The Dragon’s Hoard

The day had finally arrived. Upon reaching his thirtieth birthday, Fargrim was ready to work in the mine. An older dwarf by the name of Balnir showed him the ropes on the first day. Balnir resembled a rock. Solid, but craggy and malformed. He was hunched over and his face was covered in a dozen wrinkles. Notably, Balnir pointed to the mint as one of the first locations of note.

‘We mine the gold, we deliver it to the conveyor belts, the belts take it into the mint, the mint creates the coins, the coins get loaded on the wagons, the wagons go to the dragon.’

‘Where do they go after the dragon gets them?’ Fargrim asked.

‘Nowhere. The dragon keeps them,’ Balnir replied.

‘Why does the dragon get to keep them?’ Fargrim asked.

‘Why does the sun rise? That’s the way it’s always been,’ Balnir told him before they went below and began the arduous process of mining the rich veins of gold.

When Fargrim returned home after his first day of work, he questioned his parents as to why the dragon gets to keep all the gold for himself. His father chuckled.

‘Why don’t you ask him, boy. You’ll end up as cooked as the food on your plate,’

That seemed to settle the conversation, for now. Fargrim returned to work the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. Soon, during his breaks, he began to speak with those who were a similar age to him. He asked them how they felt about the dragon.

‘He’s alright,’ Dagnal said.

‘My mum says that the dragon protects us,’ Oskar replied.

Torgga, who was older than Fargrim by two days, shared his sentiments. Fargrim began speaking to dwarves who had worked in the mines as long as he’d been alive. It seemed that the older the dwarf, the more hostile they were to this line of questioning. Fargrim kept raising the subject every day for three months. Soon, he found that his reputation preceded him. Soon after that, the mine was visited by the mayor. The mayor was quickly spotted in the mine as near everyone else was weathered and covered in dust. The mayor was dressed in silk finery and soon it became obvious that the mayor was looking for him.

The mayor sequestered Fargrim into the foreman’s office.

‘Now Fargrim, I understand you have questions about the dragon,’

Fargrim’s mind buzzed with the questions that he wanted answers to. The most urgent popped to his mind.

‘Yes. Why do …’

The mayor simply raised a hand to indicate for Fargrim to stop.

‘I’m not here to answer them. You need to stop before your nattering makes its way up the mountain to the dragon’s lair. Should he feel the need to come down here, I assure you that we would all suffer,’

‘We already suffer, by working in a mine for a third of the day and never seeing any of that gold in our own pockets,’

This comment incensed the mayor.

‘Fargrim, you care about your parents?’ the mayor asked.

Fargrim nodded.

‘Then shut your trap or the dragon will char-grill your home with your family inside,’

The thought rattled Fargrim.

The next day Fargrim didn’t show up for work. Before dawn, he packed necessary supplies and headed up the mountain. Before he left, he searched the attic for his grandfather’s crossbow and packed it by his side. He was ready to fight the dragon if need be. The path to the dragon’s lair was well-marked. The weekly wagon rides to the dragon’s lair meant that a road had naturally formed around the wagon’s trail. Fargrim entered the maw of the dragon’s lair and went inside. Inside, he watched as smoke rose from the sleeping red dragon’s snout. The dragon was as large as his family home, yet it was dwarfed by the pile of gold which it sat upon. Fargrim looked at the collection of wealth and noticed that not all of it resembled the gold they mined. The hoard was peppered with emerald gems and ruby gems unlike any that existed in his hometown.

Then, a voice rang in Fargrim’s ears. A low rumble that permeated the cavern.

I can smell you, dwarf.

Fargrim peaked from behind a rocky outcrop. The dragon’s eyes were open. He watched as the dragon reared its long neck. He watched as the muscles around the bottom of the face undulated and brought a burst of fire to the dragon’s lips. The flame rose to the top of the cavern. Fargrim guessed that the flame extended for fifty feet from the dragon’s mouth. He had more range on the beast with his first shot but once he was detected that advantage would be lost. Perhaps he could play this diplomatically. He emerged from his hiding place.

‘Here I am, dragon. I came to talk,’ Fargrim announced.

With a crossbow?

‘For the road, a precaution against threats,’ Fargrim lied.

You’re lying. No matter, your volleys would be like the bite of a flea. Why did you hide from me?

            ‘Why does the mouse scurry from the cat? Survival instinct’ Fargrim excused.

You’re wiser than I gave you credit for, dwarf. What do you wish to speak with me about?

            ‘I came with a query. What do you do with the gold we deliver to you and why do you deserve it?’ Fargrim asked.

The cavern thundered with … laughter.

The gold is mine to do with as I please. I deserve it for not burning your village to a crisp

Fargrim has a realisation. The dragon needed the gold. The dragon needed someone to mine the gold.

‘What if we stopped mining?’

Then I will devour you.

            ‘Who will supply your gold then? You need us,’

The dragon’s eyes studied him carefully.

Then we are at an impasse. You value your life, I value your work. What choice do you have but to obey?

What choice did he have? What could possibly be achieved to break the dragon’s hold on his home? He didn’t have an answer, but he had something pithy to say.

‘I choose revolution,’

Fargrim reached for his crossbow and let a bolt fly. It soared straight toward the dragon’s eye and blinded the beast in its left eye. A flea’s bite still hurts if it stings your eye. Fargrim dived into the dragon’s hoard. He swam beneath the golden surface like a bug crawling through the earth. He heard the roar of the dragon and felt the vibrations of claws slashing through the hoard. The dragon couldn’t risk scorching Fargrim without melting the gold of his hoard. Fargrim felt the vibration grow stronger as he swam frantically. Just out of reach, Fargrim spotted the glint of steel. He swam towards it, feeling the whirlwind of claws at his feet. Grabbing the glimmering hilt, Fargrim emerged from the gold valiantly.

‘Dragon!’ he shouted.

The dragon turned its neck and let forth a volley of flame that soared over the hoard. Fargrim ducked back into the hoard.

Surrender now and I will spare your family. Continue this folly and I will burn you and anyone you ever spoke with.

Fargrim emerged to find himself face to face with the dragon.

‘If I die, dragon, there’s no guarantee you’ll keep your word,’ Fargrim said, through heavy breaths.

Trust my mercy.

Fargrim charged and the dragon’s head twisted to meet him. He slashed his blade and made contact with the dragon’s nose. He mounted the dragon’s torso and began grappling the spines that ran along the dragon’s neck, blade in hand. As he rose, he felt the dragon turn to the mouth of the cave and its wings begin to beat. He could the heavy claws make contact with the cave floor as it began to charge out of the cave. With a final leap and a beating of wings, they were both airborne.

I can outlast you, dwarf. You have made a grave mistake.

Fargrim reached the top of the dragon’s neck. Clutching the dragon’s spikes with one hand and feeling the skin with the hand clutching the pommel. He found a spot that was weaker than the surrounding scales. He plunged his blade into the dragon’s neck and felt the dragon shudder against the blade. Fargrim felt the beat of wings begin to slow and become erratic. They began to lose momentum and started to descend to the earth below. As he felt the rush of air, he was prepared to die. Let the whole world know that Fargrim who asked too many questions became a dragon slayer.

 

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