Meandeer’s fingers gripped the dragon’s mane firmly as the scaled creature careened through the sky.
Wind screeched in his ears and froze his fingers as he retrieved his sword from its sheath. He tried to plunge it into the dragon’s blue-scaled neck, but the creature dipped to the side before the boy could manage it.
He concentrated all his efforts on clinging to the creature’s hair and keeping his sword in his hand—it was increasingly difficult as the dragon did a barrel roll through the sky.
The cold air sapped the moisture from the young knight’s skin; his head spun with dizziness when the dragon emerged from its barrel roll.
His sword arm now regained a sense of control and strength as the dragon flew straight and even.
With a yell, the knight plunged the sword into the dragon’s neck.
Meandeer was deafened by the resounding roar of pain emanating from the dragon’s throat. Relentlessly, the boy continued to stab the flying reptile until the creature took a nose-dive. It was a slow descent; slow enough that Meandeer could climb to his feet for a half-second and glance downward. His vision swam; the snowy ground sped toward him quickly. Meandeer threw himself on his stomach and continued gripping the dragon’s red hair.
The winged beast slammed into the ground and slid several yards through the snow. Meandeer barely held on.
Once the dragon slid to a stand-still, Meandeer clambered off its back and circled around to its eye. The dragon’s breathing was ragged; its elliptical eye focused on him.
Mockingly, Meandeer placed a hand on the beast’s golden snout. “Looks like I’ve bested another one.”
“You’re a fool, Paragon.” The dragon murmured as it closed its eyes.
Meandeer wondered what the beast was on about, but he didn’t care enough to press the creature. He licked his lips and pulled himself atop the dragon’s head by using its twisted horns.
“I must have proof!” The boy said to himself as he sawed one of the horns off with his sword.
The boy whistled gaily as he trudged through the snowy world back to the kingdom. In the distance, beyond a curtain of falling snow, he could see the silhouette of the castle. The young man quickened his pace. So close!
Meandeer noticed a puddle of water in the snow. With the dragon’s horn in hand, he paused for a moment.
I should look my best for when I present the horn to the king! The young man skipped over to the pool. He straightened his clothes with smug smile. Lookin’ good!
His cheeks were gray, but full, his eyes were black and haunting, and yet still attractively sweet. The best thing about his features, as usual, was his red hair—even if it was a little dis-colored. He pinched his gray cheeks in an attempt to give them the flushed, red color that most living people had. I must look good for my adoring fans, too!
He was elated as he always was when he had achieved the great feat of killing a monster, however, at the back of his mind was a niggling thought that wouldn’t leave him alone.
I didn’t know that beasts could speak…
Meandeer crossed the drawbridge leading to the castle portcullis and tapped his foot impatiently while he waited for the metal partition to groan open. Once open, Meandeer headed into the lively town surrounding the castle. The citizens of the town greeted him cheerfully and waved to him.
“You’ve saved us again! You’ve slayed our beast!” The citizens cried and prostrated themselves before him.
“Please! Do not thank me! It is my pleasure!” Meandeer waved away their compliments. Although, secretly, he coveted them.
Meandeer arrived at the king’s personal quarters with the dragon’s horn in hand. He tossed it onto the king’s carpet and asked his liege, “well? Is this good enough for you?”
The king, who had been signing documents at his desk, returned Meandeer’s smile. “Let’s have a look.”
The king stood up and hurried over to the horn. He knelt and examined it thoroughly. “This is truly the horn of our newest menace, Rodragin?”
Meandeer nodded with his hands clasped in front of himself neatly and proudly.
“Bravo, my boy! Bravo!” the king clapped him on the shoulder.
Meandeer—who could barely contain his excitement--listened to more of the king’s compliments and praise. The king went on and on about how safe the king would be, and eventually, Meandeer couldn’t listen anymore because he was too excited for his possible reward.
“You’ll bring me back to life now, right?” Meandeer interrupted the king as he began to explain how much money the kingdom would save without livestock being eaten by the dragon.
The king went deathly silent.
“My boy, I told you. I cannot bring you back to life until I know, for certain, that all of our monsters are slain. If months pass and there are no more threats, I will bring you back. This, I swear.” The king said solemnly.
Meandeer glowered. His fists clenched. He managed to say calmly, however, “then get me a reward.”
The king nodded and yelled for the guard outside his quarters to bring Meandeer something from the treasury.
While they waited, Meandeer remembered something that he wanted to ask the king. “I didn’t know these beasts could talk. Did you? Rodragin spoke before it died…”
“Why does it matter?” The king answered enigmatically.
Meandeer sat on the dozens of steps leading up to the castle. In his hands, he held a heavy circlet that the guard had fetched him from the treasury. It was golden and shiny, and Meandeer liked shiny things. He plopped it onto his head with a confident grin. It was far too big for him—it cut into the tips of his ears.
Errr! Meandeer quickly removed his prize from his head. He could not control his frustrations; he tossed the circlet down the flight of stairs. A nobleman who was climbing them stepped to the side as it tumbled downward.
Meandeer stood up. He straightened his clothes with a defiant smirk. He wants me to kill every single monster? Fine, I will.
His cloak billowed in the wind as he pattered down the stairs. I will waste no more time!
Meandeer headed out of the castle and back out into the untamed world—clutching the red-jeweled hilt of his sword in hand.
Meandeer wandered out in the wilderness for many days and many nights. He was glad he no longer had a need to eat or drink since he had become reanimated, but annoyed that he could still feel the cold so bitingly well. He looked high and low for monsters to slay but could find none.
He saw a group of pine trees that could quite possibly be hiding a monster within.
He licked his lips.
He unsheathed his blade and glided into the forest.
There was not a sound to be heard in the woods but for his boots crunching through the white snow and the occasional sound of birds chirping.
He walked deeper into the heart of the woods.
Eventually, he saw the reflection of gently swaying water being cast upon the pine trees.
He took cautious steps forward with his sword readied.
There was a monstrous growl that shook the earth beneath his feet; dozens of birds flocked out of the trees at the sound of it.
This it is! There must be a beast! He thought to himself excitedly.
He sped up his pace—shouldering his way between trees and stepping lithely over branches--until he saw his quarry.
He crouched. There was a dragon with white scales and golden hair lying by a pool of electric blue water. The dragon looked to be twenty feet long.
The dragon seems young—maybe an adolescent. Meandeer thought to himself.
The dragon let out a somber groan as it lie on its belly with half-lidded eyes.
Meandeer felt his pulse quickening with excitement. This will be far too easy!
The boy circled around to the dragon’s backside—sticking to the woods so that his position would not be revealed. When he was sure the dragon did not see him, he emerged from his hiding place. On silent feet, he brought himself just inches from the dragon and then held his blade high.
“Mother…” The dragon moaned softly under its breath.
Meandeer’s hand was stayed when he heard that word leave the dragon’s toothy mouth. His wrist wobbled without his permission.
He tried to plunge the blade downward but found that he couldn’t.
What’s wrong with me? Meandeer wondered with sweat dripping down his forehead.
When he realized he was being stayed by his own hands, he stepped backward in shock—his foot breaking a twig in two.
“Who’s there?” The dragon questioned as she began turning around.
Meandeer was in a panic.
He sheathed his blade and would have dashed back into the woods, but the dragon—quick as a snake--pinned him down with a clawed hand the size of his torso. The creature brought its elliptical eye close to his face and examined him curiously. Its nostrils flared.
“What an odd flesh-bag you are. You smell like you are dead.” The dragon commented—baring its teeth.
Meandeer, who was unafraid of dying since he already had, replied, “just kill me.”
The dragon snorted out a hearty chuckle through its nostrils. “Why should you beg to die?”
Meandeer stared the dragon down fearlessly. “Because you are going to kill me anyway. You are a beast, after all, and beasts have no compassion nor mercy.”
The dragon blinked its eyes and released the boy—letting him climb to his feet. “I will not eat you. Your flesh is rotten.”
Meandeer was aghast at such a cruel comment. Recklessly, he unsheathed his blade and flung himself at the dragon.
The dragon slammed its tail into him—sending him flying backwards.
The dragon chortled to itself. “I wonder if I broke any bones. Humans are such delicate creatures.”
Meandeer stayed where he had been laid low—his muscles wouldn’t allow him to move.
The dragon hunkered down by his head. “Are you alive…?”
The dragon groaned mournfully. “Poor, delicate thing…”
The boy coughed in a moment. He rolled onto his back—his face covered in snow and dirt. He laid the back of his hand over his eyes. “I failed my kingdom. Just kill me. I shall never have their adoration or their gifts ever again!”
“Hush, tiny creature. I do not eat things that speak.” The dragon replied. “Mother told me it is a wrong and perverse thing to do.”
“Liar!” Meandeer screamed. “Why do you prolong the inevitable? You are a beast! And beasts do not understand what is right!”
The dragon rolled its eyes and put a clawed toe over his mouth to shut him up. “What is your name?”
Meandeer clawed at the toe over his mouth until he became exhausted, and then he laid his arms at his sides and heaved heavy breaths.
When he seemed calm, the dragon removed its toe.
Meandeer glared at the scaly beast. “My name is Meandeer. What is yours?”
“I am Hipeos. I am a princess of the dragons. I swear to you that I won’t eat you unless you continue to squeal and annoy me like the rat you are.” Hipeos replied. “I do wonder why you humans are so suicidal and eager to die, however.”
Meandeer glanced over at his sword which had flown from his grasp and landed in the woods. “You kill us humans by the thousand! We dwindle more and more each year! I seek you beasts out to destroy you before you can destroy us!”
“I confess that some of us dragons are not as civilized as others, but there is no need to kill all of us. You must be the king’s newest Paragon—wretched ‘heroes’ who crave jewelry and attention in return for killing my kind. You are not heroes—you are monsters. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be going.” The dragon shook her wings out and then bounded through the forest. A few moments later, he saw her take flight overhead.