George reigned in his horse, Butternut, and lifted his visor. A light rain was falling, and for as annoying as the plinking on his helmet was, it was refreshing to feel the drops on his broad forehead and bearded cheeks. Wearing plate mail was like wearing an oven, even in temperate Northern England.
But you didn't wear anything less when hunting a dragon. At least, not if you wanted to continue hunting dragons in the future.
In front of him was the cave where the villagers said the beast lived. A scaly fiend, a hundred feet long with a fang filled mouth large enough to swallow George and his horse whole. Or so they said. Given that the cave was only five foot high and equally narrow, George had his doubts.
Still a dragon was a dragon and this one had reportedly made off with the local lord's daughter, Lorraine, meaning that there would be plenty of glory once he dispatched the beast and rescued the maiden. Maybe even a sainthood.
There was a sudden clunk on his helmet and he nearly toppled off his horse. Regaining his balance, he said, "What in the world?"
A young woman dressed in a white shift and with daisies woven into her long blonde hair crouched down to pick up another rock. She held a sign in her left hand but George couldn't see what it said.
"Lady Lorraine, is that you?" he called.
The young woman threw the rock, and it bounced off his chest plate with a ding.
"I'm here to rescue you," George said. "From the, you know, dragon," he added, feeling that some clarification was in order.
"You leave that poor beast alone! It's the last of it's kind!" Lorraine waved her sign at him. Slay Squash Not Dragons!
George was puzzled. "Why would anyone want to kill a squash? It's a delicious vegetable, particularly when steamed."
"What? Oh, you're missing the point. You can't slay the dragon. It's a beautiful creature. It needs to be preserved so future generations can enjoy it. Soon I will be joined by other princesses and we will rally for its protection."
"Why would future generations want the dragon around? It eats people and cattle. It kidnapped you and your handmaiden."
"Do we look kidnapped? We just came up to look at it on our own. Though it's much harder to find than I would have thought, don't you agree Millicent?" said Lorraine, turning around. Looking confused, Lorraine called, "Millicent? Where are you?"
That's when George noticed that the gnarled, gray, fallen tree behind Lorraine had eyes. And six stumpy legs. And what looked like a decidedly Millicent shaped bulge in it's middle.
"Oh crap," he muttered as the dragon reared up.
George drew his sword. Lorraine screamed. The dragon spread its jaws and roared. It's head plunged down, snatching up Lorraine so that only her kicking feet were visible between its front fangs.
It occurred to George that future generations of dragon admirers would not include any of Lorraine's descendents. It was a very unchivalrous though, and yet somewhat witty. He wished there was someone to share it with, but he doubted Butternut would appreciate the irony.
"I guess we should rescue her, eh Butternut?" he kicked his horse into a gallop and they charged the dragon. George swung his sword, but missed the monster's head. Butternut, however, crashed straight into the dragon's stomach.
Pitewee the dragon spat a spit soaked Lorraine across the glade. With a swipe of its fore claw, it sent George flying. Butternut raced away, neighing in panic.
George scrambled to his feet. Well, scrambled is a stretch for someone in plate male. He managed to leverage himself upright after two minutes of huffing and puffing. Every moment he expected the beast to be upon him, but he managed to get to his feet unmolested.
Lorraine, her hair plastered to her head and the flowers completely gone, stared at the dragon.
The monster was retching like a cat trying to clear a hairball. It staggered back and forth, clawing the air. Then its eyes rolled back and it fell over, dead.
George brightened. "Hey, I saved you and slew the dragon. I'm a hero."
"It choked to death on my sign," Lorraine corrected.
"Right, the one that said we should slay fruit, not dragons," added George.
"Squash. It said Slay Squash, Not Dragons," Lorraine replied.
"I wonder how the other princesses will feel about you killing the last dragon," said George. Off in the distance they heard trumpets heralding the approach of a royal procession.
"Oh," Lorraine's eyes widened. Then she sighed. "Fine, you barbarian, you slew the dragon."
"And saved me."
"Excellent, and you were quite inspiring with your speech and it was only with great remorse that I dispatched the beast when it devoured poor Millicent. I'm sure the princesses will be impressed." He held out his hand. "Deal?"
"Deal." They shook hands and turned to greet the arriving royal carriage.
THE END copyright 2013 John Lance