Read Dragonslayer: A Novel Online

Authors: Wayland Drew

Tags: #Science fiction; American, #Fantasy fiction, #Dragonslayer. [Motion picture], #Science Fiction, #Nonfiction - General, #Science Fiction & Fantasy - Fantasy, #Non-Classifiable

Dragonslayer: A Novel

BOOK: Dragonslayer: A Novel
4.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

A novel by Wayland Drew

Based on the screenplay written by Hal Barwood & Matthew Robbins

A Del Rey Book BALLANTINE BOOKS • NEW YORK

A Del Rey Book Published by Ballantine Books

Copyright © MCMLXXXI Paramount Pictures Corporation and Walt Disney Productions. All Rights Reserved.

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada, Limited, Toronto, Canada.

Manufactured in the United States of America

Jacket art and all photographs supplied by Paramount Pictures Corporation.

Dragonslayer is a trademark of Paramount Pictures Corporation.

Contents

chapter one
: Cragganmore 1

chapter two
: Journeys 18

chapter three
: The Blight 36

chapter four
: The Pyre 47

chapter five
: The Chosen 56

chapter six
: The Forest Pool 68

chapter seven
: Swanscombe 79

chapter eight
: Morgenthorme 103

chapter nine
: Sicarius 127

chapter ten
: Battle 147

chapter eleven
: Heronsford 158

chapter twelve
: The Lake of Fire 169

CHAPTER ONE

Cragganmore

The tower was
square and thick. It squatted defiantly on its hilltop, its narrow windows and arrow-slots facing north and south, east and west, like elongated and blinded eyes. Once the keep of a proud fortress, it was surrounded now by rubble and by ruins, and it itself was crumbling inexorably. Centuries of rain and frost had nibbled its masonry. Parts of its roof had collapsed. Its sills and timbers were soft with rot.

A windless hush surrounded the tower, and filled the vast bowl of land around its knoll. The last sunlight lay on the broken roof, but the valley below was blanketed by heavy dusk, and the quicksilver river had darkened and vanished behind its screen of trees.

The sun set reluctantly. It touched the horizon, bulged, began to move beneath.

It was the eve of the spring equinox; the following day would be given half to light and half to darkness.

Motionless, clinging upside down on the coarse bark of an oak, a small brown bat watched the setting of many suns. All were in the composite eye of a fat beetle, two inches away. The beetle was smug and drowsy, watching the sun; it did not know it was about to die.

It had been careless. So still had the bat been, so perfectly did the bat's color blend with the brown and mossy hue of the bark, that the beetle had not seen it.

Both hung motionless, insect and predator. Then, as the sun shrank finally to a mere bead, the bat's left wing unfolded with only the slightest silken whisper, moved over the drowsing beetle, enfolded it. The insect screamed, a sound heard only by the bat. It struggled briefly under the membrane, before it was crushed against the bark. When the bat's keen mandibles closed upon it, it was still twitching, although it was quite dead.

The bat was ravenous. It had eaten nothing for two days and two nights. During the days it had slept, exhausted, but during the nights it had traveled, launched on a lone flight across the darkened land.

It did not know why it had left home. Nor had it any reason to recall what it had seen on its long flight. But some things it did recall. The tiny dots of sun in the eye of the unfortunate beetle, for example, had recalled other dots—the fires of lonely villages and encampments flickering in the vast darkness of the undulating land. Some had been larger than others, villages aflame. And the beetle's dying screams had recalled other sounds as well, the screams of torn animals, and men's cries for help from the borders of random fields, and sometimes the shrieks of women. And the beetle's mangled corpse had recalled other corpses, both fresh and blackened, littering the battlefields over which the bat's silent and inquisitive wings had borne it. Looking down now through the deepening dusk at a silver band of river, the bat recalled other rivers, some with weird shapes moving on and in them; some quite empty.

The edge of its hunger blunted, the bat uttered cries, the plaintive cries of a creature searching for another of its kind. There came no answer, and the bat's flickering ears received only the hum of myriad evening insects. The bat yawned. Its claws clenched in the oak bark and its back arched catlike. Its wings unfolded and stretched with a sound like the rippling of soft silk. Then, in an indolent movement, it released its grip and glided down and out through the oak leaves and into the evening air. Ahead rose the stone tower where, the bat's instincts told it, there would be fine fare—worms lifting pale snouts in the stagnant moat, fat and witless fireflies, thick salamanders nudging through dank masonry.

Nor was the bat mistaken. As it neared the tower it was stricken by the splendid odor of decay, an odor so delectably rich that the bat swooned, clasping its skin wings across its abdomen and gliding along a little updraft. It was an odor that caressed an ancient memory in the base of its medulla, an odor of the death of creatures that the bat's kind had not seen for generations. Hungrily the bat glided down, heading for a dark area in the expanse of wall that it knew to be an opening. Beyond that opening the succulent grubs would be moving in rotting beams.

The bat grinned in anticipation.

But suddenly it veered out, terrified. The gray beauty of the evening had been shattered by a flash of light so brilliant that it hurt the bat's eyes. Like lightning, it was accompanied by a thunderous crack, but instead of jabbing talons of fire at earth, or flickering in a liquid wash through distant valleys, this lightning had shot out from the window of the castle. Its shape was ghastly. It was like the bat itself but with drooping tail, and elongated neck, and yawning, awful jaws. In the bat's sudden desperate efforts to avoid those phantom jaws, it uttered a string of cries like the shrieks of the beetle which now lay torn within it. The next instant, however, the vision vanished. The iridescent wings and arching neck dwindling down into the starlight gleaming on the membranes of the bat itself, in terrified zigzag flight down the valley, away from the castle.

A paler and steadier light replaced the lightninglike flash. It came from a charcoal brazier just inside the second-story window of the tower, a brazier whose magical flaring up had so frightened the bat.

Had the bat flown into the room it would not have found what it expected. Here and there in the remotest corners, dripping water had leached lime from the ancient stones and formed grotesque and bulbous stalactites; but for the most part the room was dry, darkened by the smoke of countless fires. From the ceiling hung not only candelabra but also the mummified cadavers of small animals, and strange instruments which could have been the tools of torture or sorcery. Books and scrolls bearing arcane symbols lay open on elevated reading desks, and shelves of other scrolls lined a wall. Passageways and staircases, ascending and descending, led off from the room at odd angles; in fact, this was less a room than the heart of a labyrinth, which could be reached in many ways.

In the center stood an old man. His feet were braced apart under a fawn robe of coarse cloth. His eyes and his outstretched hands flickered with lambent fire. If the chimera of the dragon had not frightened the bat, the man would have done so, for power emanated from him. He was Ulrich, the master of Cragganmore, most powerful of sorcerers. It was he who had ignited the brazier with such force as to send a dragon's fiery image hurtling into the night. The specter had startled him; he saw in it a premonition, and he had paused before lighting the other fixtures in the room.

Now he turned.
"Omnia in duos. Duo in unum. Unus in nihil. Haec nec quattor, nec omnia, nec duo, nec unus, nec nihil sunt."
He laughed, his old voice like stone on rusted metal. His bent fingers flicked infinitesimally, and, as they did so, ensconced candles on both walls flared and hot wax rippled down to thicken the stalactites beneath. The flames lit strange bulges and concavities about the room and stirred odd occupants to life. On its oaken pedestal, a gyrfalcon raised its head and gazed intently at the window, sensing the bat's passage. On a ledge above, three pigeons stirred uneasily, watching the man, but did not take flight. To one side, so still that it could have been a statue, a stately heron slept, balanced on one splayed foot. A raven, stark white, crouched motionless on one of the chandeliers. "Ulrich," it said quietly, "111 wrought." Its voice was like a timeless and exotic stringed instrument.

The old man ignored it. He turned to a circular table in the center of the room, already occupied by a stone bowl that sat upon it. He moved with difficulty, turning in a series of small cautious steps in the way of old men, supporting himself on a gnarled cane. Although a sinewy power still showed in the movement of his shoulders, he was clearly very old, and weariness hung upon him like the folds of the gown itself, weighing heavily on his neck and his shoulders, and drawing them down and forward. His gait was constricted and shuffling, as if he had been hobbled. Furthermore, it was obvious that with the lonely passing of the years he had grown careless of his appearance; indeed, he had abandoned personal attentions almost completely, and now when he bent to gaze into the stone bowl of still liquid he was startled by the reflection of a grizzled and repugnant old man, looming toward him as if out of his very past. He appeared like someone from his own childhood, one of the countless wanderers who traveled the forest paths in those days, grim, dogged and limping, men who had long since forgotten the object of their quest and for whom mere movement had become the reason for being. Was he like one of these? Yes, like the senile celebrants he had once chanced upon in the alder thickets, in a spot once sacred, practicing among their dolmens rites made obscene by forgetfulness, he was old. His was now such a face as he remembered—the hair gone, the eyes liquid oysters in pouches of flesh, the mouth dribbling into a caked and yellow beard, the skin pocked and blemished. Was this indeed
him?
Yes. The thing in the bowl had nodded,
yes.
And this fact was all the more astonishing because at that very moment he glimpsed behind this specter a beautiful vision, a fleeting vision now in white robe, now in trousers and jerkin, a beautiful young girl who, before she had vanished in the shadows of the bowl, had turned for a last long look. Could it be, really, that she was there no longer, that she had passed beyond the power of even his recall?

BOOK: Dragonslayer: A Novel
4.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Awaken by Skye Malone
Blood Relative by Thomas, David
Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
Flings by Justin Taylor
Dark Resurrection by James Axler
Primal by Sasha White
Caprice by Carpenter, Amanda
Breathless by Lurlene Mcdaniel
Shadow Play by Barbara Ismail
Wicked by Any Other Name by Linda Wisdom