What people need to understand about dragons is that we really have no one to blame but ourselves. Take the gold hoarding for instance: back before people were around (and dragons were most certainly around before people), there were no gold platters to covet. Yes, dragons have an intrinsic affinity for beauty, but that could just as well be satisfied by the minerals in their caves or the sparkle of rain on pine needles—because of course it is reductive to assume that all dragons live in caves. That would be like saying all people live in wood cabins. Some of them do, of course, and many more of them would like to, but most haven’t found that to be their path in life are generally okay with it.
It was only after people started figuring out they could melt down gold and work themselves up over the product that dragons got involved. It turned a natural proclivity into rather an obsession. Quite frankly it was sensory overload. And what’s more, it didn’t take long for dragons to realize that they could make much better use of it than we could. When was the last time anyone took a drink out of the Holy Grail, for example? (Assuming it was made of gold, which I have to assume it was.) When it comes to human beings and gold, they’re either spurting blood over it or keeping it on a shelf. Dragons, on the other hand, have all sorts of uses for gold. They can sharpen their talons on it (although alloys are better for this), they can chew on it for minerals, they can heap it up and make a bed from it. Hoarding is simply the wrong term. When a dragon has a pile of gold it is making very good use of it while saving a world of trouble for the folks that used to own it, which dragons are well aware of.
People don’t give dragons enough credit. It’s not so outrageous to say that dragons see the accumulation of gold as a service. Not only is less silliness between waring humans of benefit to dragons (since we’re all on God’s green earth together, after all), but to see all that bloodshed tugs at their innately moral heartstrings. The death of Montezuma grieved the dragons down in Mexico considerably; they still spend a substantial amount of time regretting that they didn’t make it over there before the Spanish did. If people could breathe fire at each other to get gold from one another they would, that’s what people need to understand about dragons.
And about the fire breathing—everyone assumes it’s as easy as raising your voice, but do you really think causing combustion to occur inside your body is easy work for anyone? Quite the contrary—it takes a considerable expenditure of energy, the depletion of some vital minerals in the body, and some very chapped lips. If a dragon is breathing fire at you, I rather think you should be the one questioning your life choices. It’s more accurately compared to being stung by a bee, although no dragon has ever expired from breathing fire, at least not that I know of. I did, however, once meet a dragon who developed a raspy cough after breathing fire at an army general in his youth and never recovered.
The most important thing that people absolutely must understand about dragons is that they are absolutely, one hundred percent, undeniably, unequivocally real. Just because you never saw one one doesn’t mean anything at all. There are some dragons, in fact, who have never seen a person (although that’s becoming less and less common these days) and I can assure you, their convictions are just as strong as yours.
Lastly, probably the most egregious misunderstanding is the whole kidnapping business. Dragons don’t kidnap princesses. What would a dragon want with a princess? Most princesses who end up cohabiting with dragons were sent there by other humans, mostly sovereigns and bureaucrats hoping to fortify the lineage by paring them off with whoever can retrieve them. Ironically they only manage to dumb it down by flooding it with the sort of people who are stupid enough to accost a dragon.
And let’s give princesses credit where it’s due as well, shall we? There are plenty of princes in this sort of situation too, as well as convicts, salespeople, children of overextended parents, daredevils, and investigative journalists such as myself. A dragon wants any of us around about as much as any of us want a fungal infection. Like any respectable creature, dragons just want to be left alone. The sad irony of it is, they can’t just shoo us off like they’d rather do and risk us going off and blabbing about their lifestyles and home addresses. If they let that happen they’d end up with, well, more buffoons. So they cut their losses and keep the one—forcibly—rather than risk the hordes.
Of course I wish I’d known that when I pitched the story. I’ve tried to reason with my hostess for months now, but rules are rules, it seems. I keep telling her that if she would only let me go back to the office and turn in my notes, it would shine light on all the systematic issues. It’s not so bad here, really. I shouldn’t complain about my hostess. She’s let me ask her all sorts of questions and even gave me a gold basin for a pillow. Only I do rather miss vegetables and hot water, and I’m quite late on my assignment. I haven’t given up hope yet. I’m convinced I’ll be able to appeal to my dragon’s sense of the greater good. I’ve learned so much the past months and I think I can really make a difference. I swear once I get out I’ll change the whole thing.