“Grandfather, may I have a story before your nap?”

“Yes, of course.  What would you like?”

“A monster story.”

“Ah, well, there is this evil little faerie who lives in the sewer system in Paris, he smells terrible but he sings…”

“Eww. Gross.  No.  Something less gross.”

“Well, there’s a giantess in Italy who is eighteen feet tall bu only an inch wide, so she can slide under doors and steal children.”

“I’m a child!”

“Oh, yes.  Probably not a good choice, then.”

“Dragons!”

“Oh, I’ve met several. Dozens. Maybe hundreds if you count by the head.”

“What does that mean?  That’s rid…”

“Ah, no, a lot of the Slavic ones have seven heads.”

“Well that’s a hydra…”

“Ah, no!  A hydra’s a water monster.  It’s in the name.”

“So, what’s the biggest dragon you’ve met?”

“Well, not so much met, because he was asleep at the time, but I’ve touched the greatest dragon in Mythic Europe.”

“How big is he?”

“He’s under the Alps.”

“…All of the Alps?”

“Yes.  He woke up in 999, but Pope Sylvester the Second, who was a mage, put him back to sleep.”

“How?”

“No-one knows.”

“What?  That sounds like the sort of useful information which should be made widely known!”

“Well, miracles, perhaps.”

“Oh, I hate it when saints cheat like that. It wrecks a good story.”

“Are you sure you’re twelve?”

“Of course I am.  I have been for as long as I can remember.”

“Well, then.  I was in the Alps, and I’d heard rumours of valuable jewels in a cave. So, I took some stout rope for climbing, and some bread and cheese for eating, and the daughter of a local miner, so I’d have someone to talk to, and we headed for this cave.”

“Nice dodge there, old man.”

“Thanks…so, we get to this cave and it’s a smooth shaft running deep into the mountains. It’s really quite free of clutter, so the going is easy until we get to the ore body. Well, it was more like pure sheets of gemstone.  I cut them loose as great sheets of young amber…”

“Young amber?”

“Amber that hasn’t hardened all the way yet.”

“Doesn’t amber wash up at sea?  I’ve not heard of a mine before.”

“Oh, yes, most amber is from a destroyed faerie castle in the Baltic, but there are mines in other places. Did I ever tell you about the faerie princess…”

“No, another time. Young amber mine.”

“Oh, yes.  So I was cutting this amber off in great sheets.  I found more than I could carry, so we did this for a couple of days, until I made a mistake.”

“What happened?”

“My pick went all the way through the young amber and hit the wall of the cave behind it.”

“…but the wall was made of young amber. There’s no wall behind the wall of a cave.”

“Ah, well, and then it started to ooze this, thick, dark, corrosive stuff. It ate away the head of my pick. Good thing I threw it down, because eventually it ate the whole thing away.”

“What happened then?”

“There was a great rumbling, and the earth began to quake!”

“And then?”

“A vast gust of wind shot me back along the tunnel. Scraping me raw and tearing off all my clothes. It deposited me back at the cave mouth, with about a ton of young amber, in pieces so big you could carve things out of them, once it had hardened up.”

“Your companion?”

“Oh, she survived.  She’d borrowed my shoes and run away at the first sign of trouble.”

“What happened then?”

“I hired a wagon ,and we shipped the young amber back to the local town. There’s quite an amber carving industry there now, and they voted me mayor for life.”

“So, that’s where you live?”

“Oh, no. Not brave enough. Too close to the dragon.”

“What dragon?”

“Well, you see, the village is the closest possible place to the head of the dragon under the Alps.  Indeed, it balances right on his nose.”

“Oh, no!”

“Oh yes, and whenever they need more amber…”

“They make him sneeze again! Oh, that’s just disgusting.”

“There’s a moral to the story.”

“Oh, I’m not sure I want to know.  Is it “Before meeting dragons, eat supper first?”

“Exactly right!  And now, time for my nap.”

* * *

“Grandmother…”

“None of it, child.  It was all a covenant’s scheme to let them have an amber mine, without mortal warlords wanting to take it away.”

“That was disgusting.  I’m glad he’s never been up the nostril of a dragon.”

“Oh, he has: he’s just never mined amber there.  Try to eat your supper.”

 

 

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