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.