Bewildering Stories

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by Byron Bailey

Isn’t courtesy what chivalry is all about? Well, you could have had the courtesy to either miss me entirely or to at least hit me cleanly in the heart. It was just my luck to be stuck by you. Don’t worry, though. My lungs fill with blood, frothing and steaming as it hisses from my veins to stain your lance. You have killed your dragon.

I trust that the hole in your chest — many thanks to the tip of my claw — is equally painful. Fair is only fair. I tried very hard not to pierce your heart. Since you haven’t stopped screaming your desire to fight me, I can only assume that I haven’t damaged it, if in fact there ever was one to damage.

Will you please be quiet? You’re spoiling our last moments of looking up at the open sky, the deep blue washing over us like an ocean of tears.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m sure that if I’m very careful poking around in your throat, I can sever your vocal cords without cutting short your suffering. My claws are very sharp. Or if you must talk — the curse of your species — then speak of a different subject. I don’t want my last thoughts to be of the conflict your kind has started.

That’s better, but I would prefer that you not call me liar this close to death. I do not have the inclination nor the energy to dispute you. Very well. If my last breath has to be spent in defending the honor of my species, then so be it.

You were the ones that said dragons and humans must unite. Only then could the threats to the realm be repulsed, the peace be maintained. We naturally had our concerns, but humans were known to be resourceful. Therefore we agreed to honor your request at the proper time in the spring. Spring has gone. Now we are at war.

I remember the proper time well, the scents of the spawning season smothering the air: mud, flowers, rain, and fungus. Our veins throbbed with the need for unity. In our heat, we remembered. We didn’t fly to a secluded valley as is our custom. We flew to your king.

You were not very good at unification, I’m sad to say. We found your solution to the size problem very disturbing. Instead of working with what nature had given, your weapons sank into our scales, making new holes more suited to your needs. In the name of peace, we tolerated your callous groping — poor is the lover who must be ignored to be endured! You displayed uncharacteristic tenderness, though, with the cauldrons of boiling oil caressing our backsides.

When the flames of unification dissipated, we looked around only to discover that you had disappeared. We didn’t think much of it, though. Dragon stamina was legendary while human stamina was not.

Why are you laughing? I didn’t think your kind had much of a sense of humor except when you were drunk. Even then, you don’t have much of one, but at least you laugh.

You say that we attacked your city, leveled it to the ground with fire and claw. Preposterous! There was nothing to level, just those ugly, hollow trees without leaves your kind likes to infest. An entire hideous forest of them! But I know that you cannot be concerned about trees. We’ve seen what you do with them. You burn them and chop them into little pieces and cart them off, exercise for horses.

Why are you still laughing? Or are you laughing? I haven’t seen very many of you die. Perhaps you are experiencing your death throes. It is merely laughter? Too bad. I was greatly looking forward to a last spell of quiet.

You tell me that those trees were not really trees, that they didn’t grow naturally. Instead, you expect me to believe that you spent endless days building them from the real trees you chopped up and carted away. I’m not calling you a liar; I’m not rude like you. But I can’t believe that any species with claims to intelligence would do as you describe.

Your breath is ragged and you no longer want to speak. Your face has become a very lovely shade of blue, not quite as majestic as the sky, but nevertheless, quite impressive. I never knew your kind was capable of such stark beauty. Unfortunately, the wheezing coming from your chest tends to destroy the overall affect.

Thank you very much. Your utter silence is greatly appreciated during my last moments. It must mean that you’re dead, though, because you would never stay silent out of mere consideration. But still, I do appreciate it.

My breath comes in short pants, gurgling like the coo of a giant dove. I am most blessed in my death. Where my lungs join with my internal flame (now extinguished), a soothing chime rings. Shame on you! Your lungs never made any sound approaching music and I still had to listen to them. I must say with a great deal of chagrin, though, that the blue creeping into my scales looks a lot better on you than it does on me.

You said that we must unify. Your wish shall shortly come true. My dust shall mingle with your dust. We shall be one in every sense of the word. I truly hope this time, though, that you can endure the intimacy without declaring war.

Copyright © 2004 by Byron Bailey

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