Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Story, Part The Second

The story began here.

Thad held his ground, thinking what to do.  “You’ll kill me as soon as my back is turned – I don’t see another way.”  But he didn’t mind a non-fatal solution.
“I can tie our lives together – whatever harms you harms me.  Not only can I not attack you – I have to protect you.  I will be your servant as long as you live.  And when you die of old age, you will finally slay me.”
“Why?  What do you gain?”
“Fifty, forty, even ten years is better than dying today.  And perhaps in time we can find a solution that allows me to survive my natural lifespan, and fulfill your chivalrous goals as well.”
“What will the process do to me?”
“Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Unless one of us is injured, in which case the other feels it.  I don’t plan to let anyone harm either of us.  Trust me.”  The dragon smiled and licked its lips again.  Obviously it was nervous Thad would continue the battle.
Thad considered the offer, looking for loopholes.  Finally, he said, “You shall never hurt a human unless I order it.  On that condition, I accept.”
“Let us proceed,” said the dragon.  After a moment, it said, “It is done.”
Thad’s nose suddenly smarted, and his shoulder blade felt like someone had yanked it out.  He verified his nose was in one piece, and asked, “Can I help your wing?”
“No, but dragons heal much faster than humans, so it won’t hurt for long.”
“I suppose if we’re connected, I should know your name.  I’m Squire Thad.”
“I am Letus.”
Thad noticed he was standing next to Letus’ cutoff snout, and picked it up as a trophy.  As he turned to leave the cave, his fatigue caught up to him and he almost fell.  “Squire Thad?  Perhaps I could offer my service as a steed.  Have you ever flown?”  Thad had never considered flying, but quickly agreed and settled on Letus’ back.  “Let us fly!” Letus cried, and soared out of the cave.
Thad was instantly addicted to flying.  He couldn’t get enough of the eagle-eye view, seeing the rivers and farms spread out below.  He forgot where he was, soaking it all in, and realized that he was higher than any human had ever been.
“Princess Penelope!” Thad suddenly remembered.  “Can we find her from up here?”  They spotted her still running down the mountain, and landed just below her.  She didn’t flee, which Thad found impressive, but instead picked up a large rock and cocked her arm ready to throw.  Thad dismounted to approach her.
“You – you’re in league with that monster?!?”  Penelope screamed.  Thad explained the surrender he’d negotiated, and took her back to the castle on the dragon’s back.  Penelope couldn’t decide if she feared the altitude or the dragon more, but she definitely hated flying.
On her return, the Duke announced Princess Penelope’s engagement to her rescuer Sir Thad, to their shared surprise.  The match turned out to be a good one, though, and Thad and Penelope passed several years in wedded bliss, sharing only one lingering bone of contention – Letus.
After his first taste of flying, Thad spent as much time as possible soaring through the clouds.  They accomplished a lot for the Duke, hunting down criminals, patrolling the borders, and even fighting off another dragon that settled nearby.  Through it all, Letus obeyed Sir Thad’s every order, not even singeing the hunted criminals.
At home, however, the dragon was a difficult housemate.  Letus only ate live meat, and always tormented its food, setting the prey free only to catch and torture it in gruesome ways that don’t need repeating here.  When asked why, Letus only said, “Let us eat in the dragon way.”
Penelope also grew upset over Thad’s flying.  Most days, he was in the air more than on the ground, and despite Letus’ demonstrated reliability, she didn’t trust it.  And Sir Thad always found more missions to keep him in the air.
One day, Sir Thad came home to find that Princess Penelope had left.  Her note said that Thad always chose Letus over her, and she was getting out of their way.  Thad was struck speechless, and he couldn’t even look at Letus, much less fly.
After several weeks, Letus convinced Thad to try a short flight to lift his spirits.  As they lifted off, he did feel better, more at home, more peaceful, and decided that this might not be the worst life.  But it still hurt.
Letus flew Sir Thad back to the cave where they’d fought, wanting to show him something it had found.  When Thad dismounted, Letus walked to a large box and tore off the cover to reveal a human skeleton.  Princess Penelope’s coronet had even been laid across her skull.


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