Adso was on his way to slay the dragon. Oddo followed close behind him on a mule, burdened by the knight’s oppressive silence. It was to be expected though, since our noble hero had been meditating for a while now on the possibility of their demise. After all, few had then challenged such a beast and lived, not to mention that back in those times it was unworthy of a warrior to confess his fear of dying.
“Thy droning be damned” cried Adso, “I beg of thee, cease narrating.”
Oddo scratched his shaven skull. Despite his youth, he was filled with the wisdom and teachings he had acquired at the School of Arcane Arts. Gazing upon his companion he could tell that the journey had taken its toll on him. Adso’s armor seemed to weigh him down, his backside must have been numb and he had an itchy spot on his back that he could not scratch because of the plate mail he was strapped into. This made him wiggle his shoulders every now and then, in the hopes of somehow touching the treacherous patch of skin, yet to no avail.
“Artless villain, I should have known better than to allow thee to come along. Had I foreseen that the edges of thy pie pit never stop flapping in the wind, I would have sooner let that inquisitor cook you over a low flame.”
Oddo thought that the incident at the tavern was a matter of the past. His friend was probably just trying to distract himself from doubting their quest.
“It was three days ago, thou pudding brained oaf. I am most certainly not thy friend. Thou art eating away at my patience.”
Or maybe it was the itch under the armor that Adso still had failed to scratch. He seemed to be surrounded by a cluster of nuisances, as if cursed. His helmet stood ajar, the sun had burned the tip of his nose and a band of famished mosquitoes were charging at his neck.
“The only nuisance here is thy presence. Now I understand why they were after you.”
“Dearest Adso, there’s no need to become so irritated. I am merely taking notes for when I shall compose a ballad of thy most valiant endeavor. After all, brave deeds are wasted if no one is there to witness them. Furthermore, thou seem to have forgotten about the legitimacy of thy quest. Need I remind you that, without my forging your dragon slaying and adventuring license, thy claims become null? No bounty, no treasure and charges for illegal acts of bravery. The least thou could offer in return would be a chance for me to write a firsthand account.”
Adso grew pensive and quiet. He tried to scratch at his back but scraped him plate mail with the tips of his gauntlet. Only the highborn and the rich had the right to become paladins. Long gone were the days when one’s skill in battle was enough, that is, if those days had ever existed. Yet what he lacked in birthright, he made up for in determination.
“Of course, I do. One need not die in the same place they were born. Who cares about what those wretched lords think? Is noble blood a different color? And damn to the underworld those cursed scrolls that determine whether you may roam the world or not. What’s the point in living if one can’t change their circumstances? Why should a bloody parchment decide my fate?”
“I understand thy revolt. As thou might recall, I too have found myself in the same predicament. I was banned from the arcane teachings, yet I acquired them nonetheless. Now, both the adventuring and dragon slaying license serve a purpose, which is the purpose of those who write them. Thus whoever can write, should write. The difference is that some are sanctioned by the authority, while the so-called forgeries are meant to subvert it.”
Adso came to a halt. His steed fretted under him. Neither of their animals would go any further, so they tethered them to a tree and proceeded on foot.
“Lo and behold” he said, “The dragon’s lair”.
Their path had led them to the entrance of a large cave. They had been so focused on their conversation that they had failed to notice the skeletons and corpses that riddled the area.
“One could make a fortune just by looting the bodies outside” remarked Adso.
“Now, now, we did not come all this way to rob corpses” said Oddo.
“I’ll have thee know, looting is a most important part of adventuring.”
“A real knight wouldn’t even consider such an act.”
“That’s where thou art wrong.”
“Lead the way”
“Not so wise with words now, are we?”
“I’m not the hero here. Besides, thy armor’s rattling has probably awoken the beast already.”
“Art thou calling me milk-livered?”
“Woulds’t thou care to answer to that call?”
Adso grunted and unsheathed his sword. He stomped ahead muttering under his breath:
“Treacherous oaf, foul tongue spinner, foot-licking maggot-pie”
“What was that?”
“Nothing, must have been the wind.”
“No, I mean that over there, in the darkness.”
A muffled rattle sounded up ahead. Our heroes froze.
“Seriously? Art thou still narrating?” Adso whispered.
“Quiet, this isn’t the time to argue about this.”
Silence returned, broken only by the scraping of the gauntlet on his back.
“There it is again.”
“The itch? I know, I can’t help it. It’s killing me.”
“No, butterbrains, the rattle. Listen.”
“I can’t hear anything. Gah”
They both let out a scream. Adso stumbled and fell on his back like a turtle. A ragged skeleton in armor collapsed in front of them and scattered to pieces. Despite their first assumption, it was not reanimated, yet no sooner had they recovered from their shock, than a deep voiced laugh pierced the quiet of the cavern.
“By the gods, you should have seen your faces.”
The ground shook with the shuffling of enormous feet. Our heroes carried on and entered a wider area of the cave. Rays of sunshine poured from some openings in the ceiling and shone upon the scales of the beast. Its armored hide was green and grey. The head alone was larger than tree horses put together and its eyes the size of cartwheels were peering at them from underneath a spiky brow. Without a plan, they froze in awe before the monster.
“Aw, poor Stephen, he’s fallen apart. What a shame, he was so fun.”
The creature extended a claw that reached all the way behind them and poked at the bones.
“Good thing I still have Rob over there, otherwise it would get pretty lonely down here.”
With the tip of its nose it pointed towards another armored corpse that was clutching a rotten treasure chest filled to the brim with gold. The two could only stare. It was then that they noticed the glimmer of the hoard that surrounded the dragon. Gold pieces and gems of every color, jewelry fit for a king and chests overflowing with trinkets and ingots. Adso gasped and began waving his sword with the gaze of a hungry dog.
“Aw, this again? Don’t tell me you’re also here to kill me.” The creature threw back its head and covered its eyes with a claw. “Damn you adventurers and your silly mortal greed. Can’t a dragon have some peace and quiet in this day and age? No wonder we’re going extinct. Also, what in the name of the gods is wrong with that guy? Why is he describing everything and talking in the past tense?”
“Thou hast no idea, I’ve had to deal with this for the past three days now.”
“Whoa, no wonder you’re so violent.”
“Thou may eat him first. Before I slay thee, of course.”
“Eat him? Ew, are you for real? That’s just gross. What do you take me for?”
“But thou art a terrible dragon, that’s what thy kind does.”
“And you, sir, are a terrible human. Why do mortals keep imagining everything is out to get them?”
“But thou art an evil beast.”
“I’m evil? You’re the one waving a sword at me in my own home. And you’re not even the first one this week. Why can’t you people just leave me alone? Do you think I like living in a cave?”
Oddo stared at their exchange in utter bewilderment.
“There he goes again” said the dragon while frowning. “He’s creeping me out.”
“Just ignore him.”
“Anyway, where was I? That’s right, just what on earth compels you human to keep barging in on me like this?”
“Well, dragons are evil.”
“Um, a lot of people.”
“So let me get this straight: just because a lot of people say something, that makes it true?”
“Well, naturally, if there weren’t some truth to whatever they were saying, they wouldn’t say it, right? Not to mention that they wouldn’t be so convinced of it either.”
“I’ve spoken to frogs that had more brains than you.”
“Can thou speak the tongue of frogs?”
“Since I’m talking to something as stupid as a human, of course. By the gods, you think you’re so special I’d only learn how to speak to your kind. I’ll have you know, I’m a linguist in fact. But I digress. What I was trying to say is that a lot of humans believe a lot of silly things, like that the earth is flat, or that fire is an element of magic. And I could go on, you know.”
“Yet one could argue that a field appears flat in the eyes of the fool and that fire is indeed magic to the animals which fear it.”
“Typical human reasoning, always looking down, thinking what their lesser counterparts might think because they are unable to imagine what someone smarter might say. Just look at all the fools that point to those more foolish than them so that they can feel superior.”
“Now thou can’t disregard the natural order of things, can thou? Some things just are and that’s the way the world is.”
“Oh, is it? Says who?”
“Well, common sense.”
“Really? Like what for example?”
“Like covering thyself in public or not running around murdering people.”
Oddo interrupted them:
“Adso, wait a second. He has a point. Had thou not been filled with anger just a little while before when we talked about the inequities of our society? Had thou not said it thyself, that lords and laws should not determine people’s fates?”
Adso sheathed his sword, took off his helmet and scratched his shaggy hair.
“Thou can’t be half a rebel, Adso” Oddo added, “Why bother questioning your own place in the world if thou would blindly deny this right to the creature before you?
“That’s the first sensible thing he’s uttered since you got here” said the dragon.
Just then a voice cried from the cave entrance:
“Show thyself, beast.”
“Thy end is nigh” yelled another.
“Death to the dragon” came a third.
“By the gods, not this again” said the dragon.
“Wait, I have an idea” said Adso.
He put his helmet back on and went out.
“Greetings, noble sirs, what brings you here?”
“Isn’t it obvious? We’re professional dragon slayers. The real question is what art thou doing
“I am Sir Adso and if you are here for the dragon, I’m afraid you are too late, for I have slain it myself.”
“Art thou a licensed adventurer? Have thou a dragon slaying permit?”
“Of course, right here.”
“Looks like a forgery to me. And a bad one at that.”
“Why are we even doing this? Let’s just kill this vile vassal and keep the treasure for ourselves.”
“Indeed. With all these corpses around what difference does one more make?”
And so did Adso get to prove his worth in battle that day. His arm was thunder and his blade was lightning. He fought with all the fury of the gods. Blood was spilled, bones were crushed, metal clashed. In the end, it neither rank, nor did riches save the three.
He returned inside with his face dirtied and with his plate mail hanging. The itch had been dealt with.
“I could have dealt with them myself, you know. I’m a big bad dragon after all.”
“Thou art welcome.”
“I suppose. Here it goes. Thanks. Help yourselves to some of my gold. Just don’t go around hunting dragons anymore.”
“Not unless they actually prove themselves to be evil. But by the way, why are you hoarding all this gold?”
“It’s for mating. They say it takes the smell of sulphur away. I’m not sure if it’s helping though since my mate left me about a hundred years ago. I’m still working through some issues here. Since you asked, do you guys think my breath smells?”
“Um, we better go. Oddo, can thou give me a hand with this chest here?