He clambers from his lair when the sun is low and the day done, after the village folk have endured their labor and lost their spark, their fight. Stones grind against his shoulders and dust clouds away from his nostrils as his struggles from his cave. He huffs as he goes and purges the tunnel before him with flame to clear out a possible ambush. The rocks char from his vile breath and then rub clean from his wings as they slide by. Emerging from a dark hole on the side of a rock cliff, he gives a hateful smile to the glimmering lights coming alive in the lush valley below.
With leathery wings stretched in the last bit of dying light, the dragon plunged into the sky.
As he descended, dizziness flooded him and he teetered left and right, struggling to maintain a straight trajectory. The dragon shook its head and sucked in fresh air to try to regain focus. He suddenly realized he was coming in too low and began to beat his mighty wings in panic. With claws extended, he braced for impact with the tree line, and the pines shattered against his scales. It was almost enough to bring him down, but old strength lurked in those muscles and the dragon regained flight.
But the mistake was not without cost. The commotion had alerted the villagers. The advantage of surprise was gone.
He landed on Dragon Rock, a small cropping of boulders atop a rolling grass hill where he could perch and face the townsmen. Already, they had gathered in numbers, some bearing shield and sword and others with longbows. The dragon roared in frustration, his head straining from the headache ailing him, and belched fire onto the ground.
“Away, foul beast!” one defender shouted. “No more shall you feast from the fruits of our labor!” The man shouted from behind a patch of stone black with char.
“Where have you fools hidden it this time?” snarled the dragon in a guttural voice. “Don’t make me destroy your pathetic homes in search. I will have what I’ve come for.”
“Never!” shouted the defender. “You’ve grown too greedy. You’ve broken your vows again and again. We’ll not be pushed around any longer. Today we stand together to bring an end to your drunken tyranny.”
The dragon seethed. His stomach churned and his head hammered from hangover, but the insolence from such pitiful creatures was a pain he could not bear. “Give me your whiskey stores, human, and I’ll be on my way. I shall not ask again,” the dragon said.
An arrow fell from the sky and found placement between his thick scales, piercing flesh and sinking into muscle. The dragon grimaced and growled. “Fools!” he roared, taking to the sky once more. Another arrow flew at him, striking his knee and deflecting cleanly from natural armor. He thrust his wings again and again, gaining elevation to come around for an attack run. As he rose, his body cried out in agony. His hangover was horrendous and clung to every portion of his being. When he came around, dropping low to set the rooftops ablaze, his stomach cramped and he wretched a putrid yellow onto the trees. The dragon’s determination wavered and he banked to the right to avoid a small volley of arrows.
He looped back around.
On the second pass, the dragon kept composure but came to a painful realization. Bathing the town in fire would destroy the barrels holding the whiskey. All would be lost. To save face, he spewed fire onto the nearby trees and stable. With a hard landing, he placed himself atop Dragon Rock once more.
“Bring me the whiskey, peasants!” the dragon roared. “I’ll play no more games.”
“Be gone, you drunken bastard!” the defender yelled.
More arrows fell, some to the ground and some harmlessly off his scales, and the townsfolk started to grow bolder. The dragon watched as men with long-swords and axes scurried from boulder to boulder in attempt to draw near. The dragon, his body aching and head thumping, sighed. The peasants drew closer, one almost in range with a long spear, and the dragon summoned his fire once more, but no flame came. Instead, his stomach twisted and another batch of vomit flooded from his mouth.
The townsfolk were stunned for a moment before a man from the edge of the woods shouted, “I remember my first drink!” The peasants all laughed together, some even pointing, and the dragon fled in embarrassment.