Gavrain reached to wipe the sweat from his forehead again, and the gauntlet clanged loudly against his helmet. He swore to himself in a whisper, and watched the entrance to the cave. Nothing, no signs of movement. If it weren't for the scorched and gnawed bones carpeting the rocks at the cave entrance, he would have sworn it was abandoned.
The stones were slick with the drizzle that misted down from the sullen clouds hanging low in the sky. Where the sun was sulking he couldn't have said, but he would have cheerfully given a forefinger for the rain to be gone.
"Get on with it, Gavrain!" he hissed to himself in a whisper thick with fear.
The sword was heavy in his hands, he'd left the shield with the horse. It was too heavy to drag over these rocks in full armour, and it would be of little use against the beast anyway.
An acrid stench wafted from the cave, sulphur mixed with the stench of rotten meat. Almost masked by this, was the dry smell of snakes or lizards, the scent of the wyrm. Gavrain shuddered despite himself, and tightened his grip on the broadsword they'd given him, before pushing him out on this fool's quest.
His feet were as silent as he could make them on the stone floor of the cave, but sabatons were not designed for stealth, and they scraped and clanged the second he tried to move any faster than a nervous burglar.
The cave mouth gaped wide, and the tunnel opened wider still as he made his way in and around the corner into the chamber. He'd been told what to expect of course, but even so the sight took his breath away. A mound of gold and treasure large enough to dwarf his wildest imaginings. Small holes in the high roof of the cave, easily a hundred feet or more above him, provided a dim light. Despite the deep shadows, he could see the dragon was gone.
Within three steps he knew he'd been wrong. The smell was too fresh, too thick, for the dragon to be anywhere but in the cave. He froze for five frantic heartbeats and then searched the gloom. Full armour is not, however, designed to allow the wearer to look above them.
The leathery flap of the beast's wings was the only warning he had before the creature crushed him to the ground, pinning him easily beneath one gore-stained claw.
He had no time to scream, or even to think to beg for mercy. The huge head snaked down, teeth shining in the dim light. In one grinding crunch his head and chest were gone, devoured by the beast.
The dragon swallowed hungrily, oblivious to the twisted metal sliding down its throat along with the would-be knight's life. A long black tongue licked at the red-tinged lips as it considered the remnants of its meal.
"Nom!" said the dragon.