Well, that sister of mine has quite an impressive memory, it turns out. She was thrilled at my first article in this series, and even remembered the name of the ancient fanfic that inspired it! I have resolved not to read it again until I’m finished with my Dragon Warrior flight of fancy, but Gwaelin, In Thy Honor certainly deserves credit for sparking this story. All I remember about Nick Marcotte’s story (which I read originally over twenty years ago) is that it’s about saving Princess Gwaelin, and that the Dragon Warrior and the Green Dragon guarding Gwaelin have a conversation before their fight.
I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible, rereading the game’s instruction manual, scouring the Dragon Warrior Wikipedia page, and even finding a transcript of the game’s dialogue to make sure. Should you read it over, you’ll see that the dragon and the Dragon Warrior don’t verbally spar, but a little embellishment makes for a great story! That said, I suppose it’s about time my hero starts making his way through the swamp cave, isn’t it?
As soon as he stepped into the cave, the light deserted him. The descendant of Erdrick lit a torch and held it high in an attempt to ward off a darkness that seemed to press in on all sides of him. The torch burned steadily, but its light was feeble. He knew the darkness wasn’t truly unnatural, and yet he couldn’t help but feel as though he had been swallowed and was being funneled down a hot, close tunnel into an eager, growling stomach.
The metaphor was too apt. Despite the darkness, and being underground– and under the ocean, no less, as he began to move through– the cave was no cooler than the oppressive heat of the swamp he’d come through. The air seemed somehow thick, too thick to breathe comfortably, crowded with the scents of mildew and decay. The passages were often narrow and winding, punctuated by boulders and rubble. It was impossible to move easily, or quietly.
This was not entirely unfortunate, as it meant the denizens of the cave had trouble being stealthy as well. He could hear them, seething and skittering in the shadows. He had been in this cave before, to get to the city of Rimuldar, and knew what to expect. He deviated from the course that would lead him through the cave and out toward Rimuldar, searching, listening for the beast he knew awaited him.
As much as he hoped he could approach quietly, it was not to be. His broad sword dripped with the blue blood of a Scorpion and the ichor of a Druin by the time he heard a strange sound, a sound he could almost place and yet was certainly not one of the typical monsters of the cave.
The young hero paused, listening. It was a rasping sound, almost metallic, rhythmic. It seemed to ring loudly in the silence, and he wondered at its meaning. He took a long, quiet breath, let it out slowly, and continued onward.
He turned a corner and then stopped, his eyes widening in surprise. Coiled in the narrow opening to another passageway was the beast. Its vermilion eyes seemed to assess and then pass over him, as if he were someone the dragon knew well and did not think very much of.
The dragon lifted its head– enormous, the dragon’s snout was as long as the young knight’s torso– and he recognized the sound now as its shining, emerald-green scales rasped against each other, the clinking rhythm-without-song of a mail shirt in motion. And then, to his utter astonishment, it spoke.
“Ah, another savior.” The dragon’s voice was deep, like thunder rumbling in the distance. The timber of its voice may have been alien, but the tone was unmistakably aloof. “Hast thou come to help me pass the time, hero? A pity the diversion will doubtless be so short.”
The descendant of Erdrick bristled at this rudeness, but mastered himself. “I am no one’s plaything, dragon. I am here for the princess. I grant thee the choice: stand aside or accept my challenge.”
The dragon snorted, sending sparks swirling into the gloom. “Nary have I heard such brevity in one of thy kind! Thou shalt be little sport, human. Thy bravado would at least serve to prolong thy life a few more moments. Thou shouldst consider it.”
The young hero actually found himself savoring this sparring. The idea of a dragon was almost mythical, capable therefore of any power or strength. In the flesh, this creature sounded like a presumptuous, bored noble lad playing with his food. It brought the beast down out of the terrifying unknown and into a more familiar realm. It may be strong, but it was also arrogant, and these were traits he could understand . . .
. . . and possibly exploit. He didn’t dream the dragon might speak with him. Perhaps he could get even more out of this conflict than he’d hoped.
“And why bother?” he asked, allowing his voice to mirror the dragon’s haughtiness. “Look upon thee! Where is the opulent den I have heard so much about, dragon? Where are the treasures and jewels, the lavish appointments, the resplendent trophies? Instead I findest thou crouched in a bare cave, sitting in the portal as a chained mongrel. Hence thou art just the lapdog of the wizard of Charlock, then?”
This earned a roar that shook the cave, knocking the hero back a step and causing a cascade of dust to shower down upon them. “Dalcop! Cumberground! How darest thou! I am Archion, the unassailable, the ferocious! I could searest thou to cinders! Doth thou forsooth regard thyself so mighty, arrogant fool?!”
The young hero shrugged, his tone indifferent. “I say only what I see. Wherefore would a fearsome dragon sit on a rock for this knave like a trained beast? Wert thou conquered, thou or thy kin? Why wouldst thou obey him otherwise?”
The dragon, Archion, had risen to its feet. Its scales glistened under a coat of dust, its blue-gray spines scraped the ceiling of the cave. Its ochre-colored underbelly and legs were leathery and thick, and its feet were tipped with wicked claws as long as the hero’s forearm. Its vermilion eyes bored into his, sharp with indignation.
“Irreverent lout! Obviously thou dost never know thy betters. Thou art Lorik’s pawn and tool, or else thou wouldst not have come hither. The blood of elder dragons runs in the Dragonlord’s veins, wherefore would I not obey? Alefgard’s decline is dragonkind’s ascension.”
This was news! The Dragonlord was not just a wizard, but a dragon himself? Perhaps some magical ritual had made him kin to dragons? The details didn’t matter. It may mean that what weaknesses the dragons had, the wizard shared.
“Dragons and humankind have meddled not with each other ere, and full well we know that both have flourished. How doth the Dragonlord’s tormenting of human folk aidest thou?” the young hero asked, allowing himself to sound perplexed.
As he hoped, the dragon found this opportunity to flaunt its superior knowledge irresistible. “Marry, we thrive! My cousins can be found from the wracks of Hauksness to the wilds of Cantlin. No longer need we languish in the dankest antrums, as the darkness spreads!”
It sounded like the Ball of Light had somehow been suppressing the dragons? That made sense. The tales said that the Dragonlord shunned the radiance of the Ball of Light– which made even more sense now if he was more dragon than man– and retreated into a cave. Exploring it, he encountered a dragon, who bowed to him, and thus began the Dragonlord’s conquest. When he stole the Ball of Light, dragons and all sorts of other monsters suddenly invaded the land. So it was not simply at the Dragonlord’s command they did so after his victory; with the Ball of Light stolen, they were now able to venture forth.
This also explained Archion’s uncharacteristic vigil. If the Dragonlord was some sort of elder they should obey due to some dragonish custom, and his plan was to help the dragons thrive by stealing the Ball of Light and Gwaelin– to both banish the light that apparently prevented them from roaming afield and the hope of the people of Alefgard– why would they not help him?
The hero managed to hide the smile threatening to emerge. He now also knew that dragons roamed near Hauksness and Cantlin, places he intended to go. Known threats were preferable to unknown threats, in his experience.
Archion didn’t really answer the question, except for the hint about darkness spreading. The descendant of Erdrick decided not to press the matter, so as not to look like he was trying to get information. Also, he was rather certain he’d figured it out on his own. Time for more bravado. “It matters not how far thy kind advances, apace I can and will seek them all out and send them fleeing for their burrows.”
After a thoughtful, searching pause, the dragon’s mouth frowned, and then curled into a fanged sneer. Smoke began to waft up from its nostrils. “You regard much of thyself, cozening rampallion! Thinkest thou that I do not know what thou art about? I have lived over four hundred winters, whelp! It matters not what thou thinkest thou knowest, the Dragonlord’s schemes are beyond your ken and I will verily ensurest thou never interfere!”
In reply, the young hero simply drew his sword, the sound of it coming clear of the scabbard ringing in the still air. The time for talking was over.