The Dragon Slayer’s Quest
Once upon a time there was a fearsome dragon that lived in a cave and came out only to burn down all the local villages and eat people. Despite the numerous petitions the local residents had filed to their local government, absolutely nothing was done about the dragon. People had tried to reason with the dragon by going up to its cave in scared little huddles and shouting at it. All this achieved was getting burnt. One day a knight in shining armor rode into one of the local villages after a particularly vicious attack by the dragon. He rode sedately through the wreckage of the many wooden buildings with a worried look upon his noble features. He noted the dejected old folk sweeping away the charred remains of their homes, searching in vain for possessions that were still intact or failing that, survivors. (They'd learnt long ago that it was easier to get new people than to save up for another video or CD player.) The noble knight regarded all this with a solemn expression; many were the times when he'd witnessed similar tragedies and too damn often were the times when he'd been asked, as a shiny knight, to slay the beastly demonic creature and so on. Although he had a proper sword, suit of armor, lance and shield he was, when you got right down to it, a cowardly bastard. He was often thankful for his armor, not only because it had asbestos lining that prevented him from getting too badly burnt but also because the crotch wouldn't
stain when he got really frightened.
The knight was breathing a sigh of relief as he reached the far side of the village without being called upon to
execute a deed of utmost valor when an old man sitting reflectively on a pile of charred bones whistled at him. The knight tried to pretend he hadn't heard, but was betrayed by his horse who looked over its shoulder then trotted over to the man, who was holding out a carrot. The knight groaned inwardly as he dismounted and tied the horse to the remains of a tree. He had the feeling that the old man was going to be one of those philosophical sagelike people who would come out with a bucketfull of existential twaddle that would somehow convince him of the worthiness and necessity of riding halfway up a steaming hot smoky mountain before being attacked by a monster the size of three houses lumped together with breath hotter than an oxy-acetylene torch. In his spare time the knight was perfecting a formula for a type of flameproof varnish in order to save money on horses, which normally managed to buck the knight off and run away but sometimes got burnt out from underneath him. Unfortunately, his last batch was still untested, and he preferred testing on little dragons rather then beastly behemoths.
The old man waved the knight to sit down but the knight politely declined, preferring to sit on something
that looked slightly less like a ribcage, no matter how well-sprung and comfortable it seemed. He groaned as the old man lit up a pipe and narrowed his eyes as the smoke slowly seeped from his nostrils. They were even worse if they smoked a pipe. It gave them something to hold in one hand and point emphatically with, the pointing usually being accompanied by words to the effect of "you ought to be damn ashamed of yourself!
“There's many a young man would be dyin' for a chance to fight an evil dragon! Think of the prestige!..." He
eventually opted to squat uncomfortably on a sharp lump of charcoal that creaked for a few seconds before collapsing into dust. He sat on the bare earth instead.
"I bet you're thinkin' I'm goin' to be a-tellin' you to go an' kill the dragon with that most shiny sword you 'ave
at your side," said the old man smugly as he puffed. "Well, I don't disagree with the idea of there being in mighty battle in which the dragon is heroically slain, but I do 'appen to know that there are better ways of gettin' around this little problem." He raised his eyebrow a fraction and jigged back and forth a little on his bones. The knight looked down his noble nose at the man and replied scornfully:
Oh, I’m sure old man. You speak as if the dragon could simply be switched off…!" The knight finished with a
superior form of laugh and flicked a speck of dust off the knee of his metal trousers.
"Now how’d y’know me secret before I told yas?" The old man dropped his pipe in consternation and glowered
at the young upstart as he tried to maintain his expression of cool knowledge. The Knight tried not lapse into a daze of stupefied glee at the thought of enjoying all the benefits of being a successful dragon-slayer (free feasts, countless goblets of disgusting but reassuringly expensive wine, scores of wenches, free passage through various kingdoms and suchlike) without having to risk getting killed or eaten. He magnanimously picked up the old man's pipe for him and asked if he happened to know how you turned the dragon off.
The old man said you pressed the off button.
The knight thanked him for his time and was standing up to go when he realized he'd forgotten something.
"I'm terribly sorry," he said, sitting again "but where exactly might one actually find the off button?" He
raised an eyebrow.
The old man's wrinkled face split into a cheeky grin.
"It's in the dragon, sort of just to the right of the sternum as you look at it. Just sort of behind the 'art, in fact.
You has to push your sword deep into the dragon, push it through the 'art an' it'll 'it the button and the dragon'll stop working!" He lit his pipe again and shifted position comfortably on the bones.
"So kind. Good day!" The knight (being quite thick) said happily as he sprung up (as fast as possible with
armor on, anyway) and grabbed the horse's reins. Rather fittingly, thunder battered its way throughout the valley and lightning momentarily lit up the (k)night as he rode off towards the mountain that he had assumed to contain the dragon's lair.
Luckily, it did live there, although it was currently not actually present in its cave as it was still pottering
around the countryside burning various things. On its way back home it spotted the knight as he dragged his exhausted horse up one of the steeper slopes and decided that it might be better in the long run if it were to circumspectly burn him now. So it did. But it didn't as I'd forgotten that the knight supposed to be wearing asbestos armor. So it ate him instead, which it quite regretted as it ended up with stomach cancer and due to said asbestos. And it died.