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Fantasy Fiction Adventure

Water trickling from aged stalactites landed on the dragon’s resting head. Droplets collected on his scales, glistening in the scarce sunlight, and puddling against the cave walls.

Curled up like a fat cat on a rug, the dragon lay in pure serenity with the riches of the world surrounding him.

Each item was meticulously stacked on top of one another and the dragon was often rearranging them to pass the time.

The dragon once reveled in the adrenaline rush destruction gave him, and that cruelty earned him an unprecedented hoard. The beast fondly recalled the pathetic jabs from pitchforks, the defeat of fellow dragons, and the scent of burning corpses.

Now he rests, his gashes long healed to mighty scars and his name almost entirely forgotten.

During an especially bitter winter, despite the pile of golden treasure proving to be an unsuitable place for most, a large number of rodents braved the cave.

The sleeping giant seemed to be radiating more heat than the sun itself, and the rats huddled together under the frigid coins. As the outside world continued to freeze, the rats had no choice but to inch closer to their only source of warmth as each day passed.

The dragon’s senses had depleted greatly over the years, but he soon became acutely aware of the unwelcome visitors.

He tried everything to get rid of the rats, but nowadays he was certainly too slow-moving.

He spewed fire at the squeaky creatures, trashed his tail wildly, and even arose from his comfortable position in an attempt to squash them. The rats would scatter in terror, but the bite of the cold seemed even deadlier than the elder beast. 

Fully awoken from his deep slumber, the dragon kept a watchful eye locked on the rats.

The once quiet den became filled with shrill chatter among the rodents, treasures being sent cascading down a mountain of jewels, and constant gnawing of old bones.

Much to the surprise of the dragon, he genuinely found himself entertained by their antics rather than furious. He realized that the treasures stowed away in his cave brought him little joy as he aged.

He delighted in the memories attached to the endless fortune and felt that each piece of gold held a tale of his magnificence, but he wasn't sure of what to do with his horde anymore. They assured him the recognition of being the most dangerous champion, yet he hadn’t ventured from his home in a millennium.

Any foes he’d faced back then could surely destroy him now. What would they think if they saw him failing at a game of cat-and-mouse?

At least the rats seemed oblivious to his slow decline.

A weeklong hailstorm sent gusts of wind whipping through the den during the night. The rats were shivering behind the sturdiest mound of gold, huddling around the dragon’s extended tail.

Distrusting his own ears the dragon was unsure what to make of a sudden loud thud echoing outside. Leaning closer to decipher the noise, he detected a brief movement just past the entrance of the cave.

The rats cried in shock as the dragon stood, shaking off the coins he’d been partially buried in, and releasing a guttural growl that reverbed against the stone walls.

Without warning, a stream of fire was shot into the cave.

The dragon became a barricade between the rats and the blast without thinking, shielding them entirely. Most dragons were unharmed by fire, their scales were the perfect armor against the attack, so it seemed that he was being lured away from his gems.

The day had finally come to pass, someone was brave enough to face him.

For a scarce moment, the dragon considered fleeing. He was gravelly aware of his worsened health and dwindling strength.

Yet, somewhere inside him, a vicious fighting spirit lived. That side of him would never shy away from a challenge or surrender all of his precious belongings.

He bid his time until the foe could exhale no longer, the fire would cease as they desperately gulped in more air. When the time came, the dragon erupted from the cave with an enraged snarl.

He felt hail pelt his skin as he expanded his formidable wings, displayed his gnashing teeth, and stared with murderous eyes.

After adjusting his vision, the dragon regarded his enemy without emotion. His opponent was much younger than he but brandished just as many scars that raked across her black scales.

She looked to be the new villain that everyone would dread.

Stones of ice continued to rain on the dragons, cracking into pieces as they fell on their rough spines. With a lurch in his heart, the dragon recalled the rats shivering in the cave behind him. The fire he’d set for them had surely gone out without him, and he wondered how long they’d survive the temperatures.

The one-eyed beast lunged forward with a howl of rage, forcing the dragon to dismiss any distracting thoughts, she swiped viciously with her claw.

Taking to the skies, the dragon was in danger of falling back to the earth at any minute. He was barely recovering from her deadly strikes as bursts of fire flew wildly from his jaw.

The terror that began to bubble in the dragon’s chest was unlike anything he’d experienced. He wondered if that was the last sensation his numerous victims knew or if the rats went through the same thing after sneaking into his den.

Looking down, the dragon knew he was being driven from the cave. If he was much farther away the thick clouds would make it impossible to relocate the treasure until the storm cleared; by then, the opposition would've swiftly made it her new home.

Using his larger frame to his advantage, the dragon tucked his chin and flew at his opponent with a sudden flash of energy.

He landed the hit and ignored the nauseating dizziness he felt as their skulls crashed together.

Taking the opening, the dragon struck her with his fire at close range, and she wailed in frustration. His attack was merely irritating her, but he needed her to be distracted for the moment.

The dragon plunged towards the cave, landing on the dead grass with a sickening thump, and clambered into the den. He stopped for a second, the hoard he spent an eternity collecting seemed to be begging him to stay.

Without his riches, the dragon was no longer the warrior that never lost a battle or the giant everyone feared. Without it, he was nothing.

A terrifying roar from the sky shook the dragon back to the present.

He supposed that he hadn’t been the monster from the stories in a long time regardless of his prizes.

The rats remained where the dragon had left them, wet and cold amongst the gleaming gold. He leaned his head down, opened his mighty jaw, and dismissed the fearful speaks the rats shared, as he carefully scooped them in his mouth.

Without so much as a backward glance, the dragon left his lifelong possessions behind. His opponent may have gotten his cave, but she would never have his cherished rats.

The dragon set off to find a new home suitable for his old bones and comfortable for his growing rodent family.

He was thinking somewhere warmer.

February 13, 2023 02:16

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1 comment

Wendy Kaminski
00:16 Feb 23, 2023

This was really very sweet, Shae! I was cheering when the dragon saved his pets :). I really enjoyed your well-written and entertaining story - thanks for sharing it, and welcome to Reedsy!

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