By: Jan Willem van den Brink
His royal highness, king Alvaro, sat behind the large desk in his study. He was reading a message that had just found him by way of a courier.
"Listen, Vianodras," he said to his councilor. "This says that a red dragon has been spotted near Dobnell, a village just to the north of the Red Hell."
"Sir Raddrack will probably come to the palace then, Sire," Vianodras thought. Alvaro sighed.
"Indeed." he said. "He always knows immediately when a dragon is raiding. The man seems to have a sixth sense about it."
"His sixth sense is called magic, Sire." Vianodras said. "Sir Raddrack is also known as the Dragonmage and he really deserves that nickname."
"Well I also know him as greedy," the king grumbled. "The tariff he charges is outrageous. I wonder what he does with all the money he made the last four centuries. I wouldn't know what one could do with it in the Red Hell."
"I don't know that either, Sire," Vianodras said. "But although sir Raddrack is a plague to the royal treasury, he's a blessing for the land. Without him, the dragons could be doing wath they like in your kingdom."
"That is the only reason why I still hire him, Vianodras," the king said gruffly. "He's unusually late, by the way. Most of the times I hear it from him when there is a dragon, even before eye-witness accounts reach me."
Vianodreas nodded and the wanted to say something, when someone knocked on the door.
"Please answer thet for me, Vianodras."
The king's councilor opened the door and a lackey entered the room. The lackey bowed gracefully before the king, who made clear the could speak.
"Sir Raddrack asks permission to converse with you, your majesty."
"Very well, send him in, I will receive him immediately."
The lackey bowed again and left the room.
A little later there was another knock on the door. A very old man came in. He had a wrinkled face and a long white beard. He wore a black robe on which a read dragon was embroidered. The man leant on a magnificently worked wooden staff when he was walking. He made a short bow in front of he king and said: "Greetings, our majesty, your land is in danger once again. A dragon has left the Querg-Mountains."
"I know, sir Raddrack. A red dragon has been spotted near the village Dobnell."
The Dragonmage nodded. "You are well informed, your majesty. If you wisht it, I am willing to engage this dragon."
"I would indeed appreaciate that sir Raddrack. Name your price."
"I still charge the same rate, yoru majesty, a silver chest filled with gold pieces."
"All right, when you bring me the heart of the dragon, you will receive your reward."
The Dragonmage nodded approvingly. "I will leave immediately then, before the dargon makes more vicims."
"The monster is coming again!" the blacksmith shouted. He ran together with the other villagers to the small church that was standing in the middle of the village green. The church was the only stone building in Dobnell and the villagers sought shelter for the fiery dragons' breath under the burnt roof-tiles.
The dragon came slowly flying in form the south. The villagers anxiously peered through the stained glass windows. They saw the red monster's shadow fall over some of the houses, shortly followed by a beam of fire the dragon belched forth. The flames spouted into the air, out of the thatched roofs. It was stock-still in the church.
The dragon flew further and the villagers couldn't see it anymore. The blacksmith walked to the back door of the church and set it ajar. Through the chink, he saw the dragon slowly flying to the north. Suddenly, the dragon dove down again and the blacksmith lost sight of it for a moment. When the dragon came up again, it held a loudly mooing cow in his claws. The dragon began flying a bit faster and landed behind the low range of hills to the north of Dobnell.
"It's behind the Molehills," the blacksmith said and he walked out of the church. He and some of the other villagers went to stand guard behind the northern palisade, while others put out the fire. The blacksmith and the other guardians watched the north tensely, but the dragon gave no sign of life.
After a quarter of an hour, the villagers suddenly heard a horse galloping in from the eastern road.
"Praise the gods," the blacksmith sighed, when he recognized the rider as the Dragonmage. "The dragon sits behind the hills" he shouted when Raddrack was close enough.
Raddrack looked in the direction the blacksmith was pointing, raised his hand to give a sing that he had understood it and turned his horse.
The villagers looked him after anxiously. The Dragonmage rode along the herds of cows, that where delirious after the dragons appearance. The Dragonmage reached the foot of the hills, where he tied his horse to a tree and climbed the hills on foot. He reached the top and began descending, so the villagers couldn't see him anymore. They waited tensely.
A little later they saw a very bright, white flash of light from behind the hills, followed by angry roaring. The dragon's wings peaked out just above the hills and the monster lifted itself aggravating slowly into the air. Just when the dragon seemed to come loose from the hills, the villages were blinded by another flash. When they could see again, the dragon had disappeared.
Raddrack appeared on the top of the hills. He walked towards his horse and rode back to Dobnell. Raddrack dismounted and walked towards the gathered villagers. He didn't seem to be injured in any way.
"This is what's left of the dragon," he said and he raised a bleeding heart. The villagers cheered and thanked the Dragonmage circumstantially. He ignored the expressions of thanks and asked if anyone had a bag to transport the heart in.
After he put away the heart, Raddrack mounted and rode eastward.
"The dragon is dead, your majesty," Raddrack said.
He stood in the king's study again, where Vianodras and some guards were also present.
King Alvaro nodded. "I didn't expect anything else. Give me the heart and I will give you your reward."
The Dragonmage laid the bag on the king's desk. Alvaro looked inside it before giving it to Vianodras. On a sign from the king, a guard, carrying a silver chest, stepped forward. The guard put the chest on the ground in front of Raddrack's feet and lifted the lid, so Raddrack could see the gold pieces.
The Dragonmage nodded and the guard closed the chest and stepped back again.
"Are you satisfied, sir Raddrack?" the king asked.
"Of course, your majesty, very much satisfied, as always," Raddrack answered him. "I will return to my home in the Red Hell, so I can watch the dragons in the Querg-mountains."
"You can go whenever you please, sir Raddrack."
The Dragonmage tapped on the chest with the end of his staff and muttered some words. The chest floated up a bit. Raddrack bowed in front of the king and left the room, by which the chest was floating after him.
The Dragonmage rode through the Zomro-forest, to the south of the city Flyn'Yorr, where the royal palace stood. There existed no roads that led through the forest, because further to the south, there was the Red Hell, the desolate desert where, as far as anyone knew, only the Dragonmage lived. Even further south there were the Querg-mountains, where no man dared to go, out of fear for the legendary red dragons.
Having traveled through the forest for nearly a day, Raddrack held still. He dismounted and bound his horse. He looked at the silver chest, smiling and muttered something about 'king Cowheart'. Then the Dragonmage pushed the palms of his hands together and closed his eyes. A bright, white flash of light concentrated on his body. Suddenly it wasn't a man who was standing there, but a red dragon towered above the horrified horse. The dragon grabbed the horse and ate it. It then grasped the silver chest with one of his hind legs, took off and flew with great speed southward.
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