The Dragon Hunters

By: Terry D. Scheerer

The footprints were huge. Bodkin looked up from tracks they had been following and
nervously scanned the thick woods that hemmed them in on both sides. He was not at all
happy being even this close to a live dragon and was fairly sure he would like it a good
deal less when they had to get much closer to one.

His companion, Smudge, was crouched down in the mud and moss, closely examining
the tracks. He carefully placed his hand down inside one of the hind prints and slowly
spread his pudgy fingers as wide as he could. His fingertips did not touch the edge of the
footprint.

Smudge rose, rubbing his hands together in eager anticipation. “Cor, but she’s a
beauty, she is,” he said quietly, staring down the path their quarry had created by her
passage through the woods. “Can’t be more than an ‘our old, either,” he continued, indicating how long ago the tracks had been made.

“Are they always this big?” Bodkin asked, glancing back down to the fresh imprints.
Smudge had tracked dragons before, but this was Bodkin’s first hunt and he was highly apprehensive. His eyes were drawn back to the trail of dried blood that seemed to weave its way back and forth between the footprints. Their dragon was carrying a recent kill in her maw–a full-grown cow from John Talbot’s pasture–and was seeking a quiet place to enjoy her meal.

“Oh, I’ve seen some bigger, but not many,” Smudge admitted. “This one’ll give us a fine prize, me
lad, ye just wait.

Still seeking reassurance, Bodkin asked, “And when we get back to town, what we take from her
will make us rich and famous right?”

“Aye, that it will, Body, me boy,” Smudge said and smiled up at him, his round face beaming.
“Why, people’ll rush out to greet us everywhere we go and they’ll pay us ‘andsomely to share in
just a wee bit o’ what we bring back with us.”

Bodkin nodded, but still had his doubts. Everyone knew that a dragon’s horde could be worth a
fortune and the prize they sought could easily make them both rich, but many brave and foolish
men had died trying to sneak up on a resting dragon and Bodkin felt that he was neither brave,
nor foolish, just perhaps overly gullible to allow Smudge to talk him into this crazy scheme.

“C’Mon, Body, get ye gear. We don’t want to let’er get too big a lead on us.” Smudge gathered
up the pile of empty bags he had dropped earlier and started off down the path. Bodkin hesitated
a few moments, still unsure whether the risks were worth the rewards of this adventure. Then,
deciding that being rich and popular was better than being poor and unknown, he picked up the
rest of their supplies and headed quickly after his friend.

They traveled another twenty minutes before Bodkin heard something that made him stop short.
“What’s that?” he whispered in alarm.

Smudge stopped and listened for a moment, then with a finger to his lips, turned off the path and
pushing aside some bushes, moved quietly into the woods. Bodkin followed him as Smudge
moved roughly parallel to the dragon’s path until they came to the edge of a large clearing.
Moving aside a screen of leaves , they caught their first sight of the dragon on the far side of the
open area. She lay amid the remains of her meal, casually crunching and grinding long, bloody
bones between her huge, sharp teeth.

Bodkin gulped at the sight of her; she was even more magnificent than he could have imagined.
She was at least thirty feet long–forty if you counted the tail–her ridged back as tall as a house
and her scales winked iridescent green and gold where the sun shone on them.

Being a female and too large to fly, her rudimentary wings lay folded against her back, the skin
between the vanes so thin as to be nearly transparent.

They continued to watch in awe as she sniffed among the remaining bones, looking for any
missed morsel. Finding none, she yawned and got slowly to her feet, the tip of her long tail
flicking back and forth.

“This is it, Body, me boy,” Smudge whispered excitedly. “Aye, she’ll lead us right to it, now.”

Despite the danger of their situation, Bodkin found himself sharing his friend’s excitement. He
was close enough to a real, live dragon to hear her belch, which she suddenly did, startling the
two intrepid hunters. Their dragon lumbered slowly across the clearing, then stopped near a
large tree and looked carefully around, sniffing the air as if to be sure she was completely alone.
Satisfied, she began to dig at the base of the tree.

“Ere we go,” Smudge whispered again, nudging Bodkin in the ribs.

After digging a sizable hole, the dragon maneuvered her bulky body around until her haunches
were over the hole, then sat down, her tail curled around her feet. A few moments later, they
heard the muffled sound of air being forced rapidly through a small opening and then several wet
splats, like mud being thrown against the side of a house.

The dragon’s large eyes slowly closed and Bodkin could have sworn that her lips curved up into
a faint smile for just a moment.

Then she stood and kicked dirt back over the hole with her hind legs. With a final wistful look
toward the remains of her meal, she turned and moved slowly off into the woods and
disappeared. The hunters remained where they were for a while longer, just to be sure she wasn’t
going to return and surprise them, but after a few minutes even the sound of her passage had
vanished.

When Smudge and Bodkin entered the clearing, they hurried over to where the hole had been
filled in. Letting go the bags they had been carrying, they went quickly to work with their
shovels. As dirt flew and they got closer to their goal, the smell hit them and Bodkin stepped
back from the pit and covered his mouth and nose with his cap. Seemingly unconcerned with
this assault on their senses, Smudge continued to dig until the prize was uncovered. He grabbed
for an empty bag and only then noticed that Bodkin had moved away from the depression in the
ground they had dug.

“Ere, now, Body, don’t tell me yer getting squeamish at this point,” he said with a wide grin,
holding out the sack to his partner. “Lend a ‘and, boy. I can’t do this by meself.”

Waving a cap in front of his face, Bodkin asked, “Tell me again just why it is we’re befouling ourselves like this for some fifty pounds of dragon dung?”

“Why fame and fortune, Body, me lad,” Smudge told him. Seeing that this basic explanation
was not going to be sufficient to get Bodkin back into the game, Smudge sighed and continued.
“As ye must know, lad, dragons are creatures of great magic and every man jack in this realm
who grows any sort of crop is well aware that the droppings of a female dragon are saturated
with magical growth properties and so it’s by far the best fertilizer to be ‘ad, at any price.

“Now, there’s not many of us who are willing to take the time and the risk required to track a
dragon until she drops ‘er special prize, but for those brave few,” and his smile broadened, “ah,
lad, those few reap the rewards and the gratitude of many.”

Bodkin was thoughtful for a moment. “Fame and fortune, eh?” he asked quietly.

“Aye, lad, that and more,” Smudge replied, holding out the sack once again. Bodkin slowly
replaced his cap on his head and moved forward, took the sack and held it open.

“That’s me boy!” Smudge grabbed his shovel and started filling the sack. Working quickly, they
filled as many bags as they could carry with the highly aromatic prize and then started back,
hoping to reach town before dark.

The stench coming from the wet bags, as well as from the two of them was quite overpowering,
and Bodkin asked, “So, then, you’re sure people will rush out to meet us when we arrive back
with our booty, eh?”

“Oh, aye, that they will,” Smudge assured him, then sniffed at the air a bit. “Well, not right up
close o’ course, but they’ll be for sure ‘appy to see us from a distance, ye just wait.”

Sensing that his friend needed more encouragement, he added, “Aye, and aside from paying us
well and good for each little cup full of our prize, they’ll long sing the praises of Smudge and
Bodkin, the mighty Dragon ‘Unters.”

Bodkin smiled at the thought.

“From a goodly distance, ‘o course,” Smudge added with a wink.

 

 

 


About the Author



A published writer since 2001, along with his work which has appeared in “The World of Myth,” Terry D. Scheerer’s short stories have appeared in such magazines as, “Dragonlaugh” and “Sword’s Edge,” and a book of his collected poetry and short stories was published by Gateway Press in August, 2005. Mr. Scheerer continues to work as an Editor and writer (as health permits) on a number of ongoing projects.
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