Chapter XXXVII – Confronting the Dragon

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So my little sister Jallia has second sight. And she warns me that I’m going into dangers that are unexpected and weird. Facing a dragon just isn’t enough.

I spend that day looking over my shoulder. Less so the next day. By the fifth day, when I finally approach the dragon’s lair in the late morning, I’ve stopped worrying about phantoms. Killing a dragon is serious business.

This one, fortunately, is crepuscular. It should be snoozing. Like most of its kind, it’s said to hide out in a cave, and the locals tell me there is only one in the area big enough to hold a dragon.

As I get closer, it feels warmer, and I don’t think it’s just from the uncomfortable clothing I’m wearing. There are two ways to dress for fighting a dragon. One is to wear armor, and hope you kill it before it bakes you in it. The other is to wear magical garments that are fire-resistant, which is what I’m doing. However, they are almost as heavy as armor, and seem even more airtight. Still, it’s not just me, it’s the air around me that is getting warmer, too.

I’m thinking it’s just time to get off the horse and tie it up when the creature rears up, throwing me out of the saddle, and takes off back the way we came. I’ve been upset by a horse before. I know how to fall. I just didn’t plan on the rocks being there on the ground where they are. I not only get the air knocked out of me, but I think I’ve injured a muscle or something in my left leg. It hurts when I move it, enough to slow me down. Great.

I draw my sword, and limp up the path to the cave. Luckily, I don’t have far to go. Unluckily, it’s a big cave. A score of dragons could be hiding in it.

A marvelous place for a marvelous creature!
(Credit: Wikipedia/David Bunnell)

I call up a magical lamp, which hovers over my head as I move, providing plenty of light. And I wait. I wait because I should be able to hear the dragon, feel its magic just a bit. And then, although I don’t consciously know how, I know where the dragon is. I step into the cave and go wandering down the left fork.

It is definitely getting warmer as I move forward. I’m sweating. I’m surprised at myself. I don’t feel afraid, except maybe of dying of heat stroke before I ever see the dragon. It would be a shame to come out all this way, up into the mountains, and not get to see it. I wonder how big it is.

Another turn, and I emerge into a chamber with a high ceiling. Just how high, I can’t easily see. The chamber is walled in quartz, which means suddenly everything is bright with reflected light.

And there is the dragon! Despite all the rumors about it, this one is quite small, not even four feet long. And it’s still asleep.

This is going to be easy. I slowly and carefully walk to try to avoid making a sound. I raise my sword. When I get close enough, I’m just going to slice right through its head, a fatal blow, even for a dragon.

Its eyes open.

To my surprise, it’s got the cutest little expression on its face. It looks like a cat waking up from a nap to the smell of food. It takes me a moment to realize I’m the food.

I rush forward as fast as my injured leg will allow. The dragon opens its mouth. I await the fireball, but instead it lets out an ear-splitting call. The noise is so loud it knocks me off my stride, and I end up swinging my blade, missing the dragon completely, and falling down just beside it.

I’m on my back. Which is how I see the second dragon descending from above. It looks a lot bigger.

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