Spelunk (A Dragon Story)

2022 Annual Literary Contest

2nd Place
Short Stories

Robert Burton

A slightly overweight man in his forties looked up at the stars shining in the night sky. He turned on his helmet’s light, took a deep breath of the breeze sweeping off of the ocean and entered the cave.

Solo spelunking is not bright, but those idiots don’t trust me. I know the difference between a shadow on a cliff and a cave opening. Especially Yvonne, ‘Enjoy your cave Richard while we enjoy our cabernet.’, and her laugh, her titter. I’ll show them when I’m written up in Spelunker’s News.

Richard stopped and looked at the shape of the cave. Flat walls? Cave or old mine? He proceeded to where there was only a small hole that he would have to crawl through. I have to lose weight. Ah, there’s an opening ahead. He crawled forward and tumbled into a large cavern. Standing, he walked around the cavern taking pictures.

This is great. I’m definitely getting written up in Spelunkers News.

“What’s this?” He bent over and picked up a coin. “A Roman coin? There’s lots of them.” He yelled “I’m rich.”

The light from his helmet illuminated an eye on the wall.

“Wow, that eye almost looks real.”

A thundering “Thank You.” reverberated in the cavern. A dark shape rose. Lichen on the walls started to glow. The creature studied Richard.

“You’re a dragon!”

The dragon looked at Richard for a moment. “Thank you, for stating the obvious. Do you have anything else to say?”

Richard started backing up. “You talk.”

“You do have a penchant for stating the obvious. Besides the obvious, do you have anything else to say?”

“Good-bye.” Richard turned, ran to and dove for the opening he had squirmed through, but a monstrous claw grabbed him mid-dive, and held him up as the dragon examined him.

“I do detest thieves.”

“I’m not a thief,” protested Richard; “I didn’t know you were here.”

“That’s what all the thieves say. Since you don’t know a passcode, you must be a thief.”

“Passcode! What’s a passcode?”

The dragon shook his head while putting Richard down, ”What is man taught these days? A passcode for an account of course.”


“Of course, this is the Bank of Smyvern. All account holders have passcodes. No passcode means you’re not an account holder. Ergo you’re a thief.”

“I’m not a thief. I’m a spelunker.”

“Maybe a thieving spelunker. Hold still.” The dragon leaned forward and licked Richard. The dragon contorted its face into multiple shapes and spat far to the side. The dragon shuddered and said, “Do you live on salt? Your taste is revolting. Don’t you have any standards? I may be hungry, but I’m not starving.”

“That’s good news for me.”

“I wonder if I could use you as bait?”

Richard looked around hoping to find another exit. “Uh, tell me more about the Bank of Smyvern.”

The dragon reared up on his hind legs and spread his arms and wings. “This is the Bank of Smyvern. It was founded in 586 by my father Smyvern II and it has never been robbed. I am Smyvern III, at your service.” Smyvern bowed.

“586! You’ve been guarding gold since 586.”

“Gold, silver, diamonds, amulets, whatever.”

Richard kept looking around for another exit. “Who has accounts?”

“Come now. The bank must be discreet. The names of account holders are not given out, but, uh, I can say there are various kings, queens and a few wizards.”

Richard stared at Smyvern for a moment, shook his head when he realised the significance of what the dragon was saying. “What a minute. Are you saying people trust you with their valuables?”

Smyvern put his snout into Richard’s face. “Are implying people shouldn’t trust dragons? Have you ever heard of a dragon breaking their word? Well, have you?” Smyvern pulled his head back, while watching Richard. “I think you’re a speciesist. Only men can be trusted. Shall I go through the number of times a man has broken his word. Shall I?” With its last words Smyvern again put his snout in Richard’s face.

“Whoa, no offence meant. I apologise for anything I said.”

The dragon raised his head, looked away and sniffed. “That’s better.”

The man said, “I’m Richard. I’d like to be your friend Smyvern.” and muttered, “Being a friend is better than being lunch.”

Smyvern looked down at Richard. “Hmm, and what can you do for me Richard?”

“I’m a lawyer. I can help you negotiate with your clients.”

“All of the bank’s clients sign a standard contract.” Smyvern reached around and pulled a sheet of parchment out of a pile of coins. “Here’s one of them. There’s nothing to negotiate.”

“I’m very good at writing contracts, if I do say so myself. Let me look it over.” Richard read over the contract and then reread it.”It says as a fee you have one percent of whatever is deposited, unless the client provides the equivalent value in salmon. When did a client last provide salmon?”

“I do love salmon. Uh, 1815, someone called Napoleon was causing trouble.”

“That’s over two hundred years ago. At one percent per year all of the treasure is yours.”

“It’s mine. I don’t have to guard it for someone else?”


“I’m free.”

Smyvern smashed the wall with his tail causing a cave-in that completely blocked the entryway. He grabbed Richard, galloped down a path, yelled, “Hold your breath,” dove into a pool, swam out a tunnel into the ocean and deposited Richard on the seashore.

He looked down at Richard. “Thank You. I’m off to Wallachia. I had fun there in 1280.” Smyvern spread his wings, rose and headed east. All that could be heard was the beat of his wings and the chant “Walla walla Wallachia.”

Richard watched Smyvern disappear. Camera is destroyed. No one will believe me, especially Yvonne with her infuriating laugh. Richard walked to his car and drove away.