The procession wound up the shale slope, burdened by the sacrificial palanquin. Ten strong men sweated and grunted, following the druid to the dragon’s cave. White-haired and wise, the druid chanted ancient blessings, claiming dragon magic as his own.
From the woman bound on the palanquin came silence. Ramrod straight against her bonds, she looked more like a royal on parade than a stranger being taken to her doom. Eerieness radiated from her pale eyes, chilling anyone she gazed upon.
Everyone would be glad when she was delivered to the beast.
They finally reached the summit, and gratefully set the heavy wood piece down. Every five years, they had to build a dais to truss a young woman to before carrying her up to the dragon’s lair. Sacrifice was the only way to keep them all safe, so the druid said, to keep his powers strong. After this last drought, many wondered if magic was necessary. Feeding the dragon seemed a waste of a good breeder.
A roar echoed from the cave, and they all scurried away from the palanquin. No one could remember the last time the beast had immediately taken his offering.
The druid chanted louder, arms raised overhead. He moved to the center of the men, but did not retreat down the slope. This was a rare sight, and he his renewal would be greater if he witnessed the feeding.
Bristling with horns and teeth, the dragon’s head appeared from the darkness. Drool splattered from his snout, igniting in little pools on the ground. A low croon came from him, and he halted.
The woman remained fearless. The dragon moved further from his cave, and she laughed. “Yes, I am your queen.” Another croon from the dragon. “His magic fails, and he couldn’t identify me. He saw only a woman no one would miss.”
She turned slowly to glare over her shoulder. “Indeed, the pact is broken. Kill them all.” On her command, the dragon began the slaughter.