The fire roared around me, like some great apocalyptic monster. I kept my hand raised even though my nose had picked up the scent of charred flesh, and continued to use my magick to keep myself relatively safe. The dragon was no match for a witch on a mission and he knew it, perhaps as well as he knew me.
The dragon had guarded our village for the better part of a century. My twin sister and I used to spend our summers on his back, viewing our village from the heavens above. The fire around me stopped, gusts of wind and the sound of beating wings told me that the beast had taken to the air. I unsheathed my sword, waiting for him to make his move.
Normally, I wouldn’t have bothered such a creature in his lair, but I needed his blood to heal my twin sister. A sorcerer had cursed my twin and there were two ways to cure her. One was to find the sorcerer and force him to reverse it. The other was dragon’s blood fresh from the heart. I had to kill a dragon to get it. Sadly, time was running out and the only dragon I knew was Menian. The sorcerer that had done the deed was long gone, and Alianaha was going to be dead by morning if I didn’t find the cure. As I gazed up at the sky, watching the red scales of the dragon shimmering in the sunlight, I reminded myself that I was doing this for her.
“Xerri, what do you think you are doing?” roared the dragon as he started his decent down to me. Tears came to my eyes as I hefted my sword.
“Menian, forgive me,” I whispered. “I have to do what I must to save Alianaha.”
“Alianaha? What happened to her?”
Damn dragons and their remarkable hearing. I slashed at the dragon, grimacing as my blade tore into Menian’s soft underside. He roared in pain and lashed out with his tail, snapping it at the ground in front of me like a bullwhip. He wasn’t trying to kill me yet. He was still giving me the chance to back down.
Last summer Menian offered to teach me how to fight. He had just defeated a small group of goblins right outside our city gates. I remember hearing their death screams pierce the usually quiet nights. Menian knew that they would send more; they always did. I had graciously accepted his offer. After all, it wasn’t every day a dragon offered to teach you how to fight. He transformed into his human form, tied back his scarlet hair, and proceeded to teach me the footwork that would enable me to be quick. Alianaha would watch us practice, deciding to work on her spells and potions rather than attacks and parries.
“How did you learn?” I asked as we stood facing each other. The sword was heavy. I didn’t know how I’d be able to fight with it.
“My father taught me how to fight when I was a hatchling,” he said. “And my grandfather taught him. I will teach my son, and my son will teach my grandson.”
“So all dragons know how to fight?”
“The watch-dragons do.”
I flung myself at him, trying to overpower him. He parried my attack, spinning gracefully out of my reach. My muscles ached as I raised the sword. Menian attacked, and I felt the vibrations from his sword hitting mine rush through my body. Tears somehow found their way to the surface as his emerald eyes took on a look that I had never seen before. His skill outweighed mine, but I refused to back down in hopes of defeating him. But with a simple twist of his sword I was on the ground. As he walked over to me I scuttled backwards, holding the shallow cut that was along my arm.
“I will always give you the chance to back down,” he said softy, his eyes kind. “But keep in mind not every opponent will do so.”
He helped me to my feet and Alianaha had dressed the wound. Then it was back to practice, but his words would always stay with me.
I sheathed my sword and picked my crossbow up from where it hung at my waist. I aimed and fired, cringing as the arrow tore through the red dragon’s delicate wing. Circling, he plummeted down to the earth. I tossed the crossbow away from me as I ran to where the beast had fallen, my yellow hair bouncing in front of my vision.
As I approached Menian, I unsheathed my blade. The dragon reared up, anger blazing in his dark eyes. He meant business now. His gaping jaw, lined with fangs the size of my arm, came down at me. I quickly knelt to the ground, the deadly end of my sword pointing up to the blue summer sky. At the last moment I jumped, using my body weight to force the blade into the palate of the dragon’s mouth and up into his brain. I touched Menian with my free hand, using my magick to take away his pain as life left his body. With a sob, I pulled my blade out of the roof of the dragon’s mouth. The wicked deed was done. It was time to take what I needed and get back to Alianaha.
I filled my flask up to the brim with Menian’s heart blood. I prayed to whatever gods would listen to forgive me for this heinous act. I was a white witch, the essence of good. I could already feel Menian’s death tainting my aura.
Heather Kuehl is in cahoots with a library gnome and has to lock up her husband on the night of the full moon. Her flash fiction has been seen in MicroHorror, FLASHSHOT, and Tuesday Shorts.