Something was not right.
The whispers of the cave were carrying new voices. He could feel, faint but clear, the high pitched squeal of metal scraping against metal, standing out against the comforting dribble of moisture on the rough stone of his home.
Awaken by the nuisance he lifted his head, stretching his back accompanied by a generous yawn.
He could distinguish at least three pair of footsteps approaching his resting place, the smell of tar burning suggested they were carrying torches, but above all what dominated the scene was the presence of metal, with its scratching sound and piercing smell.
Stretching every limb of his body he rose, they were getting closer to his sleeping chamber, but for some strange reason it seemed as if they were trying to clumsily conceal their arrival, and it was taking them ages to arrive.
Puzzled he paced around the room, lighting the braziers, turning the dark cave in a marvelous hall, brimming with light and splendor. Just a look around his little den filled him with pride, the result of hard work, built year after year collecting the best jewels and pieces of art you could find.
Finally the little group lurking around arrived at his door, but still they hesitated and did not enter. He could see just a tiny head peeking over the stone arch and then hiding back.
-Welcome, and good night, please come- he called with a voice deep and rich like the cavern he inhabited.
Slowly, four tiny figures entered the hall, three of them dressed in metal garments and holding that sort of skewers that humans use to kill each other, and one dressed in robes with a little stick in hand.
-You can talk?- asked with a trembling voice the one with the most metal, holding in one hand the pointy toothpick and embracing a sort of dish in the other.
The laughter that rose from the throat of the host exploded like the rumbling of thunder, shaking the minuscule figures in their shiny dresses
-Does an orc hunt in the woods? When the first of your species started talking WE were quite surprised, still, you manage.- a shrug of the shoulders from an adult dragon is enough to dismiss any matter: the mighty muscles throbbed propagating along the body in a wave of sheer prowess.
-So, to what do I owe this unexpected visit in the middle of the night?-
The quartet started sharing perplexed stares, in astonished silence. For an awkward minute they were still as statues, then the leader one took a step forward -We are here to kill you, foul monster!- shaking that sort of pin in front of his nose.
The head of the dragon descended to the ground, so that his eyes could meet the minuscule fool that was making fun of him. Each of the fangs of the beast were as tall as the tallest of the crew, and his jaws were the size of the castle’s gates.
-Ah that’s new! Why would you? And how?- a snort of the enormous animal was accompanied by a wisp of black smoke.
Now it was the smell of sweat and fear that tingled the nostrils of the dragon, with his snout so close to the trembling quartet. He was not sure on what color was the complexion of humans meant to be, but that greenish yellow looked more appropriate for goblins.
Trying to hide behind the tip of his blade the man replies -Our king commands! We are Knights of the Sacred Rose, we serve the weak, and reclaim what was unjustly stolen by you, venomous serpent!- then with a tiny voice he gestures towards his team -we have a mage and enchanted weapons to fight you-.
The laughter of the dragon shook the cave with the roar of ancient titans -Your king? I, Kagh’Rarz, am the master of this land. I own everything from the river on the North to the marshes in the East! And does your puny king or this haggard mage protect you from the great demons of the realms beyond? Do they stop the assaults from other dragons? This is MY territory and you are MY subjects. And I don’t destroy your cities or eat your species because I like your trinkets, and take them for payment for protecting this land.- The beast was towering above the small group, smoke rising from his jaws and wings extended for the length of a small village. -I’m bored now, and your meat is not very nutritious, so scram and leave me to my sleep-.
The knights and mage observed the creature rise in all its might, and then come back to his rest position, but their resolve would not waver. -You are NOT our master! We serve only His Majesty King Adur the third. We do not require your protection, and our “trinkets” are not for you to loot, they are the fruit of blood and sweat of our people!- in response to this the dragon produced a slow and low growl, that sounded like the distant drum roll of a marching army -Do you not, for your own convenience, steal the eggs of your chicken, kill the young of your cattle? Do you not drink their milk and make cheese? Why would they owe you their precious belongings?- The eyes big as ponds narrowed to the point of becoming sharper than the weapons the men had in hand, dropping a terrifying gaze on the four.
The group still held ground -We are not cattle! We are humans, we have dignity and a soul, that is the fruit of our ingenuity, not some trivial eggs or milk!- a spark in the eyes of the dragon kindled, burning with ridicule for those pitiful humans -Oh but you ARE livestock. And milk and eggs are more sacred and precious than your toys. I definitely saw cows with more dignity than the four of you!- the grin that took life on the lips of the beast showed a forest of fangs that dripped with dark drops of venom.
-This is preposterous! You dare mock us and our people… You will learn the taste of Adurian steel!- with this they charged, arms at the ready, crackling thunder dancing on the edges of their blade, ready to smite the evil in front of them.