Hello, children! It's so wonderful to see you! Having yourselves a good day? I had just come up with a new story that I would love to share with you. What's it about? Well, make yourselves comfortable and I'll read it to you right now!
Quite a long long time ago, there was a land overflowing with magic, with its people dabbling in the magical arts as a painter does to paints. There were wizards and witches, sorceresses and warlocks, court magicians, necromancers, wandering enchanters, mercenary spellcasters, back-alley illusionists; just about every type of magic user you can imagine was there! And it is such a magical land that our story takes place: A story about three brothers... who are technically one person because, surprise surprise, the star(s) of our tale is a hydra! Oh boy!
Our story begins in the barren badlands of the far north: a realm ruled by dragons of various shapes and sizes. It is here that all dragons are born from the littlest eggs, our star(s) being no exception.
Now you should know that hydras are unique among dragons for a number of reasons. While they share the sharp horns and teeth, fire resistance, shimmery scales and a love for treasure as their brethren, they lack wings, can't breathe fire, lay only one egg every century, and are shorter on average compared to other dragons (but are still terribly tall by our standards). Then there's the thing that makes them truly unique: each one is born with three heads, each having a mind of their own! So you're essentially getting triplets with every hatchling.
And what a lively trio our star hydra was, for immediately after hatching the three heads snapped and tousled and tripped about, fighting for control of their shared body and making a ruckus for the adults. It didn't take long for them to realize the pointlessness of their squabble, though, and like every hydra before them, they learned to live with each other in relative harmony. Mainly to avoid falling into a pit or irritating one of the nastier adults, but that's just standard prudence.
In those formative years in the badlands the three heads learned who got to control what body part, as well as the skills necessary to survive both the wild and the company of other dragons. They also developed personalities that distinguished them from each other.
The right head, fittingly named Rightie, considered himself very ferocious and brave, but he was also very brash and temperamental, getting him into quarrels often. He also had a penchant for eating rocks for some unknown reason, since no other dragon does that.
The middle head named Middle, in contrast, was mindful and level-headed. He observed everything in order to make well-formed judgments and decisions. He wasn't above harshly scolding his brothers to keep them in line however, as he considered himself the "eldest" and therefore most responsible head. Quite the sourpuss, as you can surmise.
Then there's the left head: dear, sweet Leftie. A timid dragon's head if there ever was one, whom Rightie bullied relentlessly in their younger days. Yet he was an inquisitive and curious sort, unafraid to ask questions and learn things most dragons wouldn't bother with, like why only certain plants grow in the badlands and why some dragons grow hair and others don't. The usual array of stupid questions children are wont to ask. And while he can snap back in defense, he lacks the ferocity of his brothers and keeps to himself as a result.
The three with their shared body continued to grow and learn in relative comfort until the spry young age of 45, when Dragon Law decreed that they had to set out into the world to make their own living. So with hardly any complaint the young hydra left their homeland to do just that.
When they stepped onto the verdant fields to the south for the very first time, the hydra was a strapping young adult. Measuring 30 feet from snout to tail, they had spotless orange scales, strong slender limbs, tufts of crimson hair upon their brows, three pairs of golden eyes, and lots of dazzlingly frighteningly sharp teeth. Theirs was an image that practically screamed being ready to take on anything, and that was the predominant attitude that filled their heads as they stomped across this realm of vivid greenery and clean life-giving breezes.
It wasn't long into their travels that our hydra inevitably encountered their first humans. Five of them to be exact, in a carriage bound for a relaxing northern getaway. What do you think our hydra did upon seeing such curious creatures, children? Why, they ate them, of course!
It is in the manner of dragons to consider all lesser lifeforms as food, and humans for the most part were no exception. So they gobbled down the horrified travelers before going about their way, enjoying their first decent meal since leaving the badlands. And this was how they dealt with every other human they met on their journey: from merchants to runaways, nobles and artisans. Quite an unfortunate number of people deciding to come a little too close to dragon territory, don't you think?
In helping themselves to this veritable buffet of humanity, the trio developed their own tastes. Rightie enjoyed the crunchiness of bones, whereas Middle appreciated the texture and flavor of human blood. Leftie favored chewing soft flabby flesh, earning him complaints about making their body fat.
They dined on many passing humans until a fateful run-in with a traveling bishop that wished to preach a message of peace and companionship across the northern wilds. His noble intentions didn't stop our hydra from devouring him and his horse, but his bodyguard was a spellcasting swordsman who put up much more of a fight. Even weighed down with armor he moved faster than the hydra, landing cuts across their chest and casting frost in their snouts. After blinding them with a light spell, it looked as though Rightie would be decapitated! Oh no!
But then, in a surprising show of bravery, Leftie lunged to the rescue! Some of his teeth got sliced off as a result, but it gave Middle an opening to swoop in and swallow the swordsman whole, armor and all.
After this harrowing encounter, Middle decided they would veer away from the roads and stick to the wilderness. Leftie also got to enjoy some respect from his unruly brother for saving his bacon. That didn't stop the bullying, but an effort was made to lessen it. And it wouldn't be as mean-spirited.
Forging into the wilderness proper, our hydra beheld other kinds of landscape foreign to their sheltered upbringing: trees, ponds, hills, dales, and flowers of nearly every color. They also met a wide menagerie of animals and other magical creatures, such as deer, manticores, goats, gryphons, geese, gnomes, and fairies, all varying in degrees of tastiness and annoyance. The worst were the wolves and wild dogs. Loathsome mangy things, far too hairy to be palatable and always charging into trouble with their barks and bravado. Definitely nowhere as clever nor hygienic as cats.
Anyway, our hydra trudged along dealing with nuisances for nearly a week before coming to the edge of a massive and foreboding swamp. Foreboding to humans, but a promising shelter for a fearsome dragon, so they plunged right in. After saying hello to (by which I mean eating) some of the local crocodires (like regular crocodiles, only dire), the three heads came upon a cave deep within the swamp, surrounded by large sagging trees. And wouldn't you know it, its mouth and interior were large enough to accommodate their entire bulk! They were just going to stop there briefly to rest their weary legs, but with its quiet surroundings, agreeably damp atmosphere and so much juicy wildlife for the taking, Middle announced this would be their lair, and that's how our star(s) found themselves a home!
But what's a proper dragon lair without a pile of treasure to hoard, you may be asking? Well that was our hydra's first order of business, and luck was on their side yet again in this endeavor. As it turned out, there was a moldy but massive set of ruins a mere mile away in a less tangled part of the swamp. A wealthy but daffy duke had decided he'd build himself a grand kingdom hidden from prying eyes, with a towering keep loaded with weapons, armor, and a small mountain of treasure and artifacts to fund his ambitions. But in his eagerness for dynasty he had forgotten to lay down a sturdy foundation, forcing him and his whole entourage to flee a rapidly sinking castle only one day after its completion, thereby ending his dreams of private dominion and losing generations of accrued wealth on the side. A financial calamity for the duke, but a massive windfall for any enterprising young dragon, or hydra in this case.
It was during some exploring of their new territory that our hydra discovered this ill-fated castle and its riches, and boy how their eyes lit up like the infernal pits of their homeland! They wasted no time claiming the treasure and taking it to their cave, making many trips to haul every using their back, tail, necks and mouths. After a full day of tiring effort, they had themselves a decent-sized hoard.
They spent the next few days counting their riches, discovering several chests and shelves full of books and scrolls that had been hauled away in their fervent excitement. Human literature was of no use to a dragon, so Rightie suggested making a fire out of them so they could have cooked meat for a change. But Leftie intervened, saying he would like to keep the books and scrolls for himself.
For you see, children, dear Leftie had been struck by one of those inconvenient trains of thought he's prone to having. He wondered why humans made such a fuss in clothing themselves and building large edifices if they only served as food, and this small library could hopefully provide insight and satisfy this latest bout of frivolous curiosity.
Rightie cared not a spit about understanding humans or their flammable works, but he begrudgingly let his timid brother have them. Middle also agreed, but said that they would not dally from dragon duties to peruse the text. If Leftie wanted to look them over, he would have to do it on his own time.
Leftie felt giddy; for the first time ever he had a hobby to call his own, the first show of independence in the faces of his brothers! So every evening after our hydra finished foraging, hunting, or nabbing treasure from hapless explorers and settled in their cave to rest, Leftie pored over the texts with gusto.
When it came to handling books, the other heads wouldn't allow him use of their legs until they were asleep. Thus many a night, whilst his brothers slumbered, Leftie leafed through the little tomes, scrutinizing the miniscule words by the light of magically-irradiated moss. The poor fellow was often dead tired most days, his head drooping and practically being dragged through the muck.
But what considerable progress he made, children! In less than a month he taught himself how to read these human scribblings, and in doing so he gained access to the ink-penned world of tax records, population censuses, trade receipts, weather reports, and a whole range of miscellaneous historical accounts and fictional works! His eyesight had suffered slightly from all the squinting, but he felt it a fair exchange for the academic understanding of humanity he gained.
This useless but growing depth of understanding was a feat he felt very proud of. Neither of his brothers could boast about knowing human culture as well as he did. Granted, this didn't stop him from feasting on humans with his brothers, but he could at least say he had some idea as to why they would even dare venture so far from their usual hospitable habitats.
So what benefit did all this knowledge do for Leftie, you may ask? Well I'll be happy to tell you, right after a quick break!