Chapter 25

Karth’s Opportunity

Karth was an assassin and thief for hire. His reputation was. Requests for his skills came from over the mountains and beyond the ocean, from places he knew nothing of. He carefully considered each request before accepting. First to make sure it was not a trap set for him. And second, to make sure the victim deserved to be stolen from or killed. But he was also a man of opportunity.

Karth watched what was going on around him, assessed the situation, calculated how to profit from it then acted accordingly. Unfortunately, opportunities were scarce in the Prairie Kingdom and had been for many years. Yet he stayed. This had been his only home for all of his twenty-eight years.

No matter how far he traveled for a job, how beautiful the land, he always came back. He didn’t know why. But for the sake of fortune, it was coming to the time for him to relocate.

He stood under a tavern balcony enveloped in thought considering his future, unwilling to turn in for the night. It was late, the hour when most slept. Street lanterns were already burning out. The air was chilly, a reminder that the warmth of summer had passed and the bitterness of winter lurked.

Clearly, it was time to live this dying town and seek his fortune elsewhere. He just needed to decide where.

On the castle roof, behind the wall surrounding the roof, a movement, caught Karth’s attention, but there was nothing. Or was there. It was difficult to tell. It looked like there was a small hill on the roof. He could just make out the outline of the mound rising twenty feet over the roof wall. Karth was reasonably sure that hill wasn’t there when he entered the tavern a few hours ago.

It was probable nothing. He was tired. It was past time for bed.

Just as he was about to turn away, the black form moved. The mound the size of a tavern, swayed as if it were walking across the castle roof. What was be up there? Karth shrank deeper into the shadows and froze, waiting to see what was going to happen.

Something ten feet ahead poked up as it were leading the mound. It was an odd shape. Too large to be a man, but considerably smaller than the first mound. The front gradually sloped down. Was that an ear hear the top? In the dark of a moonless night, everything looked black without color or detail.

Then the smaller of the objects began to rise. Karth saw a flaming red eye. At the end of the slop was a snout. A puff of smoke burst out of it. It was a head – the head of a dragon. The head slowly rose upward until Karth could see its neck, thick as an old tree trunk. Then the rest of its body stood up and its tail swung into view.

If not for the wall behind him, Karth would have lost his footing as he stumbled backwards.

Silhouetted against the night sky, was a dragon. A dragon? There are no dragons in these parts.

How much had Karth dank this night? Now he wished he wasn’t alone so he could verify what he saw.

The head rose up and up as if to scrape the stars from the sky and turned from side to side searching. Wings stretched the width of three taverns. The dragon opened its mouth and laughed. It was more like a throaty chuckle. Karth had expected a roar loud enough to quake the castle, but a laugh?

The dragon stooped down as if it might sit. Instead, it launched himself into the air. With only two flaps of his great wings, it circled overhead.

Karth jumped from under the balcony and ran to the city wall. Careful not to wake the guards, he climbed the steps to the catwalk two at a time. He stood, breathing hard, as he watched the dragon fly north where it disappeared into the mountains.

What was a dragon doing at the castle? It’d carried a large box in his paws. In the cover of night Karth was unable to see any details of the box. A dragon wouldn’t neatly pack its food. It either ate the kill on the spot or carried the carcass, dangling from it talons to it lair.

No, whatever was in that box was not food; it was something of value or the dragon would not have bothered to bring it with him. What did dragons value most? Precious jewels, silver and gold. Dragons were greedy hoarders. Why was he in the castle? What was there to steal? The kingdom was poor. There was nothing of value to attract a dragon.

Whatever it was, the dragon was taking it to its lair. How vast were its possessions?

In the morning, Karth would ride to the mountains and find the dragon’s lair. He was smart enough not to take a dragonhead on. He’d form a plan clever enough to relieve the dragon of its riches and not forfeit his life in the effort.

He’d finally be able to leave this barren land, travel to another country and live like a king. His future was set. His heart pounded with excitement. With his new wealth, he’d never have to steal or kill again. He’d buy a house and servants and women and lots of whiskey. This was the opportunity Karth had been waiting for all his life.

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 5:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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