This story is dedicated to Beau Barnett.
Where There Be Dragons
“Weredragons,” the innkeeper said.
“Dragons?” Sidney asked. His hand shot to the sword at his hip. “Where?” He looked around the inn, but saw only the usual patrons. About a dozen people sat at tables around the room or on stools at the bar, nursing their drinks. A group in one corner was playing some kind of card game and laughing over the results of the recent hand. A waitress moved between the tables, delivering drinks and avoiding the occasional pinch.
“Not dragonsware,” the innkeeper said. “Weredragons!”
Sidney frowned and shook his head. “What’s the difference?” he asked. He let go of his sword and crossed his arms. He had come here looking for an adventure, not a grammar lesson.
“Well,” the innkeeper said, polishing a glass with a dirty cloth, “weredragons make dragonsware, which is more durable and heat-resistant than clayware or stoneware, what with it being made from weredragon scales and all.” He put away the glass, then set a serving of salted nuts on the bar, served in a bowl made from thick red scales.
Sidney waved his hand to decline the nuts, while he thought over the innkeeper’s words for a moment. “Ahh. Right,” he said, scratching his head. “Well then, where be the weres?”
“Where?” the innkeeper asked. Then he pointed out the window and said, “There.”
Sidney looked out the window. In the distance, beyond the town and past the rolling hills, a brooding mountain sat, bringing the whole scene down. “There?”
“They’re there, the weres have their lair there,” the innkeeper said with a serious nod. “Mighty big reward to a man what could slay them.”
Sidney stood taller and straightened his tunic. “Well then,” he said, “if that there be where the weres have their lair, I’ll have to go they’re.”
“There,” the innkeeper corrected him, “not they’re.”
“Whatever,” Sidney said with a dismissive wave. He turned back to his table. “Beau! Leave that wench be, there be weredragons there!”
Beau ignored him and kept flirting up the busty wench he’d been occupied with all morning. She was swooning so much over his manly charms that little hearts were floating around her head. After Sidney called him again, Beau grabbed one of the little hearts out of the air and tucked it away in his pocket. “To remember you by, m’lady,” he said with a wink.
“Oh, Beau,” the wench said, “you’re such a charmer!” She inhaled quite interestingly, and Beau had trouble pulling his eyes from another pair of keepsakes he would have liked to pocket.
“Beau!” Sidney called as he stalked out the door. “Come now, you can ravish her later!” Beau kissed the wench’s hand, which resulted in another volley of hearts pitter-pattering through the air. Then he hurried off to join Sidney on their way to the weredragons’ lair.
They arrived at the weredragons’ cavern just as the sun was setting in the mountains on the horizon. It poked into one of the mountain peaks as it set, and sprung a leak, spewing gas across the sky as it flew around like a deflating balloon before crashing somewhere in the distance beyond the mountains. Darkness fell, knocked over on its rear by the fleeing sun. Sidney and Beau had to find torches, but once they had them they realized they had no way of lighting them.
“This is all your fault,” Beau said. He held up the unlit torch and shook it in Sidney’s face
“My fault?” Sidney asked. “How is this my fault!?”
“If you hadn’t been flirting with that wench, we’d have been here before sundown!” Beau said.
Sidney started to steam. He sputtered in fury. “What!?” he shouted. “That was YOU! I was busy getting us this job!”
“Oh, don’t be such a hothead!” Beau countered, knowing that would just aggravate Sidney even more.
“A hothead?” Sidney asked, steaming even more. “I most certainly am not!”
“Actually, you are,” Beau said, setting his torch against Sidney’s head. The heat sparked the torch and it combusted, flames sprouting from its head. “Thanks for the light!”
Sidney fumed, steam shooting out of his ears. He forced himself to calm down so his hot head wouldn’t light anything else on fire. “Let’s just get this over with,” he said. “Now, where are those weres?”
They descended into the cavern with their torches held high. Sidney drew his sword and kept it at the ready. Beau remained a few paces behind; he was a lover, not a fighter. He only came along on these adventures so he could brag about his heroics to the wenches back in town. They descended deep into the bowls of the earth, which Sidney was grateful for, since they weren’t nearly as messy as the bowels of the earth. Soon they entered a broad cavern. The ceiling held an open rift that reached all the way up to the sky and carried in the moonlight. Sidney watched as it carried the moonlight one bundle at a time before dropping it down into the cavern below.
“Weredragons!” Sidney called out. “Where are you? Show yourselves, and face my blade!” He waved his blade around menacingly, and the face of the blade glared at the weredragons as they approached. The weredragons glared back, but their glare was at least twice as menacing, if not three and a half times as menacing. The blade whimpered and closed its eyes. The weredragons had won the first round.
“Who dares enter our lair?” the leader of the weredragons roared. He had the body of a man with a dragon’s head, sharp claws, and green scales. He stood tall on scaly hind legs, hunched forward, with a long, sweeping tail behind him. The tail dropped the broom and stopped sweeping; this was serious business, with no time for tidying up.
“It is I,” Sidney said, raising his blade to do battle, “Sidney the Brave, and my companion, Beau the Flirtatious! Stand ready, and prepare to be slewn!”
“Slewn?” Beau asked, turning his eyes skyward to the sky. “You sure about that word?”
“Slewed?” Sidney asked, keeping his blade raised. He paused for a moment in thought. “Err, slewt?”
“SLAIN!” the weredragon shouted. “We’re about to be slain, you fool!”
“Exactly!” Sidney said, then he swung his mighty blade and lopped the weredragon’s head clean off its shoulders. A moment later it wasn’t so clean as blood sprayed all over the recently swept floor.
The other weredragons charged, and Sidney swung his sword to and fro, hacking them to pieces. Then he hacked the pieces to pieces, just to be safe. When the onslaught was finished, he stood leaning on his sword, breathing heavily. The air in the cavern really needed to go on a diet.
“Sidney,” Beau’s voice called from behind him. Sidney turned and saw his friend lying on the ground in a pool of blood, and he sure wasn’t doing the backstroke.
“Beau!” Sidney cried out. He rushed over to his friend and knelt beside him. “No! Beau! You were too beautiful for this world!” Tears flowed down his face and mingled with the blood on the ground.
“Sidney,” Beau said, his voice weak. “Just promise me one thing, old friend . . .”
“Anything,” Sidney said, holding Beau against his chest. “What is it?”
Beau pulled the heart from his pocket and handed it to Sidney. “Ravish that wench for me,” he whispered. “Ravish her good. I promised her a good time when we got back. Give her one for me.”
“I will, old friend,” Sidney said. He took the heart and tucked it away in his pocket. “I will.”
He buried Beau beneath a cement-tree that grew in a cement-ery. On the cement headstone he inscribed, “Here Lies A True Friend, A Ravisher of Wenches: Beau the Flirtatious.”
When he returned to town he was lauded as a hero and given a huge reward. No longer caring about riches, he donated it to the orphanage in Beau’s name. Then he found the wench, dropped to one knee, and presented the little heart to her. The heart floated into the air between them and made her swoon. Then they kissed, and the heart exploded into a flurry of little winged hearts and cupids shooting arrows all around.
“What’s your name?” he asked her. One of the strange things about the magic of little hearts was how they could make you fall in love at first kiss, even with a total stranger.
“Beauty” she said. “I hope you’re a good man. My last boyfriend was such a beast!”
Sidney assured her he would always strive to bring her happiness. Then he scooped her up in his arms, whisked her away to his room at the inn, and ravished her quite thoroughly. He tried to be understanding when she accidentally called out the name “Beau.”