“Son, if you slay the dragon, then you will bring the family much honor and glory. If you are killed by it, still some, but less. If you return home without the beast’s head, you will bring more disgrace with you than our name can bear.”
Those were the words that Thomas the Grand told his son, Andrew, on the young man’s 16th birthday.
Four hundred years later, Justin Coward delivered them during a school presentation about his ancestors.
Britney Sanders, in the back row, laughed. “Aw, was little Andrew afraid of the big, bad monster?” she taunted.
Justin coughed. “No, not really. When he came back after a year in the hills, he claimed he’d seen no dragons. Unfortunately, as you can tell, the townspeople didn’t believe him.”
Several other children began to giggle. “Coward’s a scaredy-cat!”
“Alright, class,” interrupted the teacher. “Let Justin finish his report.”
Justin went home that afternoon in tears.
“What’s wrong?” asked his mom.
“I had to give my speech today. The other kids made fun of me.”
“There, there,” consoled his mother. “Did you tell them the end of the story?”
“No,” sniffled Justin.
“That’s good. The Cowards have always been a patient lot,” she told him as she threw a piece of meat through a trapdoor in the kitchen floor.
From somewhere deep below there was a muffled snort, and something that sounded like the stirring of great, leathery wings.