Valor by Fire
By Joseph Leskey
Sir James woke to his general, Sir Henry, looking straight at him. “On your feet, men, er, man.”
James tried not to appear sleepy. Warily, he said, “Good morning, General.”
The general smirked, and went out of the tent, calling over his shoulder, “I’ll be back soon; you’d better be ready.”
“Yes, sir!” Reminding himself that now he was a soldier, he heaved himself up from his mat. Straightening his new tunic, he stepped to his tent’s flap. Cringing, he opened it, and stepped through.
He smiled with relief, when he saw his only true friend coming towards him. “William!”
The man grinned. “I was almost shot, James!”
“How?” James knew of no battles. “Why wasn’t I wakened?”
“Some fool shot at me in his sleep.” He gestured behind him.
“Which one?” asked James.
“I didn’t check.” He threw a loaf of bread at James. “Eat quickly; I’ll distract everyone.” He quickly walked off.
James sat down, cross-legged, on the grass and ate. After he did, he stalked over to where plans were being made for battles.
“I greet you, Lord Right-hand,” jeered a soldier.
James ignored him. Everybody knew that he was the only soldier to be right-handed.
The general, who was loudly stating that a certain strategy wouldn’t leave enough food, turned abruptly. “Greetings, Sir James. I forgot about you…sorry!” He eyed James suspiciously.
“I appreciate your apology,” said James.
“There are reports of a fire beast,” prompted an officer, who was known as Sir Robert.
“Shut up,” roared Sir Henry. “I’m getting to it.”
“There’ve been reports of a huge, ferocious dragon. Of course, you will not be the one to kill it. You’ve never done any valor in your life, and you’re too cowardly to do any.”
James wisely kept his mouth shut.
“One of our noble knights is out destroying the fiend,” continued Sir Henry. “Doubtless, he will be back soon.”
A soldier quickly ran up. “Sir, our men are bringing back Sir Cedrick. He is greatly wounded.”
“WHAT?” roared the general. “Bring him here at once.”
They did so.
“He doesn’t look very hurt,” James announced. Cedrick’s eyes opened, but shut quickly.
“What do you know?” asked a soldier. “One of our doctors will fix him.”
They took him away.
The general said, “You can be excused.” James obeyed, and quickly went away to seek William.
Instead, William found him. “James!”
“Lord Right-hand, if you please!” James pretended to be offended.
“Is that what they called you today?” asked William cheerfully. “Well, they are Sir Left-hands.” He smiled, a little mischievously. “At least you were not shot.”
“Are you going to kill the dragon?” James asked.
“The general said I wasn’t.”
“Then neither will I.”
“What about orders?”
“I’ll suddenly fall ill.” William fell to the ground, weakly clutching at his throat.
“Save yourself the trouble.” James grinned.
Suddenly, the camp erupted with shouts of “Dragon!” James’ eyes quickly roved the sky. The beast was descending.
“Archers!” shouted the general. Almost instantly, arrows started to fly. The dragon snarled, and headed quickly towards a nearby village.
“We need to do something,” James shouted.
“You seem to forget that I am the general,” stated Sir Henry, coming up behind him. “We will not go.”
“That village has almost no protection,” yelled James in protest. “It is against all rules of chivalry to desert it.”
“What would your mothers say?” William addressed the soldiers. He added, “Sir James, follow my example.”
“What use are we dead?” shouted the general, as William started running. James followed him. Before any objections came, they quickly borrowed crossbows and arrow-filled quivers from two puzzled nearby archers.
Then they ran to the stable, the whole camp now following them. They jumped onto horses, grabbing long spears as they did so, and rode off.
“Stop!” shouted the general.
“There is a slight chance that he said to continue,” said William. “I’ll take it.”
The two comrades hurried on, although the dragon greatly outdistanced them. Looking back, they saw that the entire camp was now on horseback, charging after them.
“Maybe they changed their minds,” William shouted.
“Only one mind needed to be changed,” said James. Among Sir Henry’s men, it was well known that their general wasn’t brave.
The dragon decided to take the offensive. James winced as he realized that he had on no armor. As the beast came up, both he and William fired their crossbows. The projectiles glanced off.
“It’s strong.” William stated the obvious. “At least it is gone from the village.”
James took a deep breath. “Right.”
The two quickly turned their mounts and followed the dragon, which suddenly plunged downward and landed.
It breathed streams of fire in many different directions, and then the battle began. Every knight, except the general, started hacking away at the beast.
It easily swatted them aside. The entire area was burning. William, at least, broke one of the dragon’s teeth. James rushed up to the dragon with his spear, but both he and his horse were thrown to one side. The dragon quickly flew away, towards nearby mountains. Only one arrow followed it, this being William’s. Nobody knew how he did it, but he had an uncanny ability to survive through most everything.
“Well, shall we get up?” he asked.
The general got to his feet first, with greatly exaggerated pain. Then, everybody else did, in almost one movement.
The general turned to James and William. “Fools!” He snorted. “You must go and kill the dragon by yourselves, since you seem so eager to do so. You may not return until its head is in my hands.” As William and James began to mount, the general snapped, “And don’t waste my horses.”
The two men obediently dismounted, and began to walk towards the mountain.
Once they were a distance away, William remarked. “Well, now we both are going to kill it! Just what we wanted.”
“We will see,” said James.
Walking quickly, they soon reached the mountain, which they painfully climbed. Looking down, they were greatly joyed to see ten soldiers riding towards the mountain. This probably meant that they had come to help. They turned around, and to their surprise, saw the dragon. It swatted at them, but they ducked and lunged forward. It breathed a stream of fire, and James and William fell to the ground, rolling.
It opened its huge mouth to have a snack, but it got a large rock that William had heaved up instead. This it easily consumed.
But, in the short amount of time that it chewed it, the two knights rolled away.
They then leaped upon the dragon, smashing their spears into its scaly body.
It suddenly flew up, and moving quickly dropped them in a nearby valley.
Both spears were lost, but they quickly drew their swords. They remembered that this valley was greatly feared for its many enormously fat and long venomous servants.
The serpents quickly came. The soldiers both fought them well; however, as they killed them, many more appeared.
“We need some fire,” yelled William.
“It’s right on top of that mountain,” said James, plunging his sword through the head of a snake.
“We are supposed to be slaying a dragon.” William swung his sword around and cut the heads off five snakes. He suddenly turned and killed a snake behind James.
“How many are there?” James shouted.
“I don’t know, Sir James,” responded William. “But enough to fight an army.”
“We need to get back to that dragon,” James said. The knights turned and started running towards the mountain, swinging their swords at the snakes.
Then they began the long ascent, which was much more trouble than it had been before, as miniature rockslides were happening the whole time. The sounds of battle on the top enhanced the speed of the comrades.
When they finally came to the top, they instantly began to fight. The metallic flash of swords and the ominous red glow of dragon fire came from the top of the mountain for nigh onto an hour.
It ended by the mighty beast hurling them over the edge of the mountain, large rocks following them. James was pinned to the ground by one. “William?”
“Eh?” William smiled weakly.
“At least you aren’t dead!”
The dragon suddenly descended, aiming its mouth towards the knights, now rendered harmless. Long streams of fire burst through its throat. For once, James was glad that there was a rock on top of him. But, even so, he struggled with all his might to heave it off. William, meanwhile, was painfully throwing rocks at the fire-breather. His amazing throws were smashing into the dragon’s head.
With a mighty growl, the dragon opened its mouth wide and prepared to consume him. With great effort, James picked up a rock, and threw it at the beast. He was amazed when the rock smashed into the dragon’s neck. It worked. The dragon turned from William, and bore down on James, smashing soldiers into the side of the mountain with its tail as it went. James, finding that his sword was in his hand the entire time, swung it at the dragon. He missed. The dragon used its enormously long tail to pull a tree out of the ground. It smashed into the rock, which then fell through a sinkhole, James with it. James slashed at the dragon’s head. He missed. The rock, which he was now on top of, then turned, and he grabbed a nearby tree branch to steady himself. At that moment, William, with his last strength, hurled a large rock, which collided into the dragon with tremendous force. The dragon, smoke rising from its nostrils, opened its mouth and moved it towards the hole. The beast moved back quickly, however, when James made a quick slice to its tongue.
In that instant, he saw a tiny hole, where a scale had been dislodged by William’s last stone.
Thankful that he was right-handed, he thrust his sword at it with all his might. The sword went deep into the dragon. Green blood gushed out onto him. Then, the dragon fell into the hole, dead.
“Oof!” shouted James. “William!” William, of course, did not hear him.
Pushing with all his might, he could not dislodge the dragon.
Finally, he began ripping the scales off it. Then, after a while he was able to cut the dragon in half, resulting in him being covered in the foul beast’s gore.
“What my mother would say…” he chuckled.
With many slices, he finally got free. He climbed a tree out of the hole, with the dragon’s head under his arm.
“William!” he shouted, before running to his friend.
“I fear that I don’t get to have a burial yet,” said William, yawning. “I always wondered what they were li…” He suddenly sat up. “You’re a mess.”
“I think I know that,” James stated.
The other men began to stir.
“Fellow men-at-arms,” shouted William. “We’ve got our very own dragon bane.”
Everybody cheered weakly, as James held up the head.
“Now,” William continued. “How about fixing up some of these wounds? I’m all for it. Let’s go to the village.”
His comrades followed his advice. Their horses had scattered, but they slowly made their way on foot.
When they finally arrived at the village, the people instantly knew that they had killed the dragon. The soldiers spent two days at the village. The whole time, people were shouting that they were the great warriors of the age. Then the twelve comrades, being given fresh horses, rode off towards their general’s camp.
They put the new horses in the stable, and sneaked up to the camp. The first thing they heard was the general’s words, “Those fools are probably dead now, trying to go kill that dragon.”
Another voice said, “Of course. Of course.”
Suddenly, there was the sound of beating hooves, and a messenger rode up on a white horse. William and James went to meet him. The other soldiers, being advised by William, went to their tents.
“Greetings, Sirs,” said the messenger. “Do you know where I might find Sir Henry? I need to tell him that he has been replaced by one Sir James.”
“He’s over there.” James waved an arm.
“Thank you.” The messenger dismounted and started off in the direction.
“James,” said William. “You are Sir James.”
“What? Oh!” James started. “Sir messenger, wait!”
“Is something wrong?”
“No,” said James. “I am Sir James.”
“You are?” asked the messenger, looking carefully at him. He broke into a wide grin. “Oh, yes! You are. I wondered why you had a dragon’s head. Here are the orders!” He gave James a roll of parchment. “Make sure you let Sir Henry know.”
“I will,” said James, hardly believing that he was being promoted.
The messenger mounted and rode away.
James and William crept to their tents.
Around midnight, William sneaked into James’s tent. “I can’t sleep, imagining the gen—Sir Henry’s face.”
“Me neither,” said James, looking up. He was reading the order for the seventeenth time. They stayed awake all night talking about it. A while before dawn, they could not wait any more. They stood up, and marched over to Sir Henry’s large tent. Going inside, James put the dragon’s head into the demoted general’s hands, and said, “On your feet, man!”
“What is this? Treachery?” The general looked at the dragon’s head.
“I’ll be back. You’d better be ready.” James grinned. “And I won’t forget.”
“Guards!” shouted the general. “This man has gone mad!”
James quickly left, along with William, and began showing everybody his orders. Everybody was extremely glad about them. Now that James had saved them all from a dragon, they disrespected him no more.
“General Right-hand!” they cheered.
“What’s this? More treason?” asked Sir Henry, wandering from his tent. He was no longer holding the head.
“These are joyful soldiers,” corrected William.
James carelessly tossed his orders on the strategy table.
“Even more treachery? Why were you looking at my strategies? What are you doing back, anyway? You are dead.”
“You seem to forget that all of the men here made those strategies,” reproved James, evading the other two questions. The soldiers cheered.
Sir Henry sat down at the table, and glanced at the orders. His eyes widened. Then he turned purple and red.
“WHAT?” he thundered. “They cannot do this!”
“I didn’t tell them to,” said James.
“I–you–you coward!” shouted Sir Henry.
“Why are you calling my friend a coward?” asked William. “Do you want to challenge him?”
Sir Henry turned pale. “No! But I must be the general.”
“I have some good advice for you,” stated William.
“Go fight some dragons.”
“What? There aren’t any more.”
“I’ve got a better idea, William,” said James.
“What would that be, Sir?”
James raised his voice. “Men, we will go kill some big, ferocious snakes! All who wish to, and also Sir Henry, will.”
Copyright© 2015 by Joseph Leskey