Yes, There Be Dragons by Greg Scherzinger
Dragons have long held the fascination of men, related in the oldest of myths. Tales abound of Oriental beasts of great power and Norse monstrosities guarding treasure. Numerous accounts from the ancient lore and traditions of Wales, Nubia, Greece, and Rome, suggest the myths may have origins in the great water snakes of the Nile, giant crocodiles, even whales, whose bones may have been found bleached on some antediluvian shore.
For a long time, I have wanted to include them in my tales, though none of my stories to date had a place for them and they are certainly not beasts a writer should throw around gratuitously. In ‘The Henna Witch’, dragons could exist within the deep reaches of the uncharted lands, even necessary in such a dark place, and so they were born, gargantuans who share a common mind. Their presence was felt early as Ashia and her entourage entered the abysmal swamps.
Excerpt from “the Henna Witch”
Vines as thick as stoneworker’s cables draped the log, carpeted with bright green moss and tender ferns. Long ago, an aging Utill had toppled to earth, bridging the morass of brown stagnant water. The dregs of light that filtered down in the late hours of the day had their own murk, leaving the air dank and moldering.
Zinan took the lead, the black jaqar weaving along the thin path that was worn into the gnarled and rough bark. Ashia followed, with O’la close on her heels. The scruffy beige terrier came last, constantly looking behind as though suspect of every shadow. The colorful birds that O’la knew, were absent in the bleak airs that suffocated near the ground, a layer of liquid surfaces that marled between muck and bottomless gloom. Birds could only be spied in the highest rungs of the canopy, not venturing into the dank atmospheres that were trapped by the thick primeval awning thrown over the depths.
‘Wyrms.’ Was the only portent the birds would offer her, though their flashing images were far more monstrous than the grubs they would feed to their young. O’la had seen the sheens of algae ripple, the disturbance roiled from deep within the water. Once she had seen slick scales brush the surface of the waters, black with leaf rot. The bulge had drifted back into the slimes with a sloughing silence. Sounds suffered the same damp fate, sucked into the evaporating steams. She could not see them, yet their presence weighed within the waters, far heavier than the mother serpents of her home. She had grabbed the witch-woman’s attention too late to identify the slithering presence.
“Yes. I have noticed too.” Ashia reassured her in quiet tones as if not to disturb the heavy air or attract the attention of unseen eyes. “Water dragons. They are not of this world and we are in their domain.”
The beasts did not exist outside the dark mists of the impenetrable Vacant Green, known only as sinister fables in ancient lore, tales told by mad prophets to frighten the most hardened of souls. In another time, she had traveled to the Sanctuary of the Outcasts along the ordained path, beyond the reach of the fabled beasts.
Ashia gauged the height of the tangle above them. Occasional crackles and shifts in the lipid foliage marked the passage of some cautious being. Bats with dark membrane wings and mottled fur, drifted in circles among the vines, the slow flap of their wings pocking the damp silence as they searched for their fruits. She had cast a thought to them. They too acknowledged the beasts that lurked below the scabrous algae. It was danger to fly close to the waters … their notion of death was, ‘open mouth’ and she saw the enormity of the maw in their fleeting thoughts.
The trees above were marked with slashes, the lowest foliage marked as constantly torn with fractured aged decay, shredded with new grooves. Above the ragged edges, the overhangs bound together in choking disarray. It was possible to navigate further into the Green by keeping to those middle reaches thick with the old arms of the trees. The route would not be as direct; and, as she had studied the progress of the Akalla, it was certain that he’d found the Tendrillar, the secret long hidden in the clot of the jungle. To fly, they lay closer than the Akalla to the clouded labyrinth of the Sanctuary. Yet they had not the benefit of wings and there was more than the haunting presence lurking beneath the waters that could delay them.
“We don’t attract their interest. But, you are wise to keep your silence.”
O’la nodded, her eyes round with understanding. She slowed her step as she felt the lurking presence, as could Fetch, who followed closely on her heels. The old Utill log, once a giant standing tall over the morass, was now adrip with old moss and spent vines. It stretched its fallen length across the dark, turbid water to a crest of land framed with skeletal roots. There had been many similar bridges, a god’s tangle of ‘catch-sticks’ laid over the water between the plots of stubborn soil. Following the black jaqar, they walked single-file along the span, a sparsely worn path centered in the dank moss which feasted on the aged bark.
Written by Greg Scherzinger
Author Bio ~ GJ Scherzinger
Gregory Scherzinger spent the bulk of his formative career skiing as much as possible while finding gainful work as a TV Producer and Director. He left the broadcast business to spend the next 13 years living on a 41′ yawl in NW Washington. In various adventures, he sailed the Inside Passage, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Bahamas. His first novel was penned while residing in the San Juan Islands. He lived for a while in Todos Santos on the Baja, Mexico, where he continued writing and was adopted by a stray dog who is still with him. He currently lives on a small farm in the coastal hills of his native Oregon and just completed the first draft of his fifth novel, the Deck of the Numinon..