Wilruf the Plunderer
by Phil Wade
They find the old dragon, that scourge of Mercia, near the river, at least two furlongs from its cave. The nine men, wearing skillfully made cloaks, hide among the trees—four archers, five swordsmen with spears and shields for all. But Wilruf thinks four swordsmen will suffice. He is closest to its lair, so when the archers launch their first volley and a shocked roar replies, he sprints for the old devil’s cave.
He hears vomiting fire behind him, brave shouts and the beast’s choking cries.
“Villian! You have met your match!” Egbert, their leader, shouts. Wilruf laughs quietly, scampering around boulders.
He stumbles over the rubble which the dragon has scraped from the cave mouth. Inside, the darkness devours him. Do gold and diamonds not gleam a bit? He sees nothing, hastily groping the floor. Every scorching breath burns his lungs with a stench of refuse and carcass. He crawls farther, but nothing his sweating hands touch feels like a coin or a crown. How far back is the beast’s hoard?
A hot gust brushes his left hand, and turning he sees a golden shimmer several yards away, a luminescent ring shining on a glittering bed of gold.
“Ha, ha!” He has found it! But the glistening ring blinks. In a belch of flame, he sees the calm, gleaming eye and sleek, golden scales of a dragon raising herself above a nest of eggs. Again darkness devours him.