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In a study with a burning lantern placed atop a mahogany table, a man with a particularly large lower jaw sat on a sturdy chair with a notebook in his hands. The notebook was weathered, its edges frayed and wrinkled, its pages yellowing. It was crinkled, evidence of repeated wetting and drying. On the cover, the ink had been so smudged that one could barely make out the name Cortés written in black ink. The man frowned every so often while reading the notebook, and when he got to the end, he placed it down with a blank expression. “Where’s the next part?” he asked, turning his head. Beside him, there was a well-dressed servant standing at attention.

The servant lowered his head. “This is Captain Cortés’ personal notebook. Following his death, the rest of the journey was recorded by one of his surviving crew members.” He pointed at a notebook at the edge of the table, barely managing to stay atop. “His account is written within.” Like a wise servant, he chose not to mention the fact his master had ignored it because of the notebook owner’s lack of prestige. The wide-jawed man nodded and picked up the notebook. He flipped to the first page and settled his gaze on the frenzied scrawls of ink.

Where do I start? How do I even begin? Gods are real? Our lord isn’t the sole being up in heaven? No, that’s not right. Perhaps I’ll be regarded as mad. The natives are barbaric, taking part in human sacrifices where they rip out the hearts of the victims and offer it up to their gods. But who knew that their gods would respond in kind and descend?

On the day of my captain’s death, he encountered a dragon. That’s the best way to describe it. It was massive, perhaps taking up the length of a dozen houses or more. Its height was larger than that of a castle wall. Ocean-blue scales covers its body, each sturdier than five pieces of plate armor stacked together. The guns did nothing to it. The bullets ricocheted off without even leaving a mark. Its eyes are golden, brighter and glossier than any bar of gold could ever be. They’re slit like a snake’s, captivating to look at as if they can peer into your very soul. Its teeth are horrendous, monstrously long, long enough to impale a horse—perhaps enough for two small horses—and come out the other side. It had four legs, each thicker than the largest tree I’ve seen. Its tail was long, almost as long as its whole body, enough to wipe away a formation of cavalry with two or three sweeps. And it could fly! By the lord, it could fly! The captain must’ve been bewitched thinking he could kill something like that! It’s no wonder why the natives worshipped it like a god.

We were far away when the dragon descended during the natives’ sacrificial ritual. Perhaps that’s why we were fooled into thinking it could die. The further an object, the smaller it is. However, we didn’t take into account how far away we actually were. The captain told us the story of Sigurd, how a man slew a dragon with a sword and bathed in its blood to harden his skin. How he continued killing dragons after that. Was it the alcohol? We had drunk prior to the descent, but like fools, we believed in him. By we, I mean the fools who died. I managed to squeeze my way out of the charge, switched positions with someone less fortunate than me. Never have I cursed my family for being wealthy until that day when I deeply regretted having a horse.

There were five hundred men, close to five hundred horses. They had been brought in specially for the war against the natives, my companions purchasing them from that malicious, greedy rancher in Cuba. Most of my companions were armored, but only a few were wearing full plate. Not like it mattered. Armor was developed to fight against fellow humans, not creatures of myth! The charge was simple and straightforward; perhaps even my captain couldn’t develop a proper plan when encountering something for the first time. When the dragon descended, the natives were terrified, then filled with joy. They offered it their blood from their very own bodies, cutting and mutilating themselves. Some even went so far as to take their own lives and offer up their own hearts with their trembling hands.

The captain asked me to record his glory, to recount his tale, to take in the birth of the New World Dragon Slayers. The brave five hundred men, the sun gleaming off their armor, the sturdy horses running beneath them, for glory and for God, they charged at the dragon. Like a blinding silver arrow, they pierced through the streets, mowing down the natives who stood in their way like wheat against a scythe. Mists of red blood rose above them, kicked up by the hooves of the horses, blanketing the brave five hundred.

The dragon was aware of the New World Dragon Slayers. Like a snake, it watched and waited as the brave five hundred approached. The natives were incensed and threw themselves in the way of the horses. They could offer up their own hearts to their god; throwing their bodies in the way of cavalry was nothing. But the natives couldn’t stop the charge, the captain parted them without pause. His speed actually increased! The brave five hundred were separated by a distance of less than ten meters! In the next second, they would take a strike at the dragon! And then … that was it. It ended. Without lifting a finger, no, a claw, the dragon stopped the brave five hundred. The first few horses collapsed. The captain tumbled to the ground. None of the other horses could stop in time, and the brave five hundred came crashing down into a bloody mess of bone and iron. As if by a mandate of heaven, everything was forced to kneel: the brave five hundred, their horses, the natives, even the houses shuddered and collapsed. Thus, the first charge of the New World Dragon Slayers concluded.

We’ve been abandoned. Gods exist, and the lord is nowhere to be found.

The notebook slammed shut. The wide-jawed man threw it across the study, hitting a wall. The notebook burst into a flurry of pages, crackling as they drifted onto the floor. “How long ago did this take place?”

The servant’s gaze remained glued to the ground. “A little over two months ago, Your Majesty.”

The wide-jawed man’s expression darkened as he rested his hands on his face. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking.

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Virlyce

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