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Quoth The Dragon

David A. Gray is a Scottish exile, living in NYC, where he writes, designs, and takes photographs in such a self-indulgent fashion that one might think he's one of those rich dilettantes, or possibly a fop. Sadly, he is too poor to be the former, and not nearly fashionable enough to pass for the latter. His sci-fi and fantasy work has been accepted by the likes of Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Starship Sofa, Ahoy!Comics, and Hybrid Fiction, while a slightly darker tone has found a home in literary mag The Raven Review. Gray's debut novel, Moonflowers, is a non-bestseller in five continents, and a contemporary Scottish fairytale, Neverthere, will be published late in 2020, all going well.

"You have slaughtered my entire species, except for me," said the ancient dragon, leaning its head on taloned forelegs, "and now you've come to finish your genocide, and twist the tale for your so-called histories."
"'I am the last of my kind,' quoth the glittering emerald-scaled Dragon King," the bard said smoothly, from the edge of the little clearing in the nameless wood. " 'So we must do final battle, here in the legendary Misty Forest. Because bold striving mankind and cunning lizard can never share this land.'"
"We had no quarrel with you," the old knight grunted through the pain of arthritis as he drew a nocked and rust-spotted blade from its scabbard, "until you burned our towns and farms."
The bard coughed discretely, speaking quickly as he scratched quill on parchment. "'I seek revenge, oh monstrous lizard, so my people can forever be free of your tyrannous flames and cruel whimsy,' declared the Silver Knight, hefting the legendary blade, Wyvern-bane. 'I have chased and killed your malevolent brethren throughout these long years. And now I will have my revenge for the ashes of human innocents.'"
"We attacked your cities only after one of your kind butchered every egg in our hatchery on the Ferrous Mountain," the dragon snapped, little puffs of sulfurous smoke jetting from its fist-wide nostrils. "He and his assassins came disguised as men of science and wonder, with blades hidden in their satchels."
"Ahem," the bard interjected, "'Enough of your twisted poisonous words, Dragon King. You have lied for too long already, and the story of your last moments will be the most famous chapter in the greatest tale ever told,' quoth the Silver Knight. Then he dusted a speck of dragon soot from his glittering breastplate, and strode forward, determined to put an end to the cowardly lizard's falsehoods before the honeyed words bewitched him."
"We had no choice but to put an end to--I mean, kill--your army before it hatched," the old knight said, lowering his sword a little, in order to use one gauntleted hand to straighten a dented, moss-stained pauldron. We knew they were war dragons, ready to hatch in their thousands."
"War dragons?" The dragon laughed, then, bitterly, raising its massive head to look directly at the old man facing it. One eye was white, with scar tissue crossing the socket from bottom to top. "There never was such a thing. They were just dragons. Some would have become teachers, some mothers, and some warriors, as need dictated. Why do you feel the need to lie to justify their murder, now, at the end? You are about to have what you always wanted."
The bard's sonorous voice startled birds from the trees, "The Dragon King hissed, 'We swore to rid the world of all humans, and would have, had not the brave Bronze Knight and his squires given their lives to destroy our war dragon eggs 'fore they might hatch and wreak havoc.' And at that, the mighty dragon kind took a breath to fuel the fire that would melt the Silver Knight to ash, were he not to act with urgency."
"It's no lie, dragon," the knight said wearily. "A trade mission overheard a cabal of dragon nobility swearing to hatch an army to devastate humanity. It was witnessed and writ in The Dragon Army, a chapter of The Human Dragon War known to everyone in what's left of the eight kingdoms."
"Witnessed and writ by who, human? Was it your king's fiction, created as an excuse to seize the iron-rich lands we owned? Was the mining treaty and trade deal we offered not enough?"
"As the dragon king lulled the Silver Knight with his hypnotic powers, drawing him closer so as so finish him off, the humble bard tried desperately to warn the knight, before it was too late," shrieked the bard. "'Strike now!' he urged, and just in time, the befuddled Silver Knight raised his mighty blade and struck the head from the dragon king!"
"You," the knight said, nodding his battered helm in the direction of the bard. "Unless I am sorely mistaken, and I think I am not, for you have shadowed me and all of the slain Knights of the Long Table for all of these years, you were the author of The Dragon Army, were you not? I am sure I remember you presenting the Bronze Knight with the parchment warning of the dragons' plans after you attended the trade delegation to the mountain... but I do not recall the king mentioning a proposed trade deal.
"Perhaps," the dragon king rumbled, "trade deals make for poor fables."
"The Silver Knight knew he was being poisoned by the most cunning and ancient of dragons," hissed the bard, edging away a little. "He knew that were he to fail this day, his name would forever be a byword for coward. So with his last ounce of strength, he drew his blade, as the dragon king's huge jaws filled with fire, and--"
The Silver Knight held up his sword, counting the nocks and scars, adding up the years spent and lives taken.
"The task is complete," he muttered sourly. With a grunt, he threw the blade as far as he could. It failed to stick portentously into a rock, or tree, instead bouncing into the long grass with barely a thud.
"I do not have the... ornate... words that such a moment needs," the knight said at last, pulling his battered helm off and rolling it into the ashy grass. His scarred breastplate fell to the ground, followed by assorted dented plates, scale and old leather. He kicked bitterly at the corpse then turned to look over a shoulder. "Perhaps you could?"
"And there was finally an end to the war between humans and dragons, that concluded in fire and blood."
"Quoth the Silver Knight," said the old man.
"Quoth the Dragon King," said the great half-blind lizard.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, August 7th, 2020

Author Comments

"Quoth the Dragon" is a reminder of the danger of words used without social responsibility (full transparency: I trained as a journalist). And no, the knight and dragon aren't metaphors: they're an old knight with sore knees, and a dragon who's the last of his kind, and rather tired of it all. The bard is my favorite character: he's the villain, but he could be seen as a representation of human industrialization and its displacement of stale myth and a rigid class structure (ok, the knight and dragon are metaphors after all), at the dawn of the age of reason, through the invention of movable type, and... no, I give up: he's a scumbag who persuaded others to commit genocide. But you almost believed me for a moment, right? Did I teach you nothing, in the story?

It's also a tale of just desserts (one of which is served flambeed--can you even flambe a dessert?). It's my greatest hope that it made you smile. And go buy a newspaper.

- David A. Gray
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