(Prologue-ish thing) It begins with a child being born, and a prophecy being made, and a megalomaniacal bad guy. And then a whole bunch of people (including said child’s parents) die/are killed, and we fast-forward sixteen or so years.
The child is not mistreated in any fashion by his foster parents. Nor are they rich or poor. The father is a blacksmith, perhaps, and a good one, and is teaching the child the trade. The child, for his part, is an average apprentice, neither slow nor quick to learn, and for the most part content with what his future seems to hold.
There is a dragon. But the egg comes in payment to the blacksmith, who gives it to the child, should he want it. The child is not adverse to the idea, although he quickly discovers how much work it will take to get the thing to hatch. Once the dragon hatches, it turns out to be rather stupid, ugly, and clumsy, and has no form whatsoever of telepathy or empathy or “bonding”. Basically, it’s a big fire-breathing puppy, and ends up guarding the forge.
Nothing happens. That is, there is the potential for something to happen, the child (and his foster parents, depending on the situation) keeps his head down, and things resolve themselves without any bloodshed or threat of retribution or anything like that. Child decides to keep his head down in the future.
The ‘wise old mentor’ shows up, tries to get child to leave with him. Naturally, child refuses. Mentor then presses him to at least accept lessons in sword-fighting (or something similar). Child says 'maybe', goes home, and tells the blacksmith. Blacksmith then tells of child’s arrival as a baby, brought by someone who matches (roughly) the description of the mentor. Suggests child take advantage of what’s being offered, but to be wary. Child says ‘duh, dad’. Child gets thwapped.
The smithy doesn’t get burned down, although the child isn’t sure of this—when the mentor sees soldiers coming to speak with the blacksmith, he bops the child on the head—hard—and drags him away from there. By the time the child wakes up, they’re long out of familiar territory and the child has no way to get back on his own. Which makes him mad and sad at the same time, as he’s left behind both his family and his girl. (I can’t decide how the foster parents would react to this—whether the blacksmith would go looking for the child, or whether he would stay put, figuring it’s best to give the child somewhere to come home to.)
I sort of lose the thread of events for a little while here, but there’s a rogue who does not have a hidden heart of gold. His (or her—her, I think) relationship with the child is one purely of business—service for service and nothing more. Except perhaps the extension of credit, since she knows the child is honest and will uphold his end of the bargain.
There is also a princess—who is actually only a duchess—but she is sallow-skinned, arrogant, and a competent manager and political player. And has been betrothed since she was five—a necessary political marriage, and one she will not break. She may be selfish in petty things, but she would not even consider doing something which might injure her country. She thinks the child is low-class but not useless; the child thinks she’s a cold-hearted bitch, but knows she has a place both as a political player and as a playing-piece.
The mentor hooks up with a bunch of people who are unhappy with the current state of things, intending to depose the current ‘usurper’ and replace him with the child. Child tries to figure out how to say ‘hell no’ and still get home in one piece.
There’s some sort of attack on the usurper, and the child is supposed to battle him man to man (remember that stupid prophecy, way back at the beginning?). He has been told that the man murdered the child’s parents. This information doesn’t exactly have the intended effect, as the child argues that his parents are still very much alive, thank you, and probably worried sick over his whereabouts. This protest is ignored (of course), and the child is shoved out in front with a ‘special’ sword. It doesn’t have very good balance, and he can tell it’s poorly tempered (blacksmith’s apprentice would notice that). In the attack, the child either gives warning of the attack (somehow), or simply stands aside.
The child, after the attack is squashed, is taken to meet the usurper, who turns out to be neither megalomaniacal nor particularly evil. He explains that the child’s parents were either themselves usurpers (as was France in Henry V) or rabid supports of one. And then he asks the child what he would do if he had complete and utter freedom of action—even to the point of striking the (not-really) usurper down. The child answers with almost no hesitation (for the world is a wide place, and he has seen only a tiny portion of it), ‘go home’.
So he does.