The dragon slayer surveyed the village with a practiced eye. Typical small community, a little more prosperous than most.
At least, it had been.
Dragons had moved in, devastating the herds. What little savings were at hand had been used to hire the nameless slayer.
Clouds brooded overhead, thick and gray, heavy with rain. Sniffing the chill breeze, he expected rain by the following morning. The first of the fall rains, most farmers would use this to mark the start of the harvests.
Fields lay unworked and overgrown.
He avoided the village, went straight for the cliffs. The sea lay two miles to the east, and the dragons nested in the caves. The villagers had been too scared for details, other than that there were three, but he suspected green dragons. Only greens could stand the humidity of living right on the coast.
Greens were wiry bastards, quick and agile. They were easiest to slay in their sleep, when their lairs restricted movement. A heavy lance behind the jaw severed the brain stem.
The gray day darkened, growing colder. Unseasonably cold, the slayer knew it would keep the dragons grounded. With too much cloud cover and all living things hiding, nothing favored a hunt.
For flying creatures, any way. It was a good day for him.
Long strides at the miles, and he was soon at the rocky cliff. Mists hung thick, the ground slick with salt spray. The waves below crashed and rushed with the pulse of the world.
The fishermen had made a walkway down to a tiny dock and a handful of skiffs. Drawing his axe, the slayer made his wary way down. The nest was close, and he could smell dragon in the air. No amount of storm or sea mists could cover the leathery scent of the huge creatures.
As he stalked closer, the scent of dead flesh grew stronger. Greens were very cleanly dragons, so he was surprised. The bones scattered on the rocks immediately outside the cave were also atypical. Was he dealing with rogues?
His sharp eyes handled the floor well as he worked his way into the lair. The surf crashing covered the sounds of breathing, meaning he couldn't judge their numbers yet. It also disguised his cautious footsteps.
Thirty yards in was a turn, hiding the end of the cave. He slowed further, keeping to the wall, clutching his axe tightly. Loose rocks threatened to give him away, but he had done this before.
Peering around the corner, ruby eyes glowed. ~Greetings, traitor.~
The slayer's blood ran cold, and his heart rate spiked. His extremities numb, he couldn't move as the massive red dragon extended its snout. "How do you know?" he whispered. The magic should have protected him from detection.
Hisses and slithering filled the cave. The big red stayed still, allowing three slender greens to swarm the slayer. ~Your faith in human magic is too great.~
He turned and ran. All his bravery and skill was forgotten. Claustrophobia assaulted him. Panic filled him. His lone thought was that they knew.
They'd found out he used magic to permanently become human. He'd given up flying and breathing fire to protect the little primates his kind liked to eat. His former kind. The kind that were now chasing him down.
One of the greens surged forward, snarling as it cut off his escape. Flammable saliva splattered, small fires springing up. The slayer swung his axe, and the green pulled its snout back. Human magic made great enchanted weapons.
He made it outside, headed for the skiffs. The storm was growing, and winds tore at everything. With some skilled sailing, he might escape the dragons.
A black dragon dove out of the clouds, laying a trail of fire between the slayer and the dock. He halted, and turned to make a stand.
The red emerged from the cave, spreading expansive wings. Large as a castle, the warrior dragon set fear in his heart.
~You know what they say about a woman scorned?~ The red grumbled, eyes narrowed.
He finally recognized his wife, the catalyst for becoming human. She'd tracked him down after ten years for her revenge. Releasing his axe, he submitted to her whims.
The pack of she-dragons laughed.