A Queen’s Revenge

            Drayghar could sense the queen’s anger before he was completely awake and the thundering of her emotions baffled him. She was furious, and although Drayghar didn’t know what he’d done to incur her wrath, he knew what she planned to do. She was going to kill him. If he’d been any other creature, he’d have been frightened, but he was a dragon and quite capable of defending himself when the need arose. Intensely curious, he rose from his nest by the fire and waited for her entrance.

            She arrived a moment later, her metal boots clanging against the stone floor. Even in the fire’s glimmering half-light, she was a formidable figure. The queen was dressed from head to toe in a cross between armor and dragon scales that seemed to grow from her skin. Her silver-white hair nearly brushed the floor and hung in thick braids that were held together by jeweled bands. No one had ever seen her face or known her name. She began pacing in front of her charge, her hair swaying hypnotically around her. “What have you got to say for yourself, dragon?” she snarled.

            “I say I have a name and I wish you’d use it,” Drayghar retorted, “especially since you gave it to me.”

            The queen abruptly kicked him in the snout. It didn’t hurt him because of his six-inch thick scales, but it caught his attention. Drayghar snorted a stream of blue flame, causing the queen to step back before she continued her tirade. “Why must you be so insolent? I want to know why you let that foolish knight run off with my treasure!”

            Drayghar lazily swung his head around and looked at the stash that flowed from the corner of the cave. There were jewels, weapons, coins and even ancient books piled to the ceiling. “All he took was six pieces of gold, two rubies and a rusty chalice. I hardly thought you’d notice.”

            “Well I did,” she shouted. “Why didn’t you stop him?”

            “For what? It takes a lot of energy to chase some of those knights. I hardly thought what he took was worth the effort.”

            “You idiot!” the queen exploded. “You let him steal the Chalice of Immortality!”

            Drayghar’s eyes widened in surprise. He’d heard the folktales about the Chalice, ones that told of six monks who had been given the secret to immortality by the gods. They created the Chalice to hold the gift they had been given, prepared to share it with humanity when the time was right. But humans were silly creatures, prone to vanity and jealousy and the gods, saddened by their mistake, ordered the Chalice hidden. Many a knight and treasure seeker had gone in search of it over the centuries, but most beings—including Drayghar—assumed it didn’t exist. He wondered how the queen had found it, but more importantly, why hadn’t he been told of its existence if he was supposed to have guarded it?

            “Because, dragon,” the queen replied, having heard his question through their telepathic bond, “if I had told you about it, you’d have tried to use it. Even the oldest of your kind know they’ll eventually perish. Nothing in this world is immortal. The monks knew that and so did the gods. They enchanted the Chalice. Dragon magic might have allowed you to unlock its secrets, and once the spells are breached, only one person can drink from it. I couldn’t take the chance that you’d use it. Now I’ll have to raise an army just to get it back. I assumed that a dragon would have been an ample guardian. Your kind are, after all, quite protective of their hordes.”

            “That’s unfair and you know it!” Drayghar growled, his anger rising to meet that of his queen’s. “Dragons are no more greedy than some humans. We’ve been vilified throughout history because humans can’t stand the thought that creatures exist that are more intelligent and powerful than they are. I could care less about your stupid treasure.”

            “Silence!” the queen roared. “That is irrelevant. The point is that you failed and now you must be punished!”

            Drayghar snorted, a thin plume of steam issuing from his left nostril as he laughed. “I’m a dragon. What could you possibly do to hurt me?”

            She said nothing to him and instead approached the treasure pile. Peering into the ice of her mind, Drayghar knew what she intended to do. The Questor’s Lance – one of the few weapons that could kill him – jutted from the top of the pile, its silver blade reflecting the fire’s dancing light. Its golden pommel was almost as large as his leg, but Drayghar knew his queen would have no trouble wielding it against him. She’d left it there as a reminder of what could happen if he failed her, but it had never bothered him before now. Vaulting to the top of the glittering heap in an act of self-defense, he wrapped himself around the sword, wings flared.

            “So I can’t use the lance,” she mocked, shrugging. “Did you really think that was the only way I could kill you? I made you from the tears of a basilisk, the claw of a gryphon and stone from the Akon Mountains. When you were mere hours out of the egg, you shed your first set of scales. I wove them into this cloak and then used an incantation to make it grow into my skin. I have control over you this way. If we become separated, you will return to the stone that gave you life.” Dramatically raising her hand to her chest, the queen pulled a scale off of her armor and dropped it to the floor, crushing it beneath her boot heel. “It really is a shame I’ll have  to create a new guardian. You were my favorite.”

            Drayghar tried to spit at her, but the shock that there had been others like him, that he was ordinary, froze the fire in his throat. She continued to tear apart her armor piece by piece and began to throw the scales into the fire, her eyes glittering menacingly as she watched them burn. There was no time for pain, even as Drayghar felt his bones solidify and turn to stone. When the transformation was complete, the queen casually waved her hand and a cloud of dragonscales rose from the fire to envelope Drayghar’s stone form. When the dust settled, the queen swiftly climbed to the top of the treasure heap and picked up a small statue. It was Drayghar as he had last appeared – wrapped around the Questor’s Lance, wings flared, mouth open in an eternally silent roar.

            “Don’t worry my pet,” she hissed, running a long finger over his snout. “I’ve got a nice home for you on a shelf in my bedchamber. You’ll find it quite cozy.” Laughing, she turned away from the treasure and carried Drayghar by the wing toward her palace, already planning a trip to the Akon Mountains to hunt for another basilisk and gryphon.

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