Sci-Fi & Fantasy
The first meeting of our two heroes. The happenings that took place after that, including an important basic lesson on baby dragons and a duel with a Toad Master.
Long, long ago, there stood a forest. As forests go, the oldest one on Armera. Its memory went back to the beginning of time. The trees recalled the first forming of the planet when they, as young saplings stood touched by the creative hand of God. An old group of trees, with deep thoughts. When man in his haste and ignorance, began to walk what he called Armera. In his stupidity, he taught the trees to talk. The trees explained their love of nature to man, and man gave the trees their names, and names for each type of plant, and animal, for man was the Namer of all things. Man, who couldn't stand anything without a title, also titled the Forest Forgotten. The trees accepted the Namer's name, content in the knowledge they shared with man, for the trees were very wise.
On the day when our tale starts in the Forest Forgotten, it was as always, a sunny day. On Armera it was never cloudy unless magic troubled the land. The flowers put on their brightest colors for spring. All the plants and animals looked happy to see new life again after a long cold winter, so they dressed accordingly. The older trees talked quietly to each other around the edge of a big clearing.
Cedric peered carefully from behind the branches of a huge walnut and felt clever for hiding. The old tree didn't even snap at what in normal conditions he would have considered a "pushy human". It looked much too involved in having an interesting conversation with a Laughing Lily Bush.
He wore a green and gold tunic with striped hose, green and yellow dotted gloves, and shoes and hat which contained a green and yellow feather. At fourteen, he was tall, handsome, and confident.
Hair of silver braided back from his high forehead and black eyes sparkled as he searched about the landscape. Stepping out from behind the oak, he walked cautiously around the area, then tripped over a short stump. The Lilly laughed. He stood and saw...nothing! How boring! For he was always ready to kill a dragon in the woods or slay a Toad Master. Now I am going to write about baby dragons, so if you already know about them, skip this next section.
A Brief History of Baby Dragons
At the time of this tale, dragons, or Toad Masters were high on the hunting list for any hunter or professional hero in the forest. They multiplied too quickly and were always hungry during early stages. This massive hunger caused them to eat defenseless young talking trees and laughing lilies. Baby dragons couldn't be hunted for it was the law. Babies needed to reach full-grown status to be hunted by man. They ate trees or flowering plants, full-grown dragons went after different game, they devoured treasure searchers, and anyone who were after their jewels, also dogs cats, and young children. No one in his right mind would search for a dragon alone. Dragons are well armored with gold and jewels on their bellies. They are like gigantic flying Galapagos iguana. Their wingspan can be up to forty feet, they range in color from yellow to silver and green. The gold dragons are the worst, for they are usually female and mothers. They are excellent hunters of people and a destroyer of towns, and they train their babies to be as cruel and mean as they are. Mothers show babies lots of gems. They take their favorites and these are added to their stomachs in a secret dragon ceremony. No human has ever seen this ceremony.
Diamond ones are considered valuable to hunters, as are dragons covered with any one gemstone. Gold dragons with rubies or emeralds are considered fierce. But every dragon is not worth the same amount of effort or money to kill. So, one learned to be picky. There are teams of professionals in Armera for such hunts, and they are well-paid, for such adventures are dangerous.
Hoards are protected by dragons in the hills, and they contain millions of gems. Such hoards are much too valuable for the average person to lose. They always try to find out where a dragon keeps their hoards before killing one. This way they can kill it, take the treasure, and become rich. Enough on the dragon subject, let's get back to Cedric.
He hadn't seen a dragon, grown or little in a while, and was quite disappointed. One wonders what Cedric was doing and on such a sunny morning. From his looks and clothes, he would never be mistaken for an average forest ranger or tourist, and he was neither. Curiosity drove Cedric to be in the woods that day. Curiosity, which can kill us all. An unusual piece of mail arrived at his home.
Mail was delivered twice a day, and on holidays three times a day. The postage rates were cheap, for telephones and pony express weren't invented in Armera yet. The one-way people kept in touch with each other was by writing, and the service continued to be well-used by the citizens. As any self- respecting hero rescuer and thief would, Cedric always collected his the second it got dropped off. Many times, he spoke to the flying mailman as he arrived at his door. Like him, others also enjoyed the common sight of the mailman. Bad weather permitting, Cedric waited for him every day.
Well, on this one day, Cedric's mail seemed more interesting than usual. In last evening's mail, a weird message came. Now in Cedric's line of work, as a thief, and rescuer he always got weird letters. So, what he received last night needed to be unusual indeed for him to notice its strangeness, if you get my meaning.
All thoughts turned to the packet again as he stood, and he took it from his cloak's secret pocket in the lining. The letter and the map came folded into expensive red and green velvet envelopes, these envelopes, were not at all easy to purchase in Armera. Such paper needed to be designed by a wizard. Normal artists didn't have the skill. He confirmed the location by opening the map. Yes, Cedric was in the right spot. Pulling out his trusty army green Armera Scout compass, and he checked his position. He had been an Armera Scout from the time he was six to ten. All thieves in training joined the Scouts to learn survival skills for the wild. "Yes," he thought to himself, "This is the correct spot." He reread it again, out loud, and under his breath. Here is what it said.
You have offended a lady and my honor! So, I challenge you to a DUEL in the meadow twenty-seven northwest of the city Var. Meet me in the east center section of the Forest Forgotten, on the two hundred and twentieth Demark Day.
Looking again at the spidery, refined signature he realized that at least he would be fighting an educated person. He refolded and placed it and the compass back in the lining in his cloak for safe keeping. From the first moment as Cedric studied the handwriting, he became curious. Searching his vast file of names and pictures of faces that he collected from his early childhood as a hobby, no such person was found. When he chose his profession of stealing, and rescuing he turned from hobby to profit therefore the file became important. But he found no Peterzik listed. As he sat before his homely fireplace, and he ran his memory over his few years of hazardous existence, and he could recall no one named Peterzik. Cedric asked his mother; she didn't know a Peterzik. His father couldn't be asked because he died in a meteor shower when Cedric was four.
The new cleaning person Cedric hired at the local trader's market last week didn't know a Peterzik. None of his fellow associates in the Thief Union of which Cedric was an important member, knew a Peterzik. So, Cedric wondered as his glance moved over the grass again, who's this Peterzik? No one could tell him. Why is Cedric so interested dear reader in finding out? Because he wanted to fight him!
First, it had been the slowest tourist season anyone could remember on the planet of Armera. A rumor existed of war boiling off world, from the moons of Vesti, that did not encourage tourists. No sane person would take a vacation where war might start any minute. Hardly any of the off-worlders, who grew up on the moons of Vesti,or noble on-worlders who lived in the outskirts of Ver came into the city for pleasure. The rumors said that many of the wealthy houses stayed in the guardianship of house wardens, who guarded the homes until their masters' return. Many of the homeowners left for off-world. The wealthy would not be coming back to Armera until the war ended, or peace reigned. The rich only waited for the first blow. And they were not the only people who sensed a feeling of doom for Armera. These thoughts were felt by almost everyone in the whole region, with money or not. No one could imagine how the rumors of impending war started.
Anyway, basically no one of importance remained in town who could be robbed. Even though Cedric reputed to be an excellent hero rescuer and thief, he needed someone to work on, he couldn't rob air. One million thieves appeared registered in the city of Var. Over one half of them on layoff, the union unable to support its membership in this odd dry spell, which means it took drastic measures. More of them reported being laid off every day., He was the best purse cutter on the planet so Cedric ignored the layoffs. In fact, just a few days ago Cedric recently cut the purse off the Mayor of Var. The Mayor had been carrying ten thousand dollars and Cedric was now a little flush. The union became so very excited by Cedric's robbery, last night they threw him a party, for being one of the best young robbers in the city, and he was proud to be a member.
The reason Cedric answered the letter was curiosity about this Peterzik. Besides, he needed some fresh air. Especially after his late night out last night. Air would help to clear his head. The cool air made Cedric yawn widely.
Last night of running around the streets with friends looking for someone to rob had caught up with him today. Too much running around entered his life lately, and he must slow down. He didn't want to turn into a night owl at fourteen. He glanced up and noticed the sun marching toward its zenith. There were still had three hours until the appointed time mentioned in the letter. The whole group of trees and bushes seemed silent. Except for the Laughing Lily Bush and the Old Oak Tree.
"HA !" said the Laughing Lily, "Big old gorgeous Tree, don't you flirt so much with me, or I will have to tell your old wife."
"HO!" He replied, "You wouldn't dare. You're the one who started it."
They both stared at each other in anger and silence returned.
Slipping to the ground and resting his back against the old friendly oak's trunk, he decided to take a nap. Time did not stand still while Cedric slept on. A few hours passed. Cedric turned in his sleep, and his body rolled near a happy fern.
"Be careful friend! Don't crush my leaves," said the fern as it moved a leaf away from Cedric's head.
Suddenly behind a group of happy ferns, a twig snapped. A human foot trod softly there. A faint rustle of nervous laughter rang from the Laughing Lily near the old oak. Snoring he slept on.
Into the clearing stepped a striking teen, dressed in deep red and midnight black velvet. This was Peterzik, over six feet in height, thin, with straight long black hair cut neatly to his shoulders, eyes of a piercing blue, the type of eyes that have sharp intelligence in them. His coloring was white and pale. Yet the main thing that people remembered when they met Peterzik, was his grace. For he moved into any space with the ease of a dancer, a tango dancer, always smooth. The way he dealt with other people was smooth. Part of his charm was tact. Crossing into the middle of the grassy area, he didn't trip over the stump like Cedric. His eyes fell on Cedric, who still sleeping peacefully. He coughed, every five seconds or so seeking Cedric's response. There wasn't one. He frowned more deeply, and gracefully, he walked closer to Cedric and coughed again louder. Cedric didn't respond. Closer he stepped, until he stood above Cedric, Peterzik cleared his throat. Turning in his sleep, Cedric didn't hear him. Peterzik briskly shook Cedric awake.
"Uh, What?" asked Cedric sleepily.
"I am Peterzik, wake up!" hissed Peterzik .
When he turned over, Cedric faced the strange voice with a degree of caution and opened one eye half-way. What he saw was a very tall teen, threatening above him, who looked to be alone. Stretching out a hand for support Cedric pushed himself to his feet. Upon rising, he rubbed his eyes. Then facing Peterzik squarely and looking into his steel blue eyes he asked, "How have I upset you sir?" Cedric noticed that he had never seen Peterzik before today. Remembering people was his job, and such a memorable face he would have remembered.
"Sir," answered Peterzik calmly using all the proper forms of address, (the proper forms of address being, to remove one's hat, bow, and then proceed to talk to one's opponent with you hat in your hand) "You have offended me by living and insulted a lady I love."
Now Cedric stood quietly for a moment and thought about what Peterzik had said. Our Cedric had a reputation of being a teenage idol about town and prided himself on being dashing. Cedric knew one or two young girls who had given him much more than just a passing look . While he thought all this, his eyes strove over Peterzik's appearance, he was rather handsome and intense. If things had been different, he quite possibly could be his friend. But staring at Peterzik's face with the strong frown, he noted that he looked determined. Then Cedric realized that he would have to duel him. The look of concentration on Peterzik's face made anything less than a duel impossible. The young girl in question Cedric hoped was worth the trouble. Because Peterzik standing there, looked to be to Cedric a true-hearted zealot.
Cedric slowly he drew his sword. Peterzik took a hair from his head he ran it along the edge of the blade. The one strand of hair parted in half. Cedric was quite impressed with Peterzik's ability at sword sharpening. Stopping dead in front of Cedric, Peterizik screamed, "Die Blackguard!"
Cedric yelled, "Defend thyself accuser." Then he took out his sword. Both opponents circled each other, looking for a way to begin to attack the other. Then they made eye contact. By mutual consent both stopped and proceeded with the basic fencing rules of defense.
Both saluted and took enough steps forward so each of their blades contacted for the first time. Then, something happened.
A huge golden thunderbolt of lightning hit the short space inches between our two heroes. All thought of a duel between them vanished from their minds as a cloud of black came up from the ground in the same space where the thunderbolt had struck. The trees, lilies, and ferns, who had been talking with marked interest and placing bets, as our heroes started their fight instantly stopped when the smoke arose. All trees and bushes stood unmoving and strangely silent. The whole area was bathed in eerie darkness.
Then out of the darkness, from what seemed to be all sides around them rose a voice. It was loud and spoke from stereo speakers. The sound was recognizable to all creatures. The voice was that of a Toad Master.
About the Author
Constance Meccarello-Gerson was born in Poughkeepsie N.Y. She is a graduate of Florida Southern College with a BA in Acting. She also attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. HB Studio, Actors Studio, in NYC. She is a member of SAG, Alpha Gamma Delta, Alpha Si Omega. Her MFA in Acting is from Brooklyn College. She has appeared on TV, film, and on stage in NYC. For 20 years she taught as a mentor and teacher of English and Theatre arts for the New York City Department of Education and for the University at Santa Cruz. She also taught for ten years as a Speech Coordinator at Touro College. She was an executive at Bloomingdales. Her writing as appeared in Reflections, also in the Best American Poets series. Currently she lives in NYC with her husband Alain, a parrot named Benji, and lots of fish.