D’ragoon the Black had a head as big as a cow, red tinged scales and a voice that rolled like thunder. His son George had bone thin arms, stumpy wings and dreamed of being a knight.
D’ragoon was horrified.
“It’s just a phase,” George’s mum assured D’ragoon.
He tried everything. Taught George how to crack open a breastplate to scoop out the delicious toasty bits inside. Showed him how lances made excellent and rather convenient skewers for making knight kebabs. Nothing seemed to work.
He was half way through a lesson on how to chew the juicy bits of marrow from the bones…
George danced around, sword-swishing with a stick. He swung and lunged, his face screwed into a determined scowl.
“G e o r g e!”
George skidded to a stop and hid the stick behind his back. He lowered his eyes and scuffed his claws through the litter of scattered boots, shredded clothes and dry broken bones. “Sorry, Dad.”
D’ragoon held out a massive clawed hand, his eye ridges hooding dangerously over his eyes.
With a weak grin, George held out the stick. His father snatched it away and snapped it like a tooth pick.
“May I continue?”
George nodded sheepishly.
As D’ragoon’s lecture rumbled on… “Just slip your tongue inside the broken end and Puff’s your uncle…”
George’s eye saw something glint mirror bright from under a pile of rubble. He edged slowly closer, sweeping his tail across the mess to get a better look. It was a shining round shield without any soot or scorch marks. It must have belonged to the fancy knight who strutted into Dragon Gorge last week. As soon as D’ragoon stepped out of the cave, the fancy knight had dropped all his weapons and ran like a tin rabbit. His father always complains that runners taste a little tough.
“George, are you paying attention.”
He plonked his bottom down on top of his shiny new treasure to hide it from his father. George’s eyes goggled wide.
“Now, that is much better.” D’ragoon smiled a marrow dripping smile and continued his lesson while George tried to ignore the pain from the unseen spike sticking out from the centre of the shield.
The chain mail shirt only had one long rip down the middle of the back. It was perfect for George’s bony spikes to poke through. He just needed a hole on either side, large enough for his wings. George pried the links carefully apart. When he was satisfied with his work, he wriggled into the armour and scampered down to the pond and posed to see his reflection. He loved the way the sunlight splitting the clouds glinted on the cold metal rings.
Thunder sounded in the distance.
George was shrugging out of the chain mail shirt to take it to his secret hiding spot when a different kind of thunder shattered Dragon Gorge. D’ragoon stormed out of the cave, smoke curling from his flaring nostrils.
“Enough is enough.” He bellowed.
George tripped on the tangle of metal rings and landed hard. A sharp stone jabbed him right where the shield’s spike got him earlier in the day. His yelp was high and pathetic.
“What would you grand parents think of this nonsense?” D’ragoon demanded. With one sweep of his taloned fingers, he shredded the shirt into tinkling strips. “They would be ashamed of you.” He roared his fury and a curl of flame slipped out of his fanged mouth, singing the small scales on George’s tender ears.
George squealed in pain and ran for the woods at the far end of the gorge. His father had never hurt him before. He just wanted to find somewhere to curl up and hide.
“Son,” D’ragoon called. “I didn’t mean to...”
The look of fear on his son’s face horrified the huge dragon.
Faces appeared in the mouth of the cave as a fierce wind whipped freezing rain down into the darkening gorge.
“Where is George?” George’s mother had a long slender neck, summer green scales and a dainty face.
Even though she was only half his size, her tone made D’ragoon cringe and look away toward the trees.
“You, go and find your son this instant.”
“Yes, dear,” D’ragoon said and stomped out into the growing storm.
D’ragoon searched all night through the moonless gloom and squalling rain. At dawn, he gave up and slunk back toward Dragon Gorge, wracked with guilt and worry, dreading what his wife would say.
At the entrance to the gorge, only a few hundred paces from the cave mouth, he heard a rustle and quiet snort. He moved some bushes aside and saw George asleep and dry under a cosy little overhang of stone.
“George,” he said quietly and shook his son awake.
George cringed but when he saw the look in his father’s eyes, he scampered out and threw his arms around his dad.
“I was so worried,” D’ragoon said. “I am sorry...” The enormous black and red dragon sneezed sending up a cloud of dirt and twigs. Two perfect smoke rings puffed out of his nose followed by half a dozen dull sparks and a fizzling sound.
D’ragoon lay curled miserably in the back of the cave, his face held over a column of sulphurous steam wafting from a crack in the stone. His head pounded like someone was using it for a kettle drum and between sneezing and coughing, his nose dripped like a leaky tap.
When he thought life could not get any worse, the clop of steel shod hooves and clank of metal armour sounded from out in the gorge. Of all the days for a knight to come challenging, this was the worst.
“Come out ye ugly brute,” the knight shouted.
The echoing voice made D’ragoon’s head ache even more. He pushed himself up off the floor and shambled toward the cave mouth.
“You can’t go out in that state,” his wife said.
“It’s my job,” D’ragoon replied. He took a deep breath and blasted out a stream of... sickly grey smoke. D’ragoon coughed and wheezed but continued to walk toward the waiting knight.
“Dad?” George said.
D’ragoon patted his son on the back. “I’ll be fine.”
George ran off down one of the smaller tunnels in the cave.
The knight sat tall on his glossy black stallion, his armour enamelled in red. “You’ve come out at last, you great puffed up lizard.”
D’ragoon’s angry roar came out as a toady croak.
The knight charged. The stallion’s hooves steady on the rough ground. His sword swung in a glittering arc, right towards D’ragoon’s neck.
The dragon ducked but the tip of the sword struck a spark off one of the scales on his head. A thin trickle of blood spilled over his eye ridge and stung his eye.
The knight whirled his horse about for a second charge.
D’ragoon tried to send a blast of fire toward his enemy but only managed to sneeze a glob of sticky goo instead. It splattered harmlessly on the knight’s shield.
The sword whistled down again and it was only tripping over his unsteady feet that saved D’ragoon.
“So much for the stories of the mighty D’ragoon, scourge of the kingdom.” The red knight laughed. “My old Nana could best you with her laundry paddle.” He touched his spurs to his stallion’s flanks and moved in at a slow and menacing pace.
D’ragoon flared his wings a backed clumsily away, trying to blink the blinding blood from his eye.
“You leave my Dad alone!” George stepped out from behind a boulder, right beside the horse. He held a heavy spiked club in one claw, and the fancy knight’s shiny shield in the other. Part of a dented breastplate covered his chest and a horned helmet covered his head.
The red knight barked out an amused laugh at the sight of the small armoured dragon.
George jabbed the spiked shield right into the horse’s rump because he knew from experience how much that hurt.
The horse reared up and the red knight crashed down onto the ground with a loud clatter.
As he tried to stand up George swung the spiked club. It rang on the knight’s helmet like a cathedral bell. The knight staggered, creaked a little, and then toppled face first onto the ground.
The horse got away but the dragons feasted on red knight fritters for supper and D’ragoon never tried to stop George from wanting to be a knight again.