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1/20/2009

Tuesday Tale - The Hackney Dragon - Part 2

Before we get to the story, I do want to mark the occasion, for today is the day that America gets to buckle the belt on the Big Boy Pants put on with the election of Barack Obama. The whole world now waits, with bated breath, to see what Obama, in concert with our lawmakers, will be able to do with the mess left by the departing Administration and 30 years of ill-advised financial policies. Good Luck, President Obama. Good Luck, America. Good Luck to us, one and all.

UPDATE For those of you who did not read it, here is a link to Part 1.

The people in the village were astounded at the noise, and the flashes of fire and light, and the trembling they felt in the ground. They knew there was a tremendous battle being fought on their behalf and they cowered in their huts, hoping the end result wouldn't be the destruction of their village. A few of them, and a very few at that, thought to help, and they gathered together in the village square, pitchforks, axes and scythes in hand, ready to march out to help in the battle against their foe. Then came a great ball of fire in the distance and a rush of hot wind blew through the village and by the time the wind died down the village square was empty of all the folk who had gathered there. Empty, but for the weapons they had dropped in their haste to abandon their quest and scurry back to their hovels.

"What in the name of all that is holy was that?"

"That? Oh, that was my imitation of an atomic blast."

"An 'atomic blast'? Just what is an 'atomic blast'?"

"Something, Sir Rodney, I hope your kind never, ever learns about. Dragons know - but dragons are very good at keeping secrets and your kind ... well, your kind aren't, that's all."

"Hmphf. Why expose your secret, then?"

"That was not my secret, Sir Rodney. It was but a weak imitation of the power of my secret. But I chose to do that because that last time I peeked over the tops of the trees I could see torchlight in the village square. Some of them were working up the courage to come help you, Sir Rodney. I needed to discourage that."

"And did you discourage them?"

"Wait. I'll take a look."

With that, Bryge reared up on her haunches and looked off toward the village. Sir Rodney saw, in that moment, that she had exposed her most vulnerable underside to him. An opportunity - but he thought better of it. "She is the last", he thought to himself, "and somehow, I cannot harm her. The world would be such a different place without dragons - and I'm not so sure I'd want to live in it if they weren't about."

"Yes, they have been discouraged. You do know you talk to yourself, don't you?"

"No .. I guess I spend so much time alone I never really thought about it."

"I'm glad you aren't ready to live in a world without dragons. Now that I know your mind, I'll just say I was ready for you, if you were."

Sir Rodney stared up at Bryge for a long time, then slowly drew his sword, held it high above his head and with two hands, broke his sword across his knee.

"Not ever again', he said, "Now to wait for the dawn to execute the rest of our plan."

The people of the Village of Hackney waited all night long, but no further sound or report issued forth from the dark wood, just off toward the hills. As the sky began to lighten and the new day began to dawn, the villagers started to gather, slowly, in the village square. They milled about, unsure of what to do next.

"Look!! It's Sir Rodney!!"

All turned to see Sir Rodney the Strong slowly walk into the square, the pieces of his broken sword in hand, his armor singed and askew.

"She is not dead", he announced. "I have failed in my mission. Keep your money, the contract is broken."

"But, how, why, what happened?" The clamor began suddenly as fear returned the hearts of the people and they began to realize their potential doom.

Sir Rodney put up his hand. The villagers fell silent.

"I was unable to defeat her. She has help."

Of course, he didn't mention that HE was the help.

"There is a chance against a single dragon - but none against one that has help."

"More dragons? What are we to do against more dragons?" The village headman was beside himself.

"Good", he thought to himself, making sure to keep his lips tightly pursed. "They have jumped to our conclusion."

"She proposes a truce. And she offers a warning. I would listen, were I you. Remember, she has help."

"So? What are her terms - and what is this warning?"

"Her terms are simple. Come no closer to the dell than the edge of the wood for one month. At the end of that month, she, and her help, will be gone, never to return to these climes. She offers her oath, and a dragon's oath is as good as gold. I would suggest you accept her terms."

The headman and several of the more prominent villagers (you could tell they were more prominent by their dress, and their perfectly coiffed hair) huddled together for a few minutes and after a heated discussion, the headman said, "Done. Now what is this warning of which you speak?"

"Simply this. There have been attempts to steal her eggs by men of this village. What you don't know, and truth be told, neither did I until this day, a dragon's eggs are poisonous to humans. Seen on a black night with no moon, there is a soft, green glow to dragon eggs. This glow is a sign of the poison in the eggs. Humans who eat dragon eggs, die a slow and horrible death. So the warning is this - do not eat her eggs, and do not sleep on the ground of the dell after she is gone. Apparently, there were two more eggs which were broken during the attempts to steal them and their contents seeped into the ground. That is all there is."

There was much mumbling and discussion in low voices which he couldn't quite make out. Finally, the headman said, "Fine. We will leave her and her poisonous eggs alone. But if she is not gone at the end of the month's time, then we shall see to her and her help, no matter how many they may be."

There were many many cries of "Here, here" and "Huzzah" and general agreement at the bombast of the headman. But the look on his face, which only Sir Rodney could clearly see, said he wasn't so sure he should be threatening a dragon - especially one with help.

"Where are you going, Sir Rodney?", asked the headman, as Sir Rodney turned to walk away.

"I must return and tell her you have accepted her terms", and quietly, so as no one else could hear, he said, "I'll not tell her of your addition to the terms."

"Fine, fine", said the headman for all to hear, and quietly, so as no one else might hear, he said, "That's fine."

Sir Rodney slowly walked out of the village, toward the dark wood, a wry smile slowly growing and spreading through his withered old cheeks.

"I never told them there were more dragons. They just assumed, as we knew they would."

"Sir Rodney, you are a sly old dog. Soon the eggs will hatch and my job will be done. The babies will be self sufficient as soon as they are out of the eggs. Two females and one male. Enough to keep the race of dragon going. For a while."

"Surely you can have more ..."

"No, Sir Rodney. I cannot. These were my last. I am too old to have more. And these are made without a male dragon's seed. A special trick of dragon reproduction. At the end of her life, a female who has lived a sufficient time without a male will lay up to five eggs, over the period of a month and a week. Each in a different phase of the moon. So the eggs are not brother and sisters. We are, after all, children of the moon, the moon controls us and changes us as we need to be changed."

"What do you mean, 'At the end of her life'?"

"It's time for this dragon to pass on to other things. But not yet. These eggs must hatch, first. They need another week. Stay with me? Until my eggs hatch?"

"Of course, Bryge. Gladly."

The week went by quickly. Too quickly. It was a week of stories and tall tales and reminiscences. And secrets. But soon they heard the chip, chip, chip from inside the eggs that signaled the little ones were coming.

"It's time for you to go, Sir Rodney. The young ones will have strong instincts and if they see you, they will try to fry you and eat you."

"I really don't want to leave you, Bryge. Besides, I really don't have anywhere else to go."

"Then go North, Rodney, up the road toward the mountains. I will join you along the way. I promise."

And so it was that Sir Rodney the Strong was walking up the road that led to the mountains and as he rounded a bend in the road he came upon a woman. She was an older woman, of an age similar to his, but still tall and strong. She held out her hand to him. And he took it.

"Hello, Rodney", she said.

"Bryge! And you called me a sly old dog."

"I never said what I would pass on to - only that it was time to pass on to other things. You just assumed ..."

"But I never knew of this!"

"That's because so few of us live long enough for this - live long enough to make this choice."

"Choice?"

"Yes, Rodney. This is a choice. I could live out my days and die a dragon in peace and comfort, or I could choose, as I did, to be with you for as long as you live."

"But how ...?"

"It's an ancient process, Rodney, and not one easily explained. Suffice it to say that most of the dragon you knew now nourishes the small ones. They will feast on that flesh and so grow bigger and stronger sooner than they would have had I remained with them. By the time the month is up, they will have grown almost full size and they will easily defend themselves, should the men of Hackney come upon them. But they will leave soon enough. After all, I gave my oath and they will obey it."

What she did not tell him was that her life was now bound to his. She would die when he did, however long or short a time from then that might be. Their lives were now one. It had to be that way. If she had chosen to remain a dragon, then Sir Rodney the Strong would have had to die. Because Sir Rodney knew of the secret, and the secret belonged to the dragons and had to be protected.

In order to transform, in order to save Rodney's life, she had to swear an oath to the moon to protect the secret.

And Bryge was a dragon of her word.

"I have no idea why you would choose to be with me, Bryge. But I'm glad you did."

They stopped, there, in the middle of the road, hand in hand, faced each other, and lightly, gently, kissed.

"So am I, Sir Rodney the Strong. So am I."

P.S. I feel obligated to tell you that there was a REAL temptation to make that last line "So am I, Big Boy. So am I." But I was never going for ribald humor with this story, and it would have been totally inappropriate should I have done that - but I STILL think it's funny.

17 comments:

Jientje said...

There is so much in there.
I loved every word of it, and I'll be back later today to read it again. and again.

Shadow said...

aaah, perfect part 2. you are a storyteller of note!

M+B said...

I agree with Shadow - you are certainly a storyteller of note!

I really hope Obama can make 'the' difference!

Tash said...

Wish I could spin a tale like you.

Indigo said...

Wonderful ending dear one. Life makes so much more sense when we choose not to be selfish with it!

The Tide of history changes once again...this time for the better..Today is a good day indeed! (Hugs)Indigo

www.ayewonder.com said...

Bloody hell, Lou. You MUST attempt to get this a wider audience. It's a lovely story, well told by a master. Bravo, author.

Tara R. said...

This made me all choked up. A truly beautiful story. wow, just wow!

Employee No. 3699 said...

I'm glad you wrote this story, Big Boy!

Momisodes said...

I had to go back and read the first part. This is such a wonderful tale. I got a bit misty eyed. And, lol, I could absolutely see why you were tempted with that alternate ending ;)

Ree said...

Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.

(As, by the way, was your prelude.)

Jibber Jabber said...

This is a fabulous tale, as always thank you for sharing it. I felt as if I were right along side of Sir Rodney and Bryge. I also understand why you were tempted to use the alternate ending.

hockeychic said...

Wonderful. Simply wonderful. So many layers to this story. I loved it.

Lady Language said...

I will stop back this weekend when I have time to catch up and pay full attention to the story -- and yes, it's a great day for America and I hope Obama does well.

OHmommy said...

Oh gosh... I got a little teary eyed reading this.

Do you KNOW that you are a wonderful story teller?

Hyphen Mama said...

I see a childrens' book.

and they lived happily ever after!

Holly at Tropic of Mom said...

I'm with Hyphen Mama. A book! Thanks for sharing a great tale. I love it.

Eric S. said...

I loved it. You showed us a different side to you with this work. I must admit, I feel a little saddened that Bryge had given all that which is a dragon to Sir Rodney.

Great story Lou, of many sides.