Tuesday, 23 August 2016
The Promises of Dragons
It suddenly appeared one day and took a cow from the field.
A week later, dark wings blotted out the summer sun. The farmer looked up and saw an enormous shape gliding overhead. A dragon! He watched, cowering behind a large tree.
The dragon swooped down and carried off another cow.
As soon as the creature disappeared towards the distant mountains he ran as fast as he could to his home.
‘What? You say a dragon is stealing our cows?’ His wife was incredulous. ‘They are supposed to be extinct, aren’t they?’
‘It was a dragon. A huge beast with horns on its head, leathery wings and reddish-brown scales. It was a dragon for sure.’
‘Then you must go and tell the village council. They must do something about it. We can’t have dragons taking all our cows,’ exclaimed his wife.
‘I’m not sure they’ll believe me. Anyway, what can they do?’
‘Nevertheless you must go. Leave straight after we’ve eaten. I can see to things here until you get back.’
The farmer strode resolutely into the village that afternoon and made for the home of the leader of the council. When he heard the farmer’s tale, he called an emergency council meeting.
Once all the council members were assembled he turned to the farmer.
‘Now tell the council what you told me,’ he said.
The farmer bowed to the council and told of the theft of a cow by a dragon. He told of the disappearance of other cows in the previous weeks as well, but he had thought that it was rustlers. He had not thought of a predator as there had seen no evidence of blood or bones. The cows had just vanished.
‘You are certain you saw a dragon? Most experts say they’re extinct.’ said the leader of the council.
‘It was a dragon. I can’t be mistaken about that!’
Another councilor asked, ‘It was in the sky, against the sun. Could it have been a cloud?’
‘And clouds swoop down and steal cattle?’
There were more questions but eventually the council was convinced--at least enough of them to agree to send a troop of volunteer guardsmen to investigate, and to kill the beast, if it turned out it were truly a dragon.
Two days later the volunteers set off to track down the mythical beast.
They crossed the plain towards the mountains in the direction the farmer had told the council the dragon had gone. It took a full day to get to the base of the mountains and so they made camp there. The men were in good spirits. Searching for an extinct creature was a bit of a lark. They were mostly young men who had volunteered and not one of them believed the story the farmer had told.
‘An old man, going senile and seeing things,’ said one.
‘Or perhaps his eyes are going. It must have been a cloud. I’ve seen clouds in the shape of all sorts of things,’ said another.
‘What about the cows that vanished?’ asked a third.
‘Rustlers, as the old man suggested himself,’ the first volunteer told him.
They all laughed at the foolishness of old men.
The next few days they spent climbing the mountains. The going was not easy and as they got higher and higher some of them began to wonder why they were here on this futile search. Where were they to look? They had no idea, really, but then one of them, older than the others, suggested they look for a cave or caves. He told them he had heard that dragons like to live in caves. One young man then said that he had lived in these mountains when he was a youngster and could remember some caves where the children used to play. He led the troop in the direction of these caves.
Soon they could see dark openings in a cliff ahead of them. They stopped and had a meeting. None of them really believed in the dragon, but the oldest man said that they ought to be careful, ‘just in case’. Later that afternoon, just as they were about to set off up to the mountainside to the caves they heard a strange noise as though a large flock of bats was flying overhead or a tanner was shaking out a piece of leather. A flapping sound like wings, but not feathery wings like a bird. More like what they thought of as ...dragon wings. The sunlight disappeared momentarily and as they looked up, they saw what could only be a dragon, flying towards the largest of the cave openings.
‘By all that’s holy,’ breathed the leader of the group. ‘The old man was right. It is a dragon. Where has it come from? It can’t possibly exist. They were extinct hundreds of years ago, yet here it is.’
‘They were evidently not extinct. Some must have survived in the depths of the mountains where no one goes,’ said the oldest man, standing beside him and shielding his eyes as he watched the beast enter the cave.
They waited a full day until the creature left again. That was their opportunity. They had all heard the tales of vast treasures built up by dragons. If it were true, then they would all be rich men.
The stench of dragon hit them as they neared the cave. It was a sickly, sweet smell with hints of sourness in it. They held their noses. Around the mouth of the cave lay many bones from large animals. Many were obviously deer, but there were sheep and cow bones there too.
As they neared the lair the leader asked for a volunteer to go into the cave to look. These otherwise brave young men looked at each other, none of them wanting this task. What happened if the dragon returned while they were in the cave? Then one man stepped forward to volunteer.
He entered slowly and with some trepidation. He lit his torch, for it was dark inside. The smell was even worse here and at first he thought he might be sick, but he wrapped a rag round his nose and mouth. That made it a bit more bearable. In the cave he stumbled over a smooth, rounded object. He lifted his torch and saw an egg! Not just one egg, but ten. He ran out of the cave and reported what he had seen.
They went in and smashed the eggs.
After smashing the eggs and destroying the threat of ten more dragons rampaging through the land they began the decent to the plain.
When Gulineran returned to her cave and found her smashed eggs her roar of anguish made the mountains themselves tremble. She determined to take her revenge. First she looked for the culprits. She saw them like ants, trekking down the mountainside. She flew over them and burned every last one to a crisp with her flaming breath. Then she swept down and breathed flame onto the hapless village. The cottages burned like tinder. Many lost their lives. Those who survived crowded into the village hall and there they decided to send for help to the nearby wizards, thinking perhaps magic would be able to destroy this dragon.
The message seemed to take a long time to get there but eventually a message came back. The wizards were very sorry, but they could not spare any one at the moment. They were just too busy.
One wizard was angry at that response and so he left the college and set off for the village. He was a young man by the name of Oni. Oni talked to the council, and promised to do something about the dragon. The council accepted his offer and promised him great rewards if he could manage to get rid of the great beast that was terrorising them.
Oni walked out of the village and into the mountains. He stood near the cave and called. Within seconds the dragon rushed out ready for battle. She breathed flame. The flames washed over Oni. Gulineran expected to see a dead wizard when her fire died away, but Oni was left standing and very much alive. She looked into his eyes.
‘Ah,’ Oni breathed, ‘I’ve not seen such beauty in two hundred years.’
‘How can a human talk of hundreds of years?’ asked Gulineran. ‘Your lives aren’t that long.’
‘No, but dragons live centuries,’ replied Oni. ‘You are the first female dragon I’ve seen in more than three.’
His skin began to change then, turning a rich, deep red and he grew and rippled, smooth skin turning into scales and horns sprouting from his head. His shoulder blades burst from his skin and he folded a pair of wings along his back. A handsome male red dragon stood before her. ‘Will you accept me as your mate?’ Oni asked.
When Gulineran accepted Oni’s offer he changed back to human form and returned to the village. There he told the villagers of his encounter with the dragon.
‘I used magic to charm her and I have managed to get her to agree not to attack the village nor take any cattle. She will live on the wild creatures of the mountains.’
The council offered him gold, but he refused saying, ‘I have everything I need now. Indeed, everything I ever wanted.’
He then returned to Gulineran. He told her of his promise to the villagers.
‘Oh, Oni.’ answered Gulineran. ‘Don’t they know not to trust the promises of dragons?'