The last thing any self-respecting knight wanted to do was don a dress and play the pretty princess. Malrion was one such knight. Yet there he stood, outfitted in a glittering ensemble of pastel pink and yellow. He felt very much like a decorative doll on display in a lady’s hutch.
His hands went to his clean-shaven face, to his hair, which fell in loose brown curls around his shoulders in a perfumed mass. Small braids had been plaited with tiny white flowers and his face had been painted to a mockery of an elegant woman. He didn’t know why he had been chosen over all else. Surely the scrawny Lord Adrian would have served a far better maiden than Malrion.
He stood in the midst of the four dragon rocks, feeling naked despite his get-up. He had no sword on him, no weapons save for a slender dagger laced up his thigh. Normally, he wouldn’t be caught dead without his beloved blade, Bernadine, yet here he stood now, bereft of her protection. His hands itched and ached to tear the dress from his body—he would rather go naked than stand in such frippery.
A shadow fell over him, massive enough to blot the light of the waning sun. Malrion’s heart flipped and he stared up. His hand went instantly to his hip, useless. No sword. He could see the dragon now, flying overhead. If it had looked enormous from the sky, it was nothing to the size of it as it drew closer. He told himself he wouldn’t feel such fear if only he had Bernadine in hand.
Steeling himself as the dragon landed, Malrion licked his lips and tried not to give away the fact that his fingers twitched for at least the concealed blade strapped to his leg. He raised up an arm as dust was kicked up from its vicious wingbeats.
The dragon was actually a rather small one, he saw—now that it stood before him—no bigger than a pony, really, but still equipped with dangerous claws and spikes. Bright red scales glittered like fresh blood in the sun, slit-pupiled eyes of deep orange —almost amber—studied him as it dropped down to all fours. It sniffed and stepped cautiously forward, reminding Malrion of his dear sister’s cat when it came upon a mouse. Somehow, that didn’t make him feel any better.
“G-good dragon,” Malrion said, as if to a dog. He tried not to step back, though he leaned as far away as possible when its nostrils came a hand’s breadth away from him. Pale smoke plumed from its nostrils, forming spirals in the air that ghosted into oblivion. Malrion laughed nervously, his hands up, as another breath brought a wisp of smoke to his face. “Please…”
The dragon snorted, spraying Malrion with a fine mist. His face twisted into brief disgust—which he quickly traded in for indignation when the dragon turned away from him.
“Excuse me?” His fists clenched and he took a step after the dragon. “Hey! Where are you going?”
The dragon kept on moving, spaded tail drifting through the air like a slithering snake through the desert lands. Malrion took hold of it. That seemed to catch the dragon’s attention—although he couldn’t be certain that it was necessarily a good thing. It turned around, baring its incredibly long teeth and letting out a sound much like a hiss. Startled, Malrion almost dropped its tail. Liquid gold eyes bore into him and he tightened his grip, setting his jaw.
“I’m not afraid of some overgrown lizard! Come on, dragon! Take me!” He yanked the dragon’s tail, pulling it closer. Big mistake. It opened its mouth and let out a torrent of thick, stinking smoke that stung his eyes and made him cough. Oh gods, it’s going to breathe fire on me! Not in the mood to become fried knight, Malrion let go of the tail and kicked it square in the chest.
The dragon looked down at his slippered foot. For a moment, they remained that way, with Malrion’s foot upon the dragon’s chest and the dragon staring at it. Then the dragon let out a husky sound suspiciously like a laugh. Malrion tried to lower his leg for another attempt, but the dragon leaned back on its haunches and took his leg between its claws. With one tug, Malrion was on the ground, on his back, with the breath knocked from him. The dragon crawled over his prone body.
There was no way that Malrion was going down like this, so he dragged his hands over his pink skirts and clawed at them. Where was that damned dagger when he needed it? Oh, there it was. He grabbed hold of it and let out a cry of triumph. Now who had the upper hand?
Still the dragon it seemed, as it let out another puff of smoke. While Malrion coughed, it raked its front claw over his chest, splitting the dress down the middle. With little regard for the state of the silk dress, Malrion lunged up with his dagger aimed at the dragon’s heart.