art by Melissa Mead
A Game of Horse and Dragon
by Sarah L. Edwards
In the center of a library alight by burning oak, a child plays. He has not yet been put to bed, for his mother sits among the others with needle in hand, and she is pleased to rest her eyes upon him. There he is, dashing wooden horse against dragon's linen hide. She smiles to see him so, content, healthy, for dimly she remembers another time when he did not appear so well, before his father returned from the mountains with the gently beating box of stone.
Horse runs against dragon, though its rider has long since fallen, perhaps scorched by the dragon's painted breath. But horse battles dragon still, with the courage of a man and a beast's strength. Narrowly it escapes a plume of dragon fire and dashes forehooves against iron scales, in vain. Out it flees again, turning, awaiting its chance. There--viper-swift it attacks the chest, teeth aiming high, high against the gleaming throat. Savage equine teeth seize glittering skin--and shatter. Horse screams, as much in fury as in pain. Dragon bites its neck with knives of steel, and with a last squeal, horse falls limp.