Posts Tagged With: fiction

How the Orange Dragon Found His Cook (Part Two)

Yesterday, I promised two things: the rest of my story, and the theme of the 24 words that made up the original prompt. As promised, here they are:

The theme: Brown (it was a children’s word search book, I think; the categories were goofy like that!).

The rest of the story:

How the Orange Dragon Found His Cook (Part Two)

As they approached the palace after entering the city, Collin began to feel nervous. What if the Orange Dragon wasn’t interested in trying new foods? Worse, what if the guards were lying to him and only meant for him to become the dragon ruler’s next meal? He needed to come up with a plan.
“What are you going to do with me?” he asked his escorts.
The younger guard glanced at him. “We will bring you before His Highness, and you will state your case. If he likes it, we’ll have a chance to change things.”
The other guard snorted. “But if he doesn’t agree, which is more likely, then you’re his next meal on charges of insulting him.” He paused, and wrinkled his face. Collin noticed for the first time that he looked rather like a gorilla when he scowled. “Maybe we should just save time and charge you with treason ourselves, so we don’t get in trouble for bringing you here.”
The younger guard elbowed his colleague. “Don’t talk like that! We will do right by this man, and he may make things better for a great deal of people.”
Right about then, they reached the palace gates. Collin had never seen such a huge structure up close before—his excursions into the city kept him far from the royal district. It only made sense that a creature as large as a dragon would require a large space, but that didn’t keep him from staring at the wide, tapestry-hung hallways and high, gilded ceilings they passed.
Too soon, they reached the great hall. There, Collin found himself before a dragon for the first time in his life. He knelt before the Orange Dragon as the guard whispered something in the great creature’s ear.
After a moment that felt too long, a deep voice said, “You may rise.” Collin slowly stood and looked his ruler in the eye. The Orange Dragon was huge. Where some countries had throne rooms with a raised platform for the throne and advisory seats, this raised platform was completely filled by the scaled form of the dragon. Collin had heard that the wisdom of a dragon was obvious in its eyes, but all he could see now was a creature who might eat him if he didn’t think fast.
“Your Highness,” he said, “I have heard of your strong, ah, taste for justice, and that there is growing to be a shortage in the criminal numbers that you require. I have heard some suggest war as a way to restock, but I have a solution that would save many lives.”
He hoped he hadn’t been too bold in getting to the point, but there it was. The Orange Dragon just looked at him.
“Go on,” it said.
Collin could do nothing but just spit it out. “I’m a cook, and I think I can help you find a new favorite dish.” The silence in the hall lasted a full two minutes. Finally, the Orange Dragon spoke.
“Very well. You have one month.”
So began the most stressful month of Collin’s life. He assumed that he needed to find a new meat to replace the Orange Dragon’s diet of human flesh, so he started  by fixing raw and cooked versions of some animals common to that region: beaver, armadillo, and (naturally) horse.  The Orange Dragon sent them back untouched, with a message—Too common! I hate the very stench of these creatures! I hope this isn’t the best you can do!
The second week, Collin had a live lion and bear brought in. Perhaps the taste of a predator would appeal to the strong nature of the dragon. But the Orange Dragon, upon testing these dishes, shook his head and demanded something less tough. Collin was running out of options, so at the end of the third week, he had a monkey population and even a kangaroo shipped in from neighboring countries. Could it not be that something new and exotic would please the dragon?
Get this out of here!” bellowed the dragon after both of these dishes had been sampled. So Collin’s last hope had failed after all. “You bring me all this meat! It is sickening me—there is no meat like human flesh. None!” He lowered his voice, and narrowed his dark eyes into slits. “Now find something different, or this experiment will be over. And so might you.”
Too soon, it was the final week of Collin’s trial month. He would die soon; he knew it. One afternoon near the end, he prepared his favorite treats for himself and went to sit in the palace courtyard and eat through his despair. When he heard the Orange Dragon (who often wandered outside) approaching, he didn’t even turn until he heard the ruler stop right behind him.
“What is that?”
“My… lunch?”
“I require a taste.” With that, the Orange Dragon cleaned the bowl and cup, looked Collin in the face, and said, “You are hired—permanently.”
Confused but hopeful, Collin hurried back into the palace and made a larger version of his snack, which he immediately sent to the Orange Dragon. The word that he got back was simply “Good.”
In this way, Collin became the official palace cook. Furthermore, humans breathed more easily at night knowing that only the very worst crime would prompt the death sentence in the future, and the Orange Dragon discovered his immense love of coconut pudding with chocolate cola. Collin still missed his tree house from time to time, but otherwise, everyone lived reasonably happily ever after.

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How the Orange Dragon Found His Cook (Part One) AND your story results!

Thank you to those who submitted a dragon story following last week’s prompt! I realized afterward that my readers in the United States might have trouble finding time to write in the days leading up to the Fourth of July, but I did receive a few stories that I’m excited to tell you about.

  • Untitled Dragon Story comes from a reader who definitely had the holiday on his mind. My favorite part of this story is how he was able to use all 24 words in such a short piece yet still have a complete story.
  • Out Here was submitted by another reader who said he added one more rule for himself in using the 24 words. Can you see what he did? I thought it was interesting that this story, like mine, has a protagonist who lives in the forest.
  • Finally, we have The Dragon Show, written by  Anna Stroven who blogs at Where Morning Dawns. I love the animal town, as well as how the character of Mrs. Macgregory feels like one of those old ladies who seems nutty but is absolutely loveable.

Thank you to the few who got a chance to write, and I hope the rest of you get a chance to read the above stories!

As I was writing my story, it got to be pretty long, so I decided to split it into two parts. You don’t have to wait for Monday to read Part Two, though—I’ll make sure I get it up tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll also tell you what the theme of the word search was that provided these goofy 24 words.

Without further ado, here is Part One of “How the Orange Dragon Found His Cook”:

A long time ago, there was a prospering kingdom that stretched from the rolling seaside to the towering mountains. At that time, humans were ruled by dragons. This arrangement usually meant comfort and great hoards of riches (for the dragons) and wise leadership and protection from other humans (for the humans). Everyone was satisfied, and there was peace.
In this country, however, an old tradition associated with dragon rule went terribly wrong when the Orange Dragon took the throne (orange dragons were known for their irrational and slightly unhinged behavior; people rested most safely when a mellow blue or calm green dragon ruled). This particular tradition dictated that the dragon ruler, who was normally limited to a vegetarian diet with the exception of the occasional sheep or deer, could devour all criminals, enemies, and otherwise who earned the death sentence. For the dragons, this meant a delicacy that was normally off-limits; for the humans, this meant an incentive to keep crime rates down.
The Orange Dragon wasn’t satisfied with only getting one criminal every few months. He so enjoyed the taste of human flesh that he encouraged the death sentence more and more frequently—first, every month or so, and later, every week. It wasn’t good enough to merely avoid being a murder; soon, even the commonest of thieves were being sentenced to death just to keep up with the Orange Dragon’s demands. Something had to be done before there was nobody left to eat, but what could they do? Their ruler was wise and good in every other aspect, and besides that, he was far more powerful than any of his human subjects.
Around this same time, there was a young man who lived alone in the Deep Nut Wood. Content to live in a tree house in the branches of a walnut tree, he happily lived alone, conversing with the birds and creating food masterpieces that he largely enjoyed by himself, but would sometimes bring into the city to share with his few acquaintances there. He knew about and was bothered by the Orange Dragon’s taste for humans, but as he lived far from the castle and never did anything wrong, he didn’t worry too much about it.
One day, as he made his way through the trees carrying a basket of almonds freshly gathered just that morning, he heard some people coming past. He stepped away from the path to watch and listen. There was a pair of the palace guards, looking very far from home and very irritated.
“We’d better find someone tonight,” one was saying to the other, “or we’ll be the next victims, punished for not bringing him his weekly prisoner.”
“I still don’t think it’s fair.”
The first guard chuckled. “We don’t have fair happening here, sonny.” He suddenly cried out as his left boot went into a mud puddle. Shaking the mud off his foot, he also shook his head. “No, it’s not fair we have. It’s a hungry dragon.”
Our young man, whose name was Collin, spoke up from the side of the road against his better judgment. “Perhaps you could find something he likes better than humans.”
The guards started, and both turned toward him.
“Who’s that, then?”
“My name is Collin, sir, and I live here.”
The first guard looked around with wary eyes. “I see no home.”
Collin patted the bark of a nearby tree. “The trees are my home. I prefer the solitude.”
The guards exchanged glances and lowered their spears toward him. “Or maybe,” the second one suggested, “you’re a criminal who is hiding from the justice we’re looking to provide.”
Collin shook his head. “No sir—I’ve caused no trouble. The people in the nearby city can vouch for me.”
The first guard moved a step closer. “You’ve caused no trouble—yet. If you don’t do as I say, I can arrest you on charge of resisting authority. Do you know what the penalty is for that?”
“I can guess.”
The guard grinned wickedly. “It’s death.”
Collin, naturally, wanted anything but to be eaten by the Orange Dragon, so he complied in showing the guards his home, explaining again that he loved living outdoors, and admitting that yes, he knew a thing or two about food, which is why he had suggested the idea of finding a different food source. But then they said something he was hoping not to hear.
“Come with us.”
“What, sir?”
“You heard me,” said the guard. “You clearly know about food, and if you think the Orange Dragon can be satisfied by some other meal, then you must be the one to come and try. If you don’t—“
“If I don’t, I’ll be his next meal,” said Collin wearily. “You don’t leave me much of a choice.”
“At this point, it’s either you or us, and I choose you.”
And so, dusting the dirt off his knapsack and filling it with his most necessary belongings and the spare mushroom or potato that only grew in the soil of the Deep Nut Wood (you never know when such a thing may come in handy while cooking), Collin bid his walnut tree a reluctant farewell and turned with the guards back toward the city.

Categories: Writing Projects | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Dragonworld: dusting off an old cover

Cover of Dragonworld

Dragonworld is full of similar black and white illustrations.
Image borrowed from

One of my dad’s old fantasy novels made it off the dusty basement shelf over the weekend. I was sure I had read Dragonworld by Byron Preiss and Michael Reaves years ago, but I couldn’t remember what it was about and decided to give it another go.

Dragonworld is the story of a misunderstanding—when several connected tragedies strike, the neighboring lands of Fandora and Simbala jump to conclusions and blame the other side. Can one man prevent a war? Can a young monarch maintain political stability in the midst of crisis? How can the lost secrets of the dragons possibly hold the key to ending the whole mess? These questions and others like them are the threads that run through this story, keeping the reader guessing until the last chapter.

The cover of the book claimed it was a #1 fantasy best-seller on the same level as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I liked the book, but I have to disagree with the comparison—while both are certainly fantasy adventures with much at stake, the writing style and characterization in Dragonworld simply doesn’t live up to Tolkien’s. It has that same “telling” feel to it that so many cheap fantasy and sci-fi books have. That’s one of my pet peeves in the genre, so let’s not get me started…

The two primary human groups in the story are simple, but very different. The Fandorans are short, simple people, mainly farmers and tradesmen. They are governed by town elders, and there is no overarching government unless a council is called. These are no hobbits, though—where hobbits prefer not to do anything sudden or rash, the Fandorans are ready to go to war against their formidable neighbors the instant they suspect them of wrongdoing. The Simbalese are the opposite: their civilization is more advanced, with mines, cities, flying windships, and a developed monarchy. In Simbala, it is political intrigue, not raw emotion, that runs rampant.

Yes, there are dragons in this book. I don’t want to spoil the story, though, so I won’t say too much. Just know that they are central to the story (even when they aren’t there), are conscious beings (not mere animals as portrayed in Beowulf or speculated by Animal Planet), and exist separate from the humans (this is not an Eragon-like relationship). Something I really found interesting is the respect of a dragon’s fire in this story—a fire that is rarely used. In Chapter XXXII, a late-appearing yet key character explains, “For the Dragonflame is not a gift to be used lightly, or for selfish ends, and never to take a life.” I appreciated this, since today’s books and movies seem a bit flame-happy, having dragons breathing fire every chance they get. In Dragonworld, such fire is not taken for granted.

Conclusion: If you enjoy the fantasy genre, simple style and all, you will like Dragonworld. There is nothing inappropriate in its content, so adventure-loving readers of all ages can safely read and enjoy it. The idea of dragons is well-handled, and it’s a fun story. Just don’t expect Tolkien.

One more fun fact—the sequel to this book was a computer adventure game from the 80’s by the same title. I’d love to get my hands on it, and I’ll let you know how it goes if I ever do.

Categories: Fantasy Fiction | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

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