This piece of flash fiction was written specifically for the Dreamtime Dragons anthology. I’ve announced it previously here, but thought I’d make this flash fiction available on the site to increase the anthology’s visibility and as encouragement to go and get a copy (plenty of good authors in there, and all proceeds go to charity).
It’s also a break from this year’s (so far) binge of Roman-related posts. I do write fantasy, you know.
A home is more than a shelter, a place to keep your possessions. A home is a place that matters. So when someone — or something — threatens your home, you respond. In kind.The nasty little vermin first started to infest the fields beyond my home over a decade ago. They built their little nests out of wood and straw, felled trees in the forests to make clearings, drove the game away in favour of their filthy pets. I have a delicate constitution, just like father. I can’t just eat any old thing, or it gives me terrible gas. So I gave them a warning first, only burned down a few of their houses. I took a few bites of their animals too, and I’ll have you know they taste all blubbery and horrible. What can you expect of things that live in mud?
But then the blighters started to invade my home. I have no idea why, but they started to nick my bedspreads. What use could they possibly have for it? I need my bed arranged just so, or I can’t possibly get a good winter’s sleep. And they have no use for it! They just break it down, make it into tasteless decorations. There’s no decent use for those metals; too soft, which is why I use them for bedding. Even pilfering ravens are better than that.
And, worst, do you know what it feels like to wake up and find one those critters skittering around in the dark? One minute you’re resting quietly, the next you open an eye, and some disgustingly moist thing with undeniably mammalian features is stealing your furniture from right under you! So I roasted the thing, and placed its remains just outside my cave as a sign to others.
You’d think that would turn them away, but you’d be wrong. That only seemed to encourage more of the vermin. I ventured out and burned down whole colonies of them, never mind that I get an awful creak in my wings around autumn. But next spring, just like mushrooms, up popped their nests again.
So I studied them a little, and decided on a different tack. I grabbed what seemed to be their queen bee, something they call a “prin-cess”. Well, ‘cess’ is also the word they use for the pits into which they defecate. That thing smelled no better, if you ask me. Stupid little wet things, they need to wash themselves — no cleansing inner heat, no claws for proper preening of scales.
I was aiming merely to get their attention, open some diplomatic discussions about their immediate surrender and withdrawal from my lands. While I was waiting for their envoys, that moronic prin-cess was making an awful racket. I ended up tying her to a tree outside; I just couldn’t bear the noise and the constant flow of moisture from her face.
They sent some representatives by the next day. I wished to speak to them, but they just left a few of their disgusting, pinkish animals outside as an offering. Well, I ate those. Might as well save me the trouble of hunting.
Bad mistake. They came the next day to ask for their prin-cess back. I wanted to explain the terms for them, but I told you that unless I dine on proper stags and deer, I get indigestion. I’m afraid I belched rather indecorously. It was just a misunderstanding, honest. I didn’t mean to burn their emissaries to a crisp.
That left me a few more nights in the company of that wailing atrocity, driving sleep away. But then came another envoy. It was clad in a an imitation of true scales, some metallic contraption that covered it from head to toe. I started to explain my grievances but it kept charging at me, riding some quadruped beast and brandishing a long pin.
I tried reasoning with it, but its underdeveloped mammalian brain did not allow it true speech. It just kept repeating ‘have at thee’ and similar drivel. After the third of its passes at me, I admit I got annoyed and lost my temper. On the plus side, turns out that if you cook them in their shells they come out softly broiled. The meat was practically falling off the bones.
Their prin-cess, though, kept fainting. I offered her some of the food to restore her spirits, but that made her turn green and faint again. How this species survives, I have no idea.
When the next such tin-can dolt appeared, I decided I’d had enough. I burned it, the prin-cess, and any of their nest sites I could see in my valley. But the neighbourhood was gone; just not what it used to be. Game has departed, and the smouldering remains of those critters fouled the river.
So I made arrangement with the dwarves under the mountain to move my hoard across the range to a secluded valley much higher up. It cost me a seventh of my hoard, and I’m sure the little buggers pilfered even more — my mattress is decidedly shallower, more gold and gems went missing than the agreed payment.
But at last I shall have some peace, cousin. No more of those pesky humans to disturb my reptilian repose, and the elks here are absolutely delish. So please pass my regards to your mother my aunt, and do come by on the next blood moon for a cave-warming party.
With sincere familial regards et cetera et cetera,