Chapter 2: War, except the Master didn’t call it war, he called it “the Games.” Games, but these games were deadly.
It had been weeks, no…months ago when seventeen-year-old Landon had stood in the main Arena at training camp with the other recruits, all kidnapped as he was, from all over the Earth, and from all over time. They had one purpose: to represent this realm in the Games, to fight, battle after battle, war after war, and if they won, the realm gained territory. If they lost, so did the realm, and that meant they died.
They still wore their collars, for cowardliness or defection to the other side would not be tolerated. At the first sign a soldier’s betrayal, there would be a warning pain. At the second, the collar’s charge would be fatal.
For Landon, and some of the others, the collar had a secondary effect: it cancelled the ability to perform any form of sorcery, a skill for which the teen had trained since he was a child.
Today’s game was “Flanders Field,” reminiscent of the trenches and killing grounds of Earth’s First World War, except the other side had styled their troops not only from the early 20th century, but from the first century Roman Empire, the eighteen century American Revolutionary War, and one platoon carried plasma rifles from the twenty-second century Cyborg Wars.
There was a lull in the battle. Landon and several of his fellows had been engaging a few Roman stragglers in fierce swordplay when it happened. There was only one enemy combatant standing and he had turned to run, or so the young warrior thought. Suddenly, he wheeled about slashing at Landon’s face with his sword. The boy pulled back, but not in time as pain racked his right cheek. As the Roman’s blade completed its arc, the teenager lunged forward, plunging his own sword through a crack in the other’s breastplate and into his heart, instantly killing him.
Then the boy passed out.
When he woke up, he was in their main encampment, a pocket universe where there were actual buildings, good food, fresh water, and modern medical services. Landon tried to sit up but dizziness overwhelmed him and he collapsed back down on his mattress.
“You’re fortunate you didn’t lose that eye, but we’ll have to check your vision when your wound heals.”
Oh, excuse me. I’m your doctor. Carmen Ramsey.” The Latina woman, who didn’t look much older than he did, extended her right hand. Landon weakly responded, surprised at the feebleness of his own grip.
“It’s the pain medication. You’ll feel a little fatigued for a day or so. Don’t worry, though. You’re in good hands.”
Landon and his squad received commendations for bravery. He felt proud of himself and his men, no longer registering that they originally were all prisoners, taken from their former lives to serve as slaves and to die for a cause they had no stake in.
His chest puffed out as the medal was pinned on his dress uniform, but the cost was high. Dr. Ramsey was right. He got to keep the eye. Unfortunately, it was blind. Yet, the eye patch, in some manner, was as great a badge of honor as the medal. A few of the female troops even told Landon it made him look more attractive, not that it mattered since there was no fraternizing.
The Korean War Game was freezing. Why did it have to be winter and how could it be so could in Southeast Asia? He and his men had to hold Pork Chop Hill until reinforcements arrived. Landon’s rifle marksmanship was pushed to the limit, since they were low on ammunition. Kelly was feeding the ammo belt into Chapman’s machine gun, fighting off the latest enemy charge on their position, burning through .50 cal rounds like poop through a goose.
Landon kept pulling the trigger on his carbine, felling the “Chinese,” though the opponents were drawn from a number of different races and species, until he heard, “click,” “click,” click.” He released the magazine from his weapon, but came up empty when he reached for another.
“We’ve got to fall back, Sarge. We can’t hold ’em,” Schultz screamed at him, reminding Landon that he’d been promoted again.
“We’ve got our orders. Fight hand-to-hand if you have to.” As the horde rose over the wall of their makeshift bunker, he drew his sword and fought, cutting three men down in the first few seconds.
“Use bayonets and blades. This close, they can’t fire their rifles.” The pile of bodies grew at Landon’s feet, making his look like an antediluvian barbarian, a bronzed, heavily muscled berserker of old, living only to kill, bred only to die.
The men were barely aware of the sound of jets overhead. “F-94 Banshees!” Bell had fallen with a wound to his side and was being defended by his companions. On his back, he would see their air support coming in and beginning their first strafing run on the army running up the hill.
All of that registered in Landon’s consciousness, but he couldn’t let up for a second. Two of his men had fallen, and if they couldn’t hang on for a few more minutes, they would all die. He could hear gunfire from behind and to one side. The reinforcements had come. There were only five more of the enemy facing him. He was exhausted. Blood from a scalp wound was running into his one good eyes. He was covered in more blood, but not his own. His grip felt slippery on the sword hilt.
Only three men. He killed one and the other ran only to be gunned down by automatic weapons fire. Another dead by his sword, then another. The last man stumbled backward and fell. Landon poised his blade for the kill when the soldier pulled his sidearm and fired. He felt an impact under his jaw and the resounding clang of metal upon metal as he drove his body to the left, falling atop the corpses of the slain.
Then the universe seemed to curve and fold like paper, and the roar in his ears was relentless waves of water crashing on a rocky shore. He wiped his good left eye and saw he was no longer on Pork Chop Hill, the Korean War Game, or anything familiar. His neck ached and he reached up.
The collar! The collar was gone. The enemy bullet must have broken it.
He didn’t recognize the voice at first, but then his memories came flooding back.
“Help me, Landon,” cried the dragon. “Save me before it’s too late.”
“But I don’t know where I am.” Landon’s arms and legs flailed about in the black, empty void between the worlds, and with no star to guide him, he was lost in the infinite distance and darkness.
As I mentioned at the end of Chapter 1, my nine-year-old grandson has asked me to write a series of adventures for his future self. He really liked the first chapter, and I hope he enjoys this story, too. Oh, he requested losing sight in one eye for some reason, so I’ve accommodated him.
In just a few days, we’ll reach the two-year anniversary of these stories, which is pretty amazing. My grandson was only seven when I began the original series with The Day a Dragon Came to Live with Us. I have no idea how many stories I’ve written for him since, but there must be hundreds, and I’ve found that some of my other readers enjoy them as well.
The next chapter is The New Dragon Saga: The Resistance.