The dracoz made an intimidating figure against the setting sun: He had black scales with a bit of gray down the throat, two large horns jutting from the top of his draconic head, and a long tail ending in a spade point trailing behind him. His yellow eyes gleamed in the dusk light. His kilt rustled in the wind of the plains as the sun glinted off bits of armor adorning his torso. His greatsword - complete with a gem upon the pommel - swung at his side.
His name was Draknor, and for many a long year he had wandered the lands and seas in search of a new purpose and a new home for what remained of his people. Once rulers of the world, the dracoz - and their homeland - had fallen into decline.
Draknor survived through skill at arms: It kept his belly fed in more ways than one as he kept up the search. It was also why he found himself arriving at the speck of a village on the plains. He knew they were having some monster problems and had offered a reward, but more often than not he was mistaken for a monster.
Draknor got to the muddy village center and noted just how empty the place seemed to be. Warily his hand trailed down to his greatsword.
“Halt!” A stern female voice ordered.
Draknor narrowed his eyes as a blonde human woman - her hair in braids and clad in chainmail and a cape of fur - approached him. A round wooden shield was in her left hand, and in her right a single-handed longsword. A large knife rode on her right hip, the ‘seax’ as it was known.
Though she was well built for a human female, Draknor towered over her at seven feet tall.
“Who are you?” Draknor rumbled.
“I am Halla, Shieldmaiden of the North.”
Draknor snorted. “You’re a long way from home.”
“I go where I’m needed, beast.”
Draknor squinted, annoyed. “As do I.” Draknor stated, his eyes fell on her sword. “Put that away.”
Halla held it towards him still.
“Not until I’m sure of your intentions.”
“Hurr,” Draknor growled as he drew steel. “And what if I were also not sure of your intentions, human?”
The two faced off neither willing to yield. The tensions were thankfully cut as an elderly man ran between the two.
“Please! Please, there’s no need for hostilities! Halla, I’m sure this dracoz is here for the same reason you are.”
Draknor grunted as he sheathed his blade. “A monster problem.”
Halla sheathed her sword as she scrutinized Draknor. “You just came here out of the goodness of your heart? I doubt that.”
Draknor growled. “You expect me to believe you came here out of the goodness of your heart? Are your people not raiders?”
Halla grit her teeth. “Not all of us!”
The elder held up his hands. “Please, we can make sure you’re both compensated. Two is probably better than one against the ogre we face.”
Draknor tilted his huge head. “Ogre, you say?”
The elder nodded, rubbing his hands together. “Yes. Come, we were just about to eat our dinner - mutton, of course: That's all we have here.”
With one last glare at each other, Draknor and Halla followed the man into a longhut. The rest of the small community were huddled together beneath the thatched roof: men, women, children. All cast awestruck glances at Draknor.
The elder spoke to the gathered people. “The ones above have graced us indeed. A dracoz and a shieldmaiden. Both are willing to help us.”
Draknor and Halla glared at each other over their mutton stew as the elder began to speak of the village's woes.
“Every third moon the ogre comes. He snatches at least three sheep indiscriminately and leaves. We’ve tried to stop him but none of us our fighters. There have been several brave souls killed trying to stop his rampage. Our entire livelihood depends on our flocks while this ogre is slowly whittling them down. We are starving and soon we will have nothing.” He paused, his eyes wet. “W-We can offer gold saved up from our days of plenty, along with heirlooms and whatever else you find interesting around the village.”
Halla stood. “I sha—”
“I understand,” Draknor said, interrupting Halla. “I shall see to this brute.”
The shieldmaiden gave a perturbed look before she spoke.
“I shall set a trap and catch the ogre unaware.”
Draknor thumped his tail, not able to imagine what sort of trap would be effective against an ogre.
A middle aged woman with dark hair was glaring at the two fighters. “How do we know they won’t cut n’ run, eh?” she asked the elder, jerking her thumb at the strangers.
Draknor returned her glare, a stare that would have wilted a lesser person.
“Do I look like I’m going to ‘cut and run’?”
The woman sucked her teeth. “We don’t know you lizard. That ogre’s bigger than you.”
Draknor stared back impassively. “You are in no position to be choosy.”
The woman huffed then looked to Halla. “And how about you, girlie? This ain’t proper, dressing as a warrior, fighting monsters.”
Halla grit her teeth. “Not proper for you. I am a ShieldMaiden! Though with your attitude I have half a mind to leave you to your fate.”
“Gertrude, please!” The elder sighed. “These two are risking their lives. Let’s not antagonize them simply because they are not paladins in polished mail.”
The elder hustled Draknor and Halla out. “Please don’t take anything Gertrude says to heart. We’ve all been under a terrible strain, and... she lost her husband and sons to the ogre.”
The two warriors nodded stoically.
“I shall get to work on my trap,” Halla stated.
After dinner, they both got to work. Draknor drew his sword and extracted a whetstone, slowly he worked the stone along the edge of his blade. Dracoz steel. No finer craftsmanship had ever been seen, their techniques lost to time and hidden by their bladesmith’s minds.
Halla led three sheep to the edge of the village where she tied them in place, the shieldmaiden worked tirelessly to make a pit of sharpened stakes. It would not be deep enough for the whole ogre but his foot would surely be impaled.
She hadn’t noticed Draknor until she turned to see the massive reptile sword resting on shoulder.
“Not long now. I smell it in the distance.”
The two found a hiding spot downwind by a bale of hay. An uncomfortable silence filled the air between them. Then Halla spoke.
“You ever get tired of people fearing you?”
Draknor grunted. “I’m used to it.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes,’” Halla said.
“How about you?” Draknor asked in turn. “I did liken you to a raider when we first met.”
Halla sighed. “Not so much. Usually people doubt my abilities when they see me. They think shieldmaidens are a myth and that a woman’s place is in the home, not the battlefield.”
“Hurr,” Draknor rumbled. “We dracoz made no distinctions. A female can be a warrior as much as a male can be an artisan.”
“Hmm,” Halla muttered. “Have you slain an ogre before?”
“Yes.” Draknor replied. “You?”
“No. I’ve fought a troll though.”
“Trolls are smaller but more intelligent.” Draknor replied.
“But not by much,” Halla added.
Just then there was the thud of footsteps, and a shape moved against the starlit sky. The two quieted down and waited behind some nearby boulders. Closer and closer the ogre drew, the footfalls becoming louder with every step.
The ogre paused by the trap tilting it’s massive head at the sheep that were bleating in terror.
“Come on step on the trap!” Halla snarled.
But the Ogre turned its head, the great tusks of the creature gleaming in the starlight.
“He’s suspicious,” Draknor stated.
The ogre put a foot forward tentatively and quickly drew it back as the ground fell away.
“A good attempt,” Draknor growled, “but now we must do it the hard way.”
Moving from cover Draknor roared a challenge at the ogre. The ogre bellowed back. Halla shouted her own warcry and bashed her sword against her shield as she moved alongside Draknor.
In the ogre’s massive hand was a portion of a treetrunk and the creature brought the weapon down on the village guardians. Draknor moved to the left, Halla to the right - both easily dodging the ogre’s obviously telegraphed attack. The ogre glanced from one to the other before lurching towards Draknor.
The ogre raised its club and then let out a loud grunt of pain as Halla drove her sword into its thigh. The beast flailed wildly and Halla held her shield close and tucked her body in as the ogre’s leg bashed into her and sent her sprawling.
The ogre lifted its foot to squish the pest when Draknor slashed at the Ogre’s side. The greatsword left a line of dark blood where it bit. The ogre slammed the club at Draknor who barely dodged the weapon before planting his foot upon the wood and stabbing upwards.
The swordpoint stabbed into the bicep of the ogre, and there was another roar of pain before the monster’s left hand came careening into the Dracoz and sent him sprawling. Snorting The ogre grabbed Draknor by the tail and flung him into the side of a wood pile.
The ogre bellowed in victory just as Halla stabbed it in the gut. The ShieldMaiden snarled as she gave her sword a twist and pull extracting the blade.
The ogre swiped for her but Halla backed off and chopped with her sword, leaving a nasty cut on the Ogre’s hand.
“Come beast!” Halla called.
The Ogre grumbled before reaching into the trap made for it and pulling one of the sharpened stakes free. Lunging, the ogre stabbed for Halla again and again. Her shield cracked and her sword was a poor defense against the oversized spear, but she fought on.
Just then the Ogre squealed as the tip of a sword blade burst from it’s abdomen. Draknor’s greatsword. The reptile wasn’t done for yet. Halla followed up by driving her own sword into the Ogre.
Then the warrior’s withdrew their weapons and stood back as the ogre sank to its knees, and then fell forward onto its face. A last pitiable moan came from the creature before it lay still.
Draknor and Halla looked at one another, both worse for wear.
“Nice work.” they both said at the same time.
Halla cracked a smile. “Perhaps we should travel together after this?”
Draknor shook his head. “As fierce a fighter as you are I must decline. My quest lies far away.”
Halla nodded. “I understand. But if we meet again, I hope you will recognize me as a friend.”
Draknor inclined his head. “But of course.”
The villagers had all come from their hiding places and were shouting praise and encouragement. To the world at large the incident was hardly noteworthy, but the village would remember the battle for all time. A tale to tell the children, and the children’s children. Of the two warriors that fought for them and the unlikely friendship that was formed.