The Story Begins
“Brother! Tell me about Sir Aaron again!”
“You mean the dragon knight? He is a powerful knight in service to the king. His coming is said to herald the destruction of anyone unfortunate enough to meet his burning gaze.”
“Stop trying to scare me, Anton! Tell me about how he became a knight. I want to hear the story again.”
“Okay, but this time I won’t spare any details. He’s not just a knight, you know. It’s time you heard the true tale. Dad always skips the scary parts, but they aren’t even that scary. Think you can handle it, Etan?”
“Yes brother, I promise!”
“And you won't tell dad?”
“I swear! May the three smite me where I stand! Oh, please brother! I swear it!”
“Okay, okay. Before Sir Aaron became the mighty dragon knight, he was a lowly squire known simply as Aaron…”
The Trial of Thorns
“Aaron was squire to the Crimson Knight, a colossal warrior who came to court from a village in the mountains. You see, the King was holding a special tournament, and knights and warriors from all across the realm came to compete in it. The tournament consisted of three trials. One that tested a knight's wisdom, one that tested a knight's courage, and one that tested a knight’s prowess. Only one trial could be entered, and from each, a single knight would be chosen as the winner of that trial. The prize was an audience with the King and a special reward that the King himself would present to each knight, along with the coveted mantle of Sir.
The Crimson Knight was a mountainous figure, and her abilities in battle were feared by all who encountered her. She was favored to win the trial of prowess and many were discouraged from entering at the sight of her.”
“I bet mom could have beaten her. Dad says mom was the fiercest warrior he has ever seen, right Anton?”
“Mom was a mighty warrior, yes, but she could not have defeated the Crimson Knight. The Crimson Knight was a giant among mortals. Her sword was said to be longer than a person and able to cut the head clean off a horse!”
“Wow. She was amazing!”
“She was, but she was also cruel. She treated Aaron as if he was beneath her. The road to court had been long, and the Crimson Knight had not been kind to her squire as they journeyed together. Upon arriving at court, Aaron made a rash decision that would change his life forever.”
“What did Aaron do, Anton? Did he…”
Fight For Victory
“Of course! He was fed up with the Crimson Knight, and decided if anyone could defeat her it was someone who knew her better than anyone else. Aaron was a skilled swordsman in his own right, and what he lacked in raw physical strength, he made up for with bravery, resolve, and unparalleled tactical knowledge. You see, Aaron’s mother was none other than Cherynn, the Mourning Rose! Cherynn was a general in the King's army who, upon retiring from service, decided to settle down in the mountains north of the castle. She taught Aaron everything she knew before she died, leaving Aaron in the service of the Crimson Knight. It is said that Aaron would carry his mother’s scarf with him wherever he went.”
“That's so sad. Did Aaron win?”
“I’m getting to that! The trial of prowess was a brutal test of physical endurance, combat ability, and tactical expertise. Aaron’s training from his mother and his service to the Crimson Knight served him well, and eventually, he found himself face to face with his current guardian in the final trial. A trial of combat.
The Crimson Knight towered over Aaron, slamming her sword down in blow after devastating blow. Aaron persisted, watching his enemy's movements and waiting for the perfect moment to strike. After what seemed like hours, the Crimson Knight made her final move, a signature overhead slash aimed straight for Aaron’s skull. Do do you know what Aaron did?”
A King's Reward
“That’s right! Aaron knew that the Crimson Knight’s strength was rooted in the fear that she instilled in others. By not backing down, Aaron was able to overcome.
With that Aaron was declared champion of the trial of prowess and made his way to the castle along with the two other knights who had won the trials of courage and wisdom. Each winner was granted an individual audience with the King himself. You see, the tournament was meant to help the King find three individuals, each worthy of a special task. As the winner of the trial of prowess, Aaron was offered a gift - The Greatlance Flamberge. The greatlance was a massive weapon, longer than Aaron was tall, its lance made of braided steel blades that resembled bound vines covered in fang-like thorns.”
“It sounds terrifying.”
“It was, but not as terrifying as it’s price.”
“Yes. You see, accepting the weapon would come with a task. By taking the greatlance Aaron would bind himself in the service of the King, and his first task would be to take up the greatlance and to journey into the heart of Mt. Aerie to slay the fire-breathing dragon that slept there.”
“Kill a dragon? That’s crazy! Did he…”
“Of course he accepted the weapon! Aaron gladly took up the challenge and set off to slay the dragon. After beating the Crimson Knight, he felt like he could do anything. He accepted the greatlance and, marking it as his own, tied his mother’s scarf to the weapon’s shaft as a symbol of his devotion to the task. From that point forward, putting down the lance would mean losing the only thing Aaron had left to remember his mother.
The road to Mt. Aerie was rough, and Aaron soon found himself facing a fork in the path ahead. Would he journey up the mountain’s face, through the enchanted forest that grew there, and search for an entrance into the mountain? Or would he descend into the valley, through the caves that wound their way beneath the surface, before finding a route up to the mountain’s heart from below?"
“Oh! I know! Did he…”
Heart of Fire
“You guessed it! Eventually, he found a way inside. The journey was hard and nearly broke both Aaron’s body and spirit. Halfway up the side of Mt. Aerie Aaron found a cave in the mountain's face that led directly to its heart. As Aaron made his way deeper and deeper into Mt. Aerie, he found that the temperature continued to increase. With each and every step, his surroundings grew hotter and hotter until…”
“I told you this was the scary version of the story! But it's also the true tale. Upon entering the dragon’s lair, Aaron was met with a blast of fiery dragon breath.”
“Oh no! Did he... “
“Yes! And just in time, for the dragon’s flames blasted the ground with such intensity that they scorched the stone black. Aaron looked upon the dragon and could not help but think back to his fight against the Crimson Knight. As the dragon reared its head back and prepared to launch another mouthful of fire, Aaron made his move.”
“Let me guess! Let me guess! Did he…”
“That's right! He met the dragon face to face. Aaron drove the flamberge straight down the dragon’s throat and slew the beast before it could draw another breath. With that, the dragon lay defeated and Aaron felt elated, powerful, even unbeatable. He also felt a pinch on his wrist and when he looked down he was surprised to find that the greatlance had released tiny tendrils from its hilt. The thorny vine-like growths were wrapped around his arm, their little thorns poking into his skin. The blade itself had also grown, its tightly coiled blades had bloomed into the shape of a vicious greatsword. A greatsword that was soaked in dragon blood. The blade writhed in Aaron’s grip, undulating as if it were alive. In his horror, Aaron dropped the blade to the stone and pulled its tendrils out of his skin. Aaron immediately collapsed to the floor of the great dragon’s lair. The weapon, he realized, had been granting him strength and sustaining his life throughout his entire journey. He knew then that he had a choice to make. Leave the weapon on the ground and die next to the dragon he killed, or pick up the sinister blade and make the journey home.
“Dad never told me that! Did he…”
“That's right! He picked it up. With the weapon in hand, Aaron’s health returned, and with it, a curse. Deep within Aaron’s heart, hatred had taken root. A burning rage desperate to be free. As Aaron made the journey home, he found the nights to be filled with terrors. His body burned with fever and his mind raced with thoughts of blood and destruction. A voice deep in his chest screamed for release night after night until Aaron felt as though his heart would burst. Then, one night, struggling to sleep, Aaron had a vision. Battle. Bloodshed. Flashing steel and flickering flames. A mammoth figure, wreathed in dragonfire, striding through the carnage without worry or remorse. It called to him, tempted him, begged him for release from its infernal, fleshy prison. Aaron’s body twisted in burning agony. His chest heaved as the beast inside him fought desperately to escape.”
“He did. That night was the first time Aaron had to face his inner dragon, but it would not be the last… "
To Be Continued
“Are you stupid? Nobody denies the king! That's how you end up rotting in the dungeon. Besides, I already told you - Aaron was not a coward. I knew you weren’t ready for this story...”
"Noooo! Anton, please! Tell it again!"
“Absolutely not! The caves beneath Mt. Aerie are a twisting network of death and misery. Besides, Aaron was charged with slaying a dragon, not a demon. I'm not going to tell you this story if you aren't going to pay attention..."
"Noooo! Anton, please! Tell it again!"
“Raise a Shield? What shield? How would he raise a shield to defend? Sir Aaron was only equipped with the Greatlance. Seriously, are you even paying attention? I’m not going to tell you this story if you aren’t going to listen.”
"Noooo! Anton, please! Tell it again!"
“Yep, he let it out! From that night forward, the realms of men were plagued by a new terror. The Dragon-Beast-Man! RAAAAAAAAWR!!”
“Pfffftttt. Dragon-Beast-Man? Is that really how the story goes, Anton?”
“Not scary enough for you? Hmmm. Should I tell it again?”
“Please, brother! Tell me the real story!”