Where is Gustaph? A Short Story by Daniel O’Connor, Part One

background5

Where is Gustaph? A Short Story by Daniel O’Connor, Part One

 

     Seberden had been flying over the mountains for a day now.   After half of a day and most of a night in the air, he was beginning to despair. What would he find in the dark?  Yet, he could not bring himself to rest, knowing that with daylight, the men who’d taken his spaniel would be on the move again and this would decrease his chances of locating Gustaph.

________

     Gustaph was lost.   The day before at Seberden’s cave near Lake Ontwadt, Gustaph’s afternoon nap had been interrupted by a raiding party of men. They had robbed the cave of many valuables while Seberden had been away. The vultures had made off with Gustaph as well. It had been a fight, but the raiders had eventually trapped Gustaph and tied him to one of their wagons. Then they had viciously driven their mules off towards the frozen lands north of the lake.

     The group had stopped for the night about 10 miles north of Seberden’s cave. It had taken Gustaph half of a sleepless night, but he’d chewed through the rope and slung off into the black forest, dangling the remains of his leash behind him and dripping blood from his raw jaw.  Upon leaving, he headed in what he thought was the direction of their cave home. He wanted to alert Seberden to the presence of the raiders so as to put a stop to them.  Now, a day and a half later, he was utterly lost. He couldn’t find the lake despite walking miles and miles. Perhaps he’d taken a wrong turn in the dark.

_________

     Seberden saw the light of a fire ahead of him. He grew very angry, but held back from an outright attack without inspection. He let himself glide near the clearing from which the light was emanating. He swooped in without moving a muscle in his wings, allowing a sharp view of the night without a sound.  Three men slept near the fire, curled up in a blanket Seberden had once purchased for Gustaph’s bed.

     “So these are the raiders,” he thought with not a little rage.

     One man, the watch in all likelihood, slumped at a nearby tree. He looked to be asleep. In his hand he loosely held a musket. As Seberden came right overhead, he looked closer for signs of Gustaph. All Seberden could see was a frayed rope, one end tied to a wagon.  Seberden gained height and swooped up into the clouds. The sun was peeking over the mountains. Ice covered portions of the eastern fields. The mountains to the west shimmered with the reflection of the first morning light. He felt the anger smooth out as a plan formed in his mind.  He then dropped straight for the clearing and landed hard, purposefully.  The sleeping guard fell over, dropping his musket.  Seberden grasped the musket and broke it in one action as the guard gaped up at him.  Seberden dropped the broken weapon and grabbed the guard in his right hand.  The three others had awoken at first sound and stumbled to their feet.  One regained enough awareness to reach for a sword.  Seberden spun around and threw his tail out, sweeping the feet from under all three men.  Seberden pointed to the wagon and the three men scrambled to it.  Seberden threw the other guard into the wagon, then grasped it by the sides and threw his wings out, lifting into the air with one strong downward thrust of his thirty-five foot wingspan.  He wasn’t the largest dragon in the land by a long shot, but he was strong, and determined.  He flew over the nearby lake and dropped the wagon from 20 feet.  He didn’t want to kill these men, but he wanted them to stop terrorizing people once and for all.  The wagon began to fill with water immediately.  Seberden flew off back to the camp.  He landed smoothly and looked around, scanning the ground near the frayed rope.  He walked to the edge of the clearing and peered into the thick woods.  He saw crumpled grass indicating where Gustaph had entered. He saw drops of blood as well. He must keep going. He must find his dog. 

     “Just a minute’s rest and I’ll find him. So tired,” he thought to himself as he dropped to the ground.  

      The energy he’d expended in his all night search and recent attack on the raiders took its toll. He lay there, eyes half open, tears welling up as the very real possibility came to him, “What if I can’t find him, or someone else does first? If only he’d stayed put, we would now be re-united. What other forest creature might want to prey upon my spaniel? A bear? A hermit wizard?”

Dan

Story © 2011 Dan O’Connor

Illustration © 2006 Nin Nelson

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,