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The Hill

 

 

        It had been a hill, nothing more.  Or so they thought.  They were certain the boy was wrong.  There was no other explanation.  He must have been delirious.  It was just a hill, wasn’t it?  He was wrong, wasn’t he?  The citizens of the town of BerryDown couldn’t even begin to believe that the hill was what the boy said it was.  BerryDown had always been a quiet little village, and no one could ever remember something even remotely like this before.

            Just outside BerryDown stood a huge hill, one that had always been a part of local legend.  It was shaped very oddly, much like a shaped mound of dirt.  The people always told stories about how the hill would come alive on nights when the moon was bright, and the sprites and fairies danced, and there were many hikers who had come back from the hill claiming that they felt the hill move, and that they had heard loud spurts of air, much like breathing, as if the hill were alive.  The local boys had named the hill Dragon Hill, because of its odd shape and all the stories.  Of course, no one could remember when the hill had gotten, or just who had given it that name.

            The whole thing began when James, the son of the town butcher, started snooping through the books in his attic.  It was a rainy day with nothing to do and James loved books, especially old ones.

            He rummaged through the hundreds of boxes, feeling the covers of the thousands of books at his disposal, loving all the different textures; some smooth, some bumpy, some hard leather, others soft as a newborn’s skin.  He pulled several out, and read little bits of them.  The different styles amazed him, showing all the places of the world through their descriptions of the many different scenes.  He loved how he could be transported from his home to a lonely isle in the middle of the ocean, and then to the forests where the elves roamed freely, all just by switching books.

            James was a quiet boy who never did anything adventurous.  He stayed home quite a bit, and had little to do with the other boys his age, and never, ever pulled any of the pranks that usually are rampant in boys his age.  He always minded, and most of all, he never, never lied.

            James had been in the attic for several hours, enjoying the books when he found a book the looks of which he had never before seen.  It was beautifully bound in soft leather, and the wording on the front and spine was done in gold.  He was puzzled by what it said, for at first he did not understand the words.  It simply said “Drakenlure”.  The book was definitely old, and had seen better times, but for some unknown reason it intrigued him, so he took it.  He went down to his bedroom and laid on the bed.  He puzzled over what the cover said, staring at the beautifully flowing golden script.  Then he realized what it said, and why he hadn’t understood it for the longest time.  It was written in an older language, a form of Olde Englishe.

            The title of the book was no more a mystery.  “Dragonlore” was the title of the beautifully bound book that he now held in his hands.  As he made this realization, he said the word out loud.  “Dragonlore,” he whispered softly “What a beautiful name that is.”

            Then he pulled back in shock, as the book began to glow, and the gold on the cover changed.  The previous design had been some type of Celtic knot, a beautiful weaving of one looping piece of gold, connected at both ends, circling back and forth, but now it was flowing together, and reforming.  What startled him even more than the fact that it was changing was how it was changing.  It was becoming a beautiful golden dragon.  He was amazed at the beauty of the creature that was forming in gold right before his eyes.

            He was completely enthralled now, and there was nothing which could have separated him form that book, not even if the walls were to come tumbling down around his ears.  After the dragon was done forming, he sat staring at the cover for a moment, then slowly, reverently he opened the cover.  Inside he found a language the likes of which he had never seen.  Fortunately, it had a translation directly beneath it.

 

{Dragonlore

the Myths and Legends

Of the Most Famous Creatures

To Ever Walk the Earth.

 

Written By Stefan Cronosk, MasterMage.}*

*Originally written in Ancient Runic

 

Dragonlore

the Myths and Legends

Of the Most Famous Creatures

To Ever Walk the Earth.

 

Written By Stefan Cronosk, MasterMage.

 

            Even the wording captivated him.  Their simplicity astounded him, as did the title which the author took.  MasterMage.  The word was one of those that completely enthralled, and which confounded James.  He had heard of Mages.  They were magicians, sorcerers and some of the most powerful people he’d ever heard of.  A MasterMage, he decided, must have been one who had been most powerful of all the powerful beings known as Mages, and this thought excited and also scared him.  To think that he was tampering with the property of a MasterMage!

            He considered putting the book down, but then realized that he couldn’t possibly put it down, not now.  He realized that the book was too beautiful and intriguing.

            He turned the page and sat face-to-face with the most ferocious dragon he had ever seen.  It stood in the picture, flame roiling across its black lips and through its scaly nostrils, as its tail coiled dangerously around a house, just beginning to contract, splintering the wooden frame of the cottage.  It was the most beautiful thing, as well as the scariest, he had ever seen.

            He turned the page and began to read the stories contained within the great volume.  The stories were all interesting, speaking of how dragons were created, what they did, and how they became close to extinct.  These stories captured his attention, and he became so involved he didn’t notice how late it was getting.

            Then he came across the story that completely scared and excited him as none other had before.  It was a story in which Stefan Cronosk, the MasterMage, had enchanted a dragon.  Imagine!  A person capable of enchanting a dragon; the most powerful wielders of magic that had ever existed.

            The story said that the dragon had been enchanted in a battle between Cronosk and the dragon.  Stefan had come looking for the dragon, in an attempt to keep the dragon from attacking a nearby village.  The dragon had become so absorbed in its attack that Cronosk had found a way around the dragon’s defenses.  Cronosk had cast a spell of long-sleeping upon the dragon, and then had surrounded the dragon in a hill, so that it wouldn’t be disturbed.

            The part of the story that scared him the most, however, was not the graphic description of the battle, but the place where the battle had taken place.  The book claimed the battle had taken place just outside the small town of BerryDown, just south of the English/Scottish border.  His hometown?  Surely not.  But it could be no other, there was no other town in all the Isles called BerryDown.  And there was old Dragon’s Hill.  Could it be?  It must.  The thoughts raged through his mind.  He continued his reading, trying to find out more.

            The story went on to tell what the terms of the spell had been, and even how to cast it.  it said that it also told how to undo the spell, but that part was in the same funny language that the first  page had been in.  He turned past the last page to the back cover.  Someone had scrawled the weird language, and the translations for the weird letters.  He rapidly deciphered part of the spell.

            “Sleep consuming, Sleep devouring,

            Dark and weary, Dark and leery.

            The sleep consumes,

            Falling down, Falling in.

 

            He went no further than that in deciphering the spell, and continued to the part which told how to undo the spell.

            It said something about only one could remove the spell, but it also gave the words and circumstances needed to remove the spell.  Apparently, if this certain person went to the top of the hill on the night of the full moon, when the dragon in the sky (Draco) was directly overhead, and uttered the words, then the dragon would be freed.

 

            “The night is bright, the moon is full,

            The Dragon flies high in the sky,

            Tonight is the night for the hill to wake,

            Awaken Dragon, and fly.”

 

            James suddenly remembered that the moon would be full that night.  “Wouldn’t it be fun to go and try, even though I know I am not the one who can awaken the dragon?” James thought to himself.  He decided to make the trip.  In secret, of course.  He couldn’t tell anyone, they would discourage him, tell him he was being foolish.

            He went and told his parents he was going for a walk.  When they asked where he was going, he told them that he would be down at the other end of town from the hill.  Naturally, he wouldn’t tell them where he was really going, or why he was going there.  They would think him daft.  It was usual for him to take late walks to see the stars, so they weren’t in the least bit surprised. 

            He went north of town rapidly, walking at his fastest pace.  He came to the hill, and stood at his base for a moment, staring in awe, wondering if it could really be.

            He went up the hill, slowly, making sure of his footing.  The moon was bright, but he wasn’t too sure, so he made sure to be extra careful.  He managed to make it to the top of the hill without spraining his ankle.  Once he got there, he took a good look around.  He determined that the moon was definitely full, as it climbed over the horizon line, and Draco was immediately above him.  He had memorized the uncasting, so that he wouldn’t have to carry the book, and he spoke it softly, slowly.

            “The night is bright, the moon is full.  The Dragon flies high in the sky.  Tonight is the night for the hill to wake, awaken Dragon and fly.  The night is bright, the moon is full, the Dragon flies high in the sky.  Tonight is the night for the hill to wake, awaken Dragon and fly.” Jams repeated the incantation slowly and clearly, barely audible.  With each time that he said the words, however, his voice became more loud, and more clear.  After the seventh or eighth time of repeating the phrase, he began to notice a slight tremor, an undulating motion, as if the hill was breathing.  His voice nearly became drowned out by the noise, which, at first, eluded him.  Then he realized that it was the sound of breathing.  He couldn’t stop, however.  There was something driving him on, keeping him from stopping his chanting.

            Then it really happened.  The hill began to shudder and shake and crumble.  A portion began to raise off the ground, and all the world seemed to swell and tip on its end.  James screamed into the night, his chanting finally broken.   The west side of the hill raised and roared and snorted a ball of midnight smoke, like nothing James had seen before.

            The dragon was beautiful, its scarlet scales glistening in the full winter moonlight, its nostrils flaring, anger burning muck like a coal in its eyes.  James watched in horrific awe as the dragon spread its dark red wings, as they stretched with the sound of old, unused leather.  When they had reached their fullest span, they snapped sharply upward and down, shaking off the dirt which rested on them still.

            James’ eyes were wide with shock, as the dragon swung its head around to face him, and snorted hot, humid breath upon his face, nearly knocking him off the back of the dragon.  Then the dragon’s jaws opened, and James was certain it was going to eat him.  The dragon’s mouth opened ever wider, and James, fearing his death, closed his eyes and waited for death.  As James trembled and waited for the worst, the dragon only spoke.

            “Thank you child, for releasing me.  I know that thee hast not knowledge of where that evil mage, Stefan, would be, so I’ll ask you not.  Now, down and be gone with thee, before my hunger overtakes me.”

James turned and ran down the dragon’s back and stumbled.  He slid down upon the dragon’s tail and fell to the ground.  He was afraid for his life and cared not where he went.  But before he got far, the dragon spoke again.

“Boy.”  The dragon spoke with a voice as loud as thunder, yet as soothing as the rumble of rain upon a roof during a summer storm.  James turned back toward the voice, and stood trembling before the fearsome creature.  “Here is a present so that you may know that I am real.  It as magical as I.  I thank you again.  Now be gone.”

            James ran till his legs could carry him no further.  He knew not which direction he was going.  Then he collapsed, and turned back to look.  The dragon was still there, though it was getting ready to leave.  James watched in awe as the long tail, thick as a tree trunk, swung loosely back and forth with the power of a hurricane.  The redness of the dragon startled him, and he stood and watched the beauty of the beast.

Then the dragon lifted off, soaring through the chill night air, its immense and beautiful body for a moment blocking out the moon, as it rose.  It circled once, relishing the feel of the wind beneath its wings for the first time in centuries, then swooped low over the town and away.

It was only then that he remembered the gift the dragon had given him.  He looked at his hand, and there rested a beautiful blue stone, etched with the design of a dragon on its top, shaped like a tear.

He began running toward the town.  He ran and ran till he arrived at the edge of town.  He ran screaming through the town, waking people, screaming about a giant dragon, and a hill, and a spell. 

When they finally calmed him down enough to talk to him, the people of the town wouldn’t believe him.  He seemed to be blabbering, and there couldn’t be any truth to his statements.  Then one of the town members looked out toward where the hill should have been.  It had gotten to be about daylight by that time, so they could see the place where the hill had been.  The citizen screamed for the others to come and look.  They all looked out where the hill should have been, and stared in wonder at the empty spot where the hill had been.

The town quieted down after a while, and explained it all away.  An earthquake explained the disappearance of the hill, and delirium was the answer to the boy.  Many never believed differently, but there were some who did.

It was just a hill.  Wasn’t it?

 

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