Rust Dragon by Herb Kauderer

Rust Dragon
Herb Kauderer

He lives in the swamps far from the metal users
and the mountains they mine for ore.
What humans consider lasting tools and weapons
are limp and weathered reeds in his decaying grasp.

Here among the ever-rotting trees and weeds and flowers
everything is busy dying and renewing.
At least in this place he does not feel himself
to be a plague, but the oppressive life cycle
makes him feel outcast, for he alone survives
year after year century after century.

There is one solace in his life:
his hoard, composed of polished gems and sparkling jewels,
(the only thing that endures his presence,
the one lasting beauty in his life,)
continues to grow – and it must – so that adventurers
will seek him out.

They come for his treasure (and his scales for shields)
only to find that their arms and armor
disintegrate under his corrosive breath,
leaving them to fight the rust dragon
empty-handed in their quilted gambesons.

The dragon does not laugh at their dismay,
and he does not wish to harm them,
so he accepts a payment of beauty and thanks them
for their visit. Then with a roar he bids them to depart
and spread the news of his wealth
thus ensuring more visitors.


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