Hugo gingerly squeezed his legs and his horse took a few wary steps forward. His full plate armor glistened in the early morning sun as he poked his spear at the knight sleeping under the gently waving tendrils of the willow tree.
“Wake up Aaron!” he called, gently poking his comrade on the side. Aaron woke, startled and nearly tripping over his legs. His hand reached for his flamberge, a blade nearly as tall as him, which jutted out of the ground. Naked and filthy, he slapped the spear away with a wave of the hefty sword. His long, matted blonde hair tumbled near his waist and swayed like a field of wheat as he launched himself forward, tugging at the horse’s bridle. Swiftly, he pulled himself up so he could look Hugo in the eye.
“Don’t wake me with a spear, or that damned thing will find its way into your heart!” threatened Aaron. Hugo resisted belting his friend with an armored fist, but instead calmly explained that he had all ready tried the most gentle of measures of awakening his traveling companion and needed to resort to more drastic measures. “Bah!” dismissed Aaron as he leapt from the horse. “What’s the rush anyways? The dragon isn’t going anywhere. Bastard’s been asleep ten years, and he’ll probably be asleep tomorrow and next week, and for many months to come. Another morning won’t make much of a difference.” Despite his grievances, Aaron started to dress for battle in his suit of boiled leather and chain mail. Tucking his open-faced helm under his arm and slinging his sword onto his shoulder, he walked slowly beside Hugo.
Hugo looked down on Aaron and smiled at the bull headed knight. Aaron never rode war horses; he always had a love for swift animals and prided himself on his acrobatic prowess. In truth, Aaron was less of a knight than Hugo, but he certainly was a better fighter. Hugo never underestimated his friend’s skills; while Aaron may never had jousted in a tournament, he had proven himself again and again. Despite his laziness, he made for a good traveling companion. He had good eyes and knew his way around a battlefield. Aaron loved Hugo as a brother, and had an equal respect for the accomplished knight’s skill.
“So the dragon will know. I’ve heard that too many times. ‘The dragon is old, the dragon is wise,’ Bah! The dragons are a blight on the earth and an affront to the gods. A snake with feet and wings; liars and thieves the lot of them.” complained Aaron as he walked through the thickly wooded forest. The trees shaded them from the sun and kept them cool as the day became warmer.
“Just another mile and we’ll find out where the truth of the matter is. There’s good and bad in all things; I saw a giant save a child from a well and I’ve watched a serpent-man lay his life down for his human comrades. Villagers always say these things are evil, but they never truly know, do they?” Hugo said softly.
“Bah, I say! Bah! I never heard any of those stories from anyone but you. You’re young and full of ideals that just don’t hold up in the real world. A giant may save a life, but how many will he take in a month? Anytime he’s hungry, that’s one less kid in the world and one more pile of dung. I say track ‘em and kill ‘em.”
“I hope you aren’t thinking of talking to the dragon like that.” said Hugo, trying to make the phrase ring as a warning to his friend’s ears. Aaron responded with silence; they were getting closer to the creature’s lair and he was starting to get on edge. Hugo strapped his shield to his arm; the leather straps groaned as he fastened the stag emblazoned shield’s buckles tightly. He said a quiet prayer, hoping that his God would bless him with the power to overcome the dragon peacefully. Aaron’s mind simply focused on his task. He would not pray to his gods, because he didn’t want to owe them any favors. He sneaked through the woods towards a giant cave that expelled a sulphurous and skunk-like stink. A purring sound rumbled out of the cave; the sleeping dragon simply stayed inert, oblivious to the possible dangers that lurked near it. Aaron entered the cave first, followed by the mounted Hugo.
“Awake, Thule! Awake and listen to me!” called Hugo, masking the sound of Aaron’s steps as he picked his way through a heap of gold strewn on the floor of the dragon’s lair. The dragon stirred in the darkness and opened its cat-like eyes. Sleepily, the dragon considered the mounted knight.
“What do you want!” boomed the dragon’s voice, “I’m tired and need rest. Why did you wake me?” Hugo felt the hot, rancid breath of the dragon wash over him. He slid his spear into its sheathe on the saddle and produced a small sack of gold. The dragon’s eyes flooded with greed as the bag flew through the air and crashed heavily to the ground. The dragon pulled at the bag’s drawstrings with its immense claws and let the coins spill out.
“Ask, then, if it is a question you want to ask.”
“I want to know where the father of dragons is.”
The dragon chortled deeply, not knowing that Aaron was in the shadows, readying his sword. “He is deep within the earth, at its core, far from the sun. Seek him at your peril. Why do you ask?”
“My reasons are my own.” responded Hugo, his hand on his spear.
“Keep your secret; your gold is good.”
“How do I get to the lair of the father of dragons?” asked Hugo. The dragon’s eyes narrowed evilly.
“What do you want with him!” demanded the dragon, whose ire was rising. Aaron tumbled out of the way as one of the dragon’s feet crashed into the ground near him. Aaron wanted to plunge his sword hilt deep into the creature, but he knew that Hugo would chastise him severely. Instead, he waited.
“He has something that is mine, and I wish to reclaim it.” responded Hugo. Tension rose as the dragon crawled forward slowly. Stalking Hugo, like a cat stalks a ball of yarn, the dragon licked its lips. Hugo began to worry when he saw the drool dripping from corners of the dragon’s mouth. Hugo pulled his spear from the saddle sheathe and drove his spurs into his horse. The dragon roared, blowing a stream of fire at Hugo. The thrust of the flame drove Hugo from his saddle with a force greater than any jousting lance could. The shield absorbed the heat from the flame, and glowed brightly. The dragon snapped its jaws at the prone knight, but whirled its scaly head about as Aaron plunged his sword into the dragon’s belly.
The dragon shrieked and rolled as Aaron held onto the sword with two hands, pushing and pulling the sword back and forth, aggravating the grievous wound. Hugo found his footing and launched his spear at the dragon. It found its mark deep in the dragon’s skull. The creature shrieked again weakly and then stopped stirring. Battered but uninjured, Aaron tugged his flamberge from the dragon’s carcass.
“Where do we go now?” asked Aaron wearily.
“North, to find another dragon. One will know where the father of dragons is; one will be able to tell me how to get back my soul.”