The Circle Of Dragons
Book 1 – The Beginning of the End
By Garry Brown
Click here to send comments
Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques
I stood in front of the grave for about twenty minutes. It was late in November and the morning air was cold and wet and I could feel the frostbite setting in to the tips of my fingers. My mother’s headstone looked abandoned and aged. I had returned to the grave for the last time. I would probably never come back again. It troubled me, but I needed to get out of here or face slaughter under the hands of Rico Gorgan. I knelt down in front of the tombstone and placed some flowers (which I stole from Mr Homage’s yard as I made my way here) on top and felt a warm tear trickle down my cheek. The air was still. Just my reminiscences and me left alone. I liked it that way. Time stands still for me when I’m left alone to reflect. The only sound that disturbed the long silence was the hum of passing motorists.
Another tear rolled down my cheek as I remembered my mother’s warm kiss and the smiles she always used to give. Her sweet voice singing me in to a deep slumber and I would never hear her voice again. Never again will I get to smell the cooking as she prepared my favourite meals. I angrily wiped the tear away.
She's gone... and it's his fault.
"You'll pay for this," I muttered under my breath as if Rico could hear my thoughts.
I wiped away another tear and looked around the cemetery. A small face peered at me from behind a tombstone. He was dirty with a face full of mush. I gave a smile as he walked over to me and he pressed his filthy hands on my mother’s gravestone.
“Hey!” I shouted in anger.
The child laughed cheekily and skipped off. I wiped the grave and gave chase.
The kid had blonde hair and blue eyes and stood about 4 foot tall.
He weaved in and out of the graves, looking back at me his cheeky plump face laughing at me. The boy went around a corner I could not see around. I slowly walked around and thought about shocking the snivelling little shit, but he wasn’t there. He had vanished. I looked around, but just couldn’t find him. I made my way back to my mother’s grave. I sat down gradually and leant against her grave. I imagined that my mother was sheltering me from the cold. I snuggled in to the cold stone in a daydream. I kissed the stone and awoke suddenly with the immediate coldness on my lips.
I decided that I really had to catch up with the others. Maxwell wasn't pleased with the fact that I was separating from the group, but it was something I had to do alone and if all of us did stay in the city then we would have had less chance in actually escaping. Maxwell seemed to be very cautious for all of us, a true leader. He adopted the role during the escape. It was his idea to get me out of the laboratory and he came up with the plan to inject me with the spirits to stop me becoming a puppet of evil. I don't blame Maxwell for what he did. There wasn't much else he could do. He knew his father’s plan and had to stop it somehow.
I pulled myself away from my mother’s grave eventually and said my goodbyes. As I walked down the path I pulled a piece of paper out of my pocket. It was the letter Mikal had given me to deliver to his mother. As I unfolded the tattered page a loud humming sound echoed throughout the street. The sounds got worse as the source got closer and then as it came into view I knew what it was. It looked like any ordinary navy blue van, but everybody knew what it was. It was my cue to hightail it out of here. I ran as fast as I could out of the cemetery, but as soon as I reached the road Gorgan soldiers were already pouring on to the road like cereal in to a bowl. I panicked and tripped up the curb. I had no time for lying around; I had to escape.
I can't believe they found me.
I got back on to my feet and felt a force push me back down. A soldier had dived at me and pinned me to the floor. I dropped the letter and the panic grew. The soldier grabbed my hair and slammed my face into the ground as the other soldiers surrounded me.
“We got ya… stupid son of a bitch,” I lay still so not to provoke another beating, but I could feel my blood boiling inside me.
So hot… So, very hot.
My eyesight was changing. I could see more sharply, but I couldn't pick out individual colours. They had angered the evil power inside me. What started out as a small headache soon grew and it felt like my head was going to explode? I could feel the veins in my head pulsating with every beat. All the soldiers stood still watching me. The pain was so unbearable that I blacked out.
The blur in my vision turned into images. The memories from my past, my mother inside always cooking my favourite meals (the cooks were specifically told not to let me eat, so she had to feed me) and tucking me in at night when it was time to go to bed... She was always so caring. I would sit in amazement as she told me stories about my biological father. He worked in the Iridium mines. She also told me that he fought alongside Rico’s brother as lieutenant of his army. I would play outside for hours. I hated it inside and Rico would beat my mother and me. My mother kept telling me to come inside, but I loved my little garden, separate from the other children. It left me to think, but sometimes I really wanted to play with the others. I would sit outside in the open air playing with my toys (a box and a teddy bear) until it got dark some days, but mother would never allow it. We lived in the city of Mirnigast, it is nothing, but a polluted cesspool filled with druggies, mutants and cold-blooded killers, too dangerous for little boys.
I hated Rico with a vengeance. After mother died he took great pleasure in beating me or when he couldn’t be bothered he would order his guards to thrash me. Several times I was beaten unconscious. I’d wake up in the cells and would lay awake fearful of my life. That is where I met Mikal and Emily. They were locked in the cells and we would talk to each other. I remember the damp stale smell of the cell walls. The bars were rusting and the guards would come and beat us for the fun of it. Emily had it worse than any of us down there. She would be raped and tortured by the guards until she was unconscious and bleeding. I felt truly sorry for her. I could do nothing to help her. Mikal would rack the bars and shout at the guards. All I could do was quiver as her screams pierced through my ears.
"HUH!" The sound of the frightful screams brought back my consciousness.
I was in the ventilation shaft between Mirnigast city and the outside world. My head still aches a little, but nothing like before. The events before are unknown to me and I have no idea what happened to the soldiers, but looking at the blood on my hands, on my clothes and around my mouth made me not want to know. The blood on my tongue dried my entire mouth, but as long as I was alive and heading out of the city I felt no remorse for the soldiers. I carried on down the ventilation shaft my every move echoed all around me and every sound I made became louder. A light pointed out the exit like a beacon. As I peered out in to the light a hand pulled me through. It was Mikal. I was thankful to see the bulky bastard again. He was the brawn of the group. His hands were the size of elephant’s feet, but he lacked intelligence.
"Hey, how ya doin'?" his features were dirty and he had a huge smile of relief on his face, but that soon changed.
"What the fuck happened?" he gasped as he saw all the blood dripping from my mouth.
"I don't know... I was being chased by the soldiers and just lost consciousness and woke up with this blood all over me," I replied with the shrill of fear in my voice.
I knew I couldn't control what happened, but it didn't make me feel any better. I am a freak because of Rico and that's all there is to it.
We paused for a moment just staring at my clothes and the amount of blood covering them.
"Max is gonna flip when he sees you," Mikal smiled.
"But at least you're okay... Ya 're, aren't ya?" he asked worriedly putting a strong palm on my shoulder.
"I don't think 'okay' is the appropriate word, but I'll live," I responded as we walked down the hill and on to the hot sands of the desert which surrounded Mirnigast.
"Where is Max anyway?" I enquired.
"You won't believe it... but he is at the hideout of ACID," Mikal seemed on edge, but I didn't want to tell him I noticed.
It was most likely the heat coming up from the sand.
"Is that the rebel treaty trying to shut down Gorgan’s empire?" I asked.
"Right!" Mikal replied.
I looked back at the immense city. It loomed over us, with masses of pollution pouring out from the top. Like smoke from a chimney. The manor could be seen even from here. It stood above the rest of the city, an over-powering force. It reminded me of the emperor. He always stood above me and pelted me with a belt. He would have his soldiers attack me with their swords. I shuddered at the thought.
"Well, where is this hideout?" I asked as I looked around.
"The entrance is just 40 miles to the north," Mikal pointed ahead.
The vast desert stretched out for miles and miles. Nothing was in sight. I squinted until my eyes were near enough closed, but I couldn't see anything, but I guess that's the whole point of a secret hideout.
We continued on our way side by side. Reflecting on the past. Mikal was a failed experiment too. We all were in one way or another. Mikal had been experimented on with various quantities of many different types and quantities of steroids. As a result he became strong and muscular. Mikal stood about 6 foot 4 inches tall and the way he spoke reflected on his origin, the city slums. It was a place where not even the Gorgan soldiers would step foot. On the way to my home in Tyril I had to pass through the slums.
"Did ya post the letter to me mom?" Mikal asked as he looked over at me.
I was going to post it on the way back, but I just couldn’t.
I drooped my head to the floor. The note was on the street floor. I looked up at the big lug; he had a questioning look on his face. I gave a smile.
"Cause I did? Don't you worry about that?" I said, as I looked a head in the direction Mikal was taking me.
I couldn’t tell him. I hate lying, but if he had of known that I failed him… and I didn’t want to hurt him. Would you?
Mikal gave a big smile a pushed me forward.
As we neared the destination a small village came in to view.
So, Hundrel Village does exist and that means ACID has to be here somewhere.
Hundrel Village was a legend, a traveller’s tale, near impossible to find unless you knew the grounds. The sands covered trails and travellers circled for days trying to find their way home. Something travelled through the sand deep beneath us.
“What’s the fuck is that?” Mikal gasped.
I remembered a story my mother told me.
“My mother told me that giant sand worms live on the outskirts of the city and pray on wandering travellers. I think we had best tread carefully… If the town is only 38 miles away then we should make it there by night fall if we just take the pace of a casual stroll”, I explained.
“Okay… whatever ya say, but you know I hate anything without limbs,” Mikal looked worried.
We walked more nervously as the tremors became stronger as the worm came closer to the surface.
“It’s coming,” Mikal shouted as he drew his weapon (a spiked axe).
“Stand very still,” I said calmly as a cold sweat trickled down my forehead.
The tremors all of a sudden became very frantic.
“There’s more than one,” I whispered.
“Oh shit!” Mikal whimpered.
My knees gave way as a worm broke the surface. I dropped to the floor.
“COLE!” Mikal shouted as he ran towards me.
He picked me up from the ground and threw me on his shoulders.
“RUN!” I screamed.
“I’m bloody well gonna,” he replied as he began to sprint.
The worms gave chase staying very to the surface. They were much quicker than Mikal and within seconds were diving underneath us. Mikal threw me off of him and I hit the soft sand floor. A human skull lay half buried in the sand beside me. He had a pendant trapped around his broken neck. Inside the pendant was a large black gem. I stopped in my tracks and picked up the necklace. I was always one for picking up stuff from the floor. I remember mother telling me.
"Everything has a use... You just have to find it".
I put the necklace around my neck and jumped on to my feet. Mikal was just twelve foot away. Swiping his axe at the sand worms.
“Get away from me you disgusting creatures,” he shouted giving a powerful swing.
I pulled out my sword and charged to the rescue.
I jumped into the air and plunged my sword into the worm’s body. It sliced open as I slid down to the floor. Smaller worms spilled out on to the sand. The worm collapsed as I stepped back and stopped moving. The other worm dived into the ground to get away.
“SHIT!” Mikal cursed.
“Come on Mikal… let’s go,” I said as I walked past him.
Then the sound came again followed by the tremors.
It came from underneath me and swallowed me whole.
As I fell I stabbed my sword into the worm’s side so that I wouldn’t fall into its stomach acid. The smell was atrocious. I could hear Mikal attacking the worm. As the worm moved I was losing my grip on the sword and sliding further down the worm’s throat. That’s when the headache started again. It grew and grew and this time I never blacked out… instead I witnessed everything from and outsiders point of you, like my soul had been pushed out of my body. My body had a blue glowing aura all around it. It looked at me and smiled and then shouted some strange words unknown to me. Then the aura turned red. My body scrunched up in a ball and then flung open quickly. The aura burst outward and tore the worm to bits, like it had swallowed a bomb. I then slowly floated down back into my body.
I opened my eyes and saw Mikal standing over me.
“Well I think I know what happened before,” Mikal said as he held his hand out to me.
“Me too,” I replied as I grabbed his wrist and he picked me up on to my feet.
"What do you think to the new necklace?" I asked showing off my new decoration as we walked away as if to change the subject.
"I think it f' girls," Mikal huffed and walked on.
“Why have you got to be so grumpy after a battle?” I whined as I followed behind Mikal.
Maxwell had been planning the meeting with ACID for ages. He had been the key to the inside of the empire for years, but didn't say anything until recently. The thought of Rico's own blood stabbing him in the back for his friends was something I can only begin to describe. I held nothing, but the up most respect for Max. We had reached the village by nightfall as planned. Mikal led me to the Valour Inn. A shabby little place, empty of any business apart from a four rough pirate looking goons crouched over one table playing cards and a man in the shadows wearing a rag covering himself from vision completely, only showing his muscular left arm to take a sip of his dirty pint.
Mikal nudged me and pointed to a security camera above the bar.
"ACID will come once they look upon this bar through that camera, but until we get their attention we will drink," Mikal prompted.
Mikal walked up to the bar and asked for two pints of his best ale. The barman poured the brown liquid into two pint glasses and slid them across the bar to Mikal
"Go on, try it," Mikal had a grin across his face as he took large swigs of the brown slop. A load thud echoed in the Inn. I turned to see the desert pirates arguing over winnings. The thud had come from a rather large knife that had been dug in to the old wooden table. Then the pirates stopped arguing suddenly and stared up at me. I quickly evaded their gaze. I stared down at the bottom of my glass. The swill had what looked like fungus settling at the bottom. As I stared at the surface of the dank swamp water that the landlord had dared to call drinkable I could see my own reflection. I rippled with the liquid and I noticed the reflection change in to that of a beautiful young maiden, it looked like Emily. I could not help, but stare on as the ripples began to change it once more. The beauty transformed in to a grotesque monster.
The vision startled me and I came to.
Mikal looked at me as if I'd been entrapped in the vision for hours. I stared back at him and into his eyes. I could see that my sand covered face was showing an emotion and it was that of a frightened man.
"Well are you going to drink it or not?" Mikal asked.
The vision wasn't the only thing that put me off the alcohol.
"Not, but thanks anyway...” I said in disgust, pushing the glass away.
“Suit yourself,” Mikal shrugged picking up the glass to take a swig.
“I think I need to rest," I said as I pushed myself off of the rotting wooden stool.
An arm grabbed my shoulder and pushed me back to the seating position.
"What're ya doin' ere?" The arm asked.
I followed the arm to the shoulder and then carried on to the face. A hand smacked me around the chops and I gave way. Blood poured from an open wound inside my mouth and out on to the floorboards.
"I'd play more nicely if I were you," Mikal lifted himself off of his seat and got ready for combat.
"What're ya gonna do 'bout it?" Another man grunted as he stood up.
I lifted my head slightly and looked up at Mikal. The four goons surrounded us and I just couldn't regain my senses.
"STOP!" the cloaked figure had revealed itself. It was a bulky guy in a Gorgan soldiers uniform. He looked about 35 years old.
"Isn't ya fight ol' man... piss off and ya won't get 'urt," The pirates were angry with the newcomer.
The man stepped slowly towards us and the men stood at the ready. Mikal, adrenaline pumping through his veins grabbed one of the pirates and threw him across the room. The brawl had started. The soldier drew his sword. The black blade shimmered in the dull light of the inn. One of the pirates carried a blade also. A battle between the two raged as the swords collided with each other. I looked up to see Mikal being pounded by the others.
It was a losing battle if I didn't do something. I got up on to my feet and leant on the top of the stool. I regained my balance and ran at the men punching into Mikal. I charged as fast as I could towards them screaming in a war cry way. A woman’s arm suddenly stopped me. It was Scarlet Vogue, ACID's leader. I recognised her from all those wanted posters around the city. Her race was a member of the feline family. She was very pretty even for a Felinian. She had light brown, short fur that covered ninety-five percent of her body. She had emerald green eyes, a fang that protruded from her closed mouth and she looked about twenty-nine years old.
"This battle will not be tolerated any longer... You scavengers have business to attend to elsewhere and so do we... be on your way," She was very commanding with her South American accent.
The stranger stood his ground as the pirates left the inn. We finally got a proper look at our companion. He was a broad man. He had black hair and dark brown eyes. A scare ran down his cheek. His face looked pale like he hadn't had any nourishment for days.
"And who might you be?" Scarlet asked.
"I am Henry Karamus... I was a Lieutenant in the Gorgan army," He paused.
"Well I was until I fell in love with the Emperor's daughter, Hilary and was sentenced to death in the desert, but luckily I found this legendary traveller's village and I have stayed hidden here since, just in case Gorgan wants to make sure of my death," he shrugged his shoulders.
There was a long pause. Scarlet looked disconcerted. Then Henry lifted his head up and looked directly at her.
"But I miss Hilary... and if my memory serves me correctly and you are who I think you are then I have come to the right place… I wish to help you in your task and be reunited with my love," He seemed sincere.
He knew who we were. I think everybody did. The posters around Mirnigast were a dead giveaway.
"We can't promise you anything, but we will be honoured to have such a noble warrior fighting for our cause," I answered before anyone could interrupt.
"Who are you?" Scarlet snapped, set her sights on me and glared.
"This is Cole Aramthos... the boy I went back to the city limits to fetch," Mikal replied.
"I see, scrawny isn't he... follow me," Scarlet's critism hurt, but it wasn't a mortal wound, I'd live with it.
The entrance to ACID's headquarters was under the cellar of the inn. Dug out perfectly for the operation that ACID was into. Destroying Gorgan Empire. They lacked manpower. The sheer number of the Gorgan army scared most to submission, but we have a plan that is going to finish Rico for good.
We set out to execute the plan when night fell over the city of Mirnigast. The emperor was holding a party for his long-suffering people in celebration of his birthday. It happened every year. He would invite the whole city to the bash and any who didn't buy gifts were hung for their treachery. We saw this as the perfect time to strike. The plan was that we would penetrate the city and slay the emperor in front of his people. Everyone would be there and guards would be surrounding the place, but all that was taken care of. The guards at the door to the emperor's quarters would swap over at 11pm precisely. We would be dressed in guards uniforms and replace the guards. Then at the right moment we would attack and the emperor would be slain. By my hands he would die. I will be the one to plunge the dagger into his dark heart. The time that I had been waiting for my whole life was quickly approaching and my heart was skipping like Dorothy down the yellow brick road.
"Does everybody know where you are? This is got to run like clockwork. I don't want any fuck-ups...Understood?" Maxwell gave a long penetrative gaze.
"I got it!" I replied hurrying it along.
"Good... Everyone else okay?" They all nodded.
"The 22:05 train to Mirnigast will be arriving shortly... Will all passengers please prepare for boarding? Thank you"
"That's our calling," Scarlet said standing up.
I lifted myself out of the scruffy plastic covered seat. The train station was in a town called Gaversmith. It was about 60 miles away from Mirnigast, but we had to travel on the train. We couldn't just go up to the gates and demand to be let in. I pictured the events in my mind.
Excuse me... could we, the members of ACID, just toddle on through and kill the emperor... we won’t be long... promise.
I smiled to myself. Mikal and Emily were standing beside me.
"You ready?" Emily said nudging me.
"Ready as I'll ever be," I winked.
The train station was dark and dreary. I strangely felt comfortable sitting in the silence. The sound of the train pulling into the location filled the station. The lights inside lit up the dark station. I waited patiently with the others for the train to open its doors and let us in to the light carriages. We all grabbed a seat pushing past people as we walked past. A guy gave me a dirty look, but I decided not to waste my breath. I had more important things to think about. We sat in silence, everybody thinking over the next hour. The train took 10 minutes to reach the city limits. We would have to leave the cabin before the train stopped. Guards would be on full-time patrol for us and the emperor wouldn't be taking any chances... not tonight. I opened the door between cabins and the force of the air pushed me back slightly.
"Ready?" I asked back at the others.
"Okay... let's go!" I said stepping out to the ledge.
The scenery whizzed past. Posts and signs flew past at top speed. As the train slowed down I crouched over and climbed to the under carriage of the train. The trains’ wheels were only inches from my face. One slip and I'd be sucked underneath and sliced to pieces by the wheels. I've seen stories of children playing on the tracks and getting killed by the speed-train. They never did come out in one piece. Parts were never found and I didn't want to die that way and besides I'd hate to die just before my moment of retribution. I looked back. Maxwell was right behind me. He was shouting something to me, but the words were sucked from his mouth and never made it to my ears. All I could hear was the train flying over the track and the sound of the wheels going round. I carried on pulling myself across the bottom of the train. The train pulled to a stop as I lost my grip and dropped to the tracks.
I scrambled from under the carriage and grabbed my sheath. The dagger was still in place. I pulled it out. The blade came in handy as a mirror. I could see the guards checking the carriages. We had to move. I looked over at the others. Mikal motioned us for the all clear. I ran for the shadows on the other side of the tracks. They would be our refuge. The manor was only one mile away. We would be there in no time. It was just a matter of getting there unseen. Silently we made our way to the manor grounds. In the front courtyard was where the party was being held. I could hear the crowd from the station. Gorgan was beginning his speech.
"People... thank you for coming... As your ruler I have arranged a special treat for you all..." he bellowed.
We watched from the hills as he addressed the citizens.
"What do you think?" Emily whispered from under the hooded rags.
"Piece of cake," I flipped the hood up from my face and smiled.
"Wish me luck," I motioned Emily to give me a peck on the cheek.
She quickly did so and I darted for the fence to the manor ground
Emily was watch out while we executed the plan. Only four of us were to enter the premises, Maxwell, Scarlet, Mikal and I. The others were to make for a lasting attention getter. To which of yet I was oblivious.
"It'll be a nice surprise," Emily had told me.
The only thing that mattered was that Gorgan would die before sunrise.
The pure hatred cursed through my veins.
"Cole... do you read?" Maxwell's commanding voice echoed in my right ear.
"I read!" I answered grabbing the receiver in my ear.
Neil had implanted a special hearing aid that meant only we could hear each other and it lay on the inside of our ear.
"A guard is heading your way... Take him out and steal his equipment as planned. I will meet you at the rendezvous point in 10 minutes," then he was gone.
I pulled out the dagger and looked around the corner. Sure enough a guard walked in my direction only 12 yards away. He was smoking. I hid around the corner, the cold air making my breath visible and my heart skipping every other beat. I had never killed anybody in cold blood before. I considered the incident with the soldiers as purely impartial. The guard turned the corner and spotted me within an instant. As he raised his gun I panicked and plunged the dagger into his face, the guard fired a shot. I remembered Maxwell's words.
"Don't get any blood on the uniform. The emperor is going to spot it a mile off and I don't want any fuck ups,"
"Cole... You okay?" Mikal shouted as I quickly removed the guard’s uniform.
"I'm fine," I replied catching my breath.
"Are you sure you can go through with this... Scarlet is more than happy to take..."
"I'm fine... I'll do it... I can do it!" I cut him off.
"Well you better be sure, Cole... cause this is it... luckily I don't think anybody heard the shot, but I'd move quickly just in case," Maxwell sounded mad.
I moved quickly. Stripping the guy of his clothes and carrying them and his weaponry to a safe place to get dressed.
The rendezvous point was under the fountain around the back... away from the crowds.
"Everyone ready," Scarlet asked in a very curious way.
"He's good... just a bit shaken up after that guard... ain't that right bro'?" Mikal replied messing up my mousy hair.
"Yeah!" I said clutching the dagger.
"Right! Mikal and I will be your back up... Cole... Maxwell you'll be the assassins," Scarlet spelled out the plan one last time as we donned the guard’s masks. My mask was a bit bloody, but a rinse under the fountain cleared that right up.
We went our separate ways. Maxwell and I were to replace the guards at the quarters and reveal our intentions, before murdering the emperor and freeing the world from his evil.