Dennis Quaid, Dina Meyer & Pete Postlethwaite
One of the lead roles
England, A.D. 934: The cruel and tyrannical Saxon King Freyne summons his young son Einon
's mentor Bowen to witness the suppression of a peasant rebellion. Though the king's troops are ultimately victorious, Freyne is killed when the rebels stage an ambush. Einon
rushes into the fray to claim his crown and is accidentally stabbed through the heart before Bowen can reach him.
Though the wound should have been fatal, the young king's mother hopes for a miracle. Queen Aislinn (Julie Christie) has her son taken to a cave in the mountains where she pleads with a shadowy figure to save the young man's life. The creature, a dragon, recognizes Aislinn as "the daughter of the Celts," whose people had revered his kind as their friends. For her sake, the dragon removes a part of its own heart and bestows it upon the boy, cauterizing the wound with a blast of fire. Einon
revives and is carried home to recover. Grateful for the dragon's sacrifice, Bowen pledges to repay his debt at a future time.
Shortly thereafter, Einon
reveals himself to be as brutal and pitiless as his father, enslaving the former rebels and forcing them to begin work rebuilding the nearby ruins of a Roman castle. As the young king gives the order to have the rebel leader blinded, Bowen intervenes and allows the man to escape. Believing that the dragon's heart is responsible for Einon
's wickedness, Bowen returns to the cave and vows to seek vengeance for the ruin of his protege.
Twelve years later, Einon
's castle is rebuilt and Bowen becomes a formidable dragon-slayer. During one dragon-hunt, the knight meets Brother Gilbert, a monk and aspiring poet. Impressed by Bowen's prowess, the priest is determined to follow him and record his heroic exploits in epic verse. The knight stalks another dragon to its cave and engages it in battle, resulting in a stalemate. The dragon shrewdly informs Bowen that he is the last of his kind, and that the dragon-slayer will have difficulty finding work if the two "pursue this fracas to its final stupidity." Since their options are either Bowen kills the dragon and is out of work, or the dragon kills Bowen and has to deal with the next knight out to make a name for himself, the dragon proposes a partnership, and the two begin defrauding local villages with staged dragon-slayings; the dragon attacks a village, Bowen offers to kill him for a fee, and pretends to spear the dragon, who then falls into a nearby lake and swims out of sight underwater. Since the dragon's name is difficult for the human tongue to pronounce, Bowen calls him "Draco", after a constellation of stars that resembles a dragon.
encounters Kara, the rebel leader's daughter, and realizes that she was responsible for his injury years before. He has her imprisoned and attempts to seduce her, but she stabs him in the shoulder with surprisingly little effect. He leaves Kara alone to consider his offer, and Queen Aislinn helps her escape. Draco feels the pain of the wound, but continues to hide the connection between himself and Einon
In her home village, Kara attempts to instigate a new uprising. When Bowen and Draco arrive the villagers offer the girl as a virgin sacrifice to appease the dragon. At Draco's lair, the dragon and knight argue about what to do with Kara as Einon
approaches and demands that she be returned to him. Bowen and Einon
duel, with the older man at a disadvantage because he is not truly willing to harm his former student. In the course of the fight, Bowen is heartbroken to realize that Einon
never changed: he was always an evil man, and he only pretended to agree with Bowen's idealism to learn the sword. When Einon
gains the upper hand, Draco intervenes and Einon
flees in terror. Kara attempts to persuade Bowen to help her overthrow the oppressive king, but the disillusioned knight refuses.
The next scam attempt goes poorly when Draco lands in shallow water, preventing him from sinking to the bottom and forcing him to fly away to avoid being eaten, leaving Bowen, Kara and Brother Gilbert in danger from angry villagers. Draco rescues the three and carries them to the island of Avalon. Taking shelter from a rainstorm amongst the tombs of the fallen Knights of the Round Table, Draco reveals that the constellation he was named after is, essentially, a dragon heaven, where dragons may go to upon death if they earn a place. He attempted to gain a place there by saving Einon
, hoping his heart would change the prince's nature and once again unite the races of Man and Dragon, but, although depressed by his failure, agrees to help Gilbert and Kara in the rebellion. Bowen initially remains behind, but when he experiences a vision of Arthur's knights, he remembers the high ideals he once tried to instill in Einon
, and agrees to join the rebellion.
During the battle between the peasants and Einon
's forces- which goes far better than the last rebellion due to Draco's firepower and Bowen's tactical expertise, the king is shot with an arrow. The resulting pain causes Draco to fall from the sky over Einon
's castle and the dragon is captured. Einon
realizes that sharing the dragon's heart renders him virtually immortal so long as no harm befalls the dragon, and determines to keep Draco alive and imprisoned indefinitely. Wanting to end her son's evil, Queen Aislinn tries to kill Draco, wanting to redeem herself for saving 'a creature not worth saving', but is stopped and killed by Einon
When the rebels invade the castle, Bowen intends to release his friend, but Draco tells Bowen that in order for Einon
's reign to end he himself must die, and begs the knight to kill him. At first, Bowen does not want to but as Einon rushes towards him, Bowen reluctantly does so. This releases Draco's soul to the dragons' heaven, where he becomes a new star in the constellation, killing Einon
in the process. The film concludes with an epilogue by Brother Gilbert stating that Bowen and Kara went on to lead the people in an era of peace and prosperity, and that, whenever things were particularly difficult, Draco's star shone all the more brightly, for those who knew where to look.