After careful consideration, it probably wasn't the brightest idea to run off to face a dragon alone, let alone with nothing but a sword and a cowardly horse for protection. Never mind that he was more likely to impale himself with said sword rather than any sort of legendary mythological beast. And of course, his horse never seemed to be any help anyway. It seemed that he was simply doomed to failure. Because you see, Kay, the last in a line of five and the youngest of the lot, was at the best of times clumsy, and at the worst of times simply disastrous. His reputation made him the laughingstock of the kingdom, and his scrawny, unathletic form did little to help matters. And so, when rumor spread that a dragon had taken up residence in the white mountains, it seemed only logical to go there and challenge it alone, as if a single man could conquer what an entire army could not.
Now, Kay cursed his stupidity. He could hardly tell which end of the sword was the pointy one, not that he hadn't already felt it. He'd already tripped twice as he fumbled out of his mare’s saddle, not used to the heavy weight of the armor. His horse, Hengroen as he had so proudly named him, seemed to be his only consolation, no matter how useless he was in battle. He drew courage from her as he stepped forward to call out the dragon that lived in the most of the White Mountains, dwelling in an abandoned cave at the very tip of its peak, which made it very cold indeed. But, No matter how silly he looked, shivering, a boy in a grown man’s armor and with a sword he couldn't wield, he wouldn't be cowed. If he left now, he would be ridiculed for as long as he lived. Kay must regain his honor.
“Dragon!” He called out, careful to keep the tremor out of his voice. “I challenge thee in the art of combat. You have terrorized these people of the Thanes (for that was his country) unchallenged, but for no longer. You may have quelled an army (which was a totally lie, because the dragon hadn't stepped outside its cave in years), but now you have met your match. Step forward and face me! I am Sir Kay, Knight of the Thanes, and son of the great King-”
There was a mighty tremble as the ground around the cave began to shake and the shadow of a beast came into view. Kay gulped. It was a great looming figure of legend, terrifying in all its glory. It’s scales were a deep green, the color of the forest in the spring. It had claws as sharp as Kay’s own blade, if not sharper, a wing span no less than five Kays put together, and its eyes were the color of rich gold and held the knowledge and wisdom of a thousand lifetimes. The knight errant felt small and insignificant under the dragon’s stare. And then t spoke.
“Who are you to disrupt my slumber?” The dragon’s voice was deep and rumbling, shocking Kay into a frozen state. It could speak. “Why have you come here on this day?”
Many seconds had gone by until Kay could find it in himself to say something back, and even then, it sounded hoarse and strained. “You-you can speak?” He squeaked out, the sword slipping from his hands as they numbed with cold.
The dragon eyed him with distaste. “Do not think me such a mindless creature that I could go a full millennium without learning the human tongue. Why have you challenged me?”
Remembering that his companion and friend was behind him, Kay spoke. “I have come to challenge you to regain my honor as prince of this land.”
The dragon eyed him shrewdly. “You would kill someone you have never met for some mistaken sense of honor?”
Kay winced. That had struck a cord. It wasn't as if he had any specific quarrel with the beast, but he had an agenda, and had come a long way to fulfill it. There was no way he could turn back now. “I have no choice.”
The dragon answered just as quickly. “There is always a choice. And besides, no mortal weapon could ever hope to harm me.”
Kay glanced forlornly down at his sword, gifted to him by his closest friend, Sir Gawain, and sighed. It seemed that his people were right. He really was doomed to failure. “Than what else am I to do? If I cannot return in honor, then I won't return at all.”
And really, it seemed that the dragon was just mocking him now. “There is more to honor than fighting men with swords. You are the last of a long line of monarchs. You're brothers are all Knights, but that doesn't mean you have to be one.
Do you not remember days in the market when you were young, helping the poor and elderly with nothing but a kind word and a gentle touch?” And Kay did remember. When he was but thirteen summers, he learned an entirely new language within the week so the poor boy in the lower town would not be so lonely. When his father found out, he put an immediate stop to it, for a peasant could never befriend a prince. He scolded Kay firmly, but Kay could never forget the feeling of warmth when he gave instead of taking, taking, taking. “You’re brothers were bred as men of war, Sir Kay. They protect your people from the physical dangers of the violent world around them. They fight so you don't have to. But you, you have a gentle heart that could never take a life so carelessly. You take pleasure by helping others, and expect nothing in return. You have a different calling, and could not possibly be happy otherwise.”
Kay stuttered back, a whirlwind of emotions fleeting across his face. “And if my father does not approve of what I want to be?” He needed to know. Somehow, this dragon had told him words truer in scarcely a few minutes than what his family and people had told him his entire life. Perhaps he really need not live up to his father’s expectations. Perhaps he could follow his own path, one that would make him happy, and not those who had never really cared for him anyway.
“Than that is his problem to sort out in his own time.”
Kay believed him.
And so, Kay never became a knight as his father had dreamed. He was forever useless with a sword and he couldn't last a day in the woods if given half the chance. However, after a good deal of yelling and an awful lot of swearing, it was finally settled that Kay would become a diplomat on both local and foreign affairs. This suited him well, as he was rather fond of traveling, even if he hated sleeping on the ground. He never did see that blasted dragon again, not after his father’s death and his brother was crowned king and certainly not when he was old and grey and on his death bed. It was disappointing really, because he would have loved to thank him at least once before it was all said and done.
But fate would always have its way. And besides that, who was he to complain? His father and he eventually made up, he became a diplomat who was deeply led by the people and eventually after many painstakingly awkward conversations (because no matter how fluent his tongue was, he still got flustered around women), he finally got the girl. Life couldn't be better.