The man stood at the edge of the dark. The night’s creatures were silent; the cave depths mute. Unmoving in thought he stood, silent in prayer. His golden armor catching the moon light, a beacon to the night. A sword was held before him. Naked and new it’s blade was sharp unmarked and untested by use. The sword pommel was unremarkable, but its blade was breathtaking. The blade sang with the elegant grace of the images carved there, dragons carved in silver that danced and leaped upon that blade.

Now he held his sword to ward off the smell of dragon. Out of the stillness in the cave came a single distinct sound of claw on stone. His eyes searched the cave depths for light or magic. The cave denied his gaze of anything but blackness. His sword shimmered in the moonlight. Falling down it’s long length the man’s eyes watched the silver images move, the dragons of the sword swirled in the moonlight and the man remembered Griffin..

The eyes of darkness; the head of an eagle with the body of a lion that the Griffin never moved. The giant wings that would flare when the Griffin was angry. Each day for as many days as there had been, the Griffin had counseled the man, watched him and trained him.

“Man, Position 17.” The griffin snapped his beak. His eagle eyes were bright with pleasure. The Man curved the practice sword around to hold it low to block a leg attack. His feet shifted in the white sand.

“16, Position 21… Now six.” The Griffin would fire off. His black eagle eyes watched every movement. There was a time when the griffin would have chastised the man for the slightest mistake, but that time, there were no mistakes. The Griffin’s tail rolled gently in pleasure.

Then the Griffin said “He is almost ready.”

The man remembered the Sphinx. Her human face was set untroubled forever on her face. Her lions body never moved. Her tail lazily graced the floor. Her face, arms and breasts were covered with darkly painted runes. She would roll her bone dice with a velvet paw, her long hair unmoving. She would softly speak.

“He doesn’t stand a chance.” Her white eyes; sightless, unseeing, and unblinking, would not look upon the man she doomed. “The fates are against him.”

The Griffin’s beak would set. His wings rose in anger. Eyes dark and furious he would scream. The Man would stop cold when the Griffin did this, frozen in movement the sword poised for a down stroke.

“HE IS THE ONE!” The Griffin’s anger failed him rapidly disappearing into the stone walls and sandy floor. “He must be… I feel it. He is the one.” Then the Griffin’s head would turn to the wall where twelve swords hung. Each sword was a perfect combination of beauty and function. “He will not fail.”
The Sphinx would say nothing, but rolled the dice again. The Man had grown to fear the times when the Sphinx spoke. Whenever she did the Griffin just drove him harder.

“Position twelve, Man. Position three, the Dragon is leaping for your throat, Man.” The Man was doused in sweat. His tired limbs easily followed the sword through each movement in a dance. While the man practiced the Griffin would speak to the Sphinx, “See the way he moves. How can he not win. He is faster than the others!”

The Sphinx would say nothing, her tail lazily brushing the sand. Then she would roll the dice. Her face empty, lifeless. The cavern was filled with only the sound of the man practicing. His sword swirling through the air, his feet slapping down upon the white sand and his breathing.

The man remembered the way the Griffin would watch him, each eye full of concentration. Once when the man was resting the Griffin caught him looking hungrily at the swords on the wall. “Those are not yours. I will have one made when you are ready.”

It was not long after this that they went to have his sword made by the dwarf.

The Man stood on the edge of the Cave and remembered this. He remembered the way dwarf smiled at him. The dwarf’s wrinkled face was broken and lined by the years. The dwarf’s voice was a sharp knife that cut through him. “Look at this fine one you have brought me. I suppose you will be wanting another sword?”

The Griffin did not smile. He handed a bag to the dwarf.

The dwarf laughed. “Gold is good for the soul.” He held up a piece and smelled it; his eyes gleaming with gold lust.

The man remembered the way the Dwarf hunched over the metal and sent hollowed ringing throughout the cavern. The glow of the forge gave the dwarf an insane gleam in his eyes. The man waited impatiently, waiting for the sword to be done. The Dwarf was a master and slowly he turned a piece of twisted metal into a thing of beauty.

“What will you be wanting me to draw upon the blade.” The dwarf asked showing the Man the still red glowing edge. The forge threw off waves of heat.

“Dragons” The Man replied hungrily.

The dwarf laughed, but his eyes were sad and his voice high and sharp. “They always do, they always do.”

The Man remembered all this as he stared into the dark. He felt the dragon’s presence. A normal man would have run away in terror, but he did not think; he did not feel. The Man had not been taught these things, he only knew how to kill dragons. He stepped forward drawn into the darkness of the cave. Edging in an inch at a time, the man’s feet found the way.

Then he began to see the outlines of the cave walls. The texture of rock walls, the dripping water and the bones that lined the floor he saw clearly. The Dragon was coming!

The Dragon brought the light. Its red fur and scales sent off a red hue that lit the cavern and made the walls dance as if from a flame. The Dragon was full of flame and he burned brightly. The Dragon also brought noise – a low hissing growl that filled the cavern with menace and hate.

“SSSSSSSS – Who Dares Enter HERE!” The dragon’s call was unanswered. The cavern filled with the dragon’s hissing growls and sniffing. “Man… SSSSSSSS” Then the Dragon’s eyes began to search for the intruder.

The Man stood still prepared to meet the Dragon’s movement. He prepared to dodge the dragon’s dangerous burning gaze. He was not prepared for the beauty of the beast. The graceful wings, the bright red feathers, the red fur, the long tail that was paused in mid motion.

The ‘Dragon’ was technically not a dragon. It was a Wyvern; a creature with red fur, scales, the body of a dragon, the wings of an eagle and the heart of a demon. Smaller and more deadly then a dragon. The Man did not care what you would call it – he was going to kill it.

“Dragon, I am your end.” The Man’s voice was clear and sweet.

“Foooolll SSSSS” the Wyvern spat. Even as it spoke its wings were moving. The Wyvern leapt up over the Man’s reach sliding along the cavern’s ceiling.

The Man turned swiftly bringing the sword up and around to neatly clip a wing of feathers as he beat down. The Wyvern screamed in rage and leapt directly at him. The Man danced to the side cutting the dragon’s fur along the right side. He would have struck again, but the Dragon’s tail hit him; throwing him aside like a toy.

His golden armor saved him from being burst as under. He staggered to his feet, shaken; he felt his broken ribs and the blood that trickled down his chin. The Wyvern had paused to examine its side, allowing him to recover. Its eyes glaring red, it was upon him again.

This time the Man was ready for the tail, and he neatly stepped aside of its swing, again leaving his sword’s mark on the Wyvern. The Wyvern was back quicker this time, the tail sneaking in on the right. Man carefully slipped under it. In the process he shortened the tail by a good foot.

The Wyvern roared in anger and leapt directly at the Man. The Man brought up his sword. He was too late and felt a pain in his chest. The sword cluttered out along the cave floor and the dragon screamed. His jaw filled with fresh blood.

The Sphinx rolled the dice and bones of long dead men rolled in the sand. “He has lost,” she said. The Griffin said nothing. They waited for the Dragon.

The Dragon came slowly; his legs bleeding, his wigs clipped, but he came proud. They sat silent as ever watching the Wyvern. Green blood dripped from his wounds and the Dragon’s blood sizzled on the floor. Red blood dripped from his chin and claws turning the white sand dark and muddy.

“SSSSSS Close, but not good enough SSSSS” The Wyvern laughed at them and threw the sword in the sand. His grin was covered with blood.

They said nothing till the Wyvern had left. Feathers, fur and blood remained behind with the sword. The Sphinx’s perfect face soured at the dirty sand, then she smiled and softly said, “I told he wasn’t good enough.”

The Griffin’s beak was set, his eyes black and depthless. He picked up the sword he held it lightly in his claws. Balancing it, feeling it, eyeing it for grace he did not move for a time. Then he spoke.

“We will try again, the next one will do it.”

The Griffin placed the sword upon the wall to hang there with its brothers. The thirteenth sword with dragons dancing on the blade and blood drying on its edge. The Griffin stared at the swords, his back to the Sphinx. On his feathered cheek a single drop of water edged down between eagle feathers till it was lost among them all.

The Sphinx’s velvet paw rolled the bones of dead men across the sandy floor.