by Kellyann Ye
He looks away, his sense of vengeance falling away like the ground beneath his horse had as he rode. He cannot bring himself to kill the dragon, and therefore it must kill him.
“I yield,” he whispers, honor-bound and straight-backed despite his solitude.
He kneels, slowly, feels the muscles in his thighs and hips protest, feels mud spreading wet through the cloth of his trousers from their contact point at his knees. His sword clatters in the scabbard as he sets it down with shaking hands, forward and away, the sound of their contact like funeral bells.
He can’t help his hands clenching into fists, even as his fear freezes the rest of his body so stiff he fears it would shatter if touched. The dread drags the fear pooled in his stomach up into strings of terror so strong he can feel them boiling up the back of his throat.
Nothing happens, and nothing happens.
And nothing happens.
He has seen the dragon, and he is still alive. He kneels before the dragon, at her mercy, and he is still alive.
Kill it on sight, he remembers hearing in His Majesty’s stern gravel voice, kill it immediately or it will kill you. He feels the ache in his hands where they meet the cold ground, feels too terribly alive for the king’s words to be right. The king, he thinks, the king and the rest of the entire kingdom must be wrong.
The dragon’s claws enter his field of vision, scoring lines in the mud where she steps. Iridescent. Incandescent. Resplendent.
He doesn’t move, doesn’t look up, doesn’t reach out for his weapon. Can’t. He forces his next exhale from the recesses of his chest, tries to keep it from shuddering out and fails.
Kill it immediately or it will kill you.
I am still alive.
He thinks suddenly of all the things he’ll miss about being alive, and the grief nearly chokes him. Apples. Horses. Sparring with the other knights. A certain fair-haired stable boy. He catches himself wishing it’ll go quick.
The kingdom must be wrong.
Her claws move toward him, and his eyes slam shut.
Faith will have to be enough.