|The Dragon Slayer
by Michael Bard
© Michael Bard -- all rights reserved
"You're go--going to hunt the dragon alone?!"
The knight patted his horse on her neck and turned to look at the guide the town had sent. "It's a dangerous job son, but it has to be done. Your town is hiring me after all."
"But you're just one m--man!"
"You'll give Nightblossom a home if I don't make it, will you?"
The boy nodded, eyes wide. "Aren't y--you at least gonna wear your armour?"
"If I'm not back by the time the sun touches those mountains," the knight pointed, "then take her and flee far, far away. Got that?"
The boy nodded again.
"May the bl--bl--blessings of Saint George go with you S--Sir Edward."
"I'll take whatever I can get."
As the sun fell from the peak of the heavens in its rotation around the Earth, Sir Edward clambered across the broken rock and charred stumps to get to the cave where the villagers claimed the dragon laired. At least they hadn't tried staking out the least liked daughter in the village yet. Long before he got there, he was climbing through the heavy cloying stench of dragon, which just told him that the dragon had been around here recently, nothing more.
Sir Edward was wearing thick black leathers, had a sword at his side, its hilt wrapped in black leather, and a crossbow on his back. A pair of torches were strapped to his side beside a pair of poisoned bolts, along with flint and tinder. And a flask of wine. If he needed anything else then it would take a full battle of men to defeat the beast.
It was why the King, Sir Edward crossed himself, had sent him, a specialist in the slaying of dragons.
Late in the day Sir Edward finally stood at the entrance. After taking a swig of wine, and wiping the excess from his lips, he lit one of his two torches. It's fire flared up, dim and smoky in the afternoon sun, and he started making his way into the huge cavern.
Carefully he made his way down the darkening tunnel, stepping over or around the shattered remnants of stalactites and stalagmites that littered the damp, irregular floor. The only sound was the dripping of water, and the crackle of the torch. Sir Edward had traveled a large distance deep into the stygian depths, the air becoming cold around him, before the cave opened up into a massive chamber. He held up his torch and peered around at the flickering stalactites and the glistening wet walls. Scattered all over the floor were the picked bones of humans and animals, and the occasional gleam of metal. Near the back of the cave a mass billow of glistening wet rock tumbled down to the damp floor.
That billow was the dragon.
Everybody knew that dragons were shapeshifters. What was not so well known was that dragons were nocturnal. And, that they slept for most of their lives camouflaged as rock, with an armoured skin so thick that nothing could penetrate. Maybe something with black powder, but nothing that a man could carry.
Sir Edward made his way through the field of death, stepping carefully over the bones, holding the torch high above him, it's flame flickering and its stench of tar filling his nostrils. Too soon he was beside the dragon.
For a moment he just looked, feeling the cold sweat on the back of his neck. Then he swallowed. It had to be done, and it was his job.
He pressed the smoking torch against the apparently damp rock and waited.
The flame sizzled, and then black soot stained the rock. Light danced around, bounced off the damp rock in wondrous patterns the knight had not the time to admire.
Time passed. And then there was a deep bone shaking groan. The rock moved slowly away, gradually fleeing the flame. From somewhere far away in the deep pile of apparent rock, a low growly voice boomed out.
"WHO DISTURBS MY REST?"
"I'm Sir Edward and I'm looking for a dragon. Have you seen one?"
The pile of rock moved slightly. "YOU'RE BRAVE TO SEEK A DRAGON ALONE."
"Dragons are tiny cowards. The only reason they're worth my time is the bounty the King has placed on their hides."
"If you haven't seen him, I'll let you get back to your rest. The coward has to be hiding from me around here somewhere."
"THE DRAGON DOES NOT HIDE MORTAL! THE DRAGON LIES BEFORE YOU!"
The apparent rock groaned, and began to rise up. Light poured from it, green then red then pink then yellow then white, flickering through all the shades of the rainbow. Bones grated, rocks bounced one off another, tinking as they touched.
Sir Edward was already leisurely pulling the crossbow off his back. "Where's the coward hiding?" Then he began the slow process of loading it.
"I AM NOT A COWARD FOOLISH MORTAL! BEHOLD, FOR YOU HAVE FOUND THE DRAGON YOU SEEK! BEHOLD, FOR IT SHALL BE THE LAST THING YOU WILL EVER SEE!"
The light glowed brighter and brighter as the rock shifted and the form grew. Sir Edward slowly stepped backward giving room as the creature, the dragon, grew larger and larger.
"RUN, MORTAL! RUN WHILE YOU CAN! MAYBE I'LL LET YOU LIVE A SHORT WHILE!"
The dragon was still changing and growing, showing off its power, showing off its magic. Sir Edward pulled up the ready crossbow, took careful aim at the glowing chest just beginning to form, and pulled the trigger. The bolt flew true, it pierced the soft forming flesh, and its poison was sucked into the mutating body of the dragon. Abruptly the light went out, the dragon screamed, low pitched, horrific. Then, it began to fall.
Sir Edward picked up the torch from where it was smoldering, nearly out, on the wet floor, and shook it around a bit to bring it back to light. Then he watched the corpse of the dragon collapse in front of him, its bulk crushing and scattered the debris littering its lair.
He just shook his head. They never learned. If they waited him out in their armoured form till his torches went out, or, if they swiftly changed, and then dealt with him, they'd win every time.
But no, they had to show off their power and glory.
Dragons were so stupid!
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org