The Coming of the Dragon
“The sky darkened to blackness that day the beast arrived. The air was rich with smoke and the sounds of butchery. Thick clouds of smoke blotted out the sun, and the day turned to night. All I saw that night was red. Red flames as my village burned before my eyes. The dragon roared; a sound so fearsome that even the bravest among us were filled in our hearts with dread.”– Unknown villager
A dragon had not been seen in these parts since the days before the coming of the Emperor. For many moons now, the dragon had filled the kingdom of Napa with fear and forced the poor villagers there to provide a tribute of one sheep per day to satisfy its voracious appetite. By now the people had long ago run out of sheep, and other farm animals, and had started offering up young maidens and sirs to be eaten by the beast. The people selected who would be sacrificed to the dragon by pulling stones out of a clay jar. The stones were of polished white granite, except for a single stone that was of onyx. Whomever so drew forth the black stone was to be sacrificed to the dragon the following day. The kingdom was on the brink of ruin, for no man or women was brave enough to face the dragon. It was in this hour of utter despair that the king’s eldest daughter, the Princess Kelly, drew from the jar the black stone. The king wept for his eldest daughter, but his tears were short lived for that was also the day that three very noble heroes arrived to slay the great beast.
Three heroes fortuitously arrived to the aid of the kingdom of Napa. Iorwerth of the Norselands, a sorcerer who preferred magic over might; Sir Lancelot of Sonoma, a champion archer of great renown; and Sir Granticus of Windsor, a poor country knight, but a master horseman seconded to none. The people were gladdened at the arrival of these heroes and made all accommodations to prepare them for their journey ahead.
The following day at dawn, the heroes made ready to leave on their adventure, “By the Emperor, I could use some coffee”, Iorwerth said, coming abruptly back into the present in which ordinary time flowed steadily once more and appetite once again mattered. The three heroes were saddling up their warhorses, and Sir Lancelot and Sir Granticus both wore over their padded tunics, thick, overlapping plates of iron armor. The knights carried swords strapped about their waists, and lances cut of fresh pine in their hands. The sorcerer, Iorwerth, however preferred his arcane powers and magical staff over the more ordinary instruments of war. He wore faded, blue robes inscribed with runic symbols written in gold letters. With luck, their might and magic would prove enough against the dragon.
The king of Napa and the townsfolk had thronged together to bid farewell to the departing noble heroes. Before they left, the king called them to audience. “Kneel, noble heroes!” said the king. And the heroes did so.
“Emperor, may your wisdom and care protect these noble heroes from harm, and inspire in them the strength and courage that is necessary to see their return in triumph. Embolden them with your divine light, and in your name, let them cleanse your lands of this evil taint. Bless them, that they might uphold your justice with virtue, honor, and chivalry”. The king finished. “Now arise, noble heroes, and go forth to slay the great beast!”. The crowd cheered and whooped as the three heroes mounted upon their warhorses and departed the town. Trumpets blared and children and dogs ran alongside the heroes as they rode away. The rest of the crowd watched anxiously as the heroes galloped towards the mountain looming far into the distance.
Peasants leaned on their hoes and wiped their hands across their brows as they watched the heroes pass by. Some of them waved, but only Iorwerth gave them a response, nodding curtly to them. The heroes were traveling on a dirt country road in the direction of the mountain.
“What crops are being tended here?” Iorwerth asked, gesturing to the endless rows of the tall, gangly plants, his voice heavily accented. Stakes connected with twine had been driven into the ground, along the perfectly straight lines of cultivated plants to keep them upright, and purple fruit hung in dense bunches from its spindly limbs.
Sir Lancelot laughed out loud, thinking the sorcerer Iorwerth had made a joke that did not translate. But seeing nothing to indicate humor in his serious face, he just shook his head at Iowerth’s ignorance. He seemed so learned in some areas, but, in others, his lack of knowledge was astounding.
“This region is renowned for its vineyards”, said Sir Lancelot, “These are grape vines you see before you”.
“Ah!” said Iorwerth, wagging a finger in the air in excitement as if he had just uncovered some great hidden knowledge. “This is where wine is made!”
“Well, the wine is made in the villages and stored in cool cellars, but these are the grapes that are cultivated, yeah”. Confirmed Sir Lancelot. “Do you have vineyards in your homeland?”
“No, the climate is too cold to grow them in the North.”
Sir Lancelot frowned, “So what do you drink then?”
“Beer, predominantly, strong, full-flavored and invigorating. Some of the lords drink wine, but it is not a common drink.
“Home in Sonoma, even the lowliest peasants drink wine”, said Sir Lancelot proudly. “And it is much better than Napa wine.”
“If you say so.” Iorwerth replied.
Sir Lancelot scowled.
As the heroes came closer to the mountain, the lands turned from grasses and trees to ruin and charred ashes. The lands about the dragon’s lair had been scorched and all that was left was a barren wasteland. The party found a large rock overhang that they could camp under, unseen from the sky above. There they would rest before their coming battle on the morrow.
They slept a miserable sleep amidst the rocks in their cold, dark camp. Dawn arrived, silent and dim as if the rising sun knew what terror it would soon witness. When they woke up, it was a terrible realization that the light came not from the rising sun, but from the roaring flames that came rapidly towards them. The dragon was here. It had left its lair and it had found them.
The beast was massive, as tall as a castle tower and it roared like thunder, but the heroes were not afraid. Iorwerth cast a magical spell of fire resistance on the party which protected them from burning under the dragon’s fiery breath. The dragon’s fiery breath hit the heroes, but the fire caused them no burns because of the protection that Iorwerth had cast upon them.
The beast turned in the air and glared at the heroes from behind its two large yellow eyes. Those eyes showed nothing but hatred and hunger. The dragon’s mouth opened again as it let forth another burst of flames. The heroes’ might and magic would be tested this day.
Slaying of the Dragon
Sir Lancelot’s arrows bounced off the dragon’s armored hide with contemptuous ease. The arrows proved to be naught but a nuisance for the fire-breathing monster.
Sir Lancelot continued to fire his arrows, aiming primarily at the head to strike out its eyes.
Sir Granticus mounted upon his warhorse and charged into the open at the dragon with his lance lowered. Just before the dragon and Sir Granticus collided, one of Sir Lancelot’s arrows struck out the eye of the beast, and it was partially blinded. It bellowed in rage, but Sir Granitcus’ lance remained true. Into the dragon’s mouth did Sir Granticus thrust; for he could hope to pierce no other place upon the dragon’s scale-armored hide.
The dragon collapsed under the mighty blow that Sir Granticus had struck in it’s mouth and into the back of it’s throat. It seemed the battle was over, and Sir Granticus lifted his broken lance high into the air. But with one last mighty flap of its leathery wings, the dragon attempted to escape. But it no longer possessed the strength to do so and the great beast collapsed again and then died.
The journey back would be a long one, but they returned triumphant and with the head of the dragon being dragged by their horses behind them they were true heroes. They cherished this moment of victory together.
Triumph and Celebration
A crowd gathered before the three returning and triumphant heroes, with cheers coming from the villagers’ throats and from their hearts. The king and princess Kelly were waiting for the heroes in throne room of the castle. The King’s eldest daughter was a fair lady, with porcelain skin and silky hair that fell to around her shoulders. Her eyes were a hazel color that gleamed under the bright sun, and she was clearly an educated woman given her posture and general demeanor. She was dressed in green robes, green being the color of spring and new beginnings, as a token of her faith that the three heroes would return victorious. Although all the men would remark on her beauty, it was Sir Lancelot that was to be enchanted by it. The knight walked forwards, ignoring the cheering crowds, and knelt at the feet of the princess. He was covered in dirt and ash, but he was just as noble as he ever was. Few words were exchanged between the two souls before they knew they were very interested in each other. Sir Granticus and Iorwerth started to bumble on about the matter of compensation with the King.
Night fell, and a great feast was thrown in celebration of the dragon slayers. Everyone from neighboring villagers had come to give thanks to the heroes. After the celebrations, Sir Lancelot asked the King for Kelly’s hand in marriage as his due reward for slaying the dragon. The princess, Kelly, who had also taken a liking to Sir Lancelot was happy, and thus the king gave his blessing for the wedding.
Sir Granticus, on the other hand, took no interest any reward, he believed it was his moral responsibility as a knight to defend the people in accordance with his codes of chivalry. Sir Granticus would later become known as Saint Granticus for his exceptionally noble character and for his hand having slayeth the dragon.
The sorcerer, Iorwerth, proved less interested in love or abstract concepts of chivarly than for more material rewards such as gold and magical artifacts. The King provided rich material rewards to not just Iorwerth, but to all three of the heroes in abundance.
The Pontifex himself had come to Napa just a few weeks later to personally ordain the wedding. The whole kingdom was decorated in time for the coming wedding. White cloth hung across all the streets and flower petals lined the sides of the streets. Nobles and peasants alike came from all around the Empire to attend Sir Lancelot and the princess Kelly’s wedding in Napa. The wedding proceeded exactly as planned, and Sir Lancelot and Princess Kelly were wedded. And they lived happily ever after.