A single drop of rain ran under my breast plate and sent a tidal wave of shivers down the length of my chest. The sky swirled dismally over these sodden fields, my boots, squelching in the too-yielding mud, the only sound aside from the occasional squawk of birds. This was the trial of a defender of the faith, a lone warrior of the civilised world marching alone in the wilderness. This was what was embodied in that often uttered but really practiced phrase: ‘a man of honour’. Another girl had been taken from us last night, her body ripped apart by the great beast’s ravenous hunger. The thing that made the creature so horrible to us was its utter indifference. Its cruelty was matched only by its immense size. Roaring, flying, endlessly hungry, driven only by the insatiable urge to kill. But no more, I would be the one to kill it. I would avenge all the destruction it had wrought on our sorry lands. I would be like our Saint had once been: a slayer of dragons.
I could sense I was getting closer. As I approached the crest of the next small hill I heard it, that terrible bloody breathing. I drew my sword as rain ran down my legs and into my boots.
And there it was, between two waist high flint walls, hulking over the body of a recent kill. It was unlike anything I could have imagined. Its enormous snout was like that of a snake, a mouth full of dagger teeth and a head which moved with a grim reptilian elegance. But these features only made a stranger contrast to its feathery body, its long scaly legs like a pheasant’s, its wings folded against its body like a giant pigeon. One could almost fool oneself that the beast was some sort of gentle giant with its oddly quaint appearance. But the wings held vestiges of long fingers, each one fixing a claw the length of a man’s arm. Blood ran from its mouth and dripped onto the horse lying in the grass. It still barely grasped for life, slipping away a little a little more with each choking gurgled cry. The dragon continued devouring its kill whilst still alive.
As I stepped closer the creature swung round to me in surprise, launching its elephantine wings impossibly high and wide and letting out an unearthly scream which echoed throughout the valleys. Its eyes were aflame with a fury and I prepared to do battle but then faltered as I realised the creature had already lost interest. The apocalyptic anger was gone, if it had ever existed, and the animals head bobbed as it walked a few paces away and began to preen itself. I stepped a moment closer, confused and troubled by this display, and then it happened. The creature looked around at the sound and I saw it.
Its eyes held nothing.
For a moment I cast nothing of myself in it and then I saw eyes without honour of pity or cruelty or even apathy. They simply allowed the beast to see things. They held nothing. The monster, huge and terrifying, held no opinions, let alone those concerning my presence. The beast simply was. After a few moments its gaze shuddered past me and the creature took off, swooping low and casting an impossible shadow across the canopy below. I just stood there for a moment, the rain still beating down. I was alone in the world for the first time in my life.