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Sir Myrthwchlmycmed, the Lord Dragon Hunter, had never seen a dragon much less hunted one. The court knew him as either the Knight of the Unpronounceable Name or simply as Sir Myrth. His position accorded him a great deal of respect and not a little influence in the court of the king because everyone knows that a dragon hunter is both valiant and very hard to slay.

Sir Myrth felt he had stumbled on a pretty opportunity when the king appointed him Lord Dragon Hunter for life. His logic seemed flawless at first glance. You see, no dragons had been reported anywhere in the kingdom for many years. If dragons had ceased to be, life for the Knight of the Unpronounceable Name would be long, pampered and prosperous. So he allowed his beautiful breastplate to tarnish and left his broadsword to languish in its sheath in a dusty corner of his attic. He became a knight in silk and velvet, forsaking steel and leather. Eating and drinking and writing simpering love poems for ladies who thought him very gallant and brave consumed most of his time. Once, he routed an adventuresome spider from Lady Chamise's white ankle with a peacock feather for a sword. All agreed that he did so with panache and courtly grace. On the whole, Sir Mirth was greatly pleased with himself. But all this was about to change.

One crisp autumn day, with leaves turning brown and geese turning south, a lathered messenger on a lathered horse staggered into the castle. Throwing himself from the saddle, he requested immediate audience with the king. Half a glass later, the king emerged from his chambers calling for his Lord Dragon Hunter. At first Sir Myrth thought he'd been caught filching candied heron tongues from the royal larders again, but it wasn't long before he realized the summons was much more serious in nature than the missing tongues of water birds.

The king eagerly rubbed his hands together as he informed Myrth that a dragon had been reported in the Marchlands, the northernmost province of the realm. Villagers had sighted it in a remote area. The king wished for him to seek out the beast and slay it.

This, of course, was a bit much for the knight. He'd had a rich dinner the night before and it wasn't sitting well. The last thing he wanted was to be rousted from his luxury to hunt rumors.

"Surely, Sire, the villagers in their superstitious minds have confused domestic animals with a dragon," sniffed the Lord Dragon Hunter. "Why, once a herd of sheep descending a hill in single file was reported as a wyrm. The Lord Marcher should inquire more fully before sending to the court."

The messenger looked embarrassed for him.

"There is no Lord Marcher, Sir Myrth," said the king, fixing him with a stern look. "You haven't been paying much attention to politics, have you?"

"Well, no doubt they have seen a large boar and panicked. Villagers, pitchforks and wild boars do not mix, you know."

The messenger coughed and avoided looking at the knight.

"The villagers of the Marchlands are avid boar hunters, Sir Myrth," said the king growing vexed at his champion's speculations. "What ails thee?"

"Naught, my lord. I would gladly take such a journey, risking life and limb for the cause of the king, but who says this is a dragon save a gaggle of dirty peasants? Might they be scheming to take me hostage and demand ransom of your lordship to further their own ends? I am loathe to subject your Highness to such travail."

The king's royal brows drew together. "Methinks you are somewhat lacking in eagerness to fulfill your duties. Perhaps the position of Lord Dragon Hunter should be re-evaluated in the court."

"I shall depart at once, my lord!" Sir Myrth saluted crisply.

An invisible weight dropped like cannon shot onto the knight's shoulders as he returned to his rooms. Rummaging through his attic for serviceable trappings, he came across his breastplate red with rust but still solid and a broadsword, notched and dull, but more useful than the bright sliver he paraded about the court. He polished the armor as best he could, but try as he might it was a sorry looking outfit.

Word spread quickly and a great many parties were thrown in his honor. After many toasts to his health and having ceremoniously impaled a splendid dragon-shaped cake, the Knight of the Unpronounceable Name convinced himself that he could overcome a dragon—that he really was a dragon hunter. He preened before the ladies and everything seemed perfectly delightful.

At last, all things in readiness, and no further excuses to tarry coming easily to mind, Myrth pranced through the streets on his spirited stallion to the cheers and catcalls of the citizenry. It was a fine send-off and Myrth quite readily forgot he had never seen a dragon much less hunted one.

But when the cheers faded and the only calls came from passing birds and even farmers were growing scarce, the reality of his situation hammered Myrth in the stomach and left him gasping in the dirt. When he rose, remounted and found himself galloping madly away from the Marchlands, he stopped and allowed himself an awful moment. What would the nobles think if he never returned? The Lady Chamise? That he'd been slain by the very beast he claimed to have mastery over? Well, a noble death would bring him honor at court. Perhaps he could catch a ship to a distant shore and vanish into legend.

But then, an awful thought: Perhaps they'd speculate that he did flee! It was more than his pride could bear. He wheeled his stallion and trotted smartly northwards once more.
"I shall slay this loathsome beast and return victorious to the court where I shall be showered with gold!" He proclaimed to the forest.

But his words rang hollow. This, his first time alone in the wide world was becoming increasingly alarming. The forest can be a secretive, whispering place full of creakings and screeches, deep pools of shadow and furtive noises. The knight's mind was a fertile field for wild imaginings having been fed tales of highwaymen and trolls by the king's bards.

Night fell and no inn appeared. Indeed, no sign of civilization seemed forthcoming. The road dwindled to a rough track that threatened to dry up altogether.

Myrth grew disgruntled. His idea of what an adventure was like—glory, noble deeds and beautiful damsels—darkened with the falling of the sun. But before the shining orb could sink behind the distant western peaks, thunderheads scudded across the darkling expanse of sky. Ominous rumblings and muted flashes boded ill for the inn-less knight who had not thought to lug a pavilion or even a large tent with him. After all where were the hostels for knights errant? On his return he'd be sure to file an angry complaint with the hostel guild. The thought comforted him somewhat, but did not provide shelter for the night.

He startled himself by making a fire. Pleased with himself, he settled back against a tree trunk. Just then it decided to rain. The wind picked up and his fire smoldered, smoked and surrendered to the elements. And the rain dropped. There were no sprinklings, drippings or other forerunners of ordinary storms; it was as though a giant was dousing the countryside with lake-sized buckets. By this time, Myrth would have cheerfully surrendered sword, shield, and horse for a hot mug of mulled wine and a warm fire, but no such opportunity presented itself. So he hung his head between his knees and watched miserably as the rain trickled through his hair.

Sometime during the long night the rain slowed to a drizzle and stopped. Myrth dozed, too tired and miserable to fear highwaymen or hungry trolls.

He awoke with the sun in his eyes and winter in his bones. With nothing else to be done, hungry and wringing wet, Myrth sloshed to his bedraggled stallion. By midmorning he was well on the trail of the Marchlands Dragon and sneezing uncontrollably.

To keep his spirits up, he began by conjecturing what the identity of the real animal the villagers had sighted was. Probably a large badger. He smiled. Perhaps a spirited pony. He chuckled. A kitten with a loud purr. He drove himself into such gales of sneezes and giggles he did not notice the old man. That is, until the old man struck him with a stick.

Myrth's giggles ceased abruptly. "I say! What was that for?"

"Because grass is green!" chortled the old man, capering around Myrth's startled stallion.

The ancient was obviously off his tree. "Ah, but why is the grass green and not yellow?" countered Myrth, not realizing that it is pointless to reason with old people.

"The gnomes—yes!—the gnomes wouldn't have it any other way! Green ye see! I wanted it purple but they said it would confuse the worms! Be ye hunting dragons?"

Taken aback, by this sudden turn in the conversation, Myrth replied civilly, "Why, yes, it happens that I am. I am the king's Lord Dragon Hunter for life."

"For life, eh? Damned short one if ye asks me!" The old man hooted. "A dragon hunter. Hoo hoo! The king's, he says. Me old knees are a'knockin'!" He stood on his head. "Me bowels, they're loosenin'. Why, in my day, there were wyrms that'd roast the hair off the back of yer craven head from a league off!" His face turned an astonishing shade of purple.

"Listen you addlepated old ninny, I'll have none of that!"

"'Ware, Myrthwchlmycmed!" cried the old man, leaping to his feet with a gleam in his sharp old eyes. "Wyrms be creatures of truth, no matter what the legends say. If with artifice ye slay one, rue it ye will for the rest o' yer woefully short life, ye will!"

Myrth, by this time, was so wrought up he paid no heed to the old man's flawless pronunciation of his name. He sputtered and fumed.

Ignoring him completely, the old man slapped himself on the head. "Great Gods! I'm late and the mockingbird'll have me head!" He scampered off, clicking his heels and singing with all his might. "Remember not scream and soil yerself when he roasts ye fer dinner!" He called gaily over his shoulder. "It spoils the taste!"

Myrth's vision turned red as he spurred after the old man, intent on very unchivalrous deeds. The old man's voice led him deep into the forest where he lost sight and sound of him. A day later, he emerged from the forest, covered in bird droppings, cursing forests, senile lunatics, dragons and crows.

It was a bedraggled knight who finally encountered the village of Strongbottom. The citizens eyed him with amusement and his ire kindled, "What's wrong with you people?" he shouted. "Haven't you seen a dragon hunter before? Now, which of you peasants is going to show me to the inn?"

He eventually found the inn, after being directed through a compost heap and briar patch.
"Nothing more than a stable with pallets in place of stalls and dung, and I'm not sure about the dung," he growled and fell into a disgruntled sleep.

Roaring singers roused him in the dead of night, singing not just off key but off the key ring. He tossed and turned, hid under the potato sack that served as a pillow, sighed loudly, swore under his breath, but to no avail. Sleep had deserted him.

He staggered from the inn at dawn. Several farmers shouldered past him as the sun peeped over the horizon. Glowering, he saddled his horse, plucked straw from his hair and rode into a twitter of bird song.

By midmorning he came across a farmer pulling weeds in his field. "I say," he called. The farmer ceased his harvesting. "I am here for the dragon. Direct me to him and you shall have the king's undying gratitude."

The farmer lifted a burly arm and pointed to a line of bare hills several miles away. "On the other side of the third hill, you'll find him," said the farmer.

"Fabulous," replied Myrth, grandly. "He'll be dead by sunset."

"Can't see why. Hasn't done anyone harm far as I know."

"You mean, you don't want anyone to slay it?"

"That's your business, not mine. You're the dragon hunter. Dragons are your business. I grow turnips. Turnips are my business."


"Same as any beasts, dragons are. Some bad, some good. You don't kill off all boars just because there's one as makes trouble, do you? Same should go for dragons far as I'm concerned."

"Yes, well, you don't know dragons like I know them!"

The farmer eyed him shrewdly. "How many 'ave you killed, then?"

"Dozens," lied Sir Myrth.

"How come I never heard of you, then? What's your name?"

That gave Myrth pause. "Yes, well, I can't pronounce it," he admitted finally.

The farmer went back to his weeding. His arm rose and fell before he spoke again. "Seems a bloody waste, but it's all the same to me. Kept the vermin down, he did."

"Who are these people?" Myrth wondered as he rode off.

The farmer shook his head at the knight's departing back.

Sir Myrth steeled himself for battle as the hills grew to dominate his vision. He donned his helmet, pulled on his gauntlets, cleared his throat for battle cries. The land rose sharply. With only scrub brush to impede him, he made good time. Shortly after noon he crested the third hill and looked down on a small, barren valley.

In the scree at the foot of the hill lay a small pool of sparkling water just as the messenger had described. But the messenger had failed to mention the enormous cave on the other side. A thin trickle of smoke ascended thinly into the sunlight like a shadow without an object. Myrth's mouth went dry. A curl of hot wind stirred up a sweet odor. Very disturbing and not at all what he was expecting. There was a scraping at the tunnel's mouth, the sound of an immense body shifting across rock. Sir Myrth did something astonishing then. He charged. He gathered up his cowardly spirit, shouldered his lance and spurred his stallion to a gallop.

The reader should note a very important detail here: The horse Sir Myrth was riding had, up to now, spent the majority of its time in the royal stables. Myrth rode it only in parades or ceremonial occasions. So, you must imagine its surprise at being hammered in the ribs by a suddenly courageous knight.

It charged halfway down the hill before it thought to resent this sudden exertion. When it realized what it was doing it stopped dead. Just stopped in its tracks. The fear and exhilaration of the charge had caused Myrth to yell. As he hurtled clear of the saddle his war cry turned into a scream. He soared across the pool and landed with a great crash of shattering armor right under the dragon's immense snout.

"Well," remarked the dragon. "You don't see that every day."

"Y-you can talk?"

"Humans," the dragon snorted. "Think they're the only ones with a brain."

"You can talk!"

"Of course I can talk. Dragons have been talking far longer than humans. Now move aside so I can drink. I hate getting knight on me this early in the day."

Sir Myrth scrambled out of the way, losing various pieces of armor. The dragon heaved itself to the water's edge. Myrth gaped as yard after yard of scaly hide passed him by like a living wall. The beast was immense, its dust-colored scales catching the sunlight, transforming to gold.

Of the flightless northern wyrm variety, land dragons moved like quicksilver—impossibly swift—but this one moved slowly and with great effort.

It sipped delicately as Sir Myrth collected himself. He retrieved his shield and drew his sword. The dragon turned.

"Look here," said Myrth. "I've come to slay you. Do your worst."

The dragon chuckled, a deep, smoldering rumble. "At my age the only harm I could do you is to roll on you."

Sir Myrth bravely peeked over the top of his shield. "You mean you're not going to roast me?"

The dragon whuffed and twin streams of smoke trickled from his nostrils. He eyed it critically. "The best I can do, little knight."

Myrth lowered his shield. "Well! Won't be much of a battle, I suppose." He advanced pointing his sword at the dragon. It raised an eyebrow as long as Myrth's arm.

"Now, hold on a minute. Who do you think you are coming into my home and thinking you can slice me up as nice as you please?"

"I am the Lord Dragon Hunter of this realm. Appointed for life by the king. It is my duty to slay dragons."

"And what if the dragon objects?" it asked heaving itself up to tower over the knight.

Myrth retreated several wary steps. "Then it will be the worse for one of us," he surprised himself with.

"Well answered!" crowed the dragon. "But before you kill me, let me tell you a tale."

"I don't see how a story will save you, but all right. This can be your last request, if you like."

Huge eyes rolled. "Thank you for humoring me." Sir Myrth nodded graciously, took a seat on his helmet.

The dragon began to speak, telling Myrth the tales of his long life. Daring exploits to steal other wyrms' hoards, the plundering of ancient fortresses, the long sleep of rejuvenation, bloody battles with ambitious knights, how damsels weren't really much use except to bait those who fancied themselves strong—he spoke at great length and Sir Myrth found himself caught up in the recounting of the dragon's long life. When the dragon fell silent a tear glimmered in Myrth's eye. The dragon regarded him with ponderous amusement.

The knight took a drink from the pool before saying anything. Then, drawing himself up, he said, "A wondrous story and passing strange, but I must slay you still." He paused. "My king commands it."

"I see," said the dragon and looked long at the stars, for night had fallen as its tale unfolded. Then it bared its soft throat and said, "Do as you will, but slay me in all truth, for if I die with less than that, you will regret it."

"It seems I've heard that somewhere before," said Sir Myrth and raised his sword.

The Knight of the Unpronounceable Name rode down from the hills dragging a large bundle behind him on a litter. The farmer glanced up from his harvesting.

"So you did the beast in," he said, leaning on his fence.

"Sound the trumpets," cried Sir Myrth. "I have slain the Marchland Dragon and the land is free of oppression once more!"

"The rats will be happy now, I suppose," said the farmer, turning back to his labor.

"What's that supposed to mean, exactly?"

"There will be great rejoicing among the pests."

Sir Myrth snorted as he continued on his way. "Ungrateful wretch."

"Idiot," said the farmer to his back.

His return to the village proved much more satisfying. Men stopped what they were doing to stare at the battered knight and his trophy. Women fainted, children screamed and laughed.

After a few minutes of their collective awe, Myrth's head swelled to the size of his horse's backside. He happily recounted his tale. It began like this:

"I climbed the hill, the sun blazing in my eyes. Couldn't see a bloody thing until the brute was right on top of me."

He told them the fight ranged over five miles until he, the Lord Dragon Hunter, had driven it back into its lair. Determined to finish the beast he rushed with a defiant cry into the pit. The crowd oohed. There ensued a titanic struggle which Myrth illustrated by dashing about with his sword, nearly slicing off a young man's ear. Finally the wyrm grasped him in its coils and began to squeeze the life from him. With his last conscious breath he plunged Draksblood (what he was now calling his sword) into its gaping maw. "The beast went mad. I was hard-pressed to prevent its convulsions from crushing me, but finally it subsided and, as a chorus of angels sang in the heavens, I took this," he pulled aside the cloth on the litter with a flourish, "for my trophy!"

The crowd leaped back then took two curious steps forward. On the litter lay the glittering, lifeless head of the Marchland Dragon.

Needless to say, the villagers were awed by his performance and gave him the best room in the inn to recuperate, free of charge, of course. So jubilant was Myrth it did not bother him that the best room was simply a larger pallet covered with a balding sheep hide. He remained there for several days, telling his tale to all who would listen until the flow of free ale dried up.

Sensing it was time to move on (perhaps the villagers burning him in effigy spurred him on), Myrth saddled up and rode out of the village forever. That night there was a great celebration.

South he rode, buoyed by his excellent fortune, until at last he came to the wood of the mad old man.
"Dragon food, indeed. I'll show him what kind of a fool he is!" sniffed the Lord Dragon Hunter, but the old man did not show a whisker. Myrth hallooed and shouted but the old man seemed to have more pressing business with the mockingbird. "Evidently saw me coming and hid himself in shame," said Myrth, resenting the man even more for ruining his mood.

But upon sighting the city gates his spirits lifted. Now all would see the Lord Dragon Hunter in his triumph.

As he rode through the streets the citizens showed a moderate interest in the battered knight, but their curious cosmopolitan glances meant more to Sir Myrth than a thousand gaping villagers.
He reached the palace gates and wearily climbed down, making a great show of dusting himself off and stepping heavily. Stablehands ran to care for his horse, welcoming the knight back. He left orders to bring the litter to the audience hall.

The king looked him up and down as the knight swaggered into the hall. Courtiers and magistrates fell silent as the Lord Dragon Hunter approached the throne. A finger from his gauntlet clattered to the floor as he knelt before his sovereign.
"Well come, Sir Myrth," said the king. "It appears you have a tale to tell. Is the Marchland Dragon slain?"

"It is, your Majesty," replied the knight basking in the court's murmurs of astonishment. "The battle was most trying but the dragon is slain."

The king silenced the beginning of applause with a wave of his hand. "We are eager to hear the battle's account. Have you some token of victory?"

At that very moment the doors opened and four stableboys stumbled into the hall with the litter. A murmur went up and several of the more fastidious courtiers raised scented handkerchiefs to sensitive nostrils, mincing out of its path. They deposited the litter before the throne and, with hasty bows, scurried to the back of the hall.

The knight drew himself up and proclaimed, "Hear now the tale of Sir Myrth and the Marchland Dragon." Then he began with brows bunched together. "The evil brute lay in ambush for me. By some twist of luck it knew I was coming. As I rode between two hills it fell on me like an avalanche. I was thrown as my horse fell. The beast dove on me but I grabbed it by the ears and held on for my very life. It bucked and dodged but I held fast. The sounds issuing from its throat were maddening—snorts like gales of wind and thunder. Steam hissed from its nostrils and gouts of flame nearly overcame me. I hacked at its neck, but its thick hide defied my best efforts." His voice quavered. "At the time I thought I was done for."

The king broke in. "So, you were riding the dragon one-handed whilst stabbing it?"

"That is the way of it, Majesty."

"We can see it now. Carry on, good knight."

"By this time my hand grew weary and, forced to relinquish my grip, I threw myself from the wyrm. Not quick enough. I regained my feet only to be borne down by its hideous breath. In the midst of despair, I swung! My blade, Draksblood, flew well. The wyrm drew back but when it lunged its rage was redoubled. My armor bore the brunt of the blows, as you can see." He raised his arms and spun about so that all could witness its disarray. An appreciative murmur went up. The stableboys gaped. "Rending and tearing, it smashed into me. I laid about me with Draksblood." He drew his sword, raised it over his head. The steel was scarred and pitted. The court gasped.

The chancellor cleared his throat. "You've just drawn steel in the king's presence, Myrth," he said sternly. Myrth faltered and hastily sheathed his sword.

"Your pardon, Majesty."

"Don't mention it," said the king looking amused.

"Thank you," he sketched a bow. "May I continue?"

"By all means."

"Ahem, yes, well. We fought each other to a standstill. We stood exhausted, barely able to keep our feet. Finally, I summoned my last energy and attacked. Quailing before my courage, the wyrm took refuge in its cave—a foul, dripping cavern littered with bones." The sensitive courtiers shuddered; the stableboys grinned. "I confess to some foolishness then," said Myrth with a rueful grin. "I followed it into its lair. It caught me in its coils before I took five steps. It sought to choke the life from me. I can't express the horror of those moments and confess I laid about myself heedlessly. Finally, as my vision dimmed, the creature made its fatal error: It struck open-mouthed before I expired. Up flew Draksblood, straight and true!" He cried, pantomiming a heroic thrust. Scattered applause. "Then it was slippery business with the creature thrashing in death. I slipped and slid, ducked and dove until I fell into the blessed sunlight once more." Several people cheered and applause rang out in the hall.

"Well told, Sir Myrth. Well told, indeed," said the king.

The crowd applauded; the stableboys whistled. Myrth basked in their praise. When the applause subsided the king said, "We are pleased, Lord Dragon Hunter, but have you some trophy as token of your victory?"

"I do, my Lord. I have brought you the very head of the Marchland Dragon itself." Excitement shot through the court.

Myrth stepped down and approached the litter. The stableboys craned their necks eagerly. Myrth pulled aside the canvas with a flourish and looked down. His face went white and the crowd went dead silent.

"Tsk, tsk, Lord Dragon Hunter," said the dragon. "Your story grows with the telling." Myrth jumped three feet in the air and came down trembling.

It was miraculous to say the least. There lay the dragon's severed head, but not dead, its scales glittered like gold and its eyes were very, very alive.

"But you're dead!" cried the knight. "I killed you!" he turned to the king. "I killed him!"

"In a manner of speaking, yes," said the dragon's head. "But I warned you. You slew me with every intention of making me out to be a vile, hatesome creature."

"I did no such thing!" said Myrth bristling with indignation. "I slew you in good faith."

"Your good faith only extends as far as the people watching," chuckled the dragon's head.

"I'll just have to kill you again!" Myrth reached for his sword, but the king cried out, "Stay, Sir Myrth! It seems yours is not the only tale to be told today."

The dragon's head grinned; Myrth stepped back, his face burning, eyes bulging.

"Now," said the king addressing the dragon's head. "We suspect there is more to you than is readily apparent." Several of the nimbler minds in the court chuckled. "Pray, show yourself, Wyrm of the Marchlands."

The dragon climbed out of the air whole and intact. "Thank you, your Majesty," it said as hearts quailed at its size. "Please assure your subjects I mean them no harm." Its horns brushed the high ceiling. The king gazed out over his folk and saw those hearts that were courageous and those whose were not.

"Peace, dragon. No harm will come to you in my hall."

A hearty, booming dragon laugh rang out. "I fear nothing, lord, but I thank you all the same. Now to my account of my slaying." He smiled toothily and sighed. "I have lived a hundred years for every one of your oldest citizen. I have learned to read the hearts of men. This man," an iron claw pointed to Myrth. "Has passed himself off as a dragon hunter—a slayer of dragons. True, he separated my head from my neck, but I am no hart or wild pig to be slain with simple steel." It chuckled again. "There are ancient laws regarding the killing of dragonfolk, some still remain. The most enduring of these prevents any of an untrue heart from slaying one of my kind. So, even as my head was sundered from my body, my life quickened within me. Now, thanks to this foolish little man, I am reborn. And, though I perceived this knight as untrue, he has surpassed even my low expectations for him. Every man and woman he did meet along the way was spun a tale worthy of the bards. Each tale surpassed that of the last. In this I find myself greatly wronged both for his portrayal of me as some dumb beast and his benefit at my demise. Such a man is not worthy to serve you, lord king."

As the dragon spoke, Myrth shrank smaller and smaller until only eyes and hair could be glimpsed over his battered breastplate.

"I have a claim on this man, sire, and a bargain for you if you are willing."

"Your claim is gladly acknowledged," replied the king. Myrth's armored knees began clinking against each other. "But we would hear your bargain before agreeing to it."

So the king and court listened as the dragon spoke. In the end an agreement was reached. No longer would the king's men be sent to destroy dragons and, in exchange, the dragon would guard the Marchlands, securing it against would-be foes. Sir Myrth, to his lasting horror, was given into the keeping of the dragon (it remarked that its last meal had been weeks ago). Everyone seemed quite happy with the judgment with the obvious exception of the poor knight who expected to be eaten at any moment in full view of the court.

The king declared a celebration for the alliance. The city exploded into revelry. The dragon consumed tubs of wine and several of the king's finest cows. Sir Myrth remained huddled in a corner watched over by two very sober, very annoyed guards.

The festivities went on until dawn. By that time most of the revelers snored by the fires or lay where they fell. Myrth had not slept a wink, but jumped all the same when the dragon came for him.

"Time for us to be off, little knight. Much good must be wrought to right the ills done to me." Myrth cowered into the corner. The dragon whuffed a wine-thick breath. "Oh, stop your blubbering! I'm not going to eat you, the gods know you'd be all nerves and gristle. No, your doom is going to be better than a quick death. It could take a lifetime of lifetimes to change your heart, but not to worry! You are with a wyrm now and as long as my power is on you, you will live."

The dragon took him in its mouth like a wolf cub, gently but with inexorable strength. Stepping softly over the slumbering forms of lords and princes, the dragon and Sir Myrthwchlmycmed vanished from the knowledge of men, but a rumor was born in the years to follow, of a great healer out of the north. It was said he was a hero out of yesteryear who'd come to heal the ills of the world. True or no, great good was done and the land prospered. As the years passed the folk of the Middle Kingdoms looked back on that time as a golden age and I think that everyone in the long run got what they deserved.

Incidentally, the farmer who so disliked Sir Myrth eventually made his way to the capitol where the king took note of his canny mind. He succeeded the Royal Chancellor and lived a wise, prosperous life, a boon to king and kingdom. To every foolish knave who gave him lip he was ever quick to recount the tale of Sir Myrth and the Marchland Dragon. And though they rolled their eyes and fingered the candied heron tongues in their pockets they knew he meant well.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it.

I welcome any comment and critiques on this.
Add a Comment:
To be honest, I have very little but praise for this enchantimg and amusing tale. However - isn't there always a however? - I would like some changes. A careful reading shows some dodgy word choices? I'd like you to do a very careful out loud rereading - the flow is good, but words like 'inexorable' don't quite fit, and there are a few such instances. I believe also that the punctuation needs attention here and there. There are some lovely touches: 'leaves turning brown and geese turning south', for instance, and 'half a glass later'. Very clever.

I don't critique very often, because quite frankly, so many pieces are despairingly awful and I never know quite where to begin. This piece needs just a few gentle touches to become truly sparkling.

What I offer, as always, is a rewrite of the story as I would like to see it. There will be few changes - just tweaks, as I said, and of course you're completely free to use any of the changes or not, as you wish. If you'd like me to do this, let me know and I'll send the result in a note.
What do you think?
The Artist thought this was FAIR
3 out of 3 deviants thought this was fair.

Having read the previous critique, I'm not sure there's much I can add. This is a well thought out and crafted story. There are some lovely, descriptive passages and you've made nice use of dialogue to 'draw' your characters for your readers. Perhaps a few lines exploring the thought processes of your characters would help to flesh them out even more.

I echo the advice on grammar and punctuation (especially commas). Reading aloud will help you identify the pauses where commas are needed.

Apart from this, you've done a great job! Your style is descriptive without being overdone. A writer's job is to be readable....I see too many writers who drown themselves (and their readers) in so much flowery description that the direction and thrust of the story are often lost! Good use of dialogue and prudent editing is usually enough to redress this. It's a trap we writers must all be wary of (we love words so much!! lol)

Again, great write. Keep it up! :-)
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Elvenwyn Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, it had a great moral to it.
gorcrow Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2011  Professional Photographer
Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you. =)
Elvenwyn Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
No problem. :)
Mod3mz Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2011
Very interesting! I had so much fun reading this.
gorcrow Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2011  Professional Photographer
Ha! A bit of silliness, wasn't it. =) Glad you enjoyed it.
rojeru Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great =D
I enjoyed it :thumbsup:
gorcrow Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Professional Photographer
Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks! =)
rojeru Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
You're welcome =D
LancelotPrice Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2010
My real name is Lancelot, so I could not avoid reading this piece. :D
Quite entertaining. Good stuff.

Though I am a believer in the Great Writing Subconscious, I have to admit that I agree with Centauran that there are a couple of rough spots. Some that could be streamlined to produce more intensity and oomph in the last half.

But I am being an arrogant bastard to criticise prose narrative. And probably anything else. :D
gorcrow Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2010  Professional Photographer
Ha ha, no, I totally agree. There are some rough sections in it. It's always great to have a fresh pair of eyes on a story. So easy to lose oneself in the overall scheme.
SgtPossum Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2010
It's ingenious stuff like this that reminds me I have a long way to go as a writer. :P

You sir, are amazing.
gorcrow Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2010  Professional Photographer
You're very kind. I think you're being a little too humble. I took the time to read some of your "In the Meat Grinder" series. You have pretty solid writing and great instincts.

I don't think any committed writer ever thinks his piece is perfect. There will always be those niggling places in a story that feel awkward or out of place. What you see as a finished product is a poor gauge for what took place beneath that smooth and seemingly polished surface.

Keep writing. You've got what it takes. Now it just comes down to all that wretched work. =D
SgtPossum Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2010
You're a very kind and inspiring person. I will. :)
CapriciousReaper Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I thought this was a very cleverly written piece, and I don't understand why it wouldn't be published. (Well, probably because people are so crazy about *sparkling vampires* these days, hehe. xD) Maybe publishers see it as a "children's" story, but seeing that your vocabulary is too "flowery," they're worried that the younger generation won't get it?

But yes, I really like your style of writing--very witty and very intricate. It's not a style you see often in modern writers. And I also like your main character Myrth: there's tons of foreshadowing that he's definitely not going to do the right thing in the end. His prideful and cowardly personality just wouldn't allow it.

Altogether, it's a very cute, well-written story! C:
gorcrow Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010  Professional Photographer
Thanks, Eden. =) I agree about the vampire obsession. Altogether too many bloodsuckers lurking about the edges of pop culture these days. Saw a t-shirt the other day that said "And then Buffy staked Edward through the heart. The end." =D

I do think we underestimate kids' vocabularies. My nine-year-old stepson comes up with the most awesome story ideas. They're quite complex and intricate.

Appreciate the insight into Myrth's character!
CapriciousReaper Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Not a problem! I do like vampires, but I miss the days when vampires were... cool. When they actually SUCKED BLOOD and did interesting things instead of being into high school drama. X3

And yeah, I do think that some kids have excellent vocabularies AND wonderful imaginations! It's just that teenagers these days... Oh boy. With texting and internet chatting, everyone wants things to be shortened down and simplified. Some people just don't want to READ or WRITE anymore. I myself am around that age group (18) and there are always exceptions to the rule. But some teens are just so lazy. My dad is a teacher and he talks about how lazy his students are.

So I'll get off of my soap box now, haha. XD

And no problem! I'm planning on looking through a few of your other stories when I can. I like to write a little myself (mostly--DARE I SAY IT?--fanfiction), but I don't post a lot of it on here.

But yes, your writing is great! C:
gorcrow Featured By Owner Jul 27, 2010  Professional Photographer
Yes, I agree. I don't think it's because I'm getting older - it seems like we're just in too much of a hurry these days. I get wanting to communicate quickly, etc., but there is such a richness in language. Texting a novel is the equivalent of smashing a diamond flat.
CapriciousReaper Featured By Owner Jul 28, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah, we need to just slow down. I do like the technology that we have, but we've gotten to the point that we're always so impatient and we're always multitasking. I'm just as guilty, haha. But we need to learn to just sit down and enjoy the quiet then and again.

And yeah, the English language is messed up enough--chopping it up through texting has led to a decline in some kids' writing skills. D:

Very good analogy, by the way! O:
billysattva Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010
were i to attempt a critique (i don't know how so to do) all i could say is that i was drawn into the story and wouldn't have stopped reading for anything. this does deserve publication, either in a magazine such as the small format "Reader's Digest" type of fantasy/sci-fi publications or perhaps in a collection of short stories in paperback form. as both an entertaining tale and a morality play i love it. it is just good entertainment, a short escape from this crazy world and its "dragons" that we face...submit it somewhere, gorcrow, you might be pleasantly surprised at the long-term effects and results...
gorcrow Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010  Professional Photographer
Aw, thanks, Bill. I have submitted it; it's been rejected a few times. The gauntlet of small press publishing, I suppose. Will keep trying however. It's one of my favorite traditional fantasy stories I've attempted.
billysattva Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010
S. King papered a wall with rejection slips for Christine(?)...look at him now...
gorcrow Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2010  Professional Photographer
Yup. =)
GeminiSolace Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2010
An excellent fable.
gorcrow Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2010  Professional Photographer
Why, thanks. =)
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