It was a bountiful land that he found himself in, that much was certain. 

Green fields lay as far as the eye could see, with only the occasional squat tree mixed in. Splotches of yellow, blue, and white were strewn about like paint from an artist’s brush. In the distance the gray mountains lay so seemingly close and yet so far away. It was the spring maiden’s time as the warm air chased away the cold of winter. The birds called their songs and the insects buzzed. It was a time of new beginnings.

“...New beginnings,” the large and lonely figure murmured to himself.

Usually the lone figure usually only thought of the end of things he had seen: The rest of his thoughts were occupied with where his feet were moving and the locations of his next meal.

Draknor the Dracoz - A demonym denoting both a species of reptile anthropoid and a citizen of the ancient empire from which the species sprung - stood a good seven, muscular feet tall, with a cloak hung over his broad shoulders. There was no mistaking it, he was a Dracoz: obvious from the black scales that covered him and the gray of his throat, along with the scales and two long horns protruding from his head. The finishing touch of the Dracoz was a long muscular tail that twisted behind him, ending in a spear-like tip.

He wore simple britches and a fine cloak of gray along with his tunic. Bits of cloth and leather covered his arms and stomach. Unlike humans, Dracoz weren’t as susceptible to the elements: Draknor’s hide was as thick as cured leather. 

He was far from invulnerable, but the large greatsword at his belt usually dissuaded all but the most determined attackers. The hilt was a fabulous thing: made of bronze with a small red gemstone set into the pommel.

His name was Draknor. Some might call him and his kind barbarians, but he only thought of himself as a wanderer: a being that had no purpose since the decline of his people, and the fall of a once wondrous kingdom.

Suddenly, a whiff of something...

His sharp yellow eyes narrowed as his nostrils flared. He caught the scent of smoke in the air and cooked meat. It reminded his stomach he’d had little to eat aside from stale bread. He turned his snout toward the sky and sniffed again. There was definitely an encampment close by. Perhaps it was worth looking into...

With a snort he followed his nose until he crested a hill and found himself staring down into a cluster of yurts. At the center lay a well, and some horses were corralled together near some small, brown-skinned humans that moved about their homes and fires.

Draknor could already see faces turned towards him - some curious, some alarmed, others impassive. As confident as a soldier on parade, he strode down the hill. A few of the simple folk nervously gripped agricultural tools and simple blades as he approached, but Draknor only gave them a passing look with his yellow reptilian eyes and snorted. He got to the center of the crude village and pointed a claw toward the well.

A nervous man, armed with only a pitchfork, approached cautiously. “Water? You want water?” 

“Yes,” Draknor rumbled, his voice heard for the first time like boulders rubbing against one another.

“Er, yes,” the man replied, handing him the bucket. Draknor dropped the bucket into the darkness of the well and pulled it out quickly before putting the whole thing to his maw and tilting his head back. He grunted in satisfaction, the water was cool and tasted of minerals.

He handed the bucket back. The villagers were still staring at him, confused as to how to treat the frightful - but not hostile - visitor.

“Do you require a place to rest for the night?” One of the villagers asked.

“No,” was the simple reply.

“Is there anything else you might need?” The pitchfork-man asked.


The man paled. Draknor chuckled trying to put him at ease but the chuckle - along with Draknor’s huge fangs - painted a sinister picture to the simple villagers.

“Do not worry villager, seems you cannot provide me with additional provisions. I have ample food supplies. It’s coarse and bland, but it will last me.”

The man breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh, all right.”

Draknor’s heavy tail twitched. “Something bothers you, my host?”

The man fidgeted as he squirmed under Draknor’s golden stare.

“Well… You see, we’ve been hit by an unnatural famine. Goats are our livelihood, but our flocks are being devoured. At first we thought a pack of wolves had set upon them, but when we sent a party to another tribe to trade we found the true source of our woes.”

Draknor continued to stare at the man his reptilian face unmoved. The pitchfork-man gulped but gathered the courage to continue.

“O-Only a handful returned. The rest were slain: slain by the teeth and claws and stinging tail of a... a manticore.”

Draknor grunted. “A manticore you say?”

The man fidgeted. “Yes, we sent hunters but they were no match for such a beast.”

The great Dracoz thought a moment. Manticore tails were always in high demand with apothecaries: they paid handsomely for such things. If he rid the village of their problem, he could afford a comfortable lodging and warm food. He was accustomed to the wilds, but a change would be nice.

“Tell me where this beast was last seen and I shall end it.”

Pitchfork man was taken aback. “You would aid us? But you hardly know us.”

Draknor grunted. “I know the worth of manticore tails. I’ll help you and gain something for myself.”

The man looked downward. “Ah, I see. Of course, that is how the world works isn’t it?”

“The sad truth,” Draknor concurred.  

Soon the villagers had arranged to send a shepherd along with Draknor as a guide. The shepherd was but a boy, armed with a puny short bow. It was fine for killing varmints, but it would likely only enrage a creature such as a manticore. He at least tried to be friendly with Draknor.

“I’ve never seen a Drocoz before. Is it true your people once ruled over all the lands?”

Draknor looked to the mountains far away. “That was a long time ago.”

The boy kept plodding along next to his loping steps. “What happened?”

Draknor regarded him a rumble in his throat. “What always happens when one has too much? They destroyed themselves.”

They soon came upon a herd of goats as they grazed upon the fertile fields. 

“There’s the last of our flocks,” The boy said.

Draknor nodded as he checked the wind direction and moved downwind. “You should go now,” he told the boy.

“But I can help!” He said, hefting the puny bow.

“The dead can offer no assistance. Leave before you end up like the rest that have encountered this beast.”


“GO!” Draknor roared and sent the boy scampering away.

Draknor grunted as he found large boulders and settled down among them, looking like a large, dark rock himself as he did so. He stayed perfectly still: waiting as he watched the goats graze. The sun kept moving across the skies, blue turned to pink, and then to black as the stars began to twinkle overhead.

Draknor regarded the constellations: they had been his friends for many, many years. He had been wandering out on his own for so long: they were his only companions when he travelled at night or slumbered upon the hard ground. He had memorized them all by heart. Quickly he refocused: as the night wore on there was no sign of his quarry. The wanderer snorted, perhaps the creature had moved on to other prey.

It wasn’t until the sun began to climb again that Draknor found some sign of his foe. His sharp eyes spied a flash of movement upon the tall grass. Draknor tensed himself. His foe was no doubt doing the same as a goat wandered a bit closer. There was an explosion of grass, a pitiful bleat, and a savage growl as the leonine form sprang upon the goat.

The beast was twice the size of an ordinary lion, its body covered in tawny fur and full of sinewy strength. A long scorpion’s tail was raised in an attack position, as its claws carved the prey. The head was often described as a man’s, which was incorrect. The head was covered in fur, but did not resemble a feline muzzle. It was a flat face with a more expressive appearance, but hardly a man’s head on a feline body as Draknor had seen depicted in art. The terrible jaws were running red as it raised its head up.

Draknor sprung from his hiding spot and drew his great sword.

The beast regarded him with ice blue eyes. Draknor returned the gaze impassively, the two circled one another each daring the other to attack first. Scorpion tail and sword poised to strike.

The manticore struck first a lash of its tail and dagger sized spikes sped towards Draknor. The wily Dracoz had anticipated such a move though and rolled forward under the deadly projectiles. Acting quickly he thrust forward with his great sword, aiming for the chest of his foe.

The great beasts paw swatted the blade and redirected the sword away harmlessly. Draknor roared in frustration as the manticore swatted him with its paw and sent him sliding backwards. The claws had torn into his scaly hide but the cuts were shallow. The scorpion tail suddenly drove down towards him. Draknor rolled to the left as the deadly tail stabbed the field.

Regaining his feet Draknor lifted his greatsword as the tail struck for him again, the fighter swatted the point away with the flat of his blade and then cursed himself. It had been some time since he’d fought a beast, he could have sliced the tail with his block, but he had grown used to fighting opponents with weapons.

Again the tail struck and again he blocked with the flat through muscle memory.

Draknor snarled as he surged forward with the sword held ready, the tail struck again but this time he was prepared. The Dracoz brought his blade over and angled the edge to intercept the tail. There was a wet thumping sound as the sword bit into the scorpion tail: it wasn’t completely severed, but fluids were running from a gaping wound as the tail hung limply from the injury.

The manticore roared in pain as it leapt to pounce on the Dracoz and maul him. Draknor roared back as he lunged with his sword, the mass of the beast and the speed of both combatants drove the blade straight through its chest and up to the hilt. The beast kept clawing furiously as Draknor bit back against the pain and heaved the sword free, the manticore roared a final time as it went into death throes.

The dark scaled Dracoz glowered down at his late opponent before he hefted his sword up and finished cutting the tail away.

“You fought well,” he muttered as he cleaned his blade.

The goats had all run to the far side of the hill and had gone back to grazing. Draknor grunted, the villagers could live easier knowing the threat to their livestock and their own lives had been vanquished. Tying the tail to his back the hulking Dracoz set back towards the village.

He had made it halfway to the village before he tilted his head in contemplation. He heard a very distinctive noise: hooves. His reptilian eyes narrowed as he saw four horsemen riding his way. Their mounts were the small steppe horses, the kind most favored on the plains. The horsemen were lightly armored and were all armed with lances and sabers, on each of their surcoats was an emblem of a fang. They drew up as they circled Draknor.

“Hold stranger, I’d have a word with you!” The first horseman said.

“Sir, look! He’s got a manticore tail!” A second said.

“He poached our kill and robbed us of the glory!” A third said.

Draknor growled. “Be gone, I have no quarrel with you.”

“But seems we have a quarrel with you.” A fourth said.

They were circling their horses around him like wolves going for a kill. Draknor eased his sword out.

“Last warning.”

“Take him!” Their leader shouted.

One of the horsemen let out a cry as he spurred his horse forward and charged with the lance leveled. Draknor snorted as he moved to the side at the last second and grabbed the shaft of the weapon, he pulled and the lance was jerked free and into his hands. It seemed small to the large Dracoz, nowhere near a pike for him, hardly even a spear.

No sooner had he grabbed the lance than a second horseman was charging for him.

Draknor swung the spear like a cudgel the shaft impacting the rider and splintering. The rider doubled over his mount, the man gasped as he wheezed and clutched at his side. Draknor tossed the useless weapon away as he drew his greatsword, just in time to deflect a thrust from a cavalryman, he may have deflected the weapon but the horse still hit him full force and sent him tumbling to the ground.

Two of the men whooped and ran to trample him under the hooves of their horses.

“Like a snake in the grass!” One called.

It was the man he’d taken the lance from, he now had his saber drawn as he and a comrade bore down upon him. Shifting his large sword to one hand, Draknor got into a crouch and moved to the side as the horsemen bore upon him, reaching up he plucked the lance wielder from the saddle and bore him to the ground. The man yelled in shock and then grunted as he hit the ground.

Before he could react further Draknor had kicked him to unconsciousness.

The man with the saber had wheeled his horse around and was bearing down upon him once again. Draknor readjusted his grip on the sword to a half-sword position: one hand upon the hilt, the other along the blade near the guard. The horseman closed in and brought his saber down as Draknor parried, again and again the man struck but the Dracoz kept his distance and fought back using his sword as a short spear instead of a sword.

The man raised his arm one final time - and it was his last mistake. Draknor’s sword plunged forward and caught him between the ribs.

Freeing his sword Draknor whirled to face the last one that was circling him and keeping his distance with the lance. The horseman made a few thrusts, testing the guard of his foe. Draknor knocked such a testing thrust aside, closed in and cut the saddle strap from his horse. Upon receiving a shallow but painful cut, the horse bucked and neighed in pain and sent the rider to the ground where he cried out in pain.

“My leg!” He shouted.

Draknor ignored him as he looked for the last horseman, he spotted the man riding over the hills, leaving his friends and nursing his side still.

“Coward,” Draknor grunted.

Ignoring the groans of the wounded men, the Dracoz set out for the village once again. Upon arriving about an hour later, he was met a curious sight: a flag with a fang emblem was flying over the village, and a dozen horses stood in the village center. Men in armor and carrying weapons were among the villagers laughing heartily. Draknor spotted one in particular, with his side swathed in bandages.

It was clear he’d worn out his welcome at the village. 

Turning to leave there was a shout from the village and he turned. Someone had spotted him and someone had raised the alarm. He saw the young boy who had been his guide waving at him.

Draknor groaned.

Setting his snout into a snarl he strode to the village, the manticore tail on display over his shoulder. As he drew closer, he could see every soldier tensing. He strode to the center of the village and folded his arms.

“Who are you people?”

A man with more ornate scale mail regarded him, he seemed to be in charge. 

“So it is true, a Dracoz! You are a rare sight indeed.”

Draknor regarded him. “Answer my question! Why are you here? Why are you harassing these people?”

The man frowned. “Harassing? These villagers are vassals of the queen, who loves all her subjects dearly.” He said the last part like a mantra.

“Don’t talk to him!” The man with the bandages that Draknor had wounded said. “He’s dangerous! Savage!”

“I warned you to leave me be!” Draknor growled.

The officer stood up. “Now, now, let’s all take a moment. There’s clearly been a misunderstanding here, I sent my scouts to deal with the manticore. The queen - who loves all her subjects dearly - had heard of the beast and sent us to deal with it. Clearly you beat us to it.”

Draknor pointed at the other man. “Then they attacked me for it.”

The officer turned hard as he looked from Draknor to his man. “Did you kill the others?”

Draknor shrugged. “One. The other two might yet be alive.”

The officer shrugged. “I care not. They have brought disgrace upon themselves for acting as they did.”

The other soldier looked at him in shock. “You believe him over me?”

“Of course I do. You’ve shown yourself to be a scoundrel in the past. You’re lucky you’re still a soldier: perhaps even to be alive.” The man fumed, but the officer ignored him and continued. “Now, have you a name, traveler?”


“That sounds familiar. No matter - I am Chanar. These are my men, we serve our queen. Who, as I’ve said, loves all her subjects dearly. She would very much like to meet you: you’ve done her a service after all. And she is interested in those like you, besides.”

“‘Those like me’?”

“A Dracoz. Why don’t you come with us to the capital? You can get a fine reward for that manticore tail there.”

“No,” Draknor replied.

“Please, I insist.”

He looked around to see many were tensing bows, these were not the puny short bows as the villagers had, but powerful bows of war with bodkin tips meant to pierce mail. The men of the steppes were known for their skill at archery.

“Fine,” Draknor growled.

Chanar smiled. “Splendid! You will not be disappointed! You’ll be greatly rewarded I’m sure.”

Draknor huffed as he found a comfortable spot, and watched for a chance to act. He was offered a sack of fermented mare’s milk but he declined. Never was to his taste. Just who was this queen? He had to admit his curiosity was winning out over his caution and at the moment he seemed more like a reluctant guest than a prisoner. Perhaps it would be best to play along for a bit, until he got some gold at least.