The Dragon’s Eye
« Chapter 1 »
Saul, the head monk and Abbot of the Jade Temple, gazed expectantly at the large wooden doors that barred entry into the temple courtyard. Suddenly the doors swung open with such force they slammed against the stone entrance walls with a deafening thud. Dark shadows from outside the temple moved silently across its opening. Saul’s heart beat faster, it was time.
The Oracle had spoken of this moment, but he would not allow fate to play out as foretold. He knew that it was within every soul’s power to shape events, to create a shift so that the paths that lay before them were not static but changing. The Oracle did not know everything, did not know that sheer determination and an unwavering belief in one’s own destiny could change events. The Oracle would learn that the will of a human, noble or common, could conjure magic out of nothing, create allies where once none stood and that the bond of a common cause could ignite a friendship forged from blood, steel and tears.
Outside, rain slated down like sharp arrows cutting into flesh in the inky black sky. Ice–cold winds howled and roared a discord as branches and leaves were torn from trees and cast asunder. Yet Saul stood firm. He would not move until he saw them with his own eyes.
Figures cloaked and hooded stepped through the doorway and into the courtyard. Moonlight glistened off the edges of their drawn swords and that is when Saul knew it was time to retreat.
A slim figure dressed in dark clothes complete with hood, moved silently from behind a large oak tree to skirt around the Jade Temple. The watcher saw six men barge through the doors forcing their way into the inner sanctum of the temple grounds.
The watcher knew the layout of the temple and as the six men gave chase after Saul; they took a rope and hook and threw it up and onto the outer perimeter wall. Climbing, the watcher surfaced on the rampart that looked down into the temple’s courtyard and gardens. Scanning through the darkness, they saw one of the six men searching in the shadows for the temples head monk.
Saul hurried around the statue of a large stone dragon. Pushing one of its large fangs back into its mouth, he waited for the secret passage to open. A section of the dragon’s tail slid to one side and Saul hurried down the steps and under the temple. The dragon’s tail then slid back into place.
The four men chasing Saul skidded to a halt. Cursing when they could not find him, the leader ordered, “You two, fan out, search the adjacent gardens, he could not have gone far.”
“Yes sir,” the men said. Seconds later, they vanished.
Saul hurried up the internal stone steps that led into a hall of the temple. With ragged breaths and his heart beating like a drum, he ordered his fellow monks to secure all doors and windows. Doing so the temple then fell silent.
Smiling, the watcher crept down the steps of one of the four outer perimeter towers. The man below was so busy stabbing his sword into every shrub and bush to flush out the old monk he did not notice the watcher creeping up on him. When the man heard a psst, behind him, he spun around and felt the hilt of the watcher’s sword slam into his nose. The man instantly fell unconscious to the floor. Grabbing his body, the watcher dragged him behind a large urn.
Spying a second man, the watcher waited until he crept closer and like lightning, they stepped out and kicked him under the chin sending him flying over a small wall. Dragging his unconscious body next to his friend, the watcher tied them together.
Hurrying back up the tower, the watcher used the ramparts to circle around the temple. Gazing down into the herb garden, they watched as two men knocked over urns and potted plants in search of the head monk.
Thick ropes led down from each tower and decorated with prayer flags they connected to the corners of the lower rooftop. Smiling as the two men stood below, the watcher took a length of rope from their jacket, placed it over the inclining rope and jumped off the rampart. By the time the two men heard a whoosh above their heads it was too late. The watcher let go and slammed their feet into the men’s chests sending them crashing to the ground. Landing with cat–like reflexes the watcher struck the men across their chins to silence them. Tying them up, the watcher dragged their unconscious bodies behind a large bush to hide them.
When the two remaining attackers entered the herb garden, they called out to their men. Confused when no one answered, the senior man, asked, “Where the hell are they?”
“You tell me, you hand–picked them,” his second in command rebuffed.
In temper, the senior man kicked over a small urn. “Damn it, this was supposed to be an easy assignment.”
The watcher stepped back into the shadows but their attackers heard the sound as they knocked a small pot off a wall.
“If that’s you old man I suggest you come out. Better for you, better for everyone at this temple,” the senior man ordered.
The watcher soon realised that the two men had cut off their escape route back up to the ramparts. There was nothing for it, they would have to enter the temple via other means.
“I said show yourself old man!”
The watcher cursed when the men headed their way. Spinning around, the watcher gazed up at the temple walls. The temple was a three–tiered building, each tier possessed a sloping roof leading up to the next. Only the top tier possessed a balcony leading to an open window. The watcher knew that the monks would hurry to secure all entrances into the building. It was a long shot, but the watcher knew if they scaled the temple before the monks shut the window, they could find sanctuary inside.
Grabbing the ornate brickwork the watcher climbed up to the first of the tiered rooftops.
The moonlight betrayed their presence as one of them yelled, “Quickly, he’s getting away!”
“Not for long,” the senior man growled and replacing his swords to their harness, he gave chase.
Cursing, the watcher picked up their pace. They could only pray that the monks had not yet reached the third floor and barred the window.
The watcher’s assailant had now scaled the wall and as they scrambled onto the first roof, they saw the watcher reaching the second tier of the building. Determined to catch his prey, the assailant followed. Reaching up, he grabbed the watcher’s ankle.
A hood hid the watcher’s identity, but they cursed when they recognised the fierce eyes glaring up at them.
With a sneer, the man warned, “Big mistake,” and tugging on the watcher’s ankle, he yanked them off the wall and back onto the roof below them. Grimacing in pain the watcher hit the tiled roof and cursed.
Joining them, the assailant reached down to haul them back to their feet, but quick as lightning the watcher took hold of the man’s tunic, placed a foot on his chest and threw him over their head. Landing on his back, the man slid down the tiles. Cursing, he grabbed the edge of the roof only just halting his descent into the gardens below.
The watcher wasted no time in scrambling back to the second roof, but to their annoyance, their attacker followed.
Above them, the watcher saw a monk opening a window onto a balcony, but when two monks joined him, they pulled it shut.
Damn it no! The watcher cursed. Climbing onto the balcony, they leapt over the rail, which startled the monks inside. Grabbing the internal shutters, a monk motioned to slam them shut.
Hammering on the window, the watcher pleaded, “No wait!”
Afraid that one of their attackers would gain entry, the monks closed the shutters.
“Thaddeus!” The watcher yelled.
Surprised, if not a little shocked to recognise the voice, Brother Thaddeus opened the shutters and peered outside.
The watcher yanked their hood down, imploring, “Let me in!”
Opening the window, Thaddeus pulled the watcher inside then closed it. When their attacker climbed onto the balcony, Thaddeus slammed the shutters and locked them in place.
“No!” Their attacker yelled in outrage.
“Don’t worry, they cannot get in,” Thaddeus assured.
Their attacker knew it was futile to breach the temple with only one man left to aid him. The monks were peaceful but not defenceless. All they could do now was retreat to Greytor Castle and return with more men.
Scrambling down the temple the man glared at his accomplice. “I want to know who that was and how the hell he made four of my men disappear.”
The second man shook his head. “I take it you failed?”
“No, we failed,” the man corrected.
“Then we have no choice but to leave. I hope you have a sufficient explanation ready for when Prince Tylox asks why we do not yet possess the Dragon’s Eye.”
“Trust me, they won’t stop us next time, even if I have to raze this temple to the ground I will find what I came for.” With that, the two men left the temple grounds. Swinging into their saddles, they headed back to Greytor Castle.
Now safe, Thaddeus opened the shutters. Pushing open the windows, he accessed the balcony. Gazing down, he watched the two men leaving. Shaking his head, he scolded, “You realise that coming here was a foolish thing to do Your Highness?”
Princess Shamone grinned, which always disarmed any annoyance that Thaddeus had with her. “I know, but I must confess that it was fun thwarting their little plan.”
“You’ve thwarted them for now but I assure you they will be back.”
“By then, what they seek will no longer be here. Now, where is Saul?”
Princess Shamone lived with her parents in Greytor Castle. Her mother was Princess Opia and her father was Prince Tylox. Both parents had a penchant for greed and would take whatever they desired. If they could not take it freely, they would take it by force.
Mageena, Princess Shamone’s governess had taught Shamone to respect all people, rich or poor. Knowing how close Shamone was to Mageena, Sabian had conspired to have her sacked from her position at the castle. In doing so, Sabian was now Shamone’s arch nemesis.
Sabian, Prince Tylox’s junior aide now took great pleasure in spying on Shamone while all the time plotting her downfall.
To Shamone’s annoyance, he was proving very adept at spying on her. Shamone had never forgiven Sabian for conspiring to have Mageena dismissed and replaced her with two new teachers, Herla and her husband Illion. Both were disagreeable and cut from the same cloth as Sabian.
Shamone had one other close friend, Ilengor, Mageena’s husband. He had once been a personal guard to her father but had since retired. Under duress, he had taught Shamone the art of Shenshu, ‘the art of two swords.’ Only one other person knew that Shamone could fight, and that was a young student soldier called Cade. Cade worked for Prince Tylox in a town called Trudoan. He did not like knowing Shamone’s secret but he was a close friend of Mageena and Ilengor’s and so swore not to betray her.
There was one other man that Shamone had to be wary of, his name was Griffin, and he too was a close guard of her fathers. Shamone had already crossed swords with Griffin and so he now saw it as his duty to find out what she was up to at all times. On the temple rooftop, she had seen Griffin glaring up at her, and the man in the gardens had been Sabian.
If her parents wanted an ancient relic that Saul kept hidden at the temple then he was in danger. The relic was one third of an ancient sword that was broken into three pieces and hidden away from those who sought to misuse its power. The sword, known as the ‘Wer darastrixi trekis’ The Dragon’s Breath, was destined to stay hidden until such a day a warrior worthy enough could wield its power. Legend said that the first part of the sword was a clear quartz crystal eye, and that it glowed whenever danger was around. The second relic was a steel blue blade. The third was a golden hilt complete with two dragonheads designed to hold the crystal eye.
Shamone had overheard her father talking to Sabian about gaining possession of the first relic. The crystal, known as the Dragon’s Eye could not fall into their hands. Worried, Shamone had gone to Ilengor for help but he and Mageena had left Greytor to visit friends. With no time to waste, Shamone had gathered her disguise and ridden out to the Jade Temple to forewarn the monks, but Griffin and Sabian had beaten her to it.
Although Shamone was pleased she had defeated Sabian and Griffin, she knew very well that her victory would be short-lived if she did not take the relic away from the temple.
Following Thaddeus down to the main hall, Shamone wondered how she would stop Griffin and Sabian from getting their hands on the Dragon’s Eye.
Greeting Shamone, Saul bowed. “Your Highness we are most honoured to receive you, sadly it is not safe for you to be here.”
Shamone bowed, greeting, “Father Abbot, I beg forgiveness for my intrusion but you must know that my father is intent on finding the Dragon’s Eye and at any cost.”
“As always Your Highness you can call me Saul, and sadly I have already heard of your father’s interest in the Dragon’s Eye, which is why we must send the relic back to the Abbot at the Phoenix Temple in Oberon. It is the safest place for it right now.”
“Where in Oberon?”
“East of Caddoan in a small village known as Hazel Flax. Only Edmund knows where the blade of the ‘Wer darastrixi trekis’ is.”
“And the third relic, the hilt of the sword who has that?”
“I do not know but Edmund may have some idea. It is imperative that all the parts of the sword are reunited. It is foretold that a warrior will help to secure the swords resting place. I dread to think what will happen if it falls into the wrong hands. It must be returned to its guardian.”
“But who is the guardian of the sword?”
“I do not know, no one knows.”
“Then there is nothing for it, I will take the relic to the Phoenix Temple in Oberon.”
Saul looked surprised. He knew he could trust Shamone but it would be a dangerous task. One that she should not undertake lightly, but as always, something told him her mind was set.
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