the words: loud, persuasive, riches
The gold coins each landed with an audible clink, echoing through the chamber. Clink. Clink. Clink clink.
“Perhaps,” it rumbled, enclosing the remaining coins in its massive talons, “if you are very persuasive, I will reconsider.”
The young man being addressed was doing an impressive job of not showing just how terrified he actually was. From a distance, you might even think winged reptilian creatures the size of elephants lay down between him and the exit every day.
“If nothing else” – his voice cracking on the word was not quite unnoticeable – “I’d make a pretty terrible sn-snack. Mostly bone, stringy, you know. Wouldn’t last very long.”
The creature snaked his head over to the young man (who almost fell over backwards). “You seem to think I could find some better use for a scrawny little animal. And don’t think to impress me with talk of being smart making up for your lack in all other areas.”
“N-no, of… of course not.” His discomfited expression said otherwise.
The dragon snorted derisively. “Humans. You always think you’re smarter than you really are. So then tell me, morsel. What can such a small, weak, pitiful little creature do for me?”
The silence stretched on for what felt like hours. Desperate, the man looked around the chamber, filled with riches – the glittering piles of coins and precious stones, the shining statues lining the walls – and had an idea.
“I can steal things.”
“Ha!” The creature’s head recoiled as the single syllable echoed full-volume, painfully loud after the long silence. “So can I. Try again.”
“You can loot and ransack towns and caravans,” he pointed out, his voice sounding small and weak after the reverberating laugh. “I can slip in, take the most valuable items, and leave unnoticed.”
It watched him silently, looking intrigued.
The young man, completely unable to read the finer nuances of large intelligent reptilian body language, most likely interpreted it as looking hungry. “You don’t attract as much attention that way, and no one’d think a thief was working for a dr-dragon. Less knights coming after you.” He swallowed nervously.
A low hum rumbled through the room. “An interesting idea. But I have no reason to trust you to return with your stolen goods.”
“I… I guess you don’t…”
“Which is why you will put this on first.” It reached out and deftly hooked a small silver chain out of the piles with a single talon. “It will allow me to find you anywhere. If you remove it after putting it on, you will die.”
The young man hesitated, looking at the delicate bracelet uneasily.
“And if you don’t put it on, I’m sure you’ll taste delicious.”
He hurriedly bent down and fastened the chain around his ankle, hiding it inside his boot. “So can… can I go now?”
“Yes.” The word stretched out like a hiss, and the great creature rose and moved aside. “Return in two weeks with something of value to me, or I will come find you.”
In a valiant display of courage, the young man walked, not ran, out the door.
Twenty two years, seven months, five days and countless thefts later, a not-so-young man discovered that the tarnished chain around his left ankle had no magical properties whatsoever.