The guardian stone stands tall where it has for a thousand years, and where those it protects expect it will stand for a thousand more.
Thirty years have passed since a hand last touched its surface, and another seventy are due before a druid will come to check on it again. Many have tried to break it, from vast armies, to small children who learnt the hard way that while you may leave the giant circle this stone and its cousins form around the kingdom, few men are given the power to let you back inside.
No one reached an inch from its surface. Not with arrows, swords, magic, or fists. Until today.
A cracking sound splits the air. If a man stood on the inside of the barrier, he would look up with horror at the noise few who spend their lives deep inside the protective circle would recognise. The dragon flies high in the clear blue sky. It flaps its wings again with a whooshing crack.
Had the stone had thoughts, it would not be worried. Dragons had come and gone, slamming themselves against the invisible barrier with a blow that strained the constant hum of the guardian stones, but always ended with the barrier whole and the animal bruised and broken.
It had no way to tell that this time would be different.
The dragon stops a distance from the stone, its giant wings flapping more frantically. It eyes the object with a feral hate. Then jerking forward its neck, it lets out a burst of white hot fire.
The guardian stone stands through the assault stoically, the raised pitch of its hum the only evidence of strain. The dragon is bigger than most, its fire hotter, but the barrier is made to last.
That should be it. The dragon should give up, go back to its nest, the circle safe for another day. But all at once the humming stops.
White hot flames shoot through the invisible barrier to blacken the grass on the other side. For a moment the large stone disappears under a jet of bright white. A sharp crack, barely audible over the beat of the dragon's wings, and the ancient stone splits into two.
By the time the dragon closes its mouth the stone is a jagged pile, strewn on burnt ground.
Satisfied, the dragon flies above the stone. Its muscles tense as it passes through the barrier, but it meets no resistance. It does not pause to celebrate. This is not the victory it's looking for.
Its claws itch to rend, its teeth to crush men, women, children. It doesn't care who it hurts. It wants to hear the screaming, smell the blood, and see blackened corpses frozen forever in horror.
It flies toward the unknowing kingdom, and the beat of its wings sounds like death.
YOU ARE READING
Sometimes the best knight is a damsel. In a world where women are seen as weak, defenceless creatures for men to protect and own, one orphan girl wants to be different. She dreams of being a knight. Slaying dragons, taking down armies with her fathe...