Nothing but a Wyrm (part 3 and final)

“I’ll spare you the details of how I came to be who I am,” he started. “Suffice it to say that my skills were very much sought after back then, and the rewards… ah, they were vast. But… eventually I took on a task that was beyond me. The wyrm I was asked to hunt was no hatchling. She was old and wise. She had
seen the world with eyes that were far older than humankind; she had witnessed the demise of the great beasts of the past, when the world had turned to black, and the ice had gripped the land in a bitter winter that endured and endured…”
“Like many of her kind she had descended deep into her subterranean crevice and had slept while the trees and the lakes froze, and life dwindled and lay subdued for eons and eons before finally changing and growing once more into something transformed and renewed. She had seen things that had walked this earth before humans had laid their claims. Her dreams smouldered with a fire as ancient as the sun.”
He was enjoying this.
He paused to give her a chance to respond to his words, but when he looked he saw that her eyes were glazed, lost in his storyteller’s weave: caught.
He smiled to himself and continued.
“I entered her lair like a fool, thinking that I had all the skills I needed to outwit her. By employing the powers I had mastered during my long apprenticeship I was capable of uncommon feats: I could walk in utter darkness and yet still see. I could sense living beings with my eyes closed and see their energy as an enveloping halo of light. So, I could sense her presence as I neared her; it was as if our very souls were linked. I laboured my way through the labyrinth of tunnels and caves until I chanced upon the Great Chamber, the very heart of her lair.
“She had been waiting for me. I don’t know how long she’d been aware of my presence, but when I looked at her the vertical slit in her left eye opened slightly and the green fire of her iris fixed me like a pinned insect. I froze of course. I immediately quenched my life force. I cloaked my mind with all the devices I had learnt during my years in the trade, but to no avail. It was too late for tricks: she’d seen me and was just waiting for my next move to consume me with her breath.
“I couldn’t move. To move meant to die. So I waited and bought myself some time in that way. She was quite happy to give me that much. For her it was just as effortless simply to wait until I died of thirst – perhaps she would have found that even more amusing. Wyrms never rush unless they choose to and then their speed can be such as to make them invisible to the untrained eye.
“I didn’t even dare move my eyes. I let them de-focus instead and used my peripheral vision to take in the lay of the Great Chamber. This was her roost; this was where the male would come when summoned and where they would mate in the way of Wyrms, slowly, over long months of intense proximity. The nearest egg, if in fact it was an egg, was only a dozen yards away to my left. I probed its ethereal structure and soon sensed the unmistakable pulse of life that throbbed within the shell.
“I conceived a simple plan, then. I gradually harnessed a portion of my life force into physical form and projected this phantasm to the far side of the chamber. I released it gradually, to deceive her into thinking that someone else was coming from that direction as well.
“It worked. Suddenly she spun her head away from me and in the same heartbeat I lunged for the egg. Her breath scorched the clothes on my back and scalded my skin, but I had been spared the full brunt of her blast or else I wouldn’t be here now to tell this story. I seized her egg and held it between us like a shield, like a sacred icon to be revered by all. She was silent for a long time, only a long-drawn hiss signalled her deep displeasure at this turn of events. Eventually my limbs stopped shaking and I began to back out of her chamber, but even as I did so, she spoke to me. With her powers, powers that I still don’t fully understand, she took my name from me, and around my name she wove a curse. Her sibilant tongue lashed out with each word of her curse.
“So you see … I cannot die. I am Wyrm-cursed and I cannot die until she finds me and slays me. I am Valfior and I am doomed for I have dared to deceive Helxe…” He caught himself just in time and truncated the name before he could complete it.
“… dared to deceive a Wyrm,” he finished instead.
The taxi left the freeway and sped up an exit ramp.
“You were about to say her name then, weren’t you?” she noted.
He blinked as he let himself come rapidly back into present time.
“Why not just say it?” she pressed.
“Because there is power in names,” he answered. “To speak the name of a Wyrm is to summon her and that is the last thing I would do, if you’ll excuse the pun.”
She thought for a while about what he had said, saying nothing herself.
He too was silent, he had said enough: far more than he had intended.
Instead he filled the silence with wild imaginings: in his mind’s eye he saw talons like hooks of steel reach down from the sky, shatter the taxi windows with their grip, and lift the vehicle up into the night. He saw the headlights swaying crazily above the receding ground. Five hundred metres up the cab would suddenly be released into a slow pirouetting descent.
It might end with the bizarre twisted wreckage of a cab in the middle of the scrub, to be found by chance only weeks or months later. There would be no tyre tracks leading to or from the wreck, no sign of how it might have got there.
Now THAT would take some explaining! he thought.
“That’s quite a story,” she conceded at last. “So now you’re driving a cab. Has the dragon not found you in all these… what is it? Years? Centuries? How long has it been Valfior?”
Good question, he thought to himself.
“It’s not like that,” he said, shaking his head. “I haven’t been running all this time, as I said before, I’m not that old. Seven years ago, your time, I found a way of breaching the Forbidden Gate and crossed from my time into yours. I had to… bend a few rules in the process, which probably means I’ll never be able to get back. I also paid a heavy price since I lost most of my powers – my hard-earned abilities – in the time-shift, but at least I’m pretty sure that she’ll not find me here.”
“Pretty sure but not sure enough to risk mentioning her name aloud,” she said, and she was clearly not asking.
She talks as if she believes every word I’ve said, he mused.
“So why is it that you drive a taxi?” She resumed her questioning as if she fully meant to draw an answer from him. “With eternity in your grasp, surely you could turn to something… a little more ambitious.”
“Why is it that you clean at the Casino?” he asked in response.
She smiled slightly, nodded, and left the question hanging.
Strathalbyn was coming up. The small town lay shrouded in a fine drizzle that hung like a haze, obliterating details, blurring all forms.
She directed him to a small isolated cottage tucked away in a tangle of native shrubs, no lawn, no picket fence, no paving.
She paid the fare.
“Thank you, Valfior,” she said as she opened the door and hesitated, lingering between worlds. “Of course I’m not you, but if I were, sooner or later, I would call that name. One can’t live in fear forever. After all, how far would a Wyrm go to get revenge?”
She stepped out into the night.
“I’ll not forget you,” she added.
“Nor I,” he answered wistfully.
She slammed the door, walked towards the house and was gone.

The taxi driver, the reader of ancient books, Valfior to some, sucked in a deep breath and put the cab into reverse.
As he pulled out onto the highway he idly checked his screen then pressed the query button to let the operator know he wanted audio.
“Car two-twenty-two?” said the operator on the voice channel.
The signal was weak but audible.
“I’m near Strathalbyn … any chance of a job back in later?”
A faint crackle of static.
Outside it started to rain with more conviction.
“Two-twenty-two, if you’re in Strathalbyn on a Tuesday night you don’t deserve any more luck, you’ve used it all up. Bring her back in.”
He signed off.
I’ve used it all up, all right!
The high beam pierced through the drizzle and lit up the dense scrub as he glided on the wet, sinuous road.
One word – a name – was poised on the tip of his tongue.
He worked his lips around the complex syllables, savouring the name in silence.
The tyres hissed like snakes.

Elsewhere, in a cottage with no picket fence and surrounded by wild shrubs, a young woman studied her face reflected in a long mirror. Her hair coiled around her like flames.
The rain drummed heavily against the tin roof.
She closed her eyes to the world and strained her senses out, towards the whispers of the night.
Ever so subtle, a knowing smile melted from her lips.


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Leave A Reply (3 comments so far)

  1. Ros
    8 years ago

    Subtle finish for a great ‘short’ story ……
    I’m still wondering if indeed it is the end!


    Claudio Silvano Reply:

    Indeed! 🙂


  2. Robert
    8 years ago


    Tyres hissed like snakes….l.



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The DESTINY OF FIRE trilogy is now available!

The DESTINY OF FIRE trilogy is now available!



Posted 15 December 2017

The Final volume of Destiny of Fire is now in print and can be obtained HERE