Everyone knows that dragons love to collect piles of treasure, but no one can agree on why. There’s plenty of reasonable speculation: Maybe their coldblooded nature and ability to breathe fire come into conflict, and they lie on the metals to regulate their internal temperature. Maybe they consider treasure the best way to spruce up a lair, and we just don’t understand their aesthetics. Or maybe they’re just greedy. But the real answer is none of these, and it all comes down to one simple fact:
No one has invented alarm clocks yet.
Let’s back up for a moment and discuss how dragons grow. The exact growth rate of a given dragon depends on its species, but most hatch at around the size of a large dog. By the time they reach adulthood, dragons will be at least larger than an elephant, and some can be as big as a house. That’s a lot of growing, and dragons never stop; the increase rate might slow, but they keep getting larger as long as they live. And if you ask any infant, they’ll tell you: growing up is hard work. It takes a lot of napping, and dragons are infamous over-sleepers.
OK, yes, I know it’s not exactly mind-blowing to say that dragons sleep a lot, but I wanted to take the time to establish why. It’s important to understand that draconic drowsiness is an involuntary process. If one lays down in an isolated cave with no access to the sun or other natural time-keeping, it’s very easy to sleep far longer than one intends, especially when one has the metabolic rate of a giant lizard and can get away with only eating once every few weeks. So dragons have to find some solution to make sure they don’t sleep their lives away.
This is where the hoard comes in. There’s only one type of person that might love treasure more than dragons, and that’s adventurers. Collect enough valuables in one place, and a motley collection of wandering warriors and wizards is sure to show up and try to take it. And since there’s never more than one sneaky individual in a given adventuring party, one can practically guarantee that some heavily armored dwarf or loud-mouth sorcerer will cause enough of a ruckus to wake even the deepest sleeper.
In fact, dragons have learned over the centuries how to precisely calibrate their hoards in order to draw the exact types of adventurers they want at the exact time they want. There are many variables to consider, and dragons have experimented and passed down their findings for centuries. Obviously, younger and weaker dragons need to keep their hoards modest so they only attract novice adventurers, while the older and more dangerous a dragon gets, the larger a hoard they’ll need to find someone foolish enough to try their luck. But one can also influence the types of adventurers by changing the composition of one’s hoard. For example, if one doesn’t want to deal with uppity mages, one can collect mostly magical weapons and armor.
Now you might be thinking, if dragons are going to have all this money anyway and just need someone to wake them up, why don’t they simply hire someone? But that’s harder than you might think. For one, it’s not viable for very young or very old dragons. Young dragons are too vulnerable to trust someone to watch over them while they’re sleeping. Old dragons, on the other hand, might want to sleep for years at a time, and lesser creatures are unlikely to remember to come back after such long gaps. It’s also difficult to find someone who’s willing to trek out into the wilderness on a regular basis and face all the dangers along the way. And while you could possibly pay someone to stay in or near the lair permanently, most dragons prefer solitude too much to hire a butler. The only other possible option is minions, which some dragons like to keep around. But the best options for minions are usually simple creatures that would have trouble keeping the time and taking precise instructions. Also, minions quickly come to fear their master’s presence and are likely to develop superstitions and rituals that try to keep their master pacified and asleep.
So, in conclusion, the best way for one to maintain a healthy sleep cycle is to collect a huge pile of gold, lie down on top of it, and wait for some idiot with a sword to show up and try to take it. Assuming, of course, that one is covered in impenetrable scales and can breathe fire. Everyone else can just get a rooster.
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