DRAGONSLAYER, by Mary Soon Lee


It’s true enough,

I killed a dragon —

an old dragon with a maimed wing, mind you,

crippled by some foreign prince.


The dragon came down the mountainside

after it was injured,

right into our village.

I remember women screaming. And men.

The smell of roast meat.

Then the dragon came up to my smithy

and fired the roof,

and I filled up with fire myself

and ran at it with an axe in one hand,

a spear in the other.


Three days afterwards

the King’s soldiers arrived.

Too late to bury the dead,

but the captain offered me

a place in the army,

and, being a young fool,

I said yes.


Oh, I’ve done well enough,

but most of that’s luck —

I’ve seen better men than me

killed quick by arrows

or slow by gangrene.


So. I’ve had my moments.

Lots of harlots, no wife —

I will say this for dragon-killing,

the harlots like it.

I never fought for honor

or any such nonsense,

just for my men, my pay,

food, drink, and, yes, the harlots.


But the new King,

now that’s different.

They say he bested a dragon himself,

and what if he did?

I can still get fired up,

rage into battle.

Like when I fought that dragon,

rushing at it like a young fool.

Not for honor,

nor glory,

not thinking much at all.


But that’s the smaller part

of what makes a King.


You should have seen him this summer.

Not much more than a boy,

but he rode at the front of the charge

in his first battle

like a King should,

and afterwards he got down off his warhorse

and walked in the mud,

looking for survivors,

and went into the surgeons’ tent

and spoke to those waiting

for the knife.


He came out of that tent

and vomited.

I know. I was there,

checking on one of my soldiers.

The King looked right at me and said,

“Next time I won’t throw up. I promise.”


Now that’s a King.

Mary Soon Lee was born and raised in London, but has lived in Pittsburgh for over twenty years. “Dragonslayer” is part of the author’s epic fantasy in verse, and first appeared in her book “Crowned” (Dark Renaissance Books, June 2015). Several other poems from the epic may be read at http://www.thesignofthedragon.com

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