Short Story: Dane and the Dragon: The Tale of Yusaris

I wrote this as a submission to Epic Weapons’s Dragon Age Epic Tales contest. The criteria were to write a story of no more than five thousand words about a character, place, or creature from BioWare’s Dragon Age franchise. I took a look at the stories in the Dragon Age Codex and decided that I would write an expanded look at the adventures of the legendary hero Dane, specifically the story presented in the background of Yusaris.

In that story, Dane hunts and slays the dragon Fenshal with a weapon from its own hoard. Dane calls that sword Yusaris. He then goes on to use it to kill the werewolf and passes it to his son Hafter. This is my interpretation of the hunt for Fenshal and the finding of Yusaris.

Dane and the Dragon: The Tale of Yusaris

Word Count: 2273

He kept track of the time by the seasons and by how many swords he had worn. He had gone through fifty swords and now had none at his side. The wolves at Dane’s heels stopped when he did. His muscles burned and his stomach growled. A village lay before them. Few people moved about within. Dane walked in and the wolves followed.

The thin, bedraggled villagers saw them and most started to run. The largest man stayed behind and spread his arms in a defensive fashion. “Keep your wolves away from us, stranger!” he shouted. “They will find no easy pickings here!”

Dane raised a weathered hand and Andolf, the alpha wolf, stopped and sat. The rest of the pack followed their leader. He lowered his hand and walked toward the villager. The wolf pack remained where they sat.

“Hail, friend,” Dane said, raising an arm in greeting. “I bear no ill will to you or your kin. I seek a place to rest and to find provisions for my journey.”

“You will find precious little in this village,” the man replied. “We never know when Fenshal will come to feed itself on our crops, our livestock, and our friends.”

“Then we have a common foe. I have followed Fenshal’s trail here. I intended to slay it anyway, but if doing so will benefit you, then I have more reason to kill it.”

The villager scoffed. “You intend to kill Fenshal? Men have come from as far as Tevinter to do just that, but none of those warriors ever returned. Their bones litter Fenshal’s lair.”

“Have you tried to appease Fenshal?” Dane asked.

“Yes, we did. We brought it offerings of livestock, but it still comes to take whatever it wants and nobody can stop it.”

“All I ask of you is food and shelter for the night for me and my companions, and I will slay your tormentor in return.”

“I have seen men who were far better equipped and prepared than you make the attempt. None of them returned.”

“None of them were Dane the Hunter.”

The villager shook his head. “I’ve never heard of you.”

Dane brushed back his dirty blond hair. “After I come back from the mountain, you can be proud to say that you helped Dane the Hunter on his quest to slay Fenshal.”

Dane led his wolf pack to the mountain where the dragon Fenshal slumbered.

Andolf whimpered. The rest of the pack echoed him.

“Don’t give up now,” Dane said to the pack, “we’re almost at the peak. Just be quiet and stay downwind.”

Andolf responded by flattening his ears and looking at the ground.

“You’re worried that I don’t have a weapon? Many before us have to tried to slay Fenshal and failed. Their weapons should litter his hoard. I’ll just find the best one and plunge it right into his heart.”

Andolf looked up at Dane, but he could see the look in his eyes: Andolf didn’t think they would live much longer.

“Stop this now!” Dane said. “You’re making the pack nervous.” He teetered on his feet and his vision went blurry. He fell to one knee as it gave way, but Andolf jumped to his side to give him support. He inhaled deep breaths of the mountain air, but it did little to restore his senses. “Just follow me and trust me.”

The pack reached the summit of the mountain, where Fenshal made its lair. They collapsed to the ground, their fur soaked and matted with snow. Dane’s eyes widened when he saw the bones surrounding the vast cave before them. They had encountered the bones of unlucky would-be dragonslayers before, but not in this amount. They had to take care with each step not to crunch bones underfoot.

Dane leaned against the ice-covered rocks, taking vast gulps of air into his lungs. He looked at his pack, willing his eyes to focus. They looked rail-thin and weak as pups. If he slew Fenshal, then his pack would have meat for days, more than enough to get back down to the forests of Ferelden. If he failed, then he would go to the Fade knowing that he got his entire pack killed with him.

No, he couldn’t think like that. He could allow no doubt into his mind about his inevitable success. Such doubt would slow him down, and a moment of hesitation could spell his doom.

He remembered the last time he had hesitated in a life-or-death situation: a werewolf pack had him surrounded on all sides, a freshly-slain hart at his feet, and he had naught but a bloodied spear with which to defend himself. He remembered the words that the werewolf had spoken: “Die here, huntsman, alone and forgotten, or take my place amongst the wolves as I take your place amongst men.”

A year and a day later, the curse had ended, but he did not return to his family. He thought of his wife’s face and a smile came to him. He saw a vision of his beloved, lifeless and covered in blood, in the werewolf’s arms. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried not to cry at the thought.

He had found a bright spot in that dark moment, though: he now led that pack, and the alpha who could have easily ripped him apart now followed him without question.

Dane pushed away from the stone and raised his head. His pack looked to him and waited for him to speak. “Brothers, it is time. Today will be remembered as the day when Fenshal knew his death, and I will be forever known as the slayer of the dragon. Follow me.”

Dane crossed the threshold of the cave, and a terrible scent overtook him. The dank musk reeked of rot and reptilian offal. He heard his pack retching behind him.

He watched them fall back to the fresh air outside. Andolf stopped and looked over his shoulder for a moment, and then followed them out.

Dane felt the muscles beneath his ribs cramp as he coughed. He dropped to his hands and knees. His eyes watered. He forced himself to stand back up and walk deeper into the cave, the horrific stench surrounding him every step of the way.

The light grew fainter as he made his way deeper into the cave. He parted the spider webs that choked the tunnel, and their sticky silk clung to his hands. He felt something tickle the back of his hand. He looked and saw a large spider crawling on him. Dane seized up upon seeing its glossy green body and many legs as it crawled along his skin. He choked back a scream of panic and slapped it away. It hit the cave wall and splattered.

Dane’s vision went fuzzy again. The panic had robbed him of breath, and now he had to inhale deeply of the putrid air that filled the cave. He pressed on.

Dane turned a corner and stopped. A thick carpet of bones covered the ground, while there before him lay the sleeping form of Fenshal. The dragon dominated the room with its body. Its vast wings curled around its serpentine body. Its chest expanded nearly three feet with each breath it took. Its scales reflected enough light to give the cavern some faint illumination.

Dane now realized that his pack probably had the right idea. He took two steps back and stopped. No, he couldn’t turn back now! He had made a promise to his pack and to the village; to disappoint them would be unforgivable.

Dane walked toward Fenshal. The dragon’s dagger-like teeth glimmered with saliva, each one longer than his arm. It could probably swallow him whole, a thought that made the hair on his neck stand on end.

He stumbled over something. He stepped around to regain his balance, but managed to kick a skull toward Fenshal. Dane watched it skitter across the stone and bounce off Fenshal’s claw.

He held his breath and darted his gaze around the room, looking for something behind which he could hide. He found a pile of bones and scampered to leap over it and curl up tight.

He waited for Fenshal to stir. He could hear each beat of his heart and prayed to the Maker that Fenshal couldn’t hear it too.

A snort interrupted the dragon’s slow breathing. Dane raised his shoulders. He could see the Fade spirits waiting for his arrival.

Maker’s breath, if the dragon didn’t kill him, that awful stench would!

Seconds passed that felt like hours, until Dane finally heard Fenshal’s breathing return to its sleeping rhythm. He breathed a sigh of relief and looked up over his cover. He could see that Fenshal hadn’t moved from its bedding.

Something caught his eye. A bright reflection of light in the otherwise near-darkness. He saw it buried under a pile of skeletons. Dane crawled over to it and pushed away the bones. He revealed a sword, easily as tall as a man. Its sharp-edged blade reflected the meager light almost as well as Fenshal’s vast scales. He could read “You are the mirror” etched into the blade’s surface. Turning it over, Dane saw the word “Reflect.”

Dane smiled. He wrapped both hands around the grip. It felt right in his grasp. He knew he would find a suitable weapon in here, he just didn’t think he would have found one of this quality. He wanted to see the look in Andolf’s eyes when he walked out with this blade and a trophy from Fenshal’s body.

Dane walked up to the slumbering dragon. It exhaled, and Dane could feel its hot, moist breath wash over him. The sour odor of the dragon’s breath overpowered the rotten air of the cavern. He stepped back and covered his nose.

Even with a new sword, he couldn’t just kill the dragon. He knew he had to find a weak point in its otherwise nigh-impenetrable body. If he tried to stab it, he would probably snap his newfound blade in half and awaken the dragon.

He walked around Fenshal’s sleeping form, examining it from every angle. He stepped over its tail, mindful to avoid the rows of spines along its length. Its scales looked solid. He couldn’t see any cracks or gaps through which he could slip this blade. He needed a better opening.

Dane thought about lifting Fenshal’s tail and running his sword up its backside, but quickly dismissed the idea. He wouldn’t accomplish anything other than learning its gender before it woke and bit him in half.

He eyes burned from the stench. He wiped the tears from them with the back of his hand. He came to a realization. He went back to Fenshal’s head.

Even with Dane so close, the mighty dragon didn’t stir. Fenshal had eyes almost as big as his head. Dane looked at the blade of his sword and then to Fenshal’s head. Even though he concluded that this would work, he couldn’t stop himself from trembling.

Standing next to Fenshal’s head, Dane felt small. He recalled that fateful moment again: he had one weapon in his hand and a seemingly impossible foe before him. Anything could go wrong at any moment.

Dane shook that thought from his mind. He needed to stay confident. Any doubt could kill him, and didn’t need that.

He lifted Fenshal’s eyelid and stared into the soul of the beast. He prayed that Fenshal stayed asleep for this. He put his foot on its eyelid to keep it open. Putting both hands back on the grip of his sword, Dane reared back and plunged it deep into Fenshal’s eye, burying it to the hilt.

That definitely woke up the dragon.

Dane fell to the ground upon hearing Fenshal’s scream of pain. The dragon swung its head around, catching Dane on its lower jaw and hurling him across the room. He came to rest in a pile of bones.

Recovering, Dane saw the dragon look right at him. Fenshal inhaled, and Dane could see the glow within its throat. He tried to stand, but his feet slipped on the bones beneath him.

Flame spewed from Fenshal’s mouth. It stopped as soon as it had started and Fenshal crashed to the ground, exhaling its final breath as it died.

Dane could feel his pulse racing and his breath coming in short gasps. His vision went fuzzy and he lost consciousness.

Dane awakened to find Andolf licking his face. He pushed him away and sat up. “You must have heard the dragon’s cry from outside.” He looked around the cavern. “I’m lucky it didn’t bring this cave down on my head.”

Dane stood up and walked over to where Fenshal lay. “I told you I’d find a weapon in Fenshal’s horde, and I did.” He grabbed the sword’s handle, braced against its brow, and pulled the sword from its eye. He flicked blood and viscera from its blade and examined it. It had nary a scratch on it.

“This is an exceptional weapon,” Dane said to Andolf. “It deserves a proper name. What do you think of… Yusaris?”

Andolf cocked his head.

“Yes, Yusaris is a fine name for this weapon. With Yusaris and my pack at my side, I will hunt down that accursed werewolf. You might not like having to hunt your old master, but it has to be done.”

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