Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tableau of Chivalry

A dragon sits, scaled and resplendent, on a mound of treasure. It is his pride and glory, a lifetime of ransacking. He has coins from a civilization long past and now faded, rough-cut gemstones from dozens of upstart empires, crowns and swords and jewelry wrought in hundreds of styles for the vanity of thousands of wealthy lords. He has books as well, for he knows that not all treasure is tangible, and he knows that there are those who prize the ideas within the books above all else, though he himself lacks the skill of reading them. He collects these things, attractive glittery gems, though he does not know why.
            He is old, this dragon. He has grown impossibly large. His wings are a map of scar tissue so thick they would not bear him aloft, except he has grown too large to fly in any case. His scales are thick, too, though this is to his advantage. What was once a shining glittery skin easily pierced and ripped away is now rock-hard, and rattles when he moves. His eyes gleam with ancient intelligence, and though his sight is not as clear as it once was and his reactions slowed, his hearing and sense of smell are as sharp as ever, and with claws and teeth as large as his are, fast reaction speeds are less important.
            A knight stands before him, encased in armor. He is young, and he trembles, though the armor hides it. He is sweating, though he does not know whether it is the heat or his raw fear. But he stands fast, knowing that a knight must be brave, and being brave means standing strong when all good sense screams at him to run and hide.
            He is not rich, this knight. He won his armor and his title through brave deeds, battles fought against other armor-clad warriors, jousts won against other, human, knights. Mock battles. Mock bravery. He did not come for the dragon’s hoard, it is true, but he is tempted by the glittering pile. And by the books. He has never seen so many.
            Between them sits the lady. She is young, too, younger than the knight even. Her cheeks are streaked with tears, her hair tangled, her clothes dirty and torn. She does not look a lady, in truth. She looks like a scared girl. For the first time in her life, however, she does not know how she looks, nor does she care. She sees the dragon, huge and looming, its giant claws arching, its wings flexing, its eyes narrowing and smoke beginning to drift from its nostrils. She sees the knight, standing at the ready, longsword drawn and sharp, face hidden behind a visor, inscrutable. She does not know which she is more terrified of.

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