Excerpt for The Girl Who Slayed a Dragon by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Girl Who Slayed a Dragon

A Short Story

by M. R. Mathias

Copyright 2017 by Michael Robb Mathias Jr.

SMASHWORDS EDITION

All Rights Reserved




The innkeep at the Kings Road Inn wasn’t taking Cora Dayne seriously, and she didn’t like it. She came in after a long, treacherous journey over the mountains, pulled him aside, and asked him about hiring a few of the impressive looking fighting men who frequented the place. When the keep asked what she wanted the men for, Cora hemmed and hawed around the subject. It was the only drinking establishment in the area, so she didn’t want to give a direct answer yet, for rumors would spread far too easily from here. Besides that, she didn’t have to say why, not to this fat slob.

The innkeep laughed loud and rude, and then looked around the nearly full common room. He mocked her by shouting out, “This one says she is looking for a man.”

An uproar of boasting, cackling, and propositioning ensued, leaving young Cora frustrated and more than a little embarrassed. But Cora wasn’t just any girl, she was Cora Dayne, daughter of Wikker Dayne, the infamous caravan captain. Cora Dayne, the girl who’d killed a snow cat that was six times her size with just a sword. Cora Dayne, the huntress who roamed the deeper mountains and kept her purse full of coins with all the meat she killed and sold at market.

Cora laughed to herself. On the other side of the mountains she was infamous. None of these louts recognized her or the dwarven-forged sword her father had given her, but they were about to.

Cora spent most of her life on the other side of the range in the unforgiving Northwood. Her father, and her father’s father, had called the frigid place home.

She was raised most of her twenty years by a loving mother, but a few years back, a dragon attacked their main herd of cattle in the pasture nearest the house and her mother had gotten the worst of its acidic spew.

Her father, once a proud and fierce man, now spent his time staring at the bottom of his cups. His guilt for not being there to save his wife, along with his failure to give her a son, were just too much for him to bear. He loved and adored Cora, well enough. To be truthful, he down right spoiled her when she was a girl, but Cora never wanted the dolls, hair brushes, and looking glasses he’d brought home from his frequent journeys across the mountains to the markets in Kingstown.

Cora wanted swords, bows, and armor. She was persistent, too, and committed to getting her heart’s desire, so much so she’d learned how to use the weapons. Since she was seven years old, she’d watched her father go through his training routines when he was home. Each morning, he would repeat the series of exercises and forms he’d memorized and, once he noticed her watching, he would sometimes do them twice. Having trained as a caravan guard for the Over Mount Company when he was just a boy, he’d faced all sorts of peril in his days, and he was once the best at what he did.

She had gone through the very same motions with her wooden sword until she was nine. Then with her first real blade, an overly heavy short sword that was as dull as drunkard. Through all the repetition, she grew smooth and agile, and by the time she was thirteen, she could do the routines as well as her father.

Wikker told her that he’d noticed her determination much earlier and had purposely brought her back the weighty short sword so that its heft and bulkiness would force her to grow strong and dexterous. But when he brought home Razor, the light, thin, dwarven-forged longsword she angrily gripped now, she’d surged past her father’s abilities and became somewhat of a legend in the Northwood.

Cora had taken it upon herself to hunt with the bow and work the gardens while caring for the animals while her father drowned his grief. She’d done well, too. She also prospected the high mountain streams for precious metals and stones she could use to trade for supplies on her occasional trips to Kingstown or the Frozen Docks at North’s End.

She’d fought off bears, trolls, and ogres in the Northwood and the ever so treacherous snow cats that stalked her almost every time she went up into the high peaks to prospect. They seemed to think she was a tasty thing to eat, and she had killed one a few years back. It happened the year after her mother had died and her father had fallen to pieces.

Her father’s sister had come up from the northern foothills, allowing Cora a well needed break from her routine at the farm. An overly curious male snow cat had snuck up on her while she panned for silver chips. It stood as still as a stone while watching her. He was big, at least ten paces from the tip of his tail to his huge fanged maw, and his pelt was thick and as white as the snow around them. He hadn’t been threatening though, only watching.

After seeing the oddly curious predator standing there, Cora began to sing and softly talk to him. She’d been scared but confident the cat meant no harm. To her great surprise and terrified excitement, the statue still feline finally twitched a whisker, yawned, and then, after walking a small circle, it stretched out in the snow and went to sleep. Cora kept on singing and talking to her new friend while she went about scooping up river soot and sifting out the tiny silver flakes in it. She kept on doing what she was doing and had nearly forgotten about the lazing feline until a low rumbling growl came to her ears from a nearby ledge.

It was a female snow cat, an old one. Her bared yellow fangs were the size of Cora’s fingers. The female’s paws were big enough to cover Cora’s whole chest, with claws that could easily rip her in two. Unlike the young male, this snow cat wasn’t just curious. This cat was angry and more than a little hungry, and Cora barely had time to drop the pan from her hands and pull her sword free before it leapt all the way over her, leaving her trapped between the hungry white creature and the frigid waters she’d been prospecting.

She whirled toward the cat and dropped into a defensive stance that left her open to make an assortment of attack moves, and then she began to yell at the beast.

“Go away,” she called, “Leave me alone.”

Of course, it didn’t respond in any way, other than another snarling growl.

She’d always thought them sleek, elegant, and beautiful creatures, and would have never thought of hunting them for their valuable fur and teeth as some people did. Until that moment, Cora had only hunted the elk herds and the smaller antelope that frequented the Northwood. She’d never had to kill a killer. She’d never even fought a person that was truly fighting back for purposes other than training. Yet she knew, without a doubt, that it would come down to her life or the life of the female snow cat so she steeled herself for battle and hoped she could find an escape.

Then the old female roared out a sharp, painful sounding yelp. It leapt around to face away from Cora. The cat’s big tail, as big around as Cora’s wrist, whacked across the side of her head and sent her stumbling. When she looked up, she saw the younger male that had been napping. He bared his teeth, his maw starkly smeared with fresh crimson as the female charged to attack him.

The battle that ensued was long and bloody and ended when the wise old female had her slavering jaws around the male’s throat. Cora was overcome with an urgent need to save the male, but she was afraid.

He had defended her, and this resonated through her core to the point that she put her fears aside and brandished her sword.

“So, this is literally what steeling yourself means,” she mumbled as she ran out and gained a favorable position on the female. Once she was beside it, she saw the male was already laying limp.

She couldn’t dally.

She charged forth with her blade held out in a ready-to-thrust position. Using all her weight and momentum to help her, she took three steps and pushed Razor deep between the female’s ribs. The lack of resistance the skin and the flesh underneath gave against her sliver of steel was surprising. Then Razor’s hilt hit skin. Her hands disappeared into thick white fur, and a flash of feral rage exploded through her. She yanked Razor free, which was harder than pushing it in, and then jumped back to await the cat’s response.

Luckily Cora was quick and the old cat was fatigued or Cora would have been ripped in half. Cora, in a low, defensive stance, smelled the musky scent of the cat’s fur as a claw passed barely a breath away from her face. Instinctually, she reached out with a long chopping swing and, with the luck of the Gods, the tip of the long blade caught flesh as it came down across the exposed side of the old cat’s neck. The blow severed several of the beast’s arteries, but the cat was still in a rage, and it leapt at Cora. Amazingly, it only managed to knock her backwards into the stream before it fell still in the snow.

The male was wounded in several places, and all through the night, while Cora huddled half-naked next to the fire she built to dry her clothes, the young cat moaned and snorted and whined pitifully. Cora wished she could help, but she struggled to stay warm in the frigid night, and she knew nothing of healing lore.

Eventually, she fell asleep. She woke shivering to find that the fire had burned down to coals. It wasn’t until after she’d added an old oil rag to the blaze that she noticed the silence. Holding her breath and praying to the gods to not let it be, she turned to look for the young male snow cat that had saved her. She expected to see a cold, stiff body lying there, but to her great relief, the cat was gone, leaving only a set of paw prints in trampled snow that was more red than pink.

When dawn finally came, Cora could see just how much blood had been spilled, and she was certain the young male would die, if it hadn’t already. Sadly, she went about skinning the old female and, more than once, had to stop to wipe a tear from her eyes.


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