[Editor’s note: We are pleased to present the winner of the 9th-12th grade section of the Creaturepedia writing contest: Out of the Deeps of the Dragon King by Rose Swillum. Congratulations, Rose!]
The dragonet sat twiddling his thumbs, waiting for his refill. When the innkeeper returned with a mug of ale, the pirate gulped half of it down and began his second tale.
Not one of us said a word as we rowed away from where the Guilded Whilly went down with the great wyrm impaled on its heart-pike. We could feel the silence weighing down on us, and the setting sun cast a deep red glow on the water around us as if the water itself had turned red with the blood of the wyrm. Not many of us slept that night—we couldn’t, knowin’ the great crime we’d committed, knowin’ the danger of being out in the open sea. But nothin’ happened that night or the next day.
“At this rate of rowin’, we’ll be back in Skree in a month,” growled Captain Whilly. “We’ve only got a bit of dried flabbit and some chortlenuts, and that’s not near enough to feed all of us hungry dragon hunters for a day, let alone weeks.”
“We might try rowin’ ’round to find a school of glipper fish,” I suggested. “I’ve done a bit of fishin’ in my day.”
They agreed, and I grabbed one of the harpoons from the bottom of our boat. We didn’t have to wait long before one of the sailors shouted that he’d spotted some fish and we quietly rowed among them. I raised my spear, aimed at a large glipper, and ran it through. These glippers were much larger than any we had ever seen, and much stronger, too. I let out a yell as I was slammed against the edge of the boat by the unexpected pull of the fish I had speared.
“Don’t just sit there, HELP ME!” I yelled as I was almost yanked out of the boat by the fish.
Captain Whilly grabbed me feet just in time and pulled me back into the boat, still grasping the spear with all me strength. The fish continued to wriggle weakly on the tip of it. We all stared at the creature. This was no glipper fish. This was a creature like none we’d ever seen. It was at least four feet long with razor-sharp fins and tail. Its scales were green and gold and so bright they hurt yer eyes. Its teeth were bright orange and looked like thousands of razor sharp needles. The strangest thing about it was its eyes. Huge they were, and a blazin’ blue color, just starin’ straight at ya.
Illustration: “Daggerfish” by Aedan Peterson
“What in the name of Brimney Stupe!” Podo gasped, wakin’ from his sleep. He stared at the fish in horror. “That’s a warklerboop sharkfish! What are ya doin’ killin’ one? If they find out you’ve killed one of their own, they’ll get their revenge by dicin’ ya to death with their needle teeth!”
We quickly looked over the edge of our boats. Slowly surrounding us were the rest of the warklerboop sharkfish, hundreds of eyes, all the colors of the rainbow, starin’ at us.
“Quick,” Podo said, “Throw it back in the water before it dies and start rowin’ like mad!”
I hurriedly pulled the spear out of the warklerboop, and dropped it into the water and we all be-gan to row like our lives depended on it, which they did.
All of a sudden we heard the sound of thousands of wings, and we looked up in the sky and saw a great cloud of birds flyin’ straight toward us.
“Squibbles and quill diggles,” Podo cried, “Snickbuzzards! Row for yer lives, lads! They were after the sharkfish and now they be after us!”
In a flash of colors and the blinks of hundreds of eyes, the warklerboops disappeared beneath the waves, but we now had a bigger enemy to fight.
“Get yer swords and yer axes, and whatever you can lay yer hands on,” Willie yelled, “and keep rowin’!”
The snickbuzzards came down on us and began to peck and claw. We fought with all our might, but with every downed bird, three took its place. I was battling with a fierce one when suddenly I felt a stabbing pain in me eye and all was black though I was wide awake. I felt blood all over me face and I realized I’d had me other eye poked out. Now that made me boilin’ mad and I fought with renewed vigor, swingin’ me ax in the air, hopin’ I might happen to hit one. Then someone grabbed me arm.
“Stop, they’re flyin’ away!” It was Willie’s voice. “They’ve had enough of their flock killed and they’re retreatin’.”
“Land ho!” Gnut yelled, “we’re nearly to the fishin’ village in Shard Harbor. Whoopee!”
We yelled and laughed and cried and thumped each other on the back. A sailor bandaged up me eye sockets and we feasted on raw snickbuzzard— a squishy and fatty fare, but we were too hungry to care. The wind picked up, and a day and a half later we docked in Shard Harbor. Never had we been so glad to be home.
We went our separate ways, changed in more ways than just the loss of an eye or a leg. We’d destroyed a beautiful thing, that dragon, a creature that wasn’t ours to kill. Not one of us will ever for-get it. Our crime will haunt us to our deaths. Only now do we truly understand the majesty of the drag-ons and the mystery they hold. To kill a dragon is to kill legend and magic itself.
His second tale finished, the pirate leaned back in his chair. The man across the table looked back at him with wonder. “That was a tale worth telling,” he said, “you got any more good ones?”
The dragoneer smiled, “I might, but I’d need another mug of ale.” He clunked his empty one on the table and called for the innkeeper.
[Editor’s note: This was the winning entry for the 9th-12th grade section of the Creaturepedia writing contest. Congratulations, Rose Swillum! The runner-up was Illa Briar (parent: Lyndsay Greer) with The Marvelous Invention of Haric the Pungent. Well done, Illa!
To view the names of all the winners of the writing contest, click here.]