"The new forges were lit today in the valley..."
Reading the teleprompter, Baashur Dreadnaught suddenly stopped. Just hearing himself reminded him of the other dragons he’d left years ago when he took this job.
When the World Forge opened, dragons everywhere lined up at union offices to get in. It was underground work, where anything you found that wasn't needed, you could keep. Dragons had been so excited about earning wages that they flooded the valley for work.
Prior to the bill giving dragons "equal rights", finding any job was nearly impossible. Baashur had lost his last position to someone younger, faster and hotter in the forge. His wife left him before their pod hatched and he couldn't stay in the Forge Dens. Only company dragons lived there. When he’d left for the city, he never thought he'd be anchoring the news at 9.
"Baashur." the cameraman whisper-yelled at him. "Just read the prompter!"
Snapping out of it, he stammered into his monologue.
"New labor sanctions established an upswing in dragon-made products. Forecasters predict a prosperous spring when the thaw arrives, and the finance-scape couldn't hope for more."
As he droned on about dragon labor, the misfortune of dragon-strike in a local store and locally orchestrated efforts to improve living conditions for underground dragon workers, Baashur found himself nearly wild with anger.
When the integration law passed, Baashur loved that people farmed sheep, bovine and pork to meet the needs of dragons who could now purchase pre-packaged foods. He’d embraced the less vigorous life humans provided so that dragons wouldn’t hunt. All of that seemed like a good thing, but taming dragons to be slaves was just wrong. They only earned half the wages men did and without dragon fire, most of those men working forges wouldn't have jobs. They had agreed not to burn anything in exchange for equal treatment, but no one was really getting it.
"That's it!" Baashur shouted, making everyone in the newsroom jump. "I've had it!” He snatched off his headset, tossing the anchor desk over, and headed out.
"Hey, Basher!" The weatherman called after him. "Where’re you going?"
"To see Rob. I'm done!"
Basshur took the “Dragon Hall”, which had been grossly underestimated for his height. As he passed the break room, someone shouted.
"Singe any nose-hairs today, Basher?"
"Bite me, Polluck." Baashur answered.
Reaching the station manager's office, he stopped at the closed door. Should he knock? Should he walk right in? Should he set the door on fire, kick it in and go in there, nostrils blazing? He thought about the company Christmas party when Rob's wife came and decided to knock.
Receiving a polite, "Come in Basher", from the other side, he opened the door. As Baashur ducked inside, Rob offered a smile.
"How are you today, Basher?"
"I'm... not well." He replied.
"What's the matter?" Rob asked, still sitting behind his desk.
Baashur sat down on the floor, tucking his wings in, and rested his arms on his knees. Taking a deep sigh, he dove right in.
"Well, for starters, my name is "Baashur", not "Basher" It's 'baaa' like sheep, and 'sure' like positive. Baa-Sure. You humans give us names you can't pronounce and expect us to accept it when you mispronounce it. We don't get to pick our own names. You guys can't even call our pods by their right names. Again…Ducks lay eggs, Dragons cultivate pods."
"I'm sorry Bash... 'Mr. Dreadnaught'." Rob corrected himself. "What name did you prefer?"
Baashur hadn't given that much thought. He wasn't crazy about “Baashur” but had come to expect it.
"You’re missing the point." He said, then thinking about it he added... "Wait. I always thought 'Eric' might be nice."
His boss shrugged.
"Ok. Eric. What seems to be the trouble?"
"I'm tired of just reading dragon stories. I put myself through journalism school, scraped and borrowed until I could get a job in the media and here I am... basically reading dragon stories. Heck even Carl, the weather guy, makes more than I do."
"So, this is about your salary." Rob put in.
"No, it's about equality in the workplace."
"You know, Bash... Eric. I'm sure you would have no trouble going back to a top-flight career at the forges. No one is trying to keep you here."
"Then why did you hire me?" Baashur secretly hoped he was hired for his merits, but had the sinking feeling he wasn't.
"Hell, the day you applied here I’d just gotten off the phone with my boss. They were breathing down my neck to add a dragon presence here to show the world that we were pro-integration. Right place, right time." he finished.
"Oh." the dragon replied.
It was silent for a moment, then Baashur spoke up.
" I see you haven't achieved the goal of appearing all that 'Dragon Friendly'. I am literally just reading a teleprompter. No one even reads my story submissions. And forget about office equality! Polluck runs me down all the time and the others make fun of me. Not to mention, I was outside the breakroom yesterday and overheard everyone saying how much you hated dragons. I didn't want to believe that."
"You’d best be believing. I see dragons the same way I see dogs and cats, or… hell, even cockroaches. Having said that, I don't feel that way about you. If you need a raise, just ask. If you’d like a coffee pot or vending machine in your hall to avoid coworkers, say the word... but don't come in here blaming me or the network for everything that's wrong in the world."
"Don't put me in the same bucket as your pets or as a common household pest, Robert Jiles."
"That's not what I meant, Bash...Eric, whatever." Lifting his coffee cup, he went to take a sip and spit it back out. "Damn cold coffee."
Baashur got up to leave.
"What will you do?" Rob asked.
Baashur turned to face him before he answered.
"I may start a podcast and spread the word it's time to revisit these so-called laws. Maybe I'll start acting like a dragon. I AM a fire drake afterall!" Eyeballing the coffee cup, he grinned.
Pinching one nostril closed, he shot a small fireball from his nose to heat the coffee, well, what part of it didn't fly out of the cup.
"And don't you forget it." He winked.
Polluck was bent with his ear to the other side of the door as Baashur stepped into the hall. Gazing angrily down at the jerk, he waited for the verbal abuse.
"What's a matter 'baaa- sure'?" he bleated to poke fun in a sheep's voice. "Daddy send you home with no allowance?"
Rolling his eyes, Baashur lifted his leg and farted as he walked out.
"Hi! This is Eric Dreadnaught and welcome to my podcast, Dragon Fire at 9. "
Pouring himself a steaming cup of coffee, Eric fluffed some papers and looked right into the camera. "For anyone watching who isn't a dragon, know this: We are still dragons," (slamming his fist on the desk) "And we're not going to take it anymore!"
Encouraged by Matthew Fromm's high fantasy challenge, which you can enter here, I found myself revisiting old tales and making them stronger. I couldn't take any of Baashur's thunder in this story by making it any shorter than it is, so it couldn't be in the challenge, but I hope you like it all the same. I did trim over 500 words! Sometimes it's fun to be silly.
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About the Creator
I'm a mild-mannered project accountant by day, a free-spirited writer, artist, singer/songwriter the rest of the time. Let's subscribe to each other! I'm excited to be in a community of writers and I'm looking forward to making friends!