October 10, 2014

Write a short story which includes the words ‘I should have listened’.

English Essay by Siún Ní Cheallaigh

Hooves collided with frozen snow to create rhythmic thudding sounds as a troop of armoured men rode north through snow-capped mountains. The resonant pounding of the horses’ hooves reverberated through the mountain range as the sound bounced from one icy tower to the next. In the end it was difficult to tell what direction it came from if the group was out of your sight.

Brilliant reds and royal blues billowed behind the mounted men as their cloaks rippled and flapped in the wind. Their faces were relatively expressionless and their eyes narrowed, in the hopes of keeping the cold air from affecting their vision or causing their eyes to water. If they had had much of a say in the matter, they wouldn’t have ventured out this far into the frigid unknown of this mountainous wasteland. But as explorers or adventurers of the realm, they had been ordered to journey further south and report any findings. People were still wary of the unknown, but growing a lot more curious. They wanted to know whether the legends of monstrous mountain beasts, told by the elderly, were true or not.

“Madley! You’re lagging behind!” boomed one of the leading riders, Commander Emure. His voice was loud, and even though he needed to be loud to be heard over the pounding of horses, his voice was probably bordering too loud. Too loud for a mountainous area anyway, especially with the avalanche risks.

“You shouldn’t be so loud sir— the legends say that giant beasts sleep inside these mountains,” warned the commander’s squire as his horse caught up again to side with his master’s.

“Never mind your bedtime stories. There isn’t anything dangerous here other than this weather. Now, do you see any passage through the spires up ahead?”

Raising a copper-coloured telescope and peering through, the boy tightly clutched his horse’s reins with his free hand. “No sir, it’s all blocked up ahead. We’ll need to turn back and find a different route,” he responded while dropping the telescope again to grab his reins with both hands, not yet that confident on his horse.

With a curt nod, the commander yelled another order, perhaps slightly louder than the previous time, if possible, and the group curved a sharp u-turn as they turned back the way they came. Eventually the accumulation of thunderous sounds, both of the horses and yelling men, was enough.

The frozen ground began to shudder and with a rumble the earth cracked, crevices splitting through the ice like veins. Alarmed neighs filled the air as numerous horses skidded to a halt, some stopping in time while others weren’t so lucky. Riders were thrown off as their mounts either tripped or bucked them out of their saddles out of fear. Commander Emure managed to veer away from the largest of the crevices, and only had a second to presume he was out of harm’s way, before the ground then started to rise as if a new mountain was being born.

Snow and ice rained down on riders, and those unlucky enough to not have time to get out of the way were pummelled to the ground. When the commander next had the chance to look up, presuming to see some sort of rock formation, he paled at the sight of a giant Wyrm; a winged serpent-like creature believed only to exist in tales. And that had only been its head that broke up from the ice-covered ground. The rest of its massive body was breaking free from the surrounding masses of snow, along with a tail that instantly knocked more riders cold with one swish.

Now it was only the dragon and the commander that remained, reptilian eyes focusing upon him while his horse kicked and reared. ‘Oh gods— I should have listened,’ was his only thought as he was faced with impending death, one hand lowering to pull a longsword from its sheathe. He might as well go down fighting, even if there wasn’t as much as a sliver of a chance for him.