A young knight is dared to slay a dragon
| “There it is,” said Robert peeking over the hill. He stood his torch into the ground.
“The cave of the blue dragon,” added William; his sword and shield ready even as he lay on the ground between Robert and Bruce.
“They say no one has ever come out alive,” said Bruce; the little jester.
“Have you ever seen anyone go into that cave?” asked William.
“No I haven't,” said Bruce.
“Then you shouldn't be starting rumors.”
“Slay the dragon, Willy,” said Robert.
“Me? Why should I go slay the dragon?”
“Because you're the knight, I'm just a peasant.”
“That's never made a difference to you before,” said William.
“Sir William, I dare you to slay that dragon,” added the Jester.
“But no one has ever come out of that cave alive,” said William.
“Willy, didn't I just hear you say that was a rumor,” said Robert.
“You're not turning yellow, are you Sir William,” said Bruce, not really asking a question.
“You'd be honored in all the land as a dragon slayer,” persuaded Robert.
William looked at Robert. Robert was smiling and nodding his head towards the cave. Then he looked at Bruce. Bruce was giving him the thumbs up. “All right, I'll go. I'm the knight, so I must be the bravest one here; seems that way anyway.”
“Sir, you're not a knight yet, but nobility is in your blood,” Bruce reminded William.
“Thanks for letting me know, Bruce the Obvious.”
William stood up, keeping his legs apart enough to prevent his armor from clanking at his shaky knees. He took a deep breath, “I shall return with the dragon's head,” and walked down towards the cave.
“Hey Willy, catch,” said Robert, who then tossed him the torch.
“Thanks," said William, and continued on his way.
“You can do it, Sir William,” shouted Bruce.
“For the King,” shouted Robert, thrusting his fist in the air.
“For the King?” said Bruce, “The King doesn't even know we're out here.”
“Maybe you should go tell him; I'm sure he'd get a laugh out of it. You're supposed to be funny, aren't you?”
“It takes a lot of practice to be a jester, something you peasants would know nothing about.”
“Oh, I forgot, being a jester is in your blood; in the future you'll be funny,” Robert remarked.
“Wish me luck,” William yelled to the top of the hill before entering the cave.
The cave was nestled on the edge of a cliff. William shuffled his way to the edge knocking a few pebbles loose; about two hundred feet later they splashed into the ocean. With his back against the outside wall he inched his way around to the inside and noticed the cave went down into the earth at a gradual angle. The flames danced wildly on the end of his torch, almost succumbing to the blustery draft. While taking note of the caves unusual features a sudden sound startled him and he dodged behind a stalagmite. As the sound got closer, it turned into a deafening flapping sound. A scant smile came to his face as thousands of fruit bats flew overhead. He continued on.
The cave split in two directions. A tunnel went to the left and one went down even deeper. A few bats flew out of the left tunnel; stragglers getting a late start. He chose to take the tunnel down.
The cave walls had a glassy look to them and there was a pool of water with a natural bridge going across. He crossed and a pungent smell nipped at his nose. He trailed the smell through a small archway that led to a larger cavern. Bones that looked meticulously picked clean were scattered about the floor, but most were in a large pile. A snort startled him. With a shaky hand he held his torch high and looked around. He saw the shadow first, it looked huge dancing on the cavern wall. It had wings, a long snout, and a snaky tail. He followed the shadow down to the floor as he slowly backed out of the cavern, sweat dripping into his eyes even though the air was chilled. He stopped when he saw it; his fear eased. It was a dragon alright, but it wasn't much bigger then a horse, and its wings looked way too small. It was sleeping. “This is going to be too easy,” he said aloud to himself.
He set the torch down and unsheathed his sword and carefully sneaked up behind the sleeping beast. He held his sword up high above his head, aimed for the creature's neck, and swung hard. Whack! The sword came down with a pinging thud and slid off the hard scales barely leaving a mark. The dragon startled awake, its eyes fixed on William, and puffed a ball of fire at him.
“Ahhh!” cried out William. He stumbled backwards as the fireball hit him.
“Ow. That's hot, that's hot, that's hot,” William yelled as he rolled around. He got to his feet, “hot, hot, hot!” He uttered to himself and jumped around ripping his armor off as fast as he could and burning his fingers. When he got himself under control he grabbed his sword and faced the dragon.
The dragon was coughing; no, William thought it was more like choking. He laughed, he just couldn't help it, “You're choking on your own smoke, what kind of a dragon are you.” Tears were rolling down his cheeks.
“I'm Randy,” said the dragon after his lungs cleared.
William backed up looking around. He grabbed his shield and readied his sword, “Now, I know dragons can't talk, and I haven't had any ale today, so who said that?”
“I did,” said Randy, “dragons can't talk,” he motioned with his arm in a dismissing way, “where'd you ever hear a thing like that? Why every dragon I know talks, what are we supposed to do, grunt? And you, aren't you a little young to be a knight?” he said in a slow deep drawl.
William just stared at Randy. Not moving or blinking.
Randy poked William in the chest, almost knocking him over, “Well, answer the question,” he said and showed a full mouthful of sharp white teeth.
William thought Randy was smiling and it brought him out of his daze, “My name is William and I'm a knight to be, and you're also about to be.”
“About to be what?” Randy said in his slow deep drawl.
William raised his sword, “My trophy!”
Randy put a finger on the tip of William's sword before he had the chance to swing. “Now, now, why be so violent. What have I ever done to you?”
Still straining to bring his sword down he spoke through clenched teeth, “You're a dragon,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone, “dragons burn our villages, steal our treasure, take our women, and scare our children.”
Randy laughed, “how would a child know such things?”
“I've heard people talk about dragons. They say dragons are vicious and they will tear your limbs clean off, then use your bones to pick their teeth."
“Relax,” he flung away William's sword, “I have all the bones I need to pick my teeth with and humans are disgusting. Besides, there just isn't enough meat on your bones to satisfy me, I would have to eat your friends on top the hill too.”
“How do you know about my friends?”
“I have my ways.”
“Are you a seer?”
“Oh, dear no.” He laughed in his throat, “a seer, do you really believe in that stuff?” he spoke, talking with his hands as much as he did through his words.
“How do you know I have friends on the hill?”
“Is it really that important,” Randy paused, perhaps waiting for an answer before continuing, “if you must know I was peering through a hole. You are a funny little knight.”
“And you have funny wings,” William muttered under his breath.
Randy bent his neck down quick as a flash and put his head right in front of William's, “What about my wings,” and he snorted a puff of smoke in William's face and curled his lips showing razor sharp teeth.
William coughed and stumbled backwards, “umm, I said, ah, and you have fine green wings. You know, I wish I had a pair of wings like that.”
Randy grunted, “ah, thats what I thought you said,” speaking deep and slow.
“It was my friends that sent me to slay you. I really didn't want to do it.”
“Maybe I should take care of those, friends, for you. They'd die a quick death.”
“No, don't do that. I have a better idea.”
William told Randy of his plan and Randy nodded with approval. They gathered some bones and brought them to the mouth of the cave. “Randy, you have to sound mean and nasty, like you're tearing me limb from limb and eating me. I will scream in agony.”
Randy took right to the task. Growling and sneering, and slashing at the rocks with his claws.
William joined in screaming as loud as he could, “No! Don't do it. Help! Somebody help me! Robert. Bruce. What did you guys do to me, the dragons eating me. Oh, it hurts. Everythings going black.”
“What is going on in there,” Robert said to Bruce. He grabbed onto Bruce's shoulder for support as they jumped to their feet.
“Run Sir William, run!” shouted Bruce.
“Willy get out of there,” yelled Robert.
“The dragon is eating Sir William, you've got to go in there and save him,” insisted Bruce.
Robert looked at Bruce with wide eyes, “I've got to go in there? You're coming with me, Bruce the Chicken.”
“I'll stay here to warn you if another dragon comes.”
Robert shook his head,“Willy's my friend and I'm going to save him.”
Bruce pointed to the cave, “peasant, look over there.”
The screaming inside the cave had stopped and they watched as bones flew out of the cave and into the ocean below. Then the most horrifying sight, William's shield went flying into the ocean, followed by bits of his armor.
“Quick Bruce, go get the knights of the castle.”
“Already on my way, “ Bruce yelled back as he ran down the hill.
Inside the cave, William and Randy were facing each other with their backs against the walls, laughing uncontrollably.
“Did you hear that,” William said to Randy, “Run William run,” that was so funny.
Randy laughed harder and let a small fireball slip, the cave lit a bright orange. William ducked it and the smell of singed hair floated in the air. Randy was choking again and William laughed harder.
Randy got up, “William, hop on my back and let me show you around my cave.” William staggered to his feet and climbed on the dragon's back.
“Wait, I need my torch.”
“You don't need that, I've got excellent eyes for the dark, trust me.”
They disappeared into the darkness leaving Williams torch to burn in the draft.
William's voice seeped through the darkness, “Ow....ow....ow....ow,” as he bounced on Randy's hard back.
Meanwhile, Robert was inching his way around the mouth of the cave and inside lay some small bits of William's armor. He picked up a piece and hugged it close to his chest, “I will avenge you William,” he said before tossing the piece back down. He went further and noticed the torch, grabbed it and walked deep into the cave.
“Here we are,” Randy's voice echoed, “what do you think of it, it's my home.”
“I can't see a thing, it's blacker than night down here.”
“Oh my, I forgot,” Randy said. A fireball awoke the sleeping darkness, “Is that better, William?” He asked, choking on his smoke.
“Yes, much better,” William saw a pile of bones on fire. Looking around he eyed chests filled of gold coins and jewelry, a jousting stick, various shields, a pile of swords, pieces of shiny armor, a carriage, and assorted children's toys. But what stole all his attention was a dog that started barking the moment it saw Randy. It wagged its tail and jumped against Randy. It looked like a wolf and sat wagging its tail as Randy stroked its head. William put his hand to his chin and rubbed it; after a moment he shook his head and pointed to the dog, “Is....is that your dog, by chance?”
“That's Max, isn't he beautiful.”
William just stared, shaking his head. He noticed Randy looking at him with his brows ridged over his eyes.
“What,” started Randy, “first I can't talk, now I can't have a dog?”
“You going to eat him or something?” questioned William.
“Eat Max? That's disgusting, you should see where he licks. Why don't you hop on down and give him a pat on the tummy, I'm sure he is excited to meet you, we don't get many visitors down here you know.”
William did as he was told and Max did seem to enjoy the company.
Randy spoke up again, “You are a strange little knight William; where'd you ever learn about dragons. I'd be lost without my little Maxie,” he accented Maxie as if trying to make it sound cute.
“Shhh, did you hear that?” said William, "listen."
“Dragon, I know you're in here, come out and fight me like a man,” a voice came faintly rumbling down the tunnels.
“That's Robert, he's come looking for you.” William ran to the edge of the cavern, “Robert!” He shouted back, then listened, but all he heard was Randy giggling again. “What's so funny?”
“Your friend, doesn't he know I'm not a man; I can only fight him like a dragon.” Randy put his hands to his mouth to cover it up the best he could.
“And you think I'm strange,” William said shaking his head.
Then he saw an orange flicker on the walls and he heard footsteps racing towards himself. “Robert, I hear you,” shouted William.
Robert came running around the corner and gave William a big hug, “You're alive, I can't believe it, but I heard you screaming and I saw your bones and armor being thrown by that nasty dragon into the ocean. I thought you were dead.”
“Come, and I will tell you all about it.” William motioned for him to follow.
As they entered the cavern Robert stopped and screamed, “The dragon! Run Willy, quick follow me.” Robert ran out of the cavern.
“Wait. Stop Robert,” William caught and tackled his friend. After a brief struggle William got Robert under control and he explained about Randy.
“He has a name?” asked Robert, trying to make sense of it all.
“Yes, and he's a jolly good time to be around. Come.”
Robert hesitated, but followed his friend in by the dragon.
“Hello Robert,” said Randy, “it's nice to meet you.” He gestured toward his dog, “This here is Max.” He looked and smiled at his pet.
“A talking dragon, everyone knows dragons can't talk,” said Robert.
“What do you really know about dragons, Robert?"
“Right. Neither did I. So what do you think of him?”
“He's not blue, isn't he supposed to be blue.”
“That name goes way back to my Grandmother,” replied Randy, “she was a blue dragon. Quite the spitfire too,” Randy said with a smile.
“You have funny looking wings,” remarked Robert.
“What!” Randy got up close into Robert's face and snarled and raised the scales behind his head.
William jumped between them, and Randy moved his head to the side to look Robert directly in the eyes.
“What did you say about my wings,” Randy said slower then normal. His snarl was even more fierce now.
William turned and whispered to Robert, “Don't ever say that again, now, tell him you didn't mean it.” William looked back to Randy, “Robert has something he wants to tell you.”
“Ah, what I meant to say was... umm, that, your wings look strong and powerful. How glorious it must be for you to have them.” He hugged close to William.
“That's what I thought you said,” said Randy. His snarl disappeared and he focused his attention to Max.
“Willy,” whispered Robert keeping an eye on Randy, “there is something I must tell you. Bruce went to go fetch the knights of the castle, they will be coming at any moment.
Randy foraged through some of his treasure till he found a crown. He placed the crown on Robert's head.
“What did he do that for,” Robert asked William.
“Why don't you ask him."
“I'd rather not,” said Robert.
“If the knights are coming, we have to get Randy out of here,” said William.
William broke the news, “Randy, my friend Bruce went to fetch the knights of the castle. We have to get you out of here or you'll be slain for sure. Is there another way out?” Randy shook his head side to side. “Ok, then we're going to have to run for it. We will ride on your back.” William climbed onto Randy's back then reached to help Robert up.
“Oh no, you're not going to get me on that fiery beast,” Robert refused to take William's hand.
“Would you rather stay here in this cold, dark cave and let the rats nibble on you and gnaw on your bones,” William said quickly, still holding out his hand.
“Good point Willy, help me up.”
They rode out bouncing hard on Randy's back. Within moments they were at the mouth of the cave, but they were trapped by a wall of knights. Randy turned around and headed back. A clanking swarm of orange tinted knights followed in pursuit, their torches lighting the cave brightly. Randy hid under the bridge until the knights came rushing over it and into the next room. Randy got up to run back towards the mouth again, when one of the knights spotted them and they gave chase again. This time, the opening was clear and Randy ran out and clamped on to the side of the cliff with his mighty claws. William and Robert dangled from Randy's neck as he climbed the cliff. Robert's crown fell into the grasp of the waves below. Once on top of the hill, they saw Bruce just standing there staring at the dragon. Randy ran next to Bruce, and Robert pulled him up.
“Nice of you to join us,” shouted William as they ran down the hill.
“Sir William! It's nice to see you again, I thought you were dead, but I have to ask you; why are we riding a dragon?” yelled Bruce.
“Bruce, this is Randy,” said William.
“How do you do, Bruce,” said Randy.
“He talks? What kind of a dragon talks?”
Randy shook his head as he ran.
“See, I'm not the only one,” said William to Randy and patted him on the side of his head.
Suddenly Randy stopped, almost throwing the three kids head over heels. “We have company,” and he turned around and ran the other way.
Looking back William saw knights on horseback catching up to them. “You have to go faster,” William shouted.
“Sir William,” Bruce shouted loud enough for Randy to overhear, “why doesn't the dragon fly with his funny looking wings.”
Randy stopped almost as quickly as before. He put his tail up against Bruce and pushed him, “Isn't this where you get off, Bruce in the funny looking hat,” Randy said snarling and frowning his brows.
“He just asked why you haven't flown with those nice looking wings,” said Robert trying to help out.
“That's not what he said,” snapped Randy.
“We have to go Randy, they're going to get us,” urged William.
“No. Not until he apologizes,” said Randy.
“Randy, go, you want to be caught?” said William. Randy just stood there.
“Apologize to him already,” shouted Robert.
“You want me to talk to a dragon?” Said Bruce.
“Look behind you Bruce,” said William reaching back and grabbing him by the shoulder to turn him around, “you see that, those knights are coming to slay the dragon and they're going to slay anything that gets in their way, which, if you haven't noticed, is us. Apologize to the dragon!”
Bruce looked at William, then looked at Randy, “I'm sorry, I think you have good looking wings.”
“That's better,” said Randy and he ran once again. But now the horsemen were so close.
Randy was quickly losing ground.
“Why don't you fly,” suggested William, “I know dragons can fly.”
“Why don't you just be quiet and enjoy the ride,” Randy shot back, “I feel like running today.”
“But you're not fast enough, we're going to be caught if you don't fly.” William shouted over the rumbling of hooves.
Just then they reached the summit of the hill, just ahead the knights that chased them through the cave were running up the hill towards them.
“Go towards the ocean,” shouted William.
Randy turned and ran as fast as he could towards the ocean and the two hundred foot drop.
“When you get to the cliff, jump and fly,” said William.
“We can't do that,” shouted Randy.
“Why not?” Robert jumped in.
“Just do it,” said William, “we're out of options.”
“But Willy....” said Randy.
“Do you want to get cut to bits?” Questioned William.
“No, I'd feel much better if I'd stay whole. There's one small problem, I can't fly.”
Suddenly they heard Bruce scream, a knight on horseback was swinging his sword at him. Then more horsemen were running along side of them. One particular mean looking knight raised his sword at William.
“Dragon riders, your blood shall stain my sword for your collaboration with the beast that burns our villages, takes our women, takes our treasure, and scares our children.” The knight swung hard; William and Robert ducked just in time. The sword whistled as it cut through the salty air.
They were almost there now, just another few seconds and they'd be airborne.
“What do you mean you can't fly,” said Robert, knowing full well what that meant.
“I mean that if I jump off this cliff, we're going swimming and not flying,” said Randy.
“You're going to have to try,” William said as he ducked another blow.
They were a few steps away from the cliff. The mounted knights stopped their horses about five feet from the edge.
“Jump now, try and concentrate really hard. You can do it, I know you can. Do it for us Randy, your friends,” screamed William.
Randy screamed as he leaped from the cliff, and the boys joined him in unison. He flapped his wings as hard as he could, but down they went, closer and closer to the ocean.
“I know you can do it Randy, try, please try,” William said into Randy's ear as they fell.
Randy strained with all his might, grunting as he tried to flap his wings faster and faster. Just as his feet dipped into the cool water he started to go up and up. The boys cheered and they soared high above the cliffs. The knights looked like small toys.
“I can fly!” Randy said euphorically.
“I knew you could do it,” said William.
“I never had any doubts,” said Robert.
“Higher, Sir Randy, higher,” said Bruce.
Their celebration ended quickly when an arrow whizzed past Randy's head. Within seconds the air was swarming with arrows. One arrow shot through Randy's wing and he screamed in pain.
“We have to get out of here and go someplace safe,” said Robert.
“I can't do that,” Randy replied, “we have to stay here.”
“Why? Do you want to get shot down Sir Randy?” Asked Bruce.
“Because...” Randy didn't finish because another arrow stuck him in the shoulder. He hollered in pain and pulled it out as he flew.
“Listen, if you don't want to run you're going to have to fight. Spit some fireballs at them,” William encouraged him.
Randy circled around and swooped down on the archers. He breathed a fireball. It landed in the middle of them and they scattered, buying him some more time. He started to choke and lose altitude. He fell fast. He caught his breath just as knights swung at his feet. He rose like the wind. He circled around again as the archers readied themselves. They let loose a volley and an arrow went halfway through William's leg. He screamed and almost fell off, but Robert alertly caught him.
Randy's brow protruded even more over his eyes and William felt Randy's body stiffen and his wings flapped even faster. Snarling as he dove toward the archers, Randy breathed three fireballs one right after another. Then he turned towards the knights on horseback and breathed a stream of fire toward them. They scattered. Then he rained fire down upon the rest of the knights. The hillside was ablaze. Randy gave a deep loud shriek that even scared William. The knights retreated back to the castle nudged along by angry flames.
“You did it!” Hollered Robert, “look at them run. You aren't so brave now are you,” he shouted down to the retreating knights even though they were out of earshot.
“Great job Randy,” said William, “and you're not choking anymore.”
Randy smiled and realized that he was cured of his choking. He landed hard and the boys tumbled off. William screaming when his leg hit the ground. Robert and Bruce helped him up and supported him. They celebrated their victory.
“Why didn't you fly away, Randy, why did you risk our lives to stay here?” asked William.
Randy smiled, “I'll be right back” and he disappeared into the cave.
After a short wait he came back up the hill to them carrying an egg.
“This is why,” he said, showing them the egg not much bigger then a coconut. The egg started to crack while he was holding it and a tiny dragon crawled out of the shell.
“Aw, it's so cute,” said Robert.
The little dragon crawled up his dad's arm to his chest. Randy cradled it.
“What are you going to name him?” asked Bruce.
“His name's William,” Randy said.
“Look, he's got your eyes Willy,” said Robert, and elbowed William in the ribs.
William tried to look serious and said, “he might have my eyes, but he has his dad's wings.”
Randy got a fierce look, he bent down to get in front of Williams face, “what about his wings,” he snarled and puffed smoke in his face.
They all laughed.
Now, many years later, William has his own kingdom and they all remain good friends. Randy taught his son to fly and always reminded him how special his little wings were. But like his father used to do, young William choked every time he breathed fire.