Friday, April 29, 2016

Knight-Time on Mars


Keeping with the idea of trying to improve my writing by expanding my horizons, my short story for this week (like last week) is an attempt at a genre I've never tried before. This time, I decided to try writing Science Fiction.

This week's short story was based upon a short story prompt from my writing group. This one involved a picture of a tree with a crow sitting on top of it. My story is called "Knight-Time on Mars". As a student of Arthurian Literature, I thought it would be interesting to put an Arthurian/Knight Type theme into a futuristic setting. After all, King Arthur is the "Once and Future King".

Hope you enjoy the story and I'd love to hear any feedback!

James Meadows

Knight-Time on Mars
by James J Meadows III

One lone pair of boots, leaving one lone pair of tracks across the endless expanse of snow, formed a straight line from the one lone light visible in the distant town to the one lone figure, wrapped in a thick woolen coat at the base of the one lone tree dotting the otherwise barren countryside. There he stood, giving an occasional shiver as he lingered beneath the dark sky. After several minutes, he gave a loud sigh.

“Only a complete idiot walks seven miles through thick snow in the middle of the night to visit a tree,” he said, shaking his head in obvious frustration. As he did so, his eyes fell upon the form of a large corvid resting lightly on one of the empty branches. “Well, at least I’m not the only one, eh? Heh, heh.”

He gave a chuckle. For a moment, he stood there, staring absently at the ground, digging the toe of his boots into the gravel at his feet.

“You know, they say the last great prophet, Nilrem, was buried here.”

        Gawain spoke as much to himself as to the bird but, since the bird was there anyway, he could at least pretend he was speaking to someone as he struggled to air out his thoughts.  

        “They say his soul still lingers around the tree to this very day, providing guidance to lost pilgrims.” He paused for a moment then looked up at the bird. “Have you gotten any answers yet? Cause I sure haven’t.”

A cold breeze whipped across the landscape, sending chills through his skin. He wrapped his coat more tightly around himself to protect against it. He was used to the cold and dark, of course; everyone who lived here was. That didn’t necessarily mean he liked it, though.

“I’m Gawain, by the way,” he said, addressing the bird. “I don’t know if you have a name, so I guess I’ll call you ‘Silence’. After all, that is just about the only answer I’m likely to get to my questions anyway. Heh.”

He gave another quiet chuckle, followed by a long sigh. Adjusting his feet restlessly, he gazed upward into the star-filled night sky. Of course, night was kind of a relative term on Mars. The distant white dwarf star, known as the Sun, didn’t provide that much light during the day time either. He might as well use Jupiter for illumination, for all the good it did. Fortunately, his eyes were well adjusted to the darkness.

“Ever wonder what the heavens must have looked like back when we first settled here,” he asked. “Of course, I don’t know if any of the old stories, Art likes to tell, are true: about how the sun was once so big it took up the entire sky; or, how our ancient ancestors terraformed the planet to create a suitable home as they fled their own planet before the expanding sun; or, if it’s really true that the only reason we have enough warmth to survive here is because the third great age of man filled the atmosphere with various compounds, which create and retain the warmth generated on the surface. I don’t know any of it. I’m a warrior, not a scientist.”

“All I know is: if it is true that people left millions of years ago to explore the distant stars and find a new world for us, they clearly aren’t coming back, any more than are the great technologies that supposedly existed before the wars wiped them out.”

He fell silent for a long time, gazing out over the bleak countryside, back at the small light issuing from his distant hometown.

“War,” he muttered quietly. “I have to admit, I don’t like it much. Neither do I understand how a new war is supposed to fix the darkness created by the old ones, you know?”

Gawain glanced at the bird for a second. It stared at him curiously, moving its head at odd angles as the black eyes studied him. With a slow, almost ceremonious reverence, Gawain drew his sword from its scabbard, holding it up to sparkle in the starlight, as though showing it to the bird.

       “How can a tool of such beauty, cause so much death and destruction?” He asked. “And how can a tool capable of so much death and destruction possibly bring peace and hope?”

       Lowering the sword, he let its tip fall to the snowy ground, before releasing the weapon altogether, sending it crashing into the white powder at his feet. He gazed at it for a second before shifting his eyes to the distant village.

“Art disagrees with me,” he said. “He and Kay believe they are destined to unite the disparate factions of the world into a unified kingdom. They plan to herald in a new age of peace, unity and equality for all people. Art says he found a weapon capable of making him invincible, one that will allow him to unite all the people into a single unified country again. I just don’t know. It seems to me that violence can’t bring peace; it can only perpetuate more violence, don’t you think?”

The bird, which up to this point had not made a single sound, gave a loud shrill squawk. The noise startled Gawain so much that he ducked to the ground and snatched his sword faster that even his own brain could register the movement. The bird’s mouth hadn’t even closed yet before the weapon was once again glimmering within its owner’s hands.

“Heh,” he said, giving another chuckle. “You startled me.”

Gawain glanced down at the sword. He had always possessed fast reflexes and great strength. There were few warriors, if any, whether in the village or beyond, who were more gifted than he, when it came to the art of combat. Some suggested he was one of the families whose ancestors had been genetically altered during the second great age of man, which supposedly happened after the Sun had already swallowed their home world, but before its collapse into the white dwarf stage.

“I suppose I must sound like a complete idiot,” he said. “Here I am, the greatest warrior in the land, one without any other notable or impressive skills beyond my battle training, speaking about how terrible war is.”

  He looked at the sword for a moment before returning it to its sheath.

“But you have to understand, I don’t fight because I enjoy it.” He looked back at the bird, with a pleading expression, as though needing to somehow justify his own actions. “I fight to protect my family. You have seen this world; it is full of strange mutated creatures, bacteria adapted to possess human brains, and murderous raiders who strike where they please without mercy. If I don’t take up arms to protect my mother, my brothers and my friends, who will?”

  He turned away, staring back into the distant village.

“But does a war to unite all nations, really protect my people?” he asked. “Art says history shows that power, safety and security come from one nation uniting many diverse groups under a single banner of peace. He speaks of empires like the Greeks, Persians, and Egyptians, whoever the hell they are, supposedly bringing thousands of years of peace and prosperity to their people. If it’s true, he would know, considering he is the one who likes hanging out, exploring the ruins of that old library from the last age. If he didn’t, he never would have found that old capsule, hidden inside one of the cracking foundation stones, and the strange sword buried inside it. Excalibur, he calls it. I suppose the name has some significance.”

Gawain turned back toward the bird.

“So, what would you do?” he asked.

The bird gave a loud squawk and ruffled its feathers, shaking the tree branch on which it was camped. Gawain smiled.

“Squawk and rustle some branches, huh? Heh,” Gawain gave another chuckle. “Well, I guess I’m halfway there. I’ve spent more than enough time already standing here squawking. I guess it’s time to get on to shaking the tree. Maybe Art is right about his vision of a better world. Maybe he is wrong. But if it doesn’t work, I suppose I haven’t lost anything. If it does work, though, maybe I can finally ensure the welfare and safety of my family. Perhaps I can even bring some light into a world trapped in darkness for too long.”

Gawain looked at the stars one last time before turning toward the bird.

“Thanks for the talk,” he said. “See you ‘round.”

Without another look back, Gawain spun away, marching toward the dim light of the distant town, where his family awaited him. The bird watched him go for several minutes until his fading form had all but disappeared from view.

“Go forth, noble child,” the bird said softly. “Your destiny awaits you.”

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Winners, Losers and the Great Space Race


For my story this week, I decided to try something that I have never done before: write a historical fiction piece. Normally, I get so wrapped up in the history that it is hard for me to actually fictionalize something. One of the nice things about this story is so much of the event is still "classified" that there are plenty of holes for me to fill.

Anyway, I hope you let me know what you think. If you're interested in reading more historical fiction pieces, let me know.


James Meadows

Winners, Losers and the Great Space Race
by James J Meadows III

     Losing. That is what we were doing: losing. And it wasn’t pretty. If it was pretty, we wouldn’t have been standing there, inside an old abandoned salvage yard, whose rotting interior smelled more like a sewer bin than a laboratory, waiting on a truck that might never arrive. Still, it was a risk we had to take.

     I suppose you could consider it a study in contrast. On the one hand, you had us, a country racing toward the moon; or limping was more like it. After two years, we hadn’t even managed to get a single shuttle off the ground. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had already landed one probe on the moon and put another in orbit. Both lunik probes, conveniently like the one touring Europe. Okay, exactly like the one touring Europe. In fact, Russia was so proud of their accomplishments, they didn’t even both sending a replica. They sent the real thing; which was why we were here.

     I glanced at the people on each side of me, waiting breathlessly in the cool evening air. As I did so, my eyes fell upon the face of Veronica. She wasn’t looking at me, of course. I was beneath her notice. I doubted she even knew my name, though I had introduced myself to her when I arrived that morning. She was too distracted to even give me the time of day. I couldn’t say I blamed her.

     Veronica was about as far above me as the moon was above the countries trying to reach it. She was everything I was not: attractive and fit, even the civilian jump suit couldn’t cover that beauty; powerful and commanding, no one questioned a word she said; and a darn good agent, a part of the team that two weeks ago had infiltrated past the heavy Soviet guard to verify the Lunik’s authenticity.

     I, on the other hand, was short and plain looking; my lanky build certainly not powerful or commanding compared to the muscular men comprising the rest of the group. On top of that, I was a newbie, only on my second mission, armed with no fancier equipment than a standard camera and assigned the particularly unimpressive job of snapping pictures. Like I said, not quite in the same league, to put it mildly.

     I drew my attention back to the present. In the distance, I could make out the hazy form of a Russian freight truck heading our way. Several agents drew guns and crouched behind boxes, while the rest of us, dressed in our civilian costumes, shuffled nervously as the transport grew closer.

     Considering the fact that we were expecting the truck, and that it was the whole reason we were here, and that it was arriving perfectly on time, it’s appearance should probably not have caused quite so much alarm. Still, in our profession, anything can be a trap. We were already playing with fire by stealing one of the most expensive and powerful pieces of technology owned by the Soviet government. One wrong slip and this ‘Cold war’ could turn ‘Hot’ very quickly.

     The vehicle pulled into the gate and drove to the correct spot. We could see our drivers through the window, though my own eyes were focused on the road behind them, spotting for any signs of someone having followed. I saw nothing but that wasn’t surprising considering visibility was almost non-existent on the overcast night.

     Veronica took charge of the situation.

     “Do you have it?” she asked.

     “Would we be here if we didn’t?” The man responded.

     “Any indications or signs of being followed?” she continued.

     “None,” the driver said. “We sat on the road for the prearranged time and made contact with our lookouts. There were no signs of escort.”

     “What about the driver?” she asked.

     “Everything went as planned. He received his money and is hiding out at a hotel with several of our agents.”

     “We have confirmation,” shouted an agent, holding a walkie-talkie. “The man watching the shipping yard has taken the bait. He believes are packages are there and has left for the night. We have two agents tailing him.”

     “Excellent,” Veronica said, giving a cold smile. “That is what those Soviets get for all their secrecy. So eager to keep their numbers secret, they don’t even tell the check-in guard how many packages are supposed to be there.”

     She gave a satisfied chuckle.

     “Alright everyone,” she shouted, becoming instantly serious. “Let’s look alive. We have until the inspectors arrive in the morning to get this thing taken apart, put back together and back to the storage building where it belongs.”

     “You two!” she shouted, pointing at the men next to me. “Get that lid off, and don’t forget to disable the trigger mechanisms so they won’t know it was opened. You two, get the note pads and pencils, we’ve got lots of writing to do. And as for you two…”

     She turned to me and the man standing beside me.

     “Get your cameras ready and act like you’ve got a real job. Snap to it! We’ve only got one shot at this, people!”

     She turned and marched across the room. I bristled angrily. Yes, she may be attractive and, yes, she may be well out of my league, but that didn’t mean I had to take her insults.

     “Who does she think she is to address us like that?” I fumed to my companion.

     He gave a small chuckle. He was several years senior to me and, I would have figured, the person most insulted by the comment. To my surprise, however, he didn’t appear insulted at all.

     “Listen to me,” he said. “That woman worked with aviation legend Jerrie Cobb building planes at Aero Design and served with her on the women’s branch of the Mercury project. She could be working at Nasa right now, if she hadn’t given it up to help the CIA’s space race initiative. Maybe we can kidnap a probe, but when it comes to taking it apart and putting it back together, this is her baby! If she says ‘jump’, I’m saying, ‘how high’. I suggest you do the same.”

     Great, I thought, if looks and skill didn’t take her out of my class already, she had the brains to boot. If there was ever a definition for the term ‘high above me’, she was it!

     While the men opened the hatch of the crate, I started scanning my film and equipment, to make sure everything was in order. It was hard to see with only a few lamps providing limited illumination. Unfortunately, we couldn’t risk anything brighter.

     After a few checks of the film rolls and a review of the camera, I verified that everything was as set and ready as it could be. All I could do now, was wait for the lid to get removed.


     With a loud rumble, all the lights in the facility sprang on at once, bathing our entire operation like the midday sun! Several of the agents reached for their weapons, other dove behind boxes, and the rest of us, with slower reflexes, simply froze. Every mind had only one thought passing through it. Ambush! Somehow, we had been tracked and followed; somehow we had been found out, somehow they have managed to catch us completely off guard; and somehow we were all about to die.

     My breathe caught as I stood there, camera in hand, not even armed with a weapon, waiting for the swarm of Russian guards and KGB agents to burst through the gates. No one said anything; there was nothing to say. No one did anything; there was nothing to do. And, no one heard anything; there was nothing to hear.
     After a few minutes of silence, it began to dawn on us that nothing was happening. One to the other, we all glanced around. Where were they?

     Then, laughter broke the stillness. It was Veronica.

     “It’s an automatic light,” she said, relief obvious in her voice. I watched as she lean against some nearby crates, her hand clutching her chest as though to still her rapidly beating heart. “The buildings must be set with automatic security lights. It’s alright; false alarm.”

     It took a few moments for the message to sink in for all of us. When it did, there was a general sigh of relief, along with a few others who shared in laughing off the false alarm. For me, I took solace in not only the fact that there wasn’t a genuine alarm, but also in seeing Veronica laugh and hold her chest. Perhaps there was a human side to her after all.

     From there, we got to work. The additional light overhead proved useful as we plowed away, wandering around inside the crate in our socks to avoid footprints. Hour after hour, we worked, some taking the craft apart, others making notes and myself snapping pictures as the night raced by. I can’t guess how many rolls of film I went through any more than the note takers can guess the pencils they wore down. In the end, though, we got it done. All that was left was to put it back together, get it back in the box, and get the box back where it belonged.

     While they worked on reassembling the Lunik, I sorted and packed the film in preparation of the flight back to Washington. As I did, I heard a shout from across the room. It was Veronica.

     “Just plug the cords in, alright?” she shouted.

     “I’m trying,” shouted back an angry voice. “How the hell am I supposed to plug them in when I can’t see what I’m plugging them into?”

     I crossed back to watch. Apparently, a rod, which held other mechanisms in place, was giving them problems. Various cords needed to be attached to one end corresponding with an orb that needed to be attached at the same time on the other end. The set-up of the module’s plates made it impossible to see either end from the outside. Veronica was crammed inside a small section of the lunik’s nose, trying to fit an orb into position while guiding the workers on the opposite end. The problem is, the other compartment was too small for anyone to fit inside, meaning the other man could neither see nor reach what he working with.

     “I don’t care how the hell you do it, just do it,” Veronica snapped back. “We have to get this done or nothing else will align.”

     “There is no way to do it,” the man replied, exasperated. “We need someone who can get inside.”

     “Well, I can’t be two places,” she shouted back. “This has to be attached here at the same time that piece is being connected.”

     “Well, there’s no one else who can fit inside this compartment,” he called back. “So what do you want us to do!”

     “I can fit,” I declared, jumping to my feet.

     “Shut up and let the real professional deal with this,” she shouted at me before turning back to the other man. “Try again! We don’t have much time! If we don’t get this done, we’re dead! Get it!”

     The man leaned against the probe, stretching to reach the section. It was no good. Minute after minute passed, as they struggled but, in the end, it was apparent they weren’t getting anywhere. Time was running out.

     “I can’t do it,” the man said, at last. “We’re almost out of time!”

     Veronica gave a sigh. She seemed too tired and stressed to argue anymore.

     “There’s nothing for it,” she said. Her eyes fell on me. “Do you think you can do it?”

     “Yes,” I answered confidently.

     “Then, let’s get in there!” she replied.

     I hurried to the engine compartment. I wasn’t entirely sure if what I said was true. The compartment was awfully cramped. Still, none of the larger men were going to be able to squeeze into there and, if I couldn’t get in, we were dead already.

     With a great deal of effort, I forced my way inside. It was pitch black in there, the flashlight almost useless as my own body blocked most of the light. Even from inside, I still couldn’t see the area I was trying to plug the cords into because it was blocked by a metal plate. No wonder the other men couldn’t do it.

     “Alright, find the red cord with the marking that looks like a lower-case ‘b’,” she called to me.
I found the cord and began to follow her instructions. Slowly and meticulously, we worked together to get the various cords attached. Alone inside the module, it was just her and I, separated by no more than a couple of inches of metal, the only people who could save the mission, working together; her able to see what I was doing and muttering instructions to me; me unable to see anything I was doing, relying solely on the sound of her voice. After what seemed like an eternity, really it was only an hour, we got all the pieces connected and the rod snapped into place.

     A sigh of relief issued from all of our lips. The hard part was done. Putting together the rest of the module went rather quickly. By the time the agents arrived from the hotel with the van’s driver, everything was set and we sent the probe was on its way.

     I headed to grab my cameras and equipment. To my surprise, I found myself face-to-face with Veronica. She gave me a sheepish smile and brushed her tangled hair behind her ear.

     “Sorry about the comments I made earlier,” she said. “I was just really stressed out. You did a great job today. We owe you everything.”

     “It was nothing,” I said, trying not to blush as those bright eyes gazed into mine.

     “I guess you’re heading back to Washington after this?” she asked.

     “Yes,” I replied. “How about you?”

     “I have a little clean-up I need to do and then I’ll be heading back in a couple of days,” she said.

     I gave a nod unsure what else to say. Fortunately, I didn’t have to say anything.

     “Hey, once we get out of here, do you want to grab some coffee or something,” she asked.

     “Yes,” I replied. “I’d like that.”

     “Me, too,” she said. She gave me a smile, then turned away to start packing up.

     I smiled. Turning around, I gazed over my shoulder at the disappearing truck. The wide gap between the Soviet Union and ourselves had just grown a lot smaller, and so had the gap between me and Veronica. I, like my country, was losing no more.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Symphonia and the Dragons

This is a short story that I wrote a number of years ago as  a children's book. The original is in a small book I made for my son, which uses a number of images borrowed from the internet. Unfortunately, I have no artistic ability to paint/draw/create the pictures necessary to produce a children's book with original images.  So, instead, I modified it into an adult short story for various fantasy writing contests. 
Hope you enjoy the story and I would love any feedback or recommendations. 

Symphonia and the Dragons
by James J Meadows III

     Symphonia looked up wearily as the sound of crunching stones and breaking limbs signaled the arrival of a large creature near the mouth of her cave. Even though Symphonia enjoyed helping people, as well as providing advice and guidance to those in need, she grew tired of these visitors. Her youthful days were long past. The weight of her years, combined with her frustration at being powerless to help the suffering people of her land, weighed heavily upon her.

     Casting aside her doubts, she arose, determined to provide the best assistance she could to this new visitor. She shook her white mane, throwing off the long bangs which had gotten wrapped around her horn while she slept. She took one quick glance into the waters of the nearby reflecting pool to survey her coat. Unicorns were supposed to be majestic creatures, after all, and she wanted to look her best. Hooves clopping on the stones, she moved toward the entrance to greet her visitor. Her mood soured at the sight of the newcomer.

     “Lady Symphonia, we have never met,” said the oily voice of the large black dragon perched on her doorstep. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Vuljar.”

     Symphonia did not need the introduction. She knew Vuljar only too well without meeting him. The cruel greedy dragon brought suffering and ruin wherever he went, using his cunning lies and conniving tricks to swindle money from the pockets of the innocent. His horde was the richest in the land and his wicked deeds were legendary.

     “Word of your great wisdom has reached my ears even in the distant mountain halls of the north,” he continued. “I come seeking your council in a matter of great importance.”

     Symphonia said nothing to him. She strode past to a small cliff on the side of her mountain home. There she looked down onto the valley below where a human settlement teamed with poor, starving people. They were the remnant of a once great kingdom, driven into poverty by the cruel machinations of dragons like Vuljar.

     A wiser or perhaps less egotistical creature might have taken a hint from Symphonia’s silence and left her in peace. Vuljar did not.

     “I come in need of your assistance. I recently committed to a magical pact with the lesser dragon Davon.”

     Symphonia shook her head. The name Davon left an even worse taste in her mouth than Vuljar. Davon deserved as much responsibility for the poverty and grief afflicting the people of the country as Vuljar. He possessed the power to change shapes and used the skill to force innocent travelers and merchants into surrendering their wealth. Such greed was common among dragons. They drew their magical powers from their wealth: the greater the horde, the more powerful the dragon. The lesser the horde, the weaker the dragon became, losing all power if they lost all gold.

     “We are playing a game of high stakes, a game of power,” Vuljar went on. “The game is chess. To the winner goes the horde of the loser. They get all the gold and the vanquished opponent leaves broken and powerless, their magic lost along with their gold. To make the stakes even higher, we are bound to not add a single coin to our horde until our duel is finished. So, you can see how serious the consequences of the battle are for both sides.”

     “So, what do you need me for?” Symphonia asked, already suspecting the answer.

     “All reports and legends claim you are the most brilliant and clever of all creatures in creation,” Vulgar said in his most flattering tone. “While I too am clever, I fear my opponent has made a most brilliant move today and I cannot see the way to counter him.”

     “So, you wish me to help you with your next move.”

     “I do.”

     “Isn’t that cheating?” she asked.

     “Perhaps, but you are not making a move for me,” he argued. “You are merely giving me a suggestion. I am still choosing my move. I just wish to receive council. Besides, surely you can see how much better the land will be if there is one fewer dragon feeding on the innocent people.”

     Symphonia gazed at him with disgust. Only a truly evil being appeals to someone’s love of their people as an excuse to help further their own wicked ends. There was certainly no way to miss the hypocrisy in his argument regarding how much better the world would be if there were fewer dragons doing the very same deeds he performs. Still, she had to admit, he had a point.

     “Very well,” she said, glancing back over the town. “I will help you on one condition. Your horde contains a vast wealth of gold beyond anything I can ever imagine.”

     “Very true,” Vulgar agreed. “You must merely name your price and I will present the gold to you.”

     “Unicorns do not need gold,” she replied. “The people of the village, on the other hand, do. Take one thousand gold pieces to the orphanage in the center of town and then show me your board. I will show you the next move.”

     Vulgar did as told. While Symphonia watched from the edge of her cliff, he flew into town, deposited the gold on the steps of the orphanage, and returned to her. Afterward, she kept her promise and showed him the best move she could find. Yet, the game had just begun.

     Two days later, Vuljar returned to her again. His opponent had made another strong move and he sought Symphonia’s advice on a response. She charged him to take another thousand gold coins to the town temple and upon returning, she showed him another move. But again, like clockwork, Vuljar returned in two days.

     For months the battle raged. No matter how clever Symphonia’s move, her opponent found an even better move. No matter how strong her attacks or tactics, her opponent found an even greater defense. No matter how well she positioned her pieces, her opponent discovered the perfect counter. All the while, Vuljar gave money to schools, merchants, needy families, and all manner of people within Barrov.

     One day, after many months, Vuljar did not come at his normal time. He did not come the next day either. On the third day, a man on horseback approached Symphonia’s door.

     She rose to greet the man and inquire the business bringing him here.

     “Fair lady Symphonia, I humble myself in your presence,” declared the rider, bowing low to the ground. “While riding through the mountains, I heard the voice of a dragon calling to me. He appeared sickly and old and offered me a hundred gold pieces to ride here and bring you to him.”

     Symphonia walked to the edge of the cliff, looking out over the city of Barrov. Her heart swelled with pride at the splendor before her. Merchants were returning to the land. New temples and palaces were being constructed. Schools and hospitals rose into the air. There was even a statue of her being lifted in honor of all the families she assisted in their hour of need. She smiled.

     “Very well,” she said. “I will go to him.”

     She rode with the messenger to Vuljar’s cave. Upon reaching the entrance, she ordered Vuljar to give the hundred gold coins to the man. Vuljar reluctantly acquiesced, pushing the last of his once great fortune to the rider. The messenger thanked Symphonia and departed, leaving the two alone.

     “I am weak.” Vuljar said, each word a strain to speak. “I have no gold or strength left. Yet, I know when I get Davon’s gold, I shall be rich and powerful. And I will rule the valley. So, I accept my helpless state in the meantime. I beg of you to ride to the mountain where the chess board is located and make my move for me.”

     “I will do so,” Symphonia said, giving a low bow.

     “The chess board is located at…” he began.

     Symphonia interrupted.

     “You do not need to tell me where the board is located,” she said. “I already know.”

     “How?” Vuljar asked clearly confused.

     “Because, I made Davon’s move for him a few days ago,” she answered.

     “What?” The dragon attempted to roar but was barely able to lift his head off the ground before it fell again.

     “He came to me the day before you did, seeking my help in your battle,” she explained calmly. “He came to me every other day, just like you, paying his dues to the village in exchange for my move. Now, neither of you have any gold left. No more will either of you trouble the innocent people of the valley or wreak havoc upon the land. Your game will last for all time and you will never add another coin to your purses. Your greed and your selfish ambitions finally proved your downfall. You have all eternity to ponder your sins!”

     With these words, she turned from the cave. True to her word, she made one more move on behalf of Vuljar. Then, she left the mountains, returning to her home and the gratitude of the people she saved.
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