“M’lord, what do you think of that one?” Fiskew the ever faithful squire pointed toward a back-lit cloud overhead.
Sir Robert of Trelane cocked his head, shielded his eyes from the sun’s glare, and sought the object of his squire’s interest.
“Well Fiskew, I think if one squints just right it could possibly be a wolf.”
The duo passed the long hours in the saddle between knightly adventures searching the clouds for shapes. The one who found the most interesting shape for the day would serve the other wine at dinner that evening. It was a harmless pastime although Sir Robert would never allow others of his station to know the wager of the game. The thought of a noble knight serving wine to his squire would scandalize the gentlemen of the kingdom.
“Of course it is no match for the profile of Lady Cassandra on the eastern horizon.”
Fiskew turned in the saddle and stared in the direction indicated. There, just above the horizon, was a towering cloud which did indeed perfectly form the profile of the lady in question. Her immense nose was unquestionably evident and her overdone tower of a coiffure was duplicated by swirling dark clouds. He didn’t even have to squint to see the resemblance; Sir Robert still held the lead in their game.
“Well played sir. Do you think we’ll reach Carsten Castle by tomorrow?”
Sir Robert smiled at his squire’s deflection from his poor performance in the game. The lad knew full well how long they still had to travel.
“No Fiskew, we still have two days ride. I do think we should reach the village of Ramaster this evening. Remember the last time we were there? I believe that serving wench took a fancy to you.”
Fiskew blushed at the memory. “A bit more than a fancy, m’lord. If I may be so bold, her bed’s ropes were in dire need of tensioning after my visit.”
“You dog,” Sir Robert bellowed and burst into laughter.
Sir Robert and Fiskew were an anomaly within knightly circles. Most knights were aloof and held their squires at a distance; Sir Robert looked upon Fiskew as a friend, almost as close as a brother. The duo had traveled the length and breadth of the land righting wrongs and battling evildoers. Each had saved the other’s life a hundred times over. If it were not for Fiskew’s unlucky happenstance of being born into a commoner family, Sir Robert had no doubt that the lad would have made a stellar knight.
They rode along in companionable silence for several hours until Sir Robert spotted a field of wild flowers and called for a halt to have a lunch.
The men dismounted and Fiskew busied himself with spreading a blanket, and preparing a meal of dried meats, cheeses, and fruits. He served Sir Robert and poured the knight’s wine before readying his own meal and joining his master on the blanket to dine.
“This is the life, hey Fiskew?” Sir Robert said around a mouthful of apple.
Fiskew grunted an affirmative and hastily swallowed his jerky. “No doubt. What better thing for a man than traveling the land, seeing wonders, and partaking in adventure.”
“Good show old man; oh look, it’s an elephant.” Sir Robert pointed above their heads to a round cloud with several stumpy protrusions and a long coiling wisp trailing from one end.
“Oh that’s weak sir; not even worthy of your notice. One would think you were trying to make me feel better for your victory worthy Lady Cassandra.”
“No really, it looks like an elephant.”
“Pish-posh, now if it had…” Fiskew’s voice trailed off and he stared in gape-mouthed wonder to the west.
“Bloody hell, it’s a dragon.”
He pointed toward his discovery and Sir Robert rose to his knees to turn and see. High above them to the west was a long sinuous cloud formation. The cloud was more solid than those surrounding it giving the illusion of a solid, serpentine body. Eddies in the cloud hinted a scales and a pair of wispy clouds extending from the body were perfect simulacra of webbed wings like those of a bat. The cloud creature’s head was perfectly shaped with a gaping fanged maw and curling horns spread wide above glowing eyes created by sunlight passing through the cloud. It was the most perfectly formed cloud either man had ever seen.
“My God, man; it’s perfect,” Sir Robert said. “I believe your dragon has slain my Lady Cassandra.”
“I accept your defeat,” Fiskew said with a slight bow.
“I mean, look at the way it moves,” Sir Robert rose to his feet and gestured at the cloud. “It almost seems to slither through the sky. Just the way the body holds together as the clouds undulate is spectacular and one would almost think the wings were ever so slightly moving.”
Fiskew rose to his feet as well. Sir Robert was right, the cloud did move almost like a living thing. Something was bothering Fiskew about the cloud the more he stared at it; something about it’s motion. In a flash it hit him.
“Good Lord, it’s moving opposite the other clouds.”
Sir Robert scanned the sky and then stared for a long moment at the cloud dragon. Fiskew was right, the other clouds were moving in a slow stately drift to the south while their cloud was undulating its way directly eastward.
“How odd; I’ve never encountered its like.”
The cloud dragon was almost directly overhead, still moving eastward as the men stared in wonder, when it came to an abrupt halt. The gossamer cloud wings seemed to flare and the horned head bent downward as if the creature were actually regarding the tiny humans below.
“M’lord, this does not feel natural. Perhaps retreat would be in order?”
“Nonsense Fiskew, it’s just a cloud.”
A roar, half thunder, half titanic beast, came from the cloud and both men felt their hearts stutter in their chests. The birds became silent and stillness, like that before a storm descended on the glade.
“It’s just a cloud,” Sir Robert repeated, but his voice sounded less sure; more like a child hoping that his mother would provide comfort.
The cloud beast spiraled toward the ground. It’s jaws were spread wide and its roar froze both knight and squire in fear.
Fiskew’s last thought before the monstrous teeth tore into him was how unfair it was that his master would not be serving wine to him tonight.