It's Hard Being a Dragon

by Michael Rowley

A knight in shining armor rode up to the mouth of the cave. The knight was riding on a pure white stallion and was being followed by a long train of servants. Orion looked up at him hopefully. Maybe this time, maybe he was the one who would finally slay the dragon.

"Halt" the knight said to his entourage. "You, peasant" He pointed at Orion who sat next to the mouth of the cave. "Is this the cave where the beautiful princess, Ophelia, is being imprisoned by the fearsome dragon Orion?"

"It is indeed, my lord," Said Orion standing and giving a low bow.

"Then why doest thou sit by the mouth of yonder beast's lair, doest thou wish to be its lunch?" The knight's followers laughed, loudly. It wasn't that funny thought Orion.

"Nay, my lord, it is my duty to worn away any children or travelers who may wander in to yonder cave; unawares of the danger that lies within."

"Well your duties are about to come to an end, simple peasant, for I, Prince Arthur Henry George Leo Benedict XIII, Prince of the Isle of Glenn, have come to slay the dragon!" His entire party burst into wild cheers. Orion rolled his eyes. A prince then, not a knight, it didn't matter, prince or knight there were all the same to him.

"Remain here" the prince said "I will return with the dragons head" more cheering.

"A moment, good prince," said Orion. Prince Arthur turned around clearly annoyed.

"I have no time for your prattle, peasant, be gone or I will have your head." What is with humans and taking things heads, Orion wondered.

"I will be but a moment, my lord. I believe I know how the dragon may be slain."

The prince paused "Well" he said, "Since I am felling magnanimous today, I will honor you with a moment of my time."

"You are most generous my lord." Said Orion, bowing low "My lord, in the course of my duties, I have had occasion to see the dragon, Orion, and it is a most fearsome beast. However, it does have a weakness; it is missing a scale directly over its heart. If a truly brave and noble man were to strike him there the beast would be vanquished."

Orion tried to give that speech without laughing. Who would honestly believe that a dragon just happened to be missing a scale right over its heart? And how does stabbing something in the heart make you noble? And going into a cave with a big scary thing that will eat you is not brave; Orion thought it was just stupid.

"Thank you, wretch, in return for your council I have decided not to kill you for offending me with your ugliness." And with that Prince Arthur turned his hoarse around and descended into the cave. Orion heard things like "he's so generous" and "I wouldn't be that forgiving" from the prince's people.

After ten minutes of riding down a gently descending slope Arthur came to the chamber of the dragon. The chamber was rocky and big enough to fit a small castle inside of it. The cavern was filled with stalagtites and stalagmites . In the middle of the chamber sat the dragon.

The dragon was huge 50 feet long at least and massive. It was covered in green scales the size of dinner plates. It had a long serpentine neck and an equally long tail. Its talons and fangs were as sharp as swords and just as long. It had huge, leathery, wings on its back.

When it spotted Prince Arthur it stood on its hind legs spread its wings and roared, spewing flames from its mouth. Prince Arthur went very pale, screamed like a little girl, wet himself (poor hoarse) and turned around and galloped back out as fast as his horse would go.

He didn't stop when he got back outside, either, galloping past Orion and his caravan without even slowing. The prince's people scrambled to follow.

"Hey! Where you going? You're supposed to slay the dragon, moron." Orion shouted after the prince, but he was already long gone, and his followers were quickly following.

Orion sighed and went down into the cave. He changed from a small dirty human peasant into the dragon he really was. He had green spiky hair, yellow eyes with slits for pupils, and pointed ears but otherwise looked more or less the same as a human, but taller than any human he had ever met. Why humans thought dragons were giant lizard things he would never know.

The "dragon" sat in the middle of the room just where Prince Arthur had left it. Orion snapped his fingers and it vanished in a puff of smoke. The prince had run off but he at least hadn't fainted like the other two had. That did give Orion some hope. Orion's first "dragon" had really been terrifying. It had been huge with spikes all over its body and breathed a forty foot jet of flames. The first one to come rescue princess Ophelia, a prince named Galahad, had taken one look at Orion's dragon and fainted. So Orion scaled it back, removed most of the spikes, and had it breathe only a twenty foot jet of flame. The second one to come along, a knight named Frank, had fainted only after the dragon had breathed fire.

Orion sighed, this was his third and smallest dragon, and it was still too scary he would have to redesign it, again. He thought to shrink the body even further, while increasing the size of the head. After all, the head was all they seemed to care about.

Orion's musings were cut short by the call of "Dragon". It was princess Ophelia, and he really didn't want to answer it.

Orion wondered what he had done to deserve this. His father, Draco, said that he was supposed to be learning a lesson. He couldn't imagine what that lesson was. What lesson was there in babysitting some princess? The only thing he had learned was that humans were annoying and could give you a massive headache.

"Dragon" she shouted again. He was on the other side of the cave and he could hear her clearly, she had an impressive set of lungs on her. He sighed; he'd better go see what she wanted. She wouldn't stop until he came. He massaged his temple, already feeling the beginnings of a headache.

Orion went to her chambers knocked and entered. They were large and lavishly decorated, and she hadn't stopped complaining about them sense the moment she had arrived.

"Dragon" She shouted even though he was already in the room. He clapped his hands to his ears. She shouted like that because she knew it he didn't like it.

"Don't you know to knock, you stupid animal," She said.

"I did knock," said Orion.

"No you didn't! Are calling me a liar, you filthy beast."

"Yes" said Orion.

"How dare you" she said. She picked up a candle stick and threw it at him, which he easily caught. "I am Princess Ophelia Katrina Bianca Alexandria, future queen of Alexandria and I will be treated with the respect I deserve."

"I am treating you with the respect you deserve," she deserved no respect so he gave her none.

"You most certainly are not," she said. "If you were, you would not speak to me so, or to take so long to answer the summons of your betters." Orion tried not to laugh. She was about as far from his better as it was possible to get.

Orion decided not to argue the point, and instead change the subject. "Why did you call me?"

Ophelia seemed moderately mollified. "I'm hungry bring me some food"

"You still have plenty of food left" he said pointing to a silver platter, covered in fruits and vegetables. She hadn't been skinny when she had first arrived, but spending all day inside of a cave with no exercise had caused her to expand substantially.

"That" she pointed at the platter "is not food," she said. She would only eat foods that were either greasy or sugary.

Orion had come to the conclusion that she ate like this was because human men were attracted to fat women. All the knights and princes who came to rescue her called her "the beautiful princess Ophelia". Orion didn't find her paticularly atractive but, then again, he was a dragon, not a human.

Every creature in the world seemed to have their own ideas of what beautiful was. Dwarves thought that girls with full beards were gorgeous. Elfish men underwent painful ear enhancements to make their ears larger and pointier. Neither of these made any sense to Orion, but they did make sense to dwarves and elves and that was all that mattered, really.

"It's healthy" said Orion.

"I WANT REAL FOOD!!!" she shouted. She picked up the platter and threw it at him. He waved his hand and the platter and food vanished in a puff of smoke. "Whilst I am being imprisoned hear I demand to be treated properly."

"You are not a prisoner. Your father-"

"My father would never allow me to be subjected to this hell."

Her father had been getting sick, and decided that Ophelia, his only child, needed to get married sooner rather than later. To decide who his daughter would marry he proposed a contest. Ophelia would be placed in a cave and guarded by a dragon. The first one to slay the dragon and rescue the princess would win. The winner would marry his daughter and get his kingdom when he died.

Orion wondered how his father, and thus he, had gotten involved in the king's plans.

Orion rubbed his temple. It had been over five months and the princess was still not rescued. He was trying to do a good job, but things were not going very well.

Orion bowed and said "I will return in a moment with some "real' food." Orion turned to go.

"One second dragon" said Ophelia. Orion took a deep breath and tried to keep his voice even.

"Yes"

"I heard noises earlier, what happened"

"A prince came to rescue you, but he ran away."

"No prince would run away when a beauty such as I was in peril. You ate him didn't you!?"

"Of course not that's disgusting." He said, but she wasn't listening.

"The evil dragon ate my prince" she wailed "I'm never going to get out of here!" she threw herself on her bed and began hitting and kicking it screaming "never, never, never, never, never, never,"

Orion sighed "me neither."

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