“So I heard you’re a dragon slayer, Lady Yaleria?” Though she didn’t much look like it, in her beaded blue dress and fancy slippers and holding not a sword but a tiny sequined purse. Even considering that they were at a party, she didn’t fit Ferthow’s image of a dragon slayer, even a female dragon slayer.
She laughed. “Hardly. More the other way around than anything.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Dragons slay you?” he asked dubiously.
“No, no,” she replied with another laugh. “I protect dragons.”
“Oh.” Why would she want to do that, he wondered, but for politeness’s sake he phrased it as, “Um, is that necessary?”
“Not normally. A healthy adult dragon is far more than a match for any three knights. But baby dragons are more vulnerable. It used to be that no one knew where they are, but then some idiot made a map of it, and now would-be dragon slayers come by all the time hoping to prove their valor by murdering a baby.”
“But they’re evil! They carry off maidens and ransack villages and burn forests to cinders! Dragons have no sense of right and wrong, or if they do they chose wrong; they have no honor or loyalty or any other good trait.”
Yaleria glared at him and asked coldly, “Are you sure you’re not confusing them with humans?”
“You stupid woman-”
She slapped him. He stared at her, mouth open like a fish, as she stormed off.
Yaleria said goodnight to the host, apologized for any disturbance and rode off towards the mountains. A few hours later, she reached a small cottage at the foot of one of the mountains. She took care of her horse, then went inside.
It was a cozy room, with a roaring fire and comfortable furniture and herbs hanging from the ceiling. There were three dragons in it. The smallest was the size of a human’s fist, perhaps a few months old, and was lying in front of the fire, playing happily with a piece of metal chain. He was too young to talk, or fly, or breathe more fire than a candle’s flame. The second dragon, the size of a largish dog, was sleeping on the bed. The last was slightly smaller than a horse and old enough to speak but not fly, perhaps a century or so. She was sitting in front of a large crystal orb, staring into it, and when Yaleria entered the room she said accusingly, “You said no one was coming!”
“What do you mean? I checked, there was no one with any intent to come here when I left. You know I wouldn’t have gone otherwise.”
“Well, come look,” the dragon told her.
Yaleria stood next to the dragon and stared into the orb. Sure enough, a knight in full armor was riding towards them. His visor was up, and she recognized Ferthow. “The idiot must have followed me. Do you want to go up into the mountain? You’re a little too big to hide in here, and you can warn anyone else you see.”
“I know. You do remember your left gauntlet got chewed up?”
“I’ll just have to do without it.” The dragon left, and Yaleria moved the smallest dragon, with his toy, onto the bed and draped a sheet over it. She then began to prepare for battle. By the time Ferthow emerged from the forest, she was on her horse in full armor.
“Do you really want to fight me?” Yaleria demanded.
“No! I want to fight a dragon!”
“Too bad. Go home.”
“No! I must slay these beasts!”
“You’ll have to get past me first.”
Ferthow looked annoyed. “But it’s not honorable to fight a woman!”
“But killing babies is just fine, right?” Yaleria asked sarcastically.
“They’re dragons! They need to be wiped out before they get big enough to do serious damage!”
Yaleria charged. Her lance struck his shield, and he flew from his horse. She dismounted, drew her sword, and stuck the point in his face. “Go home,” she demanded.
“Uhrmph,” he groaned.
“Do you agree to go home and give up the idea of killing dragons?”
“Is that a yes?” Her sword was touching the tip of his nose.
“Yes!” he finally managed.
Yaleria lowered her sword and offered him a hand up. With her help, he managed to climb to his feet. He started to turn towards his horse, but suddenly stopped and drew his sword. “A dragon!”
Yaleria glanced behind her. The dragon that had been asleep on her bed had woken up and came outside to see what was going on, and was now huddled behind her in fear. Yaleria raised her sword and positioned herself directly in front of the dragon. “You agreed. Now if you want to live, forget about dragons and go home!”
She thought he was about to, but instead he raised his blade and tried to charge at the young dragon. Yaleria blocked him, and they fought.
It didn’t last long. Yaleria was a better fighter, and Ferthow had just been knocked from his horse. He stumbled, and Yaleria raised her blade to finish him off but stopped mid-stroke. Instead, she slapped him as she had done earlier at the party, but this time she slapped him with a hand in a metal gauntlet, and instead of staring at her like a fish he fell over, out cold.
“Would you go get a rope?” Yaleria asked the dragon. She didn’t want to leave Yaleria, but reluctantly went inside and came back with a rope. Yaleria tied Ferthow’s hands and legs, and tied the long end of the rope to a tree. Then she took his sword, and after a moment’s thought his left gauntlet, and went back inside with the dragon.
By the time the large dragon returned a few hours later, Ferthow was conscious and cursing. “What are you going to do with him?” The dragon asked.
“A few adult dragons agreed to come by tomorrow and bring him back to town.”
“Won’t he try to kill them?”
“If he’s really that stupid, let him try.”