Winning Words 2015
Fantasy was the theme for Winning Words 2015 – the annual writing competition open to the whole school. The overall winner this year was Eagle Jessica Carey (Year 11) for her short story that told of dark fantastical worlds, friendship, deceit and honour.
Eagle also provided winners for the Year 7 and 8 categories with Nathan Powditch and Afolabi Odadele as well as providing the staff winner in Mr Stride senior (with his semi-autobiographical fantasy piece that included the mythical creature of a reliable football referee).
Harrier provided the Year 10 winner in Kelcie Winch and Kestrel’s Cullum Webber scooped the Year 9 award.
Jessica has won her year group category ever since she started entering Winning Words in Year 7 and is delighted to have finally won the grand prize.
Read Jessica’s story below:
The embers of a ruined city lay before the rising sun, a dark barren spread for the lords of light to see. A dragon’s cry welcomed the morning, a dark spectral figure against the amber lights slinking its way across the inky expanse. A second cry answered the first, the shadows of two graceful beasts circled the sunrise as a proud, watchful form stood upon a lone pillar amongst the ruins.
The form upon the pillar was coated in the dusk, the light hitting only her eyes. Sharp as a knife blade and grey as the remnants of her dragon’s fire. The light brushed an angular face, with deep red hair fanning over her shoulders like a settling dust cloud. The Regina dracones, the Queen of Dragons, had laid waste to yet another once great city.
“Thea, tell me about the dragons! Please?” Olla asked, green eyes wide and sparkling. Thea smiled down at the young girl and sat down, pulling her onto her lap.
“Well, the dracones were born from the sun. It started with two, Virdis and Aurum. Virdis leapt from the land and called upon the sun to give him a companion. The sun agreed and out flew Aurum in a ball of fire. Aurum was the first fire breathing draco. The two dracones were kings of the sky, all creatures respected them and called them Lords Ignis.”
Little Olla’s face was caught in a mask of enchantment and her eyes were bright, watching Thea’s lips move as she told the ancient tale.
“Then, one day Virdis flew too close to his brother’s master, the sun, and he was hurt. Aurum was angry that his master had dared to hurt his brother and he blew a flame of burning hot fire. This fire did not harm the sun, but it hurt the moon and the moon was hurt. She did not like it that the sun had created such beasts so she created a draco so beautiful, all the creatures of the earth and sky loved her. She was Lunam, first daughter of the moon, and she was the beginning of the dracones.”
“Did Lunam marry Virdis?” Olla tugged gently on Thea’s braid. She laughed at the small girl.
“No, Virdis was son of the Earth, he was not worthy of Lunam’s love. Dracones don’t marry anyway, little one.” She smoothed back the girl’s dark curls and continued. “Now, the sun, earth and moon all had children and the sea was angry. If the sun and moon were to have children destined for each other, what of Virdis? From the clear blue waters of the sea, Sapphirus was born. Now each of the Lords had a child to rule the sky and land, and for a long time everything was peaceful until man. Man tried to ride the dracones into battles where they were killed. The Lords Ignis were the last to be caught, as they were old, wise and strong. Sapphirus was caught first, and Virdis tried to save her but he was captured. Aurum went to save his brother but he followed the same fate as they did. Lunam was hurt by this and she wanted to save them but she was too smart. She wasn’t captured for a long time until man played a trick on her and she was captured. The dracones then ceased to exist.”
Olla was quiet for some time until Thea realised the small girl had fallen asleep. Across the way, soft footsteps caught Thea’s attention and Olla’s mother appeared. Freya was an impressive woman, tall and strong with wild red hair and bright grey eyes.
Thea opened her eyes abruptly. She could not afford to think of Freya and the people she had left behind at this time. Dangerous tasks lay ahead and Aurum and Virdis were getting eager to move on. As the sun rose over the hills, she watched as her dragons rose, shaking down the length of their bodies and letting puffs of smoke out from their snouts. She pulled two hunks of raw meat from her side bag and threw them to her beasts. One could only hope the next city was more accommodating to the legendary creatures and would respect her, unlike the last place.
Gathering her things, she walked to the small spring to wash, and she turned to the beasts. “Vigilate.” Keep watch. They had to keep themselves safe, without them everything she had lost would mean nothing. Everything she had built up over the years of caring for her dragons would be lost.
As she approached the spring, she heard the distinct sound of a twig snapping and she quickly ducked under the cover of a low hanging willow. Through the branches she watched as a boy, no man, entered the clearing with his head swinging from side to side, looking for danger. Thea couldn’t do anything but watch him, watch as his lean figure scoped out the area and his sharp green eyes took in everything. Even at a distance Thea could see the vivid colour of those eyes, the green one saw in a forest at sunset; the green of the leaves clinging to the very last bits of light they could. It was the only explanation that seemed to fit as they fixed on the willow she took shelter in and she slowed her breathing, taking careful steps forward as he mirrored her but approaching.
“I mean no harm.” He spoke clearly, not wanting to alarm the figure between the willow branches, and lifted a hand. He drew back the branches to reveal nothing, and he waited for something. A flash of red behind the trunk of the tree and a pale hand drew it back. Hair. Troy waited, not wanting to advance and frighten the person but he was getting impatient. Rustling broke his concentration and a guttural roar sounded, echoed by another, shaking the ground and the figure behind the trunk rushed out. Troy watched in wonder as two large dragons hovered above the figure, one green and the other gold, and he marvelled at the sheer power the two beasts had.
Listening closely, he heard the old language being used, the language he hadn’t heard since his home had been destroyed and all of the elders were taken. The dragons settled either side of the figure as they turned and Troy simply stared in wonder. She was real, the Regina Dracones, and she was stood in front of him with her dragons. The stories were accurate, long red hair blazing in the breeze, piercing grey eyes and strikingly beautiful, she was dangerous yet she had saved his life. As she approached Troy got down on one knee in respect and bowed his head, until a soft laugh drew him out of his awe.
“Rise.” Her voice was kind, unlike the stories claimed but he was sure that when the time came, she could be as cruel as her dragon’s fire. Troy stood and brushed the hair out of his eyes as he towered over the girl before him. “What is your name?”
“Troy, my lady.” He said and she laughed again.
“Please, I am no royal nor lady, just a girl who happened to be blessed with dragons.” She said and Troy looked at her. She wasn’t going to give up her name easily. “I apologise for Virdis and Aurum, they aren’t used to much human interaction and take anyone other than myself as a threat.” She placed a gentle hand on each dragons head, and looked back up at him.
“I understand completely.” He watched as she titled her head and a small crease formed between her eyebrows.
“Where are you from Troy?”
“My home was destroyed by King Leonidas of the Andals and Seven Suns.” He told her, and he saw her eyes flit across his features before nodding.
“Do you know where this man is?”
Troy narrowed his eyes. “Why should I tell you this information? I am the only one deserving of taking my revenge on this man for killing my wife and destroying my home.”
The golden dragons almond eyes turned to slits and he sunk to the floor, long barbed tail twitching. “Your brother has caused pain to many people, Troy of Andals and the Seven Suns, but you are a boy in the means of pain and suffering.” Her voice was cold as she identified him as the Prince.
“That man is not worthy to be a father. Father’s do not hurt their children and cause them pain. You would not understand what he did to me before I fled with my wife. And once I believed we were safe, I left her in the house to fetch water and when I returned, she had been slaughtered in her bed. Dear lady, you are wrong to assume I know little of pain and suffering, after all you have protection and that could not be so bad.” He watched in fear as both dragons bared their fangs at him and took a small step back.
“You do not know what pain that man has cause me. How dare you blindly assume that I know nothing of pain? That I know not of what that man has done to you and the people of his kingdom. You had time to flee with your loved ones. My village had no warning or protection as he burned it to the ground, his army locking women and children in their homes and listening to them scream as he chained me to a pole to watch my sister and niece bleed and burn before me. I have nothing. All I had was my sister and her daughter, and he took them from me and now he wants to take my dragons. That man’s life is mine to take and I will take it no matter what it takes. If my dragons have to burn you where you stand, Troy of Andals and the Seven Suns, I will have no problem with allowing them to do so. Only then will you know of the pain I have suffered.” The woman stood before Troy had grown twice her height, her eyes filled with anger and hurt, and she stared him down in an invitation to speak again. An invitation he would be foolish to take.
“I will lead you to him but I will not enter civitatem diaboli.” Troy spat and she furrowed her sharp red eyebrows.
“Why do you call it the devil city?”
“Leonidas is the devil. He kills and never dies. His castle echoes with the calls of the condemned and the dying.” He lowered his head and Thea looked at the blonde haired figure before her. She could either utilise him and then dispose of him or befriend the Prince and give him his justice. Freya would have known what to do but she had to think on her own.
“You will go back to our campsite and wait for me to get ready. Then we will find horses and you will take me to the devil city or Aurum will take great pleasure in fresh blood.” She told him and then turned to her dragons. “Non laedi. Protege eum.” He is not to be harmed. Protect him. It was all she could do to assure the Prince’s safety, and leaving him with Virdis was safer than Aurum. The brothers were just as the ones in the story, Virdis was calm as the Earth but Aurum would burn without hesitation. But they were her children, her pride and joy and her life, they were her everything and she would go to the ends of the earth to keep them safe. Thea whistled to call the golden dragon to her side to keep watch for her as Troy disappeared around the corner with Virdis at his heels. She pushed the willow branches aside and approached her bundle of clothing. Thea had hoped have a relaxing bath in the spring to wash her hair clear of the ashes from her hunt but when the Prince had arrived her plans had been drastically changed.
Donning her under shirt, leggings and red leather skirt, she began to fasten her armour to her body, fingers gliding over the engraving in the silver body as she pulled the straps tight. She snagged her boots from the branches and called to Aurum who, as she had assumed, was playing with her right arm brace. Thea emerged from the willow no longer the innocent girl from the cecidit vicus, the name carved into the stone outside of the remains of her home, the fallen village, but the Regina Dracones with a crown of willow leaves atop her flaming braid.
If Troy had been intimidated by the girl kissed by fire when they first met, it was nothing compared to the warrior that lead him through the green wasteland. Her pale skin that once seemed innocent and fragile, now glowed with the sun’s rays and her all seeing steely eyes scanned the foliage surrounding them. He couldn’t help but admire the scroll work and forgery of her armour, though her grip on her sword certainly didn’t ease his concern about her either killing him, dismembering him or fighting her way through a large crowd and leaving him for dead. She suddenly stopped in her tracks and gently drew her sword. “Fugere.” A single word caused the two great beasts to spring into the air as silent as the gentle wind. She pulled him behind a tree and watched as four figures emerged from the trees. A hooded archer, a singer, a knight and a lady.
“Qui êtes-vous? Nous voulons aucun mal à vous ou à vos bêtes” The singer spoke out, the tongue from across the sea that he didn’t understand. Troy watched as the red haired woman’s shoulders relaxed a little but she never loosened her grip on the res pommeled sword.
“Parlez-vous la langue commune? Mon ami ne parle pas.” She replied fluently and began to emerge from the trees.
“We do milady, you can call your beasts down. We shan’t hurt them.” The singer replied and the Regina gave a sharp whistle. In seconds, the dragons were on the ground, folding their wings as she walked to her position between them with Troy following. “My my, Alameda would look at these two fine creatures.” The lady stepped forward and pushed her hood down, revealing a shock of midnight curls and soft brown eyes.
“Incroyable.” Alameda turned her gaze to Troy, her eyes taking in his appearance and smiling lightly until she turned her attention back to his fiery companion. “Allow me to introduce myself and my companions. I am Alameda of the Sapphire Springs, and this is my brother Coriolanus.” She gestured to the singer who bowed. “Our knight is Ser Caius, formerly the protector of the King but he fled the Kings growing madness. And our hooded companion is Hal Shortbow.” The hooded archer bowed and removed his hood to reveal a similar set of steel coloured eyes as the fiery woman between the dragons. The two stared at each other for a long moment before she began to speak.
“It is a pleasure.”
“Are you not going to introduce yourselves?” Coriolanus asked, plucking at his lyre strings. Hal looked over at the gangly singer and gave a grim smile.
“But we already know who they are. The boy is Troy of Andals and the Seven Suns and she is Thea Ignigena, The Regina dracones, my sister.”
Troy watched as the two steely eyes met again, but fought a flinch when he saw the look in Thea’s eyes. “You are no brother of mine, Hal Shortbow, my family perished in the fire you began when you brought the traitors girl home. Occisor.” She spat at his feet. Troy knew little of the old language but he knew she was calling him a murderer.
“Little sister, you want to kill Leonidas? Then you are no better than I.” Hal was calmer than Thea, but Troy could see the anger building.
“I was not the one fathering traitors children. I did not sell out my family for a better way of life. You and he took everything I had, I will take the only thing that matters to him. His life.” She turned to look at Troy. “Leonidas has no wife, no children, no family besides you?” He shook his head and Thea nodded. “Nothing matters more to a man crazed by power, one who believes he is immortal, but his life. You can say what you must Hal Shortbow but I will take what I am owed.”
“And then what will you do?” Ser Caius spoke for the first time during the encounter, his voice was deep and rumbling like thunder. “Will you rule?”
“What makes you think she is fit to rule? She has burned more than a dozen cities to the ground with no mercy but then again, when did little Thea have mercy for anyone?” The entire crowd held their breaths as Hal glared down at the fiery girl before him.
“You are no longer permitted to speak on my behalf, Hal Blackheart. You lost that right when you abandoned us for the Kings whore.” Thea spat back and Troy cast an eye over Hal’s companions. They were as uneasy as Troy was but as Thea’s captive he couldn’t step in.
“Now, Regina Dracones, it was absolutely wonderful to make your acquaintance but we have a long journey ahead of us so we must press on.” Coriolanus interrupted the conversation and placed a hand on Hal’s shoulder, drawing him away from the confrontation. The four travellers gathered ranks again and prepared to leave as Hal pressed something into Thea’s hand. They left in a flurry of cloaks and sweet smelling herbs. Troy was left staring at the retreating crowd when he heard a strangled sob come from behind him and a second sob followed shortly after. He turned to see Thea clutching her hands to her chest with her head bowed with both her dragons staring up at her.
“We will make camp here.”
“We have only been travelling for part of the…” Troy was cut off by Thea wheeling round, hair flying and eyes filled with water.
“We will camp here!” Her words were punctuated by Aurum giving a low growl as he settled onto his haunches, hackles raised.
There was silence the next morning as the two sat around the dying embers cradling wooden mugs of herbal tea. Neither royal spoke of the events of the previous day, but Troy had noted an addition to Thea’s ensemble. A woven necklace with a small pendant hanging from the coloured fibres, the gift Hal had given her.
“We only have a little way to go, perhaps we should pack up and leave?” Troy broached the subject of leaving and Thea responded with a cut nod. She stood, picking up her sword and scabbard in one smooth motion, and gave a sharp whistle. The dragons appeared in seconds, Aurum at Thea’s side and Virdis in the middle of the two, fresh blood on their snouts.
“Fresh game, not far from here. Hunters will be close behind.” Thea muttered, kicking dust over the fire pit. “They’ll be looking for the brothers so we best pick up the pace.”
The two began on their way and Thea allowed Virdis to amble along ahead. He was the mellowest of the pair and he had taken quite a shine to Troy, which was unusual as he was more wary of strangers than Aurum who had the initial instinct to protect Thea from anyone, friend of foe. Aurum was behind the two of them, checking for predators or attacks from others.
It only took them a few hours to reach the borders of the forest and to the edge of the Capital. Thea took the opportunity to scale the large rock protruding from the ground to get a better look over her maze. She left the brothers on the ground with the Prince and carefully made her way up the rock to the flat surface at the top. Standing, she had a clear view of the labyrinth of streets and houses that all led to the centre and pinnacle of the entirety of the realms, the Citadel Fideles, the Fortress of Bells. The Capital had changed remarkably since the last time Thea had visited, but then again it wasn’t exactly a visit. She had been drugged, hooded and dragged through the entire city in the dead of night and thrown in a dungeon. Escaping had been a difficult feat with hatching dragons and a leaf blade dagger but now she had two dragons, armour and a sword.
Descending from the rock, she looked over at her bargaining chip. Troy was shaking, clearly terrified of being in his brothers realm but Thea had not time to console the runaway Prince. Aurum was restless, showing his distaste for the city as his memories replayed the last time they were here. It was said that from the moment dragons are awake in their eggs, they retain all of their experiences and it was clear Aurum remembered the devil city. If Virdis had any recollection of the trials they faced, he showed no signs as he kept one silver eye fixed on her and the other closed as he rested.
“Is it really necessary…?” Troy began but was cut off by Aurum growling.
“I am observing, Troy of Andals and the Seven Suns, but I need quiet and if you insist on talking I cannot get us in and out of this labyrinth safely with minimal bloodshed. Unless you enjoy spilling the blood of the innocent?” She raised a red eyebrow at him and Troy realised she was joking with him for the first time in 2 days.
“If I recall, I have not spilt any blood.” Troy remarked, a small smile on his face as Virdis made a low rumbling sound.
“I am clean of blood too, but Aurum has a certain talent for spilling traitor’s blood. Virdis, however, has an affinity for burning.” At Thea’s statement, Virdis made a higher pitched rumble and the pair laughed at the green beast’s actions. “We should make our way to the gates, they’ll let us in or Virdis will make them.” She began walking and Troy scurried after her.
“We’re simply going to walk up to the gates through the middle of the city in broad daylight? Are you mad?”
Thea grinned. “Quite possibly.” And she continued to walk on. Reluctantly Troy followed along but kept his head held high. If he was going to walk into a death trap he might as well do it with grace and live up to his title as the two great beasts of legends flew above them.
People lined the streets, heads poking out of windows when they saw the procession walk by. Children gasped and pointed, men marvelled and watched in awe as the dragons and Thea passed by and women watched Troy walk with his head held high. Leonidas sat in his iron chair, completely unaware of the proceedings happening outside of his palace until there were screams and the throne room doors flew open. In flew a large beast, the size of a small horse, all glittering gold and ivory followed by a larger creature of the purest green and silver. Behind the impressive creatures walked a man Leonidas never thought he would see again, his little brother. Troy’s skin was sun dusted gold, his golden hair was sweeping across his forehead and his green eyes, their mother’s eyes, stared back at him full of pain and knowledge. He stepped aside to reveal the very reason of his nightmares. Thea Ignigena, The Regina dracones. She looked fearsome with her pale skin protected by silver armour edged in red leather, a long sword hanging at her side and her hair of fire in a braid falling over her shoulder with strand waving gently about her face from the open windows. It was her eyes that haunted Leonidas’ nightmares, the cold grey steel that could kill if she were a mage and they told the story of everything Leonidas had taken away from her.
“Your Majesty,” Thea reached his throne where the broad King stood and got to one knee. “It is a pleasure to see you again. I apologise for my arrival being so sudden but I just couldn’t wait.”
The look in her eyes betrayed the smile on her face completely and this unnerved the King. Nobody made him feel fear the way this young girl did, a mere girl of 20 made his knees weak at her power and there was nothing he could do about it. Nevertheless, he had a plan in place to rid him of her for life. No more locking her away in a dungeon that she had escaped at 16, this solution was more…permanent.
“Thea Ignigena. What a surprise. And I see you found my brother on your travels.” He relaxed into the iron chair and watched his brother watching the woman on her knees.
“Indeed. I thought you would want to be re-united again and I thought it was time you were introduced to Aurum and Virdis.”
Leonidas knew the story well enough to know the dragons apart but that was not a problem. The problem was getting rid of her and not having them to deal with. “I am in awe of your creatures. They are still young, no?” A malevolent smile crossed her face.
“Young, but no less powerful than a grown dragon.” She held a hand out and the green dragon swept over Leonidas’ head in a gust of wind so strong it knocked several of his armour clad guards over. The gold beast let a blast of fire into the open window in the roof and the heat melted the nearest guard’s helm. During this demonstration, Leonidas had stood up eager to get a closer look at the two creatures and he hadn’t seen Thea draw her sword. She crept toward him and was almost behind him when a guard yelled and charged at the girl. Leonidas turned round just to see the sword of his guard travel through her back and dent the front of her silver amour.
She made no noise as her mouth opened in anger and pain, and then Aurum let out a shattering howl of pain. Launching himself into the air, he let out a plume of fire and melted each guard where they stood. Virdis was still hovering above Leonidas and he roared, white hot fire bellowing from his open jaws and the King was not more than a charred body and molten gold as his lasting screams echoed off the palace walls.
Troy ran to where Thea lay, barely holding onto life. Her dragons flew over, mewling in pain and she pressed a hand to Aurum’s chest. “Protegam eum.” Protect him. She turned her eyes onto Troy and smiled through the pain. “Rule well.” She whispered so lightly Troy had to strain to hear her as her eyes closed. The boy and the dragons bowed their heads for the fallen Queen who lay there in the throne room looking as though she was sleeping when her last breath escaped her.
Celebrations for the new King went on for days, colours and laughter filled the city and it was renamed Civitas Autem Dracones, the city of dragons, for the protectors in green and gold. A large ivory statue was erected in the centre of the city, the ever proud and powerful eyes of Thea Ignigena, The Regina dracones. She would be forever immortalised in the ivory stone, standing as tall as the Fortress of Bells with her armour polished to a high shine and her hair falling over her shoulder. Troy had made sure to keep everything the same as he remembered her, including the dragons at her feet but he had allowed creative licence with her crown. A bronze circlet lay upon her head, the metal shaped and forged in the flames of her dragons and the ruby in the centre as red as the hair and fire in her heart. The brothers kept Thea’s instruction in their hearts, always next to Troy or above him as they grew in size and strength. The legend of The Regina Dracones would forever live on in the memory of the people of the city of dragons.