The dragon watched the evening twilight darken the valley into deeper blues. He was well-known, but the only one who ever saw him was a monk who thought his cave would make an ideal retreat from the banalities of civilization–until he saw the dragon. Cautiously, the monk backed away mumbling, “Shanti, shanti, shanti.” The dragon thought that was his name and for the purposes of describing his encounter with the damsel that is what I will call him.
The villagers in the valley knew all about Shanti’s treasure. It was worth more than any wealth on earth because it also contained, besides the piles of gold, the Master Gem. This gem gave anyone who saw it twinkle in the cave’s dim light eternal youth–and all that dragon did was sit on it.
However, to get one’s hands on these treasures, one needed, according to legend, a pure damsel whom the hideous beast had to capture. One also needed a brave knight who, under cover of darkness, would lure the fiendish dragon out of his cave and save the damsel. These two, damsel and knight, would be legally entitled to take as much of the hoard as they could carry away before the cave closed forever.
The part about the damsel raised concerns. Youthful females, whose purity was not in doubt, did not want to have such a dangerous part to play in getting the gold. Furthermore many a brave knight wondered, “Why not kill the stupid dragon and keep the gold for myself?” Every now and then some fool would remind everyone else that no one had ever seen this dragon. No one had ever seen his gold, nor this magical “Master Gem”, except for a mythical monk who probably made up this tall tale of how to get the treasure. Most of the townsfolk felt such people could be ignored.
Given these stories, you would think many brave knights and pure damsels would have visited Shanti, but until this evening he had not seen any. That’s why he found it odd when she poked her head into the dimness of the cave and asked, “Hey! Are you the dragon?”
“I’m a dragon,” said Shanti.
“Do you mind if I stay?”
“There’s room for both of us.”
The damsel waited for Shanti to do something distressful to her, but when nothing happened, she asked. “Are you a real dragon or not? Can you even breathe fire?”
“You mean like this?” Shanti took a deep breath and exhaled a flame that lit up the cave. As he did so the damsel screamed and Shanti jumped.
“Help! Help! I’m being held by a fire-breathing dragon!”
At the entrance of the cave, Shanti saw seven knights with drawn swords. “Prepare to die, dragon!” said one, who, unlike the others, couldn’t see very well what was in the shadows. When Shanti stood up, he was over ten times their height and his scales looked harder than their swords.
The smartest of the knights countered, “We mean you no harm, dragon. Move outside the cave so we may tend to the damsel and we will depart in peace.” Shanti felt this was reasonable. Maybe they could convince the damsel to leave? He moved to the cave’s opening.
“Watch where you sling that thing!” The damsel scolded seeing Shanti’s tail slide a bit too close to her.
Shanti saw them pick through his treasure. One knight found a rusted bar of iron and discarded it, but the others found nothing more exciting than broken pottery. The hoard looked like garbage left by long forgotten peasants. The damsel noticed something sparkle, but raised it to her eyes in disappointment. She tossed it. As they left she observed, “Your treasure is a pile of junk. Loser.”
Shanti went into the cave and sat upon what he now knew was junk. He looked around for Sparkie, that stone the damsel discarded, and found him on the ground. Shanti held him to his face and smiled. The thought never occurred to him that someone might want to take Sparkie away. Why would anyone want to do that?
Sparkie scattered the increasingly faint twilight through the cave with soft playfulness. Those watching this scene, if any damsel, knight or dragon-fearing peasant ever had the opportunity of doing so, would have seen the twinkle in the dragon’s eye.
Linked to Sue Vincent’s Twilight #writephoto.
Photo provided by Sue Vincent for this prompt.