It is Spring on this side of the world, the time when a young man's thoughts of fancy turn to the scourge of dragons and how to rid the world of them.
To that end were dragonslayers born and guild houses formed. Apprentice for three years and tally three kills and you become a dragonslayer. Fifty kills and you become a Master Dragonslayer. Not many make it to fifty. There are too many opportunities to be killed, either by fang, claw, or fire. Only a few can lay claim to a hundred kills and those warriors are held up as gods. Many retire from the guild when age and injury pile up. Only a daring few continue clearing the skies of the aerial beasts.
, with more than three-hundred kills. "Making the roads safe for clean boots!" is his motto, never one to endure boots soiled from falling dragon waste. No, he has sworn to rid the realm of all dragons, large and small, all of the varieties that terrorize his city. He even dares to go into the Valley of Death to do battle with them! He climbs the mountains, stakes claim to a rugged cliff with a far vantage and waits for dragons to wing past. Then he launches iron bolts at them from his dragonslinger weapon and laughs as they fall, crashing to the red soil below. Making the prince's quota each month, Corlan can then enjoy a good brew and a better woman during a few days of rest before once more returning to do battle with the dragons.
Unfortunately, men can be jealous, can even petition the Prince to banish such a man as Corlan Tang, lest they never again be shown small against his dragon kill tally. Where is proof of his kills? He never brings back dragonware to show off - whereas Braden Batiste makes lavish parades of the carcasses of his killed dragons, and offers the flesh to the poor house kitchens! It should matter not that the braggart Corlan says he has 300 kills.
The Prince, being a sniveling snoot of a man seeing threats to his throne at every turn, is easily persuaded. Never having been much impressed with Corlan's prowess in either dragonslaying or in his earlier profession in the military, the Prince knows it is better to get Corlan out of the city and have no further worries about the succession - now that the aged king, his grandfather, lies on his death-bed. Send Corlan out into the Valley of Death he so loves and be rid of him! Banish him for at least a year - that should be long enough for him to see death in the fire of dragonry - or else return then with sufficient dragonware to prove his claim as the greatest dragonslayer ever!
Yet the Valley of Death is a thousand miles long. There are tales of vast marshes at the far southern end where dragons lay their eggs on low islets and where the draglings hatch in the spring. If only he could journey there, thinks Corlan as he sets foot once more in the Valley of Death. Then he might smash their eggs and lance the draglings and thus be done with dragons once and for all time, thus saving humanity from their horrors. It seems a good plan, something to strive toward for the coming year. A quest worthy of a man with dark secrets and - what's this? - and a runaway boy from the palace kitchen!
"Please, Sir, take me with you," says the boy. "They always beat me in the kitchen. Teach me to kill dragons, Sir, and I'll cook one for your supper!"
"Very well, lad," Corlan replies. "I have no choice but to take you. And don't call me 'sir'!"
And yet we must remember that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a dragon attack....
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