The dragon drummed its claws on the rim of the sulphur pit. He sniffed and a spiral of smoke slithered out his snoot. He sighed, and the smoke buffeted Charlemagne. It was hot enough to singe the old man’s chin hair.

Charlemagne patted his face and took a careful step to the side. Behind him the sun was blood red and squat on the horizon hills. It was time.

“Well?” said the dragon.

Charlemagne made the distinctly human expression of smiling to conceal his anxiety. It did not look pleasant. The dragon’s inner furnace, where a stomach in a lesser animal might be, licked irritably at his insides. “O great and odious monster, we had a virgin ready for you, in preparation for this year’s harvest. But, you see…”

The dragon dragged its claws over its scaly eyes. He could feel the headache coming on. “Go on…”

Charlemagne did go on, at great length, adducing a number of factors, the girl’s great beauty, her sinister willpower, youthful haughtiness, and extreme potential fecundity considering her hips and other ripe features of anatomy. The dragon listened to this and cracked his tail when he could endure the old man’s blubbering no more. It reverberated in the pit like a thunderclap, and Charlemagne, the city elders, and the vast rabble of the village at the base of the volcanic hill snapped to attention. Silent, quivering attention.

“So no virgin for me,” said the dragon.

“We have plenty of virgins-” began Charlemagne.

“But not the premium virgin.”


The dragon sighed. Once more Charlemagne patted the embers out of his beard. “It seems to me,” drawled the dragon, “that humans in general have a bad habit of paying lip service to the perils of environmental entropy and yet ignore all consideration when faced with this ‘extreme potential’ for fecundity. You, as your people’s – I shudder to use the word – leader, ought to have known better.”

Charlemagne fell on his knees. “O awful and terrifying one, a year is so very long to wait. You must understand.”

The dragon rose to his titanic height. His black wings spread and caught the crimson of the sun’s last faraway gleaming. “You must understand. The earth is not here for you to fondle like some farm-bred strumpet. There is an order to nature and when its dictates are violated, the consequences are dire. For I, too, am hot to trot, Charlemagne.” The rim of the pit was doused in sparkling fire and the old man and the city elders were smitten. The dragon lumbered into the air and chased down the villagers, barbecuing wantonly, scorching their fields, and laid waste until not a single living creature remained.

It was a draconic punishment, but that is what dragons are for.


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