The Rim of the Sky
By: Bruce Rowe

"The grand children are on their way. The message I received from the homing crow said they'd be here any minute," said Illia.

"Wonderful," replied Ritic, pulling his shoulder length gray hair back in a ponytail.

"Do you know where you're going to take her," said Illia, pulling several strands of blonde hair away that the wind had brushed across her face.

"Yes. All is ready for when she gets here," Ritic said. "You know we'll be gone for the better part of the day."

"Of course. I'll spend time entertaining Mickal while you and Gwethana go on your adventures. Do be careful. Oh, here they are now," said Illia, as a wagon appeared through the line of oaks that meshed along the dirt road.

As the wagon slows to a stop, a little seven–year–old girl with long, brown hair and blue eyes jumped from the wagon running past Illia who walked toward the wagon to fetch the little girl's three–year–old brother, Mickal, and talk with their parents.

Gwethana had grown beyond the usual children toys and adventures: riding rocking horses, enjoying a wagon pull around the farm and dolls, but now sought after the adventures that her older ten–year–old cousin, Sebastien, had gone on with their grandpa, Ritic. She too wanted to be able to tell stories of grand adventures to her friends at school.

"Papa!" Gwethana yells excitingly, running up to her grandfather, "Can we go to the northern part of Tesparia like you promised, like you and cousin, Sebastien have?"

"Yes, sweetheart," he answered, picking her up to give her a hug.

"What will I be wearing?" she asked. Sebastien says he wears armor and takes a bow and arrows.

"I've had a beautiful coat of armor crafted for you by the Wood Elves. They assured me it will protect you no matter come what may. Once you've learned the bow, I'll have one made for you."

"When can we go?" she asked impatiently.

"Right now if you like. I have quite the surprise waiting for you." Ritic said, waving to her parents as the two–horse wagon slowly pulled away. "But first go give your grandma a hug. And try not letting your brother know what we're doing. It may upset him and we wouldn't want that."

***

After suiting up in their armor, and Ritic strapping on a quiver of arrows and an enchanted recurve bow and a satchel of bread, cheese, and meat, he looked her over to ensure the elfish armor was a perfect fit.

"The elves certainly know what they're doing. I made a guess at your size and it appears to fit perfectly. Is it comfortable?"

"Yes, Papa, I love it," she said smiling, as she spun around armor clanking against itself. As she stopped her spinning, she notice the bow on Ritic's back. "I've never seen a bow like that, Papa," she said, pointing at the strange carvings along the sides below the grip and above where the arrows rest.

"Those are runes of enchantment carved in by a mage living in the town of High Falls. When I let loose an arrow the arrowhead burst into flames as though lit in midflight," Ritic said, rubbing his hand over the runes. "It aids in quickening the kill and minimizing the danger. And if the target is a rabbit it roasts it at the same time," he said with a wink.

"Can you show me?" Gwethana ask intrigued, clapping her hands together.

"Ok. But then we're off," Ritic said, stringing an arrow. He aimed at a small plum tree about fifty paces away and loosed the arrow. In mid–flight, the tip of the arrow turned to flame. On impact, the entire tree burst into flames. "Whoops. Your grandma's going to kill me." Gwethana's face turned from shock to laughter.

"I hope you picked all the fruit off that tree before killing it," Illia yelled from the kitchen window. "And I expect you to plant me another before winter."

"I will…I promise," Ritic yelled back, quickly dowsing the tree with a bucket of water. He tossed the bucket aside, picked Gwethana up, and held her close. "Ok, off we go, young lady, before you tempt me to do anything else that will get me into more trouble." Gwethana giggled.

Softly speaking a language unfamiliar to Gwethana, Ritic summoned a gust of wind that lifted them up high above the canopy of the trees. The air was cool and moist against their faces as it carried them over ranges of snow–capped mountains and grassy tundra's meagerly covered with ruins of age old castles where battles of long ago were hard–fought and circles of tall stones carved with mystical runes where mages once worshipped and held full–moon sacrifices.

As they passed over a small village, a loud roaring in the far distance to the east surprised the little girl. "What was that, Papa?"

Looking over, Ritic could make out two dragons in a flight of battle between two mountain peaks, one propelling fire and the other frost. "A Blue Northern drake and a Red Southern drake are fighting over territory or prey, sweetheart."

"They won't attack us, will they?" she asked, with large, round, blue eyes filled with apprehension.

"Not as long as we're not seen." As if an answer to a request, a gush in the wind took them higher cloaking them inside the white mist of the clouds.

As they approached their destination, the town of Savillion, a great, menacing shadow grew in the clouds before them.

"Why are the clouds getting darker, Papa? Is it going to rain?" Gwethana asked, looking intently at the thickening clouds.

"I don't think so, sweetheart," Ritic sighed. He held her closer to his chest as he leaned downward toward the direction of the earth.

A large, gray–horned dragon burst from the clouds diving directly at them from above. Splitting the cool air with its massive wings, it opened its fang–filled jaws producing a glowing red fire in the back of its throat. By the wind accelerating their flight, the dragon, spewing a stream of flame, missed them by a small margin. Like a snake, the dragon's lithe form turned in chase.

Alighting atop the crumbling remains of a stone tower, Ritic motioned to Gwethana to run down an uneven and broken stairwell. Knowing that a flaming arrow would have no effect on a fire breather, Ritic poured venom over an arrowhead that he had extracted from a large blue–bristled cave spider he killed a few days earlier. He quickly strung the arrow and turned in time to let it fly as the dragon was nearly upon him. The arrow pierced deep into the dragon's chest releasing its poison. The dragon let out a painful roar as its gray–scaled belly grated into the side of the tower dislodging several large stone blocks causing a tremor in the tower throwing Ritic off his feet.

From the jagged hole created by the missing stones, Gwethana watched as the dragon plummeted to the ground plowing the earth as it slid to a halt. Its large horn–crowned head slowly curved back locking its yellow, hypnotic eyes onto hers. Fear trickled down her body in the form of chills and goose bumps. Gasping in air, she took a step back pressing her body against the wall of the stairwell. The dragon raised its massive barbed tail and slammed it angrily onto the ground enraged that its flight and purpose was unraveled. Opening its jaws once more, Gwethana saw the fire beginning to grow in its throat.

"Papa!" she screamed, frozen in terror, "The dragon's looking right at me, and it's going to blow fire again!"

Regaining his footing, Ritic quickly strung another poisoned arrow and quickly released it into the dragon's gullet. However, with a bellowing roar sounding like a mixture of a bear and a high–pitch screech from a rusted door hinge, the fire had shot forth from the dragon into the hole where Gwethana stood. With the arrow hitting the source of the fire, the dragon's head exploded and its enormous form fell over in an explosion of rocks and dust. A stream of smoke floated from the dragon's neck like the extinguished flames of a campfire.

A combination of fear and grief overwhelmed Ritic as he ran down the broken stairway yelling, "Gwethana, Gwethana!" In his desperation, the toe of his boot caught in a break in the steps throwing him forward tumbling down the remainder of the stairs. Dazed, he painfully rose, took off his helmet, and saw a small figure in gold elfish armor cautiously peering around the edge of the door archway at the dragon. Seeing the back of the armor streaked in black ash, he ran to her and wrapped her in his arms, tears welling in his eyes. "Are you alright, sweetheart?"

"Yes, Papa, I'm ok. Is the dragon dead?" she asked, wiping a tear from his cheek.

"Thank the god of Amorath," Ritic said with a sigh, as his body relaxed from the tension it held. "The elves told me they had enchanted the armor to resist fire and ice. Happily it worked. And yes, sweetheart, the dragon is dead." He was pleased that the sight of its missing head remained hidden from where she stood. "But how did you reach the bottom of the tower so fast?"

"When I turned from the flames my foot slipped on a broken step and I tumbled down the stairs," Gwethana said with a girlish giggle.

"Apparently your armor works better against blows than mine," Ritic said laughing a painful laugh. "Are you ready to continue our journey?"

"Yes, Papa."

***

The wind gently set them down just inside the expansive, wooden gates of Savillion, one of the main holds of the land of Tesparia. Two red flags flailed loudly in the breeze on either side of the large gates bearing the black sigil of a boars head. The main stone street of the city lined with a blacksmith shop, stable, apothecary store for the selling of herbs and potions, the occasional home, a tavern and bakery shop was bustling with people. To the left of the town's landscape that rose steeply toward the northern mountains and divided by stone walkways, sat more lodgings. At the topmost part was the Great Hall that housed the Jarl of the city, his wife, and counselors and the many servants that employed there. Ritic, well known by the town folks and Jarl for aiding in the protection from the murkflayers (creatures that dwelled in dark, moist caves beyond the northern mountains) often came to Savillion in search of work that paid handsomely.

Immediately, three fairy children saw Gwethana and flew up to greet her. Gwethana took off her helmet to get a better look at them. Ritic took off his helmet as well.

"Gwethana, this is your surprise. This is Eolande, which means violet flower, hence her beautiful purple color." The small fairy flew a circle around Gwethana, which made her giggle. "This," Ritic continued, "is Gelsey, which means jasmine, hence her white color." Gelsey flew toward Gwethana's face and sprinkled white dust on her nose, which indeed smelled of jasmine and made Gwethana sneeze. Together they reminded Gwethana of the smell of mountain flowers on a spring breeze. "And this little red one here is named Raisa, which means rose."

"What to play tag, Gwethana?" Raisa said in a delightful high–pitched voice.

"Can I, Papa, can I?" she asked, jumping up and down in excitement armor clanking.

"That's why I brought you here, sweetheart. Would you like to take your armor off first? It might make for faster running?" Ritic asked.

Gwethana looked around. "Yes, but where can I keep it so it's safe?"

"I'll take it with me to the blacksmith to have the dents hammered out from your fall." Ritic looked over his own armor. "I think I'll have him work on mine as well while I'm at it.

"Ok," Gwethana said, peeling off the armor.

Handing the last piece of armor to her grandfather, Gwethana went off running after the fairies yelling, "No flying. That's not fair." Purple sparkling dust particles fell from Eolande onto Gwethana and her feet left the ground. "Papa, look, I'm flying all by myself!"

Ritic smiled at her. "Keep her safe," he yelled after the fairies, then turned and headed toward The Wild Boar tavern.

THE END

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