Champion of the Dragon Empress: A Writing Contest Entry

In an effort to make up for the lack of activity on the TotallyTawn WordPress blog, I offer a short story.  I hope you enjoy it.

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Champion of the Dragon Empress

The Dark Knight stood—legs spread, gauntlet-encased hands resting comfortably on the hilt of a gilded longsword—knee deep in the shattered remains of the enemy. The flames of battle stained the sky an oppressive orange-amber, kindling a symphony of ominous sparks which played lovingly across the knight’s immaculate gold and onyx armor. Though torn and stained, the Dragon Empress’ standard—a scarlet dragon on a field of blood—poked forlornly from the muck behind and to the right of the champion, and taunted the vanquished as they fled.

The knight watched the broken figures retreat, knowing they would return to fight another day. The enemy combatants would certainly die drowning in their own blood on that day, yet somehow there would always be more clamoring to take their place. The carnage was unrelenting, and the Dark Knight was its orchestrator, snuffing lives as easily and frequently as an acolyte douses the candlelight at the conclusion of Rites.

The visor of the knight’s winged helm was closed, affording none a view of the weariness veiling the warrior’s thundercloud-gray eyes. Only the Dragon Empress herself had seen the wrinkles marring her paladin’s aging, pitted skin, and the streaks of silver coursing through the Dark Knight’s long, stringy locks. If it was known how timeworn the Defender of the Realm had become, there would be no quarter, no respite until the Dark Knight had fallen. Only the diaphanous illusion of this single warrior’s invincibility spared the empress’ forces from being overrun.

The victorious soldier returned the perfectly balanced sword to its scabbard, rigidly turned, and began the trek to the Palace of the Dragon Empress. A lustrous diamond among the wretched, stinking masses, the Dark Knight was untouched by the grime of battle, further underscoring legendary claims of fortitude. The throngs parted with silent reverence, clearing a dusty path through soldiers and civilians alike to the marble steps of the palace, and then on into the opulent throne room.

“The Defender of the Realm, Champion of the Dragon Empress, and The Vanquisher of Fears: The Dark Knight,” the Herald announced to the empress’ court, ushering in the towering, metal-clad, soldier with a modest bow and lowered eyes.

“Leave us,” the Dragon Empress commanded, beckoning the knight forward. The empress patently ignored the murmured grumbling of the courtiers—barely heard over the swishing of silk and brocade—as they exited the room, imperial guards at their heels.

Once the cavernous room had cleared of all save monarch and champion, the Dark Knight finally removed her helm with a sigh, and knelt—right knee and fist to the ground—before her regent. “The battle is won, Your Majesty,” she intoned, as she had thousands, perhaps millions of times before. “The Fears have been defeated and all is quiet. You may proceed as you will without their hindrance .”

“You have done well, my champion,” praised the empress. “How do you fare?”

The Dark Knight lifted her stormy eyes and captured an identical pair belonging to her twin, sitting stiffly upon the throne. “There will come a day when the Fears will overpower me, my liege. I have conquered them for you every day since you were but a babe, but we both know that Fear cannot be kept at bay for an eternity. Are you prepared for that happenstance?”

The empress nodded. “I am,” she breathed. “On the day when you can no longer hold back the Fear, I shall exit this world as we entered it—together. And know this, my sister, only by defeating Fear have We truly lived. You have made this happen, and We are grateful.”

* * *

Marsha took a deep breath and stepped into the spotlight, her internal battles won and her mind calm. Blinking the glare from her thundercloud-gray eyes, she adjusted the microphone, took a small sip of water, and began her prepared speech.

Fearless.

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