Fantasy Friendship Funny

Nilar, like most other dragons, owned a proud hoard. Some of it, he had collected himself, but most, he had inherited.

His grandfather, a proud Gothwing dragon, had collected a respectable amount in his lifetime. But it was Nilar’s father, yet another proud Gothwing dragon, who was the Great Collector of his family.

Nilar’s father had been an ordinary thieving dragon for most of his youth. But when his wife, Nilar’s mother, flew away with a Snaketail dragon, Nilar’s father drowned himself in his work, having sworn to become the richest dragon the world had ever known. The problem was his personality, but he sought to fix it with riches. That seldom works.

And then, having amassed a wealth which bought one more than just bragging rights at local taverns, Nilar’s father died. It was a drunk-flying incident. In his drunken stupor, he did not suffer. However, the same was never said of the village he had crashed into.

Nilar now sat upon that inheritance, looking out from his cave at the silent snow-capped mountains, awaiting the arrival of customers, bidders, or even robbers.

Why wouldn’t anyone show? He had done the marketing thing all right, hadn’t he?

To pixies, he had offered rare purple dandelions that grew in his cave and tasked them with spreading the word about his sale. He had tried giving them some of his gold, but they weren’t too keen on the colour yellow. Surely, they must not have betrayed his trust.

He turned his snout away from the grey sky and the white mountains, sighing. Pixies were simple creatures with short memories. It was likely that they had simply forgotten all about Nilar and his sale by the time they had reached the foothills of his mountain.

Nonetheless, they were his best bet. Not many creatures scaled mountains which housed dragons. Should he have flown down himself, informing people of his sale? No, that wasn’t an option. People would have run off screaming at the mere sight of him.

The pixies might have made good on their promise. If not, a dragon could still hope. But for how long?

As it turned out, not too long.

A distant swish, which would have been mute to the ears of most creatures, sounded crisp and swift to Nilar’s. That disturbance in the air was fast approaching.

He leapt off his hoard and walked to the mouth of his cave. He craned his neck around, trying to determine the source of the sound.

He saw it. A small figure was flying towards his cave.

A customer!

Nilar rushed back to his hoard and fished through the gold of his forefathers until he found his mirror. He picked up the mirror in his mouth, biting down on it only slightly so as to not shatter it. He placed it against a wall and tried to inspect his face in it.

The mirror was too small for his size—he had never seen his whole self, but he must have been a fearsome sight, given how everyone was terrified of him. Nonetheless, he peered into it. Presentation mattered when making a sale—or so he had heard the merchant from whom he had stolen the mirror say.

Satisfied with how his eyes looked—for they were all he could see in the mirror—he walked back to the mouth of his cave and stood with the pride of a farmer showcasing his harvest.

The figure landed a few feet away from him. It was a human. An old one. Her legs were covered by the thick, blue pants that seemed to be popular among city-dwellers. Her top half was covered with a red and yellow striped shirt, with a sombre coat over it. Had he been ignorant, Nilar would have thought it to be black, and would have thought of it no more. But, thanks to the wisdom and foolishness of his ancestors, he knew better. The coat the woman was wearing was more than just black. It was dark, the absolute opposite of light. A witch’s coat.

It had enough space to fit more worlds than one. And who knew what hell it already contained!

The witch looked up at him with her eyes narrowed as if judging him. And though she didn’t even come up to his shins, she twisted her face into a look of utter disappointment.

He was losing the sale already!

“Welcome—” he began at once and stopped at twice. In his haste, he had forgotten to speak softly. His breathy greeting turned into an infernal fire and burned the witch where she stood.

He was a fool! One person had dared to be bothered with him, one person had acknowledged him with such calm, and he turned her to ash! Good thing he was confined to these cold mountains! It was a prison fit for a destructive being like him. His body shook as his fire raged within him. He wanted to let it all out, burn his gold, destroy the walls of his cave.

But what good would that do? He could never burn himself.

He exhaled, trying to cool himself. The least he could do was blow the poor witch out to the wind. He could even—

The pile of ash trembled, slightly at first and then with the intensity of a breaking wave. And just like a wave, the witch rose out of her ashes, the ashes melting together to make her body. Just like that, she was whole again.

Nilar stepped back, aghast. He had heard tales of witches commanding fleets of dragons. He had often wondered why the dragons didn’t just burn them down. Now, he knew.

She fingered her ear and pulled out something that looked like a burnt piece of paper. “Wonder what that was,” she said, before she flicked it away.

She looked up at him. “That was a bit annoying. Mind speaking softer, eh?”

“How did—how are you back?” he asked softly, minding his breath, letting out only a warm breeze.

The witch shrugged. “Witches aren’t good at staying burnt. We got that ancestral training, you see? Now, you better keep talking soft, big friend, or we going to have some trouble talking. What with communication burning down so often, eh?”

Nilar was stunned by her nonchalance. He had never seen a witch before, and an ever-growing part of him wished he never had. But a customer was a customer. The only customer, really.

“Welcome to my cave-yard sale!” Nilar began in his best imitation of the flamboyant merchants he had seen—from a distance, of course. “I’m Nilar. Might I know your name, my lady?”

“Tinny,” she said, with the surety of an arrow zipping towards its target. “And I ain’t yours.”

Nilar paused. “I was just trying to be polite.”

Tinny rolled her eyes. “Niceties are a bother invented by people otherwise unemployed. Can’t you just take me to your hoard? I’m in a rush. Got a faraway king that’s about to be assassinated.”

“Not by you, I hope!”

“Not today. Today, I protect him,” Tinny said, rising in the air up to Nilar’s eyes. “Now, show me what you got for sale.”

Nilar led Tinny into his cave. There, in a space wider than him, and in piles as tall as he was, sat the treasure of his ancestors. Heaps of precious metals, mostly gold but also some ingots of silver, with precious stones lying here and also there. As dragon hoards went, it was a proud one. Nilar would have liked to feel some of the pride he was told he ought to.

But the colour yellow, like the pixies, wasn’t Nilar’s favourite either. He had spent his life looking at this vast expanse of supposed wealth. His father had lectured him many times about their proud history of thievery. Kingdoms had fallen before dragons, he had said. Entire cities were plundered by solitary dragons.

But what good was it, really? Nilar couldn’t even spend it. People who saw him coming either ran away or fell to the ground unconscious. So, it simply sat in his cave. And Nilar sat upon it, more out of habit than out of care. And the world changed outside, over and over. And Nilar could see none of it.

Unsure of what to do with his hoard, Nilar had eventually decided to sell it off. But did he really want to sell off his inheritance? Wasn’t a dragon supposed to hoard? Could one ever sell?

He knew little of the ethics of dragons—and even less of trade—but selling it off was as good a thing to do as any. Simply throwing it away would have been disrespectful to his lineage, and he couldn’t tolerate the sight of it any longer. Yes, Nilar thought with the uncertain certainty he was so familiar with, this was the … right thing to do.

He looked at Tinny floating in the air beside him. She had the same look of disappointment as earlier. Nilar was coming to think of it as a physical affliction of hers. After all, no human could be disappointed at the sight of so much gold.

Humans, it was said, were the only beings capable of coveting gold more than dragons did. They filled their coffers and coffins with it. They killed their own kind for it.

And yet Tinny looked unimpressed.

“So much to look through,” she said.

“Is there anything specific you’re looking for?” Nilar asked.


Nilar waited for her to go on, but she remained quiet, floating beside him, peering at his immense treasure, still seeming unimpressed. That look was starting to annoy Nilar. This was, after all, his family’s collection that she beheld. How dare she look upon it with such indifference! True that Nilar wasn’t especially fond of it, but that didn’t give a stranger the right to treat it so irreverently.

Perhaps he shouldn’t sell it off. Not at all, to someone who didn’t appreciate it. “I think,” he said, bringing some warm anger to his words, “you should leave.”

Tinny made no reply.

“Tinny,” Nilar said, his throat growing warmer, “leave.” Usually, his short temper would have annoyed him, but at the moment, he thought it quite warranted.

Tinny peered ahead soundlessly.

“Tinny! I—”

“Yeah, yeah,” Tinny said, glancing at him. “You’ll burn me down. Big dragon, you are. Very scary. Now, shush!”

Nilar’s jaw dropped, abashed and flameless. He scrambled, in his mind, for a retort, but as it often happens during the important confrontations of a person’s life, Nilar had no comeback.

“There it is!” she exclaimed, smiling, and dove into a heap of gold at the far end of his cave.

Nilar did not wonder too much about what made the gold at the back different from the one close by, for he was thrilled by her joy. Finally, he thought, she appreciated his family’s treasure.

She tossed things away, coins and crowns alike, as she dug for what she wanted.

“How do you know what you’re looking for is indeed there?” Nilar asked.

Surprisingly, she replied, “A witch ought to know what she ought to know, now, don’t she? It’d be a complicated world otherwise.”

Nilar snorted. “Are you always so full of yourself?”

“Be funny if I was full of someone else, eh?” she replied, without pausing her search. “Also, rather bloody.”

Nilar smiled as a kind of warmth he had never known spread through him. “Tell me what you’re looking for. I might be able to help.”

“Found it!” she declared, flying back with a copper urn. Nilar did not remember stealing it. Then again, he seldom stole metal. Usually, he looked for things like mirrors, though they were too small for him, and books, though he could not read, and clothes he could not wear, and other things that were of no use to him.

And yet, to him, they were more precious than the gold of his forefathers. For the gold they had stolen had bound him to his solitude. And if he was forced by his nature to steal, he would do it stepping away from his solitude—if only slightly.

Nilar looked thoughtfully at Tinny, and for a moment she seemed almost familiar to him. From an abode full of gold, she had picked up the only thing made of copper. “Why did you take this?”

“To keep that king from dying.”

“How does—”

“Your dada stole a lot, see?” Tinny said. “He stole from far and nearby. He stole and stole. And stole without bias. Precious and ordinary.”

Nilar blushed at that, as if he was the one being accused.

“In one of his flights, your old dragon accidentally stole a king’s father’s ashes,” she said, holding out the urn in front of her. “Rather foul, if you ask me.”

“Yes,” Nilar admitted. “That was quite rude of him.”

“I was talking about them ashes. Ashes of men don’t even taste good as a fresh man, I reckon.”

Nilar raised a scaly eyebrow. Tinny’s face broke into a smile. It was her idea of a joke. Nilar returned her smile. “What are you buying this for?”

“To save that king’s son, of course. You see, I saw with my Foresight, that the grandson of this fine fellow,” she said, pointing at the urn, “is going to attend a meeting with his enemy. A truce, they call it. It’s a truce, all right. The kind that ends with one dead king, and a couple thousand dead soldiers and civilians.”

“How does this save the king?” Nilar asked.

“I’ll place this in his bed as an omen.”


“Yes,” Tinny said, smiling. She seemed friendlier now that she had found what she wanted. “Kings are simple-minded men, you see? I place it in his bed with a note from his grandfather, warning him about the imminent threat to his life. My Foresight tells me that’s the surest way to stop him from going. You know, lost urn magically returns with a warning and all?”

Nilar laughed, a bit of fire escaping his lips. It felt good to laugh. He needed to remember to do it more often.

“You’re very fond of this king, I see,” Nilar said.

“Kings aren’t meant to be fond of, no. But I don’t want his people to suffer for his stupidity. Now, how much is this for?”

“One half-copper.”

“You giving me an urn for the price of a slice of bread? You all in there in your head?”


“Wait,” she said, looking around, as if noticing the mountains of gold for the first time. “How you planning to sell money?”

Nilar hesitated. “I would sell everything in here for half-coppers.”

“And then what happens?”

“I … uh … trade the half-coppers in for bread.”

Tinny’s puzzled expression made his plan sound ridiculous to him as well.

“And bread rots so no one could blame you when you toss it out,” she said.

Nilar nodded.

“You’re trying to get rid of this!”

He nodded once again, ashamed like a child whose mischief had just been discovered.

“Why?” Tinny asked.

Why. Because even though he resented the gold he could not bring himself to throw it away. Because he hated himself for hoarding it. Because he was tired of hating himself. Because, he thought, if he returned it to the people he would be forgiven, if not accepted. Because, maybe then, people would stop being afraid of him.

Because he wanted to stop being angry. Because he wanted to learn kindness, and relearn it should he ever forget it. Because he wanted to be kind to himself. Because he wanted to be free of his burden.

So many reasons, yet he doubted Tinny would understand even one.

And then, Tinny gave him a gentle, knowing smile, as if she not only knew his thoughts but also understood them.

“You really want it gone?” she asked.

His inheritance. His solitude. But both were given to him. Neither was truly his. He finally knew with certainty what he wanted to do with his hoard. “Yes,” he said.

Tinny smiled. “Good choice.” She turned in the air to face his hoard, closed her eyes, and muttered a chant. She turned back to him as the first bits of his hoard started to rise, and then shot out of his cave.

“They’ll return to people your family stole them from,” Tinny said. “And if they’re dead, they’ll go to their children or their friends and like. That fair enough?”

Nilar nodded, ecstatic. “Tinny, thank you! This is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me!”

“Well, I don’t reckon that’s a competitive category, eh?”

Nilar laughed. He would remember to do it yet again.

“It’ll all go away in a day or two,” she said, flying to the mouth of his cave, the copper urn held in her hands, with Nilar following her. “Where will you go once your burden’s all gone?”

Nilar’s risen spirits fell. “I don’t know. Everywhere I go, people are terrified of me. They hate me.”

Tinny rose high in the air. “The world is a big place, Nilar. Not everyone will love you. But not everyone will hate you either. You ought to remember that.”

Nilar smiled. His cave made up most of his world, and the rest was made up of surrounding towns and cities. Places where they had known to fear and hate dragons for generations. Could there really be a land where they’re loved?

If there really was such a place, Nilar would find it.

“Meet me again,” she said. And then, she took off.

“I will!” Nilar called out. Warmth, the unfamiliar kind—the good kind—spread through him once again.

February 17, 2023 19:22

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