It's true enough,
I killed a dragon--
an old dragon with a maimed wing, mind you,
crippled by some foreign prince.
The dragon came down the mountainside
after it was injured,
right into our village.
I remember women screaming. And men.
The smell of roast meat.
Then the dragon came up to my smithy
and fired the roof,
and I filled up with fire myself
and ran at it with an axe in one hand,
a spear in the other.
Three days afterwards
the King's soldiers arrived.
Too late to bury the dead,
but the captain offered me
a place in the army,
and, being a young fool,
I said yes.
Oh, I've done well enough,
but most of that's luck--
I've seen better men than me
killed quick by arrows
or slow by gangrene.
So. I've had my moments.
Lots of harlots, no wife--
I will say this for dragon-killing:
the harlots like it.
I never fought for honor
or any such nonsense,
just for my men, my pay,
food, drink, and, yes, the harlots.
But the new King,
now that's different.
They say he bested a dragon himself,
and what if he did?
I can still get fired up,
rage into battle.
Like when I fought that dragon,
rushing at it like a young fool.
Not for honor,
nor glory,
not thinking much at all.
But that's the smaller part
of what makes a King.
You should have seen him this summer.
Not much more than a boy,
but he rode at the front of the charge
in his first battle
like a King should,
and afterwards he got down off his warhorse
and walked in the mud,
looking for survivors,
and went into the surgeons' tent
and spoke to those waiting
for the knife.
He came out of that tent
and vomited.
I know. I was there,
checking on one of my soldiers.
The King looked right at me and said,
"Next time I won't throw up. I promise."
Now that's a King.
(First published in "Crowned: The Sign of the Dragon, Book 1," Dark Renaissance Books, 2015)