The dragon licked it’s dry lip and opened one eye lazily. Looking sidelong at the source of noise that had woken it, there was yet another human in armor. It was going to be one of those days it seemed. At least it was well past mating season now. No one deserved that interruption.
While it flexed it’s limbs and tail to push away the heavy feeling of sleep, it growled grumpily. There was something different about this human, it noticed. The armor seemed to hang a bit on the frame and there was an audible clicking of metal on metal. Was the human shaking? It paused a moment to feel the air, but it seemed as warm as any other time humans had chosen to come.
“Y.. you’ve stolen your last treasure. You’ll finally face retribution at the hands of a worthy foe.”
Well he certainly sounded like the rest of the humans. Perhaps a little less confident, but spouting the same idiocy. The dragon began to lift its bulk. These skirmishes were getting tiresome. Humans were annoyingly small targets and were only large enough to make you remember how hungry you were without sating that hunger.
“Oh. Oh my.” The human took a few steps back as the dragon rose. “This was really stupid.”
That was new. Since when did humans do anything but boast and attack? It was enough to give the dragon pause. Narrowing its eyes, it craned its head forward and sidelong to bring an eye to bear on the small figure. For the first time in over a century, the dragon found itself wanting to speak with a human. It growled out the first sound beyond grumbles and roars it had made in almost as long.
“Oh dear, I’m going to die now.” The human lifted a shield up to his head and flailed the sword aimlessly in front of him. It was admittedly a poor first comment, but a century of not speaking human languages left one rusty. The dragon tried again.
“I don’t,” This time it spoke more carefully and slowly. “Want to kill you.”
“God save me, it talks!” The human nearly dropped his sword. “No tricks monster. I’m not going to walk blindly into your mouth.”
“Why do you all keep throwing your lives away?” The words came easier now, as if use were priming them. “Are you all just eager to die?”
“No beast! Your stolen treasure is the stuff of legends and the man who can return it to the Kingdom of Rasth will be granted a noble title and the hand of the princess.”
“I have no stolen treasure. Also, why would you want someone’s hand?” The dragon lifted a clawed limb, flexing its fingers to look at. Human hands were small and had no claws. They seemed useless if not attached to the owners.
“No no no. Her hand in marriage. I’d be heir to the throne.” The human had allowed his sword and shield to lower a bit, no jerking them quickly back up. “Stop trying to trick me dragon! I won’t fall for your tricks.”
“I could just roast you in your armor if you prefer, but since you’re the first one not to come in here stabbing at my side while I slept, I thought perhaps you’d rather talk.”
“What is there to talk about? You have to die.”
“For stolen treasure.”
“Yes, for stolen treasure.”
“I never stole anyone’s treasure.”
“Lies. Everyone knows that your horde came from the riches of Rasth over four generations ago.”
“Everyone knows wrong.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Because I decided to talk instead of eating you.”
“I…” The human paused, peering up at the dragon before finally letting his guard down a little. “Okay, you have a point.”
“I won my treasure in a fair challenge from a man named,” The dragon paused to recall. “Solven as I recall. Riddles.”
“King Solven? He’s the one who passed down the story of your theft.”
“Figures. He was a sore loser.” The dragon scratched its belly absently and prodded further. “So why the sudden interest only in the last few years if he has been telling lies for so long?”
“He’s been dead for a long time. His great grandson established the reward for the return of the lost wealth.”
“And you wanted the reward.”
“Well, yes. I don’t really care about the title, but it’s the only way to get Princess hand in marriage. What do you dragons even do with gold anyway?”
“Not just gold. Any sort of treasured item from humans. Since we can’t craft such things ourselves, we use them as a measure of our cunning. Whichever of us has bested enough humans to amass a horde is cunning enough to be worthy of a mate.”
“How hard is it to beat a human when you’re a huge dragon?”
“Bested in a mental challenge. Taking wealth by force is quickly found out and the owner is shunned.”
“So you need gold to get a wife?”
“Something like that.”
“We’re in the same boat then.”
The dragon curled its lip in what equated to a smile among dragons. The human seemed unsettled. “Alright, so why not challenge me for the horde?”
“I mean mentally. You’ll lose physically.”
“Oh, um, I don’t have any wealth to offer if I lose.”
“You have armor and a sword. Those are very rare in mint condition and would go nicely in my collection. And if I lose, you can have half of my treasures.” The expression on the human’s face made the dragon want to chuckle, though it held back lest it seem rude.
“Why would you offer so much?”
“Partly because I am confident in my abilities.”
“And the other part?”
“Everyone deserves a chance to prove themselves worthy of a mate.”