Prince Peter sat high on his horse, Titan, as he watched Sir Peregrine’s men make their way through the thick trees of the Dragon Forest. Peter’s hands firmly held his new sword and shield as he prepared for whatever lay ahead. He looked around the forest clearing and noticed that the familiar blue mist was thicker and reached up to Titan’s knees. The mist covered the sapphire lake completely. The sight made the forest appear to float high in the clouds. Within the trees, he then saw the yellow eyes of the Dragon waiting patiently to make its move. What will happen now? Peter thought as he gripped Titan’s mane.
“Hold tight, Peter!” his mother yelled as she led Titan around the corral. The clip clop sound of the horse’s hooves on the dirt made a musical sound as Peter listened to the rhythm. “Try gripping his mane in your hands.” Peter obediently grabbed a tuft of mane in his small hands. He was surprised at how thick and rough the hair was in his fingers. He watched his mother walk with the reigns in her hands as she led Titan around in circles. “Squeeze tightly around his body with your legs to hold on,” she said. “Then you won’t fall.” She looked back at Peter and smiled as the wind blew her black hair away from her face. “You’re wonderful!” she laughed as she watched her son ride his new horse for the first time. The sun was shining brightly on Peter’s face as the smell of jasmine filled the air. He could feel the warmth of the sun on his skin.
Titan whinnied and clawed the dirt again with his front hoof awaking Peter from his memory in time to see Peregrine approach.
Lord Peregrine’s voice was faintly heard as he shouted orders to his men. The voice echoed into the night air. Peter couldn’t make out what was said as the Knight was still too far away. But he could see the light from their torches reflect off the trees and their shadows dance along the ground. Peter went over in his mind what he would say to the Knight when they faced each other. He realized that he looked prepared for some sort of confrontation, but he also knew that Peregrine was supposed to be on a rescue mission. Did he truly intend for Peregrine to know that he knew, of the plans to capture the Dragon’s scales? Peter’s mind was spinning as he tried to figure out what to do next. One thing he knew to be sure, he would defend the Dragon as his father would were he with them now.
Peregrine made his way into the clearing and his eyes met Peter’s. He was shocked to see the young boy on his horse with sword and shield in hand. He raised his hand up, signaling to his men to stop where they were. Then he slowly removed his helmet to make sure the young boy in front of him was really Peter.
“Boy, is that you?” he asked.
“Yes,” Peter answered. He swallowed hard. A large lump had formed in his throat.
Satisfied with recognizing Peter’s voice, Peregrine said, “Boy, what are you doing out here?”
Peter remained silent.
“I say, what are you doing out here in this forest…alone?” Peregrine asked again while he looked around at the mist covered forest.
“I am…I...” Peter stuttered as he searched for an answer. “I am here to...”
“Shouldn’t you be on your way back home now?” Peregrine asked. “Your father is very worried. He sent us here to find you.” He waited for a response from the Prince. “Do you know what trouble you’ve caused?” His voice grew louder as he felt his patience drain. Then he saw some strange thing in Peter’s hands. He lightly nudged his horse forward to get closer to Peter. Only the sloshing sound of Peregrine’s horse walking on the damp ground could be heard in the forest.
“No, I...” Peter said.
Peregrine was much closer to Peter now. His ruggedly handsome, bearded face and dark hair were lit only by the torches, but Peter could see his eyes. Peter did not trust Peregrine’s eyes. He gazed at the curious boy closely. “What is that you have there, boy?” he asked as he spotted a small, but real, sword in Peter’s hand.
Peter looked at the sword and then returned his gaze to the strong Knight. “It is my sword,” he said.
Then Lord Peregrine’s eye switched to the unfamiliar thing in Peter’s other hand. It seemed to him to be a shield of some sort. He looked closer as the light from the torches was far away. He motioned for one of his men to bring him a torch. The squire galloped over to the Knight and quickly handed him his torch. Peregrine took it and raised it up above his head toward Peter. Peter looked down at his shield and grasped it even tighter.
Lord Peregrine’s gaze, illuminated by the torch, moved slowly over the form of the shield. His strong features and dark beard were highlighted by the yellow light of the fire. Peter saw the ominous shadows over the Knight’s deep set eyes and feared him more. Peter had once admired Sir Peregrine as his father’s most noble Knight. Now he doubted the man’s loyalty to his father.
Peregrine squinted his eyes in order to see the detail of the shield. Then, realizing exactly what the object was before him, his eyes grew large and his mouth gaped open. He looked amazingly at the boy and then back at the shield. He knew it was a scale...the scale of the Dragon.
“Where did you find that shield?” he demanded of Peter.
“I...did not...” Peter hesitated.
“Answer me! Where did you find that shield?” Peregrine shouted.
“I did not find it,” Peter said. “It was given to me.”
Peregrine’s horse neighed impatiently and tried to turn away. It nervously sensed something unfamiliar in the woods. Peregrine pulled the reins back.
“Given...to you?” Peregrine asked. “By whom?”
Peter did not answer. This puzzled Peregrine as he knew it had to be a Dragon scale. But how? He wondered. Where did he find it?
“Give it to me.” he commanded as he reached out his hand.
Peter motioned Titan to step backward. “No!” Peter yelled. His horse took two steps back, snorted, and shook his mane.
“Give it to me, you silly boy. You don’t know what you have there,” Peregrine said as he reached out to Peter.
“Yes I do!” shouted Peter. “It’s the scale of the Dragon,” he said with satisfaction. Peregrine’s men gasped and looked at one another. Only then did he realize he should not have made the revelation known.
Peregrine became angry. He moved closer to Peter squinted his eyes, and lowered his voice to an intimidating tone. Slowly he said, “Where did you get that scale?” Peter froze as he watched Peregrine’s men inch their way closer to him. Some dismounted their horses and uneasily walked on the blue mist. Titan whinnied and shook his mane as he took a few steps backward. The two stood there as Peter quickly plotted their escape, but nothing came to mind. Peter regretted ever having left the castle.
Lord Peregrine sensed Peter’s uneasiness and realized he was approaching this from the wrong direction. He sat straight up in his saddle and seemed more at ease. He released the reins of his horse and handed the torch to the rider next to him. Then he raised his hand toward his men. “Now, now,” he said. “We mustn’t frighten the boy.” He slowly dismounted his horse, and as he turned away from Peter he made eye contact with his men. He whispered to them, “When I give the signal….” And they nodded in agreement hoping Peter did not hear him.
Peregrine, in his slyness, walked over to Peter. He removed his gloves and tried to look pleasant in the darkened forest. He reached for the torch once again and the soldier handed it to him. He gazed at the young Prince’s face. He tried in earnest not to look at the beautiful shield made of the Dragon’s scale even though it represented all that he had fought for these many months. He kept his eyes on Peter in order to make the boy feel more at ease. But the plan was not working. Peter grew more frightened as Peregrine walked over to him. He slowly grabbed a large chunk of Titan’s black mane in his hands. He did not trust Peregrine.
“Now, my boy...I mean Prince Peter, your Highness, ” Peregrine said, bowing his head. “Your father is looking for you. He is very worried about you and gave me, specific orders to bring you home safely.” He smiled reassuringly.
Peter raised his eyes above Peregrine’s head and looked toward the dark trees behind the knights.
“Come now, we do not have much time. There is a battle raging in the Cardion Valley,” Peregrine spoke more seriously as he reached out to Peter. “We must get you home so I can help your father.”
Peter’s eyes were fixated behind the knights as Peregrine spoke. “Help my father?” Peter asked. “My father doesn’t trust you.”
“Now your Highness,” Peregrine slowly stated. “Why would he send me out to bring you, his only son, home safely if he did not trust me?”
Peter inspected Peregrine’s men. Their armor was darker and heavier than his father’s and they did not have the Illiath banner with them. He could barely see their faces in the night. He did not answer Peregrine nor look at him. Instead, he held tightly to the sword as he grabbed the mane with some of his fingers. He knew something was about to happen in those dark trees. He squeezed Titan with his legs, signaling him to be ready.
Peregrine grew impatient. He was not amused with Peter’s silence. Nor did he appreciate the boy’s refusal to look at him. “If he trusts me,” he said, “so should you.”
Realizing he was not getting through to the boy, Peregrine decided to forego the pleasant conversation and get what he wanted after all. Lunging forward in a split second, he yelled to his men, “Now!”
The Knights ran toward Peter and Titan as Peregrine tried to snatch the shield from Peter’s grasp. But Peter knew what was happening behind them.
The glowing yellow eyes quickly made their way up the trees as the ominous voice came from within the forest walls. “Ride!” was all it said to Peter. And that is what Peter and Titan did. Peter kicked the ribs of his loyal horse and rode toward the lake. As they made their way, they heard Peregrine yell to his men, “Stop them! Move! Don’t let them get away!”
Peter could hear the commotion of the Knights as they ran to their horses and began riding toward them. But Peter followed the glowing eyes in the trees. He saw the blue mist rising out of the woods as the great beast began to reveal itself. The blue lake was in front of them and Titan hesitated to enter into the water. The Dragon sensed this and yelled, “Do not stop! Ride!” Then blue fire spewed out from its mouth. The ice blue fire hissed onto the waters as they approached it. “What’s this?” yelled Peregrine. Some of his men stopped as they sighted the Dragon at the top of the trees. They sat their on their horses staring at the giant spewing the blue fire from its mouth.
Peter kicked Titan even harder as they galloped faster and faster toward the waters. Peter closed his eyes as Titan jump up over a log. He fully expected to enter the icy cold waters of the lake when Titan’s hooves landed, but they were met with hardened ice instead. Trying not to slip, Titan continued to gallop as fast as he could, leaving Peregrine and his men far behind them. When they made it to the middle of the lake, Peter and Titan stopped and turned to see the Knights. Many of them were still standing in awe at the sight before them. Others were mounted on their horses ready to fight the Dragon. The beast made its way out of the forest deep and revealed itself to the traitorous Knights.
Peregrine quickly mounted his horse, pulled his sword from its sheath, and ordered his men to seize the Dragon. His eyes glared at the giant beast then turned toward Peter still in the middle of the icy blue lake. The hatred and anger inside Peregrine built up inside him as he realized how he had been tricked. Many of his Knights were mounted and ready to obey their commander’s orders. But the Dragon stood ready as well.
Peter asked Titan what they should do. He knew they would be safe on the now hardened lake, but he also wanted to help his new friend. The Dragon perceived Peter’s concern and turned to him. He spread his massive wings wide open and showed his claws. Then he lifted his head high into the night sky and roared. Peregrine’s men stopped where they stood not knowing what would happen next. They had their weapons in their hands and their shields hiding their bodies, but what match were they for the giant Dragon?
The Dragon made the familiar hissing sound as it inhaled a large amount of cold night air. The whooshing sound frightened the men’s horses, but Titan knew not to be afraid. Deeper and deeper the Dragon inhaled as it reared its head back farther and farther.
“Steady men! Remember your shields!” Peregrine shouted. He reminded them of the magic shields Lord Caragon had provided for them. They were supposed to protect them from the Dragon’s breath. He raised his shield up over his head.
But they were no match for the Dragon. A silent pause followed all the hissing and inhaling. Then the Dragon, leaning forward, unleashed all its fury on the Knights in one steady stream of glowing yellow fire projecting from its mouth. The unrelenting fire devoured all the men and their horses in one swipe, but the Dragon waved its head from side to side layering the hot fire in row after row. The fire consumed all in its path. It covered the misty ground all the way to Lord Peregrine’s armor covered boots. Then it stopped.
Peter had lifted the shield up over his head as a precaution even though he knew the Dragon would not hurt him or Titan. He slowly lowered the sparkling shield to see what had taken place. Fire was burning all over the forest clearing. What was left of Peregrine’s men lay smoldering on the ground. Only piles of ashes remained where once proud men stood before their mighty foe. Their metal swords and armor smoldered on the hot earth as smoke rose from the burial ground. Peregrine stood breathing heavily, dumbfounded at the sight. Then the Dragon made its way over to the cowering and ignoble Head of the Royal Knights.
Peregrine took a few shaky steps backward as the giant beast stepped toward him. The earth shook with each impact of the huge clawed feet as the sound of crunching tree trunks snapping in two was heard throughout the forest. The swishing of its tail fanned the flames that were still burning. Its belly rubbed against the flames, but its scales protected it from harm. Peter and Titan walked over to the water’s edge as the Dragon walked past them. They knew they were safe now.
The hissing sound from the Dragon echoed into the night. No other sound could be heard in the entire forest except the frantic beating of Peregrine’s heart. The Dragon lowered its head to the Knight. “You dare to approach me?” it hissed.
It continued moving forward as it looked into the eyes of its enemy. Its magnificent scales glistened and reflected the flames around its body. The scales were mesmerizing to Peregrine. He had never seen such a sight. As he fearfully admired the beast’s scales, he dropped his pitiful shield to the ground. Still holding the sword in his hand, he knelt before the Dragon’s feet. Bowing his head, Peregrine begged for mercy. The Dragon’s large mouth was inches away from Peregrine’s head. Its hot breath graced the doomed knight’s skin and smelled of burning incense. He shuddered at the thought of being incinerated. Peter and Titan stood far away from the spectacle, but they wanted to see what would happen to Sir Peregrine.
Peregrine slowly looked up into the Dragon’s eyes. “Please, I beg your forgiveness,” he sobbed
The Dragon answered only with a hiss of his hot breath as he studied the heart of the man before him.
“Mercy,” Peregrine said as he remained on bended knee before the Dragon of the forest. He bowed his head once again to show his respect. “I beg of you.”
Peter did not believe Peregrine. He still did not trust him.
The Dragon stayed close to Peregrine for a few moments and then slowly raised its large head. It turned to see Peter and Titan behind its tail. As he turned, Peregrine raised his head to watch the beast’s every move. With the Dragon turned toward Peter, Peregrine’s eyes met with the hole in the Dragon’s shoulder. He carefully eyed the mysterious gap and realized that a scale was missing. As the Dragon continued to look away, Peregrine raised his sword high behind him and lunged forward with all his strength. The sword released from his hand and flew into the air twisting and twirling toward the shoulder of the Dragon. Lord Peregrine’s aim was true. The cold blade entered into the exposed flesh of the Dragon’s shoulder and sunk deep into its chest. As the metal met the flesh of the beast, it roared out a painful scream that frightened Peter and Titan. Red blood flowed from the wound. Titan reared up and sent Peter flying to the ground.
Seeing that his aim was indeed accurate, Peregrine grabbed a deserted lance on the ground and hurled it at the wounded beast. The lance pierced the flesh again and sent the Dragon spinning around to face the knight. But Peregrine, in his time of boastful arrogance, forgot his shield on the ground and stood vulnerable to the Dragon’s breath. He leapt through the air and rolled on the ground toward his shield. With the celerity, grace, and beauty of a well trained Knight, he quickly grabbed the shield and held it over his body, still convinced it would protect him. Spying another sword smoldering on the ground, Peregrine grabbed it and hurled it at the enormous body before him. He ran behind a tree and watched the Dragon as it followed him. Then, Peregrine leapt over to another tree where he hid, hoping the Dragon did not see his maneuver. But all the armor and promises of greatness and wealth Caragon had sold him and all the training of his youth would betray him that night.
With one exhalation of the Dragon’s mighty yellow fire, Peregrine’s once proud and strong body was reduced to a simple pile of ashes.
The Dragon, however, was wounded. Peter ran over to see where the beast had been pierced. It lay down on the ground with its head hung low. Peter could hear its heavy breathing. He was afraid.
“We’ve no time to lose now,” the Dragon hissed to Peter. He could see it was in a great deal of pain. “We must go to the battle.” Peter lunged forward and quickly removed the lance from the wound. Peregrine’s bloody sword had already fallen to the ground. He hoped this would help the Dragon’s pain.
The Dragon lowered its head to let Peter climb on top so that they could make their way to the Cardion Valley together. Peter climbed to the back of the massive head and held onto the scales as best he could. The Dragon stood up so quickly that Peter became sick to his stomach from the rapid motion. He regained his strength when the Dragon spread its mighty wings wide open. Peter had not seen the wings spread completely out before and now he realized just how magnificent this Dragon truly was. Peter guessed its wingspan measured almost one hundred feet across with the translucent wings made of thick course leathery skin. .
“Hold on,” the Dragon ordered. Peter obeyed. The giant wings flapped forward and backward in a quick movement. The wind they created blew the trees back and forth as the blue mist rose around them. Titan reared up and loudly whinnied to Peter as his front legs flared in the air. He looked as if he was trying to say goodbye. “Go back to the castle, boy!” Peter shouted to his horse. Peter smiled as the body of the Dragon rose off the ground. Spotting Titan galloping out of the forest, Peter and the Dragon rose up over the forest and circled above it. Peter looked up and saw the moon. It appeared closer to him than ever before in his young life. He could see mountains and valleys on the moon’s surface. He saw the brightness of the stars around them. Then he switched his gaze to the Cardion Valley in the south. He could see the flames of the battle burning brightly and he knew his father needed help.
Together, they flew into battle in order to save his father...in order to save the kingdom.