Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 5

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The Soldier and the Dragon

The dragon landed before the soldier and the earth shook beneath its feet. “Who are you?” it demanded. Smoke dripped from mouth and sizzled in the air. “Why do you not run?”

“I am a simple soldier,” our man replied, “and it is my bad luck that it was my lot called to face you.”

The dragon snickered. “I should say so. I shall devour you and proceed upon my way.”

“No, you shan’t.”

The dragon was not accustomed to people disagreeing with it. Generally, they hastened to get onto its good side. “Excuse me? You are but a mouthful.”

“Oh,” said the soldier, “I see. You think it’s my bad luck because you think you’re going to eat me. I apologize. No, it is my bad luck because I was going to win a game of cards and now I have to deal with you.”

“Deal with me?” the dragon repeated. This was all very new. “You think I am not going to eat you?”

“Heavens no,” cried the soldier, “but that is no reason why we cannot be friends in the brief time we have together. Walnut?” He felt the claw ring on his finger and bit straight down on a walnut. With his extra strength he pulverized the shell and swallowed the meat.

“Very generous of you,” said the dragon.

“Would you like me to crack yours open for you?” asked the soldier, waving his little hammer. “I understand that dragons traditionally have weak teeth.”

“Weak teeth?” roared the dragon.

The soldier shrugged. “As you wish.” He picked up a walnut in his left hand and watched it turn to metal. He tossed the walnut gently in the air and the dragon’s jaws snapped shut with the sound of bone on bone.

CRACK! went its teeth and CRACK! went a tooth, which fell at the soldier’s feet.

“Oh,” said the soldier. “That is too bad.” He gave the dragon a sympathetic look.

“Ow!” said the dragon.

The soldier plunked another walnut in his mouth and bit down with great happiness.

The dragon pushed its forked tongue against the broken tooth and felt it wiggle around in its mouth. It eyed the soldier, still chewing his walnut. GULP! he swallowed.

“I want another,” said the dragon.

“Be my guest,” said the soldier.

“I get to pick. That one. No, to the left. Yes. That one. No. I changed my mind. That one.”

“As you say,” said the soldier, and picked up the walnut in his left hand. The dragon’s claws were far too large and clawlike to pick up anything as small as a walnut. In the soldier’s hand it turned at once to metal and he tossed it up for the dragon.

CRACK! and CRACK! and another tooth fell out.

Our soldier had the grace to look away while the dragon swept the broken teeth out of sight.

“I am the youngest and weakest in my family,” the soldier said when the dragon had recovered its poise. “My older brothers are much stronger than I am. My mother serves us dragon every Sunday, in fact.”

This was too much for the dragon. “Is that so? What do we taste like, if you are so well-versed?”

“Chicken,” said the soldier, which is the truth, but the dragon had no way of knowing that the spirit had told the soldier so.

“Perhaps we don’t have to get into violence right away,” suggested the cunning dragon, who decided on a new course of action.

“Indeed, no,” answered the soldier. “Do you have any suggestions?”

“How about a game?”

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