Here, Gregory writes to his father from his room after a hot fight the night before with several small dragons. But even a small dragon can cause a great deal of havoc.
Undoubtedly you have heard rumor of the carnage this past week, and I would not doubt refugees have come to your lord’s door in scores. It has been barely a fortnight since the banquet and the butchery is begun. The Great Dragon has other offspring than those we perceived and dealt their ends.
“I have not received tidings from you for some days and my spirit is troubled about you and my sisters. These beasts spare neither woman nor child, and many of the dead from the last attack were whelps from the outlands. The skirmish at Helfain was fierce and three of the monsters assaulted our towers and tested our mettle. Our arrows were at first worthless against them. It would seem as though their hides are plated with armor- and to none would I confess I believe this to be the case. If they amused themselves with a friar for a tongue, would they not spare an artisan for his skill with forge and fire? For such is their wicked satire. Do not be misled, their wit is as sharp as their teeth and their acumen burns like their fiery breath. Many think them stupid and wayward animals, but they are driven and single minded. If men had the same unwavering resolve, we would have tamed them long ago.
“The Helfain Castle was among the first things attacked and many of our towers lay in ruins. They tore at our walls and bartizans with their talons and ripped them to shreds as though they were no stronger than a stack of paper. The falling rock did a great deal of damage to the land around us and, needless to say, to the men on the ground. Their fire did little damage at the castle for we keep little wood, but it is hot enough to roast a man in his armor and I think this was the case for several. However, our crops were burned in the field by yet another dragon; he escaped and many a curse on his parentage has been echoed this night. A long winter awaits us and it will be longer than any other we remember.
“When the assault began, I was unable to gain purchase near them, but I was able to get the dragon traps set to spring in case they alighted on the ground and land they did. Had the younglings been half as mighty as their sire, they would have had us. Our only salvation was their youth. They came to the ground too soon and we trapped them between the abutments and the dragon traps.
“Dragon traps are foul things and such brutality causes me anguish, though I daresay I felt no remorse when we finally caught the last of them. The poison in the spikes did its work well and three of the monsters are dead in our midst. I loath we have been brought so low as to use the wretched venom. Poison is a coward’s tool and I detest we have resorted to it. But coward’s tool or not, it hath done its duty. I have often found a cloth, moist with it, stuck in the bottom of my quiver. Simon likely fears more for my life than I do and placed it there without my knowledge.
“It is barely dawn and the physicians and philosophers are examining the carcasses. Simon will bring me word when they have finished so I can direct the removal of the corpses. I do not know what the wise men seek, but I would be false if I did not hope they find some weakness we knights cannot.
“Prince Edwin has given permission for me, and those men of my brotherhood who will, to train whomever we wish in what rude arts we possess. If there is a lull in the battling, Simon will be my first pupil. He is elated and eager to begin and has already selected a town’s boy to be his training partner. The High Knights are training their squires with all the more intensity and even the women of Helfain are drawing bows in their own defense. I am slow to assist in this outrage, but I would sooner let the innocent slay these beasts than fall victim to the pitfall of pride.
“Now that the worst is coming and I am no longer alone in my conviction that the devil has some hand in this, my life seems less drear and forlorn. I no longer guard my mouth from ill omens or dark predictions and it has made my laughter sweeter and my grief more bearable. I have long waited in the exile of my own mind for such despair, and now that it is upon me, I feel all the more fortified against it. Few words of hope have I written you and with the best of reasons, for the retribution of these animals is indeed swift. This duel will last as long as it is to the amusement of the Great Dragon and I hope he enjoys it; he will not last forever and when his day to die arrives, I intend to be there, though I share his fate.
“Do not think me over enthused. My words to you are but a shadow of Simon’s passion. If he survives his youth he will be as unshakeable as the mountains. I predict the blood of dragons will stain his hands as surely as it has mine.
“Give my heartfelt love to my sisters and ask your lord if he may give them what training he possesses. Dragons do not spare women and I would sleep sounder if they could shoot a longbow or crossbow as well as I. I must leave now, for Simon’s footstep is on the stair and I hear the hunters returning. If their news is good, I will be stalking a dragon’s lair in the mountains of the Western Quarter ere the week is out.
“Sincerely your son, Lord Gregory,
Knight of the Third Realm and Keeper of the Helfain Guard.”