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Fantasy Adventure Sad

            Zyphon heard a rustling in the bushes and opened his nostrils, a capybara, not his favorite meal but he had to eat something before daybreak so he could get back to his hoard. Dragons don’t give off a scent that other animals recognise so the giant rodent just continued munching on leaves. Nowadays Zyphon preferred to save his fire. A quick pounce with his claws and teeth would work just as well. While he spent most of his time perfectly still he could move fast when he wanted. He leapt forward, pinned the animal down with his claw, It squealed. He killed it with one quick bite to the back and proceeded to eat the entire creature bones and all. He shambled off to the hole in the jungle floor which was the entrance to his lair. Being a magical reptile he would be able to live for a few more days without getting hungry again. 

               He wound  through the  natural tunnels to the.hoard, an ancient pile of precious metal and gems amassed by greed of the king of a forgotten kingdom. He puffed out a bit of fire to give enough light so he could see its glitter. It was mostly coins, lumps of gold and silver and uncut gems but there was also fine craftsmanship of the smith’s and lapidarist’s art. He tried to pretend that he found them beautiful but beauty did not mean much to him. He knew every last gram of the hoard. He checked it carefully, nothing had been moved. Nothing had been moved on the hoard for at least a century.

               He remembered vaguely when he first hatched from the egg that Tiamat had sent here from the primordial chaos that was her home. He saw the hoard along with the corpses of a dragon and an old hero. The hero and the dragon were his first two meals. Tiamat sends her eggs to every hoard that needs a dragon guardian. She is called the Enemy of Humankind. She is also called the Teacher of Hard Lessons, the Mother Who Does Not Care. For a while he would have to defend the hoard from any one foolish enough to try and slay him for it. In those days he was feared by all humans in the vicinity. They left him sacrifices, both beast and human, in order to prevent his wrath from devastating their villages. Then people moved on and the greedy king and his dragon guarded hoard became a legend and eventually the legend was forgotten. The king’s city was now a group of mounds in the jungle. 

                In the centuries with the forgotten hoard he had time to meditate and dream. As a dragon he could dream true things that he had never seen with his eyes, heard with his ears or smelled with his nostrils. He had begun to wonder why he was here in this catacomb. He was meant to guard the hoard but he didn’t know why. Was it to keep it from the unworthy who would misuse it? What would be the significance of their misuse? Sometimes a hero beloved of a god or goddess or narrator slays a dragon and survives to take a hoard from its cave. It brings no happiness to the hero or anyone else. After a life of tragedy and disaster, the hero dies and his hoard ends up in some other subterranean place guarded by another dragon. That is one of the Hard Lessons of Tiamat. 

           No hero was coming for Zyphon’s hoard. Someone might blunder into it and tell another person. Then distinctly unheroic humans called archaeologists or looters would come. He’d eat a few of them then he’d have to fight their slaying machines. He knew he’d eventually lose to the slaying machines; he was one dragon and they had a lot of slaying  machines. Then the hoard would be carried off piece by piece. Museums would want much of it. The museum that should have it is a pokey little place in the nearest town that is mainly visited by tourists getting out of the sun but it will be outbid by wealthier museums that have no real right to any of it.

                The hoard was his only reason for existence and he had grown to hate it. Metal and gems were no use to him. If he had a choice he would live in a larder filled with infinite butchered human virgins, each at the tastiest stage of putrefaction. So many virgins he could eat the delicious parts and throw away the bones and nasty bits. Now he was reduced to hunting giant rodents at night. He kept away from humans and their habitations. Of old, they had swords, spears and arrows that the valorous heroes needed their strength to wield. Now they have dragon sized slaying machines that kill on their own while the humans ride inside them.

                As a dragon he was amortal. He would die sometime but it would not be because of disease or old age. Something would have to kill him, a hero, an accidental disaster, another dragon. 

             There was something different about the hoard. Nothing had been stolen or moved; something had been added. It was an egg. He puffed some flame at it. It was larger than an ostrich egg, greenly opalescent: a dragon egg. He had over the centuries lost faith in Tiamat. Had she lost faith in him?

             He considered smashing the egg before it hatched but feared what interfering in the subtle timeless plans of Tiamat might bring. She had children that were much more dreadful than dragons and he didn’t want them sent to his lair. 

           Over the next few days, he watched the egg anxiously. When an egg is sent it will hatch and will hatch soon. One dawn when coming back from hunting, he heard a rustling sound. The hatchling was moving in the egg. Then there was a cracking sound as the young dragon thrust its head into the darkness. A bright flame flashed; it breathed its first fire. It broke out of the egg all sleek, purple and fast moving. 

             It peered with its bright piercing eyes into Zyphon’s wise, weary ones. It lit up the cave again and again with its breath. It felt no need to save its fire. Zyphon watched it warily. He could tell it was hungry and aggressive. Zyphon was much larger than it but that would not make that much difference. The new dragon was faster and fiercer. It began to look his way, bobbing its head from side to side watching for Zyphon’s weaknesses. It spread its wings and made a gliding leap toward Zyphon breathing hor orange fire into his face. Zyphon scrambled with his claws trying to keep his enemy away from him but fate ordained the outcome of this duel. The young dragon tore out the throat of the old dragon. As he died Zyphon wondered if the hoard would give the new dragon more joy than it did him. Was there an afterlife with a larder of virgins? The Mother Who Does Not Care has hard lessons even for her dragons. 

February 18, 2023 03:58

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1 comment

Suzanne Marsh
23:57 Feb 22, 2023

John, I really enjoyed this story.

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