The bold, brave war­rior bel­lowed his chal­lenge as he charged to­wards the dragon, cloak stream­ing be­hind him and sword held high aloft. Unmoved, the great beast roared back its own de­fi­ance and swung its mighty tail at the knight, who nim­bly rolled un­der it even as he swung at it with his blade. A great gout of blood gushed forth from the sev­ered stump, and the en­raged dragon snarled in pain. As the war­rior sprang to his feet, a lash of claws sent him fly­ing back­wards, tu­nic rent and blood spray­ing. The dragon howled in tri­umph, while the princess it grasped in its fear­some talons screamed in de­spair. It lum­bered over to­wards the fallen man and pre­pared to de­liver the death blow. But as its teeth came crash­ing down, the knight thrust up­ward with his sword straight into the drag­on’s maw. The beast was van­quished, the damsel was saved, and great glory was won!

Shadows fell as the sun went down, and the man wearily stumped through his land, shut­ting the gates, check­ing the locks, re­stock­ing the de­fenses. It had been years since any at­tacks had come, yet every night he me­thod­i­cally went through the rou­tine. Each night it took a lit­tle longer, each night it drained more en­ergy; he was get­ting old. Sometimes, in his deep­est fears which he tried to dis­miss, he won­dered if he would be able to re­pel an at­tack should it ever come. As he en­tered his dwelling, the sim­ple clos­ing of the door be­came more of a col­laps­ing against it from weari­ness. He closed his eyes a mo­ment in de­spon­dency. Where was the strength of his youth? What of the courage that once had burned so fiercely within him? No more did acts of valor de­fine him, no more did great renown sur­round him; the foes he fought of late were aching joints and halt­ing move­ments. He trudged through the halls, thoughts heavy with gloom. An open door­way caught his eye, and he paused to glance in­side. Peace and con­tent­ment flowed from this room, where slept an ethe­real queen and a young boy. The la­dy’s fair beauty stirred him as al­ways, more lovely now than the day of their wed­ding. Their son curled trust­ingly in her arms, doubt­less dream­ing of grand ad­ven­tures to come. A smile creased the man’s face as he thought on how the lad watched him, clung to his tales, and mim­ic­ked them later with his toys. He gazed once more at his beloved fam­ily, who wholly trusted and be­lieved in him.

The war­rior gen­tly closed the door and moved to his own cham­ber, set­ting the lamp down be­side his bed. Gone were the years, gone the creases, gone the fal­ter­ing steps. As he climbed into bed, the shadow cast by the lamp­light was that of a tall fig­ure, cloak stream­ing out and blade held high aloft.