And now for something completely different…
When readers ask authors the inevitable question – “Where do you get your ideas?” – many of us can’t give a straight answer. Often, our stories spring from our imagination, and sometimes there seems to be no obvious trigger.
For once, I experienced a trigger I can pinpoint, and here it is:
This is one of a large collection of dragon sculptures I own, and looking at this guy one day, I suddenly knew the story behind his actions.
With a loud crack, the turret roof came clean away in the dragon’s claws.
Well, not quite clean. Stones and debris showered down, filling my gaping mouth with dust. I spat to clear the bitter powder from my tongue, my awe at the beast’s strength turning to horror as I heard the cries from inside the now decapitated tower. There were people up there!
Heart pounding, I ran on shaking legs towards the base of the tower stair. A quick glance up showed the dragon flying ponderously away, weighed down by the chunk of masonry still clutched in those lethal claws.
I knew the stair of old, every step, every turn, every landing with their decrepit wooden doors sagging on hinges long rusted beyond use. Seventy. Ninety. One hundred and fifteen steps, and I burst into open air. Three young couples, eyes wild with fear, clung together in the centre of the circular room, or so it had been before the dragon opened it to the elements.
“What are you doing up here?” I demanded, my only answer a clutch of glares and a tightening of the group hug. Well, right now it wasn’t so important why they were here. We had to get out before the nightmare on leather wings returned.
“Quick, follow me. Don’t just stand there!”
One of them – a pretty young lass with tangled blonde curls – shot a look towards one half-demolished wall. I followed the line of her gaze and saw a bunch of rucksacks and a pile of sleeping bags.
Great. They’d been dossing here, unaware of the danger they were in.
I grabbed the girl by the sleeve and tugged. “Come on! You don’t have time to worry about that stuff, or are you planning on staying around to get incinerated?”
The wump-wump beat of heavy wings approaching brought a shiver to my spine, and I tugged harder, but one of the young men slapped me away.
“Don’t!” he warned. “We’re not going anywhere – you can’t make us. This castle should stand for another thousand years.”
My blood pressure rose another notch. “Not with that coming back, it won’t.” I pointed toward the growing shadow, coursing across the meadow two fields away. The blonde buckled at the sight.
“Anton, perhaps we should…”
Anton shook his head and glared at me. “We will not be moved. This is our home!”
Great, just great. Squatters.
At the end of my wits, I opened my mouth to swear at him, but the sulphurous roar of the dragon stole my breath and my words.
On the plus side, it had the desired effect. Blondie shrieked and bolted for the stairs, closely followed by three of the others. One couple stood firm a moment longer, until heat blasted the side of the tower, and my nostril hairs shrivelled.
After that, it was every person for themselves. I ran for the stair head, hotly pursued by the remaining couple. How we all made it to the bottom without tripping each other up, I’ll never know. We caught up with the others two levels down and slowed a little, a touch of bravado now we couldn’t see or hear the beast.
Arriving at the base of the tower, we all paused, peering out and up, trying to locate the dragon. Chunks of stonework fell past my nose, but only small bits, not enough to indicate the creature had torn any more of the tower asunder yet. An almighty roar shocked us back into motion, and we fled as one for the tree line, hands held above our heads as if that might stop any falling masonry from crushing us like bugs. Under the safety of the shielding canopy, the group stopped and rounded on me once more.
“You bastard!” screeched Anton. “You panicked us into running – now we’ve lost everything. I’m gonna sue the arse off you!”
“Good luck with that,” I said, turning my back on them and heading back out into the sunlight. “You had no legal right to be there.”
His continued threats died into the background as I scrambled over the remains of the wall and marched across the rubble-strewn bailey towards the foreman.
I pointed up at the hovering dragon, and cupped a hand around one side of my mouth to direct my words against the fearsome noise of its wing beats.
“Get that dragon back to work,” I yelled. “We’ve got a castle to demolish!”
© Deborah Jay 2017