The Lizard's Lesson, short story by Richard Bishop at
Unreal Airtist

The Lizard’s Lesson

The Lizard’s Lesson

written by: Richard Bishop



Sir Kevin the Konniving slipped the leather gauntlet from his right hand and knelt with squawking armour plate to examine the tracks in the moist dirt. He touched the three-toed impression in the soft soil and scooped the yellow slime coating the claw prints. He raised his fingers to his nose and sniffed—the foul stench of reptile with a slight touch of lavender. How odd. The creature must be close.

The knight rolled his shoulders and loosened his long sword in its silver scabbard.

He jerked as a voice behind him boomed. “Whatcha looking at, mate?”

Sir Kevin whirled, drawing his sword. The blade flew from his slime-covered fingers and landed in a patch of raspberry bushes. In front of him stood a seven-foot lizard, wearing a black and yellow tartan kilt and holding a lance in its stubby right arm.

The lizard leaned back on its tail. “You should be more careful with that big knife, mate. You could hurt somebody throwing it around like that.”

The dragon slayer froze. Experience had taught him not to rely on his wit, and talking lizards didn’t inhabit his homeland. This is probably a dragonish trick.

He slinked toward the bushes and probed among the branches for his sword.

The reptile remained perched on its tail, grinning at Sir Kevin.

As the knight gripped the sword, he turned toward the lizard, whose size may or may not have influenced his decision to converse rather than fight. “What do you want, foul creature?”

The lizard waggled his three-clawed fingers. “Well, if you’re in the mood to help, you could pick me some of those raspberries. My short arms and clawed fingers make it difficult to pick delicious fruit.”

The lizard bent toward the knight and held out its unoccupied hand. “My name is Doug.”

Instinctively, Sir Kevin raised his left hand to grasp the lizard’s paw, but when he realized what he was doing, he yanked it back and wiped his palm on his leg.

“I’m Sir Kevin of Locksburyshirekeep, and you’d best fear me.”

Doug scratched his head. “Why’s that?”

Sir Kevin twirled his long sword around his head. “Because I’m the slayer of dragons and protector of maidens.”

The lizard pushed the lance butt first toward the posturing knight. “OOO, if only I’d known who I was talking with. One of these might come in handy for slaying dragons. Do you want it? I was going to use it to knock apples out of the treetops.”

Sir Kevin’s keen eye noted the crest impressed on the lance. “That’s mine. Where did you get it?”

Doug pointed into the forest. “I found it back there, leaning against a tree.”

Dread washed over the knight. “Did you see my horse?”

The lizard shrugged. “I’m not sure what a horse is, but someone had tied a tasty snack to a tree near where I found this long pointy thing.”

Sir Kevin’s heart dropped as an awful thought crept into his knightly brain. “Snack? You mean you ate my horse?”

The lizard nodded.

Sir Kevin snatched the lance and muttered, “Damn you, hellspawn. That was my uncle Charlie’s third-best charger. He lent it to me as a favour to my mother. How am I going to explain that some talking lizard ate it? What are you?”

Doug waddled over to the raspberry bushes and ripped chunks of fruit off the vines with his teeth. Between bites, he said, “I’m a reptile from a fine family. We attended church every Tuesday, and my father was the king’s chief cook. At least he was until a dragon ate him.”

Sir Kevin’s eyes narrowed, and he tried to scratch his nose but forgot his visor was down. With a screech of metal, he raised his visor and scratched his face, scraping a hunk of skin with the steel studs sewn into his leather gauntlet. “So you bear a grudge against the dragon?”

The lizard paused with a branch of the raspberry bush stuck between his teeth. “Why would I be angry at the grungy dragon?”

The knight wondered if he’d heard the lizard correctly or if the reptile was a bit of a dolt. “He killed your father.”

Doug used a piece of the raspberry bush to scratch his back. “Well, as to that, and to be fair, my father was waving a butcher knife at a hungry dragon and ordering him to move along. Good old dad had a temper. If he’d been more like my mother – live and let live, she always said – he’d still be flipping burgers at the King’s annual barbie.”

Sir Kevin sheathed his sword with a clang and grasped his lance in both hands. Horse or no horse, he would regain the family honour, and a complete set of dragon teeth would pay for the horse he’d lost. “Come along if you like. I’ve got some dragon slaying to do. You can be my faithful companion.”

Doug cocked his head. “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do you have to slay the dragon?”

Sir Kevin paused. He wasn’t one for deep philosophical questions. He was a man of action. “Because that’s what knights do.”

The lizard nodded. “But the dragon has done nothing to you. I’ll bet you are more of a trophy hunter than pest control. Have you ever considered that if you kill all the adult dragons, there won’t be any more dragons to slay?”

The knight frowned. “Well, now that you put it like that, no. What do you suggest?”

Doug looked toward the sky, deep in thought. “I know of an old dragon, long past the breeding stage. If you killed him, it wouldn’t harm the dragon population, and from what I’ve been told, he suffers from flaming joints and has to be fed by hand as he’s unable to fly.”

“Doesn’t seem sporting, the dragon being crippled and all. But I have to pay Uncle back somehow. Lead the way.”

Doug led the knight up the mountain, pausing when Sir Kevin lost his grip and went tumbling down the slope, clattering and clanking and ringing like a cracked church bell. Ever the determined dragon-slayer, Sir Kevin picked himself up and clawed his way up the hill to his ever-patient lizard companion.

Three-quarters of the way from the summit, they arrived at a small plateau with a large, dark cave.

Sir Kevin noticed a worn footpath not ten feet from where they stood. “Does that footpath lead down the mountain?”

“Of course. How do you think the servants carry up the dragon’s food?”

The knight stomped his foot. “Why didn’t we take the path rather than clamber up the mountainside?”

“You were the one looking for adventure. I thought the rough route would be more to your taste.”

Sir Kevin considered skewering the lizard. Instead, he lowered his visor and grasped his lance in both hands. His voice echoed inside his armor. “Lead me to the dragon, lizard, and I’ll spare your life.”

Doug moved out of lance’s reach. He pointed to the cave. “In there, noble knight, you’ll complete your worthy quest.”

Sir Kevin, oblivious to lizard sarcasm, strode toward the cave and stopped inside the entrance while his eyes adjusted to the gloom. In the back of the cave, a large shape slowly heaved like a blacksmith’s bellows and the wheeze and buzz of the creature’s lungs echoed in the cavern. The aroma of stale porridge and dragon farts leaked through the slits in his visor.

Sir Kevin crept forward and raised his lance to strike.

Little puffs of smoke flowed from the dragon’s nose, and Sir Kevin noted missing teeth in the dragon’s half-open jaws. A scatter of grey scales formed a halo on the ground beside the dragon’s head.

Sir Kevin paused. The dragon was sleeping and helpless. He was old, and his cattle-eating days were behind him. It reminded him of his grand da before he passed on.

The brave knight sighed, lowered his lance, and tip-toed out of the cave, careful not to disturb the dragon.

Doug, resting on his tail, greeted the knight. “All done then? Dragon-slayer, are we?”

Sir Kevin trudged onto the plateau, dragging his lance behind him, the steel tip sparking where it bounced off the boulders. He shook his head and clanked into a sitting position. “No.”

Maybe my uncle will let me work off my debt.

Doug cocked his head. “You’re a better human than most. That’s why I didn’t take you to the fire dragon’s cave.”

Sir Kevin nodded. “Now I have no way to pay back my uncle.”

Doug reached into the pouch belted in front of his kilt and handed Sir Kevin a fist full of emeralds. “Perhaps these will help. I feel a little guilty about the unfortunate incident with your horse.”

Sir Kevin smiled. “Thank you, Doug. Shall we return to town, and this time we’ll take the path?”

In the Mad Baker Pub, Sir Kevin and Doug hoisted a few, and they each gained a friend.


The End

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