Bob picked his way across the rocks with a cheerful bounce in his step. He hopped from one rock to another on a strange mountain that, from an aerial view, would look like a cracked eggshell. That was, if you looked at it from an aerial view. Which Bob didn’t, because he couldn’t. But that’s not the point.
Bob was having a wonderful day. He had just come from the market where the traders had set up shop for a week. He’d gone down there for the sole purpose of borrowing some money from the unsuspecting townsfolk who always packed their purses nice and full for market day. Now it was Bob’s purse that was nice and full, jingling with every step he took. On his way out of town, something at a shady stall in the corner caught his eye.
Now this wasn’t Bob’s first time around the place. He knew how to spot counterfeits and he knew how to identify items that were well worth his while. This glittering, gleaming, bronze sword adorned with an emerald the size of a child’s fist in the hilt was definitely the latter. So Bob did what came naturally. He stole it.
A job like that was a tad bit tricky to pull off, being that it was the stall owner’s prized possession and he’d been showing it off to everyone and anyone, but Bob was cunning. He was smooth, slick and impossible to detect.
That was until they detected him. Apart from the alarm sounding and the townspeople and merchants chasing him out of the town with clubs and pitchforks, the plan was flawless.
Happy that he traveled light and was quick on his feet, Bob had now outrun the fat, club-wielding villagers and was hiding out temporarily in the mountains. Well, not hiding, per say, but rather, having a nice stroll. A little inconvenient and out of the way stroll, but a stroll nonetheless. Bob didn’t hide. The important part was that the sword was now wrapped in leather and stowed away safely in his pack, out of sight just for good measure. It wouldn’t do to come across another thief who would try to take it. Not that Bob could be outsmarted by another thief, but a gang of thieves - that could be a problem.
Thieving aside, it was a beautiful, sunny day on the Syrrah Mountains just outside of the small village of Orden. Bob started a cheery whistle and was instantly blinded. Blinded by something totally unrelated to the whistle, but coincidentally at the exact same moment. Just to clarify.
Needless to say, Bob stopped whistling, having found himself unusually blinded. He threw up an arm to shield his eyes from the piercing light emanating from-
A real life, full size, colored dragon. He couldn’t tell what color it was because the light was bouncing off of its scales every which way and, with every rise and fall of the dragon’s chest as it breathed, throwing light into Bob’s eyes. He hid behind a rock.
“It’s a dragon,” he muttered to himself. “A real life, full size, colored dragon.”
Bob was in awe. He had heard the stories that the old men liked to tell to small children about the reign of the dragons, but he had never really believed them. If the dragons were so superior and intelligent, why had they faded? Where had they gone? It was a nice tale, but Bob didn’t see the truth in it.
And suddenly, a thought struck him. He was a con man, a highway robber, a thief, whatever name people assigned to him and here he was, at the cave of a dragon, one of the great legendary species. If they worked together, they could easily become rich. Charge five Frencas to see the dragon, ten to touch, forty to ride... Yes, it would be quite the scheme. A little disheartening for the dragon, of course, if it turned out he was actually intelligent, but in Bob’s world, making money beat sitting up in a cave.
And then Bob had another thought. He’d make twice the amount of money if he didn’t have anyone to share it with. However, the dragon was rather essential to his money making plan...
Bob was getting ahead of himself. First, introductions were in order.
The cave in front of which the dragon lay sleeping was set down in a slight depression. Bob’s rock was at the top edge, facing the side of the cave and the head of the sleeping dragon. He frowned. It wouldn’t very well do to call from above, would it? That would be a rather rude awakening for the dragon. And if the dragon stories were true, did that mean that the rumors about dragons hoarding gold were also true? Bob grinned. It might just be the perfect time to find out.
Bob snuck out from behind the rock, keeping his eyes carefully shelled from the piercing rays of light scattering off of the dragon’s scaly hide. He scampered down the rocks like a mountain goat, only with a bit more poise and a better scent. Not to mention, he was much more handsome with his reddish blonde hair and thin, mischievous face. Some might describe his smile as unnerving or creepy, even, but to Bob, it was just the look he got while analyzing how best to strip a person of all their worldly possessions, preferably without them catching on.
Back to the task at hand, Bob sidled up to the wall of rock that made the cave what it was- a cave. The dragon lay sleeping just a few feet away. If Bob could just inch forward around the lip of the cave and slip inside-
“OUCH!” Bob squeaked while being crushed under an enormous glittering paw. Two impossibly sharp claws speared the dirt on either side of his head and Bob gulped. He pushed experimentally at the paw on his chest, but he might as well have been pushing a Long-haired Beast of Tro’ul off of a patch of radishes. A futile effort, as everyone knows.
With a bit of a creak, the large, terrifying face of the dragon snaked down to examine Bob. He smiled. He shouldn’t have.
The dragon growled. “Give me one reason why I should not eat you in one gulp,” it rumbled in a deep voice reminiscent of cherry wood and aged wine.
Bob’s mind worked quickly. “Because eating me in one gulp will give you indigestion? You best break me up into smaller pieces, make it go down easier,” he rambled.
The dragon growled, his lips pulling back to reveal a set of razor sharp teeth which needed to be cleaned so badly that the smell alone would have killed a small animal. Maybe that was how he hunted, Bob considered.
“You think to toy with me, human?” the dragon demanded. “Do you even know who I am?”
“Er, no?” Bob admitted. He was sure those would be his last words. The dragon turned one huge eye on him and-
And released him. As Bob rubbed his chest resentfully, the dragon sat back on his haunches and spread his wings to their full length. The light filtered through green in a rather pretty sight, admittedly.
“I am Zerelth, Master of the Weak, Bane of the Fish, Hero of the Battle of Bulragea, Draconis of the High Council and terror of my enemies!” he pronounced with obvious pride. In a deep voice, filled with mystery and challenge, the dragon asked Bob, “Now do you think to taunt me?”
Bob blinked, trying to form a coherent thought. “Uh, ‘Bane of the Fish’?”
Zerelth looked off dramatically into the distance. “It was a gruesome and bloody period. You truly do not wish to hear the full story of the defeat of the fish rebellion,” he said seriously.
Bob nodded slowly. “Well, a great dragon like you wouldn’t stoop so low to kill someone as unimportant as I,” he said quickly.
Zerelth swung his head back down to Bob’s level. “Ah, I would not be so sure, human. I have not had a decent meal in weeks. Unless you can convince me otherwise, I will devour you like I have devoured many of your kin who have dared to defy me. Speak, human, and make your last words worthwhile,” he said, threat interlaced in his words.
Bob saw his only chance to convince the dragon to work with him. A plan formed in his mind. Different from his ordinary plan, but all the better for it. “Listen, O Great Zerelth! I have heard the stories about the greatness of your race, are they true? Did you used to rule over the humans, praised as the most wonderful, beautiful and intelligent creatures alive? Did humans used to worship you, serve you and adore you? Were you not the most fantastic creatures ever to walk the earth?” he said, slipping into convincing, flattering, con-man mode. The dragon looked thoughtful. “We can return to the old ways. With my help - a human ambassador, if you will - we can restore your honor, your position, your power!”
There was a moment of tense silence. “And why would you help me?” he asked eventually.
“It would be my honor to be the one to aid in the rise of the dragons. After restoring your rightful power, I would only ask to be granted enough money to live comfortably until I die,” Bob said, making things up as he went along. “What say you, oh dragon?” Man, Bob hated talking like that.
The dragon studied him for a minute and then raised his head. “I remain unconvinced. I do not desire power, I desire peace. Why do you suppose I chose a cave such as this one- out of the way and in the silent mountains in which no one travels? No, human, I will not accept your offer. Prepare to be eaten.”
“Wait! Wait!” Bob shouted as the dragon took a set closer. “The war, you know about the war?”
Zerelth stopped. He eyed Bob suspiciously. “I have not left this area in several years. I know not of the war of which you speak.”
“The two kingdoms of Arriway and Gaulivar are on the brink of war. Their leaders are bloodthirsty - they hate each other. None of the people want it, but they don’t have any choice,” Bob said, talking fast. This time, he wasn’t lying. “You could stop the war. Come with me. We’ll get you back in power and you can stop the war. You’ll save thousands of lives.”
The dragon sniffed. “The humans rejected our counsel. They wouldn’t listen to us when we tried to help them avoid many of the mistakes that have led to the degeneration of the land and to the state that it is in now. I grew tired of trying and tired of seeing them fail for not listening to us. I came up here,” he explained. “What makes you think that I care whether or not the humans fight each other into extinction?”
Bob saw something in the dragon’s eyes that brought words to his lips. “Because you still care about the humans. That’s why you kept trying for all those years. We were your subjects, your followers. We worshipped you. How could you not care?”
There was a moment of silence.
In a melancholy voice, the dragon asked, “What is your name, human?”
“Bob,” he replied immediately.
The dragon broke stride. His voice was suddenly not quite so ominous. “Bob?” he asked in surprise.
Bob nodded sheepishly. “Yes. Bob.”
“Just ‘Bob’?” Zerelth prompted, almost in amusement. “Is that short for something?”
Bob scratched his head. “Uh...Those are some pretty scales you’ve got there!” he said, awkwardly attempting to divert the attention away from his name. Not that he wasn’t proud of his name or anything. Bob was perfect. Yes...perfect.
“Do not change the subject.” Oh, yes, the dragon was definitely amused now. “What is it short for?”
Bob sighed and muttered something unintelligible.
Bob’s face turned bright red as he admitted, “Ferrabobanot.”
“Ferrabobanot?” the dragon asked. A deep rumbling laugh came from his chest.
“This is why everyone calls me Bob, okay?” Bob said testily. “Now can we drop it?”
The dragon stepped back to give Bob some room. “I accept your offer, human. Aid me in my rise, help me prevent this war and I shall neither eat you nor burn you to a crisp.”
Bob nodded. “Fair enough. And if you come to power, you will let me live the rest of my life in comfort?”
The dragon nodded its huge head. “Yes. You may sleep in the cave tonight. Make yourself comfortable...Ferrabobanot.”
Bob glared at the dragon. With a superior glance, Zerelth stalked off to look out over the edge of the cliff, surveying the mountainous domain. Bob headed for the cave, the sword bouncing against his back with every step. He was surprised that the dragon had agreed, to be honest. Perhaps his plan of working together might actually succeed. As for actually getting the dragon into power, well, that would be harder. But that was secondary.
After all, Bob had a sword in his pack. In order for the power thing to become an issue, the dragon would first have to live that long. In all these years, Bob had only one rule for himself, one piece of code that he stuck to above all else:
He came first and everything not in his best interests was unimportant. Anything threatening his interests must be eliminated. Nothing was to be put before Bob.
Not even a legendary dragon.