Orum weighed the lump of star metal in his hand.
"It can't be smelted," his father said. "The forge isn't hot enough."
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"When my dad gave that to me, he said it should remind me any skill has limits," the old smith said.
"We'll see," said Orum.
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The next day, Orum packed tools and supplies in a sled, picked a spear, strapped on his skis, and headed for the mountains.
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Years ago, men came through the village, showing gold taken from a dragon. They had snuck in and out, as the dragon slept.
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Orum searched for the dragon's lair until his food was gone. He was ready to give up, when he saw a bird circling, rising.
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Warm air wafted from a cave. Orum set skis and sled aside, put the star metal in a crucible, and held that with long tongs.
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Spear in one hand, tongs in the other, Orum entered the darkness of the cave. He walked far, then heard:
"You are too late."
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There was a faint light ahead, around a corner. Orum moved up and peeked around.
"Oh," he said, "I thought you'd be bigger."
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The dragon glared at him. It was the size of a goat.
"Well, I thought you'd be impolite," it said, "so one of us was right."
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"Anyway," the dragon continued, "the gold is all gone."
It looked at Orum's spear. "Or have you come for fame, not riches?"
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"Do as I say, and I'll let you live!" Orum shouted.
"A generous offer," the dragon said. "I'll make the same. Just leave."
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This encounter did not unfold like Orum had imagined it. "Look," he said, "I just need a magic fire."
"Don't we all."
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The dragon laid down and closed its eyes. Behind it was a crack from which light and heat came. "You smell of fire magic."
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"I am a smith," said Orum.
"Fire magic. A smith is almost as good as a baker."
"Thanks. Um. Will you help? Please?"
"No."
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Orum leaned the spear against the wall. "I'm sorry."
"For what?"
"For being impolite, and threatening."
The dragon snorted.
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"You are but a spark," the dragon said, "you are no threat."
Orum bit back his objections. "And you?"
"Me? I am an ember."
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"Right," Orum said, "so with the right kindling we-"
The dragon snorted again. "I am far too old for such hope, smithling."
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"Dragons grow, in power and size, until our fire fades, and then we diminish."
"You are dying?"
"Not doing anything else."
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"Oh." Orum sat down next to the dragon.
"At least I wasn't murdered for my gold."
"What do dragons need gold for, anyway?"
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"Gold is..." the dragon hesitated. "You lack the word. Absorbent? We transfer aches and pains into gold. To die easier."
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"Are you in pain?" Orum asked.
"Much."
A simple answer, which brought silence to the cave. Orum looked in the crucible.
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"Is there," he said, showing the star metal, "any gold in this?"
"Bah. I would smell gold. That's just... What is that?"
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The dragon craned its neck to sniff. "You seek fire, carrying that? It holds fire in its heart!"
"Oh. Could you use it?"
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"Would you gift it to me?" the dragon said.
Orum weighed the lump in his hand. "You need it."
"Your kindness has no limit."
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Orum came home late that night.
"Did you smelt that lump?" his father asked.
"He did," the dragon answered from the sled.
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** The 2017 story Buri and the Winter dark": microsff.com/buri-and-the-wint
The 2016 story "Unn and the cold fire": microsff.com/unn-and-the-cold-
The 2015 story "Gry and the Mountain King": microsff.com/gry-and-the-mount
The 2014 story "Moa and the lost sun": microsff.com/moa-and-the-lost-
The 2013 story "Tam and Lin and the Queen in the heart of the forest": microsff.com/tam-and-lin-and-t
**

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@trinsec
I think he was a bit smaller (though he definite had larger nostrils that your average goat :)

@MicroSFF no need to apologies, it's awesome what you're doing !

@MicroSFF dont mention it, the story was awesome, thank you.

@MicroSFF I read this to my kids as their bedtime story tonight. They really liked it!

@MicroSFF this is super heartwarming, no pun intended. Thank you!

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