Dragon Myself Through Life

I heard the knight from leagues away, long before I could see him, armor plates and chain mail chattering, the hoof-thuds of a laden, trotting horse.

I sighed. They would never learn. I bade my wife good-bye without telling her my reason for leaving. She didn’t like to think of such things.

The air-push from my wings sent her light brown locks and gown-folds streaming back as I ascended. Soon I was flying over the burned-out trees and scorched surface brush of my inner domain.

The area was not burned because of my breath, of course. Dragons can’t breathe fire. That’s a villagers legend. We are flesh and blood. How could we keep a raging fire in ourselves without being consumed? A silly story, but a useful one to strike fear in our enemies, so I kept the closest approaches to my lair lined with the charcoaled remains of the landscape. Just for effect.

I heard the knight and his horse approaching the great bend of the trail. Ah. I perched past the curve away from them, out of their sight. As they came into view, I reared high, glaring, teeth bared, wings extended, and venting my most practiced, fearsome roar.

The result was unexpected. The stallion reared on his hind legs, neighing in terror, and the knight tumbled back and off his steed, crashing to the ground in an awkward jumble. The horse wheeled and bolted, the sound of his galloping hooves diminishing around the curve. I considered taking flight in pursuit, but I wasn’t very hungry, and the knight would do just fine.

He rose, picked up his bow, drew an arrow, and sent it my way. These hopeless fighters are always thinking they can find a soft spot in our bellies. I snorted and folded my wings in front of me, barely registering the tiniest sting as the arrow hit.

Enough of this play time. Again, I took to the air and swooped down on the hapless warrior. Some of my brethren prefer a hind-talons-first approach, like an eagle swooping for a mouse or a fish, but I worry about taking an arrow or lance up my ass. Instead, I glided forward rapidly, head lowered, ears flattened. The knight quickly sent one more arrow my way, the last he would ever shoot, and I simply closed armored lids over my eyes until I heard it whistle by harmlessly.

The man was struggling for his sword when I took him in my grip. He cried out in rage as I carried him well into the sky, high over a field of scattered and shattered armor at the base of the mountain, and let him go. The screams that trailed up from his plummet had sort of a sing-song catch, and my memories went back to my mother, murmuring her dragon-songs to me, back when female dragons still existed. A most pleasant memory.

I swooped down to the sprawled, unmoving body. The armor was crumpled and broken, and I opened it with a quick tear of two clawed fingers. This one perhaps had been a great warrior, large-boned, muscular, and fleshy. He was delicious.

Soon with a great flapping of wings, I was back at the entrance to my lair. I called out, “I’m home, darling.”

My wife, Gladys, came out, stunning as always. Now, some question why dragons keep pretty virgins in their homes. It’s quite simple, really. Who doesn’t like the company of a pretty lady? And being a virgin means no bother of new children in the house.

It is a fair trade. Gladys keeps the cave in good order. She lives in lavish surroundings, freed of the oppression and sorrows of the human world. By the time we will be ready to part ways and I will be demanding a new wife from my subjects, I will take her to someplace remote. She will be packing her weight in gold and jewels, prepared for a life of ease with a new community. In the meantime, she need only keep my home maintained and a pleasant place to which I can return. And no, that does not include my toileting, which would be a considerable burden. I am considerate and do my bodily functions in the sky away from home, over forests and fields, or maybe while flying over a village if I’m feeling playful.

“Are you well? Did everything go well?”

I kept my response noncommittal. She does not really want to know the nature of my business, and except for one humorous comment, it stayed unspoken. I do not let her see the stretches of broken armor under the mountain. She might recognize one of them as her brother, or father, or friend, or a past suitor. Best not to discuss it at all.

“It went well. I will be gone some of tomorrow. I’m going to Gray Mountain to visit Harold. There’s a new gathering of houses in the valley, and we should talk about whose territory it will be.”

“Well, don’t get in any fights over it.”

“We won’t. There’s plenty for everyone.”

And indeed there is. Villages under my reign will regularly put out an offering of a heifer, or goat, or lamb. I stay well fed, and they stay respectful. In return, I am benevolent and forego my taste for human flesh. Except, of course, for the occasional foolish knight. I will even sometimes ease their livestock’s burden and take a deer or bear from the forest as the mood strikes.

“When you’re there, please tell Mildred hello for me. We haven’t talked in a long time.”

“My dear, you could just visit if you could get over your fear of flying. But I will do so.”

“Well, I’m going to start dinner and then clean up. You’ve been shedding extra scales lately. Are you sure you’re okay?”

I lowered my head and nuzzled my rough snout to her lovely-lined and soft neck. She reached up to stroke me under my jaw, behind my ear. A favorite of mine, she knew. She rested her head on me for a moment, eyes closed, a small smile playing her face.

“Never better,” I replied. But it was a lie. With no female dragons present for centuries, we are a doomed race, now carrying that burden of sadness and loss. Some of my brethren exhibit their inner rage in tyranny over their territories. But I look for balance with my subjects. Wreaking devastation will not lengthen my time. And in due time, I shall pass, dragons shall pass, as does all life. The only surety that we have in life is that it will end.

“I’m going to sleep. It’s a long flight tomorrow.”

“Of course. But have you eaten? Don’t go to bed hungry.”

I turned and nodded before crawling up to my chambers. “Yes, I did. I’ve had a good knight.”

— Grandpa

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