The Dragonslayer Peter McLean
Krin looked sheepishly at the dead bear.
“Well,” Mika suggested, “I suppose we could always just, you know, say it was a dragon.”
She was sitting on a rock a little way off, under the shade of a forest oak, checking the fletchings of her arrows. She’d put three shafts into the poor bear before Krin even got close to it.
“It doesn’t look much like a dragon,” the swordsman said glumly.
“No,” his partner and sometime-girlfriend admitted, “I suppose it doesn’t. Mind you, have you ever actually seen a dragon?”
“Well, no, of course not,” Krin said. “Where would I have seen a dragon?”
“Do you know anyone who’s ever seen a dragon?” she asked.
Krin thought for a moment. “I don’t think so,” he said at last.
“Me neither,” said Mika, “and I know a lot of people. So what about if nobody’s ever actually seen a dragon? Then who’s to say that isn’t a dragon?”
“It isn’t a dragon,” Krin explained patiently, “cos it’s a bear.”
Mika sighed. “I know it’s a bear, Krin dear. I have seen a damn bear before.”
She slipped her arrows back into the quiver that hung over her shoulder and walked over to the big man. She slipped an arm around his broad, mailed waist.
“My point,” she started in again, “is that we could tell people we killed a dragon. Those villagers thought a dragon was living in these caves and eating their goats, and they wanted it killed. Well, the bear’s dead, isn’t it?”
Krin nudged the big furry body with his boot, just to make sure. “Yup.”
“There you are then,” she said.
“Sorry, where am I? I thought we were lying about dragons.”
“That’s the beauty of it,” she enthused. “It’s decidedly dead, so our story’s half true already. And we never said it was a dragon first, did we? Those villagers said that. We’d just be… not disagreeing with them.”
“But we haven’t got,” Krin said slowly, “a dead dragon.”
“Ah!” Mika exclaimed. “That’s the other beauty of it. We don’t need one, do we?”
“Nope,” she said with satisfaction. “The only other person I’ve ever heard of having killed a dragon is Sir Luther of Moyne. Sir Luther slew the dragon of the Black Mountains, the one that was killing all those sheep, remember? And Sir Luther said that when he killed that dragon, it just crumbled right away to ash, didn’t he? So he got knighted and became famous and everything, but he never had a dead dragon to show anyone either, did he? So, I’m wondering if his dragon might have been a bit sort of wolf-ish, just like ours is a bit, you know, bear-ish.”
“My levy served under Sir Luther at Branath Field,” Krin protested. “I know he wouldn’t lie. I mean, we might, we’re just a couple of brigands, but Sir Luther is a real hero!”
“Is he?” she asked. “Why’s that then?”
“He’s a hero cos he killed a drag…. oh.”
“Yup,” she said, and grinned. “What’s Sir Luther’s Heraldry again, I forget?”
“A wolf,” Krin muttered.
“Pardon? I didn’t quite catch that, my sweet.”
“All right, all right,” Krin snapped. “It’s a wolf, he’s a liar and I’m an idiot. Happy now?”
“You’re not an idiot, dear,” she said soothingly. “You’re a real hero too, just you wait and see.”
“So what do we do now?” Krin asked.
“Well, for starters, we’d better dig a nice big hole and get rid of that bear,” Mika said. “Then I suggest we ride back to the village and spread the good news that the dragon has been slain.”
As luck would have it, there was a traveling merchant in the village, breaking his journey to Moyne. Cornering him in the common room of the inn, Mika made sure he heard every word of their heroic battle against the dragon, while Krin was wallowing in adoration and free ale with the village men.
They set off again at noon the next day, Krin nursing a sore head and Mika whistling happily to herself.
“It shouldn’t take more than a few days for the tale to reach Lord Garlan at Moyne,” she observed. “We might as well start heading that way now.”
Sure enough, Lord Garlan’s messenger caught up with them three days later in a small town not far from Moyne itself.
“A real invitation to the castle,” Krin marveled once Mika had read it to him for the third time. “As guests! To be knighted!”
“Told you you’d be a hero,” she said, grinning. “You killed a dragon, after all.”
“About that,” Krin said. “I mean, Sir Luther is one of Lord Garlan’s household knights. What if he says something?”
Mika snorted. “What’s he going to say? He’s a fraud your lordship and oh by the way so am I? Somehow I don’t think so.”
“No, suppose not,” Krin shrugged.
So it was that, four days later, the newly knighted Sir Krin came face to face with Sir Luther in the great hall of Moyne castle on its high hill in the centre of the city of Moyne. The two dragonslayers regarded each other knowingly.
“And what will you take as your Heraldry, Sir Krin?” asked Sir Luther.
The Lady Mika, married in haste that very morning and newly ennobled herself, slipped an arm protectively around her new husband’s waist, and smiled.
“We thought a bear,” she said.
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