Cacame and the Dragon

The sun hung low in the sky. The few dwarves who toiled outside kept their eyes low, avoiding the glare as they went about their business. Chop the wood, dump the refuse, pick the wild plants. It was not glorious work and many of their fellows snickered behind their backs, sharing pitying laughs about their poor brethren who had undwarvenly jobs beneath the sparse clouds.

The dragon drifted idly in the air, looking down at them. The dragon thought little of these creatures. As food, they were barely palatable. They tasted of the earth and their meat was tough. But food was not the reason for its visit. It knew the dwarves were beyond compare in forging treasure. It wondered what these dwarves, who had been carving out this ancient desert-side mountain for nearly a decade, had created.

Its curiosity was piqued as it saw a soldier emerge from the mountain opening clad in a silvery-blue metal. Mithril. A rare metal, quite valuable. Even that dwarf’s armor would be a marvelous centerpiece to its horde. Avarice gripped it and it began its descent.

But just before it was about to unleash a terrifying roar, its better sense saved it. It arrested its fall and climbed higher up, back into the low sun, where its red scales camouflaged it near-perfectly. Were it to descend now, it would surely kill the lone soldier and maybe a few of the lowly peasants scurrying around in their tattered clothes. But the dwarves would surely seal their fortress.

An established fortress like this could easily wait out the dragon’s patience. And once they bunkered in, beneath layers of solid stone, there would be no simple way for the dragon to breach the entrance.

So it waited until it saw a better chance.

“The glimmer of scales leaves me no doubt,” said Ònul Keskalmafol, the soldier. “It was a dragon.” She stood, leaning on her crossbow casually.

“A dragon!” exclaimed Zulgar Desisurdim, the Dungeon Master. “Oh, I’ve always wanted a dragon. I’ve heard tales of them, but have never actually seen one myself!” She wrung her hands together in undisguised glee and anticipation.

“I don’t know about this,” said Baron Lolorfesh. “Should we really be risking it? I mean, it’s a dragon! Who knows what it could have done in the past? It could have killed dwarves! Pillaged one of our fortresses long ago!”

“But Baron, imagine the potential!” Zulgar said, her voice almost a whine. “Who needs an army when we have a dragon around? Goblins, elves, even those wretched gibberling monsters… We chain the dragon near the entrance and never have to worry again!”

The baron stroked his beard, which had been finely braided with silk and dyed with whorls of color. “That is true. I have only just arrived, but I have had the unfortunate displeasure of passing by the graveyard. So many coffins… Rather a dragon that our people.”

The grin on Zulgar’s face split her head in two. “So, I have permission to capture it then?”

“Very well,” the baron answered. “We’ll capture it. But I’m warning you, Mistress Zulgar, this better work! If so much as a single dwarven beard-hair gets singed…”

“Yes, yes!” Zulgar answered with a dismissive wave that was very nearly insulting. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure no one gets hurt.”

The dragon had been watching the dwarves for the past several days. There had been a high amount of activity, but the dragon supposed that was to be expected. The laborers continued to do their work in the scorching heat without so much as a glance up into the sky.

Two weeks passed and only once did it leave the fortress unobserved, when its hunger finally drove it to kill a group of struthi and devour them. The dragon continued to watch and wait for an opportunity. Perhaps an attack by goblins would provide an opening. They would be perfectly happy to kill dwarves and would leave the plundering to it. Or perhaps a gibberling invasion, if there weren’t enough to threaten the dragon.

Finally, it saw its chance. A large group of peasants were passing out of the entrance. Why they were doing this was not important. It gathered height, then angled itself down and swooped upon them. It unleashed a roar and a gout of flame that didn’t quite reach the now-scattering dwarves, but was quite enough to send them scurrying back inside in a panic.

With the peasants throwing each other aside to escape, the dwarves were forced to leave their gates open lest they crush their peasants. The dragon charged into the fortress, breathing another gout of fire to ward off any oncoming attackers.

“Cower, dwarves, and surrender either your treasures or your lives to Sokröx Glimmerfair, the Duty of Coloring!” The dragon waited for the inevitable challengers to approach. There were always a few foolhardy soldiers who would sacrifice themselves in an inept attempt to save their fellows.

Curiously, none seemed to present themselves. Sokröx only briefly considered that oddity. None would challenge it, so that made them the smartest dwarves it had yet encountered. It plunged forward.

“Now!” was the cry it heard. Sokröx was barely able to turn its head toward the sound before a mass of rock came crashing down on its head. The blow was not enough to kill it. Not by far. But it did hurt it.

The dragon let loose another roar and began to shake off the debris. There was a squeal of terror, followed by an urgent cry of “Again!” More rock poured down on it. Sokröx remained conscious just long enough to see the face of a female dwarf, pale white terror mixed with fascinated excitement.

“Who told you to catch the dragon?”

Zulgar swallowed hard. She wasn’t standing alone against her questioner, but she may as well have been. “No… No one, my lord.”

King Cacame Awemedinade narrowed his eyes just slightly. It was barely noticeable, but it sent shivers down Zulgar’s spine. “Then why did you capture it?”

“I…” Her eyes shot to the Baron, who was standing off to the side, stiff as a board. He would be of no help in defending her. “It was a birthday present,” she lied. “I figured you could use a new mount. You know, to replace that old rotting wyvern.”

The king shifted slightly in his throne and his lips twitched into a slight frown for only the briefest of seconds. “Your lie was tolerable up until the part where you insulted my wyvern. Two hammer strikes. That is the punishment.”

Zulgar cringed as the king stood and hefted his warhammer over his shoulder. She knew better than to say anything, but was about to beg for Edëm Togalunib, the Hammerer, to dispense the judgment. She knew it would be a useless request and she closed her eyes and braced.

He stood in front of her. “Take me to the dragon,” the king said.

There was an audible sigh of relief from everyone gathered, the loudest from Zulgar. “Yes, my lord.”

Sokröx had been lashed to the floor and its mouth bound shut with chains of steel. It had briefly struggled when it awoke, but it had been too weak to break free. It had no idea why it was still alive, but it would make these dwarves pay. It merely needed to wait for the opportunity.

A dozen soldiers watched it, several armed with crossbows aimed right at it. One held a short sword that seemed to be forged of pure Orinth, something the dragon had thought was beyond even dwarven smithing ability. The magic pouring from it was palpable. Perhaps the dwarves intended to make Sokröx nervous by stationing a dwarf wielding such a powerful weapon nearby. It only served to make its greed burn hotter.

“What are you going to do with me?” Sokröx growled between its teeth. “Release me and I promise to spare you.”

The soldiers said nothing. They merely kept their weapons trained on it and waited.

After several hours, a new group of dwarves entered the room. At their head was the female Sokröx had seen earlier. Even though the dragon was safely chained down, the dwarf still trembled at the sight of it. The eager fascination of earlier had been wiped away, replaced only with worry.

“Here it is,” Zulgar said.

The group of dwarves parted and from their midst walked a single elf, carrying a warhammer slung over his shoulder. “What is this?” Sokryx asked. “Are they sacrificing you to me, puny elf? Are you to be my meal?”

“What is your name, dragon?” the elf asked.

“Sokröx Glimmerfair the Duty of Coloring!” the dragon declared with as much menace as it could muster, chained down as it was.

“That’s a stupid name,” the elf replied. “That doesn’t even make any sense.”

The dragon growled. “How dare a sniveling elf mock me! And what is your name?”

“King Cacame Awemedinade,” the elf replied.

The dragon snorted out what it passed for a laugh. “King? So the dwarves caught an elf king! At least I know my dinner will be a tender meal!”

“You are mistaken,” the king said. “I am not the king of elves. I’m the king of dwarves.”

The dragon snorted a laugh again, but cut it short when it noticed the utterly humorless expression on the face of the elf. “You’re serious? A kingdom of dwarves ruled by an elf?” Now it laughed again. And it laughed hard, for even in its position of weakness, it knew it had nothing to fear. “That explains why I was captured using deceit and tricks! Real dwarves would have sent their soldiers after me. They would have died, yes… But at least they would fight! Instead, I come to the home of dwarves who are ruled by a puny elf! And even once they captured me, they lacked the fortitude to finish the job!”

The king slightly cocked his head back toward the female dwarf. “She wants to tame you, make you into my new mount. Would you be the mount of King Cacame Awemedinade, elf king of dwarves?”

“Tame me?” Sokröx growled. “I will show you how tame I can be!”

With a mighty heave, the dragon strained. The chains creaked and then broke. Several of the dwarves screamed in terror, none as loudly as Zulgar. The soldiers all ducked to protect themselves from the inevitable dragonfire that was surely about to roast them all.

“Die!” Sokröx screamed.

The king unslung the war hammer and whipped it around into the side of Sokröx. The dragon did not even have time to ponder it as the second one came, striking it down.

The king turned and walked past Zulgar without a look. “Two hammer strikes.”

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