by H. K. Marshall
I had enough silver to hire the turnip farmer as a guide, but did he speak the truth? “You can believe it, Gregory. It lives in the western wilderness, the most fearsome serpent I’ve ever seen.” Mud from baiting a hook stained his hands but did not reach the sleeves of his yellow shirt.
No dragon had been seen in the region during the reigns of the last four kings, and most disappeared within a generation after the settlers drained the swamps. “How many dragons have you seen?” I inquired.
He chuckled. “Um, well, I’ve seen plenty of brown rock snakes.”
“You compare rock snakes to dragons?”
“I’m telling you it stood bigger than a bear. Came upon my sister as she dug turnips.”
“She cried out?”
“No, my sister neither hears nor speaks, but you never met a kindlier girl. She ran back to find me mending the plow. Never too early to start preparing for sowing, you know. Pale as a corpse, she moved her mouth in vain and pointed.”
“What did you do?”
“As soon as I saw it, I took my father’s spear from above the fireplace. He served as a spearman, a great one, in the king’s army, and he taught me a little.”
A woman’s voice piped up from atop a small boulder that sat against the riverside. “Ralph, you’ve never seen a dragon, and I’ve never known you to miss a chance to back down from a fight.” The voice belonged to a woman he called his twin cousin, maybe younger than Ralph and with a nose like the blade of my battle axe. Her brown hair hung down in three braids.