“A magic sword.” It was very clear to Tom. “It must be a magic sword, with magic… stuff. I need to kill the Dragon.”
The shopkeeper chuckled into his beard, which looked as though it sprang from not only his chin but ears, chest and back.
“Laddie, what you need is a good old-fashioned piece of steel. Nothing beats steel.”
Tom sighed. “No. It has to be a magic sword. You don’t seem to understand.”
Smiling this time (of course, Tom couldn’t see the smile on account of the amazingly dense shrubbery that made up the man’s beard) the Shopkeeper agreed. “No. I don’t. Why don’t you tell me.”
Tom looked at the man’s eyes. Checking for sarcasm — it seemed like the Shopkeeper geniuinely wanted to listen. Looking around at the emptiness of the store, Tom thought he probably relished the company.
The Shopkeeper’s eyes twinkled, as if he knew what Tom was thinking. Which he did.
“Okay, then. It’s a bit of a long story. Epic, you might say.”
The Shopkeeper spread his arms. “As you’ve already seen, I’ve got no other customers, and nowhere else to be.”
And with that, Tom began.
He was correct. It was an epic story. At times the Shopkeeper laughed out loud. He cried too, echoing Tom’s painful reliving of all that had happened. At one point, the Shopkeeper grabbed a nasty-looking club from beneath the bench and swore vengeance himself upon the Dragon.
Draining the last of his mug, Tom spoke the last words of his story slowly. “And so, you see, I must have a magic sword. I need to kill the Dragon.”
The Shopkeeper nodded. He walked out the back of the store, and Tom was left waiting. Minutes passed. Then the Shopkeeper appeared again. In his arms was a long bundle, wrapped in green and brown cloth.
The Shopkeeper passed the bundle to Tom.
“It’s what you need.”
Tom looked down at what was in his hands. He could feel the magic burning through the cloth.
“Too easy this time.”
The Shopkeeper’s eyes widened a little as Tom’s appearance changed. But he was not cowed.
“You. That was a fine story. Is any of it true?”
Tom, who was Tom, but not, laughed. “Some of it. I’ve picked up bits and pieces around the place, out of the minds of babes and strangers.”
Later, Tom walked from the store, wiping the magic sword clean. He held it up, watching the sunlight catch, the magic singing.
Walking to the carriage, Tom threw the sword into the darkness. A hand reached out and grabbed it.
“You have done well, my son.”
Tom climbed nimbly to the driver’s seat, grabbed the reins and flicked the horses into motion.
A thousand times. Every rendition, every performance, every time he convinced another fool to relinquish their ownership over an epic and legendary weapon or piece of armor it was another forward step.
They were close to the end.
You see, there was a Dragon. His name was Alcamus. He was the scourge of evil in a distant land. A place where Tom’s family had once ruled with might and fear and darkness.
Soon, by Tom’s hand, the Dragon would be dead. Soon Alcamus, Night-Bane, Dread Light Wielder, Son of Garamus, would be no more.
Tom laughed softly, the sound echoing out and around the noise of the carriage moving along the road.
It was a good day.
Stu Andrews: Husband. Father. Story Teller. Often mistaken for a silver-back gorilla due to excessive amounts of body hair and large shoulders.