Fighting the Green Dragon
Ten days had passed since Eira embarked on her quest. Even though Feng entertained her with tales from his long life as they rode through the valleys of the Western Mountains, Eira dwelled on what was happening in Lennox. By now her father would be shaking, maybe even delirious, from the ravaging fever of the Emerald Scourge. It wouldn’t be long before Eira was too far away to save him in time.
And all of this to rescue that arrogant, preening knight, Sir Garrett. Eira bristled just thinking of his smug face.
“Why couldn’t you have flown us?” she snapped at Feng as they rested outside a canyon.
Feng, who had been in human form since they’d begun, raised an eyebrow. “You want Fyrenus to see us and hide? Or worse, for him to kill Sir Garrett?”
Eira’s forehead throbbed. “Fyrenus is a dragon! He probably ate the knight days ago!”
Feng pinched the bridge of his nose and said, “Dragons like Fyrenus need servants to care for their hoards. They only eat them once their usefulness has worn out.”
Eira grew pale and quiet.
“Besides,” Feng continued, sweeping a hand toward the dark canyon, “we’re already here.”
Eira looked up at the black stone walls of the canyon and the cave that yawned above them. They had found the ominous home of Fyrenus, the wrathful green dragon.
Feng perched on his horse a few yards behind her, holding Senna’s reins. “You have to call him out,” he said. “Maybe insult him. Dragons don’t like that.”
Eira shot a glare at the dragon-man. Then she cleared her throat and turned back toward the cave.
“Fyrenus, come out and face me, unless you’re just a great pig!” she shouted. The challenge echoed around the walls until a roar silenced it. With a deafening flap, Fyrenus shot from the cave like a green arrow and slammed into the ground.
“What do you want, girl?” he thundered.
Eira gawked at the emerald beast’s enormous wings, barbed tail, steaming nostrils. This had been a mistake.
“Feng!” she cried, turning toward her companion. He was a dragon! He could change forms and fight Fyrenus because she would surely fail.
But Feng shrugged. “I said you had to fight him to get the reward.”
“I asked you a question!” Fyrenus bellowed, shooting flame.
Eira gripped the lance that she had pillaged from Sir Garrett’s things and said, “I will fight you for the knight you’ve captured!” Then she flung the lance at the dragon’s soft-skinned neck.
It bounced off, just like Sir Garrett’s sword had. Blades could not harm the dragon, and Eira had no other weapon. Plus, Feng was useless as he spectated from an alcove with the horses.
Fyrenus chuckled. Eira ran, sliding behind a crag just as fire swept over where she’d been standing.
The one-sided fight continued as Eira dodged flames and claw-swipes, growing more exhausted as Fyrenus became more amused. He was playing with her, and Eira was helpless to stop him.
Eira caught a break after diving behind a rock. She crouched while Fyrenus stomped around the canyon.
She heard chirping and looked up. In a hole in the rock wall nested a beautiful blue swallow. Eira was certain it was the only other living thing in the canyon. But why would it nest outside a dragon’s lair?
Then it was obvious: Fyrenus had hidden his weakness in the swallow to give him protection! It was almost exactly what she was asking Feng to do so she could cure the Emerald Scourge, except Fyrenus had used a living creature.
“There you are,” Fyrenus chuckled. Eira scrambled away to avoid the dragon’s slashing paw, and this time she sprinted toward Feng.
“Distract him for one minute, please!” she begged.
“I told you this was your fight,” the dragon-man said.
Eira grabbed one of Senna’s saddlebags and dumped its contents onto the ground. “I know how to beat him. Just give me one minute.”
Feng rolled his eyes, but Eira knew he was soft-hearted enough to accept. She turned and zigzagged back to the swallow’s nest while Feng leapt back into his dragon form.
Eira turned as Feng attacked Fyrenus, getting just close enough to tag his nose before retreating. It was strange to watch the wingless creature fly; he looked like a snake slithering through the air.
While Feng teased Fyrenus, Eira climbed the rock wall and scooped the swallow into her bag. She raced to the fighting dragons.
“Stop!” she shouted. “I have you beat, Fyrenus!” She grasped the swallow and pulled it from the bag.
Fyrenus became still. “I will tell you how to free the knight, but you must release that bird at once!” He cowered, head drooping.
“You must swear not to harm me,” Eira warned.
Fyrenus nodded. “I swear it. To rescue the knight, you must go into my cave. You’ll find an iron door and three gemstones. Touch in order the blue gemstone, then the red, then the green. The door will open, and the knight will be free.”
“Fly away, Fyrenus, and don’t come back until we’ve left,” Eira commanded.
The beaten dragon lifted his wings to obey, and Eira released the swallow.
It flew up toward the sunset-orange sky.
Feng uncoiled himself and crushed the songbird between his jaws.
Eira screamed as Fyrenus howled and collapsed, dead, on the ground.
She couldn’t form words as the sky-blue dragon landed in front of her. “Do not look so shocked. You kept your word to Fyrenus and did not betray him. But I could not allow a dragon like him to live any longer.”
Feng had been silly, brash, and fickle during their journey, but suddenly his ancientness and beastliness struck Eira. Perhaps there was a good reason that humans did not seek out dragons very often, even the good ones.
“Now gather yourself,” Feng ordered with a shake of his blue mane. “Let us go rescue Sir Garrett.”
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed the climax of Eira's adventure! This story is inspired by the Slavic fairy tale "The Dragon and the Prince." In the original, a dragon captures hundreds of humans, including the oldest princes of a kingdom. The youngest prince goes on a journey to save his brothers. He learns that the dragon's strength resides in a pigeon that lives inside of it. He goes to the place where the dragon lives, disguises himself as a shepherd, and summons the dragon. He insults the dragon by asking if it is a woman. In my version, I changed that to be less sexist. The prince wrestles the dragon for several days. When he finally defeats the dragon, it becomes a boar. The prince kills the boar, and it becomes a pigeon. The prince catches the pigeon, and it tells him how to find the humans. Then, the prince kills the pigeon, and the dragon is dead.
In my version, the dragon's weakness resides in the bird. I thought this made more sense for the situation because if Fyrenus got rid of his weakness, he would be unstoppable. In the original, the prince agrees to spare the pigeon once it tells him how to find the humans, but he breaks that promise and wrings its neck anyway. I thought Fyrenus needed to die, but Eira isn't the kind of character who would coldly wring the bird's neck after making a deal. That's why Feng killed the bird and Fyrenus.
I also wanted to emphasize the otherness of the dragons, especially in Feng. Dragons are fickle, powerful, and care little for humans, even the benevolent ones. In fact, they often just find them amusing. Feng doesn't actively help Eira until she's figured out how to win by herself, and he hesitates to do anything that puts himself directly in danger. The whole quest is just a bit of entertainment in his long, dull life, with his magic being a prize that he can dangle over Eira. Feng also does not balk at killing Fyrenus because he believes the good that will come from being rid of him outweighs the dishonor of breaking the promise to not harm him.
In the next and final installment, Feng and Eira will try to find Sir Garrett, but will Eira make it back in time to save her father and her kingdom from disease?
Bibliography: "The Dragon and the Prince" from Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources, by A.H. Wratislaw, 1890. Web source.