A tale I'll tell of heroes bold
Of battle, glory, gems, and gold
The three friends struggled up the rocky incline in a ragged attempt at single file: one was considerably further ahead than the other two, who had chosen to take the hill at a much slower pace.
The first, Mila, of halfling race
An agile rogue with matchless grace
The one in the lead paused and threw a glance over her shoulder at the other two. So slow! Clad in leather armor the same shade of brown as both her hair and her eyes, she was not even half their height and yet she still moved more quickly than they. She grinned cheekily and gestured wildly to them. 'Hurry up! I don't have all day! You can leave the mage behind, you know,' she added as an afterthought. 'He can catch up later.'
Jedan, the second- peerless mage
In manner fierce yet slow to rage
In response, Jedan halted long enough to shoot a bolt of magical energy in the halfling's direction; not anything that would really hurt (not that it hit her at all; her reflexes were too good) but something to shut her up. A heavy, balding human in his later years, he was sorely out of breath and being helped to laboriously climb the slope by the third member of the group- a situation not really appropriate for the rogue's quips.
Thirdly, Andar, a righteous elf
With rapier swift defends himself
The mage's aide was a tall elf clad in scale mail armor, a slender rapier held at his waist. Patiently, he acted as a prop for the gasping wizard, offering low words of encouragement from time to time. His long silver-blonde hair, caught back in a copper band at the nape of his neck, glinted in the light of the angry sun. Combined with the gleam of his polished armor, the effect was a halo of light surrounding him. He shot the capering halfling a warning look which was casually ignored, then turned back to Jedan. 'Come on; we're nearly there…'
And they went, these three heroes bold
To slay the dragon ages old
'This is only one hill,' Jedan grumbled between gulps of air. 'There'll be more, and then that blasted dragon.'
'Don't worry about the dragon now,' Andar advised.
'Think of the rewards!' Mila shouted down from the crest of the hill, where she now perched on a rock, waiting for them. 'The treasure! Dragons love to collect treasure!'
'Stuff and nonsense,' the mage huffed. 'Only bards believe that.'
Mila gave him a hurt look. 'Don't say that! If dragons don't collect treasure, then there's no point in my being here, and I'm just wasting my time traveling with you two louts.'
'We're not here for treasure,' Andar reminded her as he and Jedan finally reached the summit. 'We're here because it's an evil dragon that needs to be dealt with. Treasure comes later.'
'Obviously, you don't know me very well.' With this haughty statement, Mila hopped lightly down from the boulder and patted him companionably on the knee, easy for her to reach. 'Let's go on, then.'
They travelèd through perils great
With courage that ne'er did abate
'Gods, I hate spiders.' Mila shuddered, flicking one off her leg. They had stopped to rest in a small copse of trees, and apparently it was a popular gathering place for all small creatures with too many legs.
At last they reached the dragon's lair,
Fought many a guardian there
'Well, this should be it,' Andar announced. They faced a circular iron door set into a small hillside. Not exactly where one might expect to find a dragon, but the location was as had been described to them. The warrior turned towards Mila. 'All yours.'
As long as she had been with them, she had been the one to search for any sort of traps that might have been set, as well as open locks- should there be doors, they were not likely to have been left open. Mila wasted no time in setting to the task, either. She soon deduced that there were no traps to be found, but the door was most definitely and surely locked.
'I didn't know dragons used locks,' Jedan commented as the rogue went to work picking the lock.
'Or doors,' the elf added. 'Well, I'm sure there's a reason.'
Half an hour later, the reason had become quite clear: to keep out even persistent intruders. Mila had retreated to the hill above the door after breaking one of her precious lockpicks in the lock and Andar, too, had given up after sustaining a chip in his rapier while prying and slashing at the door. They were at a loss what to do next.
'I'm bored,' Mila sighed, chewing on a bit of grass as she settled onto her back.
No one replied. What was there to say? It was embarrassing enough being thwarted by a mere- though certainly well-crafted- door.
Though perils loomed they remained true-
Their pure, good hearts knew what to do.
'I've got it!'
Jedan's sudden exclamation jerked the other two from the apathetic stupor they'd fallen into. 'Got what?' Mila inquired eagerly. 'If it's shiny, I want it!'
Lying on his back on the grass, the mage rolled his eyes. 'I've got a way to get in, of course. Is all you think about tre- never mind, I know the answer to that. But if you want something flashy, you'll have it. Both of you get away from the door.' Andar wisely obeyed him, but Mila ignored the command.
'Feh.' The rouge waved a hand dismissively and remained just where she was. 'It's not like any of the magic you do is actually dangerous.'
'What!' Jedan swelled up with indignation and prepared to cast a spell. 'You- How dare you say that!'
What followed was a blinding flash of mauve light and smoke that carried an unpleasant smell that crossed those of burning hair and molding corpses. When the acrid smoke drifted away it revealed Mila, still on the hill just above the now-half-melted door. A small column of smoke rose from the top of her head, now framed by her singed hair. On her blackened face was a ferocious that made Andar glad he was not the recipient of her wrath.
Hearts never failing, in they went
In their quest they would ne'er relent
'No! I've changed my mind, I don't want to go in- you can do without me! Please don't make me go!'
'Jedan… You're the least likely of all of us to get killed what with all the wards you cast on yourself. Come on…'
'Those were against Mila! The dragon'll be much stronger! No…'
At last they met their fearsome foe
With daunting strength, they laid him low
'Well, it certainly is big enough for a dragon.'
'Where's all the treasure?'
'I still liked it better outside.'
With a sudden shout of delight, Mila dashed forwards ahead of her companions towards the far side of the circular cave, ignoring Andar's order to halt. She had found the dragon and was not about to let it be.
Three feet long, it was curled up with its snout buried under its tail. Its scales flickered blue-green in the light of Andar's torch; small puffs of smoke trailed from its nostrils. As the halfling approached it, amber eyes winked open, then widened noticeably at the sight of intruders in its inner sanctuary. It got to its feet far faster than it looked to be capable of and opened its mouth wide.
A small jet of flame, perhaps half a foot long, jutted from the toothy maw and sputtered out of existence almost as soon as it had come- more like a fiery sneeze than anything else. The dragon had no time to do more; the next moment, it found the slender arms of the halfling wrapped tightly around its neck. 'It's like a dragon sized to fit me!'
'I can't watch,' Jedan muttered from the entrance to the cave, turning away. 'It'll kill her.'
A rumbling sound caused him to turn back again. 'What on-'
The dragon had collapsed onto its back on the floor, all four legs up in the air and its tail twitching excitedly. It was from it that the noise was emanating- it seemed quite content to have Mila's nimble fingers at work scratching it beneath its chin. 'My gods.' Jedan couldn't believe his eyes. 'I didn't know dragons… purred.'
'It's just a baby,' Mila laughed, as if that explained everything.
'So I can see. But still…'
The wealth they found within the cave
To those in need, all of it gave.
'Oh, I found this,' Mila announced later, after they had finally managed to convince her to leave the dragonlet and commenced their route homewards. She held up a small silver coin. 'At least there was some treasure. For me, that is. I guess it hadn't really learned how to collect, yet. I could teach it…'
Andar rolled his eyes towards the sky. 'I swear, that was the most shameful adventure I've ever undertaken. I never want to hear it mentioned again, understand? Who told us about that 'great, fierce, evil dragon', anyhow?'