“What do you mean, the princess left?” John looked pointedly at the sword in his hand. “I was hired to rescue her.”
“You took too long to get here.” Rodney McKay, self-proclaimed wizard/alchemist and astronomer, didn’t seem at all intimidated to be facing down the most famous Knight of the Realm. “I couldn’t get any work done with the constant whining.”
“Where’d she go?”
McKay shrugged. “I didn’t ask. I let her read the Xena Scrolls and told her not to waste her time on a pompous-ass king who couldn’t be bothered to come and rescue her himself. I assume she’s off somewhere getting empowered.”
John bristled at the criticism. “It’s customary to send a champion. Everyone knows that.”
“Well, she decided to try her luck elsewhere. And so can you. Bye.”
McKay tried to push John back under the portcullis, but John planted his feet.
“Not so fast. My contract included dragon slaying. I can at least get paid for that.” Not that he was all that keen on facing down a dragon, but he had a reputation to protect. To be honest, though, he was glad the princess was already gone. They always fawned and flirted with him, and he was running out of ways to let them down gently.
“I took care of it.” McKay flapped his hand. “So you can go and find the next damsel in distress.”
“You slayed the dragon?”
McKay scowled and smoothed his robes. “You assume just because I don’t have your knightly physique I’m incapable of heroic feats? That’s offensive.”
John didn’t know why he was felt guilty, but he resisted the urge to apologize. He sheathed his sword. “How’d you do it?”
“Slay the dragon.”
“I never said I slayed it.”
As if on cue there as a roar overhead and the wind in the courtyard stirred up as the light from the sun was blotted out. John pulled his freshly-sheathed sword and tried to push McKay behind him.
“Get your hands off me!” McKay slapped at him. “And put that damn thing away before you hurt someone.”
“Hello? Dragon!” John gestured with the sword at the creature hovering over the courtyard.
“Eustace won’t hurt you, unless you keep waving that stupid sword around.”
“Its name is Eustace?”
McKay glared at him. “Yes. And if you don’t put that away there’s a very good chance he’ll light you on fire.”
John looked up and sure enough, there was smoke curling out of the dragon’s nose. He knew he wasn’t in the best position to launch an attack, so he reluctantly sheathed his sword and hoped he could trust that McKay wouldn’t let the beast flambé him.
The dragon landed in the courtyard, the ground shaking under his feet as he did so, and folded his wings back. Eustace was one of the bigger dragons John had encountered, covered in blue and green scales and swishing a powerful-looking tail that ended in a spade-like plate.
McKay patted the thing on one massive leg. “Eustace has proved very capable at keeping unwanted visitors away. In return I’m helping him build up his hoard.”
“Hoard? I thought he was guarding the princess.”
“So he can’t have multiple interests? I’m in the process of turning several tea kettles into gold. He likes those.”
John wondered if he’d eaten the wrong mushrooms earlier in the day. Sure, the wizard was nicely put together – broad shoulders, firm jaw – but he wouldn't be any help in John's current, incredibly dismal, situation.
“So I can’t rescue the princess and I can’t slay the dragon. I’ll be a laughingstock in the Realm.”
“Nothing I can do about that, sorry.” McKay looked at the dragon, and they seemed to be having some sort of silent conversation. “Look, why don’t you stay here tonight? You can rest, eat, and then be on your way in the morning. I could point you to some treasure, if you think that would help your reputation.”
John weighed his options. It had been a long and perilous journey getting to the castle. He’d had to cross a blistering desert, and pick his way through a jungle of thorny vines. It would be nice to take a little break from the hero business and get a decent night’s sleep. On the other hand, he wasn’t sure how much he could trust McKay, or his pet dragon.
“I have a personal chef,” McKay said, licking his lips. “He makes an excellent cream puff.”
“Okay,” John decided, eyes on McKay's mouth. “I’ll stay. Thank you.”
“Just one night, though. I’m not looking for long-term guests.”
McKay nodded, and then patted the dragon once again. “I’ll be back with your tea kettles.”
The dragon huffed out a ring of smoke in response.
John kept one hand on his sword. No way was he staying there any longer than he had to.
Six Months Later
“What do you mean, he’s not here?”
Rodney sighed. Clearly it was time to beef up security, if these armor-plated glory hounds were going to keep showing up on his doorstep.
“I mean exactly what I said.”
“But he was last seen heading this way, to rescue the princess.”
“She’s not here either. It’s just me in my big, empty castle. Now go away.”
The knight refused to be moved. “I’ve been sent by King Patrick and I’m not leaving until I’ve determined for certain that his son isn’t on the premises.”
Rodney took a step back as the knight drew his sword. He was going to be a real problem. Well, there was one surefire way to keep a lid on things.
“Discoglossus pictus,” Rodney said, and waved his hand at the knight.
There was a clatter as the armor fell on the stones in the courtyard. There was no sign of the knight, but the garments he left behind shifted and a frog hopped out. Rodney grinned down at it.
“Not so tough now, are you? If King Patrick is so interested in finding his son, he can come here himself.”
Rodney scooped up the frog, which croaked at him, and plopped him down in the decorative pond that also served as a fountain. A chorus of croaking greeted the latest addition.
By the time John and Eustace returned from what John called ‘patrols’ and what Rodney knew was just an excuse to go out flying, there was no evidence that they’d had a visitor.
Eustace landed as gently as a dragon could be expected, and Rodney waited patiently for John to extricate himself from the special harness he’d designed. Turned out that in addition to rescuing damsels and fighting the good fight for chivalry, John was also quite intelligent. It was one of the reasons Rodney kept him around.
The other reason was the exuberant, deep, hot kiss he received as soon as John slid down the dragon’s back and his feet touched the courtyard.
“Patrols go well, then?” Rodney asked. He ran his hand through the windblown, cowlicked catastrophe that was John’s hair. “Any derring-do I should be aware of?”
“Eustace and I chased off a band of trolls, but otherwise everything is quiet out there.” John leaned against Rodney in that boneless way he had, like they could melt together. “How about you? Everything good here?”
Rodney fought the urge to look at the pond. “I was just going to see what’s for dinner.”
“Hmm. Maybe we can get that delayed a little?” John reached around and groped Rodney through his robes.
One of the perks of John getting to fly so much, once he realized it was something he liked, was that it seemed to make him especially horny. Rodney was in no way complaining about that.
“Shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Eustace!” John called, and the dragon swung his big head around, lowering it enough so that John could rub his snout. “Good work today. Go get something to eat.”
Eustace huffed out a smoke ring that looked almost heart-shaped and then he was lifting off, no doubt to snatch a cow from an unsuspecting farmer.
“I’m gonna get washed up,” John said, turning his attention back to Rodney. “Meet you upstairs?”
“Right behind you,” Rodney replied.
John put a little extra shake in his stride for Rodney’s benefit as he headed into the castle. Rodney followed along behind. He’d talk to his chef about delaying dinner – not an unusual request these days – and then maybe he’d try out his new spell on John. His skin was already flushing hot just imagining the look on John’s face. Multiple orgasms. Rodney was a genius.
There was a loud croaking from the pond as he walked past.
“Hush up, or I’ll tell Evan to put frog legs on the menu,” Rodney said.
Dinner, as it turned out, got delayed by an entire day.