Monsters are a thing of the past, only surviving in stories. However, a bloodline runs in the High Court, a line of dragonmaidens. (warning is for later chapters)
"Last night, I walked along the shore of the lake, watching the moon's reflections in the ripples when I heard a horrible shriek that made my blood run cold. Suddenly, an animal attacked me and jumped on my back. There I was, caught in a vicious struggle of life and death with this foul beast! This beast stank of lake-water and stale blood. It had fierce, knife-sharp claws...and its eyes...." the Norseman paused dramatically and gulped down his ale in one swig. Then he eyed his audience with a tilt of his head. He scrunched one eye and widened the other. Pointing to his eyes, he said slowly, "You never saw such evil-looking eyes. But I looked into those beast's eyes, and I felt no fear."
He straightened his back proudly, and a few yells of encouragement followed from the crowd.
"The creature threw me to the ground, and I struggled against its immense weight. I still was not afraid, but I knew I had to fight for my life for I had. no. WEAPON!"
Feet began to stomp.
In a bit louder voice, the Norseman continued his gruesome tale, "The beast clawed at me, and with one swoop of its mouth, my head became encaged between rows of spear-like teeth. And still I was not afraid! I grabbed the beast's jaws, one in each hand, and ripped them open!" Here, he reenacted with his arms.
Now, mugs of ale sloshed as they were pounded against the wooden tables.
"The beast," the Norseman continued, starting to yell over the noise, "tore away from my grip and gave me another evil stare (he pointed to his eyes again). But before it could pounce on me again, I tackled it and held its neck with my bare arms and squeezed the breath of life out of the foul beast!"
Now, the whole hall stomped, pounded, yelled, and drank hardily.
The Norseman roared above the chaotic scene, "Only Beowulf fought a braver fight with the monster, Grendel!"
All the children, boys and girls, listened to the Norseman's heroic story. The boys clapped and cheered along with the men, and the girls gasped in horror and covered their mouths.
The oldest boy, a squire, had to show his superiority over the other children, and therefore, cynically said after the crowd had quieted down a bit, "The old, drunken fool. Some beast." But that's all he said, mysteriously keeping silent now.
The other children heard him, and sparking their interest, they urged him to say more.
"Do you know anything about the man's story?" a small girl with long, dark hair asked.
"Do I ever!" The boy laughed and held himself up importantly, now ready to tell his own tale:
"I saw him last night and followed him out to the lake. He was half mad from ale, stumbling and mumbling to himself. Then, his foot sank into the muddy bank, and losing his balance, he fell like a drunken log!"
The children, who now sat around him, laughed at the thought.
"And the foul beast was no more than a stray cat whose tail that he sat on!"
The children laughed even harder.
"Oh, yes, and the cat did give a good fight with it hissing and scratching and all!"
Tears of laughter streamed down the cheeks of the children.
"But did he really kill the cat?" the dark-haired girl asked.
The boy replied with a smirk, "Well, something had to be true, didn't it? But there's not much bravery in killing a little pussy-cat!"
They all laughed again.
"The drunken, old fool," the boy said again, shaking his head disapprovingly.
"So I'm a drunken, old fool, eh?" asked a rough man's voice behind the boy.
The boy jumped and spun towards the voice. It was the Norseman. Up close, the man's ruddy complexion could be seen wherever the raw skin was not covered in blonde, coarse, curly hair that grew thick and long from his beard to his nosehair to his chest to the hair on his knuckles. He was dressed in a simple brown tunic and pants and a pair of muddy boots (probably the one that he wore last night). His only accessory was the mug of ale in his hand, which seemed to be a permanent fixture.
"Making fun of your elders, eh boy?" the Norseman asked.
The boy, stuttering on the fumes of the Norseman's foul breath, said, "N-n-no, Sir. I-I wasn't talking about you-"
"Not acting so big and tough now, are you, boy?" The Norseman was wise; therefore, he took no notice of the boy's words.
"What's your name, boy?" the Norseman said crossly after listening to the boy stumble over himself some more.
"Daniel, squire to Lord-"
"Daniel, huh?" the Norseman mused, cutting Daniel off from boosting about his important position under the prestigious Lord Falcon. "Oh, I remember you from when you were this tall," the Norseman held out his arm a short distance from the wooden floor. "Uh-huh, yep, I remember. I use to tell you scary children stories to make you behave. Why, you would get so scared that you would cry and pee your pants!" The Norseman roared with laughter.
Blushing furiously, Daniel stood stiff-legged with his feet together and his hands clenched at his sides as if he was about to repeat the past.
This only made everyone laugh even harder. All the children crowded around the Norseman as he began his second tale of the night:
"I use to tell him about how dragons would swoop down from the Mountains at night and snatch the little kids that were outside being naughty instead of being in bed like they were suppose to be. I told him all about the vicious, fire-breathing dragons that were as big as a boat and covered in armored scales like great snakes."
"Sounds a lot like your lake-monster!" quipped a fair-haired boy.
Everyone laughed, but the Norseman looked deathly serious. He shook his head.
"Make fun but you wouldn't be laughing if you ever met a real dragon."
"Have you ever seen a dragon?" asked the dark-haired girl, utterly fascinated.
"No, he hasn't!" declared Daniel, trying to regain his dignity. "Can't you see that he's telling the same make-believe story that he use to tell me? There are no such things as dragons!"
"Be quiet, boy!" the Norseman reprimanded. "Don't talk about things that you don't understand!"
"So it's true, then? There really are dragons?" the dark-haired girl asked happily.
Daniel rolled his eyes and mumbled to himself.
Now ignoring Daniel, the Norseman focused his attention on the girl. He kneed down to her level and asked, "What's your name, little missy?"
Adrienne stood out among the rest of the children. For one, her dark brown hair looked all the darker amongst the many fair-haired boys and girls that surrounded her. And for another, her childish body was slender and small-built compared to the stockier bodies of the others. The Norseman could see that she would grow up to be a stunning beauty, but he also saw something very different in her, something in her that made all her other differences pale in comparison.
"Do you think dragons are real?" asked the Norseman.
"I hope so! I want to see one!"
"No, you don't!" Daniel broke in. "Just like a girl! The dragon would kill you and eat you!"
"No, he wouldn't!" Adrienne retorted. "The dragon would look upon my beauty and be totally enthralled by me. He would dress me up in jewels from his stored treasure under the mountain."
Daniel snorted. "Shows how much you know! Dragons don't let anyone touch their treasure."
"Ha! There you are wrong! (Besides, I thought you said that dragons weren't real, so what does it matter?) I would only be an addition to his treasure- his most prized possession!"
All the girls giggled in delight (Daniel scoffed), so Adrienne beamed as she entered the limelight and began her own tale.
She began telling them how the dragon would let her ride on his back and they would fly above the clouds when the Norseman left the group of children. Her small voice continued to float to his ears, gradually getting softer.
The Norseman didn't need to hear anymore. He was more certain than ever. Lifting the mug to his lips, he whispered and prophesied, "They will be coming for her."
-End of Chapter 1-