Rose's voice was barely more than a whisper when she began to talk. "I'll be brief, for I can't stand to think of it. I came here while serving as bodyguard to my merchant friend Alex, but during my stay I learned that an unknown, supposedly immortal creature of massive size abducted travelers around Whitehill at its leisure, leaving everyone nearby in fear of the evil magic it was said to wield.
"It was widely thought by the townsfolk that the creature lived in these very ruins, though the only known entrance seemed too small for such a beast. But this was never proven, because no one who went to confirm it came back alive. So being the foolhardy adventurer I was—and still am, I suppose—I went there myself, though everyone who didn't hate me outright begged me not to. I thought I was prepared for any foolish beast, but though the foe I found in this cavern had the body of a beast, it possessed the intellect not merely of a man, but a man above men—an archmage.
"The creature was as long as six horses—not counting the tail—and tall as three, and had the appearance of a great hulking, winged black lizard. It was covered in an armor of scales like steel shields, with claws and teeth the match of a small army's blades. Not only that, but it was capable of speaking through thought, and when it saw me, it talked to me of horrible things. It told me it loved experiencing the terror of the people it killed, and ate human souls to expand its own knowledge through absorbing theirs. And it told me... that mine was the next it would consume and extinguish forever."
Derrick rolled his eyes, and Rose glared at him. What the hell was his problem? A scholar was supposed to keep an open mind! He struggled to spit out the words, "A-a dra-dragon?! Did it breath fire and cast spells too? Rose, Finn may humor you because he likes you, but I really think you had a bout of madness last time you were here. No human can fight a dragon alone and survive, and besides, there's no way that's a dragon's body."
Anger pushed Rose's fear aside to an extent, and she scowled and said more loudly, "Look at the gouges and burn marks on the stone floor. What do you think did that, if not a dragon's claws and breath?"
Both men looked down and saw the evidence of the beast's presence. The stone even looked to have been partially melted and rehardened in some places. Derrick gaped incredulously. "But how did you ever manage to beat it?"
Rose frowned. "Look, I was trying to get to that part. Now, if you please, let me continue. I may be foolishly brave, but I like to think I'm not a fool in other matters, and not being a total fool, I went to several of the areas where it was thought to have attacked. At some of these sites, I found marks of intense flame on the trees and rocks. So before I went to seek out the beast, I soaked a heavy cloak in water and allowed it to freeze in the cold air. I carried the frozen garment uncomfortably on my back as I fought the beast with my sword held two-handed; I needed the extra punch.
"I used my agility to frustrate its attempts to snatch me while attacking with my sword. But its armored scales made it nearly impossible for me to wound it, and I tried to get closer so that I could strike at its underbelly, which I hoped to be more vulnerable to my blade. Then, it unleashed its flaming breath, but I was ready for that.
"When it opened its mouth to spit death, I charged at it, whipping my frozen cloak before me. The flame was so intense, the ice was melted and the water dried in a second, and I was badly burned when the cloak was set ablaze before I could reach the dragon's head. I had to run the last few steps through that fiery hell unprotected—boy, that was rough. But I stabbed through the inferno and put out the beast's eye. Then, I thought victory was mine, but it wasn't to be so easy.
"Before I could pierce the creature's brain through its eye, it struck me with a wild swipe of its claws, and knocked me to the ground badly slashed across the chest. Even half blind, it retained its ferocity and stomped on me, breaking more than one rib. When it saw to its shock I was still alive, it sucked in a great breath, and in desperation, I threw my sword"—Derrick stared at the notion of the massive thing being thrown—"and pierced the back of its mouth. But again, I hadn't penetrated deep enough, and now I was unarmed.
"Luckily for me, the drake's mouth filled with blood, denying it the ability to breathe fire. Still, its fury was undimmed, and it lashed at me with its tail while attempting to pull the sword out of its mouth. Its tail hit me with the force of a battering ram and nearly knocked me out, but its impact threw me up into the air, where I grabbed hold of its neck and began to climb agonizingly towards its head. It battered me against the roof and walls, but I saw this hurt itself as well, and gaining hope I forced myself onward.
"But I lost my grip as I got on top of its head, and with shocking agility it caught me—in its mouth. It was the worst pain I've ever felt, and that's saying a lot. A dozen ivory swords pierced me at once, and I thought I had suffered my death wound."
What happens next? Well clearly she lives, but how? Find in the full version of Iron Flower!