Dragons, wyverns, wyrms and serpents … the Wall Street bankers of myth, the reptilian misers of yore, always to be found moping or snoring on top of their stolen hoard.
One thing that has always puzzled me about dragons is that they don’t seem to enjoy their wealth very much. They just sit on it, underground, for decade after decade, barely acknowledging the riches beneath their tails, except for every so often stirring the shrapnel with the end of a curving claw.
In my second fantasy book, Rise of the Homrihans, my heroes Siskin and Valderan encounter a different type of dragon, who seems to be taking much more advantage of her ill-gotten gains. Here is a short extract:
Siskin could hardly believe his eyes. There, not ten yards from him, was a creature the like of which he had never seen before – the dragon. It was the same size and shape as a man, though fatter and heavier. Its legs were bent so that the knees protruded far over the calves. Strange hands twitched with three sharp talons and a stubby pointed thumb. Beads of rain ran down its scales, and the yellow plates of its belly glistened. Like a crocodile, it had a thin pointed head, though its eyes were wide and slightly orange. Tall wings rose above its shoulders, and seemed to flap nervously of their own accord, as Siskin charged towards it.
Scattered on the ground was a bewildering array of objects: coins, helmets, wigs, perfume bottles and precious stones. There were also four or five legs of ham, all of which had been gnawed. The creature too had rings on its fingers and several necklaces round its neck, one of which bore the cameo image of a young girl. It was wearing a lady’s nightgown with very short sleeves that barely covered its shoulders. Although he could not be sure, Siskin felt sure that the monster had smeared red berry juice along its snapping jaws.
The dragon seemed ready for intruders. In its hand, it held a small metal spade. It had jabbed this into a burning brazier at its side, and scooped up a handful of hot coals. These it had flung at Siskin as he came over the crest of the hill. At the last moment, Siskin had dodged. Only one coal hit him, scorching the back of his hand. Now the dragon flapped its wings and moved backwards, slightly away from Siskin, hovering at a safe height from off the ground.
“Who are you?” The monster demanded. It spoke slowly, each syllable separately enunciated. Hovering about ten yards over Siskin’s head, it scratched absently at the spade in its hand with a long central talon. Rivulets of water ran down its leathery wings and pattered on the ground. “How in the name of all the hells did you get up here? I did not hear you. I did not scent you. How did you reach my home?” Its cold eyes blinked once, blinked twice. “Speak!”
“I came alone.”
The dragon hovered and span to east and west, scouring the ground. Just in time, Valderan ducked. He began to crawl as quietly as he could around behind their opponent.
“Did you, now? I suppose you are one of those heroes that bards sing about in songs. Traipsing across the countryside with your horses, your squires, and the like. Killing my kind with your lances and your swords. I know you all too well. Very manly you seem to me.”
Quickly it dived down to the brazier, keen to scoop up more of the hot coals, but just as it dipped its head, there was a flash and a cloud of smoke. A terrible shriek filled the air. The dragon’s wing was ripped and bleeding, thin flesh hanging in strips. Blood began to weep from the frayed ages. Behind it, Valderan blasted the brazier with a shot from his second gun, knocking it to the ground, where the coals hissed as they landed on the damp earth.