This story was published somewhere or other back in the day. I’m posting it now, because on St George’s Day it seems appropriate that we should spare a thought for dragons and all the other endangered species.
THE DRAGON’S PROGENY
I allowed the knight to get right up to me before materialising with a theatrically impressive bang and a puff of coloured smoke. His horse reared up in the air and for a few moments mount and rider cantered in crazy circles until he got the beast back under control.
The knight raised his visor and stared at me, his little piggy eyes growing wide in amazement. I was completely naked, floating about five feet above the ground and aglow with chronal radiance, so all in all his stupefaction was quite understandable.
‘Good morrow kind sir’, I said, the vocoder automatically translating my words into a language with which he would be familiar.
The knight crossed himself and muttered something in Latin. He then pointed his lance at me and demanded to know what manner of creature I was. He spoke loudly, but with a noticeable quaver in his voice. I knew that he was afraid and trying to put on a bold front. My sensitive nostrils could smell urine, and I was sure it didn’t come from either me or the horse. I hoped his tin suit wasn’t susceptible to rust.
‘My name is Zith and I am an angel of the Lord.’
His eyes went wide in astonishment again and then his whole face screwed up in a sly, calculating look. Probably he knew the names of several hundred angels by rote and was trying to recall if Zith was one of them. I should have had special effects implant a pair of wings before departure. That would’ve clinched it. No use fretting over what might have been though.
Finally the knight reached the conclusion that he was just the sort of person who could reasonably expect a visit from an angel of the Lord. So much for humility. Planting his lance upright in the ground he leapt down from the horse with a grace I found hard to credit given all that armour and fell on his knees before me. I felt slightly embarrassed by this display of obeisance.
‘Please Sir George, do get up. There’s no need for that sort of thing.’
He clambered up off his knees with a good deal less dexterity than he’d shown in getting down there. My kind are naturally courteous but I resisted the impulse to help him. It would be catastrophic for me to come into physical contact with any solid object in this time zone.
‘The Lord has sent you to aid me in my battle against the wurm.’
‘Well, yes and no.’
‘With an angel to guide my arm I cannot fail. The wurm must surely die.’
‘Well actually, I’d rather the dragon was allowed to live.’
Sir George’s eyes went wide with astonishment for the third time, a trait I was beginning to find irritating. A gauntleted hand curled round the lance. I had failed to live up to his expectations and by doing so had cast doubt on my authenticity as an angel. It couldn’t be helped. I had intended to tell him that the dragon was an endangered species and close to extinction, but saw now that a plea for mercy on such grounds was doomed to failure. In dealing with humans it is always unwise to depend on their better nature, and I revised my strategy with this thought in mind.
‘The fact of the matter is’, I said trying to sound authorative and enigmatic at the same time, ‘the Lord of Hosts has certain long term plans that hinge on the continued existence of that particular dragon. Your killing of the beast would be extremely inconvenient.’
Sir George’s face went scarlet. ‘But…’
‘The Lord moves in mysterious ways’, I reminded him with a pointedly stern look for emphasis. ‘The important thing is to rescue the maiden and I know how to accomplish that end without harming the dragon.’
George looked sceptical, but brightened considerably as I outlined my plan. The truth was that, despite all his bluster, he didn’t want to engage in battle with a creature as formidable as a dragon if such a confrontation could possibly be avoided. My strategy would enable Sir George to perform his Christian duty with the minimum of personal danger. In addition certain details of the plan appealed strongly to his prurient nature. I told him that if he followed my instructions to the letter his bravery would be remembered for all time, throwing in a promise of canonisation for extra incentive. Such enticements were impossible to resist.
The dragon was perched on top of a nearby hummock. He had already torn the maiden’s clothes off with his claws and was now singeing her head of golden hair. Dragons absolutely loathe hair. It gets in their teeth and can completely ruin a tasty snack. The poor girl had fainted, which was probably just as well in the circumstances. Dragons have exceptional control of their flame, but nobody’s perfect. If she’d been able to move the girl might have been seriously burned.
Off to my right George was in position, skulking in some bushes until it was time for him to act. He had covered his naked body with mud and stuck on a few leaves for camouflage as I’d suggested. He looked ridiculous.
It was time to make my move. The dragon had only pubic hair left to remove and a partially cooked pudenda might hamper the proceedings considerably.
I moved the dial of my vocoder over to dragon speech and then coughed loudly to attract the beast’s attention.
The dragon turned in my direction, his head poised to unleash a murderous jet of flame. Fortunately my unusual appearance gave him pause, as I had planned. Dragons are notoriously curious creatures, more so even than human beings.
He was a superb specimen of dragonkind, over thirty foot in length from the horn on the end of his snout to the barbed tip of his sturdy tail, every inch of him covered in green scales except for his head and soft white underbelly. George’s lance would have made a bloody ruin of that belly had he got within striking distance. His wings were folded but I guessed their leathery span at some forty foot, with muscles strong enough to carry this massive body into the sky and hold it aloft indefinitely.
Dragons are by nature herbivorous except when this strange craving for the flesh of human virgins comes upon them. Were it not for this one vice they would be perfectly amiable creatures, capable of peaceful co-existence with the human beings they now hunt and who have learnt to hunt them in their turn.
George had crept out of hiding while I distracted the dragon and was about his business with the maiden, who had been discarded and temporarily forgotten by her captor. I was glad that the dragon’s bulk obscured much of what George was doing. I had no taste for such things though a significant minority of my kind found human pornography vastly entertaining. For the second time I reflected that it was probably a good thing the girl was unconscious. Poor George didn’t look too proficient at what he was about.
The dragon’s eyes were alive with intelligence. Dragons are magic creatures and therefore amenable to reason unlike human beings. I was able to reveal at least part of the truth to the dragon. I told him that a knight was riding forth to kill him. The dragon’s reaction was predictable and primitive. He stamped his feet in indignation causing the ground to tremble and spat flame into the sky, roaring that he would roast the stupid knight alive in his armour and split him open on the rocks like a snail.
As a temper tantrum this display of bellicosity was quite impressive but it served no useful purpose. The dragon was fated to lose its battle with Sir George. I told the creature that I had come from the future to save his life, letting him see my true appearance as proof. The dragon was the last adult male of its kind and the continuance of the species depended upon his surviving to impregnate as many cows as possible. At this news the dragon puffed up with pride. In a tone considerably more courteous than he had previously used the dragon thanked me for my warning, but assured me that he would have no difficulty dealing with the stupid knight.
By now Sir George had done his duty and was running off as fast as his legs could carry him.
The dragon turned back to his meal, head hovering low over the supine female. I waited for the inevitable reaction. He snorted in disgust, his face and underbelly turning a bilious yellow. With one massive foot he kicked the untempting morsel aside and then launched himself into the sky with an almighty bellow of displeasure, wings unfurling to bear him aloft. Dragons find nothing so unappetising as the carnal reek of a human female. The maiden had been saved at the cost of her virginity. By the time Sir George returned in his armour and on his horse to recover the bruised but undevoured maiden the dragon was nothing more than a speck on the horizon.
My mission had been accomplished with no significant distortion of the historical matrix. George would never reveal how he had saved the maiden and his reticence would be interpreted as a sign of saintly humility, helping give rise to the legends that attended his name. The dragons would retreat to an island in the north Atlantic where they would hibernate for several millennia, after which time the humans would no longer present a threat. They would be remembered only in folklore and legend.
Returning to my own time I resumed my true saurian appearance with a great sense of relief. My mate Alda helped me from the chronosphere. I affectionately licked her speckled underbelly and she belched a small gout of flame in appreciation.
Not for the first time I considered how strange it was that creatures as marvellously complex and intelligent as Alda and I could descend directly from that old dragon. Still, no more strange or wondrous to consider than the humans’ own descent from mere apes. It was those same humans who, in the course of their relentless wars, had released the radiation that was to accelerate our evolution, exterminating their own species at the same time and leaving dragonkind as undisputed masters of all we survey, deserving heirs to their civilisation and culture.
We have much to thank the humans for.