entire life.
She lifted the heavy metal latch on the south gates and pushed them open. Before her, pacing back and forth on the southern plain, Malum searched for surviving enemies on the smoky battlefield.
Ghenya pitied those who had lost their lives to Malum, though knew the citizens of the Citadel had brought their fate upon themselves. Had they not have sought the favour of King Tyr and attempted to retrieve the long-lost Crown of Deus from Malum's hoard, the great dragon would still be sleeping within its lair inside Mount Skaal. Now, they must all seek the favour of the gods in the realm of the dead.
Ghenya slowly walked over the muddy terrain towards Malum. Used to the cobbled floor in the confines of the citadel, the soft ground felt completely new beneath her feet. Further across the plains she walked, getting closer and closer to Malum. The dragon paused briefly and stared at the young girl approaching through the haze. Emerging from the clouds of smoke, Malum charged towards Ghenya. She held her ground.
Ghenya looked up at the old dragon's face and reached into her tunic. She pulled out a flute made of bone. Malum's lips parted, revealing huge pointed teeth. Ghenya lifted the flute to her lips and began to play.
It was a tune her father had taught her. The Song of The Free Winds. There were a number of songs she had learned to play, but this was her favourite. She played it passionately, tears forming in her eyes as they always had when she had played this song. Malum stood and listened. Ghenya completed one round of the sombre melody and then went straight into it again.
Malum stooped down, bowing his head until his face was almost close enough for Ghenya to touch. A single, large tear rolled down the side of Malum's face and dropped off the end of his snout and soaked into the ground just in front of Ghenya. She stopped playing and carefully took a step forward. She gently stroked the large scales between Malum's nostrils, unsure if he could even feel anything. Malum responded by lowering himself down to the ground and making a low purring sound. Ghenya put her flute back in her tunic, then using his scales and frills, climbed up onto the back of the great dragon's head. Malum rose up back to his feet and with the beating of his mighty wings, lifted them up into the air.
Ghenya and Malum flew away across the southern plain, away from the empty citadel. Ghenya was finally free.