Craig clinched his talons into the rock ledge, high up on the mountain. From his perch he could see the whole of the lush green fields below. His stone gray eyes saw all that happened in his valley. He often saw the people of his valley wander around the fields or in the village; always in twos, or threes, or more. Never alone; Craig was alone. As old as the rocks he claimed for his own, for eons he had been alone. Loneliness, however, had never pierced his hardened hide. At least not until he saw these little ants scurrying about in their little groups.
Finally frustrated enough to forget the rules of his self imposed isolation, he took flight. Craig spread his wings and launched himself with an eruption of gravel. Pale stone scales separated from the crag cliff face. A flurry of villagers far below fled for their homes and shelters when they saw the demon of the mountain fly. A chaotic chorus of craven cries floated up to Craig’s ears. He delighted in the screams of terror as he gleefully glided, swirling in wide swooping circles.
Perfectly peaceful and content perched high up in the western tower of her father’s castle Princess Penelope heard the cries of the peasants. Curiosity overcame her better judgment; she left the safety of her tower in favor of the balcony and the view. Penelope unfortunately was unaware of the present peril she faced in her precious pink dress. Craig witnessed her present appearance and took note of the perfect pink petals on the flower produced by the stone tree. Greed pawed forth into Craig’s bottomless heart. He swiftly dove plucking the pleasing pink prize and rose rapidly returning high up to his mountain.
With care, Craig placed his precious parcel precariously on the ledge before landing beside her. He coiled his tail around the pretty pink petaled flower whisking it from the ledge’s edge. His rank breath bellowed forth from within his massive jaws as his deep monstrous voice echoed free of its ivory cage. “Ah, It seems, not a precious blossom, at all. By what are you called, little one?”
Penelope was frozen with fright unable to move or speak. Craig studied her face for signs of life; he hoped the flight hadn’t terrified his new little prize to death. He squeezed tightly with his tail before releasing her. Penelope coughed once her lungs were able to expand. Craig roared with joy; a devilish grin formed on his lips, revealing rows of pointed teeth. “See you still breathe, everything is all right after all.” Despite his cheer, Penelope still found herself unable to speak.
A small figure shimmering in the sun approached the base of the mountain with exceptional haste. The small figure split in two at the mountain’s base. The smaller of the two began to scale the rocky cliff face. Slow paced, one hand and one foot hold at a time he steadily ascended. He blended with the worn gray crags and stones except for the slight twinkle of his plate mail. He preyed the vast reptilian vulture didn’t sense him as he crawled, open and vulnerable along the wall.
Craig paid the speck no attention; he was wrapped up with his new play thing. He lifted her with his tail and shook her violently. A small gasping scream escaped the princess. Craig smiled broadly, forcing another scream, “See now, there you go, you can talk just fine. Nothing broken at all.”
Penelope could do little more than emit a few squeaks, “Yes, please, down.”
“Why yes, of course my new little precious pink posy.” Craig set her down and unraveled his tail.
The princess wasn’t a fan of the way he used the word my, “I’m sure you must realize I’m the princess.”
“Why no, I had no idea you were a princess.” The tip of his tail poked into her back, forcing her to stumble closer. “A bit on the miniscule side for a princess, no?”
Penelope stood up straight, brushed off the bodice of her dress, and mashed the puffy ruffles of her dress. Clouds of dust, dirt, and debris burst into the air; Craig didn’t quite keep a clean cliff ledge. “Small or not, a princess I am, and my father, king of the valley and lord of Dart, will send his army of knights after you if I’m not returned unharmed.”
The burst of deep laughter Craig let loose instilled more fear than joy. A red glow accented by Craig’s spiked row of teeth horrified Penelope and the smoke that rolled out didn’t help to alleviate her fright. “I cannot wait,” Craig exclaimed. “Seared soldier in the shell, is one of my favorites. Crispy on the outside, juicy in the middle, with just a slight crunch of bone.”
The silvery speck was half-way up the cliff face. He paused for just a moment to catch his breath. Heavy armor threatened to rip his sore arms off the wall and drop him to the ground. Then he made the mistake of looking down. Vertigo overtook him; the hard packed dirt shriveled and shrank; while the world swirled around him. Deep breaths, he told himself, at this point, it’s just as easy to reach the top as it would be to go down. Of course, that would not include the danger of the massive, man-eating, fire-breathing, death-dealing dragon sitting up there waiting around with his captured princess.
The princess finally thought of a new approach, “Well if you kill me, all those delicious edibles will stop trying up here to rescue me.”
The mountain shook with one boisterous chuckle from Craig, “Hmm, quite the quick change in opinion there, my little flower.”
“One cannot, but realize the error of her ways in the presence of your magnificent, majestic, mighty, monstrous proportions.”
“Yes I suppose, witnessing such a thing, could perhaps, be too much for your kind to process properly.” His wide toothy grin returned, “Maybe I should just relieve you of any misery from which you might be presently suffering.”
“How will I ever enjoy the happy moments if you end my current terror.”
“Wisdom, I see is not always lost among the youth.”
The metallic warrior peaked his head over the ledge, “I’m Dave of the Land Dart and I’ve come to rescue the princess.” Slowly he inched and worked his way to chest level. “Okay, I’m on my way, almost there, don’t worry princess.” With one last push he heaved himself over the ledge. Metallic clangs and clashes echoed around the ledge as Dave landed face first, feet still hanging over the list. His armored boots fell over the ledge before he scrambled to his feet. “Alright, I’m here foul Dragon, show yourself and prepare for battle.”
Craig was clearly skeptical of this particular knight, “Somewhat presumptuous, I think, but I’ve shown myself. Just lift your visor and we shall fight to the death.”
“Um…, right,” Dave pushed his visor up and glanced upon the rather large Craig. “Woah, who said anything about a fight to the death? There’s really no reason for that now, is there?”
“Well you’re a knight; I’m a dragon. There is a sort of historical precedent.”
Penelope’s foot impacted the ground with a thud, “And don’t forget you’re here to save me, remember?”
“I’m sure we can all come to an agreement here, one where everybody wins.” Dave motioned over the cliff, “I have a delicious horse just standing at the base of the mountain. You let us go and you can roast that juicy sucker right up.”
“What’s to stop me from flying down there, eating the horse, then coming back up here and devouring you two for dessert?”
Dave drew a long steel blade and held it out in his quivering hand. “Well I guess you’ve left me no choice, the King offered your head’s weight in gold for the safe return of the princess.”
Penelope’s face went flush as her blood boiled, “Where’s your sense of chivalry, Sir Dave? Attack.”
“Nope, not Sir Dave, I’m not a knight, just a shepherd. The only moron who volunteered for this particular suicide mission.”
Images of gold coins filled Craig’s gluttonous eyes. “How about I let you take her and we split the reward seventy-five/twenty-five?” The princess started to scream and shout while pounding Craig’s scales. With a quick turn of his head and a burst of flames the princess went quiet. Craig snapped his jaws around the smoldering figue and swallowed. Dave froze in horror while Craig turned back. “Well, what do you think?”
Dave’s horror subsided and he snapped back to the moment, “Probably more sixty/forty, but we can’t now, you ate the princess.”
“She was annoying, but there are other lands, other princesses, right? Maybe princesses with richer fathers?”
“I think that’s a definite possibility.” Gold coins filled Dave’s mind as he reached out a hand, “I’m Dave of Dart.”
“Nice to meet you Dave of Dart.” He extended the tip of his tail into Dave’s hand, “I’m Craig last of the Crag-slayer clan.”