Old Friends

“I’ll eat its heart,” Bertram grumbled with spite as he trekked up the mountain pass. Day broke. The sun began its ascent on the other side of the mountain. A gentle chill breezed out of the growing light of the orange and purple sky to tickle him. “I’ll use that white mane to wipe my backside after.” His anger kept him warm as every step crunched and sank into the snow. “I should’ve killed the thing sooner,” he directed some of his anger at himself; it was only right.

The Dawn Dragon earned its name from the locals before Bertram was born. It was said that the golden, serpentine dragon hunted just before dawn to enjoy its meal with the sunrise. Everyone in the village was grateful the dragon did not need to feed every day.  Bertram heard the stories as a child but never believed until he saw it for himself.

At 12 years old he was helping his grandmother with some early morning chores when he felt a rush of air from above. He looked up and saw a shimmering, golden body flying by. He did not see any wings. It was as long as a river with its four clawed feet tucked up against it as it glided through the air. A wild, white mane surrounded its neck. His grandmother didn’t seem concerned and the Dawn Dragon did not seem concerned with them. From that day forward Bertram trained to slay the dragon. Now that he knew it was real it meant it was a real threat. And, if it was real that meant it could be killed.

Bertram worked hard over the years. He became a notable knight and somewhat of a local hero. The Dragon had not been seen since he was 12. He tried to organize his knights for a raid once or twice but his grandmother said the dragon was probably long gone by now. It never showed up again and without that focus Bertram let his fame go to his head. He forgot all about it until this morning.

His grandmother’s house lay closer to the foot of the mountain than the town. He felt incredibly lucky he was visiting when the Dawn Dragon flew by and grabbed his grandmother. One second she was feeding the chickens and waving to Bertram, the next second she was being carried off by a golden claw. If he tried to go back to town for his men, he might not have reached the dragon’s lair in time to save his grandmother.

The sun was peeking over the top peak as Bertram found a wide-open cave. He approached it cautiously. He tried to keep his steps light, but the snow still crunched like apples under his feet. The snow ended a few feet before the opening. Bertram stepped onto the bare mountain spot and felt warmth emanating from within the cave. A dim orange light glowed far within.

“You’re a monster,” a frail old voice echoed in the cave. Bertram recognized it and dashed in while unsheathing the heavy sword on his back. He wasn’t worried about stealth any more; his grandmother was in danger. With any luck, his clanging armor would distract the dragon from its breakfast.

He stopped abruptly in front of a campfire. A pair of elderly, wrinkled woman looked up at him in surprise. They held ornate porcelain teacups and looked like they were in the middle of a pleasant chat before he interrupted. They sat on wicker mats and a plate of cookies rested on its own mat between them.

“Bertram!” His grandmother smiled at him. “What a dear, you came to rescue me, didn’t you?” She sighed when Bertram nodded. “I’m sorry, dear. I should have told you a long time ago that she was my friend.”

Bertram had been so surprised by the unexpected sight he momentarily forgot why he was there.

“Where’s the dragon!” he asked and lifted his sword to a ready position.

“Put that away, you’re embarrassing me…,” his grandmother said with a gesture at the second old woman. “…in front of our host: the Dawn Dragon.” the second old woman stood from her seat and nodded at Bertram politely.

“You may call me Donna Chang,” she said with a warm smile.

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