The Harpies have brought to my attention the fact that folks don’t know all that much about the magnificent being known as Grendel, and since I am he, it is up to me to correct that deficiency.
My love of meat is rather widely known, but unlike the saying goes, I find that we are defined not by what we eat, but by what we don’t.
Let me tell you the story of my first uneaten guest.
It all began nearly 300 years ago on a crisp autumnal night. I had been dozing under my vast treasure hoard in my lair, blissfully contented with my recent acquisition of wealth from a now-immolated royal treasury building, when a small noise alerted me to the presence of an intruder. Now, I was, of course, expecting some sort of backlash from the king’s guard, as I’m sure a bounty had once again been placed on my scaly head, but as I peeked one large eye out from under my hoard, I was surprised to see that the figure standing in the long hall to my treasure room was not, in fact, a contingency of knights, but a single, lone figure, and a small one at that!
The intruder was not brandishing a sword or axe but, instead, held in its tiny hands a roll of parchment and a quill. Its pointed face was not demonstrating the usual grim determination that was common for those entering my lair, set on revenge or bounty-collecting, and even more surprisingly, its eyes were not even transfixed on the countless cache of coins and gems resting atop my terrible form! He was simply looking around my lair, eyes wide in awed surprise, apparently taking notes!
I then assumed he must be a cautious thief, planning his heist before performing the deed, simply unaware that he was being watched. As I was still somewhat sleepy from the day’s earlier pillaging, I decided to take care of the intruder by way of frightening him out of my lair quickly instead of a full dread-and-dead. (That’s when I scare them to death with the full majesty of my terrifying form!) I scrunched my snout around a little bit, tumbling a few coins down past my hero-eating maw to allow my voice to be as loud as possible, and in my scariest-sounding Draconic I bellowed,“Leave now, mortal, or prepare to be devoured!”
I let the last few echoes of my threat hang in the air, expecting the traditional panicked retreat from the trespasser or at least to allow the intimidation to instill some dread before they attempted the always-foolish attack on my immortal life.
To my absolute dismay, the response to this command was met with nothing but a furious scribbling of quill on paper, followed by a simple,“Could you please repeat that?”
To say I was surprised would be putting it lightly. The silence that followed this simple response was broken only by the toppling of coins as my jaw dropped open. I sat unmoving for a moment, then shaking off my stupor, I decided to take care of this unfazed interloper once and for all. I rose from my twinkling trove—coins, gems, and glittering objects of all kinds clattered about the room as my wings unfurled and my full, earth-shattering size grew to tower over the insignificant intruder. I looked down at it, now recognizing him as a “gnome”.
These beings weren’t my favorite snack, especially since the taste reminded me too much of cinnamon, which I despise, so I decided to try and terrify the little pointy-eared creature once again. I drew in a deep breath, and this time in the common tongue of man (in case he simply did not get the point before), I roared, “I SAID TO LEAVE IN HASTE! NOW!”
At this, the fool simply covered his large ears and braced himself against the scorching wind blowing from my fiery throat. He then turned tail and scampered back toward the entrance from which he came. I was nearly contented with my victory, though annoyed with the extra effort it took, and was about to rebury myself when I noticed the little fool stop, stoop down, and pick something up.
He turned, apparently having recovered the parchment that had flown from his hand, and said nonchalantly, “Well, that’s not exactly what you said in Draconic, I believe. I think you specifically said the word for “devoured” … Dric’no’ta, if I’m not mistaken?”
His scribbling was the only sound in the chamber as I stared at him, absolutely amazed that this little gnome would not only know the word, but that he even got the accent correct!
“How is it you know the tongue of Dragons?” I asked.
He continuing to scribble as he talked. “I, myself, am a scholar and a student of everything arcane in nature! Currently, I find myself fascinated with anything Dragon-related! Your kind is a real enigma, you know. No one’s been able to interview one such as yourself without being consumed… by fire or fang, if you get my meaning.”
For the first time, I was intrigued by something less than myself. A mortal being—a walking, talking morsel of food who actually cared for what mattered in the world (namely me)? Very interesting.
More than a little intrigued, I asked, “And does this scholar have a name?”
“Oh! Right! Geldrin Foilprop is me,” he said with a low bow. “If you don’t mind, sir, I don’t want to intrude, but I would love to ask you a few questions. If you have the time to spare, I mean.”
Not only did he have the right priorities, but he was showing respect to his better? Very curious. I figured I had a bit of time to spare, at least a few moments, to give this gnome while I considered whether to still eat him. Answering a few questions for the little fool would at least grant me a few moments to weigh how exactly I would season him before my meal, should I go that route.
What followed was, surprisingly, an evening of life-changing conversation. Something I hadn’t had in nearly three centuries. Geldrin was polite, witty, engaged, and, most of all, absolutely fascinated with me! His knowledge of Dragon-related lore was impressive, though frequently incorrect, and everything he learned he wrote down on his parchment in preparation for what I discovered would become a tome. I even let him sit upon a dinged-up old throne I had claimed a few seasons before once he mentioned how sore his tiny feet had become from standing.
At the end of the evening, my new little acquaintance finally ran out of room to take notes, having scribbled on every bit of parchment, scrap, shirt, and pant leg he had on his person, and promised to return on the morrow to continue gathering more information for his book, which together we had decided to call “A Treasury of Draconic Facts” by Geldrin and Grendel.
And return he did! Bright and early the next day, there he was. I had never experienced excitement at seeing anyone else other than my own reflection, but then again, before this, I had never had another very important element to my long life—a friend.
That’s a… poignant tale. The big bad bully finally has a friend, and a shared project as something to look forward to. Surely that’s all any of us need.