Torin lifted the latch and pushed the door with his foot. He glanced quickly inside but the room seemed empty. “She’s not around,” he reassured his sister. “Let’s go!”
The two children struggled to carry the heavy milk pail. They had just hauled it up onto the kitchen table when Lizzy appeared. She went straight for Torin’s legs and leaped up at him. Memie thrust out her foot to kick the pest away but at that very moment the pail tottered and fell. Milk flowed everywhere, coating the children and turning Lizzy a brilliant white. Memie burst into tears; Torin was furious; but Lizzy - oblivious to the chaos she had caused - just turned to and started licking up the mess.
She was Torin’s pet. He had found her lost and alone and given her a home. Torin’s father was at first reluctant, but her impish behaviour finally won him round. Fortunately Lizzy was a miniature of her breed – otherwise there was no way they could have afforded the cost of feeding her.
So it fell to Torin to train her, but Lizzy proved to be even more mulish than their baby sister. Telling her to ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ was a waste of breath. She had more or less got the hang of ‘fetch’, but she sometimes stopped en route to chew the thrown ball or stick before dropping a slimy, masticated offering in Torin’s outstretched palm. Lizzy was most happy lying in some shady spot chewing on a bone and watching life pass quietly by.
Besides all this, Lizzy had some disgusting habits. She loved to twist her tail round and use it to poke around inside her nostrils. And she was always clambering into the most inaccessible parts of the house, wreaking havoc wherever she went. Torin’s Dad hoped that one day she would grow sensible enough to protect the family when he was away - but he wasn’t holding his breath.
In fact that day came far sooner than anyone had expected.
The children’s father was gone down to the river, arguing over access rights to a certain bridge. Their mother had taken the baby to visit her parents. Torin and Memie were securely locked in the house when there came a loud knocking on the door: “Open in the name of the King!”
Memie looked at her brother in alarm, but he calmly held a finger to his lips - the king was no friend to their family. The cry was repeated and moments later the door flew open with a loud crash. A man-at-arms burst into the room, his broadsword unsheathed ready to strike down the foe. Torin didn’t hesitate: he threw himself headfirst at the man’s chest. But Torin’s horns were not yet fully grown and they failed to penetrate the chain-mail. With a casual flick of an armoured gauntlet, Torin was thrown back across the room.
“The troll isn’t here,” the man shouted to his comrade just entering the room behind him. “Only its foul, obnoxious spawn.”
“A bit of sword practice then,” he sniggered, drawing his own blade from its scabbard.
It was then that Lizzy pounced. Unfurling her wings, she sprang into the air and spat menacingly, her talons tearing viciously at the air. The manoeuvre would surely have sent both men fleeing, save that at that very moment Memie started to bawl.
The spell was broken and the man-at-arms weighed up the danger before him. “It’s not even a proper dragon,” he sneered. “Look at the size of it. I reckon one swipe of cold steel and we’ll have it for supper.”
It’s well known that dragons are gifted in understanding all types of speech – human and ogreish. Infuriated by this insult, Lizzy took a deep breath and belched an avalanche of methane. Sadly it failed to ignite. Torin had watched Lizzy attempt this many times in the past, but she had never once managed to breathe fire. It was probably just that she wasn’t big enough.
“Look at the pathetic animal,” chortled one of the men, brushing aside the foul stench.
It was the last thing he ever said. The conflagration singed Torin’s eyebrows but aside from this he was unharmed. The second soldier made it as far as the door, before he too was brought down by the dragon’s rage.
“Good girl,” said Torin, grabbing hold of Lizzy and locking her in a tight embrace.
“Well done,” agreed Memie, smacking her lips. “Now, anyone for barbecue?”
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