Garon Bearer of Xoth’s Flame
Eddie D. Moore
Cliff kicked a rock the size of his fist and searched the wall of rocks in front of him for handholds. He dropped to the ground as a bullet ricocheted off a large rock just inches above his head.
“You ran into a boxed canyon, ya idiot! There is no escape now!”
Cliff fired two shots in the general direction of his pursuers. When he fired his third shot, the hammer clicked against an empty chamber. After diving for cover, he began reloading his revolver.
“He’s out! Jed, rush em now! Hurry!”
Cliff heard someone running his direction. Lead balls slipped from his shaking fingers and scattered on the ground. Out of time, he turned to face his attacker. A moment later he was staring down the nine-inch barrel of a forty-four. Jed smiled, revealing several missing teeth.
“You really shouldn’t have made us chase you. All we wanted was that little bag of gold you’re carrying.” Jed sighed. “Well, at least no one will find your body out here.” Jed pointed his pistol at Cliff’s forehead and pulled back the hammer.
A thunderclap shook the rocks, and the air above them crackled. Jed looked up as lightning lanced the sky in every direction. Seizing the opportunity, Cliff kicked the pistol out of Jed’s hand and froze as a dark hole formed twenty feet above his head. What he could only describe as a dragon stepped out of the darkness.
Jed raised his arms but vanished under the monster’s massive foot. When the beast took its next step, a blood-soaked rock was all that was left of Jed. Massive wings flung sand and small rocks into the air as the dragon lifted from the ground and flew straight toward a mountain in the distance.
Once Cliff managed to rub the grime from his eyes, he saw the other three bandits running for their lives. The dark hole above him began to shrink, and just before it closed, a man wheeling his arms dropped out of it and landed beside Cliff with a grunt.
Before the sky-man could get to his feet, Cliff dived for Jed’s gun. The forty-four was heavier than his own, but he held it steady and aimed at the strange man’s chest. The sky-man wore dark gray robes and held a six-foot long staff.
“Who are you? Where did you come from?”
The sky-man ignored Cliff and watched the dragon until dust and flames rose above the mountain it flew towards.
Cliff tightened the pressure he held on the trigger. “Don‘t think that I won’t shoot you! I’ve already been chased by bandits, shot at, and darn near stepped on by that monster over there. You better talk fast because I ain’t taking any more chances today.”
Light gray eyes focused on Cliff. They flicked to the forty-four, and the sky-man’s lips thinned. “That monster is the very last of its kind, and until she is dead no one is safe.” His gaze turned back to the fire and dust in the distance. “I am Garon, Bearer of Xoth’s Flame and Mavon of the Arcane Arts. Who is the king of this land?”
“They call me Cliff, and there’s no king here. You’re in the middle of the New Mexico Territory.”
“Is this land lawless?”
“The only law around here is the one you carry on your hip.” Cliff shook the gun in his hand for emphasis.
Garon sighed. “Well, Cliff of the New Mexico Territory, unless you want to see this land burned and infested with dragons, I must continue my quest. Your aid would be appreciated.”
Cliff slowly lowered his gun with a sigh and slid it into his holster. The forty-four was almost too big, and he had to push on it until it wedged into place. “Just call me Cliff. I don’t think this little pistol is big enough to scratch that giant lizard, and I doubt that stick of yours will be of much use either.”
“Walk with me, Cliff.”
Garon took a few steps and then looked back with a raised eyebrow until Cliff huffed and fell in beside him. “Dragons are creatures of magic and are nearly impossible to kill.”
“Blah, I don’t know if I’m ready to believe this magic stuff just yet.”
Garon stopped walking and gave Cliff a flat stare. “You saw the dragon?”
“And do you believe in dragons now?”
“Of course, but…”
“You saw the portal we used to get here?”
“Okay, I get your point—dragons and magic are real. It’s just that these things are straight out of fairy tale books here.”
Garon ground his teeth and started walking again. “If a fairy tells you a story, you’d be wise to believe it. I’m not sure if the gate the dragon opened was a dimensional gate or a portal through time, but I’m most likely stuck here, and I’d rather live in a world without the chance of being crisped by a dragon seeking to add a few coins to its hoard.”
As they approached a large rock, three masked bandits stepped out to block their path with guns drawn. The largest of the three stood in the center and spoke up. “Hand over that little bag of gold, Cliff, and you both might walk away from this.”
Cliff opened his mouth, but Garon spoke first. “You dare stand in the path of a wizard wearing the robes of a Mavon?”
“Just shoot the old coot,” said one of the masked men.
The largest thief smiled and said, “Sounds like a plan,” before firing three shots. The bandits ducked as the bullets rebounded off an invisible barrier. A moment later, they turned and ran the opposite direction. Lightning lanced from Garon’s staff and struck the ground behind the thieves as they ran away.
Garon shook his head and continued walking. “We have a quest to complete.”
Cliff’s head swiveled from watching the bandits flee to Garon a couple times before he scrambled to catch up. “If dragons are so hard to kill, what do you need me for? You’re the one with magic.”
The side of the mountain glowed red in the distance as the sun fell toward the horizon. “When a dragon nests and lays eggs, it loses the ability to control most of its magic. It is when they are most vulnerable.” He nodded toward the mountain. “I have chased this one for weeks waiting for this opportunity. She will be laying her eggs tonight. We must reach her before she finishes.”
“Okay, but that still doesn’t answer my question.”
Garon sighed. “I’ll distract her while you shoot her with your metal thrower.”
Cliff’s eyes widened and he pulled out the forty-four. “This gun ain’t powerful enough to so much as break the skin on that overgrown lizard. I’m not even sure that a canon would be strong enough to take that thing down.”
Garon held out his hand, and Cliff placed the pistol into it. Mumbling, Garon held his staff close to the barrel. Symbols and designs appeared as red-hot lines on the gun and quickly faded from sight. When he handed the pistol back to Cliff, the markings could barely be seen.
“This weapon is now a dragon slayer. In my world swords and lances are similarly marked to penetrate a dragon’s hide. Remember that a dragon’s heart is behind its front legs. You must hit its heart or it will likely kill us both.”
“How about you take the gun and shoot it.”
“I can’t distract the dragon and shoot it at the same time, but if you’d like to run in front of it waving your arms so that she turns away from me, I’ll take the metal thrower.”
Cliff swallowed his objections and nodded. “Okay, I’ll do it, but I’ve got one last question.”
Garon chuckled. “Only one, huh.”
“If you’re from some other world, why can we understand each other?”
Garon dug a necklace out from under his robe and flashed a charm that hung from it. “This allows me to understand any language and for them to understand me. When you travel as much as I do, it comes in very handy.”
The mountain loomed ahead of them, and the smell of burnt wood hung heavy in the air. The dragon’s nest no longer lit the night with a red glow, and the moon was their only light to walk by. Garon marched tirelessly toward their goal through most of the night.
A couple hours before dawn, Garon stopped and pointed to where Cliff should wait to take his shot. Hardly daring to breathe, Cliff crouched low and worked his way into position.
Cliff eased up and looked into the dragon’s nest. Its breaths were heavy, and a wisp of smoke curled into the air each time it emptied its lungs. From the corner of his eye, he saw the wizard stand up on the other side of the nest and raise his staff high and shout, “Face me you wyrm!”
The dragon’s head lifted and flames surrounded the wizard, but the dragon hadn’t lifted his body enough to give Cliff a clear shot. Lightning struck the dragon on the nose, and she stood up to face her tormenter. She opened her mouth to reveal long sharp teeth and took a step toward the wizard.
Cliff tried to aim the pistol, but he didn’t feel confident about taking the shot because his hands were shaking horribly. The dragon turned its head and prepared to make a quick meal of the wizard. Cliff let out a slow calming breath and pulled the trigger. The forty-four report echoed off the rocks and smoke streamed from the barrel.
The dragon turned its head and looked Cliff in the eyes. He fired again, and the dragon snarled. He fired a third time even though the dragon was now facing him. He shot at the dragon’s head until the forty-four clicked on an empty chamber.
The dragon stopped with his head a few feet away from Cliff and snarled. The roar of a burning fire could be heard deep in its throat. It opened its mouth and dry hot breath ruffled Cliff’s hair before it collapsed lifelessly to the ground.
Cliff didn’t know how long he stood staring at the dead dragon, but the next thing he remembered was Garon resting a hand on his shoulder. “Oh, I forgot to mention that it takes a dragon a few seconds to die even with a hole in their heart.”
“That would have been good to know.”
“You did well, Cliff of the New Mexico Territory. I’ve seen experienced knights break and run when the time came to charge in with their lance.”
Cliff tried to swallow but found no moisture in his mouth. He jabbed the forty-four back into his holster. “If you asked me to run down there and fight that thing, I’d run the other way too.”
Garon smiled. “Then it’s a good thing I didn’t have to ask you to use a lance.” He sighed. “It never turns out well for the knight or the wizard when that happens.”
As they turned away from the dragon’s corpse, Cliff asked, “Now that I helped you finish your quest, how about you help me with my own?”
“It’s only fair, and I’ve got a feeling that you could help me find my place in this world.”
Cliff grinned. “Those bandits we ran into earlier forced me to sell my homestead and then chased me across most of the New Mexico Territory trying to steal what little I got for it.”
Garon raised his staff and the brush in front of them busted into flames. “Garon, Bearer of Xoth’s Flame and Mavon of the Arcane Arts, will aid your quest until what has been taken from you is yours again.”
Cliff scratched the stubble under his chin. “Good but do me a favor.”
“When people ask you who you are, leave off the title will you.”