About thirty miles from the village of Ham, there is a school where the best of the best were trained and bred to be the best Dragon Riders in the Kingdom of Laterin.
There is a process for young individuals from the ages of thirteen to fifteen to choose what path they will take in the future.
A majority of citizens picked the path of the Dragon Rider, but only thirty-five percent ever stuck to this profession. The other forty-five percent quit and lived the rest of their lives as farmers, shopkeepers, or government officials. The additional percentage picked a different path that promoted the growth of the body, the mind, or even the soul.
These classes consist of Elemental Mage, Pugilist, and Swordmaster. These classes use an overwhelming source in this world.
For you see, each class consists of this power, even the smallest class such as the Farmer. This force is known as mana.
In other words, magic.
There is a boy in the village of Ham that was born under the seventh star of the Spiked Walldrige of the South Swamp in the coldest winter that Laterin has ever had. It was also the day the strongest Dragon Rider died.
A Walldrige is a small creature with a long pointy nose and hundreds of spikes all down its back and arms. Its tail is rather short, but the poison that a Walldrige can produce can kill a full-grown dragon. These creatures were later hunted to extinction, for not only were Dragons in fear of the deadly Walldrige poison but humans as well.
The Walldrige, our boy, was born under was considered the biggest and the strongest. Hineox the Dragon Eater. Its location had been lost to the world.
The boy was later nicknamed Miracle MICHAEL since it was a miracle that he was even born. The winter can be quite deadly to new life.
INT. CHURCH OF TESTING — DAY
Fourteen years after his birth, Michael now sat in the front row of a little church, waiting to be called up to be re-evaluated. The testing that the Kingdom did for the children to calculate the tier of mana each child possesses.
Each child would come up and touch the transparent orb. When the orb lit up, an analyzer would take notes of the brightness and colour. Then he would register the child somewhere in the tier rankings. If they had a tier two or three, they would be allowed to proceed to Laterin’s Dragon Rider Academy. Anything lower, and you get the picture.
ANALYZER: Michael Aharemit…
The ANALYZER checked his list and then took a massive sigh.
ANALYZER: 3rd time’s the charm.
MICHAEL: You bet. I’ve been training like crazy since the last time.
Michael’s arms were more toned and defined for a boy his age. He had been doing push-ups, squats, and crunches every day for a year.
After dinner, he would go out back behind his house and slam his fists into a large oak tree until they bled. A smooth section of the tree was left behind after a year of training.
It had looked like a carpenter had sanded out a part of the tree and had forgotten to finish the rest.
The moment Michael touched the orb, it lit up bright with a white colour. The light was so bright that the other kids in the room had to close their eyes. Once the orb had returned to its natural state, the Analyzer looked down at his list and marked…
ANALYZER: No magic element, again.
Along with the brightness, the colour held sway if you had magic or not. If the colour was red, you had an affinity with fire. Blue would be water, brown would be earth, and green, air.
If the colour was white, it meant that you had no ability for any element and could not produce magic.
You were labelled magicless.
ANALYZER: Try again next year.
Michael left the church. He could hear the other kids snickering to themselves and worrying that they would be like him.
EXT. VILLAGE OF HAM — DAY
Michael hung his head low and walked down the dusty trail back home. He was so sure he would make it. He had dreamt of this moment of walking in and slamming his hand on the orb and producing a rare colour like purple representing lightning.
Proving all those naysayers wrong and making his father proud. The only person in the whole world that had faith in him more than himself.
His FATHER(37) was waiting for him at the front of their beaten-down house. He wasn’t upset, just smiling with his arms open wide. Michael just walked up and clasped his hands around his old man and bawled his eyes out.
MICHAEL(sobbing): I was so sure…this time.
MICHAEL’S FATHER: Hey now, it’s okay. We just got to work harder. Don’t worry. I know you’ll be great. No one works as hard as you.
Michael half-believed his father, he knew there was no ill-intent behind his words, but he was so sure that this year was going to be it.
MICHAEL’S FATHER(CONT’D): Come now, I got a huge pot of porridge on for you.
The two walked into the house and decided to eat. The pot was large, and the white porridge was steaming hot. Michael got a bowl and took a seat to eat.
He had been eating the same meal since he was five, but he never got bored of it. Each batch seemed to taste different from the last time.
The reason for this was that his father spent most of their wealth on mana pills.
These pills helped mages produce mana quicker. It also helped them create the rings necessary around the heart, which would then increase the pool of mana a mage could have. Michael’s father had been cooking their meals with these pills all of Michael’s life.
Though the pills were not of high quality.
MICHAEL’S FATHER: I added a little something, something to it, to make you feel better.
His father smiled lovingly, and together the two ate.
INT. MICHAEL’S HOME — DAY
The nights in Ham aren’t quiet. The howling from the Howling Woods that surrounded the town bounced through every night. Rumour has it that a beast lived at the centre, but no one had ever seen it since no one had ever reached.
Michael had slipped out of his house with only the clothes on his back. He had left a note on the dining table and didn’t look back.
MICHAEL: I’m sorry, father, I just can’t go on another year.
He dashed out of the house and into the woods as fast as a horse.
EXT. WOODS — NIGHT
There wasn’t any danger in the woods, aside from wild animals and the occasional goblin. Yet Michael prevailed, hiding whenever he saw trouble, sneaking his way somewhere. He didn’t have a destination in mind. He just wanted to get away as far as possible.
No one had ever traversed the Howling Woods. If he could get to the other side, no one would be able to chase after him.
The forest seemed different at night, hollower and more far-reaching, like an endless path that melts away with the horizon.
It was all-consuming, and Michael felt like he could go on forever, turning around trees and rocks till his end.
VOICE: ~Now, now, what is a cute young boy like you doing in a naughty forest like this~
Michael turned around to see a tall horned figure standing behind him. It wore a suit and bowtie, which were uncommon and strange in this world. He held a cane under his arm and wore a tall top hat. The feature that Michael picked up the most was the horn, and right away, he knew what stood before him. A HORN SPAWN.
They’ve been called many things over the years, such as Wish Cursers, Blight Spawn, and the typical Demon. The last one being less common.
Michael was told to steer clear of these beings, and if he had no choice but to speak with one, he must always, always tell the truth.
There was a story told to the youth of a man who sought immortality. The fastest way the man could come up with it was to find a Horn Spawn and ask for a wish. He had heard of others getting their wishes granted and having terrible side effects later down the line, so this man came to a Horn Spawn with his heart on his sleeve.
The man pleaded to the Spawn that his purpose was true, and the reason he needed immortality was to get revenge on the monster that killed his family.
When the Spawn agreed to grant his wish and once the man was alone. He laughed in evil glee, for he had outwitted the Spawn.
The man had not only lied to the Spawn but also killed his family by luring a massive beast. Therefore, hoping to confuse the Spawn, for the man didn’t directly kill his family.
What he did not know was that the Spawn could tell when someone told a falsehood. This is how over the centuries, since the Spawn has existed that not a single person has ever got a wish without an evil side effect.
Once the man had lived forties years and his new wife had given birth to his first child, the Spawn returned to him and told him that for his lies, every child that contained his seed would die at the age of two and any woman that had taken his see would die shortly after childbirth.
At first, the man laughed off the threat. For there was no way to prove that he had lied, but the Spawn cared not for proof, for they always know the truth. His wife died shortly after that of a heart implication. At the age of two, the child died, and this went on for centuries.
The man could not stay in one place for long, for he feared that people might start catching on to his immortality. Yet one cannot truly hide from the eyes of the people, and a dark group began to track the man down.
Once caught, the man was subjected to thousands of experiments in the pursuit that the group would gain immortality for themselves. Not only was he subjected to these evil acts, but he was also forced to procreate with noble wives, and just like the Spawn dictated, the woman died in childbirth, and the children at the age of two perished.
When the group could not decipher a way to gain eternal youth, they chopped off the man’s head, put in a box, and buried it. If they could not obtain immortality, then no one would.
Even to this today, that man still screams for the light and freedom, for he can never die.
Michael looked back and forth to make sure that the Spawn was talking to him.
HORNED SPAWN: No need to run, boy. I only wish to know why you have travelled so far into my friend’s domain.
MICHAEL: I mean no disrespect.
HORNED SPAWN: I know.
MICHAEL: I’ll leave.
HORNED SPAWN: No need, come take a walk with me. I shall lead you out.
The Horned Spawn gestured forward. Michael took his time and agreed to go. He had no idea what type of curse the Spawn might spring on him if he had refused and walked on with the beast.
HORNED SPAWN: What brings you here, boy?
MICHAEL: I’m running away.
HORNED SPAWN: An honest boy like you is running away? Now, what could make you do that?
MICHAEL: Because I’m useless.
Michael relaxed. Maybe what they say about Horn Spawns wasn’t true, he thought.
HORNED SPAWN: Useless? You!? Boy, you are too modest.
MICHAEL: Sir, you jest, I have no magic and can’t be a Dragon Rider.
HORNED SPAWN: Like those fools up at Laterins or even Dagobans. My boy, one thing is for certain dragons are not to be ridden or even tamed. They are far wilder than you think and even deeper in the universe.
MICHAEL: I don’t understand.
Michael said, and a sigh came from the Horn Spawn.
HORNED SPAWN: I guess you wouldn’t. A boy just starting out in the world wouldn’t understand such complex things.
MICHAEL: I’m fourteen. I’m basically a man, and I do have a name.
HORNED SPAWN: So do I. I am not just Horn Spawn.
Michael stopped. Could he be reading my mind?
HORNED SPAWN: If by reading your mind, you mean hearing the thoughts that flow through your head. Then yes. How else are we supposed to know if you are telling the truth or not? We don’t have Truesight that is given to those that are special.
MICHAEL: They call me Michael.
HORNED SPAWN: Ah, there’s a name, now come along, don’t be afraid I’m not going to eat you.
Together they continued through the woods in the dead of night, sometimes stopping and enjoying the stars above. There was something that these two started to share that no human had ever experienced in the last four hundred years of the planet’s existence.
A bond between human and monster.
VERLANCE the Horn Spawn and Michael the human.
VERLANCE: Now tell me why you would want to be a Dragon Rider?
MICHAEL: What is there not to want? I get to soar amongst the clouds. I get to feel the heartbeat of a majestic beast under me. A partnership that one cannot get with humans. One of a man and his beast.
Verlance didn’t say anything and only kept eye contact. Michael started to let the awkwardness affect him. Maybe he had said something wrong.
Then out of nowhere, Verlance burst out in laughter.
MICHAEL: What’s so funny?
VERLANCE: Haha, sorry, Michael. I’m…not laughing at you. I know a dragon who would have burned you down to your ashes and then some if he heard you.
VERLANCE: Oh, yes. The beasts your Dragon Riders ride are not dragons. They are only wyverns. A cheap imitation of a dragon. They are smaller and don’t have the intelligence that a dragon does.
MICHAEL: Really? Then where can I find a real Dragon?
Verlance stopped laughing, and his face became solemn. His eyes cut the air, the silence, and the night all at once. A small shimmer of blue was glowing in them.
VERLANCE: Now, why would you want to find a dragon?
Michael tried to keep his composure. His instincts were telling him that his life could end if he made one wrong move.
MICHAEL(CONT’D): Because I want to see one, and maybe be…become a true Dragon Rider.
VERLANCE: Didn’t you just say that you are useless and you need magic to ride such a beast?
MICHAEL: Yes, but if the beasts that the Dragon Riders are riding are wyverns, then maybe there is a shot for me if the beast is a true Dragon.
Verlance looked around the forest and then back to Michael. There was a newfound purpose in him.
When he had found him, there was a lack of will, but now after an hour or so of talking. The boy was reenergized with new life with just the vague knowledge of a dragon.
VERLANCE: You are an interesting boy. Your soul holds more time than a man in his eighties. Alright, Michael, I’ll find you a dragon.
MICHAEL: You will?
VERLANCE: Yup, no wishes, no tricks, but you have to do me a favour.
VERLANCE: Do you not want to see a dragon?
MICHAEL: I do. It’s just…I don’t know.
VERLANCE: You don’t know if you should trust me or if you should leave? I can see the struggle inside.
Verlance walked forward and then turned around, revealing a sword in his hand. Michael took a step back.
VERLANCE: This is my old and faithful partner, [Tranquility]. It has been with me since the dawn of my creation. Given to me by a dragon that created all dragons. Now tell me, boy, do you wish to see a dragon or not?
Michael took in a deep breath and looked Verlance right in the face.
MICHAEL: I do.
Verlance tossed his sword into the air and caught it by the blade.
VERLANCE: Take it, you will need it for my favour.
MICHAEL: I don’t deserve such-
VERLANCE: I’m not giving it to you. I’m letting you borrow it. A beast is coming to harm a friend of mine at the center of the forest. That is why I am here tonight to kill the beast and save my friend. After meeting you, I thought, wouldn’t it be great for a boy…man at such a young age to fight such a daring beast. This thought was quickly dismissed when we began to talk. How could I put such a man with a strong potential in harm’s way? Then I asked you about being a Dragon Rider to test you, and when you said you wanted to find a real Dragon. I knew I had found the proper lad.
MICHAEL: So you are dumping your chores on me?
VERLANCE: Ouch. When you think of it that way, it makes me seem a little scummy.
MICHAEL: Yeah, it does.
VERLANCE: Not every quest comes from noble reasons. Are you going to take the sword or not?
Michael grabbed the sword with both hands; it was light and spacious. It felt almost weightless in his hands, but the metal felt cold and stern.
VERLANCE: Good now, this way.
EXT. CENTER OF THE WOODS — NIGHT
It wasn’t long before they reached an open area, large enough to build a village on. Verlance walked up to a large stump that was on the edge of the area and took a seat.
MICHAEL: Where’s the beast?
Michael swung the sword back and forth, acquainting himself with the weight.
VERLANCE: Should be here right…about…now.
Michael felt a tremor and then another and another. He turned to face the direction where it was coming from to see a large Wallridge ripping through the woods.
It was huge, troll-sized, and the spikes on its back could rip Michael in two. There was cloth hanging off some spikes and the nose. Its eyes glowing green.
Poison dripped from the spikes and landed on the ground killing all signs of life.
VERLANCE: That’s no dragon.
Verlance smiled at the beast.
MICHAEL: I know that. What is it?
VERLANCE: You don’t know? Well, I guess you wouldn’t, even though you were born on the day this beast was gravely injured. Do you see that scar on its chest?
VERLANCE(CONT’D): That was made by a human, but sadly he was melted into a pool of goo by that thing before he could finish it off.
MICHAEL: And you want me to fight it?
VERLANCE: Are you backing out?
Michael looked back at Verlance and then again at the beast. There were no strings attached to this favour, and he could leave at any time, but Michael wasn’t a quitter.
He was hoping to lose his life in this forest, but his body kept refusing him like another person was inside him, pushing him forward.
VERLANCE: This beast is called Hineox, the guardian of the South Swamp. I think he was some king or something but-
Before Verlance could finish, Michael was charging ahead at HINEOX. The beast was so massive that it didn’t notice Michael charging up and taking a swipe at its leg.
[Tranquility] went clean through with no resistance though the attack was shallow. Maybe Michael had a chance to fell this giant monster. Immediately Hineox swung down at the boy, who barely dodged the attack.
The ground was crushed and soaked in poison as it turned the grass black.
VERLANCE: Don’t let him catch you. One swing and you’re dead. Also, one drop of poison, and you’re dead. In fact…just don’t let him touch you!
Verlance made himself comfortable.
The battle raged on, with Michael cutting off some spikes here and there and making sure he dodged Hineox’s attacks and poison dripped claws.
Finally, Michael noticed that every time Hineox rose its right arm, it would flinch from the scar that stretched across its chest.
Michael took that opportunity and swiped off the right hand of the beast but not before being tail swiped at him. [Tranquility] went flying into the wood, disappearing from sight.
Two large spikes pierced through Michael.
He felt his whole body burning from the poison seeping into his wounds. He convulsed from the pain as the poison burned his veins riding all the up to his heart, searing from the inside out.
VERLANCE: Tch. It truly is a darn shame, and he was doing so well.
HINEOX: You send a boy to do me in!
Its voice booming.
VERLANCE: He got your arm off. I think he did a great job.
HINEOX: No human can kill me. Even their strongest couldn’t kill me. I have grown stronger and more powerful than any Wallridge! I have come to kill your Master! Now kneel!
Verlance stretched his arms up into the air, letting his spine extend upward.
VERLANCE: Oh, I’m not kneeling, and that boy is not done with you.
HINEOX: Your words have no meaning to-
Hineox felt a presence behind Verlance. It was ruthless and powerful. It could see two red and orange eyes peering out of the woods. Two enormous suns trained on it.
Hineox was nothing more than an ant in its presence.
A bug to be squashed.
Hineox took a step back but then felt another presence as strong as the one before him but this time from behind.
It turned its head to see the threat standing alone with two spikes in his hand was Michael. He was bleeding from his eyes and mouth.
The wounds on his body healed up as an overwhelming power swelled from Michael. He spat out a large chunk of black poison from his body.
HINEOX: H-how? How are you still standing?
In a flash, Michael was gone. His speed was so incredible that the beast couldn’t keep up.
Hineox roared in pain as he glanced down to see that Michael had slammed both spikes deep into Hineox’s scar. The blood flowed, burning away Michael’s clothes, searing his skin and killing life on the ground.
Michael gritted his teeth through the pain and pulled out one of the spikes, and slammed it back into the beast.
Hineox reached for its chest to scrape his attacker away, but Michael maneuvered into the wound he made.
Hineox scraped at his flesh, trying to reach the boy. The beast screamed and clawed away but couldn’t reach Michael. Hineox could feel the spikes scraping away at his insides. He could feel the boy biting and ripping organs apart.
HINEOX(struggling): How? I was…the strongest…
Then Hineox stopped moving.
VERLANCE: See, I told you he was special.
GRUNTLE VOICE: How could a boy…survive the poison of Hineox?
Said a voice from behind Verlance.
VERLANCE: Pretty sure it has something to do with his birth, but it doesn’t matter now. He did save your life.
GRUNTLE VOICE: Save? I could kill him with just my presence. You were the one that convinced me otherwise.
VERLANCE: The surrounding area didn’t need your wrath.
MICHAEL: Sorry to bother you.
Michael walked up to Verlance naked, covered in blood and burn marks. His hair was completely gone along with his eyebrows and any other hair on his body. Yet his shone bright green.
VERLANCE: Ah, the hero returns.
MICHAEL: Uh, Verlance, about your sword.
VERLANCE: No worries, I have it right….here.
Verlance said, summoning the sword out of thin air.
VERLANCE(CONT’D): Everything is good. How are you feeling?
VERLANCE: I hope not too tired. I have someone for you to meet.
The ground trembled violently, and Michael knew that whatever was coming was going to be more prominent than the Wallridge.
Birds started flying from the trees, and the clouds in the sky began to shift to a thunderous dark grey.
As the rain started to fall, Michael finally got his first witness of the beast of his dreams standing three times the size of the Hineox. The OLD DRAGON brought his head down towards Michael.
OLD DRAGON: Thank you, boy, for fighting Hineox. Without your help, everything here might have been wiped from the face of this planet. As a proud dragon, I will offer you one wish.
Michael didn’t say anything and just stared at the dragon. His hands began to shake, and his eyes began to tear up.
VERLANCE: Now look, you made him cry.
OLD DRAGON: I…uh…boy, stop crying this instant. I’m willing to grant you a wish, not like that being behind you.
OLD DRAGON: Shut up.
MICHAEL: It’s fine. I think I’m good. A beautiful creature like you can never be ridden.
OLD DRAGON: Ridden!? You want to be a Dragon Rider.
MICHAEL: Yes, but I’m useless.
OLD DRAGON: You just killed the strongest Wallridge the world has ever seen. The greatest of human heroes died to Hineox’s blood, and you still call yourself useless. Just because a transparent ball of glass says, you can’t use elemental magic? You are a walking mana vein.
MICHAEL: Mana vein?
OLD DRAGON: You produce mana at an outstanding rate. Imagine a beehive with no opening, but inside, the bees are still creating honey. That beehive is you, and the honey is the mana. How would you retrieve the honey?
MICHAEL: I would break it.
OLD DRAGON: Not that bright, I see. If the beehive breaks, you die. Instead, you must let that honey overflow and seep through you. You have more mana than any being in the Kingdom of Laterin. If you went and tried to make a pact with a Wyvern, they would surely pop into a red mist.
The image stunned Michael, and he found himself being thankful that he didn’t get chosen.
OLD DRAGON: How about I make a contract with you? I feel like this world has grown stale and needs a boost in power. I feel it in my bones. You can do this. Do you wish to become a true Dragon Rider?
MICHAEL: Won’t you turn into a red mist?
The Old Dragon and Verlance bellowed in laughter as lightning ripped throughout the skies.
OLD DRAGON: No, I wouldn’t.
MICHAEL: Then yes.
Michael said, smiling as wide as he could.
OLD DRAGON: Then I Overicon the Dragon of the Howling Woods accepts…
MICHAEL: Michael Aharemit.
OVERICON: Michael Aharemit. From this day forth, you are now my partner and life brother. Be grateful.
They say that their partnership rattled the world to its core shaking out every monster and demon in its midst. Ripping forward towards a future of a boy and his dragon.
A legend, for another time, perhaps.