Chains of Gold - Connor Franklin

Creative Writing Awards 2024: Prose Runner Up

The wind blows against my bountiful wings, the sun glimmers upon my radiant scales, my claws clutch mounds of shimmering glorious gold coins and precious gems of countless varieties. ‘Tis my way, has been for centuries, puny peasants bow before my scorching wrath, paying me off with cartfuls of wondrous treasure, calling it tribute. My den full to bursting with sparkling loot, a most kingly bed indeed. I never grow tired nor ill at the sight of fear and anguish upon their tiny faces. In fact, it fills me down to my obsidian bones with pure glee. This bountiful loot belongs to none but I. Especially after the rest of my weak kindred faded to dust over the centuries. ‘Tis but I, the mighty dragon Ira, that sits alone upon my golden throne upon every rising of the moon, awakening to repeat my excursions upon the rising of the sun. ‘Tis the life of a king indeed, nay a god of wrathful flame and radiant crimson.

I glide down to village anew, landing with a thunderous quake. I tower before them like the insects that they are. These ignorant humans know not of my wrath. As many before, they draw their futile weapons against me. One small man stands apart seemingly as their leader, sitting cockily atop his mount; poor creature of burden, thy knees seeming weak and brittle, thine body shriveling from malnourishment. I do pity thee indeed. He’s clad in shimmering armor, a white dragon emblem gracing his cloth. Fool! Thoust bears an emblem of weakness.
“Halt, demon,” he shouts, “or we shall send you back to the depths of Hell from whenceyou came!”
“Demon,” I cackle. “Foolish insect, you look upon Ira, God of flame and ash. Bow before me and offer a bounteous tribute so that I may spare thee.” His face contorts with hilarious frustrated confusion, as if I have just sinned against his puny god. From my gut I release bellowing laughter. The earth rumbles before my unrestrained amusement. I do find great enjoyment in the discovery of new villages, for it brings forth unto me the humorous ignorance of its inhabitants.

“You dare mock the Lord Almighty,” he shouts, his face red as my scales. “Now you shall suffer tenfold!” He raises his short arms, signaling bowmen to fire upon me. Like droplets of rain against stone, their arrows plink off my stalwart scales. What amusement! I could hardly
contain it. Bountiful laughter erupts from my sharp obsidian fangs, tears of joy leak from my large marble eyes. I look down to see the small man and his smaller henchmen wailing in futility. What fun! I fail to feel their childish swats. What I do feel is an overwhelming hilarity bubbling within my gut. It overtakes me as I fall backwards. The earth quakes below my weight. I raise my long graceful neck to find that my laughter alone was enough to knock the puny mass to the earth, the man’s poor mount galloping away. Rising back to my towering visage I gaze downward at the man, his armor and cloth now besmirched in earth. His rage seemingly abundant, he alone rises and charges me. I rip him from his feet, holding him up to my black fangy grin. He struggles in my grasp like a whimpering newborn child. “Behold,” I say, “To the destruction thy have wrought from thine childish ignorance.” I hold him up so that he may see his village once more. Billowing flames erupt from my throat, coating the entire village in my fiery wrath. Screams echo through the dark mist. Oh how I love them so. Soon all that remains is black smog and ash, charred corpses lay strewn about this way and that. I turn my head to the man, his face gone from red with rage to white, his mouth hanging agape and his eyes wide, making him seem even more an insect. A snicker escapes my fangs. Stomping forward I search for any leftover wealth among the ruins. Rubble, ash, and earth give way beneath me. Suddenly that delightful aroma glides passed my nostrils: gold. My keen smell guides me to that which I seek and I scoop the measly sum from the charred rubble into my other claw.
“‘Tis but a clawful,” I say turning my head to the man, that hilarious expression still frozen upon his pale face. “How disappointing indeed.” I toss him to the earth below, ash of his kindred only slightly cushioning his fall. I flick a single gold coin at him, cackling fervently. It plinks off his face, now back to its irritating childish red.

“You shall die for this demon,” he shouts. “Your pride shall be your undoing!”
“Thine childish and infantile stubbornness shall be yours,” I hiss. “Do thineself a service and wallow in the ash and earth before thee and be glad, nay thankful that my thin patience and mercy have reached thee.” “You speak of mercy,” he shouts, his high-pitched voice beginning to annoy my ears.
“My life is ruined! My family is dead! My home turned to ash! And I should thank you? Burn in Hell! You fucking devil!”
“Such impudent language to be using against Ira, an impatient deity that towers–”
“Diety? You are no deity,” he says, his tone now calm and assured, pointing his wretched
finger at me. “You are but a beast that hungers for nothing but wealth, blinded by your own
empty pride. You think I don’t know of your kind? You are nothing without your pride, your greed.”
“Silence insect,” I bellow, snarling and steaming. “Thou knowest noth–”
“I know your kind is extinct,” he says, “slain by your own vain nature.” He begins laughing, blood spurting through his toothy grin.
“You have nothing to laugh about, insect,” I say through the grinding of my fangs. “My
kind was slain by weakness. Weakness I, Ira, fail to possess. Weakness thou bears upon thy very garb!”
“Oh but you do have that same weakness, Ira,” he scoffs. “You’re just too blind to see it. Face it, your kind wasn’t meant to last.” His flapping tongue annoys me beyond measure.
“I careth not what thou speaketh insect,” I stutter, “Thou art nothing to me. Nothing. Nothing but a weak, small, insignificant, stupid stupid human.”
“You will rue your words soon enough,” he snickers blood. “You know, there is a reason why I bear a white dragon upon my garb.”
Having heard enough of his pathetic irritating dribble I char him with a vicious rage. His corpse remains unmoved in the same kneeling position he held in his stubborn life. Still gazing
back at me with his eyes melting into his skull’s sockets. His skin a deep dark patchy red that shrivels upon his gray bones upon which his armor sits upon loosely. The white dragon on his
scorched garb just barely visible, almost taunting me. The sight for some reason unbeknownst to
me is haunting, his visage staining my mind. Pushing this pitiful thought asunder I leap into the skies above. Gliding through the clouds, a strange feeling of sizzling numbness begins to overtake my wings. It slowly spreads through the rest of my body. I gaze downward at my scales. They are not nearly as radiant of a crimson as I remember. The wind beating against my eyes as I rapidly
descend, cascading passed the clouds. The earth grows closer and closer. My heart racing in… in fear. What is this feeling? I can’t stop it. I feel the cold crushing earth for but an instant upon impact of the earth.

Awakening I find myself with a newfound seemingly youthful vigor. I leap from the earth, which gladly bows before me. Relief fills me as I gaze upon my radiant crimson scales.
That horrid encounter was but a dream I am sure. That beautiful smell graces my nostrils yet
again. I follow it asunder, leading me to a deep pit. I smell gold, silver, and gems. Their scent is
sweet, pungent, and most exhilarating. It overthrows me as I leap down into the abyss to claim
what is rightfully mine. I hover down into the deep darkness of the pit. My keen eyes grant me
limited sight even in bountiful darkness such as this. Glancing about, the scent fades into a thick
and nauseating odor: burnt flesh and brimstone. A thundering voice clambers into my ears,
echoing about my mind.
“You are no deity,” the voice hisses. I know of this voice. A silhouette emerges from the
darkness of the limits of my darkvision. ‘Tis not the man but his charred corpse, his haunting

visage limping towards me. “You are but a beast that hungers for nothing but wealth, blinded by
your own empty pride.”
“I fear no man, especially those who already dance with the devil,” I scoff. “Now rolleth
back into thy coffin of ash and sorrow and begone.”
“Your kind is extinct,” its voice shaking the stone, “slain by your own vain nature.”
“I declared thee begone apparition,” I shout. “I am not afraid of thee and shall gladly
scorch thee a second time!” The apparition bursts out in a mocking cackle like that of a banshee.
My mind aches from the shivering horrid sound. The ghost raises its infernal hand in the air. I
unhinge my jaw but the corpse pinches its cracked red fingers together, slamming my jaw shut.
“You are nothing without your pride, your greed,” it says, my ears leaking blood from the
vibrations of its infernal speech. Its head twists and contorts in an unnatural and unnerving
manner, splintering into a smaller version of mine own. This cannot be real. “Do thineself a
service and wallow in the ash and earth before thee.” Its head forms back into its original
haunting features as it limps closer and closer, cackling all the louder. I try to speak, to put an
end to this haunting hallucination, but my jaw is still wired shut. “Your pride shall be your
undoing.” Its words echo in my mind, erupting with excruciating and aching agony within my
skull. The pain brings me to my knees. It it like nothing I have ever experienced before. I
crumble inwards upon myself, succumbing to the vengeful spirit in weakness. My eyelids lock
together. My body stricken with agonising paralysis. I can feel its boney claws start to dig
effortlessly into my scales, peeling them away one by one. Agony shoots through my whole
body. I wish to shout out, to burst from this horde, to fly away, to be free of this horrid encounter
but I can do none. I am frozen, drowning in weakness. All I can muster is a single teardrop
running down my snout. “You do have that same weakness,” it says, “you’re just too blind to see

it.” I squint open my eyes, nearly stipped of all my beautiful scales. What is left is splotches of
hideous weak white scales. The sight brings upon more tears of cowardice, soon flooding my
snout with draconic heresy, which loosens my jaw ever so slightly.
“Please, I beg of you, cease,” I whimper, “please, release me. Please, please end this,
make it stop. Pleeeease!”
“Face it,” it hisses, tearing more viciously, “your kind wasn’t meant to last.” The
apparition after an agonizing moment vanishes at last, leaving me alone to weep like a mere
child. My scales, now white as winter, encircle my soft bare body. I close mine eyes. For I refuse
to gaze upon my dreadful cowardice and weakness. A cold numbness consumes me.

“Sssh, the big bastard’s wakin’ up,” whispers a voice, the soft incoherent mumbling
ceases. My body feels heavier than brimstone, my vision blurry. I try to move my arms, legs, and
neck but they are halted by the swift snap of a cold chain. My jaw too is restrained, just enough
to fully hinder my heat.
“What’s the matter,” shouts a mocking voice, more high pitched than prior. “Can’t move?
Can’t roast us with your flames? Doesn’t feel to good now does it?” Bewitching laughter ensues
as if they weren’t standing in the presence of a towering irritated dragon such as myself. As my
vision clears I find myself to be in some sort of large stone room. My body uncontrollably
shudders at the sight of dragon skulls mounted along either wall. A large black metal gate,
appearing to be made from my very claws. I look below to see a puny rabble before me, one
holding onto the reigns of a familiar malnourished mount. It would seem I was bested by mere
nag. As if this frustrating notion wasn’t enough to anger me, the desire to stomp them into a
bloody pulp only rises within me as they cease to refrain from their childish cackling.

“That’s quite enough lads,” commands an approaching man, ceasing their irreverent
bellowing, sparking relief unto my ears. The rabble forms into a tight line as he passes.
“Yes, Lord Gier,” they shout in unison. Lord Gier. I’ve heard of him and his ilk: supposed
dragon-slayers. Known throughout the land for putting an end to many of my kindred. I suppose
that explains the dreadful decorum of my prison. Very well then, I shall put and end to such a
preposterous notion soon enough.
Lord Gier approaches me. He is tall, at least for a human. He wears bright white garments
made of– are those scales? Perhaps the notion of his dragon-slayer status is not so preposterous.
But still, the nerve of this puny insect to walk before me bearing such garments crafted from the
weakness of my fallen kindred. The moment I am free from these accursed bonds I will grind
him into an indiscernible paste! Suddenly my eyes as if in pure instinct dart to the circlet atop his
head, then to the many pendants that lay around his neck and rings on all of his fingers. All gold
and laden with jewels and gems of tasty varieties, the sight and scent nearly putting me into a
trance. Standing at his side is a short man, again for a human, bearing no gold, but a boring
brown robe carrying a large drab leather bound book. However, a silver cross hangs low on his
neck. The combined scent and shimmer of it all leads my mouth to drool, my body to convulse
involuntarily. They notice my display of hunger and beastly ferocity, gazing upwards at me, all
but the two jump back in a sudden horror. Lord Gier approaches me, standing just beyond the
reach of my sharp feet. The scent of treasure more pungent, I can’t stand it. My body convulses
more violently. My heart nearly beats out of my chest. Massive puddles of my saliva coat the
ground just beyond his feet.
“So, this is the final dragon I’ve heard many a tale about. Looks like just another dragon
to me,” he sighs. Just another dragon? Insolent fool! “But, nonetheless, you’ve got something I

want.” All he shall receive from me is a coffin six feet underground. He fidgets with one of his
rings. I can’t take this feeling. Such beautiful ornaments, just out of my reach. The shaking won’t
cease no matter how hard I seem to fight it. “Ah I see,” he laughs, “you want this don’t you?” He
holds up one of his rings. My incessant shaking conveys affirmation to his query. “I knew it,” he
scoffs, “you are indeed just like the rest of your lost kin. Blinded by treasure that only man is
capable of possessing.” He slides the magnificent ring back onto his lanky finger. “The glimmer
of gold, the shine of silver, and the sparkle of jewels and gemstones hold much sway over your
spirit, almost serving as a form of nourishment,” he paces wall to wall. “Starve that spirit,” he
turns, glaring into my eyes, grinning ear to ear. Fool, my spirit is infinite. How else does he think
have I outlasted all of my ‘lost kin’. A look of nervous displeasure coats the robed man’s face.
He leans in and whispers something into the lord’s ear. My keen hearing grants me access to their
little squabble.
“Lord Gier, are you sure this is a good idea, can’t we find some other way?” whispers the
robed man.
“Silence, Brother Luke. The church will have its share as always. Be grateful I still let
you be part of this matter,” hisses Lord Gier.
The robed man gazes upon me with a look of seemingly sincere pity. I pull at my chains,
eyes locked on the beautiful and delicious jewelry. My bonds refuse to give way.
The lord shoves the robed man aside and looks back up at me. “Struggle all you want
beast, those are obsidian chains. Carved straight from the gaping mouth of one of your poor
kindred,” the lord cackles cackles. “Don’t worry, didn’t feel a thing, was already long starved.
His hide fetched a good price on the black market as I recall.” ‘Tis no matter. For I am stronger
than all who came before me. These chains are crafted from weakness. They shall not last, not

against me. I pull with all my strength and yet still no give. “Go ahead, keep struggling,” he
snickers, “it’ll make it go faster. Less painful in the long run.”
I glare at him, my scaly brow furrowing above mine eyes. “I shall burn thee with the heat
of a thousand suns.” I mumble through my muzzle with great discomfort.
He but chuckles. “I’m sure you will,” he says in a most mocking tone. “Clearly you’re in
no mood for talk, so I’ll come back later when you’re more… docile.” He turns and struts out of
the room, the other rabble follow suit. The large gate of obsidian thunders behind them. The
robed man, ‘Brother Luke’, stands alone before me. I cannot help but lick by scaly lips at the
silver that lay about his neck.
“I know he can be a bit dramatic,” Luke stutters, “but he is a deeply troubled man you
see. Can you speak? Silly question, my apologies. I guess a better question being, would you like
to speak comfortably?” Foolish question indeed, but I shall gladly oblige. I nod. “Can you tell
me your name, friend?” he says, grabbing a tall wooden ladder off of the adjacent wall.
I scoff. “Thou be not my ‘friend’,” I mumble.
Much like that lord swine, he but chuckles. However, his laugh sounds more nervous and
shaky. “In good time I’m sure,” he begins to ascend the ladder towards my head. “Anyway, your
name if you please?”
A moment of silence passes through the large stone room. “Ira,” I finally mumble
reluctantly. My muzzle grows tighter every time I speak.
He is now at my chest level. “Ira. Hmm. That sounds oddly familiar. Intriguing.” His
words spark confusion within me. I have never seen or known him prior to now. Perhaps he has
heard of me and my legend. No doubt, for my name echoes throughout the land, bringing forth
fear to all that hear it. No wonder his prior tone was shaking before me.

A hissing voice suddenly commands my audience. My eyes dart to the corner of the
room. ‘Tis the apparition. A wicked grin screeches across its befouled face. Loose burnt skin
hangs from its charred bones. Melted eyes gazing into my very being. My eyes refuse to look
away. It utters but one word: “Rue.”
The priest seemingly takes no notice, reaching the ladder’s summit. The creeks of the
wood next to my ear reels me from my dreaded trance. “Hold still if you please,” he stutters,
leaning in towards the cage over my snout. I can hear the inner machinations of the lock as the
man slips the key in and turns it. The collapse of the dreaded obsidian muzzle spells freedom for
my jaw. He slides down the ladder, stumbling back at the bottom. I gaze down at him, this puny
insignificant insect that is now at my mercy. He looks back at me, his eyes now convey a sense
of sudden hurriedness, darting this way and that. Indeed a great contrast from his prior visage. I
knew it, he indeed fears the mighty Ira.
“Why release what could very well spell thine own doom,” I ask. His eyes dart to me, as
if he had forgotten I was towering over him.
“I knew deep down that you, too, are troubled,” he stutters, “and I wish to save your
troubled soul.”
“My soul is not troubled in any sense,” I chuckle, “and I am in no need of saving.
Especially from that of a mere man of the cloth. What bringeth a man of thine putrid stench upon
me anyhow?” His brow drips profusely in sweat.
“He did,” he stutters, as if he’s being watched. His shaky finger points upward, clutching
his large book tightly to his chest.
I despise the thought of a being of great power wasting their time on such rabble as this.
Besides, my soul is strong, to be troubled is to be weak, and I am not weak. Not in any sense. My

kindred were weak, that is why they’re scales lay atop a man, and their fangs were fashioned into
chains and doors. This religious fool knows not who he deals with. “I’ve scorched many of your
brothers and sisters. Their screams of utter terror convey that which is most contrary to their
“I am sure you have,” his voice still shaky. “However that was the old you, I am going to,
and please pardon my cliché vernacular, slay that old you, so that we may bring forth your
humble self from the ashes of the old. Free of the pride and greed of your past nature.”
Pride and greed he says? Does he even know to whom he speaks? I have earned my pride
through my legendary reputation. And my greed, well, is it wrong to love treasure? “Such is
beneath me Brother Luke. Now speak truthfully– Luke. Why art thou here?”
“Right,” he stutters, “to answer your original query, my ‘putrid stench’ was really called
here because Lord Gier needed support from the church to run his little experiment here–”
“Experiment,” I bellow, “I am not a mere rat to be experimented on you insolent fool!
Especially one that is to be mocked and trifled with! I am Ira! Scourge of the skies! Bane to all
that oppose me!” I pull hard against my bonds. Heat builds up in my throat as I unhinge my jaw.
“My sincerest apologies. You’re absolutely right,” he stutters, “these are the words of the
church, not my own.”
He is just as I thought, a man, a weak man and nothing more, stumbling over his own
words. “Then I shall burn thy church to the ground.” A bright warmth of light and flame hovers
betwixt my throat and tongue.
“I beg you to listen!” His pleas fall onto deaf ears. The warmth gets brighter and brighter.
“He seeks to kill you and rob you of your riches!” The heat recedes as I swiftly slam my jaw


“Elaborate, insect.”
“It’s true,” he stutters, “Lord Gier seeks to starve you of that which keeps you alive.”
“Yes I heard that swine’s gums flapping earlier, mentioning such things. However, ‘tis not
so,” I say, shaking my head, “for not long ago I fell from the skies in a moment of rare…
weakness. Gold in my grasp.”
“I can’t say for sure why that would happen,” he stutters, “but it would seem to me, that
perhaps you had a moment of doubt in yourself. A rare moment for you I’m sure. And perhaps
that doubt manifested itself into– what did you call it?”
“Weakness.” I catch my words.“Rare weakness.” It could not be so. I am a dragon. A
mighty one at that, outlasting all my kindred before me, and yet I fall to doubt? No. No, I doubt
myself not. This fool jests! He speaks riddles! He seeks to fool me! To lure me into a false hope.
I shall not let this draconic heresy come to pass. I forbid it! My blood boils further as I tug
violently at my chains.
Luke waves his hands at me frantically, sweating all the more. “Cease, you’ll weaken
your spirit.”
He uses the very words of that dreaded lord swine. I knew it, he cannot be trusted. He
speaks in a false tongue unto me, for my spirit is boundless. I continue to pull at my chains, the
stone behind me begins to crack before my infinite strength. Brother Luke looks behind himself
anxiously, then turns back to me, lowering his voice greatly. “I believe that I can save you from
this fate. A fate that has claimed so many of your untrusting and prideful kindred that came

before you.” I pause from my struggle, rolling my eyes at such a preposterous statement. He
nods frantically. “You just need to trust me.”
“Why should I,” I grunt, continuing my vengeance upon my chains. Bits of rubble
cascade to the floor behind me. Should crumble anytime now I’m sure.
“Because I know and have seen many things about your kind which others have not,” he
whispers. “For the church always sends me to– and again, these are not my words, to aid in Lord
Gier’s experiments.”
“Thou speaketh deceitfully,” I continue to grunt and heave at my bonds, “thou, thou’s
church, and the lord swine. Thou all lie! My spirit possesses no weakness! None!” The wall
behind me crumbling evermore, yet still refusing to give way to my might.
“I know that dragons have keen senses. Does this ring true?”
“Aye,” I scoff, “beyond that of any other creature.” I halt my struggle for good this time.
What is this fool playing at?
“Then you should’ve heard the scuffle I had with the lord,” he points at me. “I want to
help you. For I know, whether you like it or not, that you can’t help yourself.”
“And what makes thee so assured of this?”
“Because I have seen many of your kindred fall to these very shackles. They act strong
and rebellious at first, but through the lord’s tactics of starvation and taunting, they grow far too
weak to resist. And so in order to end their hunger in an act of desperation, they reveal their
hidden stash, as all dragons possess I’m sure you know.”
“Indeed, my horde of gold is beyond all that came before me. The very thought of
revealing its location disgusts me. ‘Tis draconic heresy.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Those are the same words that all of your other
kindred used before you, more or less, yet they all fall to the lord’s foul tactics.”
“And what if I do reveal my horde unto the lord?” I shudder at the very thought of it.
“He will tell you that he will spare you and you can fly away to some unbeknownst place.
This is most untrue. For he will starve you all the same until your strength fails you.”
As frustrating as it is, the holy man makes a good point. One flaw does his argument
possess: my kindred were all weak, ‘tis why only I have remained. My strength has no limits. I
am stronger than all of those before me. I will not fall to some hunger, some starvation. Some
man. I shall break free and rob the lord swine of all he possesses. My legend shall live for
eternity. Although one thing befuddles me. “Why bring these ‘foul tactics’ unto me rather then
thine own clergy?”
“I can’t.” He looks at the cross around his neck for a moment. “In truth,” he sighs, “the
church already knows. They too want you dead. For the lord gives them a share of the dragon’s
bounty, always has. As I’m sure you’ve probably heard from our prior scuffle.”
‘Tis true indeed, I expect no less from a group of clergymen. And he says I suffer from
greed. How rich. “And how art thou different from the rest of thou herd of swine, Brother Luke”
I scoff.
“As I said, the church always sends me, and so over the years I have seen many a dragon
fall to the lord exploiting their own pride and greed. I have grown to despise such dreadful and
inhumane tactics. It’s brutal, even for dragons. No offense to you of course.”
“None taken,” I scoff. Those words: pride and greed. They hiss through my mind. I grow
tired of them. The visage of the charred corpse begins to stain my retinas. I rapidly blink it away
and look down at Brother Luke.

“So what do you say?” The damn fool holds out his hand as if I were on his puny level.
“Oh sure,” I roll my eyes, “Why not?” Of course the damn fool is deaf to my rhetoric.
“Splendid,” he whispers, “for that means I can start working on a plan to get you out of
this mess.” Steps begin echoing outside the door alongside soft murmuring. “Alas I fear I haven’t
much time. Here,” the holy man rips his cross of glimmering silver, heaving it at my snout,
which I instinctively lodge into my black teeth. Vigor fills me from the metallic flavor.
“Why doth thou gift me such treasure Luke?”
“It will help buy us more time,” he whispers. The voices grow louder, seemingly right
outside the gate. Brother Luke takes a deep breath, wiping the still profuse sweat from his brow.
“It has been a pleasure, Ira.”
The gate to my infernal prison swings open. The lord, now bare of his wondrous jewelry,
a pity indeed, proceeds forth into my forced domicile. His bumbling entourage accompany him.
My parchment-thin trust for Luke preventing me from torching the room. The lord’s brow
wrinkles. “What keeps you priest,” he asks. “Come along, we have a long day this coming morn
as I am sure you know. And where be your cross?”
Sweat now floods down Luke’s balding head. “Right,” he stutters, “My sincerest
apologies Lord Gier. I do recall you saying that we mustn’t keep treasure in the presence of the
vile beast.” Perhaps the holy can be trusted. For he uses a false tongue against his own ruler.
Brave yes, but foolish. Lord Gier grips Luke’s shoulder tightly as he begins to guide him out of
the room.
“Right you are priest,” he says, looking at me, before proceeding forth back to the gate.
Though after but a moment, he stops, glancing back at me with a raised brow. “That is strange
indeed.” Luke’s sweaty face is more red than my scales. Lord Gier scratches his scraggly excuse

for a beard. “Could’ve sworn his flaming gates had been sealed not long ago.” Brother Luke is
visibly shaking, seemingly on the verge of collapsing. Lord Gier shrugs. “Ah, no matter.
Remuzzle the beast,” he commands as the gate slams shut behind him and Brother Luke, leaving
his men behind.
I glare down at the shaking insects before me, their pungent fear tickles my nostrils. I
unhinge my jaw when my eyes dart suddenly to that same dark corner, the haunting charred
corpse glaring back at me. Its grin now unnaturally larger than prior, nearly fracturing his face.
“You will die for this demon,” it cackles, pointing at me with its boney finger, “you shall suffer
“Leave me apparition,” I shout, “Leave me at once!” Its bewitching cackling grows only
“We shall send you back to the depths of Hell from whence you came.”
“Haunteth me no longer,” I bellow. Its laughter is now deafening.
“Pride. Greed.” The haunting ceases only when I feel the cold black obsidian lock my
jaw back into place. A muzzle be far preferable to that indeed. The silver upon my tongue is now
my only company.
Never in the centuries I have roamed these lands have I met a man quite like Brother
Luke. His words of– empathy. They left me in utter confusion and befuddlement. The way he
had spoken unto me, and then unto the lord, it makes him seem genuine in act. But to tread upon
such waters of treachery and deceit of his ruler, the fool certainly has my pity. I fear Lord Gier
may catch onto his little ruse though. However, that numbness, I can still feel it within me,
seemingly amplified by the sharp tongue of Lord Gier and that dreaded apparition. Brother Luke
calls it doubt. I do suppose I still doubt my kindred truly fell to such weakness to the point of

utter draconic heresy. But there’s something more to this feeling. Could all of the treasure that I
have spent eons collecting, and the pride I have rightfully procured from my legend, all be the
very things that now bind me? No, such thinking is foolish and weak. I am not weak… right?
Anyhow, for now at least, I must grow accustomed to this uncomfortable confinement. For the
alternative will surely prove me weak.

Brother Luke comes by every day before the lord awakens, and reads me stories from his
book, removing and replacing my muzzle, in which I gladly oblige. He speaks to me of a life free
of the doubt, pride, and greed that plagues me. Saying that I must accept my weakness. His
preaching falls upon deaf ears. For how can I even accept that which I have never possessed?
Fool, he is the one that is blind, not I. Same for that charred ghost that haunts me still every sun
and every moon. To which Brother Luke eventually caught onto. ‘Tis no matter. For it speaks the
words of a dead fool. His burnt tongue flaps in futility. Still, Brother Luke’s teachings are far
more favorable than the taunts and interrogations from Lord Gier. From this I grew close to
Brother Luke. Although his teachings are still mute to me. Then Brother Luke leaves, returning
daily for the interrogation and taunts by Lord Gier. Who is still bare of his delightful treasure.
What a shame indeed. His efforts of locating my den always come up futile. For my unending
willpower proceeds him. However, Brother Luke spoke true indeed, the lord’s pressure gets
harder and harder to resist. I grow weaker and weaker as the days pass, my scales growing pale
and soft. My body falls into a heavy numbness. The silver upon my tongue being all that
prevents my demise. But I fear I have grown short on time. The hunger. It hurts. But I must resist
for as long as my spirit lets me, for I am Ira. I am strong. Stronger than all who have come before


“How are you feeling? Any hallucinations?” asks Brother Luke, sitting aloft on a wooden
“I grow tired priest,” I say, “I desire freedom from my hauntings, along with this
wretched confinement. All so that I may return to my den and rest upon my mound of gold.”
“I know, hang in there,” he says with a thin smile. “And remember, even if your freedom
from here were to be granted, you would never truly be free of your innate worldly and vain
desires, doubts, and deep regrets. Which I have come to believe, are the catalyst for these
seemingly dreadful hallucinations. Meaning that they too would too remain to haunt you.”
“Oh spare me thine spiel priest, I’ve heard it far too many a time. I am in no mood for
such talk. Not anymore.” The priest gazes up at my pale visage, a look of worry paints his face.
He sets down his book and approaches slowly. “I see you do indeed grow very weary, and
my teachings have done little for your soul it would seem.” He rests his hand on my foot of
obsidian, “I see now I must act.” Awestricken, I do not know how to react to such a display. A
human has never come this close to me in this way, touching me. I feel… light. As if the whole
world is right here, right now, in this moment in time and space.
“What,” I stutter, “doth thou mean, Brother Luke?”
He lightly pats my claw and steps back and holds out his hands. “My cross. Do you still
carry it in your teeth?”
“Indeed I do Brother Luke. ‘Tis all I have left.”
The priest shakes his head and giggles. “You shall have so much more when you’re truly
free, just trust me. Would you kindly dislodge it?” Some primal desire suddenly fills my veins
with adrenaline. My heart races. My jaw locks up into an uncontrollable snarl. In this state I remain to Luke’s befuddlement. “Very well then.” He exhales sharply as he walks over to the ladder. No, please don’t. He begins his ascent. Cease such foolishness! He reaches toward my fangs. I recoil.

“Please, cease,” I mumble through gritted fangs, “I wish not to harm thee.”
“Don’t worry, everything will be okay.” His soft voice stills my heart, I lean in, fighting
every primal urge in my being. He reaches for the now worn silver cross lodged in between my
fangs. I feel a sharp pain in my gums as he rips it out, nearly falling off of the ladder. He
apologizes before sliding down the ladder. He gazes down at the cross. One end has been
sharpened to a point by my fangs. He nods and looks up at me, releasing a deep troubled sigh.
“This should do.”
“What doth thou me–” The gate bursts open. The priest hides the cross under his robes. I
see now. Daring indeed.
Lord Gier stands alone. “What is going on here priest,” he shouts. “Why are you here
alone with the devil?”
Brother Luke sweats yet again, what a sweaty man indeed. “Lord Gier,” he stutters, “I
thought the interrogation was to start at the twelfth hour. It is but the eleventh.”
“Figured I’d warm the demon up a bit. Anyway, it matters not. Now, answer my question,
priest. Why are you here with the beast?”
Luke stumbles over his words for a moment. “I was torturing up this blasphemous demon
with the light of God, Lord Gier.”
Lord Gier scoffs. “But of course,” he says, “although, I’m sure it be no help,” he sighs,
“but I’m sure it does little harm either. Very well then. Proceed with your religious babble with

haste. For as you said, interrogation begins in less than an hour. And I feel we are close to
breaking this foul demon.” He pivots around and begins to strut out the room.
Brother Luke erupts with a sigh of relief. “That was close,” the priest whispers.
The lord stops in his tracks and pivots back around. He glares up at my free jaw and
shoots his gaze back towards the priest, fury in his eyes, his eyebrows touching from his
wrinkled brow. Spoke too soon it would seem. “I knew it,” he shouts, “You were the one that
removed the muzzle all those days ago!”
“Please, Lord Gier,” Brother Luke stutters. His face is red and sweaty. “I can explain
everything. You see–”
“Silence,” shouts Lord Gier, “I’ve heard enough deceitful dribble from your wretched
mouth priest!” He draws a blade of steel from a scabbard upon his belt, approaching the priest,
who’s fear reeks from every pore. “Scratch that, the interrogation starts now!” He grabs the priest
by the neck pointing his blade into his back. The nerve of that cowardly bastard! I lurch out at
him, my chains swiftly catching me. Lord Gier laughs. “Go ahead, just try it.” Alas, I have
grown too weak to sprout flame or break free from my chains, helpless to offer any assistance. “I
grow impatient, devil,” he hisses. “Talk, or I cut him down where he stands!”
I truthfully never thought I would ever care for a human of all things. A dragon
befriending a human is near heresy, but for Brother Luke and the kindness he has shown me up
‘til now, I have decided to make an exception. “Spare him,” I shout, “and I shall reveal to thee
the hiding place of my bounty!” The words take all I have within my spirit.
Lord reluctantly sheathes his blade and shoves Brother Luke down to his knees, sparking
relief within my aching bones. A grin stretches across the lord’s face, like that of a child who had

just picked a wealthy man’s pockets in the street. “Very well,” he says, “I shall spare this pitiful
fool. If you tell me where you’re holding your treasure.”
My greed-stricken nature instinctively holds my tongue. Although with all the time that
has now passed, my starved nature doesn’t take long to overcome. “There be an opening on the
southwestern side of a tall purple mountain bearing a blue peak,” I say reluctantly, gritting my
teeth. My brain thumps against my skull, resisting my words. “It resides just off the coast of the
western shores of the Diamond Sea.” The thumping ceases at last. I release a deep exhale of
relief. I feel– oddly light.
Lord Gier smiles sharply. “I know of there,” he says, stroking his scraggly beard for but a
moment. “Very well. But if this information proves false, I shall burn the priest alive.” He turns
gazing at Brother Luke, who is shaking in terror, and smiles before proceeding to the gate.
Brother Luke ceases his incessant shaking and looks over at me, smiling. “I am sorry
Ira,” he whispers, “But I can’t let you doom yourself like this. Like I have all the others.”
“No, please don’t,” I whimper, “Not for me.” He but nods and smiles, tears leaking from
his eyes.
As Lord Gier reaches for the gate handle, Brother Luke lunges upon him, the sharpened
cross in hand, plunging it deep into his back. Lord Gier gasps as if all the air was just siphoned
from his lungs, stumbling into the gate. Brother Luke recoils from his violent act. Lord Gier
turns to him. Blood trickles from his lips. “Coward,” he hisses through bloody gritting teeth.
Takes one to know one. He unsheates his sword with a vengeance, his hands shaking from blood
loss. I continue to stand powerless as he raises up his blade. The apparition glares at me from
the corner of the room. I can’t let this happen. Not to Brother Luke. Not to my only friend. “No,”

I bellow as a sudden vigor fills me. As if the spirits of my predecessors fly brazenly through my
veins. I make one desperate pull at the chains with all the strength I have left. The stone wall
behind me finally gives way, leaving a gaping hole in the wall.
The lord stops and gazes up at me, his eyes now wide. Soon he runs through the gate,
leaving a trail of cowardly blood. I snatch up Brother Luke and attempt my escape through the
wall. The blinding sun stunts me for a moment, forcing me to my knees.
I hear the gate behind me squeak open. “Stop that monster,” shouts the cowardly lord
returning from behind. As my vision adjusts I see now where I have been all this time. ‘Tis a
mighty stone fortress, tall towers and palisades on all sides. Flags erupt from the towers, a white
dragon laying brazenly upon them. Archers emerge from all directions. I attempt to fly but my
wings have grown too weak. “Loose!” shouts Lord Gier. The arrows pierce my pale and weak
scales. I reel back from their stings. Lines of armored men leap upon me from the towers above,
stabbing into my scales with ease, like needles through cloth. My vision begins to go faint.
Nausea overtakes me as I fall back into the cold dirt. This sends many of the armored men flying
off of me, crushing the rest. I wince as their armor and weapons splinter into my back against the
ground. The visage of the charred corpse stains my mind, not to be blinked away this time.
“Suffer tenfold.” Its words ache in my mind.
“Loose,” shouts Lord Gier yet again. Sending another volley of those terrible needles into
my weak scales. My vision begins to fade. My grasp weakens and I can feel Brother Luke worm
out of my claw. No, it isn’t safe yet. Remain unto my claw.
He rushes up to mine eye. He is blurry. I can feel his warm hand resting upon me. “Come
on!” His worried face comes into focus. “Stay with me! You can do this,” he shouts. A grayish

blur emerges behind him. Please go, I am too weak to speak so. “You were right Ira! You are
stronger than the rest of your kin! For there’s more to you tha–” No. No no no no no! A
nightmarish red overtakes his silhouette as he collapses. The gray blur comes into focus. ‘Tis the
lord swine. If I wasn’t weak! I would’ve sent him to Hell long ago and Brother Luke would still
be breathing. His voice would still chamber upon mine ears with sweet song.
He raises his bloody blade. “Look what you made me do,” he cackles before leaning in
closer. “I will take everything from you. All of your gold, all of your gems. Everything you stole
from man, I shall return unto me.” I have failed.
My vision is replaced by a cloud of red, followed swiftly by a sharp sting, and then
nothing. All that remains is a drop of liquid I feel rolling down my eye, tears or blood I know
not. But it matters not. For it won’t change anything. I have succumbed to the very weakness
Brother Luke warned me of. I am a fool, I refused to listen. And now, I’ve lost everything. I care
not for the gold anymore, to hell with it. For I have lost that which I’ve never had before: a
friend. One who truly understood my plight and was willing to help me through it even unto
death, and I have failed him. I am weak. No. No, I am not. For my friends final words speak true.
I can see it now. There is more to me. More to me than my pride, and my greed. I cannot let his
death go in vain. I mustn’t. I won’t! Adrenaline spills through my veins. Even through my now stunted vision I see things
more clearly than I ever have in all my centuries on this plain. The cost is all too real to me now.
I rise up to my feet, the earth bowing to me once more. My wings, I can feel them. I feel the
wind grace them yet again. ‘Tis been ages! The cool breeze glides through them. My scales feel
light and strong, no longer pale. Nay radiant! It feels good! It feels– right. I gaze down at my

Brother Luke’s still body. Thank you my friend. I reach down and carefully pluck him into my
“Loose,” shouts Lord Gier, his voice shaking. The arrows, I hardly feel them at all. I do
feel that feeling of lightness more than ever. As if a mountain of brimstone, nay gold, had fallen
off my wings. The lightness builds up more and more until it erupts from my fangs, turning all
that stand before it to ash. The rest flee from the fortress, clambering over one another, kicking
and screaming like children. Soon only Lord Gier remains, standing in the midst of his fallen
fortress. He falls to knees. “Please,” he whimpers, “Spare me. Spare me and all the gold here and
across the land I control is yours and yours alone!”
His pitiful offer falls on deaf ears. “Silence.” I do as I had vowed I would upon first
seeing the cowardly bastard. Thus indiscernible paste he has become. I can feel the scales of my
brethren upon his crushed body, now set free from such a dreadful fate. I gaze upon Brother
Luke. He lay there still in my palm. He has a peaceful look on his face, that same thin smile he
would always carry towards me. He knew from the very beginning what he would have to do. He
truly knew my kind, our stubborn ego and pride clouds our minds from just thoughts. He had
known that I wouldn’t listen to his teachings, and yet he still tried. Up until the very end. Many,
many thanks friend. I owe you everything. I look to the skies above. The sun peers coyly through the clouds. I leap high into the air,
the breeze taunts my wings, and thus they respond with irreverent flight. The cool and sharp
wind blows against my face. I have forgotten just how good this feels, to fly high into the clouds.
After a long moment of flight, my keen ears pick up the sound I have been waiting for: bells. I
pull in my wings, letting the wind carry me asunder towards the sound of the bells. A large town
unlike any I’ve seen emerges below the clouds. A large and tall building with a pointed tip

carrying a large wooden cross. ‘Tis hopefully the home of Brother Luke. As I near towards the
earth I sprout my wings to carry me down softly before the town. Flags with that same white
dragon flap in the wind. I am in the right place after all. However, the townspeople look up at
me, horror strikes their expressions.
“Run for your lives!”
“No,” I say softly, “I am not here to harm thee.”
After a moment, guardsmen approach pushing forth a large bow-like contraption. “Kill
the beast! On my command!”
I hold out my hands in desperation. “Wait, please! Listen unto me!”
They fail to listen. “Loose!” Large arrows tipped in black pierce my scales, sending sharp
pain through my whole body. I stumble back from the impact. “That hurt ‘em! Keep it up,
reload!” I have had quite enough of this. I step forth and pluck their contraptions from the ground, some try to hold on, but stumble to the ground. “Forgive me,” I say softly, “but you forced my claw.” I turn and hurl them into the heavens. They rise and unsheathe their blades. Rage paints their faces in a fiery red, seeming all too familiar. A man with a tall red feather protruding from his helmet steps forth from the crowd
of soldiers. “Leave us white devil,” he shouts, as if that very emblem were not plastered upon his armor and banners. “There is more where that came from!” I kneel down before them and hold out Brother Luke in my palm. “I do not come here to bring harm upon you. I have come to bring my friend back home.”

They all recoil, seemingly in unison. A wrinkled look of disgust plasters the officer’s
face. “You’ve slain a man of God, and dare to call him friend? You fucking demon! Crawl back
into the depths of Hell from whence you came, or I shall send you there myself!”
“No, thou speaketh untrue. Your ruler, Lord Gier, slain him. See for thyself.” They
stumble back as I bring my claw closer, in hopes they see Brother Luke’s sword wound, far too
small for that of a mighty dragon’s claw. The officer reluctantly stumbles forth and gazes upon Brother Luke’s body. His eyes
widen. “It cannot be. In all my days, I never would’ve thought that– but m’lord would never–”
After a brief pause he pivots back to the crowd of soldiers. “The dragon speaks true,” he shouts.
“The priest was slain by steel!” He turns back to me. “What makes you think it was our lord?”
“I can show thee,” I say, “If thou would trust and follow me.”
After a moment the officer reluctantly nods. “I guess it’s not everyday you get the chance
to follow a dragon. A white one at that. Never seen your like before, still breathing at least.” I try
to take no offense to his demeaning words. He motions a squad of his soldiers to step forth.
“Very well then. Lead the way, uh, what be your name dragon?”
“Pax,” I say after a brief pause. “Thou?”
“Friede,” he turns to his men and then back to me, “Captain Friede. Anyhow, let’s be off
then. Don’t got all day.”
I walk across the land for miles, Captain Friede and his entourage follow suit. After a
while of trekking through the landscape before us, we come across some stray soldiers. Their
armor and lackluster condition leads to the belief that they were the few that had managed to flee
from Lord Gier’s fortress upon my rebirth. Upon the sight of me they holler in fear, stumble back
over each other.

Captain Friede glares up at me with a wrinkled brow and then over at the strays. “Halt in
the name of Lord Gier!” The soldiers upon hearing his voice and words they stop and turn
around slowly. Seeing him standing next to me seemingly gives them the fortitude to approach.
Captain Friede steps forward unto them. “State your business here at once. I am sure you all are
very much aware of the punishment beset on deserters.”
One of the soldiers stumbles forth. “This beast,” he stutters, pointing up at me with his
shaky hands. “This beast killed Lord Gier he did!” Bastard got what was coming to him. You
play with fire long enough, and you shall be burned to ash. I guess in his case smushed.
Captain Friede looks up at me again. “Does this man speak the truth, Pax?” I close my
eyes and slowly nod. He strokes his bread for a moment, before turning back to the strays. “Did
any of you see Lord Gier cut down this man?” he raises his hands towards me. I hold out my
claw. Brother Luke laying there limp, at peace in my palm. “He was struck down by a steel
sword,” he says, “too small a wound from that of a dragon.”
The strays look at each other and shrug their shoulders, again, seemingly in unison.
However after a moment one stray raises his hand and limps forth. I recognize him as one of the
guardsmen that had replaced my muzzle back in my stone prison. He is a younger fellow, thin
and pale. His leg is wrapped in cloth with a splinter. “I did,” he stutters. “I saw him do it I did.
Was standin’ up in the battlements when I saw it happen. We had struck down the dragon. I
swear on me life, that very priest stepped out of his claw and ran to comfort him. Never seen
anythin’ like it before.”
“Quit blabbering boy,” snaps Captain Friede, “and get to the bloody point.”
“Right, sorry sir,” the boy stutters, “As the priest is knelt down, saying who knows what
to this dragon, I saw Lord Gier approach him from behind.”

“Bastard stabbed him in the bloody back he did! Lost all trust in ‘im right then and there.
An’ in the heat of me escape I fell from the battlements and fractured me–”
“I’ve heard enough,” snaps Captain Friede. He looks back at me. “Is this true?”
“Every word,” I say without hesitation.
Captain Friede continues to stroke his beard for a long moment. Silence blows through
the wind. He lets out a deep sigh. “Not worth the walk. Never liked that bastard anyhow. Let’s
head back and give your friend a proper Christian burial. My feet are killing me.”
As a way to thank him, I do that which past me never would of even think to do. I let all
of the soldiers and the strays ride on my back. I flew slower so as to not blow any of them off my
back. Still faster than walking though. In no time at all we arrive back at the town. Many of the
soldiers step off my back and immediately go to evacuate their stomachs. Captain Friede assures
the crowd of civilians that I am indeed no harm to them, instructing them of the true crime that
Lord Gier had committed.
I fly back to my den, rounding up as much gold as I am able, and bring it back to the
town. A fraction of the gold I bring unto the church is melted down and forged into a glimmering
casket. A service for Brother Luke is held the next day. Almost as if God Himself recognizes this
somber event, rain begins to pour upon us. The rain feels cold against my scales. However it
feels right. I slowly release Brother Luke into his casket of gold, uttering prayers of thanks as his
casket is wrapped in chains of gold, and lowered into the ground. I look up at the large golden
cross as his grave. The apparition stands next to it, this time no longer charred, no longer
laughing, but smiling at me. Brother Luke stands at his side with his thin smile. They are
bursting with beautiful radiant light. They both nod, gracing me with that familiar feeling of

lightness within my spirit. The near angelic sound of the adjacent monks’ chanting guide their
souls into the heavens above. Farewell my friends, and thank you, for thou hast freed me from
my chains of gold.

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