The scariest of greetings to you all, Frightened Friends!

     This week, we’re answering a question from our dear old resident gnome. A few days ago, after the harpies did whatever they do with the submitted stories, Geldrin had been reading one that seemed to chill him to his tiny core. After this, he provided us with this week’s question.

“What’s the scariest situation you’ve ever found yourself in?”he asked.

     Well, since it seems like the Hall of Weens time is still in full swing in at least a few worlds, I figured I’d answer the gnome during our weekly storytime!

     It was many, many centuries ago when I was still a young dragon and had not been on most of the adventures I’ve told you all about. I was on my own and had begun gathering a fairly plentiful collection of treasures. Well, if you didn’t know already, all dragons gather hoards, and sometimes the larger ones can attract the attention of competing dragons. I found this out by catching a young red in my lair one warm evening. Apparently, I had recently set up shop in his territory, or so he said, and since I had deposited my valuables in land that he claimed to be his, all my treasure was his as well!

     “If you don’t hand over everything you have and leave these lands, I will be forced to sic my brother on you, snake!”said the whiny red.

      Well, I didn’t care much for that sort of notion, especially from some young brat who was barely out of his egg, so I attacked him on sight. A quick battle ensued, with me being the obvious and definite victor. He was hardly a challenge for a being such as I! After throwing his miserable carcass out of my new lair, I began to think—he said this area was his territory, which means he had a lair nearby. If he had a lair, he must have a hoard!

     After a quick search, I eventually sniffed it out. I knew I had moved near an active volcano, but I didn’t know just howactive it was until I flew into the boiling-hot crater. The temperature didn’t bother me in the least, since the heat in my own belly is fiercer than that of any mundane bit of lava, but the air did end up stinging my eyes. After a bit of time flying on fiery updrafts, I spotted a few columns of blackened ruin resting upon a crumbling precipice. I landed and squeezed my way into the structure.

     The little red’s lair must have been part of some ancient fire-worshipping civilization. Sculptures of lava elementals dotted the columns and ceiling, while images of humanoids giving tribute to some fire-wreathed being carved in bas-relief decorated the back wall. There, under the smoldering eyes of this carving lay the treasure trove I had been searching for. Thousands of gold coins, master crafted weapons and jewelry, and a glowing blue gem nearly the size of a goblin’s head were all heaped up in a big, gleaming pile.

     At this point I had not yet found my magic bag of gathering (which is much larger on the inside than it is on the outside!), thus I had to collect this bountiful trove the old-fashioned way—by eating every last copper. There was enough here that it would take a few trips, but I hardly had a choice. A dragon’s gullet is a place that no mortal would ever want to visit, but treasure is perfectly safe. Don’t ask me how or why this is, or how we reclaim the treasure afterwards. This is supposed to be a scary story!

     I had hardly gulped up a mouthful of coins when I saw movement off to my side. I turned, and of course I saw nothing there. Must have been a bit of volcanic gas, I thought. I continued my glittering chomping. Then, a very quiet and nearly imperceptible voice spoke to me from seemingly nowhere and everywhere at once.

     “Who have we here?”it asked.

     I whipped around, showering the tiled floor with rubies and golden chains. Still, there was no one there.

     “Show yourself, hidden one! Why do you hide yourself so?”I beckoned.

     I waited for an answer, but the only noise that greeted my ears was the gushing of the angry lava thousands of feet below. I presumed I had only imagined the voice, or maybe it was the ambient volcano noises. Regardless, I needed to finish consuming my new valuables and get back to my lair. Turning my head back to the pile, I nearly choked on my mouthful as I was met face-to-face with a very large, and very angry red. Memories of the brat’s “I will be forced to sic my brother on you”ran through my head as I stared at this foe.

     He was sitting upon my gold pile, glowing eyes locked directly on mine. Whisps of smoke flowed from his massive scales, with his entire pose matching the carving on the wall behind him. If this was the same dragon who was being worshipped in the ruin’s depictions, he must have been incredibly old indeed! And with dragons, the older they are, the more powerful they become.

     Though I am unmatched in my ferocity today, at the point in time this story takes place, I was much weaker. Though even at my young age, I was still wise enough to know when it was a good idea to fight, and when it would be more prudent to run.

     “Umm… I belieff dif iff yours,”I dribbled through my full mouth as I spat out what undigested valuables I still held. The dragon did not move in the slightest. He just sat there, atop his pile, glaring at me with his furious, fiery eyes.

     “Right… well, sorry to bother you,”I said with the smallest of bows as I turned away. “I’ll just be going then…”

   The ancient red gave a purposeful wave, and though I heard nothing, the door from where I had entered the ruins turned into a wall of solid stone.

     “You may leave when I deem it so,”hissed the smoky dragon. This wasn’t good. “You enter my lair uninvited, steal my treasure, and now you assume you can just leave?”

     “Umm… yes? Please?”I let out a weak smile. Maybe some lightheartedness would plead my case for me.

   But the red ignored my pleading. Instead, he confirmed what I sincerely hoped would not be the case.

     “And what’s more… I recognize you. You match the description my younger brother gave me of a new dragon that he had seen in our territory. I sent him off to demand tribute, followed by you leaving our lands, never to return.”

   Memories of the dead wyrmling flashed in my mind.

     “Yet here you are,”he continued. “In our lair, though my brother is nowhere to be seen.”

   If I could sweat, I would have been.

     “I’ll give you one chance.”The red’s tone dropped dangerously. “Tell me what you did with my brother, and I may let you live.”

   My life was in danger, though this isn’t really the spooky part! Though I will say that even the thought of everyone’s favorite dragon being in such a dire situation is making our resident gnome antsy.  Or maybe it’s because we just heard the harpies squabbling in the other room and we haven’t gone in to check… either way, we’ll need to go see if they’re alright or if one of them got stuck in the magical printing press again.

     Until next time, remember, never steal from a dragon! And keep seasoning your delicious minds with knowledge!