by chrissy king
The slayer is old, and tired. He wants out but there is only one way to go.
Fed up, that's the word I would use. Ok words. I am not a scholar or even a clever man - I am a dragon slayer and a bloody good one, but I am also an old one. Maybe you are picturing me now? Covered in shiny armour, a plume of feathers sticking out of a silver helmet and a mighty sword strapped to my back. Well polished with a noble stance?
Pah! I wear leather because it's warm and easy to clean and in some places I can't be sure where the leather ends and the skin begins. I have never put on a bit of metal in my life; armour just means that once the dragons cooked you to a crisp you're well preserved for the animals that want to eat your corpse. I do have a big sword but it is strapped to my mule along with a big bow and a large stick, any of these can come in handy when you find yourself facing a dragon.
I have lots of battle scars, burns mostly and plenty of red raw skin. I have no hair left now - most of it has been burned away and the healing skin seems reluctant to grow more. I walk with a stoop and I have no idea if the brown stuff on my skin is dirt, or if it's just the colour the sun has baked it. I am riding to face a dragon, my last dragon. I'm old, did I already say that? Well I am, and I'm fed up, and just to make me even happier, I'm dying too.
Kill a dragon and get what? Half a kingdom? Don't make me laugh; no king worth his salt would give away half a kingdom. You try turning up to claim that bounty and see what happens, I guarantee it will involve big, burly guards and a sword up the jacksy. As for the king's daughter's hand in marriage, have you seen most of the princesses? Close up I mean? Inbred, ugly simpering good- for- nothings, and if you think that will make you a future king you're as foolish as they come. Wait till you're asleep in a big comfy bed and your new wife's relatives decide it's time to say goodbye to the awkward new son in law.
Half the blokes in this game are killed by dragons, and the other half by trying to collect the reward. Poison is a good one, too. Anyway who wants to be king? I never wanted that responsibility or that kind of danger. I like to see my enemy in front of me and know who I'm fighting; I like to have friends and fun, not worry and food tasters. I always get payment up front, and I never ask for too much. Keeps me healthy and popular, or at least it did.
I heard about this dragon from a boy at the local village. Apparently he hasn't been out much recently, nor caused much bother, but he makes the natives restless so I agreed to finish him off for the price of a good meal and a warm bed for the night. I felt a bit bad as I have no intention of killing this one; this one is going to be made famous for killing me. Garder the Dragon slayer will slay no more, I'm fed up of it all and did I mention I'm dying? Got myself one of those nasty disease things inside me, I can feel it sapping my energy like a parasite. Saw a wizard and he said "No cure." So that's that.
That's why I've decided to die my way, in battle with my oldest enemy. I urge my stubborn mount to the top of the hill and then up a small ridge until I find the dragon's cave. There it is; you can tell by the smell.
I light my black tipped torch, leaving my old friend and constant companion tied loosely outside. I give him a goodbye pat on the flanks, I am sure he will wander off back to the village if I don't return by night fall. Hefting my sword and feeling my back creak I head into the stink. The flame of my torch burns green as I get closer to the dragon, tainted by the dragon's fumes, and I can feel the warmth from the fire in his belly and the stench of his body begins to fill my nostrils, but it is a smell I have grown accustomed to over the years.
Finally I see his tail, long and thick and red. I kick it. I kick it again. "Hey You." I shout. "Wake up, dinner time." But the brute doesn't move. I drop my sword on the ground. Holding the torch in my teeth, I climb his slippery scales, my wrinkled and worn fingers finding grab holes to pull me up. I can feel my muscles straining and pulling as they take my weight until at last I can see his head. His eyes are open and his tongue is lolloping out of one side of his mouth. One huge pupil follows my movement. "Come on." I shout standing unsteadily on his back "Move." I call out as loud as my dilapidated lungs will let me. He blinks and makes a mewing noise like the largest kitten in the world. Confused and angry, I jump from his back feeling my knees almost buckle under me as I land. I try to light some of the bits of old clothes thrown about the place obviously left behind by the dragon's previous guests, after a few moments I get a small fire going so I can put my torch down.
The dragon just watches me, not moving and only just breathing. "You sick?" I ask not expecting a response. In the light of the fire I can see the dragon better now - his scales have lost most of their sheen and his teeth are yellow with age. "No, you're not sick, just old." Sitting down to face my oldest enemy I feel kinship, and I wonder if dragons can just give up. After all, that's what I was planning to do.
The dragon lets out a bit of steam from his nostrils, making the cave warmer still. I come to a decision, and relight my torch from the glow of the slowly dying fire. As I hobble out towards the cave entrance, a sigh escapes from the huge mouth behind me, and I am unsure if it is from relief or frustration. The light at the entrance is fading and my ride is getting skittish. I unload his back, hefting the small sac that holds my few possessions on to my shoulder but leaving the bow and stick at the cave opening.
"Go on with you" I bark and slap his hide. But he won't leave me and keeps coming over to nuzzle my neck. I admit defeat. "Come on you foolish old git." I mutter affectionately and slowly guide the mule deep into the cave. He is hesitant at first as he can smell the dragon too but he comes along not wanting to leave me. He is as old as I am, maybe just as tired, and as stubborn as his kind can be.
Back now with the dragon I lead us to a warm spot close to the glowing embers of the fire. I can see a look in the dragon's eyes, I wonder if he is glad to see us or if he just wants us to go away. With a grunt I sit at the fire and fish out a few carrots, from my bag, for my old steadfast friend. I can see in his eyes that he is unsure of the situation, but he never passes up the chance of a carrot; so with a snort he eats his dinner, his eyes fixed on the large red creature in front of us.
I add some splinters of wood strewn about the cave floor and some lichen from its walls to what's left of the fire, it begins to swell and whilst watching it dance, I eat a little of the salted meat that I always carry with me. Casually I offer a piece to the dragon. Finally I can see a look in his eyes that I understand....surprise. I guess I'm a little surprised myself. I settle down to sleep; my sword in my hand and wonder if this is where I will die. In the warmth of a dragons cave with my noble steed by my side, my weapon drawn and my enemy in front of me, I guess that is how I always wanted to go. I had expected more blood and pain. Still you can't have everything.