Short Story – Hot Tea
It has been a while since my last short story. Fortunately, I signed up to do a storytelling show about dragons and I was compelled to write something new!
This entire story grew out of being amused by the idea of a dragon sipping tea. I don’t know why that image really stuck with me but it resulted in what I wrote here.
I also made the decision to avoid giving the dragon a gender. It is not the same as creating a truly gender neutral character – something I hope I can do in a future story – but I didn’t feel the gender of the dragon was relevant.
As always, I hope you take a moment to read, comment, share and enjoy!
Felicity strained at the chains holding her in place. Her fate had been sealed hours earlier when the village council selected her number. Still, she didn’t understand why her final moments of life had to be so uncomfortable.
The iron clamps were rusty and sharp and would have dug into her wrists even had they not lifted her slightly off the ground. Just a little wool lining the clamps were all that was needed. And maybe a box. A box would have been nice. Unfortunately, she would never have the chance to register a complaint.
The temperature in the cave was noticeably higher than the summer air outside. Her escorts, two middle aged, portly men given the singular honor of ensuring she didn’t back out of her duties as sacrifice, had stripped down to their underclothes when they entered. Because their comfort, apparently, was far more important than hers. Once they had secured her on the ceremonial stone pillars, they left her alone so as to avoid her fate.
She remained in the heavy sacrificial garment in which she had been dressed by the eleven virginal priestesses who had, per their sacred duty, decreed the need for a feeding. The only eleven virgins in the village who were not in the lottery. As one might imagine, the waiting list for those positions was quite long.
Resigned as she was to her fate, Felicity couldn’t help but feel a knot form in the pit of her stomach when she heard the growl of the only other living thing in the cave. No other animal sought shelter here. Not even a spider or an ant would venture inside.
On the cave floor far below her, she saw subtle movement. A red, scaled creature not unlike a snake but a hundred times larger began to uncurl. From within those coils emerged four claws, each stretching and casually tapping against the rock walls. Two eyes opened dreamily and looked up at her. The creature lifted its massive head and for the first time since the lottery, she felt the urge to scream.
Slowly, the creature climbed the rock slide to her platform near the mouth of the cave. It sniffed her and she could feel its hot breath warming the clamps until they nearly burned her skin. It’s mouth broke into a wide, toothy grin and she closed her eyes, hoping her death would be quick and painless and further hoping that her last memory would be of that frightening but magnificent creature and not of the two almost naked men who had chained her up.
After what, she felt, was a rather long time, she realized that just after she closed her eyes, the beast had said something to her.
She opened one eye to see it staring at her expectantly.
“I’m sorry,” she forced herself to say, “I’m afraid I didn’t hear you.”
“Tea?” the dragon repeated.
A cup of hot tea sounded amazing. She was concerned, however, that this was some kind of trick.
“Do you…do you plan to eat me?”
The creature sighed, it’s breath heating up the iron on her wrists just a few degrees more.
“I don’t know,” it said, “I’ve not decided. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a cup of tea.”
“I…yes. Yes I would” she admitted.
“Good!” the dragon replied, almost excited. It practically bounded down to the floor of the cave to fetch a tea set. The tea pot was large enough to hold a dragon-sized serving of tea plus, most likely, enough for a human sized girl.
Carefully, it dipped the pot into a stream that ran through the cave, taking a moment to dig a few fish out with it’s claws before replacing the top and coiling it’s long slender body around the porcelain. It looked up at Felicity, grinned like a reptilian Cheshire cat, and shouted “I won’t be but a few minutes.”
She could see it’s body begin to glow as if it were a horseshoe in a blacksmith’s forge. True to its prediction, the kettle began steaming and whistling in just a few minutes. After pouring most of the water into an enormous tea cup, it brought the pot closer and gingerly set it down. It also set down a human sized tea cup that was a tiny identical twin to it’s own.
“Serve yourself,” it nodded,”there is a spigot on the side of the kettle I had specially installed for just these occasions.”
“I…th-thank you but…” she began.
“Oh my!” the dragon exclaimed, “I’m so sorry! I forgot!”
With the flick of its claw, both of her clasps were broken into tiny pieces and she fell rather clumsily to the ground.
“Oh dear. Are you all right?”
“Yes yes. Just wasn’t expecting that.”
She walked over to the pot which was several feet taller than her and, indeed, found a small spigot near the bottom. She picked up her tea cup and poured in some water.
The dragon sat down on an outcropping near her and lazily stirred it’s tea with a spoon.
“I should warn you I make it quite hot. You may want to wait before you try some.”
“Now then, I suppose you are curious as to why I haven’t eaten you yet.”
“Yes. I understood the village had been expected to provide you with a virgin once per year and that virgin was to be devoured by you.”
“I can see why that would lead you to believe eating you was the plan.”
“Well, as I said earlier, I’m not certain. On the one hand, I’m hungry and human is quite the tasty delicacy. I only get to eat human once per year.”
“And on the other?”
“Well, humans are, by and large, such nice company. At least when I can get one of you to sit down and chat rather than scream and writhe about to the point I have no choice but to devour you so I can get a little sleep. We dragons need a lot of sleep, you know.”
Felicity took a sip of her tea only to discover that it was, as the dragon had predicted, far too hot.
“Also,” the dragon continued, “You humans really don’t understand my demands all that well. For instance, when I asked for a sacrifice, I never once said it had to be a woman. Why do you assume that I care the least bit about the gender of the human I’m eating?”
“Honestly, there’s more meat on the bones of the typical male. The two gentlemen who brought you here looked far more satisfying than you – no offense. I would have been happy to enjoy the meat from either one of them.”
“Well you could have…”
“And further, what is all this ridiculousness about virgins? I never asked for a virgin. I just said I wanted a single sacrifice every year. I didn’t even demand a human. I just said ‘sacrifice.’ You could have sacrificed a cow. If it needed to be a virgin cow for some reason, that would have been fine.”
“I could go back and tell them…”
“Oh no! If they are too foolish to ask clarifying questions, I’m not going to be the one to challenge their misconceptions. You humans are supposed to be smart!”
“Well then…what are you going to do with me?”
“I could eat you. But I was wondering if perhaps you would rather join me for dinner and some conversation? We dragons can speak the language of almost every other animal on Earth and yet we find that most of them are dreadfully boring. Try getting a fish to talk about anything but water. Just try.”
“Speak fish. Of course you don’t. And you are more fortunate for that, let me assure you.”
“So if I join you for dinner, you won’t eat me?”
“Oh, I don’t think so!”
“I would enjoy it if I weren’t eaten. But I did want to ask you one favor, if you wouldn’t mind so terribly much.”
“Of course! How can I be of service?”
“Well,” Felicity begain, “there are eleven virgins in the temple….”