--Chapter Eight: Meanwhile, On Top of Mount Bertrice

Crispo stood atop his snowy summit in the middle of the southern mountains and surveyed the valley below. A human was trespassing. This one, like the vast majority before him, was content to travel alone and yell out various information about how very truly destined his sword was. Crispo liked it when humans were this easy. Other times, when they traveled in hunting parties, it might have been difficult to roast them all in one breath. Maybe one or two would run away, and then it was a matter of finding them, which could be tough, what with all the snowdrifts and rocks to hide behind. Oh, and if one of the escapees had a bow and arrow, well... then there had to be extra caution, of course.

Another disturbing trend among humans was toward the use of surprise attacks. Fortunately for Crispo, his surveillance systems thwarted all of the attempts to date. But these were nuisances, and there was always that fear in the back of the dragon’s mind that his cameras just might miss one person among the hundreds he had killed over the decades. If the electronic gear were to fail, there were always the imps to warn him... but how far could one really rely on imps for personal security? He would have to devise a better system at some point later on.

Just to be absolutely sure the human was alone, Crispo grabbed his ScopeTronic 4000 telescope and zoomed in the sight. Yes, there was only one dragon slayer this time. The GPS reading, which was visible from the telescope lens’s aim option, put the target at thirteen degrees and four seconds north, twenty degrees and one second east.

Crispo took some warm-up breaths (author’s note: no pun intended, honestly) until he was ready to blow fire at full strength. Some dragons, he knew, cheated by using flamethrowers or the latest ultramodern weapons. Crispo would never sink to that level, though; he was of the old school of training. The ability to fry a horde of prey using nothing but one’s own belly fire was something these young’ns today with their fancy “machine guns” and “layzors” could use a bit of, he thought.

The dragon took to his wings and immediately dove toward the still-yelling human. While he flew, he went through the usual drill of mentally assessing his opponent’s condition: He has a one-handed, double-bladed broadsword and a metal shield. The shield is large enough that it could deflect my flames, so I’ll have to strike wisely. Other than that, this shouldn’t be much of a challenge... Just remember what Momma said: “Kill it like you mean it, and don’t play with your food.” Crispo had always followed that advice. After all, it had (and has) always been a really, really bad idea to disobey a mother dragon. For one, mothers tend to give very sensible advice. For another, it just generally does not make sense to cross a dragon.

The human was starting his cyclic rant all over again. “Hey, Dragon! Come out and meet your doom! I am Vilbur of Dersiztos, and I am called by ancient prophecy to—”

Crispo landed behind him with a thud. Vilbur turned around and raised his shield. Crispo, wisely, saved his breath. The human regathered himself and attempted to introduce himself again.

The dragon held up a giant green claw and said, “Stop. Please. I heard you the first thirty times. You don’t need to repeat it again.”

Vilbur had his courage together now. He yelled some battle cry of his ancestors and, sword raised in the right hand, ran furiously at the dragon. Crispo flapped his wings once and went right over the human’s head, out of his sword’s reach. Then, Crispo abruptly turned and fried his adversary in a matter of milliseconds. Some of the surrounding valley grass also went up in flames, though this was of no concern to Crispo, as any fire here would never reach the top of his mountain.

The dragon inspected his prey. It was hot to the touch, but not too hot for a dragon. Crispo estimated that it had been cooked at a thousand degrees centigrade or so—perfect for a human this size. Momma would have been proud.

Half an hour later, Crispo was on top of his mountain again, surveying the countryside to the north and east. His security cameras could monitor the towns, but it still took old-fashioned gazing to determine what was happening in between the human settlements.

With his ScopeTronic 4000, he zoomed in on what looked to be a massive migration out of the Desdon region. It was an army division headed west. Try as he might, Crispo could not figure out why an army division would go west when the battles were clearly to the north. Then again, he thought as he swallowed the last leg of Vilbur, so many human actions were stupid to the point where they could not be explained. Besides, as long as the army was not headed toward the south mountains, Crispo had nothing to be concerned about.

The dragon checked the lands next to the mountains to make sure nobody was actually coming toward his abode. And it was good thing he looked, too, since there was indeed a figure riding south on a surprisingly fast white horse. On closer inspection, Crispo saw it was a woodlander, probably an elf. This was very confusing; in all his years of battling (and defeating) humans, Crispo had never been attacked by a woodlander. In fact, when he came to think of it, he had never even met a woodlander close up. Other dragons who knew of them described them as peaceful...

Diamo came to the famed entrance into the mountains, the appropriately named “Road of No Return,” which ran between two stark, foreboding mountains that ended the heartland meadow lands, abruptly changing field into rocky peak, gorge, and valley. The elf stopped his mare at the entrance and looked around. Something was moving just beyond a bush to the right of the path.

“Come out,” said Diamo in the direction of the bush. “You have no reason to fear me. I must speak with the dragon called Crispo.”

An imp crawled out from behind the bush and stood at a full height of three centimeters. A squealing voice said, “You wish speak with fiery one?”


“You wish battle fiery one?”

“No. I just want to talk.”

“Go in, third mountain on right.”

Then the imp took a miniature electronic device from his tiny pocket. He put the device to the side of his face and said, “Tell Master Crispo he have visitor.”

Diamo rode at a steady pace into the mountains. Imps were very good for spy work and surveillance, but the woodland’s fairies were better; the woodlanders all knew much more about the dragons of the South than the dragons knew of them. More and more, dragons were relying on inventions and technology to strengthen their societies—which were vast in scope and sophistication compared to any other species in Aren Country—but woodlanders would always have the advantage when it came to nature and the old ways. Part of the reason why Diamo had chosen specifically to set out to find Crispo was because that dragon, according to the reconnaissance reports, still used his natural abilities before any mechanizations. Diamo admired that; it showed a certain respect for tradition... it showed character.

Diamo did not have to ride up to the mountain; instead, Crispo came down to meet him. The dragon was huge, even for one of his own species. Green scales covered the entirety of his body, and this plus an enormous dark green wingspan were enough to block all of Diamo’s line of vision when he looked forward.

“I come in peace,” Diamo said quickly.

“What do you want?”

The voice had both annoyance and curiosity in it. Diamo would try to exploit the latter.

“My name, noble dragon, is Diamo, and I come from the woodlands far north of here. I have a proposition, if you are willing to listen...”

Crispo snorted, smoke rising to the sky. “You have one minute before I finish preheating. Explain quickly.”