The dragon took a step back, its massive, oblong eyes quickly flicking left to right as if searching for something. It’s long, scaled tale whipped violently against the wall of its stone cave, the area illuminated by a roaring, crimson fire built in the middle. Despite being over fifty feet taller, the dragon was cornered, his back to the wall as the knight carefully stepped closer, his sword held up above his head and aimed straight at his heart.
“Hang on,” the dragon said, a small puff of flame escaping his over-sized mouth and spiraling out from between tremendous, pointed teeth, “you don’t have to do this.”
“You beg for your life?” the knight said, voice muffled slightly by his armored helmet. It was dragon-steel, a one-of-a-kind material able to withstand even the most intense flames a dragon could produce. The knight had spent all of his remaining funds, sold all of his land and possessions, just to afford it. He knew the reward for saving the princess would be worth it. “After you’ve kidnapped the princess, after you threatened to kill her, you beg me for your life?”
“Whoa,” the dragon said, placing its webbed, emerald hands against the dusted, cave wall, “I never said I was going to kill her. Honestly, there’s a perfectly good reason why I kidnapped her.”
“What possible reason could you have?” the knight said, shoving his sword forward slightly, but stopping before touching the dragon’s exposed chest. “Speak.”
“Well,” the dragon said, again whipping the wall with its tail, “she’s kind of a cunt.”
“I’m sorry?” the knight said, lowering his sword slightly before raising it back into position.
“She’s a cunt. I mean, like, she’s just a huge cunt. I felt like I was doing the world a favor.”
“What are you talking about?” the knight said in a deep voice, thrusting his sword forward again. The dragon backed up against the wall even further, doing his best to avoid the sharp, steel blade. He knew that a single slice of the unique weapon would cause him to bleed out.
“Look at her,” the dragon said, nodding to the area behind the knight. “Just look at her face.”
The knight stared at the dragon for a moment, then slowly turned toward the tremendous fire in the center of the cave. A small cage sat just beyond it, the princess trapped within. She looked beautiful, her long blonde hair cascading off her shoulders and stopping just before the floor. She was clearly distressed, her face contorted in discomfort, her clothes tattered and torn. She was no older than 25, but easily one of the most attractive women in the land. And her father would certainly pay a pretty penny for her, or so the people said.
“I don’t get it,” the knight said, turning back toward the dragon and tightening his grip around the sword, “she looks like she’s upset. You’re threatening her, so she’s obviously upset.”
“No,” the dragon said, his shoulders drooping as another wisp of flame escaped his lips, “look at her face. I mean, she’s just sitting there, but she still just looks like such a *bitch.* It’s how she always looks, her face constantly in this bitchy resting face.”
The knight squinted at the dragon, his armored head tilted—or as tilted as it could be, considering the restrictive nature of his helmet. He tightened his grip on the sword and turned back toward the princess, staring at her face. There was certainly a scowl across her mouth, that much was true. Her forehead also appeared to be furrowed in frustration, her eyes constantly rolling circles as if someone had said something incredibly obvious. She was also chewing some sort of gum, her hand resting under chin like she were bored. She did look a bit like a bitch.
“So what?” the knight said, turning back toward the dragon. “Why does it matter if she looks like a bitch? I bet she’s super nice.”
“She’s not,” the dragon said, placing its over-sized hands flat against the cave wall, “she’s also a huge bitch. I mean, she doesn’t just look like one. She actually is a bitch. Do you even know why I kidnapped her?”
“To eat her,” the knight said, his voice trailing off. He thought it was pretty obvious: dragons eat women, knights kill dragons. He’d heard the tails all his life, it was simple science.
“Not even close,” the dragon said, now rolling his own eyes. “I’m a vegetarian.” He nodded at the wall to their left. The knight turned his entire body and stared: dozens of fruits and vegetables—carrots, cabbage, broccoli, apples, grapes, and so forth—lined the wall and the floor beneath, stacked up like boxes at a market. Some had clearly been torn apart by massive, sharpened nails, the outline of the dragon’s hand visible in the dust beside.
“Really?” the knight said, turning back toward the dragon. “You’re a vegetarian? Then why did you kidnap her?”
“Because not only did she attempt to banish all the unattractive and/or ethnic people in the land, but she also was going to destroy my home to build a shopping center. I don’t want a clothing store where I go to sleep. That’s not cool. My family has been in this cave for millennia.”
“Wait, what?” the knight said, finally lowering his sword. “She wants to banish ethnic people? And destroy your home to build a clothing store?”
“Not just one store, a whole shopping center. A ‘mall,’ as she calls it. Textile plants and market spaces, beauticians and salons. She says it’ll be a ‘hangout’ for her and her friends, but also a place to hold public executions of people she deems annoying. Then she was going to kill me and display my body by the entrance.”
“Wow,” the knight said, turning toward the princess. Her eyes were still rolling from within her cage. He lifted up the visor on his armored helmet and cleared his throat. “Mam, is what this dragon saying true?”
“Do I know you?” the princess said, her voice whiny and slightly sarcastic. “Do you even know who I am?”
“Yes,” the knight said, glancing at the dragon and then back at the princess. “I do.”
“Then please don’t talk to me,” the princess said, holding up her palm as if signaling them to stop, “I can’t even right now.”
“Wow,” the knight said, turning back to the dragon. “She is a bitch.”
“I know, right?” the dragon said, finally removing his hands from the wall and taking a step toward the knight. “That’s probably why her father doesn’t want her back.”
“What?” the knight said, shifting his weight to his other foot. “He was offering a reward for her return.”
“No,” the dragon said, pointing to a faded, almost yellow poster just beside where he stood. “You can’t read, can you?”
“I can’t,” the knight said. He’d never learned, never had the opportunity. He had always wanted to, but simply could not afford it. The first thing he planned on buying with his Princess-saving money were reading lessons. “No one ever taught me.”
“Loser,” shouted the princess, her whiny voice muffled slightly by the fire roaring between them.
“The poster is celebrating her kidnapping,” the dragon said, ignoring the princess. “It reads: ‘Please do not attempt to save my daughter, there is no reward. In fact, anyone who doesn’t save her gets $5.00.”
“Oh,” the knight said, sheathing his sword and glancing up at the dragon. “Well, shit, I probably shouldn’t have spent all my money on this armor.”
“I guess not,” the dragon said, shrugging. “Although, I’ve got a ton of gold you could have if you want. I don’t really need it, I just like looking at it shimmering by the fire. Wouldn’t mind trading it for your shiny armor.”
“Well,” the knight said, slipping his hand underneath his helmet and rubbing his chin, “would you be willing to also teach me how to read?”
“Sure,” the dragon said, again shrugging. “I could do that.”
“Deal,” the knight said, unfastening his chest piece. He had a feeling that this was to be the beginning of a beautiful, and oddly sized, friendship.