Dragon: Envision a dragon. Do you battle him? Or is the dragon friendly? Use descriptive language
He took a breath, steadying himself for the task ahead of him. The armour felt alien on his frame, he was not born of battle as the other knights were. Generations before him had all faced this same challenge, would he be the first to succeed? Was it even possible?
Forcing himself to shake those thoughts, he focused on the path that lay in front of him, years of people descending had created uneven steps in the rock. He had to keep his mind on track, now was not the time for questions, there was no choice, he had to succeed. This was his only chance to prove himself, to make him one of them, once and for all.
Taking his first step into the cave, the cool air whispered against his skin through the helmet’s visor, chills running slowly down his back. Fear. He was not scared to admit he was afraid. Braver knights than he had lost their lives in this cave. Setting his fear aside, he descended slowly, taking each step one at a time, ready to face the horror within.
The cavern opened out, just as his Father had described, though his words had not prepared him. Vast in size, the castle itself would have sat comfortably inside several times over. The far wall of the cavern did not even appear in his vision, only darkness. The damp and musty smell caught in his throat, with only the one entrance above, the air was stale and thick, making it hard to breathe.
Even with the limited light, he could see there was no sign of this opponent, he would have to search. He had never been very good at hunting, his skills lie with hiding, years of escaping from his brothers had taught him well, he could only hope that he would remain unseen long enough. Slowly, hugging the rocky walls and using them as camouflage, he made his way around the edges of the cavern. In the light of his torch the walls looked wet, a dark liquid running in rivulets, racing to the floor of the cavern, it was probably only water…he hoped.
Paths and smaller caves soon became visible, a warren surrounding the main cavern, he could not help but wonder how many of the men before him had even met their opponent, or had most become lost and simply withered away over time.
After what felt like hours of searching, he was beginning to give up hope, despair filled him, knowing he could not go back until he had defeated the beast. For centuries Knights had tried, but they had all failed. The one who would finally win would get eternal glory, a knight by right, adoration from the Kingdom. He desired that more than anything, to be seen, to be noticed. To stand alongside his Father instead of behind him, he needed to do this, he had to keep searching.
As he turned the corner into a small cavern, he felt the air change, the sense that he was no longer alone. He moved forward, desperately trying to remain quiet. He started to hear something, very faint, it reminded him of the tide, ebbing and flowing, though he was nowhere near an ocean. He kept moving towards it.
What he had assumed was a small cavern opened out into a much larger space, and there he saw it…laying to one edge, curled up. The ocean sound was in fact the beast breathing. He had found him. The Dragon. Could he be this lucky to find him sleeping, to slay him would be easy if he was smart.
Barely able to contain his joy at his newfound luck, he started to move towards the beast. Visions clouded his mind, the cheers of the people as he returned victorious, the jealousy of this brothers who had not been able to complete this task…the proud look on his Father’s face, seeing him as worth something for the first time in his life. He would no longer be the weak son, the coward.
The closer he moved, he noticed that the beast was barely stirring, his breathing remained the same, shallow…and actually quite weak. Changing his direction, he edged closer to the beast’s head. His foot hit a stone and sent it tumbling, he held his breathe as the Dragon began to stir. One of the beast’s eyes opened slowly, blinking against the light of his torch.
‘I see…you have…finally…made it…’ the Dragon’s voice was raspy, barely audible between each breath.
‘Yes beast, I come to slay thee!’ he mustered all of the power that he could behind his voice, determined not to let his fear show through. Drawing his sword, he held it in the air above him.
‘I know…I have…been waiting…’
‘Waiting?’ He kept his sword drawn but lowered it slightly ‘Beast what kind of game do you play? Why do you not attack?’
‘I play…no games…’ as the Dragon paused to let out a cough, it felt like a huge gust of wind was blowing against his armour. ‘Every year…one of you comes…some years…I see you…others I don’t….I am old…I am sick…my time is up…I will fight…no more..’
Full of confusion, he didn’t know how to respond. He had come here preparing for a fight, a battle to the death, instead he found the Dragon waiting to die.
Those images filled his mind again, the crowd cheering him, hailing him a hero…but instead of feeling joy, he could only feel sadness. To think that he had come here wanting to slay the Dragon, to end his life, now, hearing he was sick, he wanted to help him.
‘Tell me what I can do, I can help you, my people, we can help you. It doesn’t have to end this way.’
The Dragon sighed ‘Other humans…would take…this chance…to kill me’ he looked directly at him then, his golden eye glowing in the torch light ‘Why…do you …hesitate?’
He thought about that for a while, moving around so that the Dragon could see him better.
‘I do not enjoy battle, or hunting, I came here at my Father’s wish.’ he lowered his sword completely now. ‘It was a chance to prove myself, to prove that I am brave. To kill you like this, it would not be brave, it would be more cowardly than running from this cave in defeat.’
‘Yes…you are…different…from the others…’ he wasn’t sure, but it looked as though the Dragon was smiling. ‘You are right…to kill me…would not…be brave…but it would…be kind.’
‘I am…in pain… I have…no other escape…’
He found himself shaking his head ‘I’ve never taken a life before, even a small animal…now I’m here, I don’t think I can.’ He sat on one of the larger rocks surrounding him ‘If I’m honest, maybe I never expected to, I assumed you would find me first and end it.’
‘You are…braver…than you…think…to come here…knowing…you would not leave…’ he coughed again, his body shaking with the effort ‘Prove to me…that you are also…kind…’
Standing, he walked towards the Dragon, he knew, in this moment, that he was closer than any other person had ever been. The scales were like armour themselves, thick and textured. He removed his glove and reached out to touch him. It felt like rock under his hands, smooth as though water had beaten against it for years, but still rough to the touch.
How could he end this creature’s life, to destroy something so unique and beautiful…
‘Please…’ he heard the Dragon whisper…before raising his sword.
Author note: A bit of a longer piece, I was really inspired by this prompt and I just had to write the full story. I think with time it could be developed into a much more rounded short story, so definitely one to revisit in the future!
I also wrote a short Haiku for this prompt:
Scales thick as armour
Prehistoric to the touch
Outlives humans all
Let me know what you think in the comments below or on social media!
Prompt taken from Think Written: 365 Creative Writing Prompts
Image taken from Pixabay (Free Stock Photos)