Casey Alexander Carter is 21 years old. He grew up in the American north east. He is currently studying creative writing at Fullsail University, and hopes to make writing a career. This is the first time he has ever been published.
In that cursed chateau de rouge
“You think me mad,” the knight said, thumping his fingers on every word. His watery gray eyes stared at Mihaly, boring into his skull.
“No... of course not. At least I don’t think so.” Mihaly suddenly found something interesting to look at in the bottom of his ale mug. He supposed the knight was probably mad but he didn’t want to be rude by admitting it. Plus, the knight had a sword, and Mihaly did not.
The knight laughed, “You do! I know you do. Everyone does. ‘Poor old mad Sir Leonhardt’ they say.” He took a deep draught from his mug and seemed to calm himself down. He straightened his back and gave Mihaly a serious look. “It's fine. I’m too old and brave to be offended by peasant rumors and the like.”
“I recognize the name,” said Mihaly. “Sir Leonhardt of Gaul, Hero of the Albian wars. You sailed an army across the Fang Sea and killed every man in the Albianish line of succession. You’re the reason they have no king.”
“Ah yes!” He chuckled, “Swam across the sea I did, beheaded a fair lot of princes I did.” Sir Leonhardt leaned across the table almost spilling his drink. He lowered his voice to almost a whisper, and Mihaly had to crane his neck to hear what came next. “I’ve seen thousands butchered by sorcery before me very eyes. I’ve raised entire villages to the mud. But what I saw in that cursed Chateau de rouge had me pissing my own breeches like a schoolboy.”
“What did you see?” Mihaly interrupted. He was beginning to think that perhaps Sir Leonhardt was either more, or less mad than he had first thought.
The Knight scooted his chair closer to the table, took another draught of ale, and prepared to tell his story. “I thought the chateau was empty save maybe a few scavengers or brigands. Nothing I couldn’t handle. I walked in the front door waving my sword about and shouting. Little did I know, I had just woken up a dragon. You should have seen the look on my face when it stood up on its hind legs, stomping its front paws in front of me. ‘How dare you!’ It said. ‘You men, you monsters, interrupting my slumber, cutting down my trees for your hearth, murdering the subjects of my kingdom of the wood for your bellies! If you continue to disturb my kingdom, I will fly to yours and burn it all to ash!’ The dragon roared so loudly the walls shook and the stonework began to crack. And then...”
“And then?” Mihaly asked. Sir Leonhardt took a sip of ale and grunted.
“Then the beast sneezed and blew me down on my arse!” He chuckled again but soon continued. “Then he let me go. I was lucky to get away for sure. I’ve wrestled bears with my own bear hands, but I couldn’t fight that dragon. Lucky he didn’t roast me in my own armor like a chicken, I am.” He then quieted down. He gazed out the tavern window with a sort of melancholy look on his face. “I warned the lords, the wizards, even the priests. None of them will believe me, yet no one will take a trip to that chateau. They probably believe me; they just don’t want to be bothered with it. Lazy buggers they are.”
“That was a good story,” Said Mihaly. He did enjoy it and he at least partially believed the knight. “I certainly won’t be making a trip to that chateau.”
“That was a kind way of saying you don’t believe me,” said the knight. He leaned on one elbow and began to stare at Mihaly again.
“Oh... I do believe you. I just don’t know what to do about it. You’re the knight, why don’t you bring an army and slay the dragon?” asked Mihaly. “Isn’t that what you're supposed to do?”
“I’m much too old for that now,” Sir Leonhardt said. “there's probably nothing I can do. Cities got to grow, men got to fill their bellies, and lords got to make their coin. Someday we’ll push too far into the dragon's kingdom. We’ve got no right to, but we will. And then that winged beast will burn us all. Soon trees will sprout from the ash, and our kingdom will be just another haunted wood.”
“If he does, I'll take a trip here and give whatever charcoal is left of you a proper burial,” said Mihaly.
“You know what?” said the knight. “That’s probably the nicest thing anyone has ever offered to do for me.” Then they ordered some more ale.