Sacrifice

Knights charging into the cave – most times on horseback, but oft afoot – had become passe: a leitmotif in a bard’s melodrama. Up they came, following the bone road, flying pennants and bearing shields with finely crafted sigils. Their names were a study in the old families: Corvidae, Mott, Tullard, and Skirllot.

Each came bearing sword or axe or hammer, calling for death even as youth burned in his breast.

Stynaserian, queen of the mount called Bryson’s Peak, red dragon without equal in size and strength, dispatched the knights the way a man might dispatch a steer; careful not to damage the sweet flesh contained within the steel shell. Sometimes she roasted them inside their armor, and sometimes she liked her meat rare. But never did Styn refuse a meal so accommodating as to stroll  into her cave.

When the young man, wearing no armor and bearing no weapons, strode unerringly into her midst, the great dragon was taken aback.

“Who are you?” she asked, for curiosity at this human’s audacity got the better of her insatiable hunger.

“I am no one of import,” said the boy.

“What name do you bear?” asked the dragon.

“I am a Smith.”

“Is that a noble name?”

“No. I am a smith by trade, as my father was before me. Our name is no more noble than the metals we work.” The boy began to shiver, and a fresh glean of sweat broke out on his face. That was to be expected, he was, after all, in the presence of a red dragon.

“And why do you walk boldly into my lair without shield or sword or armor?”

“I am come to ask you to leave our lands and never return.”

The dragon laughed, a mighty sound that shook the mountain peaks. Surely this boy was the village fool. Stynaserian snapped her head forward and gobbled him up in two large bites and one swallow.

Little did the queen know that the young Smith had, just before entering the cave, swallowed enough arsenic to kill several large horses. And, while Styn possessed more weight and girth even than several large horses, she was quite ill and unable to defend herself when, three hours later, eight knights arrived at her cave and slew her where she lay in her own bile.

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