Day 70: We spent the night hovering outside the cave, waiting in case the dragon tried to slip out in the darkness. At dawn, a great rush of warm air sighed out of the opening. I surreptitiously wiped a tear from my eye, because I was sure what that must mean. I bent my head for a moment of silence. The dragon deserved no less.
There was no further sign of life. As soon as the sun fully rose the ship moved forward, and, with a skill I had to admire, the helmsman managed to bring the Lady Jean to a safe landing on the ledge outside the dragon’s cave.
The entire crew burst into cheers, and Jenny hugged me in excitement—before catching herself and backing off hurriedly so no one would notice.
“Let’s see what we’ve got, men!” Murphy crowed—a bit prematurely, I thought…who knew what we would find inside?
The pirates poured off the ship wielding their cutlasses in one hand and pistols in the other.
“Remember, boys—there’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. Don’t be lett’n yer guard down. There’s no tellin’ what else might be lyin’ in wait.”
The crew roared its approval, and we stepped into the cavern. I stayed in the back, not sure what to expect.
I didn’t have to worry. I don’t know if the dragon was alive or dead when we entered the cave. It just lay there, alone, in the center of the floor. And the crew stood in a half-circle around it, emptying every last round into its head. It was certainly dead after that.
The crew cheered. Cheered—like it was a good thing to kill a dragon. Luckily, no one could see that my own eyes were filled with tears.
The pirates scattered immediately, beginning their search for treasure. Shouts rang out all over the cavern as they shared their findings. “Chest here!” “There’s a pile o’ gold in this corner!” “A ruby the size o’ me hand!”
I stopped a minute beside the noble beast. It was covered with patches of blood, but the golden scales still glimmered faintly in the sunlight filtering into the cavern. I placed a hand on the shimmering hide and whispered a goodbye.
Murphy came up behind me and clapped me on the shoulder. “She fought a good fight, didn’t she?” He reached down and ripped a loose, bloodstained scale from the mighty beast. “Here—make yer wife a bauble from that!” He strode off before he could see the horror on my face.
As soon as he turned away, I dropped it on the floor, wiping the blood off my hand as quickly as possible. The very idea!
“Get yer arse over here, Bard,” Murphy growled from the far side of the cavern, and I hastened to obey. It was always best to do what Murphy said—as soon as possible.
When I turned to join Murphy, what I saw took my breath away. I had been so focused on the dragon that I hadn’t registered the items in the cavern. All the dreams of dragon hoards I had formed from movies and books paled beside the reality of it. Piles of gold reached from floor to ceiling all around the perimeter of the cavern. In the center was a mound of gold and gemstones with a depression in the middle. I think it was the dragon’s bed—he hadn’t made it as far as that before he collapsed in the cave on his return.
There were chests pushed against the gold, some open, some closed. Those that were open spilled bolts of silk and great chains set with gems as big as my thumb. Gilded volumes were scattered throughout, and I picked up a book of fairy tales that Kenzie would love! Especially since they were not of our world, so totally brand-new stories.
“Keep that as the first part of your portion, Bard,” Murphy growled, grinning at me. “Not a bad piece of work, was it?”
I thought of the glorious dragon lying in a heap in the center of the cavern and sighed. “It was…interesting.”
Murphy clapped me on the shoulder and began issuing orders to the crew. They began carting chests back toward the Lady Jean.
“The mother load, aye, Marc? Ready to go home, Bard?”
I had never heard anything so sweet.
I’ve managed to sneak a bit of pencil stub from the ship’s doctor, and a few scraps of paper from the cook. I’m recording my thoughts with them so I can reveal Black Jack Murphy’s infamy when I finally return to civilization.
There’s a universal truth about pirates. They hunt treasure, and they don’t care who they have to rob to get it.
There’s a universal truth about dragons. They hoard treasure, and they really don’t like for people to try and take it.
I was kidnapped by the infamous air pirate Black Jack Murphy and his crew of the airship The Lady Jean. They wanted me to chronicle their dragon hunts. Little did Murphy know where my sympathies lie! So, this journal — and the resulting CD, coming soon from Mage Records “Pirates vs. Dragons” — tell the true stories of Pirates vs. Dragons. The CD combines rousing sea shanties about pirates being pirates with songs about the majesty of dragons, and the journal details the privations I suffered. There’s a little something for both sides here–and I bet you find a new favorite or two.