The two spent a week together, and Meandeer was reminded of how nice it was to have a close friend.
I have not had one since Sophie died… He thought to himself.
He could tell her things that he could never tell the king nor any of the adoring common people.
He disturbed himself when he admitted to Hipeos how much he enjoyed killing dragons, and how he had no other dreams other than being a killer.
But eventually, he had to acknowledge that he belonged with his own kind, and he asked the dragon to take him home after the week had ended.
Hipeos flew him back to the castle.
She dropped him far enough from the castle so that she wouldn’t be targeted by any of the archers standing on the wall surrounding the castle. Meandeer said goodbye with some reluctance.
“Thank you for showing me around.” Meandeer said sincerely.
He began walking back toward the castle—his boots crunching through the snow. He stopped in his tracks after only a few steps. He turned back around and threw his arms around Hipeos’ neck one last time.
The dragon licked his cheek—eliciting a chuckle out of him, and then she took flight.
He watched her go with a lump in his throat. It occurred to him that he may never see her again. With a heavy heart, he faced the castle—a silhouette framed against a thundering sky—and began sprinting towards it. He put a thumb and pointer finger in his mouth—producing a whistle that echoed clearly throughout the land.
He heard Moonlight’s neigh coming from behind him and waited for the horse to catch up before he leapt on its back.
His ride was monotonous and silent.
He listened to his horse’s feet clopping along through the snow; it was mesmerizing.
The beasts he had killed all stared at him with accusing eyes as he rode. He could not hide from their hateful gaze.
What have I done?
Meandeer had an audience with the king in his bed ornate bed chambers.
“Well? Have you killed all the beasts?” The king asked.
Meandeer looked to the side and would not meet the king’s gaze. “Some of the beasts are intelligent my lord—some of them can speak. I cannot harm creatures that can speak.”
The king’s eyes widened in shock. In a moment, they narrowed in anger. “These lands will never be safe until you kill every single one of them! So what if these beasts can speak--they are guilty of killing thousands of humans!”
“It’s true that I love riches and cheers! I can’t hide who I am; I love killing! I love the prowess it requires and the power it imbues me with, but I will not kill if there is no cause to! I have spent a week with one of the dragons—Hipeos—and she showed me that there are plenty of dragons who keep to themselves and refuse to kill humans! I will kill no more.” Meandeer said adamantly.
“Hipeos?” The king gasped. “Did you say Hipeos?”
Meandeer was silent—wondering why the king was so surprised.
“Silly boy! Remember—I was there the day Sophie died! The dragon, Hipeos, introduced herself to me even as she swallowed the last of poor Sophie! She told me that dragons take on the names of their finest kills! Rearrange the letters! This dragon can be none other than Sophie’s killer!”
All thoughts ceased to run through Meandeer’s mind. He could do nothing but stand still and try to explain away what the king was telling him.
He remembered the warmth and love he had in his heart when he hugged Hipeos. He hadn’t felt that way about anyone else but Sophie.
A tear rolled down his cheek and he sniffled. “You lie. Hipeos is kind and good. She doesn’t kill creatures that can speak.”
The king took Meandeer by the shoulder and embraced him as the boy wept heavily. “There, there. I know you can’t sleep, but you should try to rest. I’ve been pushing you too hard. You can lie down in my bed.”
Meandeer did not reply as the king ushered him toward his bed.
Meandeer nestled under the heavy blankets and looked up at the ceiling blankly.
“I’ve prepared a special dinner for later tonight.” The king said as he opened the door—intending to step out so that Meandeer could rest. “I hope you’ll join us.”
The king clicked the door closed.
Meandeer sobbed and curled up on his side.
Fevered daydreams with the beautiful Sophie consumed him.
He was hugging his knees and mourning the death of his parents. Sophie crouched beside him and tilted his chin up. “I know you miss them. I know how alone you must feel, but be assured that you are not. I will always be here for you.”
But a dark shadow was cast over her—the shadow of a beast and a monster who would eat any creature regardless of whether they could speak or not.
He had given what was left of his dead heart to the dragon, and she had crushed it.
Hours later, a messenger arrived at the king’s quarters and informed Meandeer that dinner was ready. He followed the messenger to the mess hall where tables were lined up from one end of the room to the other. Hundreds of chattering guests were sat at them.
Meandeer was given a place of honor at the king’s side at a table looming over the others at the end of the room opposite the entrance.
Meandeer, who did not need to eat, wondered why the king had invited him. The king made a speech about how honored all of his guests should feel to be eating in the presence of the Paragon, and all the while, Meandeer just looked down at the slab of meat on his plate with pained misery.
Meandeer’s eyebrow rose. He realized that his slab of meat was littered with scales.
“Let us all partake of this meat that was gifted to us by the Paragon’s efforts!” The king addressed his audience with his arms outstretched. “Let us eat the dragon he killed and absorb its power!”
Horrified, Meandeer clapped a hand to himself to try and keep from vomiting.
The king turned to Meandeer. “Let the Paragon have the first bite of this powerful meal!”
Meandeer was sweating as the crowd—his adoring fans—waited for him to take a bit with bated breath.
We should not harm things that can speak. The thought pulsed through his head relentlessly.
But it was accompanied by a far more powerful thought.
A dragon closing its mighty jaws around a girl who did nothing but believe in their intelligence and autonomy.
His eyebrows knitted; his fists clenched—his heart hammered with fury.
He ate the slab of dragon meat and felt himself become boisterous and cheerful. He felt as if his mind was being overtaken by an entirely different individual. He shared tales of how many dragons and other beasts he had killed with the loving commoners.
After much merry making, he promised everyone in the mess hall that he would kill every single dragon.
To himself, he promised he would kill the dragon, Hipeos.
The need to tear her apart ran rampart through his mind until he found himself leaving the celebration—intending to accomplish the thought that infested his mind.
As he left the mess hall, the commoners gasped and nearly fainted.
Atop the boy’s head, a pair of spiral horns grew.