As it neared five o’clock, Shortwhisker was preparing to light the fuse of another flame effect. It was then that he caught the glimpse of movement inside the cave. His jaw dropped and he involuntarily dropped his taper as he backed away from the apparition of an eight metre purple Dragon.
Runny caught glimpse of it at about the same instant. “It’s, it’s . . . ,” he stammered.
“A ‘reality’ Dragon,” Wilfred said completing his friend’s sentence, and against his better judgement drawing his sword.
“Really?” Althonyr asked incredulously.
Wilfred looked at his sword and then back at the dragon.
“Um, yes, I suppose so,” the Dragon Hunter replied.
Althonyr’s first inclination was to dispatch these nuisances and get back to his nap, but it had been all too long since he had the opportunity to manipulate a human.
“I see you are with Dwarves,” the great beast observed. “I hate Dwarves,” he then muttered giving a side glance at Runny. “So, what do you intend to do, Sir Knight? Or is it My Lord?” the Dragon asked cooly.
“Um, it’s neither. You see I am a, ah, kind of a showman,” Wilfred tried to explain.
“How interesting,” Althonyr almost purred. “What might your performance entail, might I ask?”
“I – I, we . . . we travel about where there are reports of, um, Dragons and we put on a show of riding the place of them.”
“So, you kill dragons?” Althonyr asked accusingly.
“Ah, no, ah, to be honest you are the first we have actually encountered. As I said it’s a show.”
“How do convince your audience you have completed this monumental feat?”
“With props,” Wilfred said, backing away slightly as Althonyr stepped fully into the cave mouth.
“Props? How intriguing.”
“The Dwarves fashion things like Dragon heads and we pass them off to the guilable.” Wilfred said quietly.
“I suppose there is a market for such theatrics. After all business is business; and speaking of business, I guess it is time for me to kill you now,” the Dragon observed.
What had gone unnoticed at this point was that Shortwhiskers’ taper had continued to burn and its flame had now inched its way to the fuse of the main charge which had been designed to bring the cave down. Suddenly there was a tremendous blast which threw Wildred and Runny ten metres and caused the entire upper chamber of the cavern to collapse.
When the smoke and dust cleared the cart that had carried the props was overturned and weapons were strewn all over. At the former cave mouth, Althonyr lay trapped under tons of stone with only his left shoulder and head exposed.
“Showman, what have you done?” the Dragon gasped. “My back is in agony, and I can’t feel my legs. Dig me out, and I will spare you.”
It was obvious however that the great worm was going nowhere. One of the prop harpoons had pierced his neck with the force of the blast, and his back and wings were broken.
Wilfred rose and dusting himself off he approached the disabled beast.
“Showman?” Wilfred asked. “I’m no showman. I’m the Dragon Hunter,” he announced.
“I will pay you handsomely,” Althonyr pleaded.
“I don’t think you could match what I will get from this,” Wilfred said. “‘After all business is business; and speaking of business, I guess it is time for me to kill you now.” With that Wilfred and Runny drove the harpoon deeper into Althonyr’s neck. Thick blood spewed forth and the light went fron the Dragon’s eyes.
“I am of the mind that this looks about perfect,” Runny said. “A few details here and there, but it will do the treat.”
One of the heart jars was broken beyond use, but the red heart in it was transfered to the jar that had contained the purple one. That heart was in turn buried and a large rock slid by all of the Dwarves over its location. Meanwhile, Plucky was sent to the palace to invite the Viceroy and his retainers to “the site of battle.”
By the time the officials arrived the four red-heart jars were arranged two on either side of Althonyr’s head. Wilfred was seated on the overturned cart, and all signs of pyrotechnic equipment had spirited away by Digger, Breaker, and Shortwhisker. Runny and Wetwhistle wandered about the site drawing a diagram which detailed the epic battle, the death of the four Reds in the bowels of the cavern, and the final confrontation of Wilfred and the “Great Purple Worm.”