Flash Fiction Month 2018, Day 18
“Foolish knight,” hissed the dragon. “Did you think this place would be unguarded? Did you think the moat its only defence? None who pass through those gates return alive, for all who do must face me.”
“Okay,” said the knight. “Why?”
“What do you mean ‘why’? Obviously I’m gonna fight anyone who comes here. Do you really think they’d leave a dragon in a tower just to welcome people in?”
The dragon made an annoyed little noise. “Only Queen Harriet the Third and the nobles of her court. Geez! You don’t see a lot of dragons guarding pubs, do you? I mean, it’s pretty much royalty or nothing, innit?”
“Because dragons guard treasure and the cash box at the Dog and Pheasant isn’t exactly going to cut it!”
The knight looked around the chamber at the base of the tower. There was a sort of low stage or platform for the dragon to sleep on, flanked by a couple of lamps. Other than that it was basically just one big, dim, stone room.
“Not exactly a glamorous job, though, is it?” she observed.
“Well, somebody’s got to do it.”
“Do they, though?” The knight lifted her visor and raised an eyebrow. “What’s in it for you?”
“Oh,” the dragon snorted. “Obviously they pay me.”
The knight looked around again. “I don’t see any treasure.”
“It’s all upstairs.”
“I thought that was the treasure you’re guarding.”
The dragon waved a claw. “I’ve got a separate box or bushel or whatever they keep treasure in these days.”
“So you get a cut a cut every time they bring some in, or…”
“Pffft!” The dragon rolled his eyes. “You don’t just lug treasure in and out of a dragon-guarded tower. It’s, like, a long-term sort of thing. You cram the place full of treasure when you set it up and then just sort of leave it.”
“That’s stupid,” said the knight.
“You’re stupid!” snapped the dragon.
The knight shrugged. “Maybe I am, because I still don’t see how you’re getting paid.”
“Well, there’s…you know. It’s all very complicated and financial—it depends on markets and stuff—but there’s…” the dragon finally recovered his train of thought. “Compound interest! That’s the one. There’s more treasure up there now than when I started.”
“I don’t think that’s how that…”
“Okay, yeah. There isn’t literally more treasure—it doesn’t multiply or anything—but it’s getting more valuable all the time.”
“Yeah, but you won’t see any of that until somebody either sells the treasure or decides to give you a portion representing the extra value it’s accumulated, and it sounds as though that’s not happening, so…”
“Like I said,” explained the dragon, narrowing his eyes, “it’s a long-term thing.”
“It might be a little too long-term,” put in the knight, gently. “You said you were sent here by…”
“Queen Harriet the Third.”
“See, we haven’t had a Queen Harriet for about two hundred years, and I’m pretty sure the last one was Queen Harriet the Sixteenth.”
“Oh, wow. So…”
“Yeah, it’s been a while.”
There was a pause.
“You don’t think they’ve forgotten about me, do you?”
“Uhhhhh…” The knight considered how to broach the subject. “The good news is: I don’t think so. The bad news is: I don’t think they ever planned to come back.”
The dragon snorted. “Well, it’s not like they’d just abandon tons of treasure like that.”
“No…” The knight looked up the long, non-dragon-accessible spiral staircase that lined the round walls of the tower. “No, I don’t think they’d do that.”
“I don’t think they left any treasure here at all.”
“Okay, tell me how you ended up here in the first place. How did that play out?”
“Well, I was flying around burning crops and eating cattle—just dragon things, you know—and then the Queen came over and said that she was really impressed and that she thought I’d be really good at guarding a whole bunch of treasure in this tower really far away from the rest of the kingdom and yeah, actually I think I see what happened.”
“Nuts.” The dragon looked about the tower, letting out a long sigh. “This has been a massive waste of several hundred years.”
“Hey, at least you know now.”
“Yeah…” the dragon narrowed his eyes again. “Come to think of it, what’s in this for you? If you really don’t think there’s any treasure in this tower, why are you even here?”
The knight shrugged. “It just seemed like the right thing to do.”
“Even though you know I’m just going to go right back to burning crops and eating cattle?”
“Yeah, well, I’m invading this place, so…” She shrugged again. “Yeah. If anything that would help me out a little. Feel free to really go to town on the whole burning and eating thing.”
“You know what?” The dragon nodded. “I think I will.”
He stood up, stretched his wings and marched right out the door.
A moment later he was back.
“And I’m taking this lamp!”