The sounds of shrieks and pain and anger filled the air. The battle had indeed come, and by the sound of it, it was ferocious.
The woman looked worriedly at the Wizard. He pointed to a stone staircase, gesturing for her to climb. They climbed the stairs and went through a thick wooden door into a parapet. The Wizard indicated that they were going to climb the spiral staircase, going up, ever up, until they reached the room that opened up onto the ramparts.
The woman would glance through the occasional window to the battle below. All she could see was men fighting men, horses galloping around and rearing up, and all she could hear were the cries of men and sounds of steel upon steel.
After a time, they reached a door that lead to the ramparts. The woman and the Wizard stopped to look out an accompanying window to look upon the carnage below. Down below and outside of the castle walls, the battle was coming to a peak. Men fighting men. Men screaming. Men burning. Men crawling away. Men dying.
“What is this?!” She exclaimed. “I see the knights below fighting, and yet I see not the Black Knight or any of his men?!”
“That is because there is no Black Knight, nor any men that are his. Those men did not come here for the Black Knight. They came here for the Dragon. Those men are fighting each other and fighting with themselves,” said the Wizard.
“The Dragon?! They came here for the Dragon?” She said.
“Of course they did my love, that is what is different this time. In the past, they came for the Black Knight, but today, today they come for the Dragon. I figured that out when I saw the flames and the bodies.”
“But is the Dragon here?” She queried, looking around through the window up at the sky and gazing out at the horizon.
“Of course not. Not yet anyways. But you know that.” The Wizard said as he gently poked her in the ribs.
“Stop it!” She giggled. “How is it that some of them are burning then?”
“They are setting themselves on fire. Watch and see.” The Wizard pointed to a couple of knights who were applying pitch to themselves. A moment later, another knight appeared with a burning torch, to which he touched it to an extended arm. The knight went up in flames almost immediately. The knight then ran about wildly, screaming and flayling his arms about him. His entire body engulfed in flames.
“The Dragon! The Dragon got me!” He shrieked. “You men must avenge me and slay that Dragon for he has smote me with his terrible fire!” And with that, the knight collapsed onto the battlefield and began rolling around. Other knights ran to his aide, with blankets in hand, throwing them on top of the burning knight, hoping to smother the flames.
Another knight was on his knees, screaming at the top of his lungs, “My Lady! I have been slain for you! And I gladly die for you! If only I had more lives to give, I would gladly give them!” And with that, the knight put the hilt of his sword into the ground, placed the tip onto his chest, and impaled himself upon it.
This scene played itself out over many times as the Wizard and the woman watched from above. Men setting themselves on fire, some having the flames extinguished before they met their fate, others not so fortunate. Men put their sword hilts into the ground and drove themselves down on top of them, committing suicide with the words, “M’Lady!” upon their dying lips. Men fighting each other, saying to one another, “Dragon! You have arrived! I will slay thee!” while clashing their swords against one another. Men being thrown from their frightened and rearing horses, some to be so unfortunate as to be trampled underfoot by their own steeds.
The Wizard and the woman watched as the battle raged on, but the Wizard grew tired. “It’s time, my dear. I’ll signal for you when it’s time for you to come. Until then, wait here.”
The Wizard then strode out onto the ramparts, listening to the fighting below. “This is where it always gets interesting,” he thought. “It doesn’t hurt, exactly, it just feels a little strange. And you would think that I would have gotten used to it after all of these years.”
The transformation began as he was thinking to himself. His feet and arms grew heavy. His face began to stretch and morph. He looked down at his arms and saw the scales pushing through his skin, the dark green almost black color, coming out. He pulled his cloak off of himself absently, tossing it away. “I won’t be needing that for awhile,” he thought. His weight began to increase as he began to elongate, his body getting heavy. After a moment, he could no longer walk on two legs and so he leaned forward and continued on all fours, his powerful, scaly forearms rippling with muscle.
Talons shot out from where his fingers had once been. Only a small amount of blood had been lost this time. The part that felt the most strange though, the part that he still hadn’t gotten used to, was the leathery wings that sprouted up out of his back. He glanced momentarily at them as he extended them to their full width and shook them, beating the air.
The Wizard who was now the Dragon, put his front legs, what had been his forearms onto the rampart and gazed out over the battlefield. None of the knights had seen his transformation, and none of them had seen him yet. None had even bothered to look up.
“Excuse me!” He coughed. His voice was a deep, low, rumbling bass.
The fighting, burning, and dying continued as before.
“I said, excuse me!” He said even louder, his voice shaking the walls, and still nothing from the battlefield below.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” He roared as he lifted his massive head to the sky and shot out a huge arcing stream of fire. It was red and orange with flecks of green. It was huge, it was brilliant, and it was deadly. The fires from the pitch below paled in comparison.
The fighting and shrieking below stopped at once, as if someone had turned off the volume. All heads turned towards the castle ramparts. A hush descended upon the knights. As a collective everyone had inhaled and were now waiting to release their breath.
“Look upon me you White Knights!” The Dragon roared. “And know this! I walk amongst you. I live amongst you. I know your tales, I’ve heard your secrets, and I know that you know not what you do! You men down there, claiming to fight me, you know nothing. None of you has ever seen a Dragon until this day, and none of you have ever fought one. I would know because the last time Man and Dragon actually fought was over four hundred years ago, and I was the one who fought a Man.”
“He was more of a Knight than any of you will ever be. He actually faced his fears and took me head on. If only you cowards below would dare to do the same. But no, you would rather die on your own swords then face true adversity. You would rather set yourselves and each other on fire and claim a fake victory to one another to bolster your own egos instead of actually facing me. You claim you came here to fight me for your Lady’s Honor. So here I am! Come and fight me! Take me on if you dare!”
Shrieks of horror and pure terror filled the battlefield below. Men grabbed up the reins of terrified mounts and beat a hasty retreat. Men dropped their swords and shields where they stood and began to run.
“Before you go, know this!” The Dragon called after them. He turned his head towards the parpet, and with a taloned claw, beckoned the woman to come to him. As she approached, he turned and faced his fleeing adversaries.
“All women yearn for and understand a Dragon!” He called out. “I do not take them against their wills, for they come to me willingly. You with your codes and your ideals, your women care nothing for these things. They want adventure, they want to feel, and they want to live! I see them for who and what they are, and they know me for what I am. They come to me willingly, gratefully.”
The woman placed her arms around the Dragon’s neck as he finished, “Look upon me you White Knights, look upon me and despair!” The Dragon then shot a jet of liquid fire at the retreating knights’ feet, further speeding up their retreat.
As the sound of the shrieks and cries of terror diminished and the smoke from the fire began to clear, one lone Knight stepped forward.
The Dragon and the woman looked down upon him with interest.
The Knight pulled his sword from his scabbard and then threw the blade onto the ground.
“What is this?” The Dragon grumbled aloud to himself.
The Knight then removed his helmet, looked at it for a moment, and then threw it aside.
“Will you teach me? Dragon? Will you teach me your ways and how to be like you? Will you make me into a Dragon like you were once made yourself?” The Knight asked.
“Oh, this is going to be interesting.” Chuckled the Dragon as he turned and looked down at his smiling woman.