Den of the Drake
by William Joseph Roberts
Draven shouldered his way through the heavy dungeon door that all
but disintegrated on impact. What remained of the door hung defiantly
from rusted spikes of iron that were driven into the damp dungeon
walls. The rotted, moss-covered leather hinges creaked as it swung to a
“By the Gods, what is that stink?” Draven brushed rotted bits of
wood from himself and looked about.
“If we find more than a rusted hunk of steel, we’ll be lucky,”
Callum said. The young bard strode cautiously into the chamber, torch
“It’s just as the rest of the keep. See there,” Draven said,
pointing. Stepping closer, he kicked the chest plate of an armored
corpse. “Recently deceased fools with nothing left of value to pick
“The old tinker at the tavern had mentioned a band of warriors
seeking fame and riches.”
“Soldiers of fortune,” Draven growled, then spat.
“You say that as if we were better men.”
“Better or not, I am only angry that they arrived before us.”
“What is that?” Callum swung the torch about, moving deeper into
the chamber. “There. Are those chests?”
“For the love of the Great Mother, they are.” Draven sighed. “Every
last one of them shattered and missing their contents.” He kicked at a
pile of debris.
“Maybe not all of them,” Callum said. Crouching, he reached for
something beneath the remains of a heavy banded chest, then stood. He
flipped an Angaran copper, catching it with ease, then rolled it across
his knuckles. “It may not be riches, but we won’t leave empty-handed.”
Draven laughed and shook his head. “That tiny morsel is worth little
more than a smile and a nod in any tavern from here to the Grumaerian
“Even so, the retelling of our heroic adventure against these poor
dead souls should fetch us a few silver at the next inn.” Callum
laughed then cleared his throat. “Behold, my lords and ladies…”
Draven froze at a sound from farther back into the dark. He motioned
for Callum to hand him the torch, then pointed at the bard’s ears. His
gaze shifted about, searching the dark as a predator stalking its prey.
He stepped cautiously across the damp cobblestone floor. Heavy banners
of deep blue hung from the high ceiling to the floor and were opened
enough to reveal an obscured passage beyond. Glancing back toward
Callum he nodded in the direction of the banners then moved ahead
silently. The stink of the place that threatened to overwhelm him
reminded him of a serpent’s nest when opened in winter. Cautious of the
torches' flame, Draven extended the light ahead between the fabric
banners, revealing a domed alcove. The center of the antechamber was
dominated by a massive dark and unmoving mound. Iridescent reds and
purples played across the object’s surface amid flickering shadows cast
by the torches light. The muscular curves of a large beast seemed to
appear from the dark surface as Draven stepped further into the guarded
chamber, stopping short at the sight of three, partially gnawed and
armored bodies and a sword tip protruding through the top of the beasts
“One can only hope that the poor bastards had escaped their bodies
before the beast began its feast,” Draven said. His breath hung in his
throat at the sound of movement upon stone. “Ready yourself and back
out slowly,” he whispered over his shoulder.
No sooner had he drawn his axe from the holder at his back than the
mound of black scaly flesh shifted as a smaller beast emerged. It
sprang forth with the speed of a panther, leaping to cross the distance
of the chamber without effort.
Draven dove, rolling to the right. He spun on his heels once he
regained his footing and struck at the beast with a backswing of his
The beast leapt back, clinging to the wall. Viscous mucus dripped
from rows of needle-like teeth as it let out a growling hiss that
reverberated throughout the chamber.
“Let’s me and you dance, beast,” Draven said with his own
growl. He brandished the blade from side to side in a whirling twirl
before he leapt and spun, bringing it round in a wide and deadly arc.
Leaping backward, the beast bounded to the floor then off the
opposite wall before pouncing upon Draven from behind.
Draven collapsed from the weight of the thing. With all of his might
he shifted beneath the creature; hooking it under one leg he forced it
to roll. Sliding around on the smooth-scaled thing, he gripped it about
the neck, and, digging his heels into its flanks, wrenched its head
back with the entirety of his being.
The beast shook and roared through gasping breaths. Draven’s heart
pounded in his ears as he strained, fearing his arms would pull free
from their sockets.
“Hold it still!” Callum charged forward, sliding the edge of his
blade across the beast’s exposed neck as he sprinted past.
It bucked and writhed to escape Draven’s death grip. Gurgled gasps
escaped from the opening in the creature’s neck. It coughed and choked
amid frothy black spurts of ichor from the gash as it fought to stay
upright. Finally, its strength waned as it succumbed to its wounds and
crossed the veil into eternal darkness.
Draven dropped the beast, letting it fall to its side. He flexed,
then shook his arms to get the blood flow to resume.
“How much do you suppose a tale such as this will be worth at the
Callum pondered. “At least a meal and a drink if we’re lucky,” he
“Good!” Draven laughed as he picked up his axe. “After a fight like
that, I could use both. Let us leave this place and be on our way!”
© 2020 William Joseph Roberts
In a previous lifetime, William
Joseph Roberts was an F-15
mechanic and Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force. He has
traveled the world and experienced many things in his few years. During
this lifetime, he has been called a Jack of all trades, a Renaissance
man, and an insane squirrel wrangler by his peers.
Since his enlistment
ended, he has pursued careers as an
industrial and architectural designer, design engineer, and now,
eclectic writer of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and any other
genre that the evil mind squirrels demand he write in.
William Joseph Roberts currently resides in the quaint southern
town of Chickamauga, Georgia with his loving wife, three freaky-smart
nerd children (The Bunnies), and a small pack of fur babies.
Find out more at www.williamjosephroberts.com
Find more by William Joseph Roberts in the Author
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