Wren & Hess
The ancient dragon Vulzarnius-too-many-syllables-for-most-people-to-bother-pronouncing had been there before the city had been founded. As the decades passed and the city grew, it was assumed that one day the dragon would either move away or have to be convinced to. In the end, neither was required. The city engulfed Vulz’s lair, and she seemed not to mind. Her cave, sitting in the middle of a quiet neighborhood, no longer seemed out of place, and her neighbors never had reason to complain.
She, however, had complaints now and then. Wren and Hess were usually dispatched to take these complaints. The Tower thought that the dragon would be more at ease dealing with a lizardman, which wasn’t true, but they were constables. They did as they were told.
Hess knocked on the great iron doors mounted on Vulz’s cave. The immense dragon could be heard rustling around deep within her lair. Her every step caused a slight tremor. The flower beds framing the cave rustled as she thudded to the door and opened the slot. Her bright green eyes glared down at Wren and Hess. Her voice rumbled like a miniature earthquake.
“Constables from the Tower,” said Wren.
The dragon studied them for a moment, assessing their trustworthiness.
“You called in a complaint, didn’t you?” asked Wren.
“Indeed, I did.” The iron doors clattered and clanged as she undid its many locks. The doors creaked open and the blue-scaled behemoth stood before them. The midday light glinted off her scales. She was a beautiful, frightening creature. “Well, don’t just stand there. Come in, come in.”
She ushered them inside, slamming the doors closed and locking them again. Light filtered around the edges of the cave entrance, but it was otherwise too dark for Wren to see a damn thing other than Vulz’s eyes, glowing in the blackness.
“This way,” said Vulz as she stomped past Wren and Hess. Something massive swung over their heads, perhaps a foot or a tail.
Wren found her torchstone and gave it a good shake. It cast a pinkish glow. Enough to enable her to get around. Hess didn’t need one. He never had any trouble navigating in the darkness. They followed Vulz deeper into her lair.
“What seems to be the problem?” said Hess, as if they didn’t know. It was always the same complaint. The only complaint a dragon willingly surrounded by a city could ever have.
“Thieves,” she said.
They walked past stacks of old scrolls and tin scraps, small mountains of rusted swords and broken axes. Dark shapes lurking in the junk retreated from the light. Rats. And other things best left unseen.
Vulz led them to a hanging cage holding two dwarves and a gnome. The would-be treasure seekers perked up at Wren and Hess’s arrival.
“Oh, thank the gods you’re here,” said one of them. “We thought she was going to eat us all.”
“How distasteful,” said Vulz.
“You ate Bob,” said the gnome.
Wren fixed the dragon with a disapproving glare.
“Well, maybe I ate one,” said Vulz. “But I assure you it was a self-defense devouring. He had a knife.”
“No, he didn’t,” said the gnome.
“He could’ve had a knife.”
“We’ve talked about this before, Vulz,” said Hess.
The dragon flapped her golden wings in a shrug. “I’m the victim here.”
“Yes, but you can’t eat every idiot who thinks they’ll make their fortune by lair raiding.”
“Yes, civilization and all that, I suppose,” she said indifferently as she unhooked the cage and set it on the floor beside a pile of moldy robes.
The thieves were let out of the cage and escorted back to the surface. Vulz gave a quick statement. The same statement she’d given countless of times before, and then the terrible dragon slammed her doors and retreated into her darkness to brood.
“I don’t get it,” said one of the thieves. “You said there would be treasure. Where was it?”
“Deeper in the cave,” replied his compatriot. “It has to be there.”
Wren didn’t bother correcting him. The great dragon Vulzarnius-yada-yada-yada had always been a peculiar sort. Her treasures were all those discarded bits and pieces of the city around her, but there would always be those who sought riches among the refuse. Even Wren thought there must be some gold or jewels hidden somewhere though the only proof was that Vulz paid her taxes somehow. Even then, it was usually in tarnished coins and costume jewelry. The Tower didn’t make a big deal of it since Vulz didn’t cause any trouble.
“I’m telling you it’s in there,” said the gnome. “I saw it hidden under a pile of wet bulletins.”
Wren and Hess exchanged knowing glances. No one had ever come out of Vulz’s lair with more than promises of wealth, but promises were powerful things. Enough to keep sending dreamers and fools to the dungeons or the belly of a mostly civilized dragon.