by Graham B.
A squire must find a way to survive after watching his knight roasted by a dragon.
|Smoke wafted from the cave and was borne away by chilly winds as Pip squirmed behind his rock and watched anxiously for the reptile. The sky was a deathly pallor, and the mountains were bereft of vegetation, all blasted away by incessant fires. Pip was fifteen years old. His blue eyes were wide and terrified. He did not want to die, but a squire did not leave his knight behind.
Just in front of him, about halfway to the mouth of the cave was Sir Guy Littleton, Knight of the Order of the Justicars, right hand of the King, Defender of the Realm, and now just bits of roasted meat encased in metal. Muddy brown smoke drifted from the visor of his helmet, bringing with it the smell of charred flesh. Parts of his armor still glowed faintly red from the dragon’s single fiery snort.
Pip picked up his rucksack and tried to look deeper into the cave. As if in reply, a faint ruddy glow emanated from within, and a deep rumble ran through the rocks, up his legs and loosened his bowels. Pip’s mind raced back and forth, trying to decide if he should flee, or wait a bit longer to see if Sir Littleton would get up.
“Master!” Pip called out. He peeked above his rock just in time to see smoke belch from the cave and obscure the unfortunate knight. Two orange objects glowed from within the smoke like coals. Pip ducked down and frantically dug into the rucksack, searching for something, anything, with which to save his own life. Leather fasteners, extra gauntlets, tunics, and finally, Sir Littleton’s lunch, wrapped in sackcloth made their appearance. Pip raised his head to look for Littleton’s sword, and was face-to-face with the dragon.
The orange eyes regarded Pip from within their own little caves. The dragon was hideous. Its face was ten feet wide, and its snout twice as long, with huge tusks crossing each other like scissors in its maw. Spikes protruded from the dragon’s brow and cheeks, as if the dragon had eaten a platoon of pikemen and their lances had stabbed through the dragon’s head from within. The reptile was covered in greenish-gray scales which varied in size and shape, but looked as hard as stone. Its head hung from an enormous neck which trailed into the darkness of the cave. Pip could not see the body.
“Bloody hell, aren’t you an ugly one!” Pip said, grasping his rucksack tighter. “You’ve killed my charge!”
The dragon tilted its head as it looked at him.
Your master tried to stick a sword in me, what would you have me do? its expression seemed to say.
The dragon opened its mouth. Pip squeezed his eyes shut and waited to be incinerated. Instead, he was enveloped in smoke. Coughing, he opened his eyes, and saw what looked almost like a bemused expression on the dragon’s face. Another rumble seemed to start in the dragon’s throat, travel back down its neck into the cave, and through the rocks to Pip’s legs again. Pip’s heart leapt into his throat. He stood and turned to flee.
A mighty blast of wind knocked Pip flat. Regaining his senses, Pip pushed himself to his knees, and was greeted by a thundering impact which made the very earth tremble.
The dragon was now out of its cave and standing before him in all of its terrible glory. It folded its wings as Pip slowly regained his feet.
“So, are you to eat me now?” Pip asked weakly.
The dragon managed to look disgusted. The same rumbling came forth from the earth, but it was different somehow. Raspy vibrations combined with deep buzzing noises within the dragon’s throat to somehow produce a rhythm.
Years ago, Pip had attended a six-county faire put on by his lord. A quintet of musicians had provided music for the merriment of all. But Pip remembered two of the minstrels who had drums betweens their knees. They had played a dizzying duet which galloped like a pair of horses. The sound coming from the dragon’s throat sounded not unlike what Pip remembered.
“Did ya eat a pair of drummers?” Pip asked, wondering how long he could prolong his life.
The sound stopped, and the dragon looked quizzically at him.
Pip tucked the rucksack under his arm, dug into his coat, and produced a flute.
“Fancy a bit of music?” he asked hopefully. He played a few notes, and felt his chances at survival rise as the dragon’s eyes widened. It buzzed in reply.
Pip grinned, and then reeled off a song he had learned as a child a t his father’s knee. The dragon lowered its head, opened its mouth, and accompanied him with a stunning percussion which almost overwhelmed the flute. For five minutes, the barren hills reverberated with the sounds of the duet, until Pip finally stopped, panting for breath.
“You are a right talented one!” Pip exclaimed. “You should be playing for my lord!”
The dragon looked pleased.
At that moment, the rucksack slipped from Pip’s arm and spilled its contents all over the ground. The sackcloth burst and revealed two loaves, a block of cheese, a pudding, and a skin of wine – what Sir Littleton would have eaten after vanquishing the dragon. The dragon sniffed at the banquet, then eyed Pip questioningly.
“Go on, then!” he said. “The master won’t be needing it! Better you eat his lunch than my own pitiful skin!”
In the blink of an eye, a bright red tongue snaked out of the dragon’s snout, and Sir Littleton’s lunch disappeared. Before Pip could react, the dragon spread its wings and launched itself into the air, almost knocking Pip flat again. He grasped the rock and watched as the dragon rose higher and higher until it vanished into the billowing gray clouds.