Chapter 1: The Draw
The old town hall of the village of Huron sat proudly over the village square, its thatched roof glowing golden in the light of the evening sun. On a stage in front of the wooden building, the town council had gathered behind the Mayor as he hushed the assembled townsfolk. He was a stocky man, but despite his position of authority he did without the grandeur usually associated with heads of governments.
“We come together on this solstice night, to draw from amongst you a champion. For too long has this wretched dragon decimated our livestock and scorched our crops.”
The crowd cheered in unanimous agreement.
“As was prophesied years ago, one amongst us will one day rid us of this foul beast, to bring freedom and security to our lands!”
More cheering. Mayor Torgorson was popular, and an anti-dragon speech was always a crowd pleaser.
“In this cauldron are the names of all the eligible warriors of the village – and Elder Sonnesyn, writer of the prophecy, High Priest of Huron, will draw the name.”
The priest stepped forward in traditional robes with silk embroidery and a pointed hat. He reached into the cauldron and pulled out a piece of parchment. Without waiting, he shouted the name he had drawn.
The crowd cheered, not realising the awkwardness of the situation. The Mayor urged quiet, as his daughter made her way to the stage. She was a diminutive presence, but in athletic shape.
“There must be a mistake” the Mayor said to the Priest, away from the crowd, “you drew the wrong name”!
“I did advise that adding girls to the draw might result in this happening.” The Priest protested.
“I had to keep the feminist lobby happy” the Mayor explained, bypassing for the moment his familial connection.
“The feminist lobby? Who’s that?”
“My wife, mostly” replied the Mayor, realising that as well as losing his daughter to death-by-dragon, this turn of events probably also meant his imminent divorce.
Chapter 2: The Council
“You can’t demand special treatment just because she’s your daughter!” one of the council members barked.
“We can’t just keep doing it over again until we get to the right result, it’s not a referendum!” another chimed in.
“But she’ll be killed” Mayor Torgorson protested.
“Father I want to do it – I want to prove myself.” Kate interjected.
“Quiet girl, you don’t know what you’re talking about” her father said, regretting it as soon as he’d spoken and seeing rage build in his daughter’s eyes.
“See, she wants to fight” the first council member declared “its always somebody’s son Torgorson. It’s just bad luck for you that she’s the first girl.”
“Fine…” the Mayor conceded as his daughter beamed a smile at him. “Sonneyson will train her as he does all the champions.”
“Thank you father”
“Don’t thank me yet, I still have to face your mother… Goodness only knows how I’ll survive that conversation.”
Chapter 3: Training
Kate knocked on the door of the circular building on the edge of the town where the old Priest Sonneyson lived alone. He answered the door and ushered her quickly inside. Kate was surprised to see a series of boxes on the floor, containing the Priest’s few belongings and ceremonial garb.
“What are you doing?” Kate asked, somewhat rhetorically.
“Packing. Leaving.” replied Sonneyson, hurriedly scooping the last of his mugs into a box.
“But you have to train me…” Kate protested “That’s your job – you’ve done it for every champion we’ve ever had!”
“Different now. Never a girl before.”
Kate, viewing this comment with the same sympathy as a bull seeing a red rag waved in front of them, was about to launch into her usual tirade, but Sonneyson cut her off.
“You might as well know – the whole prophecy is a fraud. I’m a fraud. The town council came up with the idea of a prophecy years ago as a means of making it seem like they’re dealing with the dragon problem without having to assume any actual responsibility themselves. I haven’t been training the champions – when we told the town we were going to train away from everyone, we actually just went to Mandalas and I treated them to a night of heavy drinking to celebrate their imminent death.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“I’m not… Look… I have armour, a sword, and a bow, they’re over there somewhere – take them, they’re yours.”
“What if I just tell everyone what you’ve told me?”
“I’ll just deny it and accuse you of being a coward. And everyone will believe me because I’m ‘High Priest’ and you’re a woman.”
“Really taking the moral high-road here aren’t you?” Kate’s tone was a mix of defeat and resentment.
“I’m not going to be a part of getting anyone else killed. Goodbye.”
Sonneyson jumped through the doorway and was half way down the road before Kate could formulate a reply. She looked over to the suit of armour, sword and bow, and walked to them. She held out her hand and felt the cold steel on her fingertips. She pulled the sword from its scabbard and saw her green eyes reflected on the shining blade.
“Never send a woman to do a man’s job? Well… let’s test that theory…”
Chapter 4: Confrontation
The dragon’s lair was deep within mountains, a day’s ride from the village. Kate rode alone, but behind her came the village council, at a distance far enough to be hidden from her, but close enough to observe her progress.
Kate had tied her long blonde hair back out of her eyes and had crudely drawn the family crest onto the shield. She reached the point in the valley where the river was widest and the dragon usually drank – according to one of the elders who was vague when asked how he knew this.
The dragon was awe-inspiringly huge, with teeth that out-shined her sword (and she assumed, correctly, were also sharper than her own blade). The dragon’s red skin blazed in the evening sun but for the moment its wings remained dormant.
Kate dismounted her horse and walked loudly alongside the river, stomping loudly on the gravel and stones, occasionally splashing a foot into the stream. The village council watched.
“What is she doing?” one whispered.
“Stupid girl’s going to get herself killed faster than that asthmatic boy we sent a couple of years ago” another answered.
Kate banged her sword against her shield as she paced further towards the dragon, who had now turned his head to look at the source of the noise, which had disturbed what until that point had been a very relaxing Saturday afternoon.
“DRAGON” Kate yelled “I AM KATE OF HOUSE TORGORSON. I AM THE CHAMPION OF HURON.”
The council held their heads in their hands. This was a waste of some very finely crafted armour. The dragon stood motionless, apparently unthreatened.
“AND I AM HERE TO MAKE PEACE WITH YOU!” Kate bellowed, to the surprise of the council and the dragon equally.
She threw down her sword and shield, and followed them with her bow.
“The girl’s insane” the first councilman stated, incredulous.
“Maybe it’s a trick… Lull the dragon into a false sense of security…” the other offered, not genuinely believing it, but not coming up with any other explanation for her behaviour.
“False sense of security? It’s a dragon you fool, it can kill her with a swat of its tail!”
Kate continued to stride towards the beast. The dragon spread his wings wide and roared, showing his full set of teeth. Kate lowered herself into a kind of reverential bow.
“Peace?” the dragon spoke, in a booming Shakespearian voice. “Every year you send a man to kill me and now you talk of peace? I have no need to make peace with you!”
Kate finally came to a stop, well within striking distance of the dragon’s wings. “I am Kate, daughter of the Mayor, and I am no man.”
The dragon pulled his wings back to his body and cocked his head to the side in surprise. Kate continued;
“We have lived as enemies for many years, but it doesn’t have to be this way – I’m prepared to negotiate a truce between us. One that will benefit us both.”
“I could incinerate you where you stand, girl.”
“I have no doubt, but one day one of our champions will kill you – and if not one of ours, the next village, or the one after that. Or we could live together, under each other’s protection.”
“Tell me what you propose.”
“We will breed some livestock and grow crops each year exclusively for you – you can come and eat whenever you like. In return, we stop trying to kill you, and get the other villages to do the same. If the time comes that other villages attack us, you defend us.”
“How will you get the other villages to agree to stop attacking me?”
“Simple – they won’t have any reason to want you dead. And to prove that you’re not ill-willed towards them, you’ll let me ride you from village to village to explain our arrangement.”
The dragon roared angrily and reared up, spreading his wings threateningly. “Nobody rides me.”
Kate took a few steps back and her foot landed on her shield. She wondered briefly if she should pick it up, but decided against it. Instead she repeated her demand;
“You will let me ride you – as a passenger, not a master.”
The town council, from behind a rock, nocked arrows in their bows. This had been one of the more interesting encounters, but they always ended the same way. Angry dragon, charred corpse.
But the dragon calmed, and took steps forward until his face was inches away from Kate’s, searching it for signs of treachery. Finding none, he stepped back.
“I agree to your proposal.”
“Bloody hell” the first councilman exclaimed.
“What do we do now?” the second asked.
“Same thing we always do – go back to the town and explain what’s happened, take all the credit and throw ourselves a big parade.”
“What about the girl?”
“Give her a job that sounds impressive but is ultimately powerless?”
Chapter 5: Back At Home
“That’s it?” asked the Mayor, as Kate finished recounting her tale around the dinner-table. “That’s all that happened?”
“That’s all – the dragon is flying down next week for the ceremony making me Prime Minister.”
“So let me get this straight; Your name got picked from the cauldron, it took all of one sentence to convince the council to let you go, Sonneyson refused to mentor you, but it didn’t matter because you didn’t manage to get into an actual fight anyway, you made friends with the big bad dragon instead, and the council made you Prime Minister…”
“What kind of a hero’s journey do you call that?”
“Pretty successful one I guess.”