Sometimes the Dragon Wins #1
By Jack Carson.
There’s a story out there, no one really knows who told it first, but it’s been around for long time. Anyway, it goes a little like this. There’s this village, a quaint little anywhere place, that just so happens to be in the vicinity of a ferocious dragon. As you can imagine, being terrorized by a dragon on a regular basis is not very pleasant.
So along comes this knight. Resplendent in his armor, astride his white stallion, his sword sharp, his lance long, his head empty. Anyway, this knight goes to slay the dragon. Cinch, right? Well, the knight doesn’t return for about a week, and finally the villagers send somebody to see if he’s completed his task. All this guy finds are the bones of his horse and a fused lump of melted metal, with all that’s left of the knight rattling around inside as crumbled bits of charcoal.
The guy goes back to the village and all he has to say is, “Sometimes the Dragon Wins.”
Sometimes the Dragon Wins #2
“Well,” said Azzear, “This is it.”
“This is where is all happens?” asked Tom.
“Not very big, is it?” joked Azzear.
The place of which they spoke was, in fact, very big. It had to be, because of its purpose. The desert complex sprawled for ten miles in any given direction. Its granite walls were as high as some mountains. The place itself was a marvel of engineering, but what lay inside was still more exciting. Tom still couldn’t believe it. This was where Azzear worked, training dinosaurs for the army.
“Alright, listen up, cousin,” said Azzear, “It’s going to take them a minute to get the gates open so I’ll use this time to explain a few things. This place is the size of a city, so as such it’s easy to get lost in there. Stay with me, but if we do get separated, there are maps available at the entrance and they’re posted at every doorway. That’s another thing, most places inside there have only one or two entrances. That means the complex is more defensible, plus any of the big dinos are less likely to find their own way outside. Can’t risk letting them get out, even in the middle of the desert. It also means you’re going to do a lot of walking. And one more thing: It is impossible for me to overemphasize safety in there. So don’t do anything that seems even a little unsafe.”
“Okay,” said Tom.
The two of them waited as the ancient, wrought-iron gates creaked and groaned, sliding open enough to let them through. The gates had a unique design, they slid side to side, rather than outward or inward. That meant an enemy had to batter them down completely, as opposed to smashing them open. As they rode through, Tom could see why it took them so long to open the gates.
A massive brachiosaurus was harnessed to a series of mechanisms that worked the gate. Tom watched as the gate was closed, the brachio’s muscle rippling as it strained to pull them shut.
“We’re in the South quadrant right now. This is where we train the really big plant-eaters. Brontos, duckbills, ornithopods. They get used for transport, or anything that requires a lot of muscle, like that gate. The North quadrant is where we train the more combative plant-eaters. Triceratops, stegos, ankylos. They go into battle, of course. They’re big enough to be used for battle platforms, and they’re swell fighters themselves when they’re prodded. The East quadrant is where we train the smaller ones. Raptors, pachys, pteros, ostrich dinos. Ostrich dinos can be ridden. Raptors and pachys are excellent guards and fighters. Troodon is smart enough to carry messages, as are the smaller pteros. The biggest pteros can be ridden. I’ll train in the East quadrant sometimes, but I’m mostly in the West quadrant.”
“That’s the big meat-eaters are?”
“Yep. Dilophosaurus, carnotaurus, allosaurus, tyrannosaurus, and anything else that can bite, claw, or otherwise cause mayhem to the enemy.”
“That’s where I want to go.”
“I thought so.”
They dismounted and stabled their horses. They couldn’t bring the animals with them as horses tended to spook around dinos. They climbed aboard a carriage that was being pulled by a styracosaurus.
“West quadrant,” Azzear told the man.
Tom grinned. This was something he’d waited a long time for. His pumped excitedly and his blood felt like fizz in his veins.
Azzear caught his eye and looked at him seriously, “Listen, what said earlier, about safety, applies double, even triple around the carnosaurs.”
“I know,” said Tom.
“Good, just thought I’d bring it up. ‘Cause not a day goes by when I don’t hear about some rookie trainer who made a mistake, or even a veteran who did everything right, getting seriously injured or worse.”
Azzear nodded, “See, what we do, to prepare these dinos for battle, has a lot to do with directing their natural impulses to attack. We just have to make sure they don’t attack our troops or disobey their handler. But even then, accidents happen, especially with the T-rexes.”
“Have you trained any T-rexes?”
Azzear nodded again, “Got a scar from each one.” He pulled up his shirt, “This one was Tyre,” he rolled up his trouser leg, “This on was Lugh. Both on accident when they stepped on me. This one,” he said, rolling up his sleeve and showing a circular scar that went around his whole arm, “was quite deliberate. Sue’s handiwork. Thank goodness we have a mage-healer on staff or I’d have lost the arm.”
“How do keep them from attacking you?”
“We start from birth. We pick them up and carry them around. This gets them to imprint onto us as a surrogate, and they also believe we’ll always be bigger than them. Even when they’re full grown.”
“So what makes them turn on you?”
“Well, like I said, you can train them to leave certain targets alone, but the instinct to attack, to kill, is always there. And sometimes instinct wins out over training. There’s just no way of knowing what’s going to set them off. I remember a guy who got killed, after his charge had bitten him in half, his last words were, ‘Sometimes the dragon wins.’”