Short Story: Day Job
January 2, 2013 15 Comments
I had been a pirate. A king. An admiral. A bard. A mercenary. Even a powerful wizard. And that was just so far today. At the moment I was a dashing Knight rescuing a princess from the clutches of a slobbering rock troll which sought to suck the meat from our bones. I ducked under a fallen tree. Leapt over another. Rounded a rock outcrop. She was right behind me.
The creature moved fast for its size. “You’ve gotta keep up!” Then she fell. They always fall.
I looked back to see the bottom of her high heels disappear into the hulking creature’s mouth as it swallowed her in a single hefty gulp. So much for the rescue. So much for sucking the meat from her bones. After releasing a belch, it looked up and we locked eyes. The monster patted its belly, flashed me a pointy, yellow-toothed grin and waved. I shook my head, threw a hand in the air, and sighed as the satisfied troll turned and marched back into the swamp.
Would it have killed him to be even a little more menacing? He displayed no showmanship whatsoever! And considering the frequency which princesses are kidnapped, I’d think that wearing more practical footwear might increase their life expectancy.
I dropped myself onto a nearby mossy stump. The tepid, scuzzy water around me returned to snowy forest floor. The lurking, oozing, man-eating slimes were once again nut-gathering squirrels. My great broadsword became nothing more than a flimsy tree branch. I threw it on the ground.
Apparently the wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped as the afternoon progressed. I pulled the fur lining up around my neck and ears, blew into my hands and rubbed them together. This time of the year it started to get dark before quitting time and it was often bitter cold.
Thankfully I didn’t have to wait long before I was peering at a rocky floor through an eye-slit in my helmet. It was damp, dark, and thankfully quite warm. My plate armor reflected light from the flickering torches on the wall, and the air was thick with the smell of sulfur. My arms were weighed down by a sword in one hand and a shield the other. Shining armor. Sulfur. Sword and shield. Cave. This sounds like dragons. Yep, definitely dragons. My least favorite creature. I couldn’t wait for my shift to be over.
Marshalling my courage, I peeked around a pile of rubble. Teeth came into focus. Rows and rows of them. Teeth which then became obscured by a puff of thick black smoke that burned my eyes and nose and forced me to cough. I raised the visor on my helmet to get get some air and waved a hand in front of my face to help dissipate the cloud. I looked up and found myself staring into the flaring nostrils of a baby dragon. A teardrop swelled in each eye of its eyes, and its head slumped. Defeated.
“Oh, hey there, little buddy.” I looked around to make sure its parents were nowhere near. My first instinct was to pat it on the shoulder to console it but I reconsidered. Emotionally distraught baby dragons can be unpredictable, and I valued my limbs and digits far too greatly to risk it.
It sobbed. “No, no, no, don’t do that. Let’s try again, I can do better!” It sniffed and looked up. Hopeful. I spun myself back behind the rock. “Let’s take it from the top!” I slammed my helmet visor shut and jumped out from the behind the rock. “Raaawr!” I gave my most terrifying scream as I shook my sword and shield at the creature. It shrank back. Maybe I was overselling it.
Realizing I looked more ridiculous than frightening, it regained its composure. Its nose whistled and its belly and chest swelled as it breathed in deeply. I closed my eyes and reached into my helmet to plug my nose as it blew another cloud of hot smoke into my face. I fell to the ground and rolled and screamed as though I were fully engulfed in flames.
After coming to a rest, I opened one eye and peeked out of my eye-slit to watch the baby dragon strut back into the darkness with its chest puffed out and head held high. Mission accomplished. For both of us. It was quitting time.