Ophelia spent countless hours laying, belly up, wings outstretched, jaw gaping open, long legs and claws strewn over her hoard.
She had hundreds of years amassing it. She had pillaged and plundered many kingdoms and villages, butchering anyone who got in her way, taking every shiny, valuable thing they had; she had acclimated over fifty crowns, over one hundred chalices, at least over three hundred necklaces and enough coins for her to make herself comfortable at night.
That didn’t include the sheer amount of gold and silver armour she had gathered from the knights that had come to try and slay her, all of which failed miserably, some of the skulls were still attached to the helmets and a few stray ribs clung helplessly to their breast plates.
Bandits, bounty hunter’s, wizards, mercenaries and entire kingdoms had come to raid her hoard or to take back what was once there. Her cave got the notorious nickname Fool’s Gold because only a fool would dream of trying to steal from her.
Most knights who had come to slay her didn’t expect her to be so impressively large in size; this was probably due to her age and her immense elemental energy. Most dragons that flew through the skies had diluted elemental energy, their colours and size reflected that much, these were the dragons most knights killed.
But Ophelia was far older than all of them.
Therefore, her elemental energy was far greater making her far larger than any dragon that any knight had ever faced, and the very last of her kind. She dominated the skies when she flew through the clouds.
Her elemental energy was akin to the light, hence her success at pillaging and plundering, they never saw her coming as she blended into the sun and the sky. It was a trick her parents taught her and her siblings; her body could turn into a mirrored surface that blended perfectly into the sky. The light bounced and her body shifted within the sky, the only thing anyone would be able to see and would more often than not dismiss just as quickly.
And by then it was too late.
Her cave was the size of several kingdoms. From her snout to her tail she was over 1000 metres, her wings when outstretched were easily 800 metres. When she roared it would shake the ground, when she flapped her wings it would snap several hundred metres of trees and decimate any village in an instant, there was a reason no knight nor king had actually succeeded in slaying her.
Some kingdoms even sent wizards which only made her laugh. None of their spells could reach her, though she found their struggle mildly amusing.
Her body was primarily white, the scales that covered her body were a mixture of brilliant white and a murky yellow, they shifted in the sun as did the membrane of her wings, they shifted from an iridescent white to an iridescent yellow. It wasn’t unusual for such ancient dragons.
The older the dragon, the more horns adorned their heads, she had a glorious collection of horns; a set of ram horns that twisted and brushed the set of smaller, younger horns growing on her cheek, a twisted pair of wrestling horns, a pair of antlers, a pair of very pointy horns and a rather impressive pair of Ibex horns in which she tied mementoes from her victims.
Little tassels drifted in the gentle breeze, several crowns she placed upon them, like rings, she had seen many kings and queens wear them over the years but they never seemed to come in her size.
A long line of spikes travelled down her back as did several soft feathers, which started among her regal sets of horns, a crest one might’ve called it, and travelled down her spine, stopping just before her tail started.
As for her power, she drew most of her energy from the sun, much like a solar powered light, as long as the sun shone free she had all the energy she ever needed. However when her stomach hungered for something more she would snack on over confident, cocky dragons who were foolish enough to challenge her.
Her eyes were like soft pools in the warm oceans, clear, serene, gentle, and for a few seconds one could forget she was a dragon. That was until her sharp, flesh shredding teeth ripped you to pieces or she ate you whole.
Until about one hundred years ago the people would send knights to try and slay her, however, a new generation of kings had thought of a plan to try and soothe her greed. Every year, on the first day of spring, they would send her their finest gold, silver and bronze, and they would bring it in carts.
At first she was delighted. The humans she so enjoyed watching suffer were now bringing her treasure to add to her already gargantuan hoard, as if they worshipped her, giving her peace offerings to appease her. Pathetic really.
But now she loathed it.
It was boring, her hoard had become…..Dull and meaningless.
She had finally, after all these years, got what she wanted; she no longer needed to pillage and plunder and even when she did it didn’t feel the same, like something was missing.
She had the hoard of her dreams but no one to share it with, she had no mate, no young in which to pass her hoard onto. In some aspects she was lonely. She didn’t know what to do with it anymore; it had no use, it almost shackled her to the cave, knowing if she left she’d lose everything.
She tried to find other ways to entertain her vacant mind; she had tried socialising with others, she had watched humans do it before, any human who she tried to approach ran away in fear and the dragons she had tried to approached thought it was a challenge of some sort and tried to kill her or flew away in fear.
She was the last of her kind Afterall, the others like her were all dead, killed by kings hundreds of years prior. She was intellectual, other dragons were stupid but they weren’t the brightest bulb in the box.
Unlike them she could breathe a powerful ray of light which would incinerate anything; it could cut through swords and armour like a hot knife through butter, it easily sawed any palace in half cleanly.
She could talk in a sense, it wasn’t unusual for ancient dragons such as her, it was just unusual for humans to listen. Her voice could only be heard by those clear of mind; like when someone softly speaks in a crowd, only those who care to listen can actually hear them.
Sometimes she would leave the confines of her cave and she would watch the nearby kingdom which brought her all the gold they ever had; she would watch the small humans playing in the river nearby, she would watch as they laughed to one another, she watched as the men and women worked back breaking jobs, yet they would still return home, having earned very little with smiles on their faces.
She couldn’t understand how they were so happy with so little? They had no hoard? No gold for they had given it all to her, so how? How were they so happy? What was she missing that they had? She had everything, It frustrated her.
She would go back to her cave and she sulked. Dreading the next spring. It kept her awake at nights, not that she needed to sleep necessarily.
She could smell someone fast approaching. She growled loudly, and several pieces of rock tumbled from the ceiling. She reluctantly rolled onto her stomach, expecting a man in a suit of armour, wielding a sword and shield to come barrelling into her cave.
She had met Fate once. Fate had died. Fate no longer existed. No, she existed in the form of another.
A woman practically tumbled into her cave. Strange. She had never once had a woman fall into her cave, even for shelter, most knew to stay away. She could smell it, the intoxicating smell of blood upon the woman’s warm skin.
She hadn’t quite registered Ohpelia’s presence, which was in itself strange considering her presence dominated the cave. A little pool of blood started to surround the woman, her clothes were ripped, torn by the hands of man, several large cuts lay over the body.
A woman? In my cave, my, my, you look worse for wear.
Upon closer inspection she wasn’t quite a woman, she was no older than eighteen as was suggested by her flawless complexion and lack of wrinkles. She wore the same crest as the current king, was she the princess? But what would the princess be doing in her cave, looking so worse for wear?
The young woman looked up in horror, Ophelia’s head looming over her, she instinctively screamed very loudly and curled up into a ball. A normal human reaction. So at least she wasn’t too badly injured, maybe just a little shocked. Though blood started to gush out of her arm at an alarming rate.
“Please! Please don’t kill me!” The young woman begged, fear stricken started to fall from her eyes and rolled down her cheeks.
You are either very brave or incredibly stupid to stumble into my cave child! For I am-
“I am so sorry, ancient one! Forgive my stupidity but I had no choice but to seek shelter from those who sought me harm” The young woman pleaded as Ophelia tilted her heavy head.
So the young woman could either hear her speak or she was just apologising generally, she hadn’t ever received an apology, not from a human. The young woman struggled onto her knees and bowed her head, she really was apologising. No one had called Ophelia her title in hundreds of years either.
Can you hear me? Like right now? Can you actually hear me?
The young woman nodded as Ophelia repositioned her body, elegantly placing one of her front legs over the other and stretching her wings. It made the ground shake, sending a cascade of coins toward the young woman, almost drowning her. Ophelia’s ears hidden beneath her glorious feet of horns flicked, creating a small gust of wind.
Tell me, child, who exactly are you running from?
“I was running away from the kingdom, I’m the princess, Sakina of Seek” She introduced as she emerged from the tsunami of coins, as she fumbled onto her feet, she struggled to find her balance on the uneven surface.
Why? If you are the princess, you must have a comfortable life, do you not?
“I am trapped! They won’t let me leave! Every time I try they drag me back! They put chains on me!” She whimpered as her little legs buckled beneath her. “Forgive me ancient one! I am testing your patience enough as it is, I shall leave you to your hoard” she added as she tried to rise to her feet but failed. She tore a piece from her tattered dress and tied it around her wound, it slowed the flow of blood.
She was weak, her ribs visible through her tattered dress, her tired eyes struggled to stay open, her heart pounding out of her chest and adrenaline rushed through her veins.
Ophelia could’ve easily squashed her with her giant claws, she could’ve easily crushed her fragile body with her giant head, even a flick from her ear would’ve sent her body into the cave wall, her skull would’ve cracked against it.
Ophelia looked over her hoard. It was everything she’d worked for over the years, every kingdom felled, every village destroyed was reflected within it, every piece of jewellery and gold coin told a story cut short by Ophelia's relentless greed for more.
She had lived for hundreds of years, the instinct and need to be greedy had started to dampen. She had started to wonder if her parents went through something similar? Had they not had a clutch of eggs or one another maybe they too would’ve grown lonely and bored of their hoards too?
Tell me, princess Sakina Of Seek, I watch your kingdom day upon day and I notice how annoyingly chirpy everyone is? Yet I sit here with all your gold? All your treasure?
The corners of the young woman’s mouth turned up slightly, almost into a soft smile, she quickly bowed her head once more, forgetting who she was in the presence of.
“That is because the people have each other and sometimes that is enough, love is enough, in any form love is enough” Sakina answered in a rather desperate time, as if she were trying to plead her case. “Don’t you have someone? A dragon like you?” She added as she noticed no nest in her cave nor any evidence of a second dragon.
All the other dragons like me perished, killed by former kings and queens, besides I’ve got my hoard-
“With all due respect, oh ancient one, what use is a hoard so gargantuan with no one to share it with? What’s its purpose exactly?” Sakina asked bluntly, again almost forgetting she was talking to a dragon who flattened kingdoms with ease.
Something tickled Ophelia’s chest, the feeling she would get from incinerating a kingdom, a burning rage directed towards herself. For once the human was right? This hoard had no purpose. No direction.
Ophelia huffed, another gust of wind smacking Sakina directly in the face.
You may stay, until it is safe for you to leave, try and stop bleeding in the meantime.
“Really? You’d really let me stay? You won’t eat me or flatten me?” Sakina yelped with excitement.
Why would I eat you? It would be pointless, you would provide me no sustenance! In your current state you are no threat either.
“Thank you ancient one! I’ll be gone by dawn” Sakina reassured, her chirpy voice filled with excitement, her eyes filled with hope which made Ophelia quiver.
Would you stop looking at me with those hopeful eyes? Otherwise I might change my mind and flatten you.
Sakina bowed her head again and fumbled her way into the comfort of a corner, curling into herself; an anxious tidal wave started to run over her body, that the men chasing her might pursue her into the cave. Though it would’ve been foolish enough the gold pendant around her neck was worth far more than any of their lives.
Ophelia lifted her head for a moment, giving it a rough shake, Sakina’s words left a sour taste in her mouth, one she had not experienced in years. She grumbled again as Sakina started to shiver, goosebumps started to form along her bare arms.
Sakina was right. What was the purpose of such a glorious hoard? She had gathered everything she could ever desire, all the coins she could drown in, every valuable object any kingdom ever processed was now in her possession. The greatest hoard any dragon could ever have. That she had. Felt meaningless.
She had everything but at the same time she had nothing.