I’m beginning a series of short stories written by the under-18 crowd. This particular girl chose to remain anonymous; however, I happen to know she’s fourteen. The story also came in my e-mail without a title, so I made one up. That’ll teach the authors not to leave their stories untitled. As editor, I only had to change a few typos. Enjoy! Oh, and give this girl some feedback, please.
A torrent of flames passes me. The acrid stench of smoke clogs my throat, followed by another bout of fire, even as I dive to the side, sword in hand. Once the blade was shining silver- now it is tarnished with soot and hot in my sweaty grip. For a moment I am given reprieve from the fire-breathing dragon behind me. It blasts the granite rocks that shield me with impotent flames. Their roar fills my ears- or perhaps it is the roar of the dragon. Using my time wisely, I disentangle my arm from my crumpled shield. My entire wrist is numb, and my left arm hangs limp at my side, the result of a foolish attempt to block the dragon’s slashing claws with nothing but a flimsy bit of metal.
What am I doing here? I wonder again. This has to be my stupidest idea yet. But of course, there really was no other option, I suppose. It was either this or let the princess get roasted, which I guess would go against my vows as a knight of the kingdom. Apparently the importance of those vows was lost upon the other “heroic warriors” who watched in disbelief as I took on the job. Kill the fire breathing dragon, and rescue the princess! Oh, and while you’re at it, try not to be roasted to a crisp, cut to ribbons, eaten, or otherwise murdered. Sound good? Haha.
“Come out petty human, and meet your fate!” The terrible, yet beautiful, voice rings in my ears, causing my already aching head to pound. Apparently a dragon’s voice is supposed to be hypnotic. It uses its smooth tongue to lure unsuspecting knights into its claws.
But the dragon’s attempt is lost on me, so I shout back, “Shut you’re trap! You smell like burnt feathers and a dead animal! You should clean more often you filthy slob!”
This seems to surprise the dragon. Apparently, it’s not used to being back-sassed by its next meal. Another wall of flame pours over the stone that I’m cowering behind. Time to move.
I spring away from the rock, almost tripping over the bleached skeleton of some less fortunate victim. A cloud of smoke engulfs me- the dragon seems to be running low on fire at the moment. I scramble to the other side of the cave and spin around, sword at the ready. The dragon snarls angrily and slides after me, its black hide rippling over huge muscles, its scales winking brightly in the light cast by the flames still burning behind it. That’s when I notice two things. One- to my right is a narrow cave mouth, too small for the dragon to enter, but plenty big for me. Two- a huge boulder, perched on a ledge over the cave mouth. It’s probably hopeless, but it’s my only shot.
I dart to the side, just as another plume of flame rakes by me. I feel it singe my left side, but I keep running. I dodge a clawed foot, roll away from a pair of snapping jaws, and regain my feet. The dragon must realize my intent, because it roars and lunges after me. Perfect. No seriously, I’m not being sarcastic. It’s all part of the plan.
A split second before its jaws snap shut on my rear end, I sprint into the tunnel. For a second the dragon continues to follow me. Its neck is slender enough to enter the cave. Suddenly it jolts to a stop as its broad shoulders crash into the rock walls around the tunnel. It starts to recoil, as if somehow it senses its danger. Too late. Disturbed by the veritable earthquake the dragon caused, the giant boulder plunges downward, landing on the dragon’s neck, just behind the skull, and pinning it to the ground.
For a while the beast struggles futilely, its wings battering the air around it, its tail lashing. Finally it desists and sits in sullen silence.
I take my time coming out of the tunnel, and skirt to the side of its head. It can still breathe fire.
“Well?” it snaps irritably. “Are you going to kill me or not?”
“Not on my agenda,” I say with a smirk, which the dragon cannot see, because my entire face is hidden behind my helmet. “I think I’ll leave you here to struggle for a few centuries. Maybe some of this rubble will shift and you can escape sometime in the next millennia.”
“Murderer!” the dragon screeches, in a voice totally devoid of beauty.
“Oh, it won’t kill you. You can survive at least that long without food,” I say. “Might not be much fun, but that’s not my problem.”
The dragon snorts out a puff of smoke and changes tactics. It speaks in a soft, silky voice. “I have many secrets that I could tell you,” it says enticingly. “Come to me, and I can make you powerful among men…”
I roll my eyes. My expression is again lost upon the dragon. “Not working!” I say breezily.
“You know you want it,” the dragon continues in an obviously feminine voice that would snag the hearts and minds of most warriors. Most. Not all.
“Still not working,” I say again.
“Come to me!” the dragon persists. “Be my servant. Release me!”
I let my head loll to the side, and speak in a choked voice, seeming to struggle with my words. “Your wish is… my command…master,” I say, taking half a step forward.
The dragon seems surprised. “Really?”
My head pops up, and I laugh. “No, not really. I’m just pulling your tail.”
The dragon bellows in rage. “Curse you, Small One! How do you escape my charms?”
I tip my head to the side thoughtfully. “Hmmm…well, I think I’ll keep that information to myself,” I say. “Now, cut the chatter and tell me where the princess is hidden.”
“No!” the dragon says petulantly.
“Yes!” I snap.
“No, no, no!”
“Yes, yes, yes!”
This last exclamation is torn from the dragon’s scaly lips as I poke it in the eye with my sword. “Tell me!”
“Oh fine! Fifth floor, room 203.”
“Thank you good sir!” I reply as sweetly as possible, and stroll away.
Four flights of stairs later (and these are huge stairs, I mean, this is a dragon’s lair, right?) I arrive panting at a wide stone corridor. I walk down the hallway, looking at the numbers on the doors. 201, 202, ah, 203. I sheath my sword and rap on the door with my armored knuckles.
I might be imagining it, but I think I hear a dramatic sigh from within. There’s some scuffling, and the door is flung open. A beautiful woman stands there, her pale gold tresses swept back from her face, her bright red dress bejeweled with bright sequins.
I scuffle my foot. “Uh, I beat the dragon. Let’s go.”
She looks a little stunned at my direct approach, but she recovers herself neatly and sinks into a graceful curtsy. “Oh Sir Knight, thank you for freeing me from the clutches of my foul oppressor. I beg that you will accept this favor as a token of my gratitude.” She extends one pale arm and offers me a spotless white handkerchief.
“Er, right, thanks,” I say, taking it. It is immediately dirtied by my sooty hands.
“May I ask the name of my rescuer?” she asks, clasping her hands and fluttering her eyelids flirtatiously. “After all, you have gone through so much to rescue me. I am sure my esteemed father will be quite pleased to have you as his son-in-law, but first, unhelm yourself and tell me your name.”
I feel myself go bright red. “Erm, lady, I think you have it all wrong,” I say.
“Of course I don’t!” she exclaims. “Now remove your helm!” Her last statement sounds imperious, so I do as she says, allowing my raven black locks to spill down around my shoulders, framing my slender face and crystal blue eyes.
Her silence seems loud to my ears.
“Um….awkward….” I say. “Marrying you was definitely not in my job description.”
“You’re a girl?” she gulps.
“Yeah, why so surprised?” I reply indignantly. “Now let’s go!”
“But I must be rescued by a prince!” she exclaims. “Not a princess!”
“Well I’m neither, so let’s go!” I snap.
“No!” she says childishly. “Go find another dragon to guard me until a guy comes and rescues me!”
“All your precious princes were too scared to come!” I spit out. “So come on!”
“But it’s not traditional!” she complains.
“Do I look like I care?”
“I’m in charge here and you’ll do as I say!”
“Shut up and save it for daddy!”
“Desist, o foul imposter!”
“Bratty little princess!”
“Ugly old maid!”
Our conversation is cut short here as I knock her out with a swift blow to the temple. If I was a dashing knight I would catch her before she crumpled to the ground, but I’m not, so I let her fall.
“Oh and by the way,” I say sarcastically, “my name is Galadarel.”
I hoist her over my shoulder and start down the stairs. Down in the main cavern I meet the dragon again. It’s tapping its claws impatiently on the ground as it waits for me.
“Oh there you are! Got her, have you? Good. She was becoming a nuisance.”
“Tell me about it!” I snap. “I’ll be glad to be rid of her. See you around sometime. Or not.”
The dragon sighs dramatically, but I can tell it’s looking at my face closely. “Wait!” it cries. “You are female! No wonder my voice didn’t work on you!”
I wink slyly. “Bye now!”
Its voice carries after me. “Wait, come back!” it cries. But I’m gone before it can change its tactics and find some other way to control me. Annoying as she may be, I have a princess to deliver.