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Belle and the dragon, p.3
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       Belle and the Dragon, p.3

           Tony Myers
 
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Michael came off the hill and walked toward the front of the cave. Forced by habit, he found himself checking the daggers on his belt. He made sure they were all in their proper place and ready to be used if need be. He carried his sword on his back. As opposed to a typical knight’s sword, he preferred a shorter one. His current one was about a foot and a half in length. It was light-weight and could easily be pulled in the midst of combat.

  He found his knights at the mouth of the cave looking into the entrance. Many of them already had their swords drawn. A couple of them looked worried. Seeing Michael approach, Gideon took a few steps toward him with news. “Sir, we believe the creature is awake,” Gideon said quietly.

  “Oh, what makes you say that?”

  “We can hear his faint growls. He sounds to be about fifty to seven-five yards in.” Gideon had always been blessed with a keen sense of hearing. It had proven to be a great asset in battle.

  “Well, I guess there is not a moment to lose,” Michael said, placing his helmet on his head and drawing his sword. “Follow me, men.” With both hands on his sword, Michael proceeded to enter the cave. The knights did the same and followed behind their captain.

  The knights were as quiet as they could be as they entered. They had all gone through immense training and knew how to sneak up on an enemy. Every drop of water and every slight kick of a rock seemed to be exaggerated in their minds. With every step, Michael went further into the darkness of the cave and closer to the growling of the creature. Sweat beads formed on his forehead. He was waiting for the right moment to charge the creature. One of his men had the assignment to light the torch just as he sprang into battle.

  Michael’s mind quickly flashed back to the time of his youth. He remembered as a boy hearing about the dragon coming to their borders. He remembered the fear in the eyes of townspeople. He remembered the desire to one day slay this dragon and bring peace to the realm. The feelings from his youth came back. He was truly ready to put an end to this dragon… to put an end to fear.

  Michael quickly looked back at his men, making sure they were still in step with him. He could see them clearly against the light coming from the opening of the cave. Turning toward the back of the cave, he could see nothing, only hear the growling.

  The growling became louder with every step. It sounded irregular—in fact, it sounded as if the creature might be hurt. As he stepped closer and closer, he noticed that the growling was a lot less robust than what he had anticipated. In fact, he wouldn’t characterize this as growling at all, more like moaning. Something wasn’t right, he could sense it… he could almost feel it.

  Michael stood for a moment and listened to the growling. It was constant. He studied it carefully. It sounded somewhat familiar. It was a sound he had heard before. He tried to remember where and when. He knew it hadn’t been that long ago. Michael closed his eyes to think, to try to remember. Searching his mind, he knew it was from one of his journeys a few years ago. He was traveling abroad on a mission. It was at a time when… he remembered what it was.

  Standing at ease, he looked back at his men. “Bernard, light the torch,” he said, not bothering to be quiet.

  There were a few seconds of silence before Bernard responded timidly. “But Sir, this was not in our plans. I don’t think…”

  “Bernard, just do it,” Michael said unafraid. The torch was quickly lit, piercing the darkness. The men gazed with fear to see a creature by the back of the cave. Two small piles of gold lay around him. The creature was obviously in pain and not at all what they were expecting.

  They will never forget the sight they saw. There was no dragon. A lion had been caught and placed at the back of the cave in the midst of the dragon’s gold. He was stuck in a large pile of rocks that covered his back hind legs. He was unable to move. His front legs and face were covered in scratches and blood. The lion longed to be released.

  Confusion clouded the face of every man. Gideon was the first to speak, “Sir, what is going on? This is definitely unlike a dragon keeping his prey alive. Or is this the trick of some man?”

  “Oh, most assuredly this is the work of the dragon. No man could be in here long enough to catch a lion in the midst of the dragon’s gold.”

  Michael and Gideon both took off their helmets in frustration. They desperately wanted answers. Gideon spoke, “Well, why is there a lion caught in the back of his cave? What does all of this mean?”

  Michael looked back at Gideon. He wasn’t sure what to say. There was a mixture of fear and wonder in his eyes. He remembered something he had said to Belle earlier that morning, This dragon has shown quite a bit of intelligence and I don’t want to underestimate him in any way.

  After a few moments of contemplation, Michael broke the silence with an answer to Gideon’s question. “It means it’s a trap. We have to get out of here right now! Hurry!”

  Belle lay on the hill under a bush, wondering how long this dragon hunt would take. She wondered what it would be like to battle a dragon. The castle library had a book with various tales of dragon hunts through the last hundred years. She had read it many times. Some of the tales were extravagant, where full armies were needed to protect cities and keep the creatures at bay. Others were minor where a single brave warrior would institute some sort of plan of trickery, in order to slay the dragon and claim the gold for himself. She wondered if some of those stories were slightly exaggerated as there weren’t any eyewitnesses besides the actual dragon slayers.

  She heard thunder in the distance. She had hoped that the storms of the day had passed in the early morning. The ground was cold and gave her a slight chill. A butterfly came flying past her eyes and landed right in front of her. It was close, and she could see his pattern clearly. Its wings were a beautiful green and blue pattern. Streaks of black lines ran through the colors, reminding Belle of a church’s stained glass windows. She lay perfectly still as she didn’t want to disturb this beautiful sight. He was gently flapping his wings, exploring some of the wet leaves on the hill. Belle couldn’t help but smile, thankful she could see this simple wonderful sight.

  The butterfly suddenly flew away as the thunder grew louder. In fact, it was terribly loud and seemed to be steady. Turning her head slightly to the side and listening closely, she realized this wasn’t thunder at all. It was the sound of the air being pushed by the wings of a large flying creature… the wings of a dragon.

  Looking up high she could see him. He was a dull red color. And though one would still consider him a small dragon, he was slightly bigger than she had imagined. He looked angry as he flew over her head. His eyes looked intent with evil as he snarled. She could see his razor sharp teeth and the spikes running down his back. She was thankful that Michael had brought as many men as did.

  Flying close to Belle, he lowered himself near the front of the cave. Belle crawled from her hiding position and crept quietly to the edge of the small cliff in front of her. Peering over the edge, she could see the dragon was blocking the entryway to the cave. He let out a loud shrieking roar as his mouth opened wide. He was ready to kill.

  It was a trap, Belle thought to herself. This dragon had somehow manipulated the men into entering the cave, and now they were trapped inside with no way out except through the dragon. All he would have to do would be to fill the cave with a constant stream of fire until every man was killed. The plan was diabolically ingenious.

  Belle began to panic at the thought of the men inside. Fear gripped her.

  Michael ran toward the front of the cave just in time to see the dragon descend right on the opening. His men were right behind him. They were trapped with no way of escape. The dragon let out a loud roar. “Steady men!” Michael yelled, as he quickly tried to think of a plan.

  Before the knights could react, the dragon pivoted himself to his side and swiped the front of the cave with his tail, knocking the men against the side wall of the cave. Michael was the only one to escape from the tail’s swipe. He had quickly dropped his sword and
dived over the sweeping tail as it approached him. Dirt and mud covered his face.

  Quickly gathering himself, Michael wiped his face and checked his bearings. His men lay against the side of the cave moaning in pain. They had hit hard against the side wall. Turning to face the dragon, Michael could see the creature standing tall and his neck starting to glow. He knew the fire was coming soon. His men were defenseless and would be killed in an instant.

  He spotted a round shield lying right next to him. One of his men had dropped it when he was hit by the dragon. With great speed Michael picked it up and ran toward the dragon. “Dragon!” he yelled as he ran, looking to redirect the creature’s attention.

  The dragon turned to face Michael, and let out a steady stream of fire. Within twelve feet of the creature, Michael crouched low and held the shield in front of his body. He felt the impact of the fire against the shield. It was extremely hot, and the metal from the shield was heating up quickly. He knew eventually his arm would start to burn. He wondered how long he could hold it. Fire was also coming off the edges of the shield as it was deflected. The cave was also heating up rapidly, turning it into an oven. Michael wondered if this would be his end.

  Belle watched from the edge of the cliff as the dragon breathed fire into the cave. It was a horrible scene. She knew the men were in there suffering. She wondered what she could do. Trying to think of something, she frantically looked around the hill. A large rock caught her attention. Quickly picking it up with both hands, she lifted it high above her head and threw it down toward the dragon. She watched as the stone grazed the side of his body and fell to the ground. The creature was unfazed by it.

  Starting to panic more, she searched for something else to throw: a larger stone, a log… Something caught her eye. It was under the bush where she was lying. Running over to it, she picked it up and gripped it tightly. She had had a fair amount of training with the sword and it was time to put it to use. Running back to the edge of the cliff, she looked over to see the dragon still breathing fire into the cave. She knew this was her moment… and it was now or never.

  She gathered all the courage she could find, and with all her strength she jumped off the cliff, her sword pointed downward toward the dragon’s body.

  Just when Michael thought he could hold the shield no longer, the dragon stopped. He let out a loud shrieking groan. Michael quickly threw down the shield that was blazing hot. He grabbed his arm.

  Looking up, Michael saw a very curious sight. Belle was on the top of the dragon with her sword planted firmly in him. A dark green substance oozed from the dragon’s body. Shaking in pain, the creature threw Belle off of himself. She rolled off the side of him and onto the ground. She hit hard and cried out in pain.

  The dragon turned to face the princess lying on the ground. He was angry. He put his foot over her and pressed her gently against the ground. His neck started to glow. Belle’s eyes grew big as she knew the fire was coming soon. Her life flashed before her eyes. Curious thoughts filled her mind. She remembered portions of her dream.

  Michael, seeing what was transpiring, quickly reached onto his belt and grabbed one of his daggers. As fast as he could, he threw it with all his might toward the face of the dragon. The dagger soared through the air and implanted itself squarely in the right eye of the creature. It went in deep.

  The dragon groaned in pain as never before. He reared back and lifted his leg. Belle rolled free to safety. The dark green blood started to flow from the eye of the creature. He took a few steps backward and tried to grasp the dagger with his front legs. His efforts were in vain.

  A few of Michael’s men had gathered themselves and were now at his side. They now had the upper hand. Assessing his situation, he knew he had to get the dragon out of the entryway of the cave.

  “Shields up,” he said to the five men at his side. They quickly held up their shields and stood in battle stance. “Get ready, men… charge!” Michael yelled as the men ran toward the dragon with their shields held high covering their chest. As they got close to the dragon, each man lunged forward hitting the dragon with the force of their shield and bodies. The dragon fell back a few feet, catching himself on his left side. The front of the cave was now open.

  The dragon was now moving erratically and seemed to be in a lot of pain. He could not see clearly after being blinded in his right eye. He took a swipe toward the men with one of his legs and knocked them all toward the ground. The dragon continued to frantically groan in pain from the sword and dagger planted in him.

  Michael was angry. He was angry at this dragon for hurting his men. He was angry at this dragon for threatening Belle’s life. He was angry at this dragon for tricking them, luring them into the cave. And he was angry at this dragon for the fear he caused the people of Mendolon over the years. He had had enough.

  Slowly rising to his feet, he looked confidently at the dragon… he was unafraid. He was ready to put an end to this dragon. A few moments passed before Michael picked up one of the shields his men dropped and held it in his hand. Motivated by his anger, he threw the shield with all of his might. It soared through the air and struck hard against Belle’s sword implanted in the dragon’s side. The sword twisted, opening up the wound even more. A fresh stream of dragon blood flowed from his side. The dragon shuddered in pain as he screamed profusely.

  Michael’s men regrouped and gathered to his side as they watched the dragon. He scratched against the soil, searching for comfort from his pain. The shrieks grew more irritating to the men. Gideon was the first to speak, “Sir, what is your next move? Should we attack?”

  “No,” Michael said quietly. “Let him now feel the fear that he implanted in our people all these years.”

  The dragon had obviously given up. He was no longer worried about killing his intruders. He was in grave pain. His wings began to flap, and before anyone could realize what was happening, the dragon took off and flew into the distance. He was going north, far away from the kingdom. Michael stood watching the dragon until he could see him no more. He was thankful this dragon was gone.

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