by Bobby Derie
'Twas not a hero that forged the sword, that mined the iron and smelted it, alloyed the steel and worked the billows. Not with hard labor did he labor as an apprentice for seven years, and journeyman for seven more, to present his master-piece to the guild. Nor was he the master's wife and helpmeet, who saw her husband sicken and die and be buried, to take up the hammer in her own hands.
'Twas not a hero that tracked the beast to its lair. Woodsman, hunter, suspected poacher. He dined on stags and rabbits, pheasants and grouse; moved through the wood like he was a thing of them. He had hunted bear and boar in his time, but this was a new thing. Yet there was a trail, and a stinking hole where it lay, strewn about with the bones of its victims.
'Twas not a hero who brushed his horse every morning, who fed and watered it, scooped the shit of it out of the stables, and stood up at night when it was taken with the sweats. To clear the rocks from its hooves and rub ointments into its muscles. The boy slept on straw more often than a bed, and of the two of them the horse had the better blanket.
'Twas not a hero who took a raw young prince, son of privilege, and cuffed and worked him. To scar that pride and insolence, to drill in the play of sword and lance. To build hard muscle where there had been softness, speed where there had been sloth. Veteran, grey-beard, bachelor knight, with no sons to carry on his name. Yet he trained him well.
All those that fed them, clothed them, served them; their parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews. The merchant and cleric, the miller and baker, falconer and soldier. Did they not have part, in that great and terrible dead? Perhaps it was not their hand on the sword, but there was nary a soul within 30 miles that did not have a hand in the deed.
It takes a village to kill a dragon.