Writing Challenges

I’ve happened upon a great online writer’s group. Our challenge this time was to create a short story with a “naughty” theme. This is my G rated contribution.

“‘The Dragon Hunter is here, madam’ said Mavis, her servant, poking a head around the study door.

Isabeau’s heart raced. Could he suspect? What had he heard? Was he alone? She must escape the manor, unnoticed, and warn Zinnath to fly away.

She straightened her back and placed both palms, face down, on her mahogany desk. ‘Show him in, Mavis,’ she said, and steeled herself.

Mavis returned shortly. ‘Dragon Hunter, Brice, madam.’

A tall man entered her study. The moment their eyes locked, Isabeau knew she was in trouble. Instantly, they appraised the other worthy. A spark ignited. Brice strode over to the front of the desk. The sword and axe on his belt jangled. She smelled a musky sweat as he neared.

She screwed up her nose and held out a delicate gloved hand to bely her confidence. His hand encased her hand. His solid, crushing, grip gave her chills. ‘I’m Isabeau. You’ll not find any dragons here,’ she said, as she warily took in his weapons.

‘Really?’ he said. ‘I’ll stay a week and snoop around. If that’s ok? Quash the rumours you’re a Dragon Protector?’

‘A spiteful rumour,’ she admonished with all the distain she could muster as her heart kicked in her chest. She walked on thin ice. ‘Snoop around. I don’t hide anything.’ She smiled and threw her long black hair over her shoulder.

He pulled up a chair. ‘You don’t mind if I sit?’

Isabeau watched him sit. ‘Um. If you wish.’ She dropped to her chair. ‘I have a few letters to write. Pretty ordinary stuff.’

Brice’s eyes narrowed as he leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. ‘Tell me, how does a respectable, beautiful lady of a large manor have rumours circulating about her sympathies toward dragons?’

‘I believe dragons are no threat.’ She held her chin up. ‘I’m not backward about admitting it or talking about it.’

‘Dragons killed my brother,’ he said, deadpan. ‘They are a threat.’

Isabeau squeezed her hands together. ‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered. ‘Dragons will respond if threatened. It’s a natural instinct. You can’t blame them for acting naturally.’ He glowered. ‘I’ll write now,’ she said and sheepishly picked up a pen.

For the rest of the afternoon, Isabeau was shadowed, whenever she left her desk, by the clink of Brice’s weapons. Beads of sweat trickled down her forehead. She furtively wiped them away before Brice noticed. How could she warn Zinnath with a constant tail?

The next day, rain pounded on the roof and Brice began snooping around, as promised. During the morning he questioned staff, looked in rooms and checked the stables. Isabeau gnawed on her nails when not writing letters. Her younger sister darted in after lunch.

‘Brice wants to see me next,’ she announced. ‘He’s nice. I like him. Did you know he’s considered one of the top dragon hunters? He’s brave. He’s killed a dragon and lived, which is more than anyone else.’

Isabeau stood and strode to grab her sister’s hands. ‘Killing a dragon is the height of cruelty. I wouldn’t be proud,’ she said, harshly and fiercely – passions incensed. She took a breath and continued firmly, ‘You must lie,’ she stressed. ‘Brice will kill Zinnath, given the chance. Zinnath is harmless but Brice won’t believe that. You can’t tell Brice about the cave. Do you understand?’ Isabeau regretted taking her sister to meet Zinnath. ‘Please? Arisa?’

‘Before Father died – he said it was wrong to lie,’ said Arisa, reefed her hands free and stormed out – like the petulant, spoilt child she was.

Isabeau stared after her sister – devasted. If Arisa spoke out, Zinnith was as good as dead. Isabeau planned on warning him tonight but she had no choice. It was now or never.

She crept to the doorway and looked left and right. Clear. With exaggerated steps, she tip toed across the dining hall, avoided the long table, and darted into the conservatory. At the back door, she stole another glance around. Clear. Staring at the rain, she shook her head.

She opened the door and ran over the uneven ground to the stables. In moments, her dress clung to her body. Inside the stables, out of the rain, she ran full hurtle – bang, smack – into Brice. She felt like a naughty child, caught in a naughty act – in her own home. She looked down, water dripped on the ground from her hair.

Brice grabbed her bare hands, annoyed. She jumped, startled by his presence and the feel of his rough, calloused hands. She’d never felt bare hands before. Bad manners. She puffed as her heart slowed.

‘Going somewhere?’ he whispered, thickly, still holding her wet hands.

She looked to his hands, holding hers, up to his eyes. Her heart started to pound.

‘I saw you come out here. I was curious,’ she lied. ‘You’ve already been here. What else is there here?’

He considered her and dropped her hands. He took a step back.

‘Lady Isabeau,’ he said, accusingly. ‘What games do you play? This is serious. There is more to the rumours, isn’t there?’

At least Arisa wouldn’t have to lie. She took a deep breath, ran fingers behind her ear to get some wet hair off her face, and plunged ahead. ‘What if I said there was?’

‘Is there a dragon nearby?’

‘I’ll only answer you, if you promise not to kill him,’ she said.

‘Him, is it?’

‘Promise?’

‘I’ll promise for as long as it’ll take me to ride for reinforcements. What you do in my absence can’t be helped,’ he said.

In her jubilation – she could warn Zinnath and he could fly away – she grabbed Brice’s biceps. ‘Really? You’d do that?’ his biceps flexed as he gently removed her hands. Her eyes roved, up and down, over the wet dress clinging to her body. ‘I marvel at your loyalty. I don’t agree with you but I can’t help begrudgingly admire you. You really believe dragons misunderstood?’

‘I do,’ she said with conviction.

‘Dinner, tonight? Before I go?’

Isabeau blushed. ‘Tonight in my dining hall, it is. I must go. Follow me, if you dare.’

She rushed toward the cave. Plunging into the rain, through the trees, with a swaying purpose.

Slowly, shaking his head, Brice smiled and followed her lithe frame.”