Saint Enda took a long, deep breath and, holding his offering in front of him as if for protection, stepped bravely into the Dragon’s lair.
The lair was large, and not quite round, more oval-shaped. For a second St Enda thought that it was empty, but then, from a throne at the far end, the Dragon arose and padded menacingly towards him.
The two stood facing each other – both proud, both haughty, both ginger. It was like watching a family row between the Weasley twins.
“Who are you?” growled the Dragon.
“I am St Enda,” said St Enda, “the patron saint of Ireland.”
The Dragon’s eyes narrowed. “I thought that was St Patrick,” he said.
St Enda snorted. “God, everyone bangs on and on about St Bloody Patrick,” he said. “All he did was chase snakes – basically over-fed worms – out of Ireland. Whereas I saved our country from ruin, re-built its economy, scrapped taxes on its water -”
“Didn’t you bring those taxes in in the first place?” asked the Dragon.
“Um, yes,” said St Enda, “but the important thing here is that I scrapped them. And I drove the fearsome, three-headed Troika from our shores by, well, by giving it everything it wanted. And after all that the other guy’s still more revered than I am. Honestly, it’d try the patience of a saint, and obviously I’m not just that as a turn of phrase. I mean, he wasn’t even born in our country.”
The Dragon nodded. “I know exactly how you feel,” he said. “Bigly.”
“Anyway,” said St Enda, “I brought you this.” He held forth a glass bowl containing some green plants.
The Dragon snorted, with far more impressive results than when St Enda had a few paragraphs ago. The saint could feel his eyebrows smouldering gently.
“I think you’re mixing me up with Popeye,” said the Dragon. “I don’t eat spinach.”
“It’s not spinach,” said St Enda. “It’s shamrock. It’s supposed to be lucky.”
“If it was all that lucky,” said the Dragon, “it wouldn’t be cut up and lying in a bowl. Anyway, why are you giving it to me?”
“I have come to entreat with you,” said St Enda.
“Er, what?” said the Dragon.
“I need a favour,” said St Enda. “You have fifty thousand of my people in your land who shouldn’t be here.”
“I see,” said the Dragon. “And you’d like them back.”
“God, no,” said St Enda. “I want you to keep them.”
“Why?” asked the Dragon.
“We don’t want them,” said St Enda. “They’ve got used to proper public transport, and real summers, and they’re three series ahead of us in Blue Bloods.”
“I see,” said the Dragon. “And why would I want them?”
“They’re Irish,” said St Enda simply. “Everyone loves us. Everyone knows that.”
The Dragon thought for a moment, then began to speak. St Enda noticed that as he spoke he would raise one front claw and bring the tips of two of the talons together, as if he was trying to do a shadow-puppet of a rabbit on the wall behind.
“Very well,” said the Dragon. “Because they are Irish, and because of your, um, generous gift, I will let them stay.”
“Thank you,” said St Enda.
“Would you like me to build a wall around them, to keep them here?” asked the Dragon.
“Trust me,” said St Enda, “I don’t think you’ll find that’s necessary.”