If anyone had asked the dragon Redtail if a knight would ever get the best of her, she’d have killed them on the spot. Knights were silly little things. Armor didn’t keep her from crushing them beneath her tail, and if she gnawed long enough, the armor always came off. She feared no knight, no warriors, no champion. Perhaps an army might give her some trouble, but marching an army to her lair from the nearest city was no easy feat. The one time someone had tried it, she’d just flown away.
Yet here she was, bowed beneath the foot of a mere man. True, he had a magic sword and a magic shield, and he was tall and strong and undoubtedly skilled. But she was still embarrassed by it.
“Go ahead,” she said. “Do it.”
He lowered his sword. “I’m not here to slay you.”
“You aren’t? Then why attack me?”
“You attacked me.” The champion lifted his boot off her muzzle. “I merely defended myself.”
She raised her head and ran her claws along the wound across her nose. “Isn’t this embarrassing? It’s just that nobody ever comes up here to NOT attack me.”
The champion removed his helmet. His grayish-green face marked him as an orc, not a man. “Think nothing of it. I hope I didn’t hurt you too badly.”
“I’ll heal. I didn’t know orcs could become knights.”
He smiled. “We’re a new order. Our mission is the protection of all those menaced by the so-called heroes of man, who think themselves beyond justice, who slaughter those who mean no harm to anyone and justify it by calling their victims monster.”
Redtail nodded. “A noble pursuit. How many are you?”
“Just me. But there will be more.”
“One champion against the bloodlust and honor of men? I admire your ambition.”
“They’ll learn.” He climbed onto a giant, hairy beetle with a saddle tied to it. “Or they’ll die. Makes little difference to me. The villagers won’t bother you again. I’ve encouraged them to move elsewhere.”
She glanced at the bottom of the mountain where the village had once been. It was now just fire and smoke. She’d been here before the village and never once bothered it. But it seemed at least once a month someone came to protect it from her. It was a relief to see it gone.
“They’ll be back,” she said. “They always come back.”
“And so will I,” he said. “And if they aren’t causing you any trouble, I’ll be happy to let them be. If not . . . . ”
He saluted as he rode away. He was halfway down the mountain before Redtail spread her wings and flew after him. If an orc could be a champion, she mused, why not a dragon?