Loren's Staff and the Possum Who Would Be Dragon

This story was part of a fan fiction contest I did for a science fiction convention many, many years ago (198something). It won third place, and was printed in a few fanzines (which are long dead, I fear, just like this story's protagonist).
"God Damn you Bastard!" Loren cried out as the dragon missed him in a swooping dive. "I shall slay you and leave your fetid soul to rot in the Netherworld of the Dead!" He watched the moonlit silhouette of the beast arch out of the swoop, slowly turning to make a second pass. But Loren was prepared. "This time, you beastly lizard, I will make sure you will not dive so close." He gripped the staff hard, and the blue crystal upon its tip sung with a low tone. A subtle wind rose up, and the skies turned slightly darker.

The wind from the first pass had barely died when the second dive plunged the dragon towards the small figure in the valley below. The dragon was deep in thought, barley concentrating on the whole fight that seemed routine now: Kidnapping villagers brings more villagers. It seemed hardly logical at first, but it worked fine in practice. The beast had a sizeable hoard of magic swords, knightly armor, and assorted anti-dragon items captured from easy meals who welded weapons like children with oversized pitchforks. Some were comical, and some were just sad.

Loren was wiser though, at least in his own mind. The staff was made by wizards from the East, blessed by priests of the North, and manufactured from rare metals from the west. It would kill dragons, they promised. Any dragon, no matter how large, they assured. Now was a good time to test their theory. He had paid a great price for it. His journey to the East cost him two loyal henchmen, and his lone trek to the North nearly cost him his soul. The whole journey had taken Loren over fifteen years. But the second his palm touched the staff, he knew it was worth it. He would rid the valley of this wretched wyrm, and retire a hero.

As the dragon came close to dragging its belly across the valley's soil, Loren fired a bolt of dull blue from the tip of the crystal. It streaked though the dark air, leaving a jagged hot blue trail, and slammed into the collarbone of the beast.

The dragon was definitely caught by surprise, and its thoughts came to full attention as its body careened suddenly to the right. Some force had smashed into his skin, past the muscle, and shook down to its very bones. The beast's wings buckled as it crashed heavily into the ground, rolled several times, and crushed trees with resonant crunching. End over end it tumbled until it came to a rest against a large boulder near the foot of a mountain.

Loren yelped in joy, raising the staff above his head and crying out the names of several gods in thanks. The dragon had hit the earth so hard it had crushed itself with its own weight. The dragon was very still indeed when Loren rushed past the path of plowed earth and felled trees before he met the immobile bulk. The dragon was enormous, larger than most of the main square of the town the beast used to deluge. Even though it was quite still, Loren could feel the presence of the being, as he oriented himself to find the seven-chambered heart of the beast. It was still pumping, vibrating the very ground Loren walked on and the air he breathed. Pausing momentarily in the night air, he then pulled out a small sword, called out a war cry, and inserted his sword into the heart of the beast.

The dragon quickly opened its eyes and exhumed a blast of pure flame, engulfing the little warrior with a fiery cone nearly ten times his size. Loren had not even had time to see the beast's head move, and was shocked to find himself in the afterworld seconds later. Loren's body instantly blew away in a puff of ash, superheated beyond normal temperatures, leaving a fused chunk of steel armor to cool when the flame dissipated. The staff that he had gripped so tightly fell to the ground with an unsophisticated clatter; its rare metals resistant to flame, its owner not.

Dragons are not beneath playing possum, the beast thought. He picked up the staff, picked his teeth with it, and carried it back to his lair to add to the pile.

Well, sometimes the dragon wins, you know?

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