"You cheated," the dragon said, not un-fondly.
"Whazzat? You'll have to speak up!"
How long had they been playing? Since the old man's hair was ginger and his back unbent. Sometimes the dragon won. Sometimes the old man won. Most of the time the old man cheated.
It was the last day of summer. The dragon was savoring the light, the quality of it, filtering through the trees as the sun went down. Soon enough the world would grow colder and the dragon would burrow back to his cavern and the old man would hole up in his hut and wait out the cold and the dark. It occured to the dragon that the old man might not see the end of this winter. It was the way of humans. They came and went, mayfly-like. Until he befriended the then-boy, all those years ago, the dragon never paid them any mind. Now he was dreading coming to miss one of them.
The stake in the game was the skull of the poet Rathanar, greatest of his age. The old man had a different tale each time as to how he acquired it. They each wound through manuvers made familiar by decades of accumulated time. Ticks, tricks, inside and out. The dragon did not expect he would find another partner after the old man passed on. Not even one of his own kind.
The old man's Reanimated Spurling leapt, but too late, as the dragon countered with Song of Falling Leaves, and it clattered into an off-square. Forfeit.
"Drat!" The old man spat. And then, after a moment, "Another game?"
"Certainly," the dragon said. There were still a few hours of daylight left.