Personal Dragon

Dragon Serge Zykov flickr - Copy

Photo credit: Serge Zykov via Flickr

Grelles leaned against the statue’s plinth, shifting his sword to his uninjured arm.  Sticky blood pooled in his boot.  He held his brave expression. He wouldn’t have to much longer.

Mandol brushed invisible dirt from his bracers. He pointed to the statue. “Funny, all these dragon legends, when we never hear of actual attacks.  Never see a skull.  I have a theory.”

Grelles was too winded to argue. “Do tell.”

Mandol smirked. “That your kind made them up, to have something to say you fought, something to be heroic about.”

Your kind? They’d grown up together, been mistaken for brothers. “Plenty to fight in this world without making up dragons.”

“Ah, but how to tell the heroes from the mercenaries?”

“The heroes are the ones who fight evil.”

“Ha!  No, you only get called a hero if you win.”  Mandol straightened up. “Tough luck for you, then.  Are you rested?”

Grelles shrugged and took his stance. The lopsided battle resumed.

Noticing the amulet peeking from beneath Mandol’s breastplate, Grelles embraced his doom.

Mandol took the opening, made the final blow. His grin faltered when the amulet shattered, pierced by Grelles’s dagger.

There’s more than one way to slay a dragon.

Word count: 200.  Written for this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction challenge.  I haven’t had the chance to participate in a while, so this is a fun treat for me.  Big thanks to Susan for hosting, and to C.E. Ayr for providing the original photo, below.  Click on the link to see the other stories inspired by C.E.’s photo, and to add one of your own!


Photo © C.E. Ayr

42 thoughts on “Personal Dragon

    • Thanks Crispina! When I saw that Susan and C.E. had given me a dragon to think on, I couldn’t help myself. I’d just been thinking about whether Eneana has dragons or not, inspired by a blogger discussing why dragons show up in so many cultures. His argument was that every culture needs a great big monster for the heroes of legend to slay, which is interesting, although I’m not sure I buy it. Seems to me there are cultures without anything like dragons, although perhaps I haven’t studied them thoroughly enough; I’m no expert.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve come across a theory that the dragon dates back to our earliest days and is an amalgam of our most deadly predators: the rapture, the big cat, and the snake. And I can see it might be so. But then as the first homo sapiens dispersed out of Africa they encountered different predators, and so the composition of the dragon changed. Interesting to we westerners, the dragon now has bat-type wings. From our obsession with vampires? Something to think on. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Chinese take is as an elemental: the sinousness of the Chinese dragon resembles a river, and the wind, and flames, and even veins of metal ore. Perhaps they envountered more scary things in their earlier days?

        Liked by 1 person

    • Have to smile. After enjoying the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies I mentally shift to them when I first read of an encounter with dragons. I think, “wait don’t fight them. You can train them and be their friends!” A writer to harness me to the side of agreeing to battling them, needs to do the hard work to show me that they are truly a threat. Because until that point I just view prior conflicts as misunderstandings… And I always blame the humans for that. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Dale! Actually… it takes a lot to get me to love a dragon story these days. Like so many of those old fantasy tropes, it feels so overdone and even boring. That said, I’m always open to a new take on an old monster!

      I haven’t seen “How to Train Your Dragon” but I have read “Dragonriders of Pern,” which had pretty much the same effect that the two of you describe. You have to really convince me that any of these monsters are actually a threat before I’ll endorse fighting them.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. How sad… what led to these two men who seemed to have grown up together to fight to the death?

    I liked the little background snippets you dropped in. Mistaken as brothers – so they grew up near each others where they would be seen together and interacted a lot. The comment of “your kind” implied to me that they were of different factions or from very nearby towns. Close enough to regularly hang out, but each with their own distinct culture and myth.

    There was a sense of calm acceptance here to me. One way to go with “brothers” fighting to the death could have been to show more emotion and angry at their divergence in purpose that led them to the fight. In your story, I assume that was done earlier (off stage) with a resolution that they would never see eye to eye. They must have fought before, but something prevented a final blow. But at this point “are you rested” we see them in respect of their past friendship having a break to catch one’s breath, and shooting the breeze. Neither is angry. Almost a feeling of, “if I have to die I want it by my brother’s hand…”

    I’ll admit on my first read through I was very focused on the dragon and it’s meaning. But then like a facade it just mentally slid away and what I found left was the underpinning scaffolding of the “brother’s” story. That actually interested me more, as noted above.

    You’re really great at planting the hook in these shorts you post. I always want to know more… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for such a thoughtful comment, Louis! I love it when other people engage with my stories like this. There’s always so much that can’t possibly be conveyed in 100 or 200 words—at least once I’ve been thinking about the story as long as I usually do. So what goes in there comes out as the tip of the iceberg.

      I often end up writing what feels like the inciting incident of a longer story, but this one felt more like the climactic battle at the end, with a great deal of past conflict between these two only hinted at. And that develops as I write, too. I wanted to convey that this wasn’t some random battle between strangers, but a battle over a broader philosophy or goal, which is why I put in the “your kind” reference. I didn’t want readers to see this as a (relatively) simple racial slur, so suddenly the story twisted such that the two of them didn’t just know each other, but look so similar that people mistook them for brothers when they were younger.

      But here is where your interpretation and mine differ. I imagined that they had taken very different paths, embraced opposing philosophies– but that they split, disillusioned, long ago. Now they meet as enemies. I was picturing Mandol having let Grelles rest a moment less as true chivalry and more a show of superiority: he knows Grelles is too injured to survive, he knows he’s going to win, he wants one last chance to spar with his old rival before it ends, to rub it in that his philosophy will take the day. A couple lines (of the many) that I had to cut to get it down to 200 words clarified that Mandol was playing with Grelles in their final battle, teasing him, and that it was because he was so overconfident and pleased with himself that he didn’t notice the amulet/pendant slip out from beneath his shirt/armor. The more I think and talk about it, of course the more I want to explore the story, and learn what happened before this point between them, and why the amulet is so important. Oh no, not another novel idea!


  2. Loved your response this week Joy. It’s very sad two men who grew up together, like brothers both end in this fight. But, in destroying Mandol’s’ amulet & the man, I’m happy Grelles is the hero of of his own story. At least, he has that before he succumbs to death as well. Great write as per Always

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Amanda! It is definitely a tragic story. I’m so glad you caught that part, that, as you say, Grelles gets one last chance to be the hero. As I say in my reply to Louis (above), I couldn’t help but imagine some of the background that led up to this fight, and now of course I’m tempted to imagine much more of it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes me too. As the other one I read today, this one too invites one to wonder what happened to cause this ‘last battle,’ maybe what could’ve prevented it. Excellent stuff though. I thoroughly love your tales every time I read them. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s so kind of you to say, thank you! This story, and the comments coming from it, have also gotten me wondering what could have prevented this battle, as well as what happens next. Hmm, some interesting ideas are percolating…


    • Funny that I wasn’t even thinking of it as a fight scene, even though obviously it is. Probably if you filmed it, you’d need a ton of stage directions about who did what with which weapons. But that’s never been the important part to me. The sticky blood gathering in your boot, the realization you don’t have much time left and have to make it count, ahh, there we go. Thanks for stopping by, Lynn!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, glad you liked it! It’s the kind of fight scene I like as a reader, too — all about the characters and their interaction, and the least possible about the actual mechanics of the weapon-play. Now I’m getting interested in what the bigger story might be. (There’s always more, with these flash pieces, isn’t there?)

      Chinese dragons are really cool. I’d love to see more people branch out into other types and visions of dragons in fantasy writing!


    • The answer to that question is…. explained in the entire novel that happened before this scene, I am starting to think! I don’t mean to come up with new novel or story ideas with every flash fiction piece; it just keeps happening. 😉 Thanks for stopping by Ali, glad you liked it!

      Liked by 1 person

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