The monster took a step towards the knight, baring its teeth and fluffing its crest. She’d seen many dragons before, but never one this large or this magnificent.
It had metallic traces spider-webbing across its wings and winding through its large, perfect scales. The knight found herself wondering if the very gold it hoarded and coveted ran through its mighty veins. It hissed and great plummets of steam — or was that smoke? — poured out of its nostrils, and the tongue, easily as long as she was tall, darted out of and over the beast’s many fangs.
It didn’t have the scars that most dragons were adorned with.
The thought sent a jolt of fear down her spine. More than its size, more than its fire, that was what frightened her the most. She had heard stories about this creature, tales saying that no one had ever lived long enough to wound it, though many accomplished knights had tried. She had brushed them off, dismissing them as old tales told from one generation of terrified farmers to the next, but here she was, face to face with the creature, and it had no marks.
The dragon slinked forward again and this time the knight gave ground, clanking in her mail as she did so.
Its reptilian eyes, cold and intelligent, sized up its prey as it began to circle her. No doubt it was calculating the fastest way to get the knight from her standpoint beside the rock in the middle of the chosen arena and into its razor-sharp mouth. She could tell from the bits of armor and bone strewn around the clearing at the entrance of the cave that eating prospective dragon slayers was an art in which the beast was well practiced.
It looked at her then, straight in the eyes, with a haughty triumph. The knight realized that she was out in the open. The beast had maneuvered her to right where it wanted and she had been completely unaware.
She cursed herself for her stupidity. The knight wasn’t inexperienced in this field. She knew better. She knew she should have assembled a hunting party or at least come up with a plan, but emotion had blinded her, a mistake for which she had seen many good knights fall. Even though she had not known the girl this dragon had taken for very long, she had shown the knight much kindness. The girl had sat and talked with her, a lonely stranger, one night, and it had seemed that she treated everyone she encountered with that same compassion. This kind girl did not deserve this fate that had befallen her, and the knight knew that the people of her village would have left her to it.
The villagers had lived in the shadow of this creature for too many years, and they had accepted it as immortal. Their parents had told them stories of it to keep them in bed at night, and that image of the invincible monster from their childhood had lived on in the people of the village. They would not have gone after the knight’s friend, as they did not go after any of the women before her.
It was in that thought that she found her strength and shook off her fear. She had fought dragons before and she had always won. Would this time really be different because of stories from cowards or unmarked scales?
She gave her shoulders a shrug to loosen them and to move her short cape so that it gave her arms free movement. She checked the buckles fastening the shield to her arm, held her sword level, and took a deep breath.
“This is for my friend,” the dragon slayer said under her breath, before lifting her sword and —
“Amelia! Time for dinner!” her mother called from the kitchen downstairs.
She lowered the yardstick with a heavy sigh and plodded over to the door, being careful to not step on the blanket tied around her neck as she went. She gave one last, longing look at the dragon still coiled and ready to pounce, took off her armor, and headed down the stairs.
MADELINE MASKE is a high school senior from The Middle of Nowhere, Texas. She has been writing on and off since she was six years old, but this is her first published piece. She is also highly involved in community theater with twenty-seven plays and counting under her belt.