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art by Richard Gagnon

Fool's Gold

This is Frank's second story to appear in Daily Science Fiction. Aside from writing, Frank serves as an occasional guest writer and finalist judge for On The Premises, as an associate editor for the speculative fiction humor anthology Unidentified Funny Objects, and as a reviewer for the ezine Diabolical Plots.

Cirole the Dragon is a recurring character of his.

James wondered what kind of idiot he had become. Here he was, mere feet from the entrance to a dragon's lair, and not just any dragon's lair, the dragon of all dragon's lair. They didn't call Cirole "terrible" because of a pleasant disposition.
"I changed my mind."
Fredrick turned and glared at him, his expression matching the farmer's they crossed when they admitted they were headed for Cirole's cave.
"You can't change your mind now," Fredrick said. "We've journeyed a week to get here and climbed a thousand feet up this cliff. All the gold in the world is within reach. Why would you chicken out now?"
"The thought of walking into a man-eating monster's cave just sunk in."
"It just sunk in? You mean, up until now, it didn't occur to you this quest might be dangerous?"
James pointed at the ground. "The fact we're both kneeling inside one of his footprints kind of hit it home for me."
Fredrick drummed his fingers on the boulder they were hiding behind. "Look James, life is dangerous. As long as we're gruel-eating peasants we run the risk of death everyday. We're subject to subjugation in the king's army whenever he decides it's a good time to launch another crusade. Half of everything we grow is the property of our lord. We've got nothing." He jammed a finger at the cave. "In there is an escape from nothing. We get to be the lords, with damsels, and moats, and all the rest of the stuff we only dreamed of. It's gold that separates us from nobility, nothing else."
James wiped sweat off his brow. All Fredrick said was true, but was it worth it? "What if he's in there?"
"Don't you think we'd hear him if he were?"
"Maybe he's asleep."
Fredrick rolled his eyes. "You ever hear a dragon snore? They've been known to start avalanches."
James craned his neck and narrowed his eyes at the dark opening.
"Okay, maybe he's out hunting. What would happen if he comes back and he finds us in there?"
"The same thing if he were to come back and he finds us out here."
"Well, what if..."
Fredrick punched him in the arm. "Stop! Look, I'm going in. Anything I'm coming out with, I'm keeping. If Cirole appears, you'll be suffering the same fate I will regardless of whether you're inside, out here, carrying a sack of gold, or empty handed. The choice is yours."
Fredrick lifted his club and struck it with an inferno stone. The spell in the stone lit the thick hunk of wood. He stepped from behind the boulder and walked into the cave. James drew in a breath and followed.
All of James' fears and doubts evaporated when the light from the torch lit the interior of the cave. A mountain of gold glittered. Jewels the size of his fist refracted the light, illuminating the roof of the cave in a kaleidoscope of colors.
Fredrick handed the torch to James and ran for the pile of gold. He whooped and hollered as he climbed the mound. Gold coins tinkled as they fell while he crawled up the enormous pile. He lay on the top and laughed as he made treasure angels.
James shook his head, snapping himself out of his stunned silence. He planted the torch into the dirt and scooped coins into his sack, envisioning what each handful would grant him: Suit-of-armor, white stallion, beautiful wife, an orchard, mistress, make it two, family of serfs....
"Hey," he shouted up to Fredrick, who was peering into a red jewel on the top of the mound. "Why would a dragon have all this treasure, anyway?"
The pile erupted. A dark claw shot up from under Fredrick and seized him. The treasure cascaded, waves of gold coins and jewels rolled onto the floor of the cave. A monster, with scales the color of onyx, rose from beneath the pile. The dragon opened his mouth and dropped a screaming Fredrick in. James watched in horror as the lump that was his friend rolled down the monster's throat.
Cirole turned his head and stared at James with reptilian eyes, grinning at him with thick, sharp teeth.
"Bait," the monster said.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Author Comments

I wrote this story for a flash-fiction writing contest with other members of CodexWriters.com. We each had to write a story of no more than 750 words in a weekend--each weekend for five weeks. This story was my entry for week two. It was loosely based on the following prompt: Write about a treasure hunt that goes wrong.

I have read plenty of stories involving dragons hoarding gold. This story was my answer to why they would want treasure.

- Frank Dutkiewicz
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