The Girl and the Ice Dragon
There once was a peaceful valley, encircled with ranges of blue grey mountains. The people of the valley raised the finest sheep and goats in among the green hills. The farmers never had a problem with the crops and the blacksmiths were able to create the most deadly blades for adventurers or the finest ornaments. They traded with neighboring hamlets and prospered. There were some skirmishes with hill goblins and incidents with fairy rings and will-o-wisps’, but there was always an adventurer or two to vanquish the shadows in the night.
However, a mighty ice dragon named Scrag flew into the valley. He came from the windswept northlands were giants roamed and the stars were hidden by perpetual storms. The ice dragon breathed flames of ice and his hide was covered in sharp blue scales. The monster claimed a cave in a dormant volcano for his treasure hoard. He guarded the mountain passes and ordered tribute from the people. He would often take a third of the sheep and goats in his steel grey talons and steal whatever finery he desired. For many generations the simple farmers cowered beneath the shadow of the beast.
One spring a young shepherd lost a herd of sheep to wolves before the annual tribute. Scrag flew down from the black volcano he resided in and kidnapped a farmer’s daughter and burned the village out of anger. The villagers wept and no man from the village was able to stop the dragon. A wandering man came to the village and laid low a prophecy: a girl-child would lead to the death of the dragon with fire.
The villagers began to send maidens into the hills in hope they would lead to the death of the dragon. Every harvest, the oldest unmarried woman in the village would be sent out with a charm against evil. The elders prayed day and night to the gods for the girl’s protection and luck in ending the dragon. One by one they would be found dead in the forest, killed by wolves or caught by the dragon himself.
Adena, the next oldest girl in the village, was a green-eyed shepherd. She had never roamed beyond the streams and clover-studded plains of the valley. She kept a much admired flock of bleating sheep for her father. Her father loved her, but was compelled to send his daughter out into the wilderness and hope that she put an end to the dragon. She fled a night before she was to be sent out into the darkness.
She packed a few rations and stole her father’s horse and his only dagger. Adena rode seven nights and seven days to the edge of the valley and became lost in a dark forest. She came across an old druid dressed in a bear cape lined with raven feathers and casting bones over a fire. Adena threatened the wild woman with her dagger, but she simply laughed.
The old woman conjured up a lively fire and spread her bones across the forest floor. They glittered in the firelight and were carved with lines and patterns. She claimed Adena was the chosen one, the child who would end Scrag’s deadly reign. The druid handed a cloth sack, a ice-proof cloak of wolf fur, and a leather collar to Adena. The bag contained black ash from a volcano in the middle of a stormy sea. Adena was to tame a winged beast and fly up the mountain. She would sneak into Scrag’s
lair and breathe life back into the volcano with some mystical item she would find in the monster’s cave.
Adena felt the power of the cloth sack and the collar. She thanked the druid and the wise woman disappeared into the trunk of a tree with a slight smile. The next morning, Adena made her way though the forest. The sun was high and bright above her head as she rode out of the trees and met the edge of the mountains. She left her horse and picked her way through the tumbled granite stones and shale. She found a narrow cave lined with carvings and carefully entered the darkened space.
The cave curved and twisted, and a cold wind blew through the tunnel as if the mountain was breathing air heavily. The tunnel ended in a steep incline and she was forced to scale the crags slowly and painfully. She toiled for hours and she nearly went mad from the stifling silence. She looked at the path before her and saw dust motes swirling in a shaft of light above her, where the cave ended in a narrow crack. She realized there would always be light at the end of all things.
Finally, she climbed out on a cliff with a huge man-sized nest perched at its edge like a crown atop a king’s head. She stood up and she could see the entire sweep of the valley before her; a glorious sea of green dotted with the flecks of little homes and farms. She felt a poignant tenderness for her simple father; he had wanted her to restore the quiet life of the people of the valley. She accepted the fact that she had to send the dragon to his death in order to restore balance to the earth.
A mighty griffin arrived back to its nest and charged her. Its beak and lion’s coat was the color of gold but its eyes were like pinpricks of blood. It knocked her dagger away and threw her back against the mountain. She scrambled into a crevice, where the monster scratched and clawed at her in vain. It reared back and tried to stab at her eyes with its hooked beak. Adena waited until nightfall, and the griffin grew tired of waiting for its prey. It crawled back into its nest and Adena ventured forward. With sudden inspiration, she looped the leather studded collar around the beast’s neck. The griffin screamed like a banshee in the night, and its eyes turned pure like starlight. It no longer tried to attack her and allowed her to take hold of its cream colored mane.
Adena then rode the griffin up into the clouds and around the sleeping volcano. As the chosen one and her steed flew forth, they heard a strange voice call from an outcropping of stone. The voice sounded akin to Adena’s mother’s voice, and cried out for help. They flew in to find a woman tied to the stones. She wept and claimed Scrag had captured her there and was going to feast upon her flesh. Adena landed and came in close to unchain the woman, but a hideous snarl ripped from the woman’s lips. She shimmered and took the form of a fanged demon and tried to throw Adena off the mountain. They struggled and the griffin came to her aid. It set upon the demon and clawed its eyes out. The she-monster howled and fell off the outcropping and into the mists below.
The pair rested for the night and waited till the dragon leaped from his cave to terrorize the valley below. Adena guided the griffin to the volcano’s mouth. Stones lined the opening and the wind screamed as it blew over the rocks. The warrior-woman carefully climbed down into the huge caldera.
Inside Scrag’s cave, there were many treasures and bones from the sheep and men he had killed. Light from above shone on piles of gold coins and jewels glittered from every recess of the cave. Adena walked carefully and quietly even though the ice blue dragon was out raiding the valley. She heard a soft whisper in her ear, and fearing the the return of the she-demon, she pulled out her dagger. A soft glowing figure lept from an old thin sword and danced before Adena’s eyes.
The light took the shape of a ethereal woman with almond-shaped eyes and a crown of flowers about her head. Adena bowed before the ancient Goddess, who merely waved her hand at the sword she had spirited from. The figure dissolved like falling rain drops and the cavern was once again swallowed in dim shadows.
Adena pulled the sword from its lodging amongst shields and armor of dead warriors. Across its blade danced little filaments of light and she could feel the power vibrate down its hilt. She thanked the Goddess for her kind grace.
The griffin suddenly cried out in alarm from above; Scrag had returned, mouth dripping with ash and talons full of blood. He roared as he scented the human intruder. He swept into the crater like a blue ice storm, his wings thundering and dropping shards of ice and blinding snowflakes. She raised the mystical sword high and felt it clash against the sharp talons of the dragon.
The dragon breathed ice and chill winds at Adena, who fought back with her sword and dagger in hand. The furs of her cloak protected most of her body from the icy air, but the blade, however mighty, failed to cut deep between the hard scales of the monster. Adena scrambled amongst the treasures, her boots sinking in the jewels. She tried to reach a higher pile of treasure to reach the dragon’s throat and eyes. Scrag laughed as he saw his attacker run before him. He swept her off her feet with a swift thrashing of his spiny tail.
The chosen one hit the earth of the cave hard, and suddenly understood her true task. No sword would be able to cut into his scales. The earth itself was the only thing powerful enough to handle the ice dragon’s fury. Adena pulled the bag of ashes from her cloak and sank her ornate sword into the soil and rock of the cave. The stones split and Adena quickly poured the black ashes from the druid into the crack.
Scrag roared and sent another blast of frigid air across the hero’s back. He leaned down and grabbed the wolf fur in his jaws and flung the woman across the cavern. The dragon cackled as she struggled to rise. Adena clutched at the gold coins and tried to raise herself from the floor, but the dragon pinned his talons across her back, ready to devour her.
The mountain groaned and began to tremble. Great cracks formed in the skin of the ground and an angry red glow lit up the treasure hoard and the dragon’s glassy scales. The gold coins and treasure started to shake and the dragon cowered as stones began to fall from the edges of the cave and land on his outstretched wings. Scrag lost his balance and clumsily fell over onto his treasure hoard. Adena’s griffin cawed like a crow and dived down into the cave, worried that his master would not make it out of the fire pit.
Adena ran to her tamed steed and pulled the sword from the crack before it fell deeper into the spreading chasms. She lept upon the griffin’s back and it raced upwards and towards the rim of the volcano. Scrag roared again, this time in mortal pain, as the fire mountain began to spew incandescent lava and scorching fire from its depths. Adena and the griffin soared out of the cave, ravenous flames leaping at the griffin’s tail feathers.
Scrag tried to pull himself out of his deadly grave; he spat ice into the sky as his body melted with the heat of the molten earth. A errant icy shard soared through the air and cut Adena across the face; she would bear the mark of the ice tyrant for the rest of her days.
The massive beast was then swallowed in a swirling cascade of orange and red. The villagers of the valley heard the thunder of the volcano and saw the hero descend from the shuddering mountain. The pair dodged fiery stones and flew down into the green hills like a falling star.
Adena saw the whole scope of the valley once again, but this time it seemed so small and dull in the haze of smoke and ashes from the mountain. The sword still surged in her hand; for a brief moment, she considered flying off over the valley, through the southern mountain pass and out into the world beyond. According to the old songs, there were mighty seas to the southeast, red mountains in the south, and massive foreign cities to the southwest.
The people of the valley were all racing to the hills to spot a glimpse of her. She could hear bellows and shouts of excitement as she flew over her shepherd’s hut and the home of her father. Men cheered and women and children danced in the dusty streets; the dragon was dead and they would no longer suffer under his malevolent gaze.
Adena decided her place was with the people, as a sharp sword against the dangers of the valley. The gods would always favor her against the darkest monsters in the night. All the people of the valley came to the hill where the warrior and her steed came to rest. The heroes’ hair was coated in ashes but they stood proud amongst the grass. Adena hoisted her now-legendary sword high in the sky and all the villagers kneeled and wept, for the terror of the ice dragon had come to an end. The triumphant cry of the griffen echoed from the hills of the valley. The villagers could now live in peace as they once had before the snake-tongued beast had arrived on the icy winds of the north.
For many years Adena served as the wise woman and warrior of the valley. She rose in fame and many knights came to learn from her wisdom and intuition. The village prospered like it had before the dragon interrupted its peace. Songs were sung about the green-eyed lady’s adventures, from the killing of Scrag to the battles she would later lead agains the hill goblins and terror fiends of the valley. Her name still echoes though the mountains just as the volcano still seeps fire to this day.