Saturday, August 13, 2011

Rise of the Black Knight

I roared a retreat signal to Arthur’s troops on the ground. My younger sisters Fiona and Cion grabbed huge boulders from the hillside and flew back with them to drop on the enemy soldiers and cover our retreat. Cion dropped her burden with deadly effect, then swooped low to wreak havoc with wing and claw. Merlin soared high above us, emerald scales darkened with stains of blood, mud and smoke against the storm clouds my power had summoned.
I touched his mind, seeking guidance. Merlin could not send his thoughts to me, but I could take them from him if he permitted it. “The Black Knight seeks Arthur,” Merlin thought. His mind was filled with flashing visions of the battle, things that he could see happening now, things that he could see, even though they happened far from him, and things that he saw, even though they had not yet happened, and might not ever. A vision, of the Black Knight on his huge black armored charger blasting through the line around Arthur and piercing the breast of Arthur’s horse with his black-bladed sword, overwhelmed Merlin for a moment, and me with him. I shook my head, unable to stop hearing the horse’s dying scream in my ears. Sometimes I wondered how Merlin could stand to live with such a “gift” without going mad.  Merlin’s gentle voice in our joined thoughts overrode the ugly vision. “Arthur’s defenders will not be enough. Send one of your sisters to aid him.”
I broke contact and opened my eyes to see the Black Knight just beginning the charge that Merlin’s vision saw concluded. Fiona screamed a battle cry and rotated in the air, still clinging to a boulder with her feet. A Black raked at her with his claws, trying to make her drop it on our own men.
I sent Cion to defend Arthur with a thought. My sisters and I touched each others’ minds so often, we sometimes thought the same thoughts as if we were one mind in three bodies. Another Black dragon dove from the cloud cover directly toward Cion’s back. I screamed a warning in our minds, and my sister swerved hard to the left, but the small, young Black dove with the speed and deadly accuracy of an arrow, and swerved with her as he did.
The smaller dragon hit my youngest sister square on the back hard enough to knock her from the sky. They both fell like stones. My link with my sister was strong enough that I felt the black’s fangs sink into her throat, poisoning her with the Black venom that brought euphoria and compliance. She went limp and the Black snapped her neck with his jaws.
The small Black soared away, while Cion plummeted onto the sharp rocks of the hills.
The light of her bright young life vanished from my mind, leaving an aching emptiness. NO!  My dear little sister! Less than two centuries ago, she had been a sparkling child with golden pigtails always coming loose, collecting frogs and salamanders from the lake shores.
But there was no time to grieve.
The Black Knight’s charger galloped through the shield line of defenders around Arthur, knocking them aside like they were made of straw. Gawain, Fiona’s young son rode to defend his king, but his destrier stepped on a dead man and stumbled. Gawain went down under his massive horse.
I felt the power gathering in the storm I had summoned. The Blacks were maddeningly immune to the power of the lightning I could call, though, and I was too far, myself to fly to Arthur’s aid. I watched in helpless horror as Merlin’s vision came to pass.
Arthur’s horse screamed and reared, throwing my grandson to the ground. He stood again, unharmed, but the Black Knight would ride him down in another moment.
I focused the pregnant power inherent in the storm. The power sought its balance with the earth. I channeled it through me, down and across the battlefield, directly into the Black Knight. He might be immune to lightning, thanks to the unnatural dragon scale armor he wore, but I was guessing that his horse was not.
I felt as much as heard Fiona’s bellow of triumph as she hurled the Black that harried her to the ground and smashed his head with the boulder. But the Black was wounded, not dead, and his army closed in. Arrows bespelled to pierce dragon scales flew at Fiona like a swarm of stinging insects. She retreated to the air, but could not gain enough altitude fast enough.
I felt arrow after arrow embed in her belly, arms, legs, and the delicate membranes of her wings. She fought hard, climbing by inches as darts continued to pepper her. I focused the wind and swept the swarm away from her, but the sudden gust unbalanced her flight.
I dove for her, just managing to grab her shoulders with my feet before she hit the ground. Her weight in full battle form was ten times one of the largest boulders. I strained to keep her aloft until we flew over our own men, retreating into the walls of Camelot. I laid her gently on the ground and sent a mental call for help to Merlin.
He was already on his way to Fiona’s side. His healing venom would have her ready to fight again in minutes, once he removed the arrows.
In the panic of almost losing another sister, I had lost track of Arthur.
I took to the sky again, just high enough for my wings to miss clipping the tips of the spears of our warriors, who were making a hasty, but ordered retreat into the castle.
I sent the image I saw to Fiona. Her son Gawain fought valiantly at Arthur’s side. The two excellent swordsmen fought the knight to a standstill. Though both Gawain and Arthur’s swords sparked on the black armor of the enemy knight, he shook off their blows as if nothing more than loving pats. Merlin had forged those swords himself, and they could cut through even my scales, yet the black armor showed no sign of dent or scratch.
Gawain and Arthur could defend against the Black Knight’s blows, but they could not defeat him. And while they fought, the black army surrounded them, isolating them from their own retreating men.
I saw all of that in an instant, just before I swooped up, just above Arthur and Gawain’s heads, then down and into the Black Knight’s face.
I had a moment of satisfaction as I saw dark eyes widen in the small eye holes of the black coif, then I hit the bastard with the spiked leading edge of my wing and flung him fifty feet, over the body of his dead horse and into the mass of his own onrushing soldiers. He knocked down a dozen of his own men as he flew. “Arrogant child,” I snorted.
I growled at the nearest line of soldiers, baring fangs and daring them to face me. I saw a man rush away, and suspected he went to fetch the archers. I had bought a few seconds only.
“On my back,” I shouted to Gawain and Arthur.
When they were mounted and clinging hard to my spikes, I sought the air.
The Black Knight had regained his feet by then and charged me, just as I took off.
I tried to grab him with a foot, intending to take him up to a very great height and let go, but he parried my claws with that massive black two-handed sword of his, and struck back. I felt it pierce my leg deeply, like a spear of acid. I could not control my scream of agony, but I pushed hard with my wings, and managed to convince the storm to give me some extra wind to lift me higher and faster, even as my vision darkened.
My dangling limp leg banged against the stones as I went over the walls of Camelot castle. Humiliatingly, I screamed again, but I managed to get my grandson and my nephew on the ground in the courtyard before I passed out.

As Nyneve’s vision went black, I awoke, trembling with adrenaline as if I fought for my life, and with tears of rage and grief streaking my face. My leg ached in sympathetic pain for a woman dead centuries before I was born.
Visions of things long past have all but replaced normal dreams for me, and I sometimes am confused at first what century or body I’m in. I try to write the dreams all down as soon as I wake up. Fafnir and my father’s stories never gave me this sense of truly being connected to my ancestors. I remember my grandfather and especially my grandmother now, not as a story, but as if I had known her, as if I had been her.

Dee Dragon

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