WHERE DRAGONS DWELL by Ruggles Fishweir

copyright (c) 1996, Ruggles Fishweir ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

"Tell us a story Grandfather,"  The youngest grandchild, 
Alfred, begged.

"Yes, please!" the others chimed in, their eyes pleading in
a manner no Grandfather could resist.

"What am I going to do with you children?" Grandfather 
answered.  He clenched a pipe in his jagged teeth; the 
smoke making ghostly shapes around his head.  "Okay then, 
but only if you promise to go directly to bed afterwards."

"We promise!" they answered in unison.  The grandchildren 
crossed their hearts with their tiny fingers as if to seal 
the promise with the gesture.  Then they gathered around on
the floor.  The youngest hoping to sit closest to 
Grandfather.  Every eye was fixed on Grandfather as he 
began the tale...

"A long time ago..."

"How long ago, Grandfather?" Alfred asked.  Alf was curious and prone to questions and he hadn't filled his quota for the day yet.  Alf would try to get in as many as possible before bed time.

"As I recall, it was about a hundred years ago," Grandfather began again.  "The world was younger back then. Times were hard.  There wasn't as much food as there is now, and there were many dragons in those days."  With the mention of Dragons, Grandfather knew that he had a captive audience.  The kids loved tales of knights and dragons and other such stuff.  Grandfather did too.

"There was an old woman who lived near the forest.  Her husband had died, leaving her with twelve children.  The woman foraged and did everything else she could to provide for her children, but alas, she could not take care of them all.  With a heavy heart she tought of what she must do.
Late one night she carried a large basket into the woods and began her journey."

"What was in the basket?" Alfred asked.  He had resisted asking questions as long as he could.  Grandfather looked at him patiently and paused long enough to refill the pipe.
Soon the sickly sweet smell of tobacco filled the room.  
The children waited for Grandfather to continue the tale.  
He took a deep breath and resumed.

"The old woman came to a small cottage near the edge of the forest.  She gently set the basket down and looked inside. 
Then she gave the baby a good-bye kiss, knocked on the door of the cottage and ran away into the night.  The woman knew she had too many children, and the people who lived in the cottage had none.  They had tried time and again to have children, but their lives were empty because they were barren.  The old woman did not know that the people had left the cottage and moved far away.  The child lay in the basket all warm in his blanket, not making a sound.  
Sometime later, the child grew hungry and needed to have his garment changed (as babies often do).  The pitiful cry filled the night air.  Nearby, wolves heard the cry and wondered whether or not the child was alone.  If other humans weren't around, the babe would be a tasty morsel and the wolves would eat him up!"  The worried look on the children's faces told Grandfather that his story was indeed having its intended effect.  He looked into each of their wide eyes in turn, then continued...

"The wolves could hear the baby crying and they could smell him too.  They stalked over to the cottage.  They waited to see if anyone would respond to the baby's cry, but after a time they decided that the child was alone and the leader of the pack sent a scout to retrieve the basket.  The  wolf grabbed the basket in his sharp teeth.  Slobbering as he drug the basket off, the wolf joined the pack in a clearing in the woods."

"I get the first bite!" the pack leader snarled.

"Save some for us, he's little and bony," the others suggested.

"If there's any leftovers, you'll get your share."  The wolf grabbed the blanket with his teeth and lifted the babe out of the basket.  He salivated at the thought of fresh meat; especially human meat.  The others circled nearby waiting for him to toss any uneaten portion their way.  If they were lucky they might get a small sample of the tender flesh.  The babe was crying louder now as if he knew what was about to happen.

"With a mighty roar, a dragon swooped down scattering the wolves in all directions.  They were not about to compete with the beast for the small child, so they ran off into the forest with their tails between their legs.  Then the dragon gently picked the child up in his claws and flew away."

"What did the dragon do to the baby?" Alfred asked with a 
worried look on his face.

"He ate him all up!" Grandfather said.

"Ohhhhh!" exclaimed Alfred.  The worried look turned to sadness.

"I'm just teasing you,"  Grandfather explained.  
He couldn't help grinning at the effect the story was having thus far.  Alfred sighed with relief when he learned that the child had not been eaten.

"The dragon, feeling pity for the poor child, took him to an ancient castle.  Even the dark, musty castle was better than the elements outside.  Gofraidh, an old wizard, lived in the castle.  He agreed to raise the babe as his own."

"What shall I name the child?" Gofraidh asked the dragon.

"Don't ask me, you're the wizard," snorted the dragon.

"I thought that since you were the one who found him, you might want to give him a name."

"The only names I know are dragon names.  Faolan means 'little wolf' since I saved him from the wolves and he is little..."

Fair enough, his name shall be Faolan," Gofraidh declared with a majestic gesture of his robed arm.  "Today a little
wolf has come into our lives, let us celebrate!"  The wine
flowed freely that night in the castle.  Dragon and wizard celebrated until the wee hours.  The child brough joy into their midst.  Now they had something to do, and someone to look after."

"Time goes by much too quickly for young dragons and little boys. Faolan grew to be strong and wise.  Gofraidh the wizard tried to teach the boy magic, but Faolan was a bad apprentice.  At last, Gofraidh sent the boy (who had somehow grown into a young man) off to find his fortune.
Armed with an enchanted sword, Faolan ventured off into the unknown.  The dragon kept an eye on him secretly.  They had become the best of friends through the years."  

Alfred yawned and rubbed his eyes.  "IF you're sleepy we can finish the story tomorrow,"  Grandfather offered.

"No, I'm not sleepy," Alfred lied.

"We aren't either," said the others.

"Well, Faolan wandered far and wide.  For a time he got a job feeding pigs, but soon he grew restless and knew that there must be something more exciting he could do with his life.  One fine day when he had gotten cleaned up after feeding the pigs, Faolan went into town.  The village was alive with the sounds and smells that only a village can provide; fresh baked bread, roasting ham, and other delicious smells.  Music filled the air.  It was indeed a fine afternoon.  The village sounds were interrupted by a woman screaming...

"Help me please!" the woman cried.  She was holding a mangled sheep.

"What is troubling you?" another asked.

"Me thinks it was a dragon," the woman declared.

"DRAGON!" the crowd screamed.

"Over here, Quick!" a little boy called.  The boy was pointing off into the forest.  The mob looked and saw a dragon.  The dragon thought it was hiding behind a tree, but it's tail was there for all to see.  Then the bravest of the men gathered up some rope, and their courage and went after the beast.  Somehow, the first rope succeeded in finding its way around the dragon's neck.  The dragon was taken by surprise.  Other ropes lassoed the tail and legs, and the monster was held fast.  The dragon roared and the men wondered what to do next.

"Does anyone have a sword?"

"I do!" Faolan offered.  He stepped forward holding the enchanted sword above his head.

Then he...

"Cut the dragon free?" Alfred suggested.  Alf seemed to be quite fond of the dragon in the story.  Grandfather looked at the grandchildren again.  He paused for effect and then continued...

"Faolan swung the sword with all his might.  The men holding the ropes closed their eyes.  There was a meaty crunch and it was over...the dragon lay dead.  The crowd cheered and began to dance and celebrate."

"What reward do you wish for your services?" the Mayor of the village asked.  "If it is within my power, no request of yours will be denied."

Faolan looked puzzled for a moment and then responded, 
"May I have 20 gold coins and a horse and cart with which to take the dragon corpse home to add to my collection of 

"Your wish is granted, said the Mayor. He was relieved that Faolan hadn't asked for more.  The villagers took up a collection and brought forth the horse and cart.  Several of the strongest men strained to put the dead dragon onto the cart and then covered it with an old tarp.  The villagers continued their feasting long after Faolan was gone.  Once outside the village proper, the tarp began to move ever so slightly in the back of the cart.

"You can come out now," Faolan said to the dragon.

"Twas hot beneath that foul tarp," the dragon protested. 
"And next time don't hit me so bloody hard with the sword."

Alfred had a look of confusion on his face. "I thought you said the dragon was dead?"  he asked Grandfather.

"Remember I said that the sword was enchanted," Grandfather offered.  He could tell that Alfred still didn't understand.  "Faolan and the dragon were in cahoots."

"What's a koot?" Alfred wondered.

"No, in cahoots means that they were working together,"
Grandfather began.  "The magic sword didn't really kill the dragon, but everyone thought he was dead."  He could see the grandchildren's eyes light up as they finally understood.  "No more feeding pigs for Faolon; he was a dragon slayer from that time forward.  They traveled far and wide.  The dragon would have a lamb chop or the occasional fresh pig.  Then Faolon would rid the town of the pesky dragon.  This went on for years without anyone realizing that the same dragon had been "killed" many times.  Faolan was beginning to enjoy his new found fame and fortune when it happened...

In a sleepy hamlet near a brook, Faolan met a lovely damsel.  Her hair was dark and her eyes burned their way deep into his heart.  Just as he was about to ask the girl her name, the dragon came roaring out of the forest.
The girl screamed and fainted.  When she came to, the dragon lay dead at her feet.

"You killed him!" she exclaimed.  "He was such a fine magnificent beast, and you killed him."

"I rescued you," Faolan offered.  "You were so afraid that you fainted."

"I screamed because he frightened me," the girl continued.
"For all we know he could have been friendly.  Now he is dead.  There are so few dragons left in the world," she
trudged off.  Faolan tried to follow but she would not allow it.  Outside the hamlet, Faolan pulled the cart over beside the path and began to talk to the dragon.

"What can I do?  I have fallen in love with a woman and I don't even know her name."

"Maybe we should visit the wizard Gofraidh.  I don't know nothing about women kind," the dragon said.  "Gofraidh is old and wise.  Perhaps he can cast a spell."  The cart squeaked and groaned its way to the castle.  It had been years since their last visit.

"Faolan, you have returned.  You must tell me of all your adventures."  Gofraidh was glad to see the young man and the dragon.  "First you must eat and rest, and then we can hear of your journeys."  After breakfast the next day, they explained all their adventures to the old wizard.

"I don't even know her name, yet she thinks I am dreadful,"
Faolan continued.  "If I tell her that I didn't really kill any dragons, she will think I am a thief and a liar--
but if I don't tell her something, then I can never see her again..." 

"Can you cast a spell on her to make her fall in love with Faolan?" the dragon asked.

"No, I could make her THINK that she is in love; but the love itself would not be genuine-- she would not love you in her heart," Gofraidh explained.

"What should I do then?" Faolan moaned.

"Tell her the truth.  If she stays, then you may yet win her love.  If she leaves..."

"Bring her here then," begged Faolan.  Gofraidh lifted both hands above his head and spoke an incantation.  The air crackled with electricity as a strange blue light flowed from his finger tips.  Then magically the girl appeared.

"Where am I?" the damsel asked as she dropped the book she had been reading.  She glanced around the room and then gave a weak smile.  The castle was damp and the torches didn't offer much light.

"My name is Faolan.  You have been summoned by the wizard Gofraidh.  I asked him to bring you here so we could talk," Faolan began.

"I am Elva," she began.  "Oh, I remember you...you're the one that slew the poor dragon!"  Faolan felt as though there was no hope, then he gathered what little courage he had left, and tried to explain...

"You see, I have never killed a dragon in my life."

"If you did not kill the dragon, then where is he?" Elva asked.  Everyone looked around the room, but they could see neither tooth nor claw.  The silence was broken by what sounded like a mouse.  Then the sound of a heavy tail dragging along the stones as the dragon crawled back into the room.

"I am always afraid that magic stuff might harm some innocent dragon," the dragon hissed.  His mouth was drawn up in a toothy smile.  Then they did teir best to explain the situation.

"Above all else, I love you.  Even before I knew your name, my heart was taken prisoner," Faolan crooned.  He gazed deeply into Elva's dark eyes.  If only she could love him too.

"Then what happened, Grandfather?" Alfred asked.  He looked as though he was afraid there would be mushy stuff.
"Did they live happily ever after?"

"Indeed their love for each other grew and they got married in the castle," Grandfather answered.  "They spent many years living happily with the dragon and the wizard."

"THE END!" Alfred offered.

"No it was just the beginning," Grandfather continued.
"Soon the wizard, who was far older than anyone knew, became sick and was sure that he was about to die.  He called everyone together to prepare them for his eventual departure.  The sadness that day was beyond compare.

"I have saved up much of my power so that one day I could do some great deed to benefit man and beast.  I feel that this is only fitting for a wizard to somehow return something to this world," Gofraidh began.  "As you know, dragons are few.  The days of man and dragon are coming to an end.  Should dragons cease to exist, then this world would be a desolate place.  I will send the dragons to a place where they can live forever without the threat of extinction.' and that is exactly what he did."

"What happened to Faolan and Elva?" Alfred asked.

"Faolan and Elva lived among the dragons.  They raised their children to love and respect both man and beast.  
They lived happily and died at a ripe old age," said Grandfather.

"And the dragon, did he live happily too?" Alfred asked.

"You already know that part of the story," Grandfather teased.  "That's how we came to live here.  The time for stories is over.  Now kindly get your tails off to bed."
Grandfather ordered.  Then he lit his pipe with his dragon breath and watched as the little dragons marched off to bed, dragging their tails behind them.

                        THE END
This story was waiting on the slush pile at PLOT Magazine when I saw the movie DRAGONHEART...it was rejected for being too similar.  It is presented here for your enjoyment.  This was my first attempt as an adult to write a story for a magazine.  My attempts at writing at age 13 were not successful at all.  Since then, I have taken a class from Writers Digest School and am a member of Horror Writers Association.  Here's hoping that the next one makes it!.....RUGGLES FISHWEIR