[inspired by letting Netflix’d episodes of Dirty Jobs run while I fall asleep]
“It ain’t so easy as to just kill the dragon and bring up mules for its loot,” the foreman said, making another note on his clipboard. “It’s complicated. There’s a whole process.”
He looked up. “So first off, you have yer adventurer, right? Stabs the dragon in a weak spot, dragon keels over. Now, you’re running on a time schedule. First, you have harvesters. They take the dragon’s bits, right? They’re going to butcher the dragon, separate its alchemical resources and hide from its meat. Meat’s only good for so long, because dragons, they’re resistant to fire even on the inside, right? So you can’t smoke it. You can dry it out, but that takes time because they’re also still resistant to magic. No easy spells taking the water out, right? Endangered species advocates on your case for killing their particular type of dragon? Ties everything up in the courts. You can call most of the beast itself a waste, if that happens.”
He shifted to watch some cranes being lowered into the excavated tomb. “So, the next part of that is the Jeweler’s Guild. Part of yer dues as adventurers. Depending on your registered skills, you get anywhere from forty to sixty-five percent of the haul. Most of the jewels get stuck in the hide, and the coins, they settle to the bottom, tarnished from proximity to the dragon’s exhausts. You have to assess the value of the gems, send the odd ones to the sages, and get a general amnesty on curses. That might put you back a few coins for the priesthood of yer choice. Just sayin’.”
He looked up at the cranes again.
“No, no, no,” he shouted, waving his arms. “Articulation is not the same as balance. You’ll pull the whole thing–” he sighed as a couple of wizards conjured earth elementals to hold the cranes in place.
“Where was I? Same thing for the non-cash loot. Depends on the kind of dragon what you might find in the horde. Some are real collectors, so you need experts to evaluate it, get you a good deal. Can take years. And if you find some kind of powerful artifact? Decades. Might have political or philosophical issues.” He shrugs. “Sometimes, disruptions in local ecology – did the dragon have minions? Is someone else going to make a claim in the stake?”
And of course, you can’t forget to mention excavation and storage costs, guard costs, materials…” he shakes his head. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great windfall for the local economy, but there’s a lot of pieces the paladins just don’t get. Sometimes, well, it’s cheaper to feed the poor things a cow once a week than deal with the hazardous materials disposal. Petrified dragon fewmets can sell, sure, but when they’re fresh and mushy? Ick.”