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Gydian Fights His Greatest Foe
By Arthur Slade
He had a retinue of one.
Yes, he was Gydian the Great. Yes, he wore the famous impenetrable plate mail and was the sworn defender of the virtue of several hundred maidens. But he had a retinue of one. Hard times had cast a great shadow over the kingdom. Prices for grain had dropped two fold, metals were scarce and his high risk mutuals had floundered.
Gydian's retinue was named Thud. Despite his intellectual shortcomings, Thud was capable enough to perform his duties as a composer, scribe, cook and accountant. Sometimes a little too capable.
"We've already eaten several crowns worth of salted beef, sir," Thud announced on the third day of their trek, "we must conserve."
Gydian nodded and reached for a second sweet roll, only to be stopped by Thud's frown. "Just one a day, sir. King's Weightrainer's orders. Conserve."
Gydian sighed. Conserve. How many times had he heard that evil word? No more frivolity, no more long banquets and no tower to live in, just a cottage. But at least there were still dragons. Yes, and Gydian had his new license that gave him the right to slay his old nemesis Draughast.
Gydian and Thud came over the shoulder of mount Kadrakas. They trotted past molten rock, viewing the rusted armour, smoldering bones, and ashes of all who had come before.
They left their horses tied at the mouth of the cave next to a sign that read: Please leave pack animals here. I will eat them for dessert, signed D. Gydian strode in. Thud followed, loaded with weapons, writing utensils and books. They went deep down into the cave, turned a corner and found themselves at the edge of Draughast's lair. The dragon spied them with his one good eye, the other had been lost in a great battle many years before.
"Lunch has arrived, I see," he said.
Gydian drew his blade, Sharpedge, and shouted, "Oh mighty Draughast, I, Gydian --"
"Skip the bureaucratic banter!" Draughast drew himself to his full height. "I have a license to kill you, you have a license to kill me. Let us commence killing."
"You have a license to kill me?"
"Yes, it arrive by post pigeon yesterday." He paused. "By the way have you ever had fried post pigeon? A delightful aperitif."
"I was not aware you could get licenses to slay knights."
Draughast shrugged. "We don't want to wipe out the whole knight population, do we? Now, let us begin."
And with a mighty swipe of his claws, Draughast knocked the shield from Gydian's arm. Gydian swung Sharpedge once, twice -- sparks flew. A flurry of blows from each combatant followed, culminating in a mighty blast of flame that sent Gydian rolling back into the wall.
He lie there, motionless. Thud scurried over and thrust the vial of smelling salts under the great knight's nose.
"Enough!" Gydian bellowed. "I have come to!" He prepared to charge, but Sharpedge had been melted. "Quick, Thud! The Spear of Piercing."
Thud threw it to him, pulling out the book: Gydian's Mighty Adventures & Accounting Ledger. He began scribbling madly.
Gydian saw his scribe's fervor. He smiled. Write, my squire, write! For this will be my greatest moment!
Gydian charged Draughast. The Spear of Piercing struck the dragon's metal breastplates and snapped in two.
Gydian jumped back. "Quick, Thud, the Mace of Maelstrom!"
"No!" Gydian cried. Even Draughast paused.
"No?" Gydian repeated.
"My Lord, we're running at a deficit."
"Darn the deficit. The mace -- to me -- now!" yelled Gydian.
"But sir, the Financial Wizards have a lien on your cottage."
Gydian stepped back. "But...but..."
"That plus the loan on your plate mail will make you financially insoluble."
Gydian bowed his head. "I'm sorry my enemy. I...I was not fiscally prepared."
Draughast shrugged and winked his one good eye. "It's over for now. Try and return before midsummer's day, that is when our licenses expire."
Gydian slumped his shoulders, turned away and headed homeward. Times had changed. A real knight must learn to slice and cut not only his opponent, but his financial books too. It wasn't until they were half a league away that Gydian decided where he would start his first financial cuts.
He would have a retinue of none.