This story is by Lisette Golightly and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Nothing could have prepared me for battle. First, there were the archers hidden in the trees and then came the relentless cavalry. The men we opposed on the field of battle were swift swordsman. Death fell like rain. Shouts transformed into screams and terror soared through my soul. Not knowing what to do, I ran. I made it miraculously to the trees on the nearby mountain we had camped on. Once I was entirely alone I did not feel safe staying in one spot. I began to wander up the mountain and soon found myself in a cave. Upon further exploration a heavy, unpleasant odor invaded my senses and filled the air. My eyes burned slightly, but I continued on. The weight in the air thickened as the heat increased. Now I hesitated, sensing that there was more danger than I presumed.
A few yards ahead the cave opened up to a glistening cavern lined with treasure. As I enter, the gold along the walls began to move revealing two large beasts. Both had scales that matched the luster of the gems between their claws. One had hints of red along its scales, wings and horns. The other had a fiery orange hue. Their large figures moved to face my trembling form. Their clear, smooth eyes stared into my soul. I braced myself against the wall as the red one spoke to me.
“What do you want human?” The dragon’s voice echoed in the cavern and steam escaped the edges of his long snout.
All I could do was stare. My mouth was dry and words had abandoned me.
“You do not desire treasure.” It wasn’t a question, but I couldn’t figure out how they could assume that, it was true though.
“Who are you?” the dragon probed, determined to be answered.
“Dawn.” I said without much thought and not trying to disguise my voice.
“But you use another name. Are you boy?”
“No. I’m a girl. I am pretending to be a boy.”
“Why? What do you want?”
Talking seemed to be happening without any thought.
“I want revenge. I want to take down the army that burned my village and my family. But I can’t. I’m a powerless little girl who can’t do anything.”
“We can help.”
“You are not good fighter.”
I shook my head, “no, I’m not. I don’t think I ever will be.” Suddenly tears cloud my vision as I begin to express my thoughts I have not been able to fully share with anyone. “How can I survive now? The army is the only place for me and I can barely stop myself from crying when I see the enemy.”
“We have common enemy. You fight men who burn. You burn them back.”
“What do you mean? How do I burn them?”
The orange dragon moves closer. “You can win this war, child, if you accept some of our power. We will make you strong and quick. You will be like us, swift and precise. You will know the ways of war. You will be manly. You will conquer. Do you accept?”
“Yes, but how do I do tha-” the orange dragon let out a snort and the puff of steam surrounded me, blurring my vision until it faded and the heat around me increasing and exhausting my body until I gave in and, with a cry of pain, everything faded.
Arms wrapped around me as a worried voice called out to me. I felt so distant, but couldn’t come any closer. Slowly, I was drawn closer and comforted. I found myself murmuring and focused on the word that was being repeated. “Papa?”
“Shh, we are almost to camp.”
I kept silent until I was released from the arms that carried me. I opened my eyes and found myself beside Philip in a tent. Alarmed, I jumped away from him and nearly out of the tent.
“Do you not remember?” He asked, handing me a small bowl of food.
“What you did.”
“I ran away.”
“Not you didn’t. You waited until we were about to be overtaken when you came out and faced the kings army. How do you not remember taking on ten of their most skilled swordsman? It was like nothing I’d ever seen! No one among the kings ranks could match the skill you displayed. Where did you learn that?”
“Sure. Don’t play games now. You know how to fight. Everyone will want to know your secret.”
That night I dreamt of the cavern and the dragons I visited. They presented a scroll and pen. Words appeared on the scroll and they asked me to sign.
“Sign and we will grant you power to fight our enemy.”
“You mean, make me stronger, like a man?”
I accepted the pen and signed. A fiery breeze lifted and a new energy coursed through me igniting a fire within me to destroy. I felt, for the first time in my life, like I wasn’t powerless.
“Go! Go child and fulfill your destiny.” The orange dragon urged as I turned and ran out of cave down to the battle with a new rage and determination.
I woke with a start, wiping sweat from my face. Panting, I find Philip watching me.
“Do you always talk when you dream?”
“Well, you must really want to tell someone something.”
“Who are you?”
“My name is Don.”
He stood and stepped closer. “You are almost a convincing boy. With your battle scene yesterday, everyone else might believe you, but I don’t.”
“Why not?” I ask weakly, feeling like I have already lost.
His stare softens from intense to caring. “You need to tell someone. I promise, I will listen.”
Settling my gaze in his, I stiffen briefly as his arm rests on my shoulders and gently tugs me closer. I relax and lean into him. I fight back tears as I begin to tell him of the night my village burned and I found my father as he died. I told him about my decision to join the army and then
my encounter with the dragons. When I finished, I sat there silent. I wondered if he would expose me for what I was and abandon me. I became slightly anxious as he sat silently not sharing his thoughts.
Finally his deep voice revealed his thoughts, “You are the strongest person I have ever met.”
“What?” Baffled, I pull away to look at him.
“I can’t imagine witnessing the loss you have. But you have changed who you are to survive. You have seen real dragons! That gave you the courage to fight. Don’t you see? We could actually win the war now! We can’t let anyone know the truth about your skill, but we can use it. Do you trust me?”
Our lips met in agreement.
The war ended after a couple years. Three new generals took command before it ended. The last one was Philip. He had been trying to apply advanced battle strategies. With my new strength the soldiers have enhanced their training and we quickly turned the tide of the war. Philip kept my secrets, and kept me close. He called me his secret weapon. My family and other innocent villagers were avenged.