When the mighty Beowulf had been king of the Geats for fifty years, a great dragon awoke, angered by a theft from its hoard, and began to scour the land with its flame. Beowulf, though aged, was fearless, gathering only twelve men to accompany him to confront it. As he overlooked the barrow where the dragon rested, he recalled the great deeds of his life, and made his last formal boast: that if the dragon would only face him, he would fight. Beowulf clad himself in mail shirt and helmet, wary of the fire and venom on the dragon’s breath, and bore with him an iron shield and an ancient, keen-edged sword. As he went to confront the dragon, Beowulf told his men to stay back, in safety – that this fight was his alone. So Beowulf stood alone as he fought the dragon, first his shield, then his sword failing him, and he was forced to give ground.