Monday, October 25, 2010

Dragon Song

Category: Issue 20

Harris Tobias

Dragon Song

Our hero casts his gaze upon his foe
His sword poised on its naked breast
He feels remorse for what he knows he has to do
But not so much to stay the final thrust
His sword plunges almost to its hilt
The dragon, dying, writhes in pain.
So magnificent a beast he killed
Its life’s blood so casually spilled
Instead of joy, our hero feels ashamed.
By his hand, a dragon’s heart was stilled
By his hand, and so he bears the blame.
As fearsome as the dragon was
Awesome in Its beauty and its size
Magnificent in form its fiery jaws
Became something noble in his eyes
And so he put away his sword
And swore he would not kill for gain
He raised his eyes to heaven and proclaimed
A dragon’s right to live in peace with men
And raised his arms up to the skies
And swore that he would not kill again.
Still the grateful Mayor paid him half a crown
And praised him for his service to the town
He begged the knight to come and dine
“I knew that you would never let us down.
Come celebrate with us for I would have it known
That for us you laid your life upon the line. Come,
We killed a boar and have it roasting now
Come sit with me there is something I would know
“Can I call on you when next a dragon comes
To burn our fields and drive us from our homes?”
Our hero having vowed his vow
Thought long and hard before replying, “No.
Next time a dragon visits woe upon a town,”
He said, “My sword will no longer be for hire.
For I have made a solemn vow, I own
Nevermore to quench a dragon’s fire.”
The Mayor asked again when he was done
But the young man just sat staring at his crumbs
And said no more about the matter.

“You would let a dragon do his worst?”
The Mayor asked, “And threaten all and sundry with abuse?
You would not lift your hand to rid us of this curse
And put your sword to its intended use?”
“A vow’s a vow,” our hero said, “and must not be broken.”
Then he shook his princely head and walked away
Leaving so many words unspoken.
But the Mayor was nothing if not persistent
Relentless and insistent in his way
He made another stab at the lad’s enlistment
“Come now lad, you know that we can pay.”
The Mayor showed him chests of jewels and coin
And handed him a ring as a small token
“In case another dragon comes this way.”
But our hero wasn’t tempted by the Mayor’s art
And said that no more dragons would he slay
When all his machinations failed, the Mayor tried another play,
And called for Kate, his daughter, and a beauty of sixteen
Summers. By far the fairest girl the knight had ever seen
Her shy smile sent a shock wave through his heart.
The Mayor beats his fists upon the table
“You like her, I can tell,” the Mayor boomed
“She is the fairest flower in the shire
What a pity it would be were she consumed,
Reduced to cinders by a dragon’s fire.”
Would you not save her were you able?”
“Why not dance with her?” The Mayor says
“Hear how brightly the music plays.”
Our hero stands and in a daze
He takes Kate’s hand and leads her to the floor.
When the dance is done the two young lovers
Sit and gaze longingly at each other.
“She could be yours, you know?” he tells the knight
“She is a jewel,” our hero sighs, “I must confess.”
“I’ll take that as a yes,” the Mayor chuckles with delight
And so he sits them side-by-side
The handsome knight, the lovely maid
It does not take much cunning or much guile
To see how Kate’s beauty turns the tide
As she melts his icy heart with her warm smile.
As they gaze at each other, true love blooms
And for them all they know is their desires.
That very night he takes the Mayor’s bribe
And slips the ring upon her tiny hand
And asks Kate if she would be his bride
The Mayor grins as things go as he planned
Kate agrees and so the two are paired
The Mayor knows he has the young man snared
And the boy would do what ever he requires

It’s not so long after they are wed
And settle down to make a home
He works hard to be the kind of man she needs
Before long they have children of their own
He looks for work in town but there is none
He tries tilling fields and planting seeds
Though dragon slaying was all he’d ever known,
He tries his hand at other means
He tries milking cows and planting beans
But he has no skill and certainly has no fun
It’s clear he does not love the farmer’s life
But he tries his best to make things grow
And by his toil feed his growing clan
Though he wilts beneath the blazing sun
What can he do but mop his brow
And turn another furrow with the plow
He has a wife and children now
And so he tries his best to make the Earth
Nurture those hopeful seeds he’d sown
But a drought comes and withers every leaf
He begins to doubt his fitness as a man
The only thing he has of any worth
Is slaying dragons and on that he took a vow
He feels trapped and prays for some relief

So when a young dragon bursts upon the scene
His neighbors come to him with hats in hand
“Please sir, can you chase the dragon from our land?
He’s blackened everything that once was green.”
It is for him a great relief though it seems
They cannot offer much in terms of treasure
Some fruit some cattle and a hen
Still he said that it would be a pleasure
To quit the plow and take up his sword again.
And do the job for which he was the measure
Kate and the children help him find his gear
It’s been some years since he needed them
His shield turns up beneath the marriage bed
They find pieces of his armor in the barn
His sword they find hanging in the shed
Kate polishes every piece until it glows
Like silver in the morning light
And when no one is around to hear
She prays her man will not come to harm
The armor no longer fits so well
But he still has his strong right arm
He’s put on weight and it clearly shows
But really only he and Kate can tell
He still looks fit and ready for a fight

The dragon is quite small as dragons go
A baby maybe sixty feet no more
Still big enough to tear a man to shreds
And send a brave man running when it roars
The sound makes the farmers hide their heads
And keep their families safe behind locked doors
Only our hero dares to face the beast
He advances on his trusty mare
He feels young again to say the least
The dragon expects a tasty treat
And stands confused when this human doesn’t scare
Our hero charges, sword unsheathed
The dragon rears and roars but does not yield
Its deadly fire deflected by his shield
Our hero runs the dragon through
His vow unkempt, he leaves it lying there
And just like that he is again employed
Even though he swore he would eschew it
It was the one job he enjoyed
When dragons came along he got right to it
He rode out bravely and just slew it
He dispatched them left and right
Though he knew that it was wrong
But once again he was a knight
And his heart was filled with song
If he thought about his vow he’d shake his head
And say that he was sorry and yes he had a few regrets
But he’d somehow manage to get through it
What could he do he had five mouths to feed?
What matter if he made some dragons bleed?
Oh sure he made a vow but that was then
He had a chance to be a hero once again
The Mayor urged him to provide
For his family and his bride
And so his promise was conveniently forgotten
You might think that was the end but it was not
A promise is not something a god forgets
Nor was it something that the gods forgot
Instead it festered in the air and turned quite rotten

Gods you know are not easily betrayed
They knew they would have revenge one day
To them a vow is not something lightly made
And so the gods looked down on him dismayed
That a man who would allow his pledge to fade
And so they waited 20 years until the knight was old
And brought his son into the family trade
For some years now he took his son along
And oh what a team they made
His son grew up lithe and strong
And at seventeen he had a dozen kills
Their fee was always paid in gold
Five crowns for every dragon slain
Demand was high for their special skills
No one else could do what those two did
They were so good it’s said the dragons hid
Their heads in shame because they were afraid
But of course that is just a tale to make a sale
Before long the old knight thought he would retire
And leave the dragon slaying to his son
Besides, there were hardly any dragons left to slay
He began to think their bloody work was done
One last call in a neighboring shire
And our hero would put his sword away
“One last dragon, boy, and then I’m through.
Whatever dragons may be left I’ll leave for you.”

Of course the gods would save the best for last
This dragon was the biggest ever
A hundred feet of snarling scales and bone
It could melt steel with its fiery blast
But what our heroes didn’t know was it was clever
In a thousand years it learned a thing or two
For one thing it was not alone
It was a mother
With two hungry cubs hidden near
“I’ll lure it out,” the old knight said
“You attack her from the rear.
I’ll wave my sword before her head to attract her
Then you pierce her with your spear,
What do you say?”
The young man seemed reluctant to obey
“Be careful, father, this might be her nest”
“Don’t worry, lad, have no fear
One dragon is very like another
No match for us, we are the best.”
The boy rode his horse around behind
And waited for his father to distract her
He did not expect the two cubs in the blind
Who cried a warning of their attacker
The dragon spun around to face the threat
And sent a blast of fire at the lad
He threw his spear to no effect
And with it the only chance he had
He was gone before he had a chance to call
And warn his father of the brood
Quickly devoured horse and all
The boy became a dark spot in the road
The old man cried out in pain and rage
He charged but he was too late
To save his boy from his fate
The dragon and her cubs turned to engage
Our hero, out numbered three to one,
He was staring death square in the face
And chose to run. In the months that followed
He had to live with his disgrace
And explain to Kate how he lost their son
He was not the same his heart was hollowed
His remaining years he kept to his place
A broken man, silent, numb
He never forgave himself for what he’d done
One day he left without a trace
That’s all we know



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