Thursday, February 15, 2024

“Bride of Moon-Eye” • by Garick Cooke

Moon-Eye saw the dragonet as dusk fell:
a petite creature, no more than seven feet tall, with green scales brilliant as a dragonfly’s carapace and great, golden eyes. Her whole scaly body possessed a freshly-burnished look, as if she’d just shed her skin.

Moon-Eye had seen no female of his species for two hundred years; he was accustomed to think of himself as the last of his kind. He stared, dumbfounded.

The dragonet cast a glance over a smooth shoulder and raced away. Moon-Eye followed without thinking. They ran north, covering ground swiftly. Moon-Eye had in him the iron strength of six centuries of war, but the dragonet slipped away every time he neared. Her energy seemed boundless.

Their route took them into the blasted dead zone bordering the lands of the Moles. The great dragon of the south cast a long shadow—no one held sway here now but crows and slinking carrion-eaters. The Moles as a nation were defunct, broken by the dragon’s power. Once they realized that the dragon would destroy any city or fortified place that he found, they had scattered, hiding and subsisting in small bands.

But none of this was in Moon-Eye’s mind as he ran, pursuing the vision before him.


 He caught her, as he thought, in a hollow in the land where two hills met. There the dragonet stopped running and faced him. For a moment, she smiled. Then she was gone—winked out like a snuffed candle. Nothing remained except a fragment of jade upon the ground. Moon-Eye knelt and picked it up. The vision of the dragonet had been a snare-spell, he realized. The Moles were not known for their sorceries, but in their desperation, they must have turned to the old ways…

Then came the tramp and clang of armor. The Moles came down from the hills on all sides, carrying long, steel-bound shields before them. Moon-Eye grinned, showing his fangs. He drew his saber. He was surrounded, but he would take many with him into death—for Moon-Eye wielded the death-gaze, a gift from the great dragon himself.

The Moles closed about him, keeping their shields foremost. The death-gaze would not penetrate steel, but if one raised his head or lifted an arm to strike, Moon-Eye cast his eye upon them and listened to their screams. Still, he could not face in all directions. The Moles at his back struck hasty blows and ducked away. So, he fought a strange battle, always turning, the saber flickering here and there like heat lightning. The death-gaze played over steel more often than flesh, but under the weight of that fell stare, the Moles’ shields began to smoke and glow red. Flesh sizzled.

The Moles fought on grimly; they were stronger creatures than the drakes, and they wielded heavy two-handed axes and broadswords. Under their blows, Moon-Eye’s scales began to split and shed from his body. Blood oozed from the wounds. He felt himself weakening…

A Mole groaned and threw away his shield, his hand black and smoking. Moon-Eye struck him down with the death-gaze, making a gap in their circle of steel. He struck down another with his saber. Then a blow fell on him from behind, and he dropped the saber and went to one knee. He looked back to see the axe raised for another blow and finished the wielder with a look like a sword-thrust. There was another gap in the line now, but he could no longer exploit it; he was on his hands and knees, reaching for the saber. A Mole kicked it away. Another blow fell on him, and another—

He was on his face in the mud. He rolled onto his back and looked up into the triumphant faces of the Moles and swept them all with his gaze; in that terrible regard, they wilted like flowers in a blast furnace—

Silence descended on the little valley.


His Bat-Winged Eminence slept through the long nights. For the dragon a nap of seven or ten days was as forty winks, and he woke from his slumber grumbling. Something had disturbed his dreams. He lay for a time in his lair, feeling the weight of millennia upon his body. Then he crawled out into the pale light of the dying sun, stretched out his wings, and allowed his awareness to extend to all corners of the world.

Surely all was right in the land: the Moles were cowed, their cities in ashes. His own protégé, Moon-Eye, could be trusted to persecute what remained of that species. And yet…

His far-seeing inner eye alighted on the little valley to the north, where Moon-Eye’s broken body lay amidst the wrack of battle. The dragon snorted angrily, setting fire to the shrubbery before his lair. Absently, he stamped out the blaze with a giant, clawed forefoot. He flexed his wings, creaking like an old tree in the wind. He gathered himself and sprang away into the sky. Swiftly, he flew to the north.

The story of Moon-Eye’s fight was already clear in his mind by the time he alighted. He touched the drake with his power, mending the broken bones and stirring breath back into the small body, and Moon-Eye passed from death into a dreamless sleep.

The image of the dragonet was still foremost in the drake’s brain, and the dragon plucked it whole and perfect from his protégé’s mind. He picked up the pebble of jade and rolled it back and forth in his clawed forefoot. Such a lovely little thing!

He bathed the stone in steel and blood from the bodies of the slain. Out of these he crafted her image, and when he was finished, he breathed life into this, too, and laid her down to sleep beside Moon-Eye.

The dragon surveyed his work and nodded, pleased with himself. He incinerated what remained of the Moles and flung himself into the air once more, heading home. It was time to resume his interrupted nap.


Garick Cooke is a California native, but a long-time resident of Houston, Texas. A past finalist for the Baen Fantasy Adventure Award, now a member of SFWA, his stories have been published in Tales of Fear, Superstition, and Doom; The Depths Unleashed; Zooscape; and Horror Library, volumes 7 and 8, among other places. His Weird Western, “Big Man-Eater Owl,” is coming soon in ANVIL: Iron Age Magazine #4.

“Bride of Moon-Eye” was originally published in Page & Spine. It is reprinted here by permission of the author.

If you’d like to know about Moon-Eye and His Bat-Winged Eminence, read “Moon-Eye,” which we published last September. 


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