The Barbarian Bard

Tales and Musings by Michael A. Espinoza

Heroes Return

This is a very short exercise I wrote to practice crafting atmosphere without dialog. I used a song to score the scene as it played out in my mind, and I urge you to listen to it while reading this little yarn.

The foam of waves broke against ivory sand, a rhythmic crashing and rolling that surged forth and ebbed, leaving the shore in a perpetual state of change; each wave made its mark upon the beach, only to have its message scrubbed clean by its successor. Above, the sun watched over the world, its sight unimpeded by even a single cloud, though a solitary black speck grew nearer in the clear blue heavens, pressing through the air and toward the beach.

A black dragon beat its leathery wings at an unceasing pace, a heavy pulse that thrummed like the pounding of the sky’s great heart. On the mighty beast’s back, two riders sat upon a peculiar raised saddle, a rigging of three seats harnessed to their mount by way of creaking leather straps. The riders were a male and female, riding side by side and looking forward to the shore. Their expressions were vacant, impassive as they watched the beach approach.

The man, a dark-haired figure with a face full of fresh scars, adjusted a strap on his armor, fidgeting with a damaged buckle. His cuirass was dented, rent, and stained with rust-colored splotches of blood. His companion–a light-haired woman with smooth features and pointed ears–checked that a knife was still secure in its weather-beaten sheath at her side.

As one, the two riders looked to the third seat of their strange saddle. A sand-blasted and sun-parched saddlebag hung at the seat’s side, and the saddle bore the indentation of a rider’s presence. The pair’s eyes lingered on the seat’s emptiness for a long while, the silence punctuated by the flap of the dragon’s wings; a slow, deep fluttering sound like a ship’s sails. The riders looked forward once more, the male drawing his hand across his eyes and blinking them to clear a faint mist that had gathered at their corners. The golden-haired woman took his hand and gave it a squeeze, not letting go until the dragon’s massive feet splashed down in the shallow surf.

The warriors dismounted in the breaking waves and stepped to the front of the beast that had borne them on its back. The male patted its head, and the woman kissed the dragon’s elongated snout. The winged reptile gave a low rumble, a keen acknowledgement in its eyes as it turned in the surf and, with a push of its muscular legs and several quick flaps of its wings, took to the air once more, disappearing into the clear blue dome of the sky. Ever silent, the woman and man raised their eyes to the heavens, then turned their backs to the sea and the lands that lay beyond…


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2 thoughts on “Heroes Return

  1. The Manoj Arora on said:

    Very good. The first paragraph is so poetic… I love it. “each wave made its mark upon the beach, only to have its message scrubbed clean by its successor” was fantastic. Keep it up.

    By the way, I write too. Please do read mine (short story) when u have the time:

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