Kain the Dragon Slayer
'Let's rumble!' I shouted.
The dirt where I had been standing was transformed into a blazing inferno. I rolled onto my feet and kept running, flames growing out from behind me.
I dove behind a small pile of rocks and bought myself some time. This overgrown lizard was sending its full fury in my direction. My shelter was quickly being reduced to an oozing mess of magma.
I leapt out and charged the beast, my war-cry drowned out by the terrifying roar of my towering opponent. I struck at the beast's ankle with my short sword. The sound of steel on steel rang out and sparks were sent flying, as did shards of my sword.
'You idiot!' called out my foxy companion. 'A dragon's hide is stronger than any steel!'
Well had you told me that earlier I might have reconsidered this hunt! I screamed internally. Well it was too late to do anything about that now.
'I told you many times your plan wouldn't work!'
'I don't recall having any such conversation!' I yelled, dodging the streams of fire sprouting up all around me. 'Let's get out of here! We can talk about it later!'
I looked over to where I was planning on escaping and couldn't see my companion. That little rodent has left me for dead!
I jumped over a row of magma and made my escape into the dark cavern. Now if I can remember the way out of here I should be all good. A left, then right, straight for a bit, another right, or was it a left? The thundering steps behind me grew louder as the dragon closed in on its pursuit.
'Left you idiot!'
I did as the voice told me and ran for all I was worth. I felt an intense heat approaching me from behind and dove again on instinct. I peered out from behind my pillar of rock and watched the dragon come lumbering into view. It roared angrily, lighting the air up with an orange flame. And just behind this furious beast was the bright ring of light that was my exit.
'Dammit!' I muttered, a little too loudly.
The dragon immediately located the sound of my voice and charged headlong into the pillar, crumbling it on impact. I dodged the falling rocks and ran for the next pillar. The dragon leaped ahead of me and swung its tail, which struck me across the chest. I was flung across the open ground and landed on my back over on the other side of the cave. My eyes were filled with a bright light. The entrance!
The dragon charged again but struck another pillar and tumbled over. The now structurally weak interior of the cave began to creak as the dragon continued to thrash about inside. Rocks were falling all around it as it made one last effort to destroy its prey. I got up and ran back into the sunlight just before a deafening boom was heard, along with a wailing cry. I turned back around to see the entrance caved in, but one of the rocks didn't fit in with the others.
The scaly head of the dragon was gnashing its jaws slower and slower until it finally stopped moving. I cautiously approached the head and after a moment of inspection planted my foot on top of it.
'Ah ha ha ha!' I laughed. 'Even dragons are no match for me! I am the greatest hunter these lands-'
'It's not dead yet.'
I was thrown off-balance by the dragon's final death throe and fell over. It blasted one last flame out into the sky before it was extinguished forever.
I got up once again and watched the small white fox, Crevan, approach me.
'Thanks for the help.' I said sarcastically.
His furry white coat was glistening in the sunlight. Not a single speck of dirt had landed on him. I on the other hand.
'Argh! I'm going to have to buy all new, everything!' I said looking over my ruined equipment.
A new sword, new rations, new clothes. Everything. Good thing the bounty on dragons was so high!
'Well let's take some proof of death and get back to town.' I said, my mouth watering at the thought of all that money.
'And that's how I became known as Kain the Dragon Slayer!' I shouted to the cheering mob.
I raised my mug as did the rest of the bar. We shouted a cheer and drank heartily. Such a bitter taste, but it was oh so good for the soul.
'Didn't want to tell them what really happened did you?' my handsome friend in the furry white coat commented.
'I merely exaggerated a little bit. I was still responsible for its death. The ending's still the same.' I muttered with a smile.
'Hey! How did you know it was weak in the chest area?' someone from across the room asked me.
'Weren't you scared?' asked another.
'Did you really fight it alone?' chimed in a third.
'I'm sorry folks, but question time is over. Now let's drink up! Next round's on me!' I cheered.
You tell everyone that you pulled off something amazing and they won't stop hounding you with questions! Who'd have thought?
'Crevan, let's get out of here.' I turned to the man next to me.
'Fine.' he said displeased. He was probably unhappy about the lies in my tale, or the fact that he got no mention in it.
After paying my tab, we stepped out of the bar and into the warm night air. I took a deep breath and looked up at the starry sky. It had been a couple of months since I performed my heroic deed and my legend looked like it was going to last for quite some time to come.
To be honest, I loved the attention I was getting right now. It must have been showing on my face because Crevan was looking at me with concern.
'You should be careful of the lies you tell. They'll come back to bite you one day, most likely literally.' he said. 'Who do you think they'd call when an actual dragon shows up?'
'Oh please, the odds on that coming are true are worse than the planet being cracked in two.'
'Look, would you relax. Just enjoy the here and now.' I said putting my arm around his shoulder.
His face continued to show displeasure so I gave up on trying to cheer him up. Some people just don't know how to live.
We walked a little way down the street, past all the middle-class establishments and down into the slums. We didn't exactly need to penny-pinch right now but most beds are the same no matter how much you pay for them. Besides the more money we save now the more I get to spend on booze and women later.
We arrived in front of our dilapidated inn in no time at all. I was just about ready to head on in when a voice called out from behind me.
'Are you Kain the Dragon Slayer?'
I turned around to see an elderly looking man standing there. All his clothes had gold trimming and he was wearing all kinds of expensive jewellery. Must be someone of the noble class. This could be an opportunity to earn some more money.
'Yes I am!' I boasted. Crevan sighed next to me.
'Ah good, I've finally found you.' he said with a breath of relief. 'I was wondering if you could do a job for me. They say that Dragon Slayers are the toughest fighters in the wilderness. And I need someone strong for this.'
'Well you've come to the right place.'
'Good! It's my granddaughter. She was kidnapped and taken to the Grey Mountains. She's the only family I have left. So I really need someone strong to find her and bring her back.'
A quest to save a damsel in distress? Is this a dream come true?
'How was she taken?' I asked.
'There was only one man and he somehow managed to slip past all the guards on duty and leave without anyone noticing. We still have no idea how he did it. Please you have to get her back. I'll pay you any amount you desire.'
I stand corrected, this is a dream come true.
'Fear not old man! I will bring her back! I swear it on my good name!'
Crevan sighed again.
'Thank you! Oh, thank you!' the man cried. 'Just one thing, she can be a bit of a handful, but I'm sure it won't be a problem.'
'Don't you worry, I'll make sure she comes back safe and sound.'
'Thank you so much! Here, this is a map to the Grey Mountains where you'll find my dear Annette. We've done all the busy work so all you have to do is go get her.' he said with a tearful smile.
The hard work's already done? I could really get used to this kind of work.
After the old man left I turned to Crevan with a wide smile.
'So should we quite the dragon slaying business and start rescuing kidnapped women?'
'At least you won't be able to lie as much.'
'Whatever. Who was that geezer anyway?' I asked.
'He's King Bradley from a couple of cities over. The city is well known for being very expensive to live in.'
As expected of the all-knowing and wise fox. But wait, if he's a king does that mean-
'She's a princess?'
'That is correct. Princess Annette, heir to the throne. Her parents passed away when she was still young. Apparently she has shown remarkable aptitude as a ruler.'
'Jackpot!' I hummed. This job just got a whole lot better.
'This sun is killing me!' I whined looking up at the flaring orange ball in the sky.
'Well you should have hired a carriage like I suggested.'
'How can you stand this heat? You're like, sixty percent fur.'
Crevan only remained in his human form when he was in populated areas. That way, he explained to me once, he wouldn't be hunted down as a stray. This kind of annoyed me though, all the women would be drawn to him and ignore me! How was I supposed to compete with the dashing looks of some faux deity?
'It's not that bad. Stop your complaining.' he said with his usual disinterest. 'Look, see those mountains over there? That's where the manor is located. According to King Bradley's sources, that's where we'll find them.'
I followed his outstretched paw and saw the jagged rows reaching into the sky. Swirling angry clouds shrouded everything underneath in a dark shade. It looked like none of those mountains had ever known the sun's glow.
A flash of lightning streaked across the dark background followed by a thundering boom. This was happening continuously as we approached.
'Are you sure it's safe to go there?' I asked a little nervously.
'How come you didn't ask that question before entering the cave with the dragon?'
'Come on, there's no way that's safe. You'd probably have better chances of survival jumping into the maw of one of those giant sand worms than walking through that!'
'The ground around it seems unscathed so I would say it is perfectly safe. Besides whoever kidnapped the princess managed to get through it, with the added baggage of a hostage.'
'Yeah but this guy's some kind of supernatural freak! How the hell did they manage to sneak her out anyway?'
'Whoever it is, is probably an illusionist.' Crevan said. 'That would explain how they got through unseen. And if they had to do it that way then it probably means they don't have the skills for a straight up fight, let alone being able to control the weather.'
'Awesome, this should be easy then.'
'That being said though, they're obviously very talented with whatever technique was used. You should still be careful.'
After that warning we walked a little way in silence. By now the sun was setting so we made camp.
I looked over to the mountains once more. We would probably reach the manor by midday tomorrow.
My thoughts quickly became occupied by what kind of woman the princess was as I closed my eyes. Various images of cute girls in fancy clothes floated through my mind. I seriously couldn't wait!
I awoke to a gentle poking on my side.
'My lady, I'm still a little tired but if you insist.' I said, opening my eyes. 'Hey!'
The tiny creature at my side, roughly the size of my head, jumped back in a startled fit. I looked around and saw several more of them standing around watching me.
'Freaking ghouls! I'm not dead yet!' I yelled kicking the closest one away. It got up and scampered away with the rest of them like mice. They were harmless creatures who only feasted on the dead, but they were still annoying.
Crevan woke up during my outburst and yawned as wide as his little jaws could.
'So? Shall we discuss a plan of attack?' he asked sleepily.
'No need!' I boasted. 'I've already thought of one.'
After a moment of silence he opened his mouth again.
'Are you going to tell me?'
'Sure! I'm going to go in, take them out and rescue the beautiful princess.'
'That's, not really a plan.' he sighed.
'Sure it is! And a great one at that!'
Crevan resigned himself to silence and wore a troubled look. Well, whatever. I thought it was a good plan.
I grabbed our bags and we set off again. The sky was as blue as a crystal clear lake. This meant however, that there was nothing to block merciless rays of the sun. I've never been adept at handling heat. But that's some useless information that helps no one. Just let me whine, okay?
We walked along for a couple of hours and finally reached the outer ring of dark clouds. Looking further in, surrounded by several cliffs, we could see the manor. Dark clouds circled above but held no threat of raining. A bit of a strange place to take up residence but I suppose when you're a fugitive on the run, holding a princess hostage, it's any port in a storm.
We made our way across the open ground and came to the entrance of the manor without incident, just like Crevan predicted.
'So how's this plan of yours going to play out?' Crevan asked.
'Like this.' I said walking up to the front door.
I knocked on the door and called out for whoever was inside.
Nothing happened for a couple of minutes. I looked down at Crevan. He looked exhausted. The trek here must have really taken it out of him. Couldn't think of any other reason he'd feel like that.
'Just being near you is tiring.' he muttered.
Just then the door creaked open slowly and a tired voice flowed from inside.
'Yes?' breathed a haggard looking man from behind the door.
'Stand fast fiend! I have come to reclaim the woman!'
'You have?' he asked, his eyes lighting up. 'Come in! Come in!'
He opened the door and ushered us inside. I cautiously entered in after him, not letting my guard down for a second. The manor seemed deserted, apart from his presence.
The man quickly disappeared down the hallway and through another set of large doors. We followed him in to what appeared to be the dining hall. It was a large room with a huge table in the middle and many chairs scattered about. A few candles were lit along the table which allowed for a small amount of illumination.
There were many paintings of people I knew nothing about hanging on the walls and various wilted plants lying around. From what I could tell this was once a well decorated place. Now it was nothing more than a cobweb covered dwelling.
A fireplace at the end of the room was crackling and a few metres from it sat the object of my pay day.
I walked over to her and knelt by her side.
'My lady I have come to take you home.' I said softly with a smile.
'Really?' she asked, her eyes brimming with hope and tears.
I stretched out my hand and helped her to her feet. On closer inspection she was a real beauty. You could only find someone like her among the refined population. She had silky black hair that flowed down her back that seemed to enhance her pure white skin. Her clothes were incredibly clean, which was strange since she had been missing for a couple of days. However the sight of her stunning face blew away any mystery and wonder with a single smile. It was like dirt wouldn't even dare to touch such beauty. If I wasn't careful I might actually fall for her.
I looked around for the strange man but he had disappeared.
'Crevan? Where'd that geezer go?'
'What am I? His nanny?'
I clicked my tongue at him and guided the princess out of the room.
'Thank you! Thank you so much for rescuing me!' she said. 'My name's Annette. I would very much like to know the names of my saviours.'
'I'm Kain, and this delightful guy here is Crevan.'
'Pleased to meet you.' she said with a slight bow.
We reached the entrance and left without any interruption.
'You're kidding me right?' I asked dumbfounded.
'You heard me didn't you? Or are those holes in the side of your head just for show?'
'Look there's no carriage, alright.'
'Then what? We have to walk?' she asked dumbfounded.
'You got it.'
'Nope. Can't do it. Carry me.' she demanded.
'Do you even know how far it is to your city?' I asked.
'No clue. But judging by the way you said that, I can guess it's far. Which is why I can't walk all that way.'
This woman had just shattered all my preconceptions about her with only a few words. What I thought was a kind, gentle woman had turned into this pouting brat.
'I told you we should have hired a carriage.' Crevan chimed in.
'Yo-you can talk?' she shrieked.
'So can you!' Crevan said mimicking her surprised expression. 'But it's strange you're only noticing it now.'
'I just thought he was a freak that talked to himself!' she said pointing at me. 'But you're a fox! Foxes can't talk!'
'Hmm, I suppose that's true. Then perhaps this is better.'
A puff of smoke covered Crevan and rose to the height of an average man. As the smoke started to dissipate, a beautiful pale face with red eyes and lips poked out. His white hair fell down to his jaw and skewed messily across his face. He looked at Annette and his face twisted into a silent moan.
'Am I good enough for you yet, kitten?' he moaned, bringing a finger to his lips.
Annette fell silent immediately. The colour of her face changed to a deep red and her eyes were fixated on the face showing pure ecstasy. Damn fox, even made my heart skip a beat.
The smoke silently fell to his exposed chest before I realised he had transformed without his clothes.
'Alright that's enough Crevan.' I said. 'You can turn back now.'
'Oh, but things were just starting to get good.' he moaned before vanishing in another cloud of smoke.
The little fox pranced out looking quite pleased with himself. Annette looked like she was about to faint with bliss. And just like that, another beautiful woman had been stolen right out from under me by this sly fox.
'Are you able to walk now?' Crevan asked.
'Yes, anything you say Crevan.' she replied in a daze.
'There. Now let's get going.' he said impatiently.
We set off with Annette drifting about behind us, her head in the clouds. She didn't utter another word of complaint. Instead she had this stupid expression of love stuck on her face as she dreamily gazed off into the distance.
After a while we stopped to have a rest.
'To get to the city we'll probably need to cut through the forest. It'll save our journey about two days.' Crevan told us when we took out the map.
'Yeah but, that forest is a little spooky isn't it?' I asked cautiously. 'I mean aren't there supposed to be trolls wandering around in them?'
'Yeah but they only come out at night. You know, the whole sun thing. And we should be out of there before the sun sets anyway.'
'What about those hideously huge man-eating plants! And those swarms of giant bats! And let's not forget about those disgusting swamp creatures!'
'Those plants only defend themselves, the bats are not carnivorous and there isn't even a swamp in there.' he said, swatting down my every attempt at resistance.
'Well, what about-'
'How dare you doubt my Crevan!' Annette exploded. 'If he says there's nothing to be worried about, then there's nothing to be worried about!'
'But he never-' I shut my mouth due to the intensity of her scowl.
They were probably right. Nothing to worry about.
'There is one thing, but it shouldn't be a problem.' Crevan said disinterestedly. 'Apparently some kind of brutal monster stalks any intruders and devours all who enter it.'
'How is that not a problem!' I screamed.
'Because it was just a joke.' he said in the same disinterested tone.
Annette burst into laughter. How was that even remotely funny?
'You need to work on that delivery Crevan.' I said miserably.
'Well I thought it was funny dear.' Annette commented.
Dear? When did those two become so close?
'Ah whatever, let's just get moving again.'
Without any further complaints we marched off again. Several hours passed by before we arrived at our current destination on the outskirts of the forest. The forest had been a lot closer than I expected and only took the rest of the day to arrive at. Far on the other side of it was the city where Annette was to be returned too. By now the sun was setting and I'll be damned if I was going in there at night.
'So, where are the beds?' Annette asked.
'Like I said, we'll be sleeping outdoors.'
'Yes I know you said you and my dearest would be sleeping outside. So where's my bed?'
'I meant all of us.'
The transformation was instant, like a light being switched off. The calm attitude became one of furious indignation.
'What do you mean 'all of us'? You can't expect me to sleep in these harsh conditions!'
I looked up at the clear sky wondering where these harsh conditions were. It wasn't even cold! In fact these were optimal sleeping conditions.
'My love, please say something about this.' she said turning to Crevan.
It was no use. The fox was sleeping as peacefully as ever.
I pulled out a blanket and pillow and handed them over to the distraught princess.
'Here, this is the best I can do.' I said with a smile.
'The best you can do? How useless are you?'
I used the rest of her angry tirade as a lullaby and slowly drifted off into the land of dreams, where hopefully the princesses had better mannerisms.
I awoke suddenly at the sound of a startled scream. Crevan was standing stock-still looking past me. He stiffened up and keeled over backwards, rolling back and forth in a petrified state.
'Hey what's the matter with you?' I looked over to where he had been looking and stifled a scream.
Something was rising from the ground several metres away. A black mass of writhing tendrils swayed in the light breeze, with a pair of white legs jutting out from one end. Whatever this thing was it appeared to be eating a human body. The princess! I gasped.
'Unhand her monster!' I yelled, my sword at the ready.
It shifted slightly and I could see a pair of terrible, terrible eyes staring back at me.
'Who are you calling 'monster'?' the thing said in a feminine voice.
The black mass rose into the air, appearing to stand on the legs it was devouring. Two arms formed and parted the tendrils down the middle. What poked out was beyond anything my nightmares could conjure up. Cracked pink lips, dirt smeared over snow white skin and round bloodshot eyes with dark rings under them.
The scream I had stifled before escaped my lips in the form of a high pitched squeal.
'Would you knock it off already?' Annette said. 'It's not that bad.'
I bent over Crevan and shook his lifeless body.
'Get it together Crevan! Head away from the light!'
The life snapped back into his eyes. I hugged him tightly, telling him I was glad he came back, but his fluffy head reached over my shoulder and after catching another glimpse at the terrifying being behind us, fell back into unconsciousness.
I looked at the monster again.
'How is that even possible? Are you some kind of demon that can transform?'
'Such rudeness! I told you I didn't want to sleep outdoors! But you wouldn't take no for an answer!'
'But, back at the manor! You'd been kidnapped for days but you still looked in good condition!'
'Yes, but that was because that guy took proper care of me.'
I have a feeling that he didn't have a choice in the matter. I'm starting to realise why he let us take her without incident. That poor guy, and he was alone with her as well. The trauma he must have suffered. My heart goes out to you, mysterious stranger.
'So is there any way you can walk around not looking like that?' I asked with hope.
'Fine, turn around.'
I did as I was told and before long I got the OK to turn back around.
Sitting before me was the epitome of what a princess should be. Her eyes no longer bloodshot, hair tied up in a way to hide its wildness and her lips and skin smooth and clean.
'Wow.' I breathed in wonder. 'That's amazing! Hey Crevan, look at this!'
He opened his eyes slightly and breathed a sigh of relief.
Jumping to his feet he said, 'Good, let's go. We don't have a whole lot of time to make it through the forest.'
Half the day flew by and we came to a small clearing to take a rest. I was on edge the whole time, just waiting for something to come at us from within the depths of the forest. So far nothing but the sounds of various birds flying about overhead.
There was a sudden rustling in the bushes near us and I immediately jumped to my feet with my sword out in the air.
This is it! I thought. Death has finally come for us!
A little grey creature with long ears and black eyes jumped out and started hissing at us. It only came up to about waist height so it wasn't all that threatening. But these guys are like cockroaches. They usually travel in swarms, so where there's one there's usually a bunch.
'What are these ugly creatures?' Annette asked with pure disgust.
'Don't call them that, they can't help the way they look.'
'Sorry for hurting the feelings of your brethren'
'These little guys are called imps.' I explained, ignoring her hurtful jab. 'They're not particularly dangerous but if you leave them unchecked they can become quite a nuisance.'
It slashed the air in front of us with its small claws and continued its hissing. I walked up to it to shoo it away when it suddenly disappeared back in the bushes.
'See?' I said turning back around. 'Hey!'
Another little imp was rummaging through my bag. It looked up at the sound of my voice, picked up my bag and took off at a blinding speed. These little buggers were stronger than they looked.
'Watch the rest of our stuff! I'm going to get my bag back!' I told the others before taking off.
I followed the imp for about ten minutes before I completely lost track of it. If I was already feeling down about losing my bag, then I hit a new low when I returned to the others.
'What the hell happened?' I asked them. 'I thought I told you to watch our stuff?'
'You did. I was watching.' Annette said. 'There were about five of them that came out of the bushes after you left. They walked over here, picked up everything and walked off back into the bushes.'
'And you didn't try to stop them?'
'No way! Didn't you see how gross they were?'
'What about you Crevan? You didn't try to stop them?'
'You think I could do anything looking like this?' he asked striking a cute pose.
'Then turn into a human!' I yelled.
'Nah, that's too much of a hassle.' he said lazily.
'What about your bag?' Annette asked.
'I lost it.'
'Completely useless.' she muttered.
Just before my temper reached a level beyond enraged I took a couple of slow, deep breaths and calmed myself down.
'We're going to need some food soon.' Crevan stated. 'And once we get out of the forest it's still another three days before we get to the city.'
'Great.' I muttered. 'Well, we better get moving then. We'll have to find food on the go.'
'Find food, as in hunting?'
'Yes Annette, as in hunting. Would you like to voice your complaints before we continue on?'
Just before she could open her mouth again, something else jumped out from the bushes.
'Give us all your belongings and we'll let you live!' shouted one of the four men ambushing us.
'I hate to break it to you, but you're about twenty minutes too late to rob us.' I said dispassionately.
'Yep, we've got nothing.'
'Boss what do we do?' one of them asked.
'Well I suppose people sell just as well on the black markets.' the leader said after a moment in thought. 'Rough 'em up a little so they don't give us too much trouble.'
The men surrounding us slowly drew closer. I whipped out my sword just waiting for them to make the first move. Then a shy voice started talking from behind me.
'You don't want to hurt little old me do you?' she asked bashfully with the most bewitching smile I'd ever seen. Wait, was she flirting with them?
Annette looked up from her sitting position and tilted her head slightly. She smiled at each one of the men, their will to do harm crumpled almost instantly. Their eyes glazed over in a state of adoration before they completely lost their focus and regressed into a drooling zombified state.
'Oh? So you can use hypnotism can you?' Crevan asked.
'Are you impressed my love?' she replied with a smile. 'It's weak, but it's enough to move the hearts of fools.'
'That explains why you're apparently such a good leader.' I mumbled.
'Excuse me? I would never use hypnotism on my loyal subjects.' she said angrily. 'They're not fools, unlike some people I know.'
Even though I knew she was intentionally trying to hurt my feelings, it still didn't make it any less painful.
'So boys, you wouldn't happen to have any food you'd be willing to share with me would you?' she asked turning back to the ambushers.
'Of course we do!'
'Yeah! We just happened to catch something not that long ago!'
'Yeah! If you come back to our camp we'll give you some!'
They blurted out almost at the same time.
'Really? You're all so kind!' she said with a flirtatious laugh. 'I wish I could meet some strong and handsome men like yourselves.'
As she said that I felt a stabbing glare in my direction. Hey! I'm strong and pretty good looking too if I do say so myself!
And so we gave up on the thought of hunting for ourselves and joined in on the feast our new friends offered us. After we'd had our fill we were escorted to the edge of the forest by the smiling idiots, with new bags full of meat. And it was all thanks to the princess' sacred smile.
'Men are nothing more than idiots.' she scoffed, looking up at the stars. 'They're far too easy to manipulate.'
'Well that might be true for those types of guys but the rest of us are a lot harder to manipulate.' I said.
'Oh really? Tell you what, I'll give you half more what my grandfather's paying you if you do a little dance right now.'
'You're on!' I said jumping to my feet.
I sat down after my jig with a big smile. Easy money.
'Idiots, just like you said.' Crevan agreed.
'Hey, I've got no problem selling my pride for a bit of cash.'
'You do realise she has no money on her.'
'Well obviously, but you are going to pay me right?'
'I said I would, so I will.' she said satisfied. 'You know, you have some nice moves. I enjoy a good laugh every once in a while. Thanks!'
While her words sounded like a compliment, for some reason I felt like I was just insulted.
'Whatever. Let's catch up on some sleep. We've got a good three days of travelling ahead of us.' I said to the shocked Annette.
Once more she began to insist that she couldn't walk that far, and once more I used her complaints to lull me to sleep.
The next three days passed as slowly as possible. All we did was walk in a single direction along the luscious green grass, accompanied by the clear blue sky and a tiring verbal onslaught, the topic of which was about the incompetence of my abilities. After surviving the verbal lashings of this yet to be thankful princess, we finally reached the city she called home.
King Bradley welcomed us with open arms, literally. Much to my discomfort at being hugged so passionately by another man (I demanded to know where the Queen was), it was slightly heart-warming to see the reunion of this family.
They both cried as they embraced. Such a nice scene. I didn't want to ruin it but my coin purse was feeling a little thin.
'So, King Bradley. Now that the princess is safely back home, we really have to get going.' I said rubbing my hands together.
'Ah yes! Your payment.' he said with eyes brimming with happiness. 'Now if you'll follow me-'
'Sire!' a soldier shouted running up to us. 'Something terrible is headed this way!'
'Just how unlucky are you?' Crevan asked nonchalantly.
'What do you mean?' I asked turning to him.
This guy pisses me off, just standing there with a woman on both arms, another with her arms around his neck and many more watching him with love in their eyes from behind, and here he was acting like it was no big deal. Apparently I wasn't the only one who felt this way as a couple of men were looking on with a mix of awe and contempt.
'Looks like you'll get to show off your skills again.' he said as calmly as ever.
As I was wondering what he was going on about, King Bradley's voice pierced the air.
'Spit it out soldier! What's going on?'
'It's a, a-'
Just as he was about to say the final word a giant shadow skimmed the ground as an object in the sky crossed the sun. Light was temporarily blocked at as a giant beast flapped its mighty wings. It let loose an angry screech before the side of a tall building was melted in a blast of fire.
'Oh boy.' I said in dismay.
'Oh my, have the chickens come home to roost?' Crevan asked, looking at me with intrigue. 'Do you know the odds of coming across two dragons in one lifetime? So low, that people have doubted it's ever happened before.'
'Shut it. Now un-shut it and tell me how to kill it.'
'Well, you need the blood of a dragon to kill a dragon. Failing that, you could drop a mountain on it like last time.'
'Any more useless pieces of advice?'
'You could always use a dragon's claw or tooth to penetrate its skin. But no, I suppose you don't have its tooth anymore. Then of course you could try drowning it or-'
'Fine, fine. How about something useful?' I asked getting annoyed.
He stopped talking for a moment and retreated in deep thought.
'Hmm. I suppose the only things left are to go for the places that aren't armoured, like its eyes or the inside of its mouth.'
'That's it? Really?'
'Hey, I never said it was going to be easy.' he said lazily.
The crowd around us started to flee in all directions in a panic. The dragon circled about a couple of times before diving down and flooding a distant section of the city in flames.
'King Bradley, take everyone and evacuate!' I told him. 'I'll try to do something about this.'
'Good! We'll get to see a famous dragon slayer in action!' he said excitedly. 'Alright everyone follow me!'
Just as he started moving everyone in an organised group, the dragon turned in our direction and darted forward, opening its mouth wide. A torrent of fire streamed out in front of us and all hope seemed lost. However, an intricate diagram made of light, complete with symbols and letters, appeared in front of us. The fire halted and expanded in all directions as though it had run into an impenetrable wall.
I looked behind me and saw Crevan with one hand up to his forehead appearing to shade his eyes from the sunlight and the other pointing at the light diagram. The women around him were all swooning and crying out, love-struck at the sight of his cool composure. I'll have to thank him sometime, once I'd forgotten that he'd stolen my thunder.
He brought his hands together, still pointing at the diagram, and extended each one of his fingers. The symbols and shapes inside the diagram shifted around slightly and ten bright bolts of light shot out, spearing through the dragon's wings. It tumbled out of the sky, demolishing several houses as it rolled to a halt. It reared its head and produced an angry cry resulting in several more houses being engulfed in flames.
'There, it shouldn't be able to fly anymore so I leave the rest to you.' Crevan said while being dragged away by his entourage of love-struck maidens.
I wouldn't have it any other way. Except maybe that I was the one surrounded by the maidens.
People were fleeing all around as I slowly made my approach to the writhing beast. It jumped into the air trying to take off again but failed and crashed back to the ground. The earth shook violently at the massive impact, causing me to stumble about.
'Heh.' I chuckled. 'Let's rumble!'
I sat on the ground panting as I looked out over the devastation the dragon had caused. That was quite a tough one, but I finally managed to come out on top.
After I had been painfully thrown through the window of a still standing house, I thought I was a real goner. But when the dragon's head smashed in after me I took the opportunity to blind it with my sword. It had gone on a rampage as a result, destroying every house in its vicinity before it clumsily tripped over some rubble and fell over, flailing about. From there it was a simple matter of driving my sword through its mouth and up into its skull. It took a couple of minutes before its wounds finally caught up with it and it finally fell down to lie still forever.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Nobody's going to know that the dragon had accidentally swallowed my sword and died choking on it.
The damage the dragon had caused was quite extensive, but that wasn't really my problem now. I'll leave the reclamation of the city to the proper officials. And this, much to my surprise, was the same attitude the laid-back King had adopted.
'Thank you for saving the city Kain the Dragon Slayer.' he said, standing next to me. 'I don't know what we would have done if you weren't here.'
'No problem.' I really liked the sound of that title attached to my name. 'So about our earlier conversation.' I suggested.
'Well, you see, there's a bit of a problem. While we were all living it up as upper-class as we could, the city was a bit too expensive for others to come and visit. So we were actually making no revenue.' King Bradley said. His tone suggested an ominous sign was riding the winds to our very location.
'So what are you trying to tell me?'
'Well, while we have the necessary funds to repair the damage to the city, we don't have enough to pay you the promised amount.'
'So how much are we talking exactly?' I asked, the colour draining from my face.
'Probably about a tenth of what we agreed on.' he said with a small laugh. 'Well look at it this way, you can probably make up the rest from the bounty on that dragon.'
While that was true I was still out a sizeable chunk. Not to mention all that trauma I suffered from travelling with that so called princess. I nearly fainted at the terrible news.
I turned to my foxy companion and said nothing in the face of his wry smile. I already knew what he was thinking, how it was all some kind of karmic retribution.
Well whatever, I thought.
After a moment of silence, and realising they really weren't going to pay me, we made our way to the edge of the city. I finally opened my mouth again after thinking for a while.
'Okay Crevan, let's go.' I said with newly found resolve. 'So what line of job should we pursue? Dragon hunting or princess rescuing?'
I contemplated with him as we left the crumbling city in our wake.
'My love! You aren't going to leave without me are you?' called out a voice behind us.
We turned around to see a young princess surrounded by luggage bags.
'Shouldn't you stay here and help rebuild your city?' I protested, only for my voice to fall upon deaf ears.
'Wherever my dear Crevan goes, I shall follow.' she said, her eyes brimming with love as she stared at the object of her desire.
I could feel a stomach ulcer forming at the thought of travelling together.
'King Bradley! Don't you think it's a bit dangerous to have your princess travelling the wilderness?' I tried.
'Hoh hoh hoh.' he laughed heartily. 'There's no stopping her once she's set her mind on something.'
Defeat. The only thing I felt was defeat.
'Then it's settled!' Annette exclaimed.
Crevan hadn't uttered a word the entire time, most likely he was enjoying my torment. He probably didn't care one way or the other.
'Fine,' I muttered, 'but you'd better keep up. Oh and ditch those bags, there's no way you can carry them all.'
'That's what I have you for, servant!' she said, following us as we marched into the path of the setting sun.