A young wizarding apprentice is sent to kill a dragon which has been devouring girls from a nearby kingdom.
A King has made a pact with a dragon where he sacrfices virgins to it, and the dragon leaves his kingdom alone. An old wizard, and his keen young apprentice volunteer to kill the dragon and attempt to save the next virgin in line, the King's own daughter.
- Dragonslayer opens with a small group of villagers journeying to a lonely tower in a place called Cragganmore. This tower is home to a powerful and kindly old sorcerer named Ulrich (Sir Ralph Richardson). Ulrich's manservant, Hodge (Sydney Bromley) answers the knock and turns them away. He tells them he knows that the villagers have travelled far and are on urgent business but Ulrich will still not see them. One of the villagers asks the leader of the group, a young man named Valerian (Caitlin Clarke) what they will do now. From the villager, it is implied that Valerian is the one who was certain that they could turn to Ulrich for help with their problems and organized the small group to come to the tower.
Valerian boldly steps forward and shouts out to Ulrich that he and his group will not leave the doorstep of the tower until they are heard. Glancing to his right, Valerian spots Ulrich's apprentice, Galen (Peter MacNicol) looking back at the group through a window. Galen goes to his master, who is in a magical trance, and rouses him from it, telling him they have visitors. Ulrich responds that he knows they are there, and that the business they have come on is truly dire. He then shares a bit of disturbing news with Galen: Ulrich has foreseen his own death.
Valerian and his group are brought into the tower while Ulrich and Galen prepare to greet them. Ulrich and Galen talk as they attire themselves appropriately. Ulrich says his outfit is the same as that worn by his own master before he died, and he had once changed lead into gold, a feat Ulrich could never duplicate -- Galen would stand to inherit a fortune. Galen is disturbed by Ulrich's prattling, because he doesn't want to see his master die. But Ulrich says he welcomes it. His life as a sorcerer, he feels, has accomplished little. He asks Galen how his studies are going and if he truly still wishes to be a sorcerer. Galen says he wishes it more than anything.
Ulrich and Galen appear before the villagers with a lot of pomp and circumstance that leaves them a little non-plussed. Ulrich asks Valerian to identify himself. Stepping forward, Valerian starts to explain why they are here, and Ulrich says he already knows that the group has traveled from Urland to see him. Ulrich sits at a stone table and asks to see the artifacts.
Valerian slides a pack to Ulrich, who pulls out a couple of scales. He asks Valerian how he came by them, and Valerian says he found them at the foot of 'the lair.' Ulrich asks what else Valerian brought, and the young man pulls out what he says is a claw-- this 'claw' being nearly as long as Valerian's forearm from elbow to wrist. Ulrich stares in surprise and says that the object is no claw, but a tooth. He asks if the villagers truly expect him to do battle with the creature the villagers fear-- a dragon. Valerian listens to the short list of wizards and sorcerers that Ulrich suggests and flatly responds that they are all dead. Ulrich is the only one left.
Valerian goes on to state that twice each year, at the spring and autumn equinoxes, the king of Urland selects a new 'victim--' a young maiden at the cusp of young adulthood, still virgin, and offers her to the dragon as a sacrifice. Ulrich knows that the selection is done by lottery, calling it barbaric. He muses how the dragon leaves the villages of the kingdom live in peace in return for these sacrifices, and says the king has made a pact with a monster.
In response to Valerian's challenging question on whether he fears dragons, Ulrich says that it is because of sorcerers that dragons exist. The skies used to be dotted with them, and they were noble, majestic creatures. He knows the dragon to whom the scales belong-- it is called Vermithrax. Looking over the scales closely, he explains why Vermithrax forces Urland to sacrifice virgins to it in return for not destroying them-- Vermithrax has reached a venerable old age, older than many dragons normally live to, and has grown feeble and decrepit. It lives a life of constant pain, which has made it spiteful and vengeful toward anything that lives.
Ulrich has donned a traveling pack and taken up his staff, to journey with Valerian and his fellow villagers back to Urland. But an unpleasant surprise is waiting for them outside the tower-- Tyrian, captain of the royal guard (John Hallam). Valerian is immediately confrontational with Tyrian, who says he doesn't question Valerian traveling, even far from Urland-- his concern is the visit to a sorcerer. He knows that Valerian has come here to ask for Ulrich's aid in slaying Vermithrax. Tyrian claims to have no love for Vermithrax, but before he consents to an attempt to slay the dragon, he wants assurances that Valerian has found a suitable challenger. He gives a long diatribe about how and why sorcerers don't prove their true power in front of a doubter.
Ulrich determines to silence all argument. He doffs his amulet and orders Galen to return it to the conjuring room, and then bring out a dagger that is there. He then tells Tyrian that he will have his test. Galen tosses the dagger out of the conjuring room's window, where Ulrich hands it to Tyrian. who satisfies himself that the dagger is sharp. Giving a brief incantation, Ulrich opens his tunic and puts the point of the dagger to his chest, where his heart is. He is offering Tyrian to test him by stabbing him through the heart with the dagger. Seeing this, Galen starts to rush out of the tower, but all the doors and windows quickly shut, trapping him inside. Outside, Ulrich assures Tyrian that he cannot hurt him. Tyrian stares at Ulrich for a moment, then takes hold of the sorcerer's shoulder to brace himself, and thrusts the dagger home.
Everyone stares for a minute as Ulrich simply looks up at the window from which Galen tossed out the dagger. Then, slowly, without a word, he falls to his knees and then to the ground, dead. Disgusted but also smug, Tyrian signals to his soldiers, who leave the tower wordlessly. Inside the tower, Galen slumps in grief, seeing his master slain. He is oblivious to the tower windows and doors all re-opening.
The Urland villagers watch as Galen tends to his master's funeral, properly attiring the body and burning it on a pyre. The villagers look at the fire for a moment, seeing that it burns green. Then, as one, they turn and start to hasten on their way.
Hodge gathers the ashes into a pouch, showing he has quickly lost all faith in Ulrich having ever been a true sorcerer. Galen goes through his chores in the conjuring room, still in shock over his master's death. He finds Ulrich's amulet on the table beside him, which is baffling to the young apprentice because he put it in a small chest. He opens the chest, finding it empty, and puts the amulet back inside, placing a rock over the lid. Resuming his chores, he finds the amulet suddenly in front of him again.
Galen and Hodge are walking through the countryside, Hodge rambling a series of complaints about his treatment over his long years of service. Galen uses a few magic feats to silence him. He tells Hodge he had plenty of respect for his master, but he is the one who is master now.
The Urland villagers are camping for the night while en route back home. Greil (Albert Salmi) is very bitter at all that has transpired, tearing into Valerian for having led them to Cragganmore. Valerian, on the other hand, does not defend himself; he feels Greil is right. He led Greil and the other villagers to Ulrich for nothing.
Suddenly the villagers react to some disturbance, though they cannot identify it just yet. A flash issues from the campfire, and Galen and Hodge are there. Galen boldly tells the Urland villagers that he will fulfill the task they came to Ulrich for; as the inheritor of Ulrich's craft and knowledge, he will serve their needs as the sorcerer they sought.
The need of the Urland villagers is then shown as group of royal guard are bringing Vermithrax another sacrifice (Yolande Palfrey). She is dressed in a white gown with a garland of white flowers around her head, and she is chained with heavy steel manacles. The horse pulling the cart carrying the woman stops and fusses incessantly, refusing to proceed further. Soldiers place a hood over the terrified young woman's head and half-pull, half-drag her to a tall ceremonial stake driven into the ground. A ring in her shackles is placed through a hook at the top of the stake, so her arms are raised above her head, as the king's minister recites a proclamation about her sacrifice being for the greater good of Urland, and her father will be recompensed for the loss of his daughter by being exempt from royal taxes for five years. Midway through the diatribe, the ground begins to shake, prompting everyone to flee, leaving the frightened sacrifice to her fate-- and leaving the hapless horse that drew the cart she was transported in, as well.
The young woman manages to pull the hood off of her head as the soldiers, servants and minister clear away from Vermithrax's lair. Struggling in desperate terror against her manacles, she manages to wrench one wrist free, nearly shattering it in the process. But it is too late-- one massive claw emerges from the entrance to the lair. Then the dragon's massive head. Thrashing and pulling wildly, the young lady finally wrenches her other wrist through the manacle, crushing her wrist and hand, and turns to flee from the dragon. But even in its old age and decrepit state, Vermithrax can cover far more ground with each step than the sacrificial victim. Overtaking her easily, the ancient dragon arrests her flight with its tail. The petrified girl can only huddle against the lair wall and scream in anguish as Vermithrax incinerates her with a blast of its fiery breath.
Valerian awakes abruptly at daybreak and quietly steps away from the camp. Galen awakes a short bit later and wanders over to a nearby lake to bathe. He finds Valerian there, ordering Galen away urgently. Valerian is very insistent on not sharing the lake with Galen, or being seen while bathing. Galen dives into the water and is swimming toward Valerian underwater. Drawing close, Galen finds out why Valerian was so intent on driving Galen away. He shoots up to the surface, choking on water at the shock of what he'd seen-- Valerian is in fact a young woman, not a man. Still overtaken by the shock, neither of them notices Tyrian lurking nearby. Tyrian does not notice the secret Valerian has been hiding, but he notices Galen there, and he isn't pleased. He orders a retainer to fetch him his bow.
Galen and Valerian are dressing, and Galen is trying to promise he will tell nobody what he's seen. Valerian only blames her own carelessness. She mentions that nobody has ever known the truth about her, except only her father, since the day she was born. Galen realizes she's referring to the lottery-- daughters are chosen, but sons are not. Valerian then remarks that noble families, paying enough in bribes, are never entered into the lottery-- to say nothing of the king's own daughter, Princess Elspeth (Chloe Salaman). Valerian's father, on the other hand, is a simple blacksmith, and poor... as are many of the fathers of eligible young women.
As Valerian leaves the lake, Galen notices a small flock of birds startled by something. Looking around, he gazes into the lake's reflective surface, and sees a vision of Tyrian approaching on horseback with soldiers, and Tyrian drawing his bow in ambush. Galen rushes back toward camp, frantically calling to Hodge... but it is too late; Hodge has been shot through the chest with an arrow and is mortally wounded. As he dies, he cryptically tells Galen to take the pouch with Ulrich's ashes, find a lake of burning water, and throw the ashes in. Galen tries to use his amulet to save Hodge, but fails.
Galen and party sail in a small boat back to Urland. As they disembark on the Urland shore, Tyrian and his men are still following from a distance and watching. The party continues along a trail on foot, Valerian impatiently trying to get Galen to keep moving. But when she mentions they are near Vermithrax's lair, Galen stops and moves off the trail, saying (over Valerian's protest that they are safe if they keep moving) that he wants to see the lair. Valerian and Greil must reluctantly gather the rest of the villagers and follow.
Poking around the lair's entrance, Galen finds the chains that had been used to bind the sacrificed maiden, and dripping water around the entrance that becomes steam as it hits the floor. He inquires if there are other entrances, and is told there are none. Valerian and Greil angrily try to convince Galen to leave Vermithrax alone, but Galen pays no attention, starting to venture into the cavern. He picks up another shed scale and then hears a brief rumble. A gout of smoke from deeper in the cave satisfies Galen that Vermithrax is in the lair. Emerging quickly, Galen drops his cloak to the ground and pulls his amulet out from under his shirt. Holding it up, he recites an arcane chant. At first, nothing appears to happen, but Galen continues to concentrate and his amulet begins to glow. Slowly at first, several rocks begin to fall from the top of the cliff face. A full scale rockslide is triggered, burying the entrance in tons of rock and rubble. Everyone is forced to leap for cover as the rockslide collapses the cliffside, further sealing off the entrance to the lair. As they all emerge, Valerian excitedly shouts that Galen has done it-- he's saved Urland.
Back at the village, a celebration is underway regaling its hero. Galen performs some slight-of-hand tricks to amuse the village children. Dragon effigies are burned, musicians play, and the villagers dance and make merry... all except one.
In the attic of her home, Valerian is holding up a mirror in front of herself... and holding a dress against the front of her body. As she turns the mirror for a better view, her father notices and hurries to get her to put the dress away back in the trunks in the attic, warning that she might be seen.
Being seen is exactly what Valerian now wants. Tired of continuing the masquerade, Valerian dons the dress, with a headdress and sandals, and boldly steps outside into the village as her true self. The celebration stops, everyone turning and staring as some of the children start to gather around Valerian, trying to touch her arms as if not quite sure that what they are seeing is real.
Galen quickly comes up to Valerian and takes her hand. He calls out to the musicians, who begin to play again. Galen takes Valerian's hand and leads her into a dance. Slowly a few of the villagers start to join, and then more, and finally the celebration resumes in full swing. Greil, drinking with a friend, is thoughtful; wishing he'd been as clever as Valerian's father. Greil is also wondering how it is that a priest came to the village at the very moment of Galen's triumph.
The village's celebration is cut short at the arrival of Tyrian and several soldiers. Tyrian announces that King Casiodorus (Peter Eyre) wishes to meet Galen in person. Galen is deeply suspicious as to the nature of the 'gratitude' that Galen says the king wishes to show, but Tyrian (a bit sternly) says that if he'd been sent to kill Galen he'd have done it already-- the king wishes merely to meet Galen and speak to him.
Galen is brought before the king and his court in the royal castle, to give a demonstration of his skill in sorcery. King Casiodorus is neither amused nor impressed at the paltry display of tricks, and finally starts to explain to Galen about his brother, King Gazerick. Gazerick assembled a whole army and rode out to do battle with Vermithrax, but the dragon slaughtered the entire army and then went on a rampage across the countryside, incinerating whole fields and villages. Death and famine followed in the dragon's wake until Casiodorus instituted the lottery and began offering the sacrifice of young maidens. Vermithrax became appeased and ceased its attacks on the villages.
Casiodorus notices the bulge under Galen's shirt and pulls the amulet away, angrily confronting Galen for toying with such a dangerous beast. He justifies the lottery and the sacrifices by pointing to the hundreds of lives that are saved in the process. But Galen, adhering to his master's beliefs, tells the king that he cannot make a shameful peace with a monster like Vermithrax, which, as Galen insists, is now dead. Casiodorus merely says, 'we shall see' before ordering that Galen be imprisoned in the royal dungeons.
At the dragon's lair, rocks and stones all about the destroyed cliff face begin to smoke and smolder.
Galen draws a small pentagram in chalk on the floor of his dungeon cell and tries to use his magic to escape, but fails. Suddenly he hears a voice behind him; translating his words-- it is Princess Elspeth, who, as she tells Galen, is schooled in both Latin (the language Galen spoke in) and Greek. Elspeth begs Galen not to view her father and royal court as the same kind of monsters as Vermithrax. She insists that despite the loss of life and seeming cruelty of the lottery, her father, as king, must protect his people. But Galen counters by pointing out that Casiodorus is also protecting Elspeth. He confronts her with his knowledge that the wealthy noble families pay bribes so that their daughters are exempt from the lottery. He is surprised to find that Elspeth truly knows nothing of her father's plans -- her protests to the contrary sound very genuine. Elspeth excuses herself as the countryside begins to experience tremors.
Elspeth goes to confront her father on what she's learned. She had thought that her name had been included in every lottery since she came of age. Casiodorus, busy trying to study Galen's amulet and trying to turn lead into gold, pays only minimal attention to his daughter and his attempts to assure her that she had been in every lottery the same as all other young women in the village, are all in vain-- Elspeth sees through him immediately and confronts him for lying to her. Angry at Elspeth, Casiodorus snaps his head up to confront her... but the whole kingdom is struck by an earthquake that tells everyone that all is anything but well.
Elspeth goes back to the dungeon and opens up the cell so Galen can escape. Tyrian promptly spots Galen and organizes his men to try and stop him. Galen acquires a horse and escapes through a wall that collapses in front of him. He passes by Casiodorus, who calls him a fool-- the earthquake can only mean one thing... Vermithrax is still alive... and very angry.
The priest, Brother Jacobus (Ian McDiarmid) leads the Urland villagers to the buried lair and tries to lead them in prayer, asking God to throw Lucifer back down into the depths of Hell, but the prayer is useless -- fire erupts from the ground as Vermithrax emerges. Everyone flees except Brother Jacobus, and Greil, who hides behind a rock and watches Vermithrax emerge through a fissure in the ground. Brother Jacobus brazenly confronts Vermithrax, who is completely unimpressed with the priest, proving so with a blast of fiery breath that burns the man to death.
Vermithrax then flies out to punish the village and its people. Galen sees the village being set ablaze as Vermithrax unleashes its wrath before flying off again.
Morning comes, and Tyrian and his men ride into the village. Knowing that Galen was brought to the village by Valerian, they storm her home, looking to see if Galen is being sheltered there. Tyrian tells Valerian's father that since his 'son' has proven to be a daughter, she will now be entered in the next lottery, which the king has called for immediately in an attempt to appease Vermithrax. Valerian, however, is unafraid. Feeling guilty at all the maidens who died while she lived, she is determined to face the jeopardy and risk with all the other eligible maidens.
The soldiers do not find Galen anywhere in the blacksmith's home, and leave. The one place they didn't check is a secret alcove underneath (and concealed by) the blacksmith's anvil. Valerian and her father tilt the anvil with iron rods to let Galen out, and he asks Valerian's father if he has ever forged a great weapon.
The blacksmith has indeed forged a mighty weapon... one he has kept hidden away at the bottom of a waterfall. He goes to retrieve it and finish perfecting its edge so Galen can try to slay Vermithrax properly this time. The weapon is a huge, masterfully crafted spear that the blacksmith has named Dragonslayer. He shows that the weapon's blade is capable of shaving metal off of a horseshoe. Valerian, however, is still not satisfied. Vermithrax is far more than mere flesh and blood, and nobody has ever wounded it before. Galen says that she is right. He needs the amulet.
Nighttime comes, and all the villagers gather at the castle for the lottery. Valerian is taken and placed in a roped-off section where all the nervous young women wait to see which of them will be chosen to die. The lots are all placed into a massive iron cauldron and stirred with a long rod. The king's minister, Horsrik (Roger Kemp), pulls a lot and recites the royal proclamation as precursor to identifying the chosen sacrifice.
However as Horsrik prepares to read the name, he suddenly freezes and falls silent. The villagers impatiently chant for him to read the name on the lot. Casiodorus calls for silence and tells Horsrik to read the name. Swallowing nervously, Horsrik announces that the chosen sacrifice is... Princess Elspeth, the king's daughter.
King Casiodorus leaps to his feet, taking the lot from Horsrik, stammering in a completely unconvincing tone that Horsrik misspoke; the name on the lot is in fact illegible and he will personally draw a new lot. The whole of the villagers, following Valerian, all protest that no mistake was made and the name should stand.
Ignoring the outraged cries from Valerian and the other villagers, Casiodorus draws another tile, staring at it in shock. At that moment the most unlikely of saviors steps forward... Elspeth herself. Taking the tile from her father's hand, she raises a hand to quiet the villagers and says that there is no mistake; the name on the tile is her own.
Now desperate, Casiodorus rummages through the cauldron. All of the tiles bear only his daughter's name and none others. Outraged, he declares the whole lottery invalid... but Elspeth demurs. She declares to the whole of the kingdom that she has replaced the names of all the maidens in the kingdom with her own, but this does not make the lottery invalid, but valid; she has learned that her father has secretly excluded her from participation in the lottery. Her heart aching for all the young girls who died while she lived on, she is seeking to atone by stepping forth and laying her own life down as the next sacrifice. Everyone is still and silent as they look up at the Princess. Some are sympathetic, some are sad, but all admire and respect the bold sacrifice she has chosen to make.
Back inside the castle, Casiodorus makes a desperate appeal to Tyrian, saying that if not for him, to do something for the good of the kingdom. But Tyrian says simply that loyalty to the kingdom is his first duty, and that is not the solution to his king's troubles... but the crux of it.
Having snuck into the castle during the lottery, Galen searches for his amulet. His search proves fruitless-- and costly, as Tyrian and his men suddenly swarm into the throne room and surround him. Casiodorus orders them to stand down. Over the protests of Tyrian and Horsrik, the king speaks to Galen not as ruler of Urland, not as heartless executor of the lottery... but as the loving father of a young daughter who is about to die. There was one element to the lottery that Casiodorus desperately hoped would work to the favor of the whole of the kingdom... time. He knew that Vermithrax was an extremely old dragon. The lotteries and sacrifices were meant to wait it out until Vermithrax finally died from old age, whereupon the lotteries could be stopped and no more maidens had to die. But now the king has run out of time; his own daughter is the next sacrifice. He has placed Galen's amulet around his own neck. Removing it, he returns it to Galen and begs him to save Elspeth.
Galen is with Valerian and her father, preparing for battle. The blacksmith muses about Elspeth's being the next sacrifice, clearly in admiration of her. He is stoking the fire in his forge to temper Dragonslayer. But Galen says the forge fires will not suffice. He draws out his amulet and recites an incantation that heats the blade of the spear until it glows brilliantly with heat. As the spear's blade is rested on the anvil and the blacksmith begins working on it with his hammer, neither he nor Galen see Valerian discretely taking up a basket and quietly leaving the workshop. She goes to Vermithrax's lair and begins gathering more shed scales. She starts to venture into the outer mouth of the lair itself... and as she bends to take another scale, something lunges out of the shadows at her.
The blacksmith has finished tempering the spear, and Galen finds it can shear off the anvil's solid steel horn. He and Galen have noticed by now that Valerian is gone, and they think she simply didn't want to be there when Galen left for what was likely the last time. The blacksmith gives him an emotional farewell, offering to say goodbye on his behalf, to Valerian.
Galen takes up Dragonslayer and goes to Vermithrax's lair. He is met there by Valerian, who has sewn the dragon scales she collected together into a shield, which she hopes might offer protection from the dragon's terrible fiery breath. Valerian's farewell to Galen is far colder than the one her father gave. She believes that Galen is going to be ripped apart by Vermithrax and she'll never see him again, and he'll have accomplished nothing. She also has found out that Vermithrax is not alone in the lair... it is raising and nursing a small brood of baby dragons, which Galen knows will also have to be killed.
Valerian asks Galen, bluntly, if he is in love, and he says he is. Valerian responds that she understands and doesn't care-- she, too, admires Elspeth's bravery and acknowledges her striking beauty. Moreover, she believes that Galen will by dead by the end of the night, and Valerian herself might be dead soon after-- Vermithrax will go on another rampage, more lotteries will be held, and she has abandoned her masquerade of living as a young man... and as a virgin she is eligible for the lotteries. Galen sits down beside her and tells her that she is mistaken about one thing... he is in love, but not with Elspeth. He leans in toward Valerian and begins to kiss her.
Night falls. The sacrificial stake is being hammered back into place as the wagon arrives with Elspeth, adorned in the sacrificial white gown and garland of flowers; her wrists in heavy steel manacles. She shakes her head no as Horsrik approaches with the black hood; she wishes to look the beast in the face. The ring in her chains is placed on the stake's hook as Horsrik begins to read the proclamation of sacrifice. He barely gets past the opening of it when the parchment flares blue and begins to burn, forcing him to drop it. This was no dragon fire, but magical fire... conjured by Galen. A cloud of smoke flares in front of Elspeth, and Galen is standing in front of her, spear and shield at the ready. Horsrik and the royal retinue all flee at Galen's presence.
All except one... Tyrian. His first loyalty is to the kingdom of Urland, and he still believes in the necessity of the lottery. He is ready to defend Elspeth's sacrifice with his very life; Galen must kill him if he wishes to save her. But Galen says he doesn't need the sacrifice to want to kill Tyrian-- he has plenty of reasons for killing him that have nothing to do with Elspeth or the dragon. Casting aside his shield, he readies his spear, as Tyrian draws his sword. Elspeth shouts in vain for Galen to withdraw. She also believes that her sacrifice is necessary for the good of the kingdom. She proves this in no uncertain terms when Galen suddenly disengages from Tyrian and swings his massive spear toward her manacles, slicing through the chains, and ordering her to run. But Elspeth, taking advantage of the battle, turns and bravely marches straight into Vermithrax's lair. The princess is heard uttering a brief scream that is quickly silenced, and Tyrian, leaning against the sacrificial stake, mocks Galen for his failure. His scorn comes at the expense of Tyrian's own life, as Galen suddenly thrusts Dragonslayer forward, smashing clean through the thick wooden stake and impaling Tyrian.
Taking up the shield again, and a torch, Galen ventures into the lair. He doesn't get very far when he finds, to his dismay, the terrible fate of Princess Elspeth. He finds one of her slippers in the outer mouth of the lair. Further in, Elspeth lies dead on the ground; Vermithrax's young chewing on her body. Although nauseated, he kills them all before venturing forward.
Deep inside the lair, Galen finds a huge underground lake; fire burning all around as if the very water itself was burning. As he jumps across a path of stones jutting from the lake, the water behind him begins to bubble. Looking down, he catches a reflection in the water's surface and whirls to find himself face to face with Vermithrax. Rising up to a size that towers well above Galen, the ancient dragon spreads its wings and draws its head back. Galen ducks down and huddles behind his shield as Vermithrax releases its blast of fiery breath at the young sorcerer. The shield sizzles and smokes but protects Galen from harm.
Looking to get into a better position, Galen leads Vermithrax on a chase through the lair. Vermithrax tries more than once to destroy the trespasser with its fiery breath, but the shield fashioned of its own shed scales continues to protect Galen. But Galen makes a bad mistake when he rushes past Elspeth's body with Vermithrax still in pursuit. The dragon pauses, turns, and notices its young, freshly killed by Galen. The dragon is enraged and rushes in pursuit of the one who slaughtered its offspring.
Vermithrax finds Galen's shield propped up against a rock face. Thinking Galen is hiding behind it, the dragon moves forward for the kill. But Galen has set a trap-- he is standing on a ledge well above the tunnel that Vermithrax is emerging from. As Vermithrax's head and long neck begin to poke into the cave, Galen leaps right onto the back of Vermithrax's neck and plunges the spear deep into its hide. He stabs Vermithrax repeatedly as the massive beast thrashes about wildly. It manages to pitch Galen off and down to the floor, and snakes its massive head out to bite him in half. But Galen is ready with Dragonslayer, and drives the massive spear blade into Vermithrax's throat. Vermithrax bellows in agony as it pitches and flails about. The dragon's thrashing breaks the steel head of the spear off of the wooden shaft, leaving the blade still firmly lodged in its neck. Galen snatches up his shield, backing out toward the mouth of the lair as Vermithrax looses another massive blast of fire at him.
Valerian is sitting outside the lair when she feels the ground shake. Going to investigate, she finds the shield and the broken shaft of the spear. A short distance away is Galen; bloodied, eyes closed, unconscious... but to her profound relief, he opens his eyes slowly and tells her that he's still alive, but Vermithrax is as well.
Valerian brings Galen back to her home and nurses his wounds. Growing emotional, she begs Galen to leave Urland with her. If he truly loves her, as he says he did, their best hope to be happy together is to give up their current lives and travel to another kingdom to begin over again. Valerian's father agrees with her, telling Galen that magic and sorcery are dying out, which will naturally bring about the end of dragonkind, and he is happy with it. Galen and Valerian cannot hope for any kind of good life in Urland.
As the two begin to set out, Valerian's father gives her a final gift: A small metal crucifix on a leather thong for her to wear around her neck. She hugs him gratefully as she and Galen set off. Greil, having joined the priesthood after the death of Brother Jacobus, rings a bell calling all the villagers to prayer, and the blacksmith turns and goes to pray with the other villagers.
Galen and Valerian are getting on a small rowboat with the few belongings they've brought with them. Galen suddenly pauses, looking up at the sky. Valerian follows his gaze to a curious sight she doesn't understand; the planets are coming into a rare alignment, and the moon is approaching the sun for a solar eclipse. Looking down suddenly, Galen sees the reflection of the sun on the water; as if the huge lake was burning. Suddenly he begins to understand. The burning water and lake of fire, as Hodge had said before he died, was all part of Ulrich's plan. He races back toward Vermithrax's lair, Valerian running behind him, completely bewildered and frightened.
As they run, back in the village, Greil, leading the people in prayer, asks the village to come together and appeal to God to strike down Vermithrax.
As Galen arrives at the dragon's lair, Valerian leaps suddenly, grabbing at his legs and tackling him to the ground, to try and stop him from killing himself. Galen finally explains that Ulrich, old and growing physically weak, couldn't make the journey to the lair on foot... so he had them make the journey for him.
Inside the lair, Galen lights a torch. Valerian insists on coming along with him, although the sight of Elspeth's body, partially eaten by Vermithrax's young, shakes her courage. Galen makes his way to the lake of fire where he first encountered Vermithrax, and opens the pouch containing his master's ashes, scattering them into the burning water with an arcane incantation. The fire all throughout the cavern chamber goes out, and Galen's amulet begins to glow. A small patch of green flame rises from the water and begins to move slowly toward Galen. The flame begins to spin around in a small vortex that coalesces into a shape. Ulrich appears inside the flame and approaches Galen.
Overcome with relief at being reunited with his master, Galen sadly tells Ulrich that he believes he's failed. He feels he hadn't been strong, as Ulrich said he would be... but Ulrich disagrees, saying he'll be stronger yet. But for now, they have much to do.
As if to lend emphasis to Ulrich's words, Greil, back in the village, begins baptizing the villagers as Christians. Two young children peek outside and find Vermithrax flying through the air, readying itself for battle.
Valerian finds her way out of the cave and spots Vermithrax perched on a high outcropping of rock. The dragon sniffs the air as Ulrich and Galen start to emerge. Vermithrax knows that it must fight for its life. It catches sight of Ulrich from afar and the two stare at each other briefly before Vermithrax takes wing again.
Valerian finds her way back to Galen, finding Ulrich returned. He looks at her knowingly, recognizing her for who she was when she first came to see him, as he fingers the crucifix she now wears. Ulrich tells Galen that he has one more dire task ahead of him. He must destroy the amulet... and Ulrich along with it. Galen brought Ulrich back from out of the flame, and he must also send Ulrich back. Ulrich tells Galen that he will know the right moment, and must act while Ulrich still lives. The solar eclipse darkens the skies as Ulrich teleports up to the top of a mountain to face Vermithrax.
Standing high on the mountaintop, Ulrich raps the ground with his staff, summoning a storm. Massive dark clouds cover the already dark sky as lightning and wind begin to rage. Galen and Valerian climb partway up the mountain and find a small alcove for shelter. They see Ulrich gesture, and the winds suddenly begin to calm as Galen's amulet begins to pulse. Vermithrax appears in the sky, at first so distant he appears as a mere speck among the clouds. Ominously he swoops down and begins to soar around the peak where Ulrich awaits.
As Vermithrax swoops past Ulrich, the sorcerer barely ducking out of reach of its terrible talons, Valerian picks up a rock and puts it on the mountain face, telling Galen to smash the amulet as Ulrich told him. But Galen says that Ulrich also told him he'd know the right time... and he knows this isn't it.
Vermithrax loops around for another dive at Ulrich, who points his staff and gestures, causing lightning to streak out of the clouds and smite the ancient dragon. Vermithrax is briefly knocked from the sky, falling ponderously, before recovering and regaining flight. It dives and rakes Ulrich with a claw, knocking the sorcerer to the ground; his shoulder bloodied. Ulrich struggles to his feet, looking at his wound, when suddenly Vermithrax is hovering in the air behind and above him. The dragon blasts Ulrich with a gout of fiery breath. Ulrich barks an incantation, and is unharmed by the flame, but his staff is burning, and Ulrich casts it aside.
Valerian, seeing this, grabs the amulet from around Galen's neck and puts it on the rock she's prepared. She picks up another large stone and raises it above her head to smash the amulet. Galen grabs her arms and they struggle briefly over the rock; Galen urgently telling Valerian, 'Not yet.'
Vermithrax climbs high into the skies, above the heavy tempest clouds, obscuring him from view. Ulrich waits on the mountaintop for it to strike again. Finally Vermithrax turns and dives, air rushing past its massive wings like a gale. Ulrich faces the beast down, spreading his arms wide-- just as Vermithrax seizes the aged sorcerer in its claw and soars back up toward the clouds with him.
Pulling the rock away from Valerian, Galen goes to the amulet. He lifts the rock, hesitating briefly as he looks on it. Ulrich, still grasped in Vermithrax's claw, calls out to him. Taking a breath, Galen smashes the rock down on the amulet, destroying it.
Ulrich's body detonates in a massive explosion that destroys Vermithrax in mid-air. Galen and Valerian watch as the dragon's body plunges from the sky, deep into a great lake. The force of impact and the heat from the dragon's still-smoldering corpse leaves a massive crater that displaces the water from the lake basin. Slowly the cloud cover breaks and the eclipse passes, brightening the skies once again.
As Galen and Valerian make their way back down the mountain, they find Greil leading the villagers to the site of Vermithrax's body. Greil takes the dragon's death as a sign of deliverance by God. As the priest leads the villagers in prayers of thanks, a royal coach arrives bearing King Casiodorus. Taking up a broadsword, Casiodorus goes to Vermithrax's body and drives the blade of the sword into the remains of the great beast's head as Horsrik calls out for all to hail Casiodorus Rex, Dragon Slayer. With the king taking credit for the death of Vermithrax, and the people of Urland turning to God and embracing Christianity, the age of magic-- and dragons-- has come to an end.
Galen and Valerian have resumed their journey out of Urland, to find a new life together. Galen has resigned himself to his new life as an ex-sorcerer and common man. Valerian knows he will miss Ulrich; not just as his master, but as a great friend and father figure. But unlike Galen, Valerian is very glad that the amulet is destroyed and gone. She tells Galen that he may not be a sorcerer anymore, but it matters nothing to her, as long as she has him. Galen takes comfort in her love for him... but then wishes that the two of them just had a horse.
No sooner does Galen voice this wish when a beautiful white horse trots into view behind them over the edge of the hill. Valerian turns and stares, completely dumbfounded, as Galen can only give a huge, goofy grin. Dragonslayer comes to a close, the credits beginning to play as Galen and Valerian ride on the horse's back, continuing on their journey.