The knight panted with exhaustion as the heat from the dragon’s flame incinerated his last ally. The beast’s mouth curled up in a cruel smile as it turned its immense body toward the final who’d dared to invade its home.
“Well now, sir knight. It’s just you and me. Your companions are dead, your hopes are dead, your dreams of stealing my hoard are dead. But I will give you one chance to live. Kneel down and swear fealty to me and I’ll let you go. All the wealth of your lands will belong to me, of course, as well as an occasional morsel or two to assuage my hunger. But I’ll even all you to pretend to still rule over the cattle if you want.
“Be smart, kneel.”
The knight had bent over, trying to relieve a cramp which was shooting up his side. But he didn’t kneel. Instead, rubbing the sweat from his eyes, the armored figure stood up and revealed a treasure beyond measuring—a crystal flower which glowed with a brilliant white light.
“Arrogance is your undoing, dragon. I’m not defeated, you are. By destroying my companions you have sealed your fate! For their lives, given in service to others, have activated the martyr’s flower. And now it’s light will be your end. Eanarma!”
A ray of searing light erupted from the delicate crystal and consumed the ancient dragon, which writhed in pain as smoke began to pour from its body.
“Noooo!!!” was all the dragon could utter before the fires charred it flesh and all that remained was a smoking pile of ash.
The knight drew his sword and saluted. “With your death my lands will know peace, and through your hoard it will know prosperity. This I swear!”
Just then a rush of wind tore through the lair, extinguishing torches and knocking the knight of his feet. As he was struggling to stand up the shadow of a horned head came over his body, as a clawed foot reached our for the prone figure.
“Need a hand, there, Walls?”
The knight grunted, but smiled. “Sure Steve,” the knight smiled as he took the dragon’s hand 1. “I hate it when the imagination rushes out of the place all fast like that.”
The dragon helped the knight on to his feet. “Can’t be helped any more, I’m afraid. Folks just finish and rush on to the next thing. I blame social media.”
“Well, I can’t disagree there,” Walls nodded. “There just used to be more savoring. Anyway, you got any more jobs today?”
Steve shook his head. “Nah, most of the independent dragon jobs are done for the moment. Niles has got Tolkien as a constant retainer and Sally’s somehow managed to tie up Game of Thrones things by herself. That leaves four of us to handle all the role playing game stuff and folks just don’t use us like they did back in the 80’s. I hear Pete’s doing soom moonlighting in video games though. That scene’s just not for me.”
Walls nodded. “Ah, but are you getting enough work to put food on the plate?”
Steve chuckled. “Oh sure, the profit sharing in our CBA helps out a lot. If one of us does well, we all do well. And a few of us are doing really well right now.”
“Nice! So, see you at poppy’s latter?”
Steve looked his watch, “Oh, um. I’ll have to take a rain check. I’ve got a meeting I need to rush off to.”
Walls rolled his eyes. “Again?”
“Hey, CBA negotiations don’t happen on their own. If I wasn’t there the wizards would probably be insisting on taking a 25% cut as a ‘finder’s fee.’ And that’s before expenses!”
Steve whistled. “Did they really propose that?”
Steve nodded. “Oh yes, they slipped that one in on the first draft, hidden under a napkin.”
“But do you think you have any actual leverage?” Walls frowned. “I mean, it’s not like people are knocking down doors to hire you guys.”
“Well, there’s only six of us, so as long as folks need at least that many of us, I think we’ve got an excellent bargaining position.”
“No wonder you dragons have the best CBA in all of Imagino. Your scarcity of resources drives up your price. Did you know are over 2 million armored knights in unreality? It’s tough to get work, I’ve even considered moonlighting as,” Walls choked down some bile. “A thief.”
“Yes! The pay’s terrible but at least it’s steady. It seems like every novel, video game, movie, and role playing game needs faceless nobody’s to sneer at a passing hero and try to make them pay up. It’s demeaning, but it’s work..”
“I suppose. Now I really must run, or I’ll be late. Talk to you tomorrow, Walls!”
“See you tomorrow, Steve.”
The dragon flew off and, as he continued his ascent, he began to ponder what it would take to get the wizards to give dragons time and a half for marathon work and convention appearances.
How is the dragon alive? The real time special effects in Imagino are rather impressive. That’s how. ↩