“I will fight the dragon,” I declared.
“You?” Harry asked, incredulous. “Don’t be absurd, Lionel. You’d never win. Why, you’re--”
“Then will you save Mabel Allsden yourself?”
“Me? Never! Why, I might--”
“And you’re not afraid?”
“Of course I’m afraid, but I’m willing to try.”
“Then God go with you, little brother,” Harry said grimly, shoving a spear into my hand, “because I’m staying here.”
I nodded, fumbling along the table for my shield.
Sighing, Harry strapped the shield onto my forearm, then guided me through the tent flap.
Outside, with the morning sun warming my face, I noticed how oddly quiet the crowds were.
“Can you feel their fear?” I whispered to Harry. “It’s so strong I can smell it.”
“What did you expect? Each year they sacrifice their daughters to the dragon to keep him from destroying the town. They say no knight can slay the monster.”
“Where is Lady Allsden?” I asked.
“Tied to a post, just ahead.”
“What does she look like?”
“Like every other girl her age, all hair and eyes.”
“And the dragon?”
“Not here yet. Now’s your chance to cut her free.”
“I think I can make it from here,” I said, shaking off his hand.
Harry turned, scrambling, his feet pounding the ground as he dashed away.
“Mabel?” I called, groping forward.
“Lady Allsden to you,” an angry voice snapped back.
“My apologies, Lady,” I said, following the voice. “I am--”
“Yes, I know. You’re Lionel, the blind prince. And I suppose you can imagine how THRILLED I am to have a BLIND prince coming to rescue me.”
Her tone brought the hot blood to my cheeks. Stumbling forward, I reached the pole, and groped down it until I found the cords that bound her hands.
“I suppose,” I said, slicing through them, “that you’d prefer I left you to face the dragon alone.”
“At least I could SEE him!” she snapped, shrugging out of the loosened cords.
Before I could retort, a roar like an earthquake shattered the stillness. The air around me vibrated to the beat of monstrous wings, and I gagged at the reek of sulfur and rotting meat that clung to the air. Then, with a thump that shook the earth, the dragon landed.
“Get back, before you’re scorched!” I cried, leaping in front of Mabel with my shield held high.
“Who says this is a fire-breathing dragon?” she scoffed. “Why, it could be-- DUCK!”
I did, covering my head with my shield as a burning wave of heat shot over me.
“Sorry,” Mabel said, her voice quavering.
“Get away!” I yelled, stepping toward the noise and stench.
“No!” she screamed, clutching me from behind. “How can you fight something you can’t even see?”
“Then be my eyes!” I snapped. “What’s the dragon doing?”
“It’s standing there, watching us, with the most HORRIBLE red eyes. Oh, keep your shield up! It’s swinging its snaky neck back and forth and I think it might strike.”
Before I could react there was a ‘whish,’ like arrows flying, and something barreled into my shield.
Mabel screamed, and I nearly toppled over, the dragon’s hot breath on my face. I stabbed wildly, my spear scraping on scales, until the sticky breath disappeared.
“He almost KILLED us!” Mabel shrieked.
“Don’t panic!” I yelled. “Be my eyes! Where’s the dragon’s mouth? It must be softer than those scales.”
“It keeps whipping back and forth. You’ll never hit it!”
“Yes I will! Help me see!”
“Point your spear forward. No! Up a little! Perfect! Now wait for my signal.
I braced myself, feet wide apart, waiting, trusting that Mabel would be able to--
“There! Now! Thrust!”
I jabbed forward with my spear, her hand guiding my arm, and at the last possible second the spear point pierced through flesh.
I shoved harder, pressing the point deeper as the dragon screamed and started thrashing his head back and forth.
Snap! The spear shaft broke, and Mabel and I went tumbling to the ground.
We lay there, stunned, as the screaming dragon crashed about.
Thump! Its body struck the ground.
“He’s … he’s dead,” Mabel moaned, starting to cry. “You killed him.”
“No,” I said, trying to brush away her tears. “We killed him. I couldn’t have done it without you, Mabel. You were my eyes.”
Then we were both crying, and laughing, as feet came pounding towards us and the crowd began to cheer.
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