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Stryker’s Tail

by Crystalwizard

Stryker grunted and shifted his position on the rather lumpy pile of coins he was lying on. The cave had been roomy enough, many years before, but now it was starting to feel a little cramped.

“Why do these things shift so much?” he wondered as the pile slid suddenly, leaving him uncomfortable again. “Whose bright idea was it that dragons should sleep on this anyway?”

He grunted again, breathing a bit of smoke out one nostril, then heaved his three thousand year old frame up and wandered to the front of his cave. “I’m bored,” he thought, staring out into the wilderness below his mountain. “I need something to do.”

His gaze wandered over the trees below and he yawned. Then he paused. Looking closer at the forest he could see a wisp of smoke rising from the furthermost part.

“Well, well, well,” he thought, studying the smoke. “I wonder if that’s what I think it is.” He glanced up at the sky then looked back down at the smoke again. “No clouds. Can’t have been lighting. Must be humans... unless the wolves have learned how to start fires.”

He leaned up against one side of the cave mouth and scratched an itch on his broad side, then studied the smoke again.

“I think I’ll go have a look-see,” Stryker thought after a few more minutes. “Been a long time since I actually saw a human. Been almost... six hundred years. I thought they’d all become extinct.”

He launched himself out of the cave and soared soundlessly across the forest, sailing high up in the sky and out of sight. The forest flashed past below him and within a few seconds he could see the source of the smoke.

A rather large glade came into view and in the center of it was a tent. Next to the tent a small campfire burned merrily, sending a column of smoke up into the air. A horse was tethered near the tent, but of the occupant there was no sign.

“Wonder where the human is?” Stryker mused as he sailed over the glade. He banked and climbed up into the sky, then circled around.

Passing overhead again, he studied the camp somewhat closer and noticed that a small target was hanging on a tree with several arrows sticking out of it.

“Ah... perhaps it’s a hunter?” He climbed up into the sky again then banked for another flyover. “I wonder where it is?”

He dived as the glade came into view, then landed on the edge of it, downwind from the horse, which eyed him suspiciously.

“Hello dinner,” he said to the horse, showing a large set of pointed teeth. The horse put its ears back and snorted. “Heh,” Stryker chuckled to himself. “This could be fun.” He sat up on his back legs and swung his massive head from side to side, listening to the sounds of the glade and testing the scents in the air.

“Odd noise,” he thought as he swung his head back to look at the tent. “I wonder what is going on... ” He folded his wings and dropped to all fours then walked toward the tent, his tail swinging from side to side behind him. The noise got louder as he approached the tent and he stood next to it for a moment listening, then stuck his head in between the flaps.

The tent was cluttered with bags and paraphernalia. In the center was a pile of blankets, and from the pile emanated the loud, rasping noise he had detected. Stryker blinked and stretched his neck in for a closer look.

The pile stirred as his head neared it and a man sat up. Catching sight of the dragon he let out a piercing scream, startling the dragon. Stryker screamed back and jerked his head out of the tent. The horns on the back of his neck caught on the tent as he pulled his head away and the tent ripped lose from the ground, settling down over his face.

The man screamed again as the tent was pulled away from him and scrambled out of the blankets. Stryker roared in frustration and shook his head violently, trying to dislodge the tent.

The blankets had become tangled around the man’s feet, so wild was his attempt to get away, and he fell. Stryker reached one massive claw up and ripped the tent off his face then dropped it right on top of the man on the ground.

The dragon snorted angrily, blowing smoke into the air in the direction of the horse, which neighed in terror and reared. Its tether pulled loose of the stake it was tied to and the horse fled into the trees at full gallop. The man had disentangled himself from the blankets and was struggling to get out from under the tent.

“Well,” Stryker thought, watching the frantic movements going on under the canvas. “At least I’m not bored any more.” He reached a claw down and pulled the tent back from on top of the man.

“Boo,” Stryker said as the man resurfaced.

“YAAAAAAAAAA!” the man screamed again, wetting his pants. He scrambled to his feet, then tripped and landed sprawling on his face in the dirt.

Stryker chuckled to himself, watching the man’s panicked attempt to flee. The man rolled over on his back and propped himself up on his elbows. He eyed the dragon for a moment as he slowly regained his feet and then began to back away.

Stryker puffed a bit of smoke out one nostril in his direction. The man whirled and ran for the target, then hid behind it.

Stryker cocked his head to the side and looked at him curiously.

A hand snaked around to the front of the target as he watched, grabbed an arrow, then yanked it loose. A moment later, the man stepped back out from behind the target, armed with a bow. He fitted the arrow to the bow and loosed it in Stryker’s direction.

The dragon watched him pull the bowstring back, then puffed a tiny bit of flame out the other nostril, catching the arrow in mid-flight and reducing it to ash.

The man turned white and stared at the dragon, then backed toward the trees.

Stryker snickered to himself and jumped into the air, spreading his wings. Soaring up into the sky, he banked then looked back down on the glade. “We’ll meet again,” he thought. “Perhaps.” He circled over the glade, then headed for home.

Below in the glade, the bowman watched him silently. “We’ll meet again,” he thought. “And next time, I’ll win.”

Copyright © 2007 by Crystalwizard

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