About Last Knight...byUnexpectedVixen©
A romance of a different kind? You be the judge.
The dragon slayer's story....
It was a dark and stormy night. [Just kidding, folks!]
The sun had just risen when I slowly approached the cave. The villagers had informed me that it contained the dragon's lair. Time once again to fulfill my duty...you see gentle folks, I am a dragon slayer. Not the best job in the land, trust me. My name is Gabriel...when there are dragons to be eliminated, I can almost write my own ticket. I am popular, well liked. Invited to the best homes, given all the food, drink and women a man could want...and more. But, once the dragon is dead, I become little more than a nuisance. No one wants me around any more. I quickly become shunned, ostracized. I've been told that I have the stench of death about me. That is me...loved one moment and hated the next.
I was getting tired of it all. There was no joy in it anymore for me. After this one, perhaps I should consider retirement. The last one before this was a complete disaster to me. I had foolishly fallen in love with a sweet young maiden...again. She had come to my bed the night before the deed was to be done. She gave me her virginity and professed her undying love for me. But...after the dragon had been killed, a large black dragon that breathed poisonous gas instead of fire, she announced that it was her intention to marry a prince in a near-by kingdom. I was a knight, but what she really wanted, was royalty. You know, untold wealth, financial security. Not to mention that the next dragon I tangled with could be the one that actually killed me! I had been rejected...and not for the first time either...remember, I'd fallen in love again? It was the proverbial story of my life. You know.... Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy slays the evil dragon. Boy loses girl. It was almost becoming a habit...getting my heart broken. I was near ready to give up on love forever. Maybe I did stink of death?
I stepped to the cave's opening. Today, I was dressed in black leather and light chain mail. Plate armor would only slow me down and a dragon could bite through it just as easily. Better to be quick on my feet. My long black hair was pulled back and tied. I wore no coif...it would be next to useless anyway. Using my diaphragm, as I had learned, so I could project my voice loudly without having to shout, I said. "Dragon! I know you're in there." I paused for the briefest of moments before continuing. "Dragon! Come out peacefully and I will make your demise quick and as relatively painless as I am able to!"
I heard nothing from within. I knew it was in there...one of the villagers had seen it enter the night before and stayed to watch until I arrived. I waited a while longer.
"If you refuse, I shall be forced to come in after you!" Another moment passed.
"Well brave one, I suggest you come on in. I just woke up, and I am in no mood to come out after you just yet...." Came a rough, gravely, and yet distinctly feminine voice. "Besides, I have not even had my coffee and everyone knows that I do not function well in the morning without it."
Coffee? I thought. A coffee drinking dragon? Will wonders never cease? A female at that.
I thought on. I must try to catch this terrible beast off guard...If I can catch it unprepared, it will be an easy kill. I spoke again while devising a strategy. "They did not tell me that you were a she-dragon."
"Ah yes... that is probably because there have never been enough of them left to say much of anything at all." She replied with a snicker.
I did not find her humor amusing. "Dragon! I am not laughing. This is not a joking matter! You have been a nuisance for far too long in these parts! Your rein of terror must end today!"
"As you wish. Well, let us get on with it then, shall we? I would not wish to waste your entire morning with this routine massacre." She responded. I could still hear amusement in her voice.
Just before entering, I looked about myself. A mob of villagers was gathering, with their stereotypical weapons. Pitchforks, axes and such. One even had a bow. But why, I wasn't sure. I knew that none had the courage to go in with me. Let the dragon slayer do it. He's the one we're paying. I moved into the cave cautiously. Dragons are intelligent, often wily creatures. It would not do to let her get the drop on me. At the same time, I could have sworn that I sensed reluctance from her. I felt as if she was not looking forward to our upcoming confrontation any more than I was. Had she foreseen her own end? I heard a peculiar clacking noise coming from further inside the cave. My dark, almost black eyes barely penetrated the darkness.
I planned every step carefully, for I wanted more than anything to be the man who slew this particular dragon. The one who after more than three hundred years had finally slain the great purple dragon of the west. The terrible creature that had struck fear into the souls of so many villagers and killed so many...even a few knights who had come here before me! And who was rumored to have the plundered riches of dozens of kings, queens and others from the past in its cave.
Perhaps a half an hour after I had issued his first challenge to the dragon, I finally reached the first part of her lair. I became somewhat mystified. I knew that normally, a dragon's treasure room was always located at the extreme rear of its lair. I had killed many dragons before and knew they guarded their treasure jealously. Yet, here it was! And there was a great deal of treasure here...even more than I could have ever imagined...and I could imagine a lot, believe that! I looked around. Something wasn't quite right. Much of the treasure appeared to be haphazardly strewn about. As if, the dragon didn't really care about any of it. I suddenly got the feeling that this dragon stole and hoarded this vast treasure, not for want or need of it, but simply because that was what dragons did. That and the treasure being in the wrong location set off alarms in my head. A lesser knight could have stolen a large portion of this and never had to deal with the dragon itself. It was a good thing that I am a man of his word, huh?
At that moment, my thoughts went into odd directions. Why do this? Why slay dragons? I was loved one day, hated the next. Was it even worth it? I was caught up in that old cliché. Somebody has to do it. Yeah, but why me?
My life had become something other than I had hoped for. Sure, I had had more than my fair share of women, but never that one special one to settle down with. To be completely honest, I was lonely. More so than anyone could ever know. Why were these thoughts plaguing me now? I had an important job to do. Distractions could get me killed. I took a few more steps into the treasure room, and then stopped. Those unwanted thoughts came roaring back with a vengeance. What else could I do? With my skills, it was either soldier or dragon slayer. And dragon slayer paid oh so much better. That was it. I was doomed to a solitary existence. It finally dawned on me. I would never have a wife or children...never. Not in this line of work anyway...and it was much too late to consider changing that.
That clacking noise continued from within. The rhythm of it reminded me, a little, of the sound made by someone drumming their fingers in boredom or impatience. Finally, I got my mind back onto the job at hand. I moved in farther, albeit more carefully. Something else about the cave got my attention. Its neatness! This dragon's lair, unlike any I'd ever seen before, was in order. I very carefully passed through another chamber. There was nothing in this one, save a pile of bones, placed somewhat neatly in a corner of the chamber. Normally, I would find the dragon's meals in here. As well as parts of meals; arms, legs, all manner of body parts and heads. Dragon's almost never ate the heads of their victims...it seems that human brain's are not a menu favorite. It should have been a bloody, stinking mess, but it wasn't. Ahead and to my right, the cave floor rose sharply and led to still another chamber. One last look around and then I advanced.
I moved over the steep rise in the cave floor and into the next chamber. There it was...there she was!
I had slain many dragons in my life. This one was very clearly like no other! As they had told me, she was purple...darker along her back to a light violet underneath. Thinner than most and graceful beyond my ability to describe. There was an almost feline quality about her. Her purple wings folded neatly to her sides. I heard her mutter. "It is about time." The toes on her right forefoot still clacking. There was no doubting she was female. Oddly, she seemed more ready for this to be over, than anything else. No matter if she won the impending battle or I did.
"Dragon! Have you heard anything that I have said?" I asked standing at the threshold of her inner sanctum. I held my shield close, but had not yet drawn my sword, though my hand rested on the pommel. The she-dragon gazed at me intently, saying nothing. "Dragon! Dammit! Answer me!" I shouted.
The dragon looked at me a moment before answering. "I hear you, handsome one." She answered, speaking softly. "The way you are yelling right now, you could wake the dead." Her voice was different now that she no longer had to raise it to be heard. It was nearly like a human woman's now.
Handsome one? A trick...it had to be! I thought. In some ways, she was as the women I'd known; kind, friendly and in some cases, even loving...when it suited her, but only then. Inexplicably, a new wave of melancholy washed over me. Disgustingly, I thought. Females are always the same. Be they human...or dragon. Always! I sighed. The dragon sat back on its haunches much as a cat does and looked at me. Thankfully, she had finally stopped drumming her claws. It was beginning to get annoying.
She sat there for the longest time doing nothing, except looking at me. Perhaps she was plotting her attack, or trying to decide, if she was victorious, whether to eat me raw or how to use her fire to cook me properly. And I in return, looked at her. She was not nearly the largest dragon I'd ever seen. She was though, the most symmetrically balanced and esthetically pleasing I had seen; her head, long arched neck, body and wings. Everything about her seemed to fit perfectly. She was...well, she was quite beautiful...as far as dragons go, that is.
And then the dragon blinked and her expression changed. I had never noticed facial expressions on a dragon before. If I did not know better, I could have sworn she was sad...even heartbroken? Another trick! I was sure. Obviously trying to get me to lower my guard. Next, she lowered her head toward me in a decidedly non-threatening manner. She never once took her eyes from me. Then, a single black tear spilled from her left eye and trailed down her cheek.
"Dragon! Do not try to fool me with your tears of trickery! It will do you no good." I growled, drawing my sword from its sheath. I of course did not trust this beast before me not to do anything in its power to defeat me. But somehow, I could not help but wonder if the tear might not be genuine. If it were, I could certainly relate. There were many times, when I was alone; that my solitude would bring tears to my eyes. I instantly berated myself. I was starting to get careless. If I did not concentrate on the job at hand, I would surely die! I held my sword at the ready, taking a few steps to the left.
Again, as were all the others, this chamber was clean and orderly. I saw something in the far corner that did catch me off guard and left me momentarily stunned beyond words: five graves. Graves! I remembered that five dragon slayers had preceded me over the years. There could be no doubt that this she-dragon had killed them all. But, why had she buried them? Why had she not eaten them? Even more surprising, on each grave was a cross. A crudely made cross perhaps, but there was a cross nonetheless...on each of them. Then I remembered! The pile of bones I had passed on the way in here...animal bones. There was not a single human bone among them. Also, all of the villagers accounts of this dragon's attacks on the countryside. She had taken only livestock. Granted, she had killed many humans who were trying to prevent that, but she'd never taken a human.
Not for the first time, doubt entered my mind. No, not any doubt about my chances for success. Only one doubt...of whether or not I should slay this dragon. Why kill this dragon? She killed men only in her own defense...well, as she saw it. She wasn't the absolute terror that most creatures of her kind were. So, why kill her, but then...why not? She was, after all, a dragon. What should I do? I was no longer sure.
I pointed to the graves with my sword. "What is the meaning of that, Dragon?"
She looked at me and shrugged. "Those? It is not easy to make decent crosses when all one has to work with are these." She slowly raised her forepaws, showing them to me. "Or is it that you think they were not properly buried, perhaps?" She looked at me again and sighed. The dragon actually sighed! Then her eyes seemed to glaze over as if she was recalling an old unpleasant memory....
The dragon's story....
Three hundred five years, seven months, four days, 6 hours, 23 minutes and 17 seconds ago...18...19...20.... [I digress...sorry]
My name is Arian. At one time, I was a breath takingly beautiful young woman with long glossy auburn hair and emerald green eyes. My only fault was that I was young and reckless when it came to men's hearts. One day, I crossed the path of the wrong man at the wrong time, so to speak. A wizard, but I had no way to know that. His name was Baldwyn.
He fell in love with me and me with him, at least for a time. I unfortunately, grew bored with him quickly, and decided to move on to bigger and better things. Baldwyn begged me to stay, but alas, my young heart was yearning to be free. I wasn't quite ready to settle down just yet.
Seemingly resigned to my leaving, he asked that I might have just one last goblet of wine with him, before I left. Never one to turn down that sweet nectar of the gods, I agreed.
That was my big mistake...a huge one at that. Unbeknownst to me, Baldwyn had slipped a magic potion into my drink that turned me into what I am today, but not quickly, mind you. It was an incredibly slow, horribly painful change that came very close to killing me.
When I awoke two days later, I had no idea what had happened to me. He sat in front of me, with a wicked grin on his face. "Good morning, little one. Glad to see that you survived our little drinking binge." He said, in that seductive dark voice that I had once loved. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and was surprised to find out how sore my muscles were. At first, I thought that he had taken me...raped me while I was passed out, and that was what caused my soreness. The thought of that made me furious, and I sprang to my feet to go after him. It was then I learned that I now had four feet...and a tail. I screamed! With my scream, came a long stream of fire. He laughed out loud, apparently very amused by my fury.
"What in all that is holy have you done to me?" I asked, sitting back on my haunches and taking a look at myself in his mirror. Scales of brilliant purple covered me from her head to the end of my long tail, and I had acquired a set of leathery purple wings, tipped with golden talons, to match the ones on my toes. I had become a dragon! The more closely I examined myself, the angrier I got. I shot him a look of pure hatred, before more fire flew from my mouth. Baldwyn threw his hand up, and with it came an invisible protective cloak to keep him from being cooked alive.
"Enough!" He yelled.
I glared at him again, but kept my fire to myself. "Why? Why have you done this to me?" I whimpered, as a single black tear fell from an emerald green eye.
He laughed. The look on his face was as cold as the words that were coming from his lips. "You broke my heart. And if I can't have you for myself, then I will see to it that no man ever will!" He said plainly. He continued, "You are simply transformed. But, there is a way to break this spell."
I looked at him and said, "Anything...I would do anything." My voice was tinged with the desperation I felt.
"Ah, yes, I thought you might. There is a catch, though." He said cruelly. "In order for you to return to your former gloriously beautiful self, you must find a knight. Now, no ordinary knight will do. This knight must be willing to give his life for you...and he must prove it beyond a doubt. If you can find such a man, this spell will be broken, and you will return to the stunning beauty you once were."
I sat there for a moment stupefied, not believing what I was hearing. And then I erupted again. "Have you gone completely mad?" I roared. "Do you have any idea how difficult it will be to find a man that would give his life for a dragon?"
"Ah, little one...not just any man. He must be a knight!" He corrected, with his devious smile spreading wider across his face.
"No knight is ever going to want to save me! They are all out only to kill dragons, all dragons!" I argued.
"I never said it was going to be easy." He pointed out with a hateful chuckle. With that, he disappeared, leaving me alone, scared half to death, and very, very scaly.
The flood of emotions that hit me next was indescribable. I was filled with hate and despair, and spent the next several days sulking and crying gallons upon gallons of black dragon tears. I guessed I hadn't changed completely; I was still the over-emotional female I had always been, albeit just in a little bit different form.
Okay...well, that should just about bring you up to speed. The past few hundred years had been lonely for me. I have kept myself busy plundering the riches of kings and queens, dukes, princesses and counts, but it has brought me no joy. At one point, I even had the pleasure of meeting Count Vlad Dracula himself.
Make a note to yourself: If you ever decide to 'borrow' shiny things from someone, make sure that someone isn't a vampire. Geez, are they hard to defeat...let alone scare. Luckily, the Count had a sense of humor, and after a rather rigorous battle of wits, we called a truce and went to his castle to have a drink. I was happy to find out that dragon blood was not a menu preference of his, and since Transylvanian men, no matter how disarming and handsome, did not appeal to my taste buds, we became fast friends. Too bad, he wasn't a knight. I thought. I suppose he probably wouldn't have counted anyway, as a vampire risking his already damned immortal life would have been exempt. See, even in medieval times, one had to watch out for the fine print.
We sat together many evenings, talking of our prior lives. They were not all that different, both being changed at a young age to things of legend and myth. He was damned to an everlasting life of darkness and solitude. My heart cried for him, for all he truly longed for was companionship. I knew that I filled that void for him in some ways, but not all...at least for a while. We often sat in the still night air and gave in to some of their 'what-ifs' and 'if-onlys.' When the humans began to get more serious and form posses to hunt and destroy vampires, The Count moved to a more remote location, far away from people that hated his kind with such a dark passion. I wasn't happy to see him leave, but understood and encouraged his departure for his own safety. He was much more vulnerable than I was; the light of day burned him terribly and drained his strength.