Hail and well met, curious ones! In this installment of Storytime with Grendel, we tackle subjects like valor, bravery, and heroism and how foolish a concept they all are. Our question of the day is an exceptionally good one.
An easy inquiry to answer, my brawny friend!
The short answer is a resounding NO. No creature, big or small, has ever, or could ever, come close to matching me and my tremendous ferocity. The few times that it may have seemed like I was driven away by knights, mages, or even a giant or two, it was only my annoyance and apathy about having to continue the battle that led me to make my departure. In every fort, castle, village, or wildlife preserve I’ve ever pillaged, if I was to leave before the job was done and the place was left a crater of desolation, it was only because I either grew bored of the fight or had deemed no more treasure to be had from the location. A few times, I’m sure a group of mages felt like they successfully drove me off, but I only left because battling them is such a trivial annoyance that it’s barely worth my time. Do you know how effortlessly, say, an elven mage is to eat? Hardly an appetizer.
So, there’s my answer and a warning to all those who would foolishly attempt to challenge me. There is one foolhardy knight who is credited with my demise, but a demise it was so obviously not!
To this day, I have been told, if you were to visit the village of Daevasburg, Fort Jasteele, or even a few of the market squares in the city of Almonrood, you will see statues depicting this charlatan in all his plate mail-adorned ostentation, bearing a plaque stating him to be the ‘Hero of the Land and Slayer of the Vile Dragon, Grendel’. Certainly, if I was to have been slain by such a pathetic challenger, not only would it be the biggest embarrassment of any dragon’s life, but I would no longer be alive to feel such humiliation.
Here’s the truth to the lie—
I will start by stating that this happened nearly 450 years ago, when I was that much younger and somewhat more foolish than I am currently (though infinitely still wiser than any other being in existence). I had just come off what we dragons like to call a Galrruntrexion, or a period of time where a dragon pillages, plunders, and eats as many creatures as it can without taking a break. I’ve heard that mortals call them ‘Great Devastations’, which is a very appropriate name, I say! These are some of the most enjoyable occasions we dragons can have in our youth, and many will compete to see how many days they can go without end.
On this particular Devastation, I had just broken my previous record of eight straight days without a slumber. I was starting to feel incredibly sluggish but figured I could pillage one more village before returning to my lair. Soaring high above the plumes of smoke emanating from the ravaging fires I had caused, I spotted a tiny hamlet surrounded by untouched forests down below. My belly was full to bursting with nearly every cow, town guard, and slow-moving villager I had met over the last week and a day, so instead of immediately consuming any challenger when I landed in the town square with a thunderous crash, I issued a bellowing command:
“I am Grendel! I have destroyed every other settlement within a day’s ride of your village. I have scorched your forests and plundered your neighbor’s treasure. If news of my devastation has not yet made it to your pathetic town, it soon will!”
I could see tiny, horrified faces peering out from grass-roofed cottages all around me. They had rounded ears and a distinct lack of bushy beards on many of them. Taller than a halfling, with small, tuskless teeth… This was a human village. Drat! I thought. Humans rarely had much wealth if they didn’t have a crown on their head. This would not be a very prosperous endeavor, but I was too weary and full to find a different location, so I decided to simply get what few coins I could, raze the ramshackle shacks, then fly home.
Before I could even let out a ‘Bring out your most valuable treasures, and I may be merciful,’ an obnoxiously valiant voice interrupted me.
“Steady thy breath, foul beast!” shrieked the interrupter. I turned to see what foolish being would address me so and was somewhat unsurprised to see a man gleaming in steel plate mail, a well-polished sword brandished and aimed directly at my scaley form.
“I have traveled here from places now immolated,” the fool continued. “It is true, dear townsfolk, that the lands surrounding thy beautiful hamlet lie in ruins, all due to the horrible, stinking fiend you see before you now!” he continued, somehow uncowed by my terrifying glare.
It is said that many knights are trained to be unfaltering in the face of impossible odds so as to not flee from their duty. I always figured that their helmets were just made too tight, thus the lack of blood flow to their tiny brains prevented them from recognizing actual danger. In either case, I didn’t usually mind them standing there, sword and shield at the ready, unmoving. Knights were a fantastic meal—a nice crunch on the outside, but warm and gooey on the inside.
Editor’s note: I am so, so sorry. I keep trying to make our dear dragon friend’s stories more palatable to the common reader, but he is, after all, a dragon.
Even though I would usually relish the opportunity for an easy, this one was proving to be extra annoying. I was beginning to feel somewhat ill from my previous overindulgence and wasn’t even sure I could fit this buffoon in my already overly-stuffed gut when he went on…
“Fear not, fair folk! For it is I, Sir Dugg Johnsdon, knight of valor and defender of the common man! I shall hereby slay this disgusting beast and claim its head as a prize to present to the king!”
I rolled my eyes. Humans were always saying they wanted to claim my head as a prize, yet to this day, they have never succeeded. As the knight raised his sword and charged me, yelling something about the king or glory or whatever nonsense they always said, I decided to simply burn the fool with my fiery breath and be done with it. However, what erupted from my gullet was not the usual stone-melting immolation it normally was, but a loud, wet belch! My indigestion had betrayed me!
The knight rushed through the stinking cloud, gagging only slightly, and began his assault on my distinguished face. He did not find any purchase through my scales, of course, as my exterior is more durable than the hardest of stone, but the ringing thwap thwap thwap of sword on scale was immediately irritating, as were the misplaced cheers from the pitiful villagers hiding in their homes. The knight had even climbed upon my horned brow to perform what I’m sure in his mind would be a heroic, killing blow, all to the gasping applause of the residents of the town.
Fine, I thought. If my breath is betraying me, gravity surely will not. Thus, up we went, faster into the sky than any human form should be able to withstand, but to my surprise and frustration, there was the knight, one gauntleted hand firmly grasping onto a horn, the other holding his sword. Thwap thwap thwap. The attempted slaying continued. I could barely hear his “Meet your demise, foul beast!” or whatever nonsense he was spewing over the gushing wind, his frail form somehow still holding on.
I don’t know if it was his heavy armor, the annoyance of his attempted assault, or the fact that my digestive system was suddenly betraying me at an alarming rate, but somehow in this brief moment of flight, I had stopped paying attention to my altitude. We had entered a plume of smoke from one of the neighboring fires, and in the pandemonium, we somehow ended up crashing all the way back down, right into a bakery. Flour, sugar, and spices erupted in a mess of confectionary chaos as I finally shook the idiot off my magnificent noggin. Stuffed or not, it was time to be done with this! I looked down at the knight, now covered in mess, and in one bite I finished his ridiculous attempt on my life.
Or so I thought.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that Sir Buttsface had fallen directly through an entire barrel of cinnamon. Cinnamon! If you haven’t read this already in previous editions of this newsletter, that is the one flavor I absolutely cannot stand. Even the thought of it now is causing me to sympathy-gag for my past self. I don’t know what lucky wererabbit’s foot or ten-leaf clover this man had on him, but if he hadn’t crashed through that exact barrel at that exact moment, he would currently be nothing more than a heap of wet compost splattered on some unfortunate cliffside.
Editor’s note: Again, the utmost of apologies. Grendel is feeling like oversharing a bit today.
I spat the disgusting taste out of my mouth, and with it came most of the half-digested remnants of my successful Devastation. My mouth tasted like cinnamon and spew, the first of which is a much worse flavor, and I directly made for the closest source of fresh water I could find to cleanse my palate. In my haste, I somehow got a little turned around, (for the first and last time. I have a perfect sense of direction when I’m not in a cinnamon-panic), and somehow, I lost sight of the little hamlet that held a demolished bakery and a very stunned, if not marginally wounded knight.
I found out years later that the knight had been falsely credited with slaying me fully! Evidentially, he had told the townsfolk that “once he had finished dispatching the dragon, its foul body had evaporated, its soul flowing out and down to whatever lower plane it had spawned from!” I’ve tried many times to find the little grass-roofed village in the forest, but to no avail. Maybe someday I will have my revenge against the dishonorable knight and his falsehoods. Though I have promised Geldrin that I will, for the time being, only consume unintelligent creatures unaware of their own ignorance (of which I still think he applies…), I will still keep my eye out for one foolish knight who was falsely rumored to have defeated me! Cinnamon or no, I will consume you, Sir Dugg Johnsdon!
Final editor’s note: Please no one tell Grendel about the lifespan of humans…