Shoozle was not a dragon. He looked a bit like a dragon, but his dark red wings were feathery, rather than leathery, and his paws were big and soft and he didn’t have claws. He got a more dragonish look about him if you annoyed him though. Then he'd turn his bright eyes on you, narrow them to slits, and stare and stare until you went away, or at least changed the subject. It was rather rude, but dragons aren't expected to have good manners.
One day Shoozle was snoozing in his cave. He almost always snoozed with one eye half open, just in case anyone tried to creep up on him and steal his hoard of gold. He didn’t actually have a hoard of gold, but it seemed like the sort of thing that a dragon should do. So when the man in the grey suit with the small suitcase started up the path leading to his cave he noticed at once, and growled quietly to himself.
When the man got to the top of the path he stopped to catch his breath and cool off before he approached the cave. He knew that dragons are quick to spot signs of weakness, and he thought they might even eat you if you irritated them, especially if you looked particularly hot and tasty.
“Good morning Sir Dragon!” he said to Shoozle politely, bowing.
Shoozle opened his eyes and slowly raised his head.
“Tell me, Sir Dragon, are you ever embarrassed by your fire breathing? Ashamed of your scales? Mortified by…”
He dodged quickly to one side. A patch of grass shrivelled and smoked.
“Ah, well yes, I see that fire breathing is not a problem for you, but…” the man looked more closely at Shoozle, “perhaps the scales?”
Shoozle’s body was covered from chin to neatly pointed tail with velvety red triangles. The man set his suitcase down on the grass, opened it, took out a small green bottle and held it up.
“Just a few drops of this potion every day, and in no time at all you’ll have the shiniest, toughest scales of all the dragons in the world!”
Shoozle eyed the little bottle, then he yawned. When he’d finished yawning he spoke.
“Go away.” he said and gave the man one of his narrow-eyed looks.
The man looked surprised and a bit worried.
“But, with those velvety soft scales of yours, whatever will you do when George comes along?” he asked. “He’s got a sharp sword you know, and he doesn’t like dragons much at all. I really think you should… consider…”
Shoozle kept staring, and staring, and it’s not easy to keep on talking to a dragon, or even something very much like a dragon, when it’s staring at you like that.
“Well… perhaps… if you should… change your mind… just… let me know…”
With that the man put the little bottle away in his suitcase, and hurried off down the path.
Shoozle settled down for another snooze, careful to keep one eye half open. Which was just as well, as it meant that he spotted George’s sword glinting in the mid-day sun while he was still quite a long way away. It did look like a very long, very sharp sword, and George was heading straight for the path that led up to the cave.
When he saw this Shoozle opened both eyes, got up, and padded on his big, soft paws to the very back of the cave where he gazed down at the king’s daughter who was curled up there, fast asleep. Then he padded back out of the cave and started down the path that George was coming up.
George, seeing Shoozle, gave a loud cry of “Dragon!”, and started to run up the path towards him waving his sword. Shoozle opened his mouth and shot a blast of fire that made George duck, but he recovered quickly and began swinging his sword wildly again. At this Shoozle reared up, spreading his feathery wings, and flew into the air, circling just beyond reach. Then, suddenly, he swooped down, grabbed the sword out of George’s hand, and carried it off between his great paws, disappearing into the distance as George stared after him, empty handed and with his mouth open.
Shoozle took the sword far, far away, dropped it down a deep, deep pit and then, as the sun was setting, he returned to the cave and padded right to the back to find that the king’s daughter had woken up.
Shoozle was tired out after fighting George and flying such a long way, so he curled up next to the king’s daughter and she stroked his feathery wings, his velvety scales and his big soft paws until he fell fast asleep.