“This is a terrible idea,” Zerelth said as he hunched behind a very, very large and conveniently placed bush. He looked down into the town of Copethnianinshiamnsilltia and scowled as well as a dragon can. “I don’t get the point of this.”
“We need money to aid our campaign,” Bob replied, lowering his binoculars.
“Um, for food and supplies and…special effects?” Bob replied.
Zerelth shifted his large eyes towards Bob. “Special effects?”
“Well sure. They’ll take you more seriously if you come into town with trumpets blaring and fireworks in the background. Everybody looks more serious with a backdrop of colorful sparkly explosions.” Bob looked through his binoculars again.
“I can never tell when you are being serious,” Zerelth said. “If you are, then humans are really stupid. If you aren’t, well…humans are still really stupid.”
Bob shrugged, “Stupidity is always to our advantage. You good on the plan?”
“You mean the plan to waltz into the town and demand all the gold they have, then fly off and pretend that we didn’t just rob a whole bunch of innocent people of their hard earned money?” Zerelth asked dryly.
“Yes, that one.”
“I’m not doing that.”
Bob whined, “Aw, come on! They’ll be so amazed by your awesomeness that they won’t even mind.”
Zerelth looked at him and then rose off his haunches. “Come. We’re going down.”
Bob scrambled to his feet as Zerelth unfurled his beautiful green wings and prepared to launch into the air. “Wait! We didn’t even make a new plan yet!”
“Your plans are stupid.” With a mighty flap, he went soaring away, down towards the town.
Bob watched him go, his mouth hanging open. He closed it and immediately began to pout. “My plans are not stupid,” he said to no one before giving in and racing down towards the town. It wouldn’t do to let Zerelth make an appearance without him. After all, Bob was just as important. Obviously.
He came to a stop in the town center just as Zerelth touched down. A crowd had already formed in a ring around him, and they were gaping with shock, gasping with amazement, and drooling with admiration.
Bob slid into the center next to Zerelth. He was also gaping, gasping, and drooling, only he was doing it out of exhaustion, fatigue, and running past a fresh baked pie stand, respectively. Zerelth spared him a glance before spreading his wings to their full span and saying, “Greetings, peopl-“
Bob stopped panting and straightened up. “No, no, I got this, Zerelth. You just sit back. Let me introduce you.”
“I rather think I can introdu-“ Zerelth protested quietly.
Shooting a let-me-handle-this look at the dragon, Bob waved him off. “People of Copethnianinshiamnsilltia! Listen to me!” he shouted. The people quieted and listened. Amazing. “This here dragon is the mightiest of his race, which is why he survived despite the fact that you all have deemed dragons extinct! He hung on by pure will and stubbornness alone, and he’s not going anywhere other than up!” Bob raised a fist towards the sky dramatically.
The crowd cheered. Bob stepped forward, warming up to his role. “You’ve heard of the war coming between this kingdom and that of Arriway, I assume?” There were some grumbles. “Tell me, do you want this war?”
“No!” came the cries.
“Boo!” came other cries.
“What war?” someone shouted. He was immediately silenced by glares of the people around him.
“That is exactly what my dear dragon frie- acquaintance said when I asked him!” Bob said emphatically. “And tell me, what are your impressions of that time when the dragons ruled?”
“What dragons?” More glares.
Bob was excited. These people knew what was up. “Precisely! So imagine my excitement when I found a dragon! A real life, full sized, colored dragon! Zerelth, the Mighty and Whatnot is the key to peace throughout the kingdom!”
The crowd erupted in cheers.
“Thank you! Thank you!” Bob said, bowing. “We do take donations for the cause of peace, and we accept Frencas, gold, or any other worthwhile possessions with the exception of mules and milk. Milk is gross.”
A tall, respectable looking man interrupted the jolly cheers of the enthusiastic crowd. What a downer. “Excuse me, I have a question,” he said.
Bob didn’t like the look of this guy. He looked like someone who actually knew what he was talking about, and had some degree of intelligence. Those were the worst. “Well no one wants to hear it, am I right?” he asked the crowd, expecting them to laugh and agree and say he was wonderful, after which he would blush and wave and sign autographs. Instead, they just looked at him silently. Apparently they liked the no-fun, serious guy. Well, that was fine. Bob swallowed. “Okay, what’s your question?”
“I thought that dragons went out of power because they brought about the famine,” he said. Many people nodded along with him. “Why should we trust them now?”
“Because it wasn’t their fault that there wasn’t enough food! What, were they supposed to ensure you have every single thing you need to survive?” Bob scoffed.
The guy looked around. “Well, yes.”
“Oh.” Bob pressed his lips together. “Well you can’t hold a grudge forever, can you?”
“Also, I thought dragons weren’t very smart.”
“What would make you think that?” Bob asked aggressively.
“Everyone says it, and we’ve never had a dragon dispute it,” the unnamed-but-very-annoying man said. “Plus, you’re doing all the talking.”
“Now listen here-“
“Ferrabobanot,” Zerelth rumbled, “I can handle this one.”
Bob looked at him in a mix of horror and betrayal. “I told you not to call me that,” he hissed.
Zerelth ignored him. “Listen, people of Copethnianinshiamnsilltia! First, I must point out that Copethnianinshiamnsilltia is an extraordinarily stupid name for a town. If I were you, I would consider changing it to something easier to remember and spell, certainly. Might I suggest Zerelthia.” Some people glanced at each other, shrugging and nodding. Zerelth continued, “That is not what I am here to say, however. I’m here to remind you that the famine was not the fault of the dragons, it was the fault of the humans for trading half of their seed to a group of hyper intelligent moles in exchange for seven buckets of dirt from the center of the earth. Not that I am pointing fingers.”
“That was the reason for the famine?”
Zerelth cleared his abnormally large throat. “And the dirt they gave you wasn’t even from the center of the earth, but that is neither here nor there. Regardless, dragons are far more intelligent than humans, and I have lived for hundreds of years. I have seen things of which you could never dream, nor hope to. I am wiser than all of you combined, and I am here to save your kingdom. When I propose peace as an alternate to war, do I have your support?”
Everyone cheered, even the annoying, questioning man.
With twinkling eyes, Zerelth shot Bob a smug look. “Whatever,” Bob muttered.
“Where is your leader?” Zerelth asked the people.
The man with all of the questions stepped forward. “Walter Borringian at your service.”
“If my associate Bob and I may meet with you privately, we have some things to discuss,” Zerelth said.
“Of course,” Walter replied. “Why don’t we have a feast in your honor?”
Almost gaily, Zerelth replied, “Ooh, I love feasts! Especially when they’re in my honor. We would be glad to accept.”
It just so happened that Bob loved feasts as well. People usually got so drunk that they practically offered to have themselves pick-pocketed. Practically. “Yes, I accept too.”
“Nobody asked you,” Walter snapped. He then turned back to Zerelth and smiled. “It would be our pleasure. Please, mingle with the community while we prepare the food.”
Bob glared at Walter as he walked away, but it didn’t seem to make any impact. “Can you breathe fire on him for me?”
“Can I? Certainly. Will I? Of course not,” Zerelth replied. “He’s our first supporter. Aren’t you sentimental at all?”
“He’s a jerk.”
Zerelth looked at him. “And what does that make you?”
“A jerk with wounded pride.”
Zerelth gave a dragony chuckle before Bob yelped and hid behind his neck. “What is it?” Zerelth asked.
Bob quivered in fear. He could barely form words. His tongue was like sandpaper, his stomach was like lead, and his eyes were like jellied orbs of light-admitting structure which transported and transduced visual stimuli into brain waves. He raised a shaky hand and pointed out at the village. “They’re coming.”
And then Zerelth saw it too. Bob knew he’d seen it because he immediately tensed and unconsciously shied back. Apparently they were just as horrifying to dragons as they were to people like Bob. Out on the road which led to the center of the village, the road which led to Bob and Zerelth, advanced an army of the most terrifying kind. They shouted cries of war, screeched, and banged sticks together. They ran in a mass horde, with no organization, no leadership, just chaos and barbarism. They’d turn on each other as fast as they’d turn on an enemy, for they knew no reason, no logic and no control. They were the most dangerous enemies that Bob had ever faced.
The children were coming.