by Allison Symes
The dragon yawned. Faced one idiot with a sword, faced them all. The latest one matched the usual profile. He was young, handsome, and looked keen. No doubt the fool had been promised a king's ransom.
The only problem with that, the dragon thought, is you have to live to collect it. I know nobody has in all the years I've been here. This is so boring. Still, one quick blast will take care of this and then maybe, just maybe, I'll live in peace for a bit. I wish they'd leave me alone. It's all I want. I don't eat their women. Just the odd sheep or cow every so often. And humans eat them so they can hardly moan at me!
The dragon stared. The young man had not rushed towards him. Indeed the human was pointing some sort of box at him. There was a click, a quick flash of light, the dragon blinked, and then saw the man beaming.
'I hope that didn't startle you. You are a magnificent specimen. The noblest dragon, yes?'
This made a change. The dragon had not come across flattery before - abject fear, yes; tremendous courage, yes - but not this. The dragon padded slowly to the human. The human stayed still. That was different too. Some of them could run at an impressive speed for bipeds. Not that any could outrun flame.
'I know you can understand me,' the young man said. 'I've studied the legends about your kind. You can talk?'
The word 'Yes' left the dragon's mouth before he could stop it.
The young man smiled. 'Look, we could do a deal here. Can you see the crowd on the hill behind me?'
The dragon nodded. He'd smelt them first, of course. Some humans didn't like soap much. Yuck!
'They need to see me chase you away. I know a place where you can live in peace, away from them, with plenty of water and food. Deer, that kind of thing? I would like to study you in detail. I'm a naturalist, see.'
The dragon didn't see. The chap still had his clothes on.
'I like to understand animals, plants, and birds. See how they live. Try and persuade my lot to treat you better.'
'You've got your work cut out there,' the dragon said quietly.
'Money helps. Our lot can be bribed to do the right thing sometimes. Course you could just kill me now. I only brought the sword to look the part. I couldn't tell the king what I've just told you.'
The dragon nodded. This sounded good and if the guy lied, he'd die. 'You get the reward and come back to this place you spoke of?'
The man nodded. 'Up for this then? I'm afraid I will have to wave the sword about just for the look of the thing.'
'Naturally. On three, you shout, I'll run, and game on. What's your name by the way?'
'Attenborough, the name's Attenborough.'