The dragon

Through a dark, bandit filled forest, over the tallest jagged mountains, across a gloomy, creature filled swamp, in the middle of a ring of fire, lived a ferocious dragon. It stood guard over a tall tower full of golden treasures, precious jewels and riches beyond any mans wildest dreams. But the greatest treasure of them all was the fair Princess, beautiful beyond compare and virtuous soul to match.

Kings, princes, lords knights, men at arms and even lowly peasants set out to claim fame fortune and the beauty. The wealthy lords of men would bribe the bandits of the woods only to be turned back by the jagged peaks. Some bold princes and knights would scale the mountains only to be swallowed up by the denizens of the gloomy swamp. The most daring of adventurers would roast in the ring of fire, their bones and armor blackened by the blazing inferno, fading to dust over time. Who could possibly save the princess where the lands boldest men had failed?
Just when all hope for the Princess had gone, word began to spread of a champion. A knight of knights, a paragon with the sword, was preparing for the journey….

The knight, who wore the most splendid silver plate armor, wielded the sharpest of broad swords, carried the sturdiest of kite shields and rode the most pure-bred war horse, paused before the forest. He had heard the locals tell the story countless times. The forest was full of all sorts of evil outlaws, horse thieves,cutthroats, robbers bandits and murderers. He smiled under his metal visor, it would take more than a band of untrained vagabonds to sever his courage. He nudged his horse on, the forest encasing them in darkness. It wasn’t long before the arrows zinged, daggers whistled, and spears flew at the knight. He laughed loudly, his armor and shield deflecting the cheaply made weapons, no match for the sturdy craftsmanship of his armor. He rode on through the hail of weaponry unscathed. The bandits, fearing the man who had laughed at their feeble attempts, disappeared into the woods.
The knight had made it through the dark forest without drawing his sword or bribing with a single copper. Maybe this man had the courage to scale the jagged mountains.

Scanning the peak, the knight snapped the reigns, his horse trotting on. He had prepared well for this part of the journey, the locals telling him of the jagged, barren peaks. Unpacking ropes he had bought in the village, he tied his horse to a tree, and began the climb. His hands and feet were strong, his grip sure. He climbed higher and higher upwards, the height dizzying to a normal man. Once, his footing had faltered, his body sliding off the edge of a cliff. The rope around his waste tightened, he hung, suspended in the air. The knight looked below, the ground no longer visible. He had always been afraid of heights, but he steeled his nerve and climbed the rope. Finally he reached the summit. The climb down was much easier and uneventful. He hummed a tune to himself as he reached the bottom of the mountain. Perhaps this champion had the mettle to overcome the swamps.

He scanned the gloomy waters. All sorts of creatures were teeming below the surface of the waste deep bog. He could see bleached white bones and pieces of armor scattered on rocks rocks that told tales of long gone heroes. Thinking of the rigorous training he had endured since birth, his resolve was strengthened. He trudged through the swamp, his armor squeaking from the damp. The creatures of the swamp attacked him at every turn, encircling and ambushing the knight. He battered them with his shield and slashed with his sharp sword. He cleaved a path through the swamp, his great stamina being put to the test as his sword arm rose and fell. Finally after the long march through the boggy waters he emerged on the far shores of the swamp. This man is a Legend, surely he can beat back the blazing inferno with his nerve alone!
Drying off, he gazed in the distance. Across miles of blackened earth, he could see the fire. The dragon kept the fiery circle blazing, bellowing hell fires onto the charred earth every day and night, a final test for all men. He sharpened his sword, oiled his armor and prepared for the heat to come. His horse emerged from the swamp, scratched and clawed but standing tall.The rope he had been tied with chewed through. The loyalty of the beast was beyond belief, the knight reflected, his admiration showed as he patted the beasts back. Mounting the horse, they set off.
After miles of blackened and barren earth, they stood before the tall inferno. For the first time In the journey, the knight felt hopeless. How could they make it through the fire? It blazed high and long without pause. There was no path around it, the only way was through. Speaking aloud, the knight spoke of the journey’s end with regret. With a deep sense of melancholy, he steered the reigns around, prepared to journey back. The horse held it’s ground, not budging. It stamped the earth with its hooves,waving it’s head in the direction of the flames. Staring at the horse now, he shook his head in wonder. How could a beast possess such unwavering loyalty. It couldn’t possibly survive the leap. Every time the knight tried to go back, the horse ignored his commands. Finally, with resolve set, the knight threw caution to the wind and charged toward the fire. They leapt high, through the impossibly hot fire, soaring through the flames. They landed with a crash on the other side of the inferno. The knight rose to his feet, checking himself for burns, for which there was none too serious. The horse had not risen. He dropped to its side, stroking the horses neck. It had suffered severe burns, it’s chest rising and falling with each ragged breath. The knight took off his helmet, tears streaming down his face. Love doesn’t have a greater measure than when a life is laid down for friends. The horse shuddered, breathing it’s last breath. Our hero sat for a time, stroking his most loyal of companions shoulder.
Just then he heard a loud crash from behind. Turning his head, he saw it then; the dragon, wings spread wide, savage eyes leering. The knight rose to his feet and drew his sword. Every time the dragon moved the ground trembled. Letting out a battle cry, the knight charged at the dragons massive frame. He dodged the dragons tail as It came crashing down in front of him. He hacked at it with all of his might, severing the tip. With a blood curdling roar the dragon beat it’s wings, knocking the knight off his feet. Looming over him, the dragon drew in air and expelled it’s fiery breath. The knight rose to his knees, bringing his kite shield to bear. The flames were intense but rolled off his shield, leaving him unscathed. He charged forward, sword arm back ready to cleave into the dragons belly. Just as he was about to swing, the dragon snatched him up in his clawed hands. It squeezed him in it’s grasp, his armor buckling under the pressure. He tried to wiggle and squirm out, but the dragons clutch was too strong. His sword and shield dropped, the pain unbearable. It brought him up eye level, leering at him with it’s powerful gaze. The knight looked on in horror as the dragon opened it’s mouth and brought him slowly, slowly toward its mouth…
The boy woke up with a start, his heart racingHe was covered in sweat, his blankets and stuffed animals had been flung off the bed. He sat up, trying to catch his breath and cool off. Jumping down from his bed, he walked down the hall to the bathroom. After rubbing water on his face, he reached for the towel and dried off. He stared at his reflection in the mirror and thought to himself “next time I’ll slay the Dragon”. Back in his room, he picked up his favorite stuffed animal, little foot, and climbed back into bed. He closed his eyes and drifted off, to a dreamless sleep.

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