The Knight's Mission

Ilun stood in front of the gaping mouth of the cave, both shivering and sweating in the early morning light.

God…I can't do this! Ilun thought.

The sun was barely beginning to rise. Now, if any, was the best time; the dragon would be sleepy and it was best to attack it before it realized a knight, however young and terrified, was standing in full armor outside its front door. Yet, Ilun couldn't summon the courage to even put a hand to the hilt of his sword.

'Tis not right, Ilun thought. 'Tis not honorable! 'Tis no honor nor any glory in killing a sleepy beast like the way some roadway bandit slits the throats of his victims.

"Anyway," Ilun spoke to no one, "'Tis only a babe." But, babes grow up, a voice whispered in Ilun's mind. All babes grow up and when this babe grows up, it'll be a marauder, for sure. Ilun shook his head. "All the more reason not to kill the little beast," Ilun said aloud.

The sun was now peeking over the green fields in the distance. The villages would be waking up soon, and the villagers soon wonder why their knight had not yet brought back the "fearsome dragon." Ilun's honor pricked at him; he'd promised to protect them, and in doing so, he'd promised to rid them of the threat.

Ilun squared his shoulders and looked into the cave again. A sudden though struck him: The villagers had spoken only of a baby dragon. Where was the baby's mother? Dragon mothers were known to be utterly vicious when protecting their young. Was the baby abandoned? Most likely not.

Chills of fear ran down Ilun's spine; a dragon itself was hard to vanquish, but no one, no one, had ever beaten a mother dragon. They either chased off half-dead opponents or ate them.

Ilun sighed. He'd made a promise, and no matter how much he disagreed, no matter frightened he was, he would have to keep it. Drawing his sword, he advanced on the cave.

"Mister," a squeaky voice piped up, "Why are you here?"

Ilun gasped, startled, and dropped his sword with a loud clang. He whirled in the direction of the voice and found himself staring into the emerald eyes of a tiny, ruby-red dragon.

"Mister, why do you have a sword? Are you here to kill me, mister?" the baby dragon asked.

Ilun stared at the dragon, too stunned to speak. The dragon, perched on a ledge at Ilun's eye level, sat back on its haunches.

"Mummy told me that some person like you would come someday. 'Tis only natural, seeing as how Mummy is gone and nobody wants a dragon around," it said. It looked down sadly. Two little tears slipped down its scaly face.

"I miss Mummy," it murmured. "Mister, if you kill me, will I see her again?"

Finally, Ilun swallowed the lump in his throat.

"You're no different than a human child," he said incredulously. He shook his head. He reached up and picked up the baby dragon below its forelegs. It looked up at him with curious eyes.

"No, I won't kill you, not now. You're too human," he said.

The baby dragon blinked. "What shall you do with me, then?" it asked.

Ilun tucked the dragon under one arm while he picked up his sword and sheathed it. The dragon was very tiny, therefore Ilun set it on his shoulder. The dragon hooked its tiny, needle-sharp claws through the gaps in Ilun's armor and clung to the chain-mail inside.

"Mister, you didn't answer my question," the dragon said into Ilun's ear.

Ilun looked at it and smiled. "I'm not quite sure, but I'm going to find you a home," Ilun replied. With the dragon riding his shoulder, Ilun set off, still unsure of what to do, but assured that he had done what he truly wanted to do.