Once upon a time, there was a gigantic dragon that liked to sleep.
The only problem was that every time he started to take a nap, a whole bunch of pesky little knights in their flimsy metal armor would come out their little stone structures and poke him with their sharp metal sticks. Usually it wasn’t so bad; he would just breathe fire on them. Their metal clothes became all sticky and hot and stuck to his talons. Then he’d have to go wash his talons off in the nearby lake, and by the time got back to his mountain cave and began to fall asleep again, the little knights would be back to poke him!
So you can understand why he was a rather cranky beast. Moreover, it was the fifth time that week that the knights had summoned up their courage and gone up to fight the dragon.
A foreign wizard, dressed in extravagant golden robes, had come to visit the medieval town of Phillsville with vague promises to create a suit of invincibility armor. The king was impressed with the wizard’s wit, for he had passed all of the magical tests that the local witch had thrown on him, with ease.
“What is your name?” the queen asked the wizard.
“My name is Accipiter the Fiery, and if you have enough gold in your treasury, I can help you defeat the dragon that has been pestering you so terribly.”
The members of the royal court consulted with each other hastily, and approved of giving him charge of the operation. The wizard took the gold, and asked for their best blacksmith. Unfortunately, the best blacksmith had just volunteered to go fight the increasingly irritated dragon on top of Mount Pott.
Accipiter shook his head disapprovingly at this news. “If you are going to send men up to their doom, you might as well send experienced men,” he said.
“We ran out of experienced men,” explained the king apologetically.
So the blacksmith’s son and apprentice was brought in, who was honored to help the wizard create the magical suit of armor. Accipiter announced dramatically that he needed a servant or two to collect the materials needed for the spell necessary to make the armor invincible.
The king’s royal butler and the queen’s royal maid were brought into the room. Accipiter sent the butler to collect a feather of a phoenix (there was one nesting just south of town on Mount Tìnsh) and he sent the maid to retrieve a gold husk of corn (the cornfields west of town were known for them). Meanwhile, Accipiter and the blacksmith’s son began to melt down the gold given to him as what the royal court thought was payment.
Confused, they asked him why he was melting it down, and he explained that he “cared not for money, but this gold will be used to forge the armor.”
The royal court still did not understand, but he pushed them away, because the maid had returned with a husk of gold corn, and the butler had returned with the phoenix feather and a scorched bottom.
Accipiter the Fiery lived up to his name, and breathed a belch of white flame that was so hot that it melted the gold completely. He took the gold corn and melted it, too; he tossed it into the mix.
Accipiter told the blacksmith’s son to put the melted metal into molds that had suddenly appeared out of nowhere. This was done, and it took only a matter of minutes for the blazing metal to harden. The molds were for a beautiful set of armor, gold and unlike any the members of the royal court had ever seen before.
The blacksmith’s son could barely touch the hot metal, yet Accipiter picked up the helmet piece with ease. He took the beautiful violet phoenix feather and blew on it. It burst into magical blue flame. Accipiter stuck the feather into a small hollow on the top of the helmet. He pulled the rest of the armor out of the molds. There was three pieces in the armor: the helmet, the breastplate, and the boots.
Accipiter turned to the king and asked, “Have you sent your best knight to battle the dragon yet?”
The king peered at him sheepishly, and noticed that the wizard had orange eyes. “Yes. But we now have a new best knight. Will he be the one to wear the armor?”
Accipiter nodded gravely.
The king gestured to the butler to fetch the knight.
They waited in an uncomfortable silence, looking out the ceiling-high windows. An explosion of flame on Mount Pott made them all jump.
“Sir Corvus!” greeted the king over-enthusiastically to break the silence. Everyone jumped again.
The king explained the situation to a rather creepy-looking knight with black hair, an eye patch and a disapproving face that strode into the room. Upon being introduced to each other, Accipiter bowed to Sir Corvus, and vice-versa.
Accipiter and a young squire put the armor on Corvus.
“I feel… strong,” said Corvus with a gleam in his eye.
“Hmm…” muttered Accipiter, frowning. “Maybe it needed more corn…”
There was a pause.
“I FEEL INVINCIBLE!” Corvus bellowed abruptly, making everyone jump again.
“That’s better. Means it’s working,” said Accipiter with a satisfied nod.
Corvus was sent away, all alone, to trek up the mountain where the dragon slept fitfully.
Corvus complained about not having other knights help him, but Accipiter pointed out, logically, that they had only one suit of armor. Corvus complained about having to walk up the mountain. Accipiter pointed out that they had no armor for a horse. So Corvus sighed, defeated, and began the long climb up Mount Pott.
“Try to think logically when you’re up there, no matter how hard it may be for your puny medieval knight brain,” Accipiter suggested as Sir Corvus walked away. Corvus whipped around, only to find that…
…Accipiter was not there.
Corvus, deeply disturbed, ran from the castle to the mountain as fast as he could, not even realizing that he wasn’t getting tired.
The dragon on top was having the best nap that he had had in days. Unfortunately, the nap was spoiled by terrible dreams of the terrible little metal-bearers (for that is what dragons call knights) and their terrible little pointy metal sticks.
There is one good thing about them, though, the dragon thought. Those delicious little hoofed animals, the ones the metal-bearers sat on. The dragon licked his lips in his sleep.
Meanwhile, Sir Corvus was being chased back down the mountain by an angry mountain goat.
Corvus fell down a small stretch of hill and into a rose bush, where he found that the thorns did not hurt him. He marveled at his amazing invincibility, and logically found that he could run uphill without getting tired. He took a different route this time, so as to avoid the herd of mountain goats.
Corvus was nearing the top of the mountain. The dragon was snoring, ridiculously loud. Steam floated from its nostrils.
Sir Corvus’ eyes widened. It was the biggest dragon he had ever seen. Trying to think logically, he realized it was the only dragon he had ever seen.
He had been told by Accipiter that the only way to kill the beast was to get on its head while it was sleeping and stab it in the center of its forehead. A weak spot located there would kill it, as long as his sword could slice through the terribly strong dragon hide.
Dragon hide can only be pierced when the beast is sleeping, due to the involuntary opening of steam-releasing pores. The only other time the hide could been pierced was when the dragon was breathing fire, and the pores were releasing steam.
Basically, you could try to kill the dragon when it was asleep, during which you might accidentally wake it up when you climb onto its head, or you could try to kill it while it is trying to kill you. Corvus, thinking logically, decided on the former.
Corvus took a deep breath and readied his sword. The hardest part would be climbing onto the dragon’s head without waking it up.
He began sneaking towards the dragon. The phoenix armor creaked at one point, and Corvus froze. The dragon snorted in his sleep and rolled over. Corvus released a held breath.
He was right next to the beast’s head now. He shut his eyes tightly and crept as quietly as he could onto the dragon’s forearm, planning to go up to its shoulder, avoid the wings, and then go over its neck. He made his way to the shoulder, and paused to take a breath. The dragon had had no reaction whatsoever so far to his walking on it. You see, for a dragon, the downside to having such thick skin is that you cannot feel it when people are walking on you.
Corvus pulled himself over a mountain of muscle and began crawling on hands and knees on the neck. He was careful not to poke the dragon with his sword, afraid that that would wake it up.
After what seemed like an eternity on the long, sinuous neck, he reached the head. He tried to climb onto the head, but tripped and fell.
Oh, no, he thought, because the muscles under him moved, and the dragon’s great head rose up and roared. You see, the dragon may not feel a lot because of its thick hide, but when a sword falls point-first onto your skin, you’re going to feel it.
Sir Corvus pulled his sword out of the crevice between two scales on the dragon’s skin, but pulled so hard to get it out that he fell down off its neck to the ground.
The giant head swung around, breathing fire, and Corvus screamed, sure that the end had come.
However, to his surprise and the dragon’s, nothing happened.
The steaming head lowered and one of the beast’s great yellow eyes gleamed down at him.
“Why aren’t you crispy?” asked the dragon with child-like curiosity.
Corvus squeaked in fear, unable to speak, as the steam was clouding his lungs and the smell of his hair smoking was terrifying him.
The dragon snorted impatiently. “Can’t you talk? Oh, well. You aren’t wearing metal! Why?” The dragon stared at him expectantly.
“I—uh… well… I am wearing metal! Just a different kind,” stammered Corvus.
“It’s very shiny. Oh! It is gold, is it not!” The dragon was dancing around the cave in excitement. “Tell me! Tell me! Oh, I do love gold! Look at all of mine!” The dragon gestured proudly around the room, where Corvus noticed that the dragon’s sleeping body had been blocking a great pile of treasure. “What do you think of it?” The dragon was in his face again, but left him no time to answer. “You will let me have your magic gold, will you not? For I like gold, but enchanted gold I love! Especially gold that has been enchanted by a dragon!”
“A dragon?” Corvus echoed.
The dragon stopped dancing and looked at him curiously. “Yes, a dragon. I can tell because it smells of fire! Dragon fire! Yes, yes, will you give me your gold, to add to my hoard? Please, little gold-bearer, little magic-bearer?”
“No!” yelled Corvus, who, trying to think logically, was extremely confused. “This is my armor! It makes me invincible, so you can’t hurt me.”
The dragon sat down and stared at Corvus thoughtfully. “I cannot hurt you, that much is true. But if you give the gold to me, I won’t bother the rest of you humans anymore.” The dragon gave his version of a winning smile.
Corvus, who, like any other human, did not want to die in an eruption of white-hot flames (dragons are not very true to their word, shook his head.
“All right, then, gold-bearer,” said the dragon cheerfully. The beast sauntered out of his cave, spread his massive wings, and took off. “Don’t steal any gold! If you do, I’ll know!” he called behind him.
Corvus blinked. At first, he didn’t understand, but he stood and walked to the entrance of the cave; the dragon had begun breathing fire on the town. Screams echoed up throughout the valley.
“Fine!” Sir Corvus shouted, and frantically began to pull the gold armor off. Although he didn’t want to die, he had become a knight to protect his town, and that he would do.
He regretted his decision immediately, but it was too late. The dragon was flying back to the cave.
Now that Corvus wasn’t invincible, he could be toasted easily. He ran out of the cave while pulling the phoenix-feathered helmet off and tossing it behind him. The violet flame flared once, then puttered out. He shot down the hill, running past a herd of startled goats.
Thinking fast and logically, he remembered what the dragon had said about the armor being enchanted by a dragon. That meant that Accipiter the Fiery was a dragon! That explained how he breathed fire. Why had Accipiter helped them, then? Why would he want to kill a fellow dragon? How was he human?
Well, magic, Corvus thought, logically. Still, why didn’t Accipiter want to eat them all?
All these questions were running through Corvus’ head as he ran down the hill, right into the rose bush. The thorns really hurt. He ignored them, though, and raced into town, into the unguarded castle, and into the throne room where all of the citizens were still hiding from the dragon.
“You!” he thundered accusingly, pointing at Accipiter.
“Yes, sir knight?” said Accipiter calmly.
“You’re a dragon!” shrieked Corvus hysterically.
There was a collective gasp.
“Yes, I am.” Accipiter was still calm.
“Why did you help us?” Corvus asked, without yelling. He was so confused. “Please explain.”
Accipiter sighed. “I wanted to prove a point. That not all dragons are bad. Was I successful?”
Corvus shrugged. “You were for me. But why would you want to hurt a fellow dragon?”
Accipiter laughed and said dryly, “Carduelis is no fellow of mine. He stole my cave.”
“Oh, I see. Well, all he cares about is gold. He threatened me into giving him the armor. I’m sorry about that.”
Accipiter waved a hand dismissively. “It was a simple spell.”
Corvus gaped at the dragon wizard. Invincibility was a simple spell?
“You should apologize to the king, though. It used up a lot of gold, and you didn’t even kill Carduelis!” Accipiter continued.
Indeed, the king looked angry. “What will we do now?” he cried.
“Carduelis promised not to bother us anymore,” said Corvus hopefully.
“Don’t trust him to keep that promise,” said Accipiter logically.
“Yeah, I figured,” Corvus grumbled.
“I will fight him.” Accipiter said abruptly.
Everyone stared at him.
“He will not take my home from me again. I will not give up again,” he said quietly.
Corvus opened his mouth to protest, but Accipiter was in his own world.
“Tonight,” murmured the dragon wizard to himself.
Then Accipiter the Fiery exploded into white flames.
That night, all the citizens of Phillsville, but for two, were staying safe inside the stone walls of the castle. Corvus and the king stood outside, waiting for the battle to start.
Suddenly, a massive looming shape, three times bigger than Carduelis, crept onto the top of the mountain. Fire seemingly poured from its mouth, illuminating the smaller red-brown dragon with startled yellow eyes and the larger golden dragon with glowing orange eyes.
The dragons took to the skies. Thunderous roaring could be heard through the night, and the blaze of white flames could be seen in the distance. The phoenixes on Mount Tìnsh took off and migrated to a different nesting ground.
In the morning, Corvus led a small troop of soldiers to the top of the mountain. He was the only one brave enough to peer cautiously into the cave.
A gargantuan golden dragon was sleeping peacefully inside. There was no sign of Carduelis or his gold.
He let the dragon sleep, and went to report his findings to the king.