Authors: Amber D Sistla
An Apple a Day Keeps the Dragon Away
By Amber D. Sistla
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this story are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Dragon Away
Copyright © 2011 by Amber D. Sistla
All rights reserved.
Published by Zephyr Publishing
An Apple a Day Keeps the Dragon Away
Pavel, the village teacher, allowed a dramatic pause to fill the room, then took a deep breath. His prominent belly nudged the table that was filled with the remnants of a lavish meal. "And that is why the pen is mightier than the sword." The crowd roared in appreciation of his tale.
"Pavel, you always have the best Dragon's Eve tales," said the judge, raising his voice to be heard over the laughter. "Well, everyone. Safe journey home. Hope the dragon doesn't eat you, and I look forward to seeing you all when Dragon's Month is over."
Everyone raised their mugs and replied in unison. "Hope the dragon doesn't eat you."
In the quiet that followed, a slurred voice came from the back of the room. "Although, if the pen really is mightier than the sword, why bother the king for any more knights? Just send Pavel and his pen to defeat the dragon."
Pavel narrowed his eyes; he recognized that nasal twang. "If you have something to say, come forward and say it like a man, Yuri."
A lean man, ostentatiously dressed to display his wealth, pushed through the crowd. Yuri smiled genially, his weasel eyes bright. He was the sort of man who always wore a smile whether he was repossessing a cow, killing a chicken, or courting Melora. "We all know you are the smartest man here. Everyone in the kingdom knows about your wit and knowledge. The king's knights are always killed trying to fight the dragon, so why not use the stronger weapon? Unless the pen isn't really mightier than the sword. . ."
Pavel lumbered to his feet, towering over Yuri. It was obvious that Yuri was intentionally provoking him, yet. . . Half a dozen scathing retorts rested on the tip of his tongue, yet. . .He saw Melora watching thoughtfully.
If I succeed, maybe she will finally agree to marry me.
"Of course." His words came out in a squeak so he cleared his throat. "I've been remiss. Tonight I visit the dragon to defeat it with words, the mightiest weapons of all."
Yuri gaped, then grinned widely.
It wasn't hard for Pavel to guess the reason for Yuri's grin.
If I died, Yuri would be rid of his main rival for the affections of the lovely Melora.
Most of the villagers owed Yuri money and turned their faces away in unprotesting silence.
"Pavel," said the judge, "no one expects you to fight the dragon. Let's all go home, and we'll all have a good laugh about it next Dragon's Eve."
"Thank you, friend, but I must go. Who'll see me to the base of the dragon's cliff?" A dozen hands flew up, including sweet Melora's who came to whisper in his ear that he had better come back alive.
Pavel paused to lean against a large boulder. Unused to the demands of such strenuous activity, his chest heaved, sucking in the cold air. He saw the torches of a handful of villagers waiting about a hundred feet away where he'd left them.
Taking a deep, wheezing breath, Pavel trekked up the trail winding along the side of the steep cliff. Nearly at the top, a rock shifted under his foot. The torch went one way, and Pavel went the other. He managed to catch hold of a tree trunk just as his legs slid over the edge.
If I die, I die, but it will not be because of a rock.
Bit by bit, he hefted himself back onto firm ground. He panted and watched the first rays of sunshine filter over the horizon.
Panicked, Pavel struggled to stand. He scrabbled up the remaining distance, but the sun was firmly up by the time he stood at the cave's dark entrance. It must be empty, he thought. The dragon always left after sunrise.
I'm too late
. The teacher's shoulders slumped, and his thoughts flew to Melora; he hoped she'd made it home with more alacrity than he'd shown in getting to the dragon's den. He turned to squint at the accusing sun.
"Going so soon?" The words echoed in the cave.
Pavel whirled so quickly that he tripped himself and fell onto his hands and knees. Two eyes glittered in the back of the cave.
"Come into my den," said the dragon to the man.
Pavel searched the darkness suspiciously. "I think I'll stay out here a bit longer, if you don't mind. I'm glad you are still at home."
"You created such a racket when you were coming. I thought it only appropriate to welcome you properly, and I do so love a morning snack. But you took an awfully long time getting here. I had almost given up on you. I thought I would have to go get you myself." The dragon sauntered to the entrance of the cave, the snitch-snatch of its claws scraping against stone. "You are a plump one, aren't you?"
The dragon closed its eyes with what Pavel could only assume was a blissful expression on its face. "One quick blast of fire, then I'll pop you out of your armor for a crunchy treat." The dragon licked its lips and opened its eyes, then pointed at Pavel. "Why aren't you wearing armor? Armor cooks everything so much more evenly. I must think of something else to do with you."
Pavel patted the leather apron the smith had lent him and said a silent prayer of thankfulness that none of the rusted armor in the village fit him. "While you're thinking about that, there's something I want to talk to you about."
"How intriguing. I've never had a human want to talk to me before. Run in terror, maybe, or shove pointy things at me, but not talk. What would you like to say?"
"I would like you to consider not eating us anymore."
The dragon bared his teeth in what Pavel hoped was a grin. "Indeed?"
"It could be a great benefit to all of us. After all, we are all reasoning beings. Think about how much we could teach and learn from each other."
Pavel shuffled, uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was taking. "They don't think; humans do. There's a difference."
"All you know is that you are hungry before you eat them and satisfied after." A rumbling noise issued from the dragon's stomach, and it edged closer to Pavel and licked its lips. "Very satisfied."
Pavel backed away a few steps. "But, the very fact that we are having this conversation is proof of that difference."
"What proof is that? All it shows is that I've gone to the trouble of learning my prey's language. Furthermore, I've limited myself to hunting one month a year. How often do you eat your prey?"
Pavel's Dragon's Eve repast churned in his stomach--chicken, beef, pork--he'd had more than a little bit of everything tonight. The arguments he'd composed on his way to the cave now bunched together in his throat. "You'll eat me, then? I hope that I'll satisfy you enough to eat fewer other people."
The dragon studied him, no doubt thinking about the appropriate recipe for overweight, out of shape philosophers who'd just been exposed to their own hypocrisies. Probably with some sort of sauce, Pavel thought.
"This conversation has been interesting," the dragon said. "Maybe there are things we can learn from each other."
"Does it involve not being eaten?"
"Perhaps. I give you my word, on my honor as a dragon of the Clan of Mirrored Stars, that I will not eat anyone who does not have the smell of prey on their breath."
It was too easy.
There must be some catch, but what?
"Why would you agree to this?"
"Call it curiosity, an experiment, if you will. I am exceedingly curious to see the results."
Pavel didn't trust the dragon. "Once I tell everyone how to be safe from you, what will you eat?"
The dragon's laughter filled the cavern. "You are idealistic, aren't you? Do you think everyone will believe you or, if believing, want to change? They'd rather cower in their hidey-holes for a month hoping I won't find them."
Pavel thought of Yuri and knew the dragon was right; some people would never change. "I suppose that's true. So. . . an apple a day keeps the dragon away?"
The dragon chortled, and wisps of smoke curled out of its nostrils. "Indeed, human, indeed. I hope you consider taking me up on the offer. I would like to continue our conversation, but then again, I like eating immensely too, so I am sure I will enjoy our next meeting either way. And rest assured that we will meet again."
Pavel smiled faintly. "Indeed, dragon, indeed."
If you enjoyed this story by Amber D. Sistla, please try other titles:
Short Story Collections:
• Obligations of a Cobalt Hue
available August 13,2011 online at
Thanks for reading!