This is the second of the two stories that I wrote for Vision Forum’s story contest. I will post the other one next Saturday.
The great knight of the Order of the Hill, Sir Declan, ran through the woods. The dense underbrush kept on catching at his buskins and making his progress slower, but he maintained his swift pace. The sun percolated down through the close branches, making the shadows dance on the ground. His sword hung heavy by his side, and he was annoyed by how cumbersome it was, but he kept it on because he was a knight.
Something moved on the forest floor below him and snagged his fleeting ankle. His body whipped to the ground in a very fluid and painful motion, and his head bounced on the ground. Nasty. Heads of knights were supposed to strike and lay still on the ground, not bounce like a ball. Stupid head; very unbecoming for a knight.
A furious snort and a blast of hot breath struck his ear. Declan jumped to his feet, his heart leaping like a startled deer. A massive head, laced with sharp scales and ringed by open bars of teeth hovered over his frightened, ten year old face. Declan gave a very unknightly yelp and ran.
The colossal dragon crashed through the brush, driving a clear path and sending shards of wood flying by Declan’s ears. The path did not help Declan, though. A branch struck him on the nose and he felt the sticky blood begin to trickle down his face. He tripped and stumbled, careening onto a grassy plain and collapsing onto the soft ground. The dragon was not on top of him.
Declan looked up and saw his older brother, Ian, looking down at him bemusedly. He scrambled to his feet and brushed himself off, glancing back to the forest, where he could hear the beast rolling logs over and trampling limbs into the spongy woodland earth in his furious haste.
“What didst thou do?” Annie asked from behind Declan, looking into the dark forest with him and Ian.
“I tripped over him,” Declan grunted, gripping his sword in his small fist.
“Fie on thee for a knight, fleeing when naught but a dragon pursueth!” Ian stared down at Declan, mimicking their father’s regal carriage and kingly turn of speech. Declan stared malevolently at him, but Ian only turned up his nose in a profound squint and took on the voice of their Great Uncle Alister. “Tush, Tush, lad. Go forth and vanquish the beast for the dear maiden’s sake.”
Declan turned and faced the trees. The magnificent beast raged out of the undergrowth, the sun glistening in a blinding array of gilded crimson and glaring rainbows on its muscled, armored, and bladed shoulders and sides. Declan advanced slowly, his heart beating very fast, and wondering how much it would hurt to lose. He decided not to think about it.
“Fall foul Grendel!!” He shouted and ran at the dragon, heaving up his sword as he went.
The dragon faced him and swept out a mighty, taloned paw. It caught Declan’s chest and he suddenly discovered the joys of flying. These were more than counterbalanced by the subsequent sorrows of falling, however. And his head bounced again. Annoying. But he really didn’t notice, because his chest hurt so much, and because he was angry.
Declan growled and staggered to his feet. The dragon stood in front of him, watching him with massive, luminous eyes. Hot wrath boiled in Declan, and he rushed at the dragon, waving his sword furiously.
The great, serpentine tail lashed out, intertwining his legs and sending his face to once again make close acquaintance with the earth. He moaned and looked up at the glistening white underbelly of the dragon. He couldn’t hope to defeat the monster, and he was rather exasperated.
A voice spoke in his memory. It was his father, telling him his nightly bit of advice, “My son, let not thy anger control thee, but let thou control it.” He relaxed and stood up, eyeing the beast warily. He raised up his sword and aimed at the dragon. It backed up and eyed him. Declan took ten deep breaths.
He raised his blade and leaped at the dragon, bringing it down hard on its mighty head. But not too hard; he didn’t want to hurt him.
The dragon jerked back, as if surprised, and then fell to the ground and lay still. Declan ran over to him, worried. “Peci, art thou hurt?”
Peci snapped his tail and the tip struck Declan between the shoulder blades. He fell to the ground, grimacing. Apparently, Peci was perfectly sound. Of course.
“Good fight, young knight!” Ian was having fun pretending to be a king. “Come hither, and let me knight you.”
“I am already a knight, Ian,” Declan tried to explain, but Ian cut him off.
“I will knight you again. To… the Order of the Dragon!”
That sounded good, so Declan knelt to be knighted again by his older brother. But he was quickly upset from his profound pose by the dragon’s tail knocking him over for the second time.
“Stay dead, Peci!” Declan ordered the prone dragon. He went back to sleep.
“Be nice to Peci, he was gentle with you,” Annie told him.
Declan scrambled to his knees, ignoring her.
“I, King Ian of Ireland, do dub and knight thee, Sir Declan….”