“A phoenix?” Malchazor the Unvanquished sneered, smoke curling from his nostrils. He shifted his vast bulk into a more comfortable position on his mountainous hoard. A motley collection of gold objects and precious stones clinked against each other as he moved. At the edge of the pile lay discarded suits of armor, some of which still contained the charred bones of those who had dared challenge the great dragon.

“Yes, my lord.” The trembling man standing at the mouth of the cavern kept his gaze fixed on the scattered armor, not daring to meet the dragon’s glowing red eyes. Malchazor curled his lip at the pathetic human. Vallen had offered to become the dragon’s servant in exchange for not being eaten—a strategy which had only granted his predecessor a few more weeks of life.

“The king sent for her,” Vallen explained. “She’s waiting outside.”

Malchazor’s laughter shook the whole cavern. “What does he think a phoenix will do?”

“I don’t know,” Vallen mumbled.

“To defeat a dragon, the king has summoned a creature whose only claim to fame is getting itself set on fire? Did he deliberately seek out the species most likely to die fighting me?”

“Well,” Vallen ventured, “they do get reborn, my lord. As eggs, I mean.”

The dragon’s eyes blazed. “Did you just attempt to argue with me?”

Vallen’s face paled. “No! Of course not, my lord!”

“You did. I’m sure of it.” Malchazor let out a long, smoldering sigh. “But all the same, you are correct.” He rose to his feet, sending an avalanche of gold and jewels down the sides of his hoard. “I’m suddenly feeling peckish for a phoenix-egg omelette.”

“Ah,” said Vallen.

“Oh, and by the way, for arguing with me…you’re fired.” A blast of flame shot from his nostrils. “Pun fully intended,” he added to the pile of ashes that had moments ago been his servant.

Malchazor lumbered out of the cavern and into the barren valley outside. “Well?” he roared, glancing up at the sky. “Let’s get this over with, shall we?” He unfurled his huge wings, blotting out the afternoon sunlight and casting a shadow across the valley.

A streak of red-orange light caught his eye, and he saw an eagle-like bird with golden feathers swooping toward him. The phoenix alighted on a boulder and cocked her head to regard Malchazor with a censorious eye.

“Malchazor, son of Thazacroft,” said the bird in a raspy voice, “your days of menacing this realm are at an end.”

Malchazor snorted. “You think you can just fly into my domain and tell me I’m finished? Hilarious.”

“Do not attempt to plead with me,” the phoenix continued. “I shall not relent.”

The dragon’s smirk turned to an angry scowl. “You bore me,” he said. “I’m five hundred years old. No one has ever come close to defeating me—and I’ve fought the best.” He curled his scaly lip. “And they send you to fight me…what an insult.”

“Your sentence will now be carried out,” the golden bird announced.

“Oh, shut up, insect,” said Malchazor, sending a fireball hurtling toward the phoenix.

But the phoenix was already on fire. The vortex of flame surrounding it swallowed up the blazing orb in an instant. Snarling in anger and surprise, the dragon drew in his breath to attack again…but was suddenly enveloped in golden light as the phoenix’s flames shot towards him. A whirlwind of fire lifted him from the ground, sending him tumbling head over heels through the air. Then something hard and unyielding pressed around his body, leaving him immobile. A strangely familiar calm washed over him as everything went black.

Light. Faint at first, then brighter, as the hard substance surrounding Malchazor began to crack. Memories rushed back as he awoke. He kicked and struggled, finally bursting free. That miserable creature. Wait until I get my claws on her…

“Awwww. Izzle wizzle dwagon finawwy weady to come out?”

Malchazor blinked, both from surprise at the bizarre greeting and the shock of his surroundings. He was inside a building. Actually inside a tiny human dwelling, with various tools and pieces of metal hanging from the walls and a blazing forge in the center. But that was impossible. Even the great Cathedral of Tragarr was too small to contain him. How…

Hands closed around his body and lifted him up. Malchazor found himself staring into a human face—a bearded, grinning, impossibly large face. “The king will be very pleased to hear you’ve hatched,” said the brawny man. “I’m Benryck, the royal blacksmith. You’ll be working with me in my forge until you’re big enough to be more useful.” He scrutinized the dragon. “I imagine in around, oh, twenty years or so, you’ll be about the size of a horse.”

“A horse?!” Malchazor cried. Or tried to. His infant vocal apparatus was only capable of making guttural shrieks. He had the thoughts of an adult but none of the muscle memory. A five-hundred-year-old dragon trapped in the body of a minutes-old hatchling.

Malchazor reeled. Five hundred years of learning, fighting, and growing, all gone in the blink of an eye. The ignominy was almost too much to bear.

No. He would not give up. He had become the greatest dragon of them all once; he could do it again. One day, Malchazor the Unvanquished would return. And then that phoenix would pay for—

“You’re a cute little fella,” said Benryck, his grimy fingers scratching that patch of scales right between Malchazor’s wings that he could never quite reach.

Malchazor let out an involuntary purr, struggling to focus on his plans for vengeance. One day I will return. One day…

The baby dragon’s eyes closed, and he drifted off to sleep in the blacksmith’s arms.

 

For more great mythical stories, check out the latest issue of Havok.

 

Meet the Author

Kyle Robert Shultz began writing in his early teens after being bitten by a radioactive book. As a Christian, he strives to write fiction that is entertaining and wholesome, but devoid of overt “messages” or agendas. He lives in the wilds of southern Idaho, removed far enough from civilization to keep humanity safe should any of his rough drafts break through the electric fence. Aside from writing, his other passions are worship music, digital art, horseback riding, and raising miniature sheep. Follow Kyle and his work at KyleRobertShultz.com.