Great was the city of Surriteb, and mighty were the heroes of its lineage. Famed they were for the creatures of darkness they’d sent back to Hell. And countless were the treasures they’d plundered.
This was the secret of the heroes of Surriteb: all creatures fear man. They will try to stave off an attack with wily words. It is in that moment of cowardly speech that the heroes will strike—for then were the beasts most vulnerable. Here is the lesson: Strike boldly, and leave no survivors.
This was the secret of the monsters of Surriteb: all sentient beings seek to communicate before resorting to violence. All save man.
There came to Surriteb a dragon grieving for his mate, lost to the warriors of another city, in another country. The dragon was vast, and old, and in his grief, he was one other thing: He was insane.
When the heroes of Surriteb came to confront him, his opened mouth held no words—only all-encompassing flame.
And heroes died.
And heroes died.
And as Surriteb sent yet more would-be slayers to their incineration, the dragon began to reflect. The first adventurers were slain in maddened reflex; but as the dragon killed knight after knight, he began to realize: he must want to live.
And also, contrary to monster lore, there was a way to defeat humans.
Does it seem odd that generations of monsters, all over the world, would fall on human blades before realizing any of this? It’s only strange by human standards. To a human, it would be obvious that those unlike you would just try to kill you. To monsters, certainly, there were a few witnesses and survivors who could speak to what happened. But they weren’t believed. It was obvious that no-one would simply slay other sentients without even trying to communicate. That would be lunacy.
Have you ever had to face a truth so strange and unlikely that you believed everything else instead? This was what the monsters of that world did. Each generation said: Surely, the last monsters had done something wrong; the next ones would do better.
As the dragon regained sanity, he realized one awful thing: he had survived only because he had met madness with madness.
Humans are not smarter than monsters, not stronger, not more powerful in magic or technology. Their evolutionary advantage was the single-minded extinction of all who stood in their way.
This left an unsupportable moral problem. Unchecked, humans would eventually destroy every monster who ever lived.
But what would it do to the monsters if they raised an army to fight the humans? If they lost, they would die; if they won, they would be murderers.
Dragons fly far and speak well. It took centuries, but eventually, all of the monsters had been completely hidden, leaving the humans no-one to exterminate but themselves.
What is the moral of this story?
I don’t know.
It hasn’t ended yet.
The Dark Lord Jeff Mach frequently seeks new, interesting ways to rewrite this part, and then simply relies on invisible pixies to do it for him. They’re not very good at this.
Jeff is a writer and creator who has long aspired to be the sort of person who neither needs to promote his other work at the bottom of his short stories, nor need speak of himself in the third person. Sadly, in both regards, he has failed.