Another day, another knight. He didn't know that I had seen him. In fact, I was pretty certain he thought he was being sneaky.
I was a good actor, that was for sure, pretending to be asleep with my head resting on my paws just outside the mouth of the cave I had been living in for the past few months.
However, unfortunately for the knight, his metallic footsteps did not make for as stealthy an approach as he seemed to think.
The nearby kingdom did not seem to appreciate my presence there so they sent knight after knight after me--I had a substantial armor collection by that point.
But what was I supposed to do? After that wretched old woman in the last kingdom ruined everything, I had to leave.
And unoccupied caves big enough for a dragon, like myself, don't exactly come easily.
My eye cracked open just enough to watch the knight, I observed as he "hid" behind a rock, observing me right back from afar. Perhaps he was not as idiotic as he initially seemed.
Was he strategizing or something? That was never really needed, on my part. I had the fire and the muscle and the size. No knight had ever even stood a chance against me.
Then again, the others had all just rushed in with their "I will slay thee for the lovely Lady What's-Her-Name"s and other such nonsense just before I toasted them to a crisp.
That new one was different. Under his helmet, I could see his brown eyes staring back at me.
He may not be good at stealth--and I mean, he was really bad at stealth--but he was not as stupid as past knights. It would make for a more interesting battle, once he decided to make his move.
He never did make his move. Was he waiting for me to move first? Well, fine. I did not have much time left, anyway. The sun was sitting just above the horizon. Before long it would be night.
And then I would most certainly be done for. So I yawned, pretending to be waking up.
It was the first time I had moved since the knight arrived so I had to stretch out my stiff muscles, huffing out small plumes of smoke as I did so. Let's get to it.
Sure enough, the knight emerged. Here we go, I thought, sighing to myself. He was sure to go off on some tirade about some beautiful woman that he was fighting for.
Or better yet, for the glory of his kingdom. But to my surprise, I was wrong. The man was entirely silent. With his sword in hand and a sturdy stance, he continued to stare up at me.
I had, by that point, risen up to my full height. Usually, just a little hint of fear would at least show on a man's face. Not his. He just stared. What is he playing at?
I stared back but quickly became impatient. I was not going to let him waste my time any longer. With a huff and a roar, I lunged, teeth bared, preparing to bite the man in half.
At the last second, however, he sidestepped. I braced for a strike to the neck, trusting my scales to deflect it... but none came.
Expressions are not particularly easy for us dragons, but I tell you I looked just as confused as I felt. He was still just simply watching me from behind his visor. It was infuriating!
I lunged again and again, but he was faster. I tried to use my fire breath, but he threw up a shield that deflected most of the blast. After some time of this, I was beginning to tire.
Keeping up with the knight was strenuous and it had left me huffing and puffing. I could have sworn I saw a smirk on the knight's face when he realized that.
Internally cursing, I realized what happened. Oh, he was a clever one. Wearing me out first so that he could finish the job. I reared up for one last blast of fire.
If I was going to go out, I was going to do as much damage as I could.
But just as I was about to fire and just as the knight raised his sword to strike me down, the last glimmer of the sun slipped down behind the horizon.
As soon as the sky went dark I was enveloped in a cloud of smoke. I felt myself shrinking, getting closer to the ground.
And in an instant, there stood not my gorgeous, dragon self before the knight, but the crouched figure of my cursed, human form.
Pale and skinny, dark brown hair draped across my shoulders and down my back, my same green eyes now turned up at him instead of glaring down.
His sword was still raised as the knight's eyes fixed upon my new shape. It was as if he were frozen in time. It would have been an easy kill, I was defenseless as any human.
But his stare was not the intense one of a man who intended to take my life. Instead, he appeared to be just confused.
"You... You're a man?" His voice came from under his helm. The voice of a young man. Couldn't be more than twenty... just about my age.
No shit, I thought. Out loud, I just hissed and scampered off into my cave, ignoring the knight's calls after me.
Hiding in a crevice in the wall, I listened as the man lit a torch, entering the cave.
Thankfully I was small enough in my human form that I could just squeeze into those little spaces, hiding away as far back as I could go.
How pathetic. One moment I was a magnificent, fiery beast, and the next I was reduced to a tiny, quivering human hiding in the wall. I could not defend myself. No claws or fire, and tiny teeth.
Not to mention, I had hardly any muscle on that body. Positively the scrawniest most pitiful human to ever crawl the Earth.
"Please, I just want to talk!" called out the knight.
Happening to step within my limited field of view from my hiding place, I was able to make out more detail about the man than I could when I was towering above him.
His armor was not the typical perfectly-shined silver of typical knights.
It was scuffed and worn, the familiar symbol of the kingdom carved into his shoulder plate looking like it had been scratched off.
Almost as if he had taken a rock and mutilated his armor until the insignia was nothing more than a few dents in the metal.
That was curious. In my experience, the knights of that kingdom would do anything "for king and country." What had happened to him? It almost made me want to come out of hiding.
Well, that was quickly decided for me. The knight must have spotted the glint of my eyes in the firelight of his torch because he turned and looked right at me.
However, he did not make any moves. Instead, he slowly sat down, crossing his legs and leaning his back against the wall.
"Listen," he said quietly, maintaining eye contact. "I'm not going to hurt you. Come out of there when you're ready, alright?"
I didn't. I was going to wait until he was asleep and then I was going to sneak out and slit his throat with his own sword.
For a time he focused on bandaging the burn wounds on his shield arm, but he did eventually nod off after about an hour, his head resting against the wall behind him.
And I did emerge from the wall once I picked up on his quiet snoring... but I did not kill him.
After stretching out my muscles, which were once again stiff from being cramped up in such a small space, I approached the knight. My full intent was to end his life on the spot.
As I drew nearer, however, a thought crossed my mind. If I killed him, the curiosity about the man with the scratched off insignia would haunt me to the end of my days.
I would learn about him first.
A less-than-gentle poke to the arm roused the sleeping knight, who looked rather surprised to see me crouching there beside him, staring intently into his face with my green eyes.
"Oh, hello there," he said, removing his helmet. For a human, he was relatively good-looking.
His black hair was shaggy and he had the beginnings of a beard on his chin, but his face was young and--objectively, of course--handsome.
A hint of redness suddenly appeared on his cheeks, likely realizing that I had absolutely nothing on but my skin. Apparently, that was weird for humans. I never understood it. "Here, take this.
" To my dismay, the knight unfastened his cloak and draped it across my shoulders.
I shrank under the weight of the fabric, ready to throw it off. A breeze blowing in from outside stopped me, though, and I instead clasped the cloak tighter around myself, suppressing a shiver.
Ah, the autumn months approaching. I forgot about those.
"What's your name?" asked the knight, tilting his head at me. I have a name, it was just not in any human language. So even if I could speak, I would not be able to pronounce it in his tongue.
The human language was something I had learned to understand a long time ago. Speaking it was an entirely different thing.
At my silence, the knight frowned slightly. "You can't speak, can you?" he realized after a moment, sighing. "Well, anyway, my name is Percival. Or Percy, as most call me." What a typical name.
Probably some noble's son, no doubt. "My father is Lord Gamel Dyneley." Yup. There it was. Percy noticed the pouty look on my face and smirked. "What, not a fan of nobility?"
I shook my head. Obviously not! They were always the ones either demanding my head or coming after it themselves. Never trust a noble.
"Well, lucky for you, my mother wasn't my father's wife. I'm an outcast just like you. Isn't that something," he chuckled. I paused. That was new. I wished I could ask him why.
I even opened my mouth, trying to say something, but it hurt my throat so I gave up after a few tries.
Percy just watched me struggle, a look of concern crossing his face. "No one ever taught you how to speak, huh? I bet even if you had a name you wouldn't be able to tell me." Right again.
Smart boy. "I guess I'll just have to give you a name. How about... Cadmus."
At first, I wrinkled my nose at the name. But the more I thought about it, the more the name grew on me. If I was correct, it meant "dragon's teeth." Fitting.
So after a moment of mulling over the suggestion, I nodded in my approval.
The knight grinned. "Cadmus it is, then."
The rest of the night was filled with Percy's ramblings. I was almost able to forget how different the two of us were, and how much I despised being human. At least I was not alone, for once...
that was a pleasant change.