Contest #185 shortlist ⭐️

11 comments

Fiction Fantasy

Four million six hundred thousand and eighty-seven, four million six hundred thousand and eighty-eight, four million six hundred thousand…

Nearly seven days had passed since he began and almost every relic, coin, gem, weapon, bone, miscellaneous magical artifact, and whatever-else-have-you was categorized and accounted for. This was easily his largest hoard yet, and though Wyrith had kept only his most favourite thousand or so rubies from his preceding collection, this hoard was already more than double his last largest one.

Wyrith paused his counting and gazed about his caves of riches. Now how did we end up here? he thought. Not only was this treasure trove his grandest, but he had also spent longer in these mountains than he had at any other place he’d called home in his life. In his early years, Wyrith had spent no more than a century in one location, preferring to explore deserts and jungles and oceans across lands far and wide. Call him a nomad if you must, but he’d always travelled light, carrying only whatever jewels and gold he could embed between his scales, and sometimes not even that much. There was simply too much to see, and so much changing around him always.

And yet, he’d spent nearly a millennium up in these mountains. They were beautiful even before Wyrith had settled in and started collecting. The stone walls were shot through with veins of gold, glittered with rare minerals. This grandeur had been what drew the dragon in at first; they’d seemed the perfect place to start his brand-new collection. Location, location, location, as they say. He might even be so forward as to call them homey, thanks in part to his impeccable eye for décor.

Wyrith sighed, the heat blasting from his giant snout warming a nearby suit of armour to a white-hot glow, and began counting again, wondering further about how he came to be in such a predicament.

Four million six hundred thousand five hundred and nine, four million six hundred thousand five hundred and ten…

Rarely did he let his collections get so out of hand. Maybe he had grown more sentimental in his later years… no, it couldn’t be that. Maybe the villages down below were to blame, or he supposed the lack thereof. Here, there were no mortals near enough to bother him, nor he, them.

Wyrith couldn’t remember the last time he had threatened to turn some trembling young willow tree of a man to ash, and longer still since he had actually done such a thing. Often those poor knights (if they were bold enough to call themselves such) were barely fit to lift a sword, let alone slay a dragon.

And oh-so-occasionally, their dismal yet well-intentioned attempts at courage amused him just enough that he felt compelled to gift them something from his hoard, if only so they might not return home from their quests empty handed. The first time he had done such a thing, the boy had actually jumped with joy, the bag in his hands emitting cracking sounds as the gems within bounced against once another (it was merely a bag of sapphires, and being Wyrith’s least favourite gemstone, he’d had no issue parting with it).

The recollection nearly brought a grin to Wyrith’s scaly face. Dear, oh, dear. Perhaps I am becoming quite the softie, he thought. It had been quite a long time since he’d had a visitor of any sort, Wyrith realized, weapon-wielding or not. Often, he’d left other abodes simply because the constant unwanted guests and eventual angry mobs became tiresome to deal with. But still…

When was the last time he’d encountered another living, breathing creature?

Four million six hundred thousand eight hundred and thirteen…

How long had he been alone in these caves?

Four million six hundred thousand eight hundred and fourteen…

Where did the time go?

Four million six hundred thousand eight hundred and fifteen…

Wyrith let the questions settle in his humongous heart while he finished counting. With his astute memory, a quality common amongst his species, he began to reminisce with the last of the more unique treasures he uncovered.

A sword, its blade chipped and rusted. The first weapon to break past his scales when he was just a young dragon. He’d only discovered it buried in his belly once he returned to his home at the time, a small island in the sea, when the saltwater had stung his wounds.

A crown, missing a gem here or there, yet no less noble for it. It was left to him by a kind and just king, one of the few he’d ever encountered.

A scarf, a rare fabric in his collection. Wyrith discovered it in the tallest tower of some old castle ruins long ago, as vibrant among the rubble as the day it was created. He sensed the enchantments on it instantly, and its rich purple hue and spiced perfumed scent had never once faded in all his years. He wondered now if it might outlast even him.

Four million seven hundred thousand three hundred and sixty-two.

And with that, he was finished. Every object in his greatest hoard yet counted. Wyrith gazed around once more at the mountains of gold and oceans of rubies, the sweeping swaths of riches of which no mortal king or queen could dare to dream.

The great dragon made a short huff in the back of long throat sending two brief plumes of flame from his cavernous nostrils. Now what to do. What to do indeed. Satisfying though it was to have completed his task, and while he looked fondly upon his hoard for the memories they conjured, Wyrith found himself fidgeting, the clink of gold against gold beneath his enormous feet becoming irksome.

As he did every other time counted his hoard, Wyrith never left his home until he was done. This taking him the longest by far, he realized it had been quite a while since he had seen the world beyond his stone walls and ceilings. With a final sweeping glance, Wyrith turned away from his riches and lumbered in the direction of the mouth to the caves.

The dragon twisted and turned in the tunnels, his claws and spiny back carving grooves into the mountain, and he noticed just how small they had become, or rather just how much he had grown.

Dip after rise after left after right and suddenly the tunnels were illuminated with a soft yellow light. Wyrith caught the scent of something fresh and earthy and began to scurry faster, the sound of tumbling rocks increasing with his every move.

With one final push Wyrith emerged from the caves into a fine summer’s morning. The light of the sun blinded him at first, his eyes not yet used to the brightness having grown accustomed to the dim glow of enchanted gold.

Wyrith gazed out and down from the small cliff he sat upon (small being relative in this instance, for it was just large enough for the monumental size of the dragon). The forest surrounding the mountains were lush and he could scent a recent rainfall on the breeze. The pines were a green deeper than any emerald he had ever held, and the rivers of the woods sparkled will a brilliance that rivaled the oldest diamonds in his biggest hoard.

Almost absent-mindedly, the dragon spread his leathery wings wide, creaking and groaning, to warm them in the rays of the sun. With his keen eyes closed, suddenly so sore from days of meticulous counting, Wyrith rested.

An involuntarily yet satisfied rumble escaped him, vibrating the stone he sat upon, and he heard the now familiar clatter of pebbles.

Wyrith craned his long neck back to gaze at the dark entrance to his cave, his millennium old hoard. As he peered into the shadows, he cocked his head to the side, and raised his tremendous tail. Swift as a viper, he slammed it against the mouth of the cave. A great CRACK echoed out from somewhere deep inside. He raised it again. Another slam, another CRACK, and even more tumbling. Wyrith raised his tail once more, high enough so the sun cast a great shadow on the sides of the mountain, and brought it down hard one last time. Boulders the size of his humongous skull rolled.

When the dust finally settled, the cave’s entrance was filled with stone, the dragon’s hoard thoroughly entombed.

Wyrith hummed thoughtfully to himself. Well, someone can make quite an interesting tale out of that one day. Call it The Tale of the Noble Dragon’s Abandoned Riches, or perhaps The Handsome Dragon’s Trove of Treasure. Maybe even Wyrith the Whimsical’s Hoard of Wonders… Hmm. I like that one.

The old dragon turned back to the sun and lumbered to the edge of the cliff. With a snap he flared his wings. Wyrith considered where he might go next; perhaps he would meet a kindly queen who would offer him a tower to protect or spend another century or two in the ocean. Perhaps he’d find a grander mountain to roost within. Perhaps he’d even join a troupe of adventurers and go on many a quest! Perhaps he would simply begin by visiting some old friends.

With that thought, Wyrith tipped over the cliffside and began to fall. Though it had been a long time since he’d taken to the skies, the winds caught him swiftly and he was flying again, spinning and howling through the air. He felt centuries younger, lighter, as giddy and agile as a hatchling, prepared to soar wherever the winds may take him.

And no matter what he decided, Wyrith knew he was ready to start another adventure all over again. 

February 18, 2023 02:52

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

11 comments

Russell Susko
16:46 Mar 19, 2023

I enjoyed the story. Nice phrase, "the sweeping swaths of riches".

Reply

C. J. Peters
22:08 Mar 19, 2023

Thank you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Amanda Lieser
20:42 Mar 09, 2023

Hi CA! Wow! This was such a vivid and pleasant piece. It was a well deserved shortlist. I loved that it held a happier ending. I also really enjoyed the intense imagery and the way this MC’s heart seems to soar as they physically soar. I thought your use of numbers was very cool and I thoroughly enjoyed the way this story included some details about some specific relics. Nice work!

Reply

C. J. Peters
00:30 Mar 17, 2023

Thank you so much, Amanda!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Wendy Kaminski
19:34 Feb 19, 2023

I loved this, C.A.! What a fantastic imagination, and such a successful address to the prompt: the idea of the dragon starting all over again is a very humanly-relatable trait, as some people reach the pinnacle of their goals and find there's no struggle anymore, not as much fun as the build-up. I could see it, in your protagonist, absolutely. I loved the tale of the more unique items in the collection, and the background counting. All just so effective. I particularly liked the method of carrying (embedded in scales), as it solves the age-o...

Reply

C. J. Peters
20:44 Feb 19, 2023

Thank you so much for such a lovely comment, Wendy! The idea for this prompt came to me fairly late in the week but I'm glad it seems I was able to pull it off!

Reply

Wendy Kaminski
17:09 Feb 24, 2023

Pull it off puts it mildly: congratulations on shortlisting this week! :)

Reply

C. J. Peters
18:02 Feb 24, 2023

Thank you!! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Philip Ebuluofor
18:25 Feb 27, 2023

Congrats.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Tarnisha Tull
21:29 Feb 24, 2023

I really loved reading this story. Wonderful with descriptions.

Reply

C. J. Peters
00:17 Feb 25, 2023

Thank you so much!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustration — We made a writing app for you | 2023-02

We made a writing app for you

Yes, you! Write. Format. Export for ebook and print. 100% free, always.