Adult, high fantasy story with the usual suspects including dragons, knights and maidens.
|The small herd of black and white milk cows mooed balefully as the great, flapping, airborne shape hove into their view, its golden hide glittering in the sunrise. To another member of his much-feared race, the scene presented a tempting feast, but for about two decades now, this one had earned the reputation of being what humans regarded as a ‘good’ dragon, and the creature chose not to ruin the livelihood of common folk by preying on their livestock. The beast dipped low, causing the herd to panic, but the dragon had only dropped altitude to read the inscription on a weathered milestone that announced the next hamlet along the rutted road that the reptile followed. It was Market Day in every town and village in the kingdom, and the dragon flapped dutifully on, as though on a mission of some importance.
Minutes later, pandemonium erupted when the scaly leviathan landed with a deafening thud in the town square of the prosperous little town of Lower Brookingham. Flimsy, canvas-topped market stalls were overturned, pigs and goats broke from their tethers, and produce rolled across the stone cobbles as people dove under carts or into the shops and residences that rimmed the square.
Marguerite, the beautiful, almond eyed, raven haired daughter of the town’s only tavern keeper looked up from her drudgery of mopping vomit from the previous night’s revelry, and peered through the small leaded window at the beautiful though terrifying creature that caused the commotion.
The dragon seemed oblivious to the chaos he created, and placidly sat on his haunches, licking a taloned paw as might a tabby cat. People peered with apprehension through cracked doors, window grates and wagon spokes at the enormous creature, fearing their impending doom. But when the beast did nothing but yawn, blink, and continued to preen his scales, murmurs of good dragon and white horns could be heard, and people cautiously began to emerge from their hiding places.
From the largest building in the town, and the only one of stone, instead of timber framed, plastered wattle, emerged a fat, middle-aged, balding man who had hastily put on his robe of office, and was escorted by Sir Nedry, now better known simply as “Old Ned”, the one legged town watchman, who helped steady himself on the peg leg and rusty halberd he carried.
The mayor wiped beads of sweat from his naked pate, and turned to the grizzled old former knight, whose amputation from a broadsword had ended his previous career. “Seventeen years, or was it eighteen?”, the Mayor murmured.
“What, your Honor?”, Ned replied.
“Ah, you were still in the King’s Guard back then, I suspect, long before your war wounds”, the Mayor said, glancing at Ned’s stump of a leg for a moment before returning his gaze to the enormous beast. “I suppose he’s here for one of our girls”.
“Na, your honor, why I recognize the beast”, Ned reassured the rotund man. “See the white horns, that’s the good dragon. They say he arrived all mysterious like, some twenty-odd years ago, and drove away the evil, black horned dragon that had been a terrorizing the kingdom for centuries.. This un’s the king’s friend, for after driving off the black horned beast, he destroyed the fleet of the northern raiders and they’ve never come back again. And there’ been no wars since he’s come, for none of the other kingdom’s have dared invade us with a tame dragon on our side. That’s why we’ve had peace and prosperity so long.”
Glancing furtively at the dragon, and then back to Ned, the Mayor nervously whispered, “Yes Sir Nedry, we have all heard bits and pieces of that story before, you’ve told it enough for drinks in the tavern. And its true that people no longer panic when they see a dragon high in the sky. And in even a quieter voice he hissed, “But this same damnable beast was here before, eighteen years ago when my father was mayor, and he spun a story about a prophecy about a young maiden from Lower Brookingham to join him on a noble quest, and took away a beautiful young lass.”
Ned’s face showed genuine surprise, and in an a whisper as well, he replied, “Well, quests and adventures can sometimes be dangerous, or maybe the last maiden is too old to accompany the dragon anymore”.
“We never saw her again”, the Mayor responded.
Ned was quick to answer, not wanting a confrontation with the formidable beast., “Why should she come back? Maybe she married a handsome prince and suchlike, being, a dragon-riding heroine after all? And what would you do, your honor if he is hear for another girl? Tell the him he is a liar and refuse him? I’ll have no part of it. He could destroy the whole town if you angered him. And he can probably hear every word we are speaking".
The mayor paled at Ned’s last remark. “Shhhhh now”, he said, “The dragon’s looking straight at us.”
Marguerite moved to get a better look and now peered through the doorway. She thought she recognized the great beast as well, and heard Ned’s stories of the creature many times in the tavern. She always believed the dragon of her dreams was the same good dragon Ned had spoken of in the tavern. Or, at least, her parents said they were only dreams. Despite their reassurances, she was certain she had seen such a dragon, in this very square when she was only four or five. Friends her own age sometimes had the same recollection, though their parents all told them it was a only a dream as well, and never to speak of it. But she already knew why the dragon was here. It was part of her dream, though the young woman in her memories didn’t look exactly like her. But that didn’t matter now for the dragon had come for her.
In a few more minutes, calm had resumed, and a ring of curious humanity surrounded the dragon, albeit from a respectful distance. When he felt every eye was upon him, the dragon reared up on his haunches and eying the short, portly man with the robes of office, spoke directly to him, but in a booming voice that everyone could hear. “Good people, I have traveled far and wide about the land, on a noble quest to fulfill a prophecy recorded in an ancient tome. For it is written that a golden dragon, great and good, will come to a humble town where he will find a beautiful and pure young maiden no less than two score years, yet no more than three score. Of her own free will she will leave with the dragon, riding on his back like the ancient warrior women of legend. They will travel to the tower of a wizard, where she will undergo a great transformation, whereupon she will ultimately benefit and enrich the lives of thousands........ but,..........but,” and now the dragon’s voice grew quieter and less confident, as he went on saying, “but I will have failed, unless I have finally found the town of ...(and he paused for effect), unless this could be..... is it... could my noble quest have reached an end, and am I now in the town of Lower Brookingham?”
On hearing this, all of the younger people erupted in excited, happy conversation. Some cheered and shouted affirmations to the dragon, though some of the older people, particularly women, seemed more sullen and angry than overjoyed, though their husbands seemed to quell their apparent apprehensions.
The mayor dared not call the fearsome beast a liar, so for his own safety he affected a bow, and pompously replied, “Great and noble beast, I am happy to inform you that you have indeed found the object of your quest, for this is none other than the storied town recorded in your prophecy. Welcome good dragon to Lower Brookingham”, and now even more cheers went up, now that it was completely clear the dragon’s arrival was not a portent of doom, but perhaps the most wonderful thing that had ever happened in this otherwise boring and insignificant place – or at least for eighteen years, but everyone then had promised a dragon, this very dragon, it seemed, to never speak to anyone about that past event.
Marguerite’s heart jumped into her throat, as she heard the creature’s words. She was unmarried and twenty two years of age, well within the years specified for the maiden in the prophecy, and certainly one of the most beautiful women in the town. And it was a fact not lost on her alone, for already there were murmurs of her name, from every adult male in the crowd who knew her as the town’s only tavern-wench and one time or another, she had sopped their vomit or emptied their piss-pots during their drunken revelries in her father’s tavern. A chant began, first from the establishment’s regular customers, and then from nearly everyone in town, “Marguerite.......Marguerite....... Marguerite!"
Marguerite still hid in the shadows of the Tavern’s doorway, both frightened and elated at the same time. Since a child, she had fantasies, just as so many other girls in a thousand other nameless country towns, to be taken away from a life of drudgery by a handsome prince. The dragon wasn’t exactly a prince, and though fearsome, was unquestionably beautiful as well, or handsome might be a better word for the voice betrayed it was a male. And then there was her childhood dream of this very thing happening!. The prophecy suggested a life of excitement and adventure, and good deeds to be performed that would benefit thousands. And who could argue with a prophecy, especially one that she had actually dreamed about herself? After all, the dragon specifically sought the most beautiful young maiden in Lower Brookingham, and the chanting crowd acclaimed it was her.
All eyes turned to the front door of the modest drinking establishment, including the dragon’s, and before the mayor could send a boy to summon her, Marguerite bravely stepped into the sunlight for all to see, as another chorus of cheers spontaneously erupted.
The dragon’s golden, cat-like eyes riveted on Marguerite as she emerged from the doorway. He lowered his head and spoke to her in a gentle voice, “My dear, in my lifetime of over two thousand years, you are one of the most beautiful young women I have ever seen. You are surely the maiden of which the prophecy speaks. Do you wish of your own free will to embark with me on this great adventure?”
Marguerite was overcome by the dragon’s charm, the crowd’s encouragement, and her own desire to do more with her life than sopping vomit and emptying bed pans and piss pots. With some uncertainty in her voice, she still bravely looked the dragon in the eye, and said, “Y-yes, good dragon, I will g-go with you.”
The dragon seemed to smile, and looked at her thoughtfully saying, “And you do so by your own free will?”
With all eyes on her, Marguerite took a little curtsy, and replied, “Y-yes, good dragon, b-by my own free will. B-but may I have some time to pack some things?”
“Why of course, my dear”, the dragon said in a pleasant voice, “but you needn’t bring much, for everything required for our quest will be supplied at the Wizard’s Tower. Perhaps you should bring a good bit of food, and please drink a tall pitcher of cool water before we embark.” Then the dragon looked to the mayor, and about the crowd and said, “I think this calls for a celebration, does it not?” his question almost sounded more like an order.
Everyone seemed to cheer, and particularly the chronic alcoholics, (of which Lower Brookingham had many), for they always delighted in a free drink, even so early in the morning. Marguerite’s father was content that the mayor would foot the bill, and had two boys roll a sizeable keg of strong ale into the square. The dragon grasped it in his great paw as a man would a pewter tankard, and with a well-practiced push of his thumb claw, stove in the whole top of the oaken barrel with ease.
“Let us have a toast” the dragon chortled, and the men all trooped into the tavern to get their personal tankards that rested on the long shelf. In a surprisingly short time, each had dipped their vessel in the open top of the barrel and then the dragon raised it as a gentleman would a crystal goblet and said, “To the brave and beautiful Marguerite, and to the success of our noble quest”. Then he guzzled down the thirty odd gallons of strong ale in a single great gulp, as the men each quaffed their smaller portions. Then the dragon asked, “I am fairly famished from my long flight here. Might anyone be good enough to spare a few roast chickens or a ham?"
One man, did not step forward to drink with the dragon. He remained in the shadows, his green, hooded traveling cloak hid his sword, shining armor, handsome features, and eyes burning with hatred. He was a famous knight, and not only that, but a Mage Knight, also well-versed in the art of magic. Sir Goodwin of Umbridge, was his name and had led an almost storybook life. He slew the terrible Rogue Wolf of Watling Forest, and the Great Marauding Bear of the Lowlands. And he alone rescued Anna, the King’s own daughter from the notorious robber band of Glenwood Forest, killing their leader in the process. He was no mere traveler here to witness the momentous and unexpected arrival of the dragon by accident. His years of investigation had paid off, and by process of elimination, he knew the creature would arrive here on Market Day, and whatever the smooth talking beast said, he also knew its intentions were not good. By his calculation, hundreds, even thousands of young women throughout the kingdom had mysteriously vanished since the arrival of the “good”, White Horned dragon, and now at last he would find out how and why. But despite being perhaps the most skilled warrior, magician and huntsman in the entire Kingdom, he also knew no mere man, or even company of men, could hope to slay such a monster. Those were only things of children’s fairytales, though he swore an oath that he would somehow slay this dragon, with the resources of the Kingdom, if only he could prove his theory to the King that this supposedly ‘good’ dragon was none other than the Black Horned Scourge, the foul dragon that had terrorized the three kingdoms for centuries..
As the Mage-Knight looked on from the dark alley in disgust, a grinning market vendor who specialized in roasted chickens came forward with one in each hand, and the dragon lowered his head to ground level and lolled out his long pink tongue to receive them. The beast pulled them into his toothy maw, savoring the morsels, and pronouncing them, “Mmm, delicious, thank you, my friend”.
Now, many people wanted to show their bravery by personally feeding the dragon, as though it were their own hound, and the poor folk spent their hard earned money buying hams, chickens and whole roasted piglets and goats to place on the dragon’s great pink carpet of a tongue. With an acute sense of smell, so sensitive he could detect fresh blood some twenty miles away, the dragon was in no fear of being poisoned, nor should he have any reason to, for his arrival here was unexpected, and the food and drink all prepared for the people’s own Market Day consumption. And who would dare try to poison the great and good White Horned Dragon -- said to be the friend of the King and protector of the Kingdom?
A little girl, perhaps only eight or nine was taken up in the excitement. Her father was a fruit peddler, and without asking, she picked up a large watermelon nearly her own size and trundled it over to the dragon, placing it on the huge beast’s tongue before anyone could stop her. Not wanting to disappoint the child, the reptile took the great green globe into its mouth, and rent the fruit with his dagger-like teeth before gulping it down. Others then looked to the fruit vendor for something cheaper than meat to feed the beast, but the dragon upon seeing this said, “No more fruit or vegetables please, for it doe not suit a dragon’s digest.......” His voice trailed off, when a gleaming white apparition strode from the tavern door. Indeed, the conversations of everyone in the town square stopped when they too looked to see what had caught the dragon’s attention.
It was Marguerite, but no longer Marguerite the tavern wench, but Marguerite the brave, dragon-riding warrior princess. In her fantasy of someday meeting a beautiful prince who would take her away from her pathetic life, the young woman had spent her little spare time and meager tips to make a magnificent linen and lace ball gown. Bleached the purest white, the radiant garment seem to glow in the bright morning sun.. And the girl’s natural beauty was enhanced by finely coiffured hair, and subtle, well placed cosmetics that up until this time had been hidden in her room and never used. A tortoiseshell comb, inlaid with cheap, but impressive rock crystal gems, gave the appearance of a queen’s tiara on the girls head.
Marguerite knew every eye was upon her, as her fantasy rescue from dismal and boring Lower Brookingham became a reality. Wasn’t a noble and magnificent dragon better than a mere prince? And what of her great transformation at the Wizard’s Tower that the prophecy foretold? Would she become even more beautiful, or simply given great strength, fighting skills and courage to assist the amiable beast in noble quests that would benefit the lives of thousands, as she recalled his exact words.
“You look the perfect warrior princess, my dear”, the dragon cooed as Marguerite regally strode across the square. Then in a louder voice he spoke to the multitude, saying, “Do you see, good people? Just look at her magnificence. Can anyone doubt the prophecy?” Then he paused for dramatic effect and continued, “But there is one more thing of great importance to all of you.” His eyes seemed to meet everyone’s in the square, with an almost hypnotic effect. The Mage-Knight did not look, but pulled his hood lower over his hate filled eyes.
A deathly silence fell over the crowd as they all waited for his next words, and then the creature spoke. “Other towns and villages would be jealous if they knew the maiden of the prophecy came from.....”, and he paused, almost forgetting the name, “Um, Lower Brookingham, instead of their own home, and strife and rivalries would surely commence which would cause me great grief. Therefore you must all swear to me to never tell an outsider of the wonderful prophecy. And it is very bad luck to break a promise to a dragon. Do you so swear?”
A general chorus of “I swear”, came from the crowd. Sir Goodwin swore as well, but in a more negative manner, and then though to himself, So that’s how the devil has kept this quiet these many years.
Marguerite’s father and a tavern boy followed, lugging baskets that contained food, blankets and some simpler clothes. Market vendors liberally added more victuals to the baskets, each seeming to outdo the others in his support of the brave young girl. A heavy wheel of cheese, several feet of linked sausages, long loaves of bread, meat pies and fruit filled the baskets.
Old Ned hobbled over to meet her halfway across the square. He unbuckled his sword belt and placed it around Marguerite’s dainty waist, having to tie it on, for it was too big to properly fit her. With tears in his eyes, he manage a little hug despite the pegleg and crutch of a halberd, and said, “I’m sure the dragon will provide you with a much better one, dear Margie, after your training and transformation and all, but this sword has served me well for many a year, and in my state, I don’t have much use for it now”. The crowd cheered and applauded, giving Marguerite a chance to whisper into his ear. “Ned, I will miss you. But speak to me truthfully. Your tales of dragons, this very dragon, have thrilled everyone in the tavern and I am sure you know more about them than anyone here, with your travels and service in the Royal Guard. Is the dragon speaking the truth? Will I be safe with him?”
Ned hugged her again, and whispered in her ear. “This is the famous White Horned Dragon to be sure, for I have seen him before. And if he were a bad un, nothin’ could have stopped him from kill’n us all, if he had wished. But remember this, my dear – even the wickedest dragons are said to pride themselves on the truthfulness of their word, even to humans. It’s a matter of honor to them.” Then he paused, and with seeming reluctance added, “Dragons never lie, but sometimes the truths they tell are not always what they may seem to be. And I understand they love word games and riddles and the like.” Then he daubed a tear welling in the girl’s eye, saying, ”There, there, a brave dragon riding princess can’t be seen a-cry’n, everything will be fine, to be sure, just like in those fairy stories.”
The dragon spoke up then, ending the conversation. There seemed to a bare hint of annoyance in his smooth voice, but then seemed to correct it. “Thank you for your kindness, good people, for I cannot say when we will find towns and villages in our travels. But if I may make just one other small request before we begin our quest.. While I am sure you have all heard that some dragons are renowned for great wealth, they also have no means to carry it about them, for we wear no clothes or purses.” He paused to allow the crowd a moment to laugh, and then continued. “If you could find it among yourselves, to provide young Marguerite with a bit of money, so she might be able to buy little necessities now and then, I am sure she would be most grateful, hmmmmm?” And his dangerous gaze seem to spur them to a bout of great generosity.
The ever-resourceful Ned, picked up on this, and took off the steel kettle hat that was a trademark part of his town watchman kit, turned it over, and said, “Here now, good people, donations for our dear Marguerite, lets send her off in good style! You all know that my injuries, capture and ransom had left me a penniless knight. Now I’m but a watchman and pensioner, but I will start the pot off with two silvers”, and he dropped them slowly in the helmet where the coins clinked to good effect.
Most everyone in the town followed suit, for even the very poor were willing to share their hard earned coppers with the brave young Marguerite, and Ned’s helmet filled up not once, but three times with coinage, all poured into a strong linen apple sack provided by a market vendor.
Sir Goodwin fumed in anger under his hooded cloak. Not only was the dragon talking the town out of the beautiful young woman, and all of that food it had eaten, but now also out of their hard earned money! He so much wanted to stop this, but what could he do? No one man could fight such a beast on its own terms, and besides, the dragon might destroy the whole town in anger if he provoked it here.
Marguerite received hugs and kisses from her parents, close friends, and relatives, and then the dragon politely pressed his body low to the ground, and gently lifted the girl up to a kind of well-worn crook just between his shoulders.
The Great White Horned Dragon craned his head back to insure the young woman was safely seated. Marguerite tightly gripped a large silver ring that pierced one of its rock-hard dorsal spines, that seemed to be made just for her.. Seeing this, the dragon tensed his legs, and then sprung into the sky, his mighty, pumping wings again overturning stalls and blowing hats off the heads of the townspeople. He made one circle around the town square as Marguerite gaily waved to the cheering, adoring crowd, and then the winged reptile veered left to continue his journey north, along the Old Post Road.
One man followed the flying dragon. It was Sir Goodwin, now on a fine warhorse, though stripped of martial appurtenances and as he still wore the green woolen cloak and hood, he looked like a moderately affluent traveler.
Looking back, Marguerite thought her town of Lower Brookingham looked like a collection of children’s toys. Despite her apprehensions, she marveled at seeing her first views of the great wide world outside of her dismal little town. A million thoughts now filled her head as she began to grow accustomed to riding a flying dragon. First and foremost, she wondered what the dragon meant by her transformation at the Wizard’s Tower. Would some magic be worked that would make her great warrior? She imagined being feted in fine castles and palaces, awing kings and princes as she descended from the sky to their grand palaces on the back of her mighty dragon companion. But no sooner than she had begun to daydream of her wonderful future , the dragon descended abruptly and dropped into a small clearing in the first patch of woods along the Old Post Road, her flight lasting a scant fifteen minutes at best.
The great reptile pressed his neck low to the ground, and called to Marguerite, “It is time to dismount, my dear”.
A tinge of fear struck the maiden, now alone with the huge beast in the small meadow surrounded by a gloomy forest of ancient, moss covered oaks. As she made the small jump to the ground, she nervously stammered, “G-good dragon, w-why have we stopped so soon, and in so dreary a place as this?”
The dragon’s scaly lips formed something of a grin, exposing his sharp yellow teeth, as he smugly stated, “We shall now begin your transformation, so be good enough to remove your dress and that silly sword. Place the dress on that large flat rock there , so it will not become soiled for there will be need of it later on..”
“G-good dragon, sir, did the prophecy not say that the transformation were to t-take place at a wizard’s tower?” Marguerite questioned nervously.
“Indeed, my dear”, the dragon smoothly replied, ”True enough, the transformation will be completed at a wizard’s tower, but it is to begin here.... and now”. A thick ribbon of drool inadvertently slipped from between two of the beast’s dagger like front teeth as he spoke.
Marguerite could not resist the commanding voice and presence, first untying the belt that girded Sir Nedry’s sword, standing it up against the rock with some reverence. She then dutifully unlaced and pulled down the wonderful white dress she had invested so many hours making. All the while she tried to reassure herself the dragon was the gallant and good creature that had captivated her and the village folk with his jovial nature and the tale of the marvelous prophecy.
“Underclothes too, my dear, and those shoes as well” the dragon continued, as Marguerite carefully folded the dress and placed it on the smooth, flat rock, hoping against hope that the dragon was speaking the truth, and that the dress would be required later, and should not be soiled. Her only consolation was remembering the word’s wise old Sir Nedry had confided to her, that Dragons never lie, but sometimes the truths they tell are not always what they may seem to be. That second part unnerved her a bit.
As the soft linen undergarment slipped off her shoulders, Marguerite instinctively brought her arms up to hide her exposed breasts, all the while her eyes fixed on those of the dragon, whose dominating presence had an almost a hypnotizing effect on the young woman.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of my dear, you have a beautiful body”, the dragon said in a now soothingly reassuring voice. His feral but intelligent eyes seemed to bore into her very soul she thought, but remembering the words of Ned as she tried to overcome her fears - dragons never lie.
After the dragon seemed to drink in her beauty, he softly murmured, “It is said that the transformation will occur more smoothly if you face your back to me”.
She meekly nodded, and began to hesitantly turn, tiptoeing on the balls of her dainty white feet. But no sooner had she broken eye contact with the beast, than he raised his head directly over Marguerite’s turning body, gaped wide his terrible jaws, and brought them down, neatly enveloping her from head to toe.
The doomed maiden began to scream as the dark shadow engulfed her, and the hot, slimy tongue made contact with her back and buttocks. But her cry was instantly reduced to a muffled murmur as the dragon’s scaly lips sealed her tight in his long muzzle. She pounded on the hard ribbed palette to no avail, and then struck out at the interlocking teeth that loomed about her like ivory prison bars, but only cut her knuckles and fingers on their sharp serrations for her troubles.
Then the tongue began to curl around her, the muscular appendage rolling her around in his mouth, its probing, prehensile tip touching her in the most intimate of places, and coating her with thick, sticky saliva. The terror caused her to empty her bladder, and rather than repel the beast, it only seemed to induce it to even more fervent licking and slurping of the amber-gold fluid.
If poor Marguerite had been in a calmer state of mind, she might have recalled the dragon’s seemingly thoughtful insistence that she drink a tall pitcher of water before starting their grand adventure. She, like virtually all humans could not know the primary reason why legends the world over spoke of dragons requesting the offerings of fair young maidens. For it is the nature of certain selfish and indolent male dragons everywhere, to not want to share their hard earned hordes with a mate, or spend long hours hunting food for their offspring. But like other males throughout the animal kingdom, and humans as well, certain biological needs outweigh mental plans to remain celibate. What certain dragons have known for centuries however, is that the urine of sexually active females is laced with a cocktail of hormones and chemicals that, combined with a vigorous act of physical self-gratification, induces said dragons to such a state of sexual euphoria that they are able to eschew the charms of his own opposite sex, thereby keeping their hoards to themselves and not exerting themselves in feeding ever-hungry offspring.
Thus while Marguerite wrestled with one of the dragon’s appendages in the creature’s mouth, at the same time, a casual observer would observe the dragon himself apparently wrestling with another of his own appendages.
Sir Goodwin had followed the dragon at a safe distance so not to be noticed, but when he saw it dip into the first patch of woods with the helpless Marguerite, all sense of caution was cast aside, and he spurred his horse to a gallop. He had tried to convince himself that no matter what he saw when the dragon arrived, he could not get involved. He must only report what he saw to the king, and perhaps trail the dragon, and recover any remains of his victim for proof of the monster’s predations. But his sense of honor outweighed rational thought. And it was not only this one young women who was in danger, for he knew the dragon would travel up the Old Post Road all morning long, telling the same story and taking a poor young maiden at every stop, as he had done every market day for almost two decades.
Marguerite shrieked and screamed as she battled the inquisitive tongue that continued to assault her as the dragon gradually worked his way to self-induced sexual ecstacy, which the maiden had involuntarily induced by her own bodily secretions. In the dim light that shown between the prison of fangs, she could see a terrifying black hole surrounded by quivering pink flesh, and she feared that any moment the tongue would push her into it.
Unable to save herself, she could only hope for a miracle now. Becoming too exhausted to fight anymore, she recalled Ned’s words, Dragons always tell the truth. Maybe this ordeal was part of the transformation process the dragon had foretold, she wondered. After all, if the beast intended to eat her, she should have been rent to pieces by those horribly sharp teeth and then quickly gulped down like the many roasted chickens, goats and piglets he had greedily consumed in the market place. As she panted in exhaustion, unable to fight it any longer, the probing, inquisitive tongue actually began to feel quite sensual. She thought, maybe this is just some kind of test or initiation for her coming transformation, and soon the dragon would re......
But her thoughts were interrupted, when from the dragon’s black throat emitted a deep guttural roar of pleasure, and immediately thereafter, the tongue pushed her painfully tight against the pallette, and she was literally squished headfirst down the black hole, the fleshy folds constricting around her.
She could only emit the barest yelp of surprise before her face was encased in the tight slimy tube. She could feel muscular rings tightening around her still cool toes, not quite in the hotter throat yet. Then another ring closed around her breasts, and another around her ankles, each rhythmic contraction efficiently pushing her closer to her destination.
From the outside, Marguerite’s body formed little more than a gentle bulge, fluidly moving down the dragon’s long, serpentine neck. As the esophageal muscles rippled, the beast’s shifting scales glittered in the early morning sun. The dragon still lay on his back, panting from his exertions, and covered in thick milky gobbets of his own emissions. Marguerite, if she could have witnessed the scene, would have had found little satisfaction in the fact that the dragon did indeed tell the truth regarding her beautiful white dress. There was a need for it, and he now retrieved it from the flat rock where the maiden had neatly folded it, and fluffed it out with a flourish of his taloned paw. He then pressed the clean white linen to his muzzle for a moment, wiping off strings of errant saliva, and then began to wipe away the explosion of semen that besmirched his beautiful golden scales.
While the dragon primped and groomed, the bulge that was Marguerite disappeared from view where the dragon’s neck joined the massive body. The pressure on her body was even greater now, as her fragile frame competed for space in a chest cavity packed with over a ton of viscera. The remaining air was pushed out of her lungs, and would cause the dragon to give a dainty little burp when the bubble eventually roiled back up his throat. The sound of the beast’s mighty heart pounded in her ears now, and her whole body could feel its’ steady beat reverberating behind a wall of living tissue. The sound diminished somewhat as she was pushed further along on the thirty second ride that seemed to last an eternity. Now she heard more ominous sounds, a gurgling sound that could only be the monster’s belly, busy at work processing the meal it had mooched off the inhabitants of Lower Brookingham, but seemed to still be growling for more -- for her.
Marguerite’s rapid descent was suddenly halted as her face rammed into a hard knot of muscle, but only for a second, for as soon as she made contact, the valve obligingly relaxed and yawned opened to admit her. Finally she could breath again as there was both more room and air in the chamber. But she was also instantaneously assailed by a horrid stench she hoped she’d never have to smell again - tavern vomit, though more overpowering and foul than anything she ever experienced in her father’s establishment. It seemed so detestably familiar to her, for up until now, the dragon had eaten the very same tavern fare and drunk the same ale as she herself served up on battered wooden platters, and inevitably, also scrubbed up by her, when regurgitated by drunken revelers.
But these thoughts passed in seconds as she continued to ooze through the now relaxed sphincter, and she splashed headfirst into the stinking sludge. Thankfully, the seething stew was scarcely two feet deep, but it was still enough to drown in, for it was impossible to stand, or very nearly to even set up in the shapeless, shifting chamber about twice her length. At least it wasn’t so tight now, for the dragon had an expandable paunch that could hold far more than it did now. Her feet, or even knees could not find purchase anywhere in the mucous covered, wrinkly chamber, and she flopped and floundered as helplessly as a fish out of water. And just as she got her bearings in the total darkness, her world turned upside down when the dragon finished grooming, turned over, and got back on its feet, tumbling her over and over.
Groping in the inky blackness, she pulled herself towards the only practicable way out, which was the way she came in. She knew the wrong way, because the odorous soup got deeper as the bottom sloped downward to the source of the ominous gurgling. And the thumping heart she had passed by earlier, now helped guide her. She squirmed towards the heartbeat, and her hope was renewed when she found and touched the now tightly sealed valve she had previously entered.. But suddenly a massive spasm in the muscular organ pushed her back into the stomach’s deepest reaches, churning and compacting the contents. Her breath was again squeezed out of her body by the force, and the hot sludge of small animal bones, watermelon rind, and meat pie crust was forced into every open orifice, causing burning and discomfort. She was caught in a current of chime that drained through that noisy, smaller valve she had tried to avoid. She feared she would be sucked down the tube, but it would not admit sizable solid objects and clenched shut when her toes touch it. She knew however, if she could not escape, she would become part of this same stew and in a matter of hours would likewise be gurgling down the sucking hole.
As quickly as it began, the massive spasm mercifully stopped, but as she would soon discover, would only begin like clockwork again about every half minute, though she had lost all track of time.. Like the dragon’s beating heart that she heard pounding in the distance, the beast’s churning stomach was a natural body function that the dragon did not consciously control. She realized with dread, that anything made of flesh and blood, alive or dead, intelligent or not, resigned to that place was now only food to be broken down into absorbable nutrients, in a deceitful monster’s foul guts..... unless dragons never lie.
She extricated the leg bone of a chicken and an impossibly large piece of watermelon rind that had impacted in one of her most intimate places, and grimly crawled back towards the tight sphincter. Despite the inky darkness, she knew it was in the opposite direction of the noisy tube that sucked up the stew she floundered in, but towards the beating heart.. She also knew she could not endure many more of the muscular spasms, and one could easily break her back if it caught her the wrong way. All of the tenderest places on her body felt like they were on fire from the stomach acids. The only thing that gave her hope were Ned’s words that dragons never lie. She hoped against hope this was just a test of her mettle, and soon the dragon would release her. She reached the tightly puckered valve again, and managed a finger hold in the hard, wrinkly muscle. She formed a fist with her other hand and pounded on the sphincter, imploring the dragon to release her. Nearly all the air, if the humid odoriferous fog could be called that, was almost gone.
And then a miracle. It seemed her prayers were answered. The rock hard sphincter muscle that her fingers clenched slowly relaxed. The valve began to wink open, and a tiny bit of breathable, cooler air wafted in. But her high hopes were dashed when she was hit square in the face by a wheel of cheese, followed by several feet of linked pork sausages, a smoked ham and two roasted chickens. Not content with eating her, the gluttonous beast had gobbled up most of the provisions that the townsfolk had so kindly packed for her, though it apparently disdained the fruit and bread.
Marguerite recovered from the barrage of victuals, and persistently clambered up to the sphincter again, in a desperate bid for fresh air and freedom. If it had not been for the dragon’s latest snack, she would probably have succumbed by now to the bad air. But by the time she reached the portal to freedom, the valve was tightly closed, and no amount of pounding would induce it to open again. Though the ordeal seemed like an hour, her half minute of respite was up, and another of the never-ending muscular spasms commenced, roughly sloshing her about, grinding her tender body against the hard wheel of cheese, and tangling her in the sausages. Again, the air was squeezed from her lungs and she was pushed back to the gurgling rear exit. When the convulsion subsided she lay exhausted and would surely have drowned, if not so much of the gruel had gurgled into the lower plumbing. Too tired to extricate herself from the coil of sausages, she moved back towards the reassuring heartbeat like an inchworm.
The dragon was oblivious to the life and death struggle going on in the depths of his stomach. Despite her hopes this was only a test, and the dragon might release her, to the great reptile, all thoughts of Marguerite were forgotten with the first gulp that had sent her on a one way tour of his digestive system. He could not even feel her frantic struggles, but only the pleasant sensation of food in his belly after a fast of two weeks, when he had similarly feasted on the previous Market Day. But in truth, his feasting had just begun and he had many more appointments in the towns and villages along the route he had plotted, so now made ready his departure. He excavated a small trench with a few kicks of his right rear foot, and irreverently kicked into it, the semen-soaked dress, food baskets, harness, a blanket, Ned’s sword, and those food items that did not suit his carnivorous nature. The only thing he took was the sack filled with coins, which he was about to scoop up and place into a kind of pouch under his tongue.
At that moment the mounted Sir Goodwin burst into the clearing upon his noble steed and in heroic fashion. But contrary to fairy tales, no horse could ever be induced to charge a dragon, and the sight and smell of it so terrified the otherwise battle-tested creature, that it reared and threw the Mage-Knight to the ground despite his equestrian skills. As it galloped away in wild eyed fear, Goodwin quickly got his feet and drew his sword. In anguish, he realized he had arrived too late – there was no trace of poor Marguerite, only the Great White Horned Dragon, which seemed to effect no more than a leering grin of amusement at the sight of his antagonist.
Sir Goodwin had recalled that the Black Horned Scourge delighted in devouring his human victims alive, deriving sadistic pleasure from their terror and prolonged suffering. So perhaps he was not too late. In a loud voice he called across the field, saying “Dragon, spew up the maid unharmed and you may yet live another day. Do not underestimate me, for I command powerful magic.”
The dragon continued to grin unabashed, then sat upright on his haunches, so that Goodwin might even discern some feeble trace of Marguerite’s desperate struggles, and after a moment spoke, saying, “How interesting; first a knight, and then a mage. My pallette has experienced a good deal of both, and each has its own distinctive flavor, so I am rightly intrigued as to how you will taste. So no, sir, if you wish to meet the young lady you request, I fear that it will have to be in my stomach”, and he tauntingly patted it with a forepaw.
Sir Goodwin did not respond to the beast, but instead raised his face to the sky, and spoke as if summoning the gods above..
“Force of nature, lightning, thunder,
burst the belly of this beast asunder!
but only harm the one who sins,
and spare the innocent child within!
A net of blue-white light seemed to envelop the mage-knight, and with the last word of the spell, the energy collected in his pointing fingertip and shot forth to strike the dragon in his exposed belly.
The dragon’s smirk disappeared, and his eyes seemed to widen in alarm. A second taloned forepaw moved to also grip his distended paunch, he inhaled deeply, and Sir Goodwin raised an arm to his face as if to shield it from spattering gore.
And the dragon burped, a long, raucous belch tainted with the odor of vomit filled the air. The dragon grinned widely again, to assure the mage that his spell had come to naught, and said, “Pardon me, but that keg of strong ale was a bit too fermented for my stomach’s liking. I thank you for giving me some relief.” And then with a speed that belied his somewhat obese frame, the dragon pounced upon Sir Goodwin, snatched him in a great paw, and with a quick shake, sent his sword flying from his hand.
Then as if the man were his own hatchling, sat the man on a bent knee, though not releasing his grip, and spoke in a most amiable manner as if they were the best of friends. “A splendid display good sir, but do you not understand the source of your magic? It does not come from nature, but from your very essence. This power flows through the bodies of every creature, when you hold a finger to the fire, this power instantly tells your brain. This is the extent most animals and men are able to use this power. You have refined and enhanced it, to be sure, and I am sure you would be formidable to a man or beast of your own size. But against a dragon one-hundred times your mass? Of course not. And not only must you contend with the dragon’s much greater essence, but with the spiritual energy absorbed from the trapped souls of every creature it has consumed alive. For a soul cannot escape the confines of a far greater, more powerful soul, and since a man cannot swallow any living thing larger than a tiny fish or mouse, no human mage can ever attain the magic of a dragon.”
Then with complete nonchalance, and starting with his ankles, the dragon began snapping all of Sir Goodwin’s large arm and leg bones as though they were nothing but twigs, talking as he did so. “Do forgive my precautions, but a bolt like the first you threw, emitted from my insides, might give me a bout of indigestion. Breaking your limbs will prevent this. But in order to capture your spiritual energy I will have to swallow you alive. No hard feelings, you understand, and give my regards to the girl.”
Though racked in pain from the multiple fractures, Sir Goodwin opened his mouth to speak the last of his defiance, but was unceremoniously tossed down the dragon’s throat before he could utter a word. He soon arrived in the dragon’s belly, affording Marguerite a bit more fresh air that arrived in the same gulp. Ironically, in the utter blackness she did not even know her would be rescuer had joined her. With his legs and arms broken, the Mage-Knight could do no more than sink and suffocate in the hot stew of rank ale and dissolving chickens and sausages. But something new seemed to have arrived in her fleshy prison, and it her feet found purchase on the firm object, allowing her to again reach the tight sphincter and her only hope of escape, however small. In her own panic and desperation, she was unaware that her own body effectively held down and drowned the now helpless, broken knight in the stinking sludge.
The Great White Horned Dragon retrieved the Mage-Knight’s sword, for the pommel and guard were made of gold, and inlaid with precious stones.. The weapon had been presented to Sir Goodwin by the King in gratitude for the rescue of his daughter from the forest brigands. Pressing the blade against the same large rock where Marguerite had laid her dress, the sword broke and the golden appurtenances joined the coins stored under his tongue. The blade, cloak, and an errant boot, the last evidence of Sir Goodwin’s existence, joined the buried items that had belonged to Marguerite. The dragon then crouched and leaped into the air.
Marguerite scratched and pounded the obstinate sphincter, but was suddenly propelled Marguerite backwards to the stomach’s deepest reaches when the dragon lurched upwards. Now she felt another kind on convulsion as the dragon pumped his mighty wings. She realized they were flying again. The shaking was continuous, and it was impossible for her to reach the sphincter again. Only desperate hope was left now. Hope that Old Ned was right about dragons never lying. Maybe this is part of the transformation she thought. Maybe her body would dissolve and be absorbed, but perhaps she would be reborn as beautiful and magnificent dragon, perhaps from an egg this one laid. Perhaps this was the amazing transformation of the prophecy. But wasn’t this dragon a male? Maybe it didn’t matter, it was all so confusing and she was so tired. She craved sleep, and the dragon’s thumping heart, the great heat, and the pulsing wings beckoned her to slumber. Marguerite mercifully passed out from the lack of oxygen, before the next massive stomach spasm folded her backwards. The struggle in the beast’s belly that seemed to last an eternity lasted only about twenty minutes.
The Great White Horned Dragon continued his journey along the Old Post Road with a satisfied look on his toothy muzzle. It had taken him eighteen years to visit all of the villages in the Kingdom, taking a beautiful young maiden as a meal in every one - usually five or six on each market day, twenty six times a year. A considerable heap of coins had been accumulated in that time as well. Marguerite’s town, Lower Brookingham, was only significant in that is had been the first place where he had told the tale of the dragon riding maidens to the wide-eyed populace eighteen years ago, and had so captivated the imagination of a pretty little dark haired girl who would dream of a good and gallant dragon that would some day return for her.
The dragon was concerned that his tale of a wonderful prophecy might not be so well accepted this second time around, for it would still be in the memories of the older inhabitants. He was delighted that everything went so smoothly. Of course, it hardly mattered. For hundreds of years he had terrorized the kingdom as the Terrible Black Horned Dragon, who simply burnt down those towns that refused to provide his maidens and he took what he wanted by force. . But playing the White Horned Dragon was so much more tranquil and productive. He genuinely enjoyed being lavishly fed and fawned over, joking and drinking with the common folk, instead of slaughtering and incinerating them. And then there were the bags of money so freely given, for it was hard work for a dragon to look for valuables in the smoldering ruins of charred houses. And more importantly, the maidens he devoured no longer emptied their bladders prematurely in terror of being eaten like in the old days of the Black Horned Scourge
. So by taking the trusting maidens unaware, he was always able to imbibe in the hormone-laced, amber-gold ambrosia he so craved, and was so essential to maintaining his bachelorhood. He thought about the little girl who fed him the watermelon, licked his scaly lips, and wondered if she would be Lower Brookingham’s next dragon-riding maiden of ancient prophecy, when he returned in another eighteen years hence.
Indeed, he thought himself quite magnanimous in his efforts to give so many poor peasant girls such a wonderful, (though regrettably short), experience of being someone so important -- giving them the rare privilege of riding on the back of such a magnificent creature such as himself. His great play provided these women with the happiest day of their albeit short lives, and after all, humans had such relatively short lives anyway, so this wonderful day he gave them should more than make up for the two decades of drudgery and painful child-bearing they otherwise looked forward too. And it wasn’t like he had deceived them either. Everything he stated about the prophecy was true. It was written in an ancient book, after all, (though he forced a traveling merchant to write the prophecy on a blank endcover only eighteen years ago before devouring him). And the maidens’ services with the dragon truly would benefit thousands, for as long as he was happy and well-fed while playing the role of the Great and Good, White Horned Dragon, the kingdom of nearly half a million souls prospered and was free from the endless wars and raids that plagued other lands. And of course, the maidens he consumed would most certainly undergo an amazing transformation just as he had promised -- converted , in about a day and night’s time, from beautiful young women to dragon fat and beneficial fertilizer, deposited in the fields around an abandoned Wizard’s Tower, for after all – Dragons never lie. .
Turning his head back to the road, he spied the next milestone and dropped altitude so he could read its inscription. He could already see his next destination, the silhouette of another little town now loomed on the horizon in the morning haze. He rehearsed the lines of his wonderful prophecy, only changing the town name, as he savored the thought of the morning’s second breakfast, and a third, fourth and fifth breakfasts that he scheduled in the towns along this stretch of the Old Post Road. It was going to be a grand Market Day.