"How much do you want to bet that big buffoon of a knight will come running back any minute now?" Lucas laughed over his pint of beer. He sat in the only pub in town with his close friend Daeder. Lucas was the blacksmith's son and often goofed off while he was supposed to work. Daeder took up the slack more than willingly. He enjoyed working with the metals and the fire that bent them.
"I'm guessing he never made it to the Black Wyrm and just ran off outright."
They put their cups together with laughter that echoed in the pub but was drowned by the laughter of the other patrons. For Daeder, it was a typical night. He had just finished fixing the armor of yet another hero and decided to spend his evening drinking with his only buddy.
"You know what Lucas?" Daeder proclaimed loudly, "I bet you if I had a nice set of armor and a blade, I could slay the beast," he boasted.
"I'd love to see you try," Lucas retorted, "You'd be running back before you made it through the woods."
"I solemnly swear," Daeder started with exaggerated theatrics, "That given a proper set of armor, some time to practice, and a shining blade, I would make my way through the woods, up the hills, all the way to the old crypt where the Wyrm sleeps and kill it."
Lucas laughed it off but he was not the only one listening. Close by, a knight veiled in a black robe stood up. He turned to Daeder and bared his blade.
"I am Ighthor, the Sworn Servant of the Court of Illuminations from the land over the sea."
Daeder stammered to say anything and felt the blood drain from his face.
"I heard your boast, villager, and it is my honorbound duty to keep you sworn to your promise. While you have slandered the name of every knight that has gone by, I have waited until you would make the boast and make the promise. Now, I cannot leave this village without either your head, or the news of your death, or, if you're lucky enough, the news of the Wyrm's death."
Daeder shook and struggled for his breath.
"No need to speak, you have spoken enough. I will have a new set of armor ready for you in the morning and you shall wield a blade worthy of a Sworn Servant."
The knight got up and left promptly.
Daeder ordered several more drinks but found himself at a loss when it came to processing what had just happened.
The next day, as promised, the knight delivered full gear including a chest piece emblazoned with a white dragon, a shield with matching design, and a long shining blade that felt sturdy but was light.
Daeder spent his entire day contemplating what to do. He then proceeded to spend the entire week doing so, and the week after. He looked at the armor every morning and even swung the blade a few times but did not dare wear anything nor show his face at the pub again.
It was on a full moon that the mysterious knight visited him again. He told Daeder that he must fulfill his promise by the next full moon lest he suffer death at his hands instead of the Wyrm's.
Daeder wasted no more time and packed his bags. He considered running away but had heard of these Sworn Servants. They had eyes all over the country and would hunt him down quickly.
Before he left, however, he had an idea. He was a blacksmith in practice though not by name. He used his skills to attach spearheads and arrowheads to his armor. They stuck out from every angle, often making it difficult for Daeder to move or rest comfortably without taking the armor off first.
His first few days on the road were uneventful; however, the hike started to wear on him. He could easily work at the forge for ten hours straight but walking was another matter.
The woods soon cleared and gave way to the river he had to cross. After finding a rickety bridge, he crossed to the Hill Lands where the Wyrm could be found.
It was said that the Wyrm was sixty feet in length, but some claimed it was a hundred. Everyone agreed that the Wyrm's body was covered in black poison that often killed the heroes that escaped the battle just a few days later.
It teeth, the villagers said, could be fashioned into daggers that would never lose sharpness nor break. Its claws could be made into oddly shaped swords similar to how the warriors of the East wore them.
The one part of the creature everyone feared the most was not its firebreathing mouth but its agile and deadly tail. The Wyrm often had to prepare to spew fire by bending down, taking a deep breath and bellowing hot matter while its tail could easily snatch a person up and kill them instantly.
Daeder recounted all of the stories he had heard and fear nearly overwhelmed him. He camped under one of the first few hills and was passed by other knights on their journeys. They shared with him some provisions and kept going.
He heard some of their screams late at night as they were devoured. The Wyrm had made its presence known quickly but never strayed far from the ancient crypt deep in the Hill Lands.
It took another five days before Daeder could see the structure and once he did, the battle started. He donned his armor but before he could fully prepare, the dragon flew out of the crypt with its underground mazes. It spewed fire toward the man.
Daeder dodged to the side and ran for his life. He'd rather suffer death at the hands of the knight, he thought, than this creature of darkness.
The dragon was no more than fifty feet long, much smaller than its legends. It was lean and fast with thick legs that gripped the ground. Long wings on its spine folded back. Then Daeder saw the tail, a long slimy appendage covered in sharp scales. It whipped wildly.
The dragon started to run toward Daeder, quickly closing the gap between them. It scratched at the man with its long talons. One of the claws broke Daeder's sword.
The man fell on his knees crying and sobbing. He had resigned himself. He was no knight, he was no soldier, nor a hero. He was a villager that drank too much and found himself fighting a creature far beyond his strength.
The dragon unfolded its wings and flew in circles around the man. It prodded him with its claws, it snapped its jaws close to him, and finally, it launched its tail at him.
The black thing swished through the air and grabbed Daeder tightly. But as it did, the Black Wyrm let out an ear-piercing screech.
Daeder had almost forgotten the new addition to his armor. The dragon used a bulk of its strength to impale itself onto the spikes. It let out a howl, whipped its tail away and then attacked again.
The man felt several of his ribs crush and only became aware of the other injuries he suffered. The burns on his skin pained him greatly and he had twisted his ankle while running away.
The wyrm attacked and impaled itself again. Daeder felt victorious, almost elated, but too soon.
The dragon was intelligent and not at all just a beast. It stopped its attack when it saw thick black blood drip from its body. The Black Wyrm flew into the sky and disappeared, leaving Daeder half broken on the hillside.
Daeder managed to make his way over a few of the hills to the river but wondered why the poison did not kill him. Not only that, he wondered how he had survived and he wondered if the Sworn Servant would take his victory as a fulfillment of his promise.
It took Daeder several more weeks to make his way back. His ribs had not been broken, it seemed, only bruised. His skin was not seared and burnt but only scratched. His ankle did not twist, only sprained.
He arrived a hero into his village with armor black as night and a sword cut in half.
The Sworn Servant patted him on his back and congratulated him; however, Daeder had not killed the dragon, on the account of his own words. He had merely wounded it. Come sunrise, the Servant knight would have to kill him.
Daeder's elation escaped him but he could no longer feel dread nor terror. He had experienced those and survived against the Wyrm. He had been one of the first to even wound the creature and he had definitely been the first to make it run away.
While the Servant could kill him, Daeder would die a hero and be remembered forever.
The sun took its time in the morning but Daeder had not. He spent the night at the forge, trying to repair his armor and his sword but no matter what practices he used, he could not extend his sword to its full length nor could he clean his armor and make it whole again.
Grimly, he found the Servant at the edge of the village with his full armor on. His white dragon armor shined brightly, reflecting the early morning sun. His sword was polished as well without a single notch from battle.
The Servant simply nodded and lifted his sword. Daeder his broken sword as well.
Daeder managed to parry several of the attacks but at last, the Servant made contact with a strong blow. It knocked the wind out of Daeder; however, the Servant suffered worse.
His blow glanced off back toward him with much more force, throwing him off his feet. Daeder took the chance and attacked. His sword made contact with the man's arm and drew blood.
Daeder felt a rush of strength in his body while he watched the Servant struggle to his feet. They exchanged a few more blows but whenever the Servant hit Daeder's armor, he felt an even stronger force knock him back.
On top of that, whenever Daeder managed to strike the Servant, he always drew blood, no matter how weak the blow was. Daeder felt himself growing stronger with each exchange until the Servant finally fell and could not get up.
He did not die but he was beaten and left town the next day.
Daeder felt happy with his accomplishments though wary of his strange armor that he found harder to take off after each wear. In time, he had outgrown his village and left to become a professional hero, not just a local legend.
Lucas joined him and they were off. Daeder mused that he might one day come back to the crypt in the hills and see what the Wyrm had been guarding but for now, he was content enough to start his journey toward reknown.