All those men running around with swords, I knew someone was going to get hurt. What I didn’t know was that it
was going to be me.
Krystall paused as she approached the doors to Duke Jucaysa’s hall. All she had done was ask what was causing
the near panic when she entered the town gates and the next thing she knew, a group of guardsmen were telling
her the Duke wanted to see her. Apparently someone had pointed her out as being the warrior who had slain the
dragon Gramudyus; and since everyone was concerned about the appearance of another dragon, the Duke
believed she was the one to handle it.
As far as Krystall was concerned, they needed to find someone else. It had been fifteen years since she fought
Gramudyus. She was feeling her age as well as all the leagues she had traveled. What she wanted right now was a
hot bath, a hot meal and a relaxing drink. Then to hole up for about a week.
“Ah, Krystall, Sword Maiden of Malytta. I welcome you to my hall.” The Duke stood and extended his arms.
Krystall frowned. She hated that title. Some other Duke had given it to her. Then he’d promptly commissioned a
bard to write the tale of his daughter’s rescue from a dark mage. Still the tale usually earned her a free meal and
several drinks in taverns when someone realized she was the one being sung about. Having a reputation did have a
few perks. Of course, the downside was everyone wanted you to solve their problems for them, regardless of
whether you wanted to or not.
Besides, she definitely wasn’t a maiden.
She smiled and bowed her head slightly as she studied the Duke. He was an older man, maybe a year or two
younger than she was. However, while her hair was still full and black, his was thin and gray. His brown eyes
were dull and his face was weathered and lined. Based on the threadbare cloak he was wearing, and the lack of
adornments on him or in the hall, this was one of the poorer areas of the realm.
“My Lord.” She paused, choosing her next words with care. “May I know the reason I was brought here?”
“My apologies for the abruptness in summoning you here.” He gestured to a nearby bench. “As you saw when
you arrived, things are a bit confused. The dragon Freynia has been holding our town hostage for many years and
has demanded we pay her a steep tribute each year. Recently, a traveling seer told us Freynia would be vulnerable
during the two days before the moon is at its fullest.” He paused and took a breath. “Many of the men in this
town think to be the ones to dispatch the dragon. However, none of them have the training or skills to do so.”
“And…,” She waited.
“And, with your reputation….” He swallowed hard then looked down at the floor. “I was hoping to hire you to
slay Freynia for us.”
“Sorry, but this is not a good time.” Was it ever not a good time, but men never understood these things. “I doubt
I’m up to handling dragons anymore. I would be willing to give some training and advice to the person who goes
after her. She turned toward the door. “I’m sorry, but it won’t be me.”
Krystall hesitated. She heard the Duke’s desperation. Why do I always have to be a sucker for hopeless causes?
She turned back to face the Duke.