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The Dragon’s Tale

by Beverly Forehand

Once there was a girl that lived in a castle in a land ruled by a Dragon. She dreamed that someone would some day come and save her. But she knew in her heart that no one ever would.

The girl, whose name was Sera, had many duties in the castle. She got up every morning and heard the people’s complaints, great and small. She soothed their worries until lunch time and then she went back down into the long stone hall and spoke with them again. At the end of the day, she curled up in her bed, her cat Rosemary at her feet, and sometimes she dreamed. And sometimes she did not.

It was raining the day the Prince came to the castle. It was the only castle in the area, and he, being a proper hero, knew it was just the place to present himself. He stood in the long, grey hall before the girl’s chair and announced in his guileless voice, “I have come to free to Kingdom and to slay the Dragon.”

The girl stood staring into his blue, blue eyes and could only think how very young he looked, though she looked no older herself. “What makes you think that we need to be freed?” she asked.

The Prince stood looking at her for a long time and then said firmly, “Your Kingdom is ruled by a Dragon.”

“Yes,” said the girl, “For as long as any of us can remember.”

The hero smiled and nodded, feeling on firmer ground. “I’ve come to slay the Dragon.”

The girl, who had dealt with heroes before, simply sat and after a while asked him if he had a place to stay and if he was hungry. And when he said he didn’t, and that, yes, he was, she asked the servants to prepare a room and food. So the Prince came to stay at the castle, and every day he hunted the Dragon.

At the end of each day, the Prince returned to the castle and after he bathed and ate, he would meet Sera in the high gardens on the castle roof, and they would walk. She said, as was her custom, not much at all. He spoke constantly of his Kingdom and his father and of his many brothers. Sometimes, he spoke of finding the Dragon and of freeing her Kingdom. Sometimes he commented on the weather and the stars.

Sera, who had lived all her life in the Kingdom and much of it in the castle, said nothing of the Dragon or the weather. But she did like to listen to the young Prince under the stars and to forget, for a moment, all her duties.

One day, many months after the Prince had first come to the castle, he asked Sera, “Would it make you happy if I killed the Dragon?”

Sera only stood and was silent for a long time. And when she saw that this time he expected an answer, she said finally, “I don’t know. But I don’t think you could, even if it was all that I desired.”

The Prince laughed then, because as all young men do, he fancied himself a great hero. “I will find the Dragon, one day or another,” he said, “And when we meet, I will slay it and then I will come back here for you.”

Sera smiled, as she supposed she was expected to, and said nothing else. But in her heart she was very sad. Because she knew if the Prince met the Dragon, he would never return.

As the months grew colder and the sky was clear by night, Sera would come to the high gardens while the Prince slept. Sometimes when the moon was full and the Prince hunted the Dragon, she would walk alone under the moon and think of the boy and the Dragon.

Months passed, and despite his vigilance, the Prince never saw the Dragon, though he often found places where it had slept or had left news of its passing. Sometimes the Dragon would burn a barn or sometimes a row of trees. It often carried off whole cows, he was told, and on warm days it would lie in a low meadow drowsing in the sun like an overgrown cat.

All these things the villagers told him, but no Dragon did he find. He waited many days and then weeks, by a spot the Dragon was said to favor and still no Dragon came. And the Prince became increasingly wroth.

One evening as he sat in the garden brooding over the missing Dragon, Sera asked, “If you see no Dragon, and the Dragon does, as you can see, little enough harm, why is it that you must hunt it?”

The Prince looked at her dully. “You do not think I can defeat it?”

When she said nothing, he said, “I will have the Dragon or I will die. It is all that I care about. All that means anything to me. I cannot return to my home or live or breathe or be unless I have it.”

Sera furrowed her brow. “Why does it mean so much to you?” she asked, “Can you not just let it be? You need not return home. You could stay here, in the castle, forever. You need not concern yourself with this Dragon. There are many monsters in the world, and some are good and some ill and some you know nothing of. Forget the Dragon.”

But he only continued staring into the night and she knew that tomorrow he would go out again to seek the Dragon.

When the morning came, the Prince set out on his fine bright horse and made his way to the forest where the Dragon was said to make its bed sometimes. He crouched low in the skree and waited for sign of the beast. After a while he was amazed to hear a sound like the movement of a small army.

It was the Dragon, coming low across the fields, its wings brushing across the blades of high grass and its tail dragging through the weeds. It landed heavily in the hay and stood looking right and then left. It seemed to the Prince that for a moment it studied him. But then it sat, and licked one foot and then the other, and, wrapping its tail daintily about itself, the Dragon slept.

After a while, the Prince crept out and, because he had read this was the proper way of doing things, shouted out at the Dragon, “Behold, Beast! I have come to slay thee.” But the Dragon only puffed at him with a long breath and opened one eye. Then it turned and tucked its head under its tail and slept.

The Prince reasoned that he might charge at the sleeping Dragon, though that didn’t seem completely fair. But since it was a Dragon and evil and a great menace, he thought it was justifiable.

Upon trying this course of action, he found that his horse, a most reasonable creature, would not cooperate. Instead it threw the Prince to the ground and fled whinnying into the woods. Having no other course, the Prince resolved to approach the drowsing wyrm on foot.

Slowly, he crept up to the Dragon and hacked at it with sword and lance. But he was no match for its scales, although the Dragon did stir slightly upon his attack. Generally it ignored him; though, from time to time, the great lizard did shift or open an eye. Once it pushed the Prince away with its great paw. And finally, having had enough of the hero’s antics, it rose and flew off into the night.

The Prince was furious and shook his fists at the sky. Then he found his horse and returned to the castle to plan the next day’s assault.

The irl, for her part, begged him to spare the Dragon. “Why does it offend you so?” she cried. But when he would pay her no heed and sought the Dragon out day after day in the fields before the forest to no avail, she ceased her complaints, seeing they had no effect on him. “What would you have then?” she asked him one night. “For you return each day and still there is a Dragon.”

He smiled a cold smile and said, “I would have death: his or mine.” And this time she hung her head, and he thought she cried, though he could not be sure.

After many months of harrying the Dragon, the day finally came that the Dragon was done with the Prince. It was then that they fought, and the battle was very short indeed. At its end, the Prince lay dead, and the Dragon carefully picked up his body. It carried his still form into the forest and dug a hole very deep and laid in it the Prince and all his things except his shield.

The Dragon carried the shield back to the castle and laid it reverently outside the bailey. And then, once she had made herself small and girl-shaped again, Sera picked up the now-familiar shield and carried it inside. She unlocked the armory door and laid the shield down alongside many others like it. Slowly she ran her fingers over it and thought of the Prince and of all the other shields and their bearers. But she did not cry. All her tears had been shed a very long time ago.

Instead, she went back to the hall and finished hearing the people’s complaints. Then, after a time, she ate, but did not walk in the garden. At the day’s end, when the moon was high, she went to bed. And after a time, her cat, Rosemary, curled around her feet. And Sera dreamed that night, as she did every night, that one day someone would come and save her. But she knew in her heart that no one ever would.

Copyright © 2007 by Beverly Forehand

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