As most regular visitors to the Nest know, Dragons have very little use for human politics. Oh, now and then, when concerns over habitat protection and civil rights are part of the mix, sure. In that respect, they’re like a lot of us: politics, in the end, being local and personal.
So, on this Guy Fawkes’ Day, let’s get personal.
Now, US public schools teach scant English history, so for many Americans Guy Fawkes is some noble figure appropriated by the wonderfully anti-totalitarian film, V for Vendetta, and, subsequently, by the activist group, Anonymous. Being a radical anti-fascist myself, this is an invigorating association. Sadly, it’s a leap of fancy rather than fact. (Anyone who likes a bit of classy Brit-drama with their history should check out the 2-part series, Gunpowder, Treason, & Plot on Netflix. Excellent acting and not too biased.)
But let me return to the personal politics of our time.
Despite what the media, with their desire for ratings and a horse race, would have us believe, the Republican and Democratic candidates are not flip sides of the same, terrible coin. In fact, the candidates, their intelligence, experience, temperaments, and platforms could not be more different.
The Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, is a woman who, as lawyer, First Lady of Arkansas and then the country, senator, and Secretary of State, has spent her adult life in service to the people of this nation. She has fought for women and children, the poor and the middle class, the underprivileged and the working people of this country. She is smart to the point of being a policy wonk, and treats friends and foes alike with respect. She is prepared to be President, and, unlike her opponent, she understands that it is a job for which one needs to prepare, especially in an increasingly complex geopolitical world.
She understands how the government works and, when she was a part of it, got glowing reviews from both sides of the aisle. She understands and respects the Constitution. For 20 years, she was viewed as the most admired woman in American. Until she started running for President, of course. Suddenly, over-night, the media and right-wing opposition turned her into the devil in a blue pantsuit. Amazing.
She believes in science – I know, this shouldn’t be a thing in 2016, but sadly, it is. She knows that climate change is real and must be addressed for the sake of the planet. Her fiscal policies continue building on the progress we’ve made over the past 8 years, addressing economic inequities and investing in the country’s people and infrastructure. (Even though she has targeted Wall St., they are far more assured by the prospect of HRC as President than her opponent.)
She respects a woman’s right to choose, LGBTQ rights to marry, and understands that the problem between citizens and the police in this country will not be solved with more militarized “law and order” but with a judicial system based on equality and fairness regardless of race, creed, nationality, or sexual orientation. True, she is a little more hawkish than I would like, but she understands the way the world works and the need for supporting and working with our allies.
In the realm of politics, where hyperbole and exaggeration can easily run amok, she’s been found to be by far the most honest, truthful candidate of either party for the whole campaign season – including the primaries. (Facts, of course, tend to have a liberal bias, so this is not often reported by Republican mouthpieces like Fox News and the Drudge Report.)
She is not perfect – what candidate is? She has a reputation for being guarded, almost secretive, at times. Yet, after 30 years of being hounded and investigated by the opposition for every little sneeze – and found nothing – who among us would be different? At least, when she makes mistakes, she acknowledges them and learns from them.
Hillary Clinton is a candidate who can make long overdue history as the first woman President of this country. Her gifts may not include either the soaring oratory of President Obama, or the folksy charm of her husband. But almost everyone who has worked with her, regardless of party affiliation, sings her praises. She is a decent human being who cares about her fellow human beings. She will keep us safe and protect our rights – yes, even those 2nd Amendment rights some are so convinced they will lose. She will represent the United States to the world with intelligence, empathy, and grace.
On the other side, we have a man who is an ego-maniacal bully with a fourth-grade vocabulary and zero experience or interest in governing. Despite his boasts of great personal sacrifice, he’s not served his country in any way, shape, or form. This is a candidate whose grasp of the Constitution is thread-thin at best. He believes that, once he is President, he can unilaterally: overturn treaties – including the Paris agreement on climate change (because, hell, climate change is a liberal and Chinese hoax); fire all the generals and admirals (he knows more than they do, anyway); change the libel laws to strangle the First Amendment; deport millions of immigrants; instigate a religious/cultural test for citizenship; roll back LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, and civil rights; throw his political opponent in jail in the manner of a tin-pot, third-world dictator (who needs evidence or a trial, just lock her up); and bomb our enemies into oblivion. That he actually asked why we have nuclear weapons if we’re not going to use them displays a depth of ignorance that is staggering! And then he insists the whole election is rigged and he’ll have to consider accepting the orderly transition of power upon which our nation is founded should he lose. So much for the Constitution.
He is a man with such a pathological relationship with the truth that fact-checkers find over 70% of what he says is divorced from reality. Despite what he says there is no voter fraud, the unemployment rate is not 45%, our military is not a shambles, Mexico will not pay for his wall, and he does not know more about ISIL than the generals. He boasts of his business acumen as a reason to vote for him, yet he’s filed for bankruptcy 6 times. He says he’s charitable, yet his charity amounts to taking credit for giving away other people’s money, not having donated to his own foundation in over 8 years. He says he will be good for middle America, yet has stiffed American workers over and over again, while lining his own pockets with millions. He manufactures his products overseas and uses Chinese steel in his buildings, then blames HRC for not making him do the right thing when she was a senator (one of 100 – such tricky, inconvenient things, numbers, facts, and government). What his accountants were able to do with the tax code is positively obscene to say the very least – he says it’s smart which makes the rest of us who do our part, what? Schmucks? (And yes, it’s his accountants who understand the tax code, not the candidate. He just signed the forms.)
His narcissistic need for approval is such that he will embrace the praise of dictators, white supremacists, anti-Semites, racists, and xenophobes. Like a carnival barker, he hawks fear and scapegoating in a way that would not be out of place in the Weimar Republic.
He treats veterans, the disabled, minorities, and women with a deplorable lack of respect. He has boasted of being able to assault women, then dismissed his words as “locker-room talk.” And yes, make no mistake, kissing someone without their permission, grabbing them by the “pussy” – or anywhere else for that matter – is sexual assault. He then threatens anyone who speaks their truth with legal action. He wants to be the face of our nation to the world, yet is a man every parent should worry about leaving alone with their daughters.
His economic plans would send us tumbling back into recession (or worse), his health-care plan would make millions uninsured, and his foreign posturing – it can’t even be called policy – would alienate our allies and embolden our foes.
This is the Republican candidate. As George R.R. Martin, a man who knows something about Dragons and politics said, “You don’t need to like Hillary. You don’t need to listen to what Hillary says about Trump, or what I say about Trump. You just need to listen to Trump. If you can do that, and still consider voting for him… well…”
If you’ve made it this far you know it would be disingenuous of me to say I don’t care who you vote for. I would love to see the Democrats take the White House and the Senate and be able to really do something without blind opposition.
The FBI has already been caught trying to tip the scales, as has Russia and Wikileaks. This is not a time to toss your democratic right – your democratic responsibility into the dumpster.
THIS IS OUR FUTURE, OUR KIDS’ AND GRANDKIDS’ FUTURES.
It is not a time to wallow in a media narrative of false candidate equivalencies and lessers of two evils. They’re not. It is not a time to get complacent because the pollsters say it’s a virtual done-deal. It isn’t. It’s also, with all due respect, not a time for a protest vote. HRC may not be Bernie. But Bernie’s not on the ballot. And Clinton is a hell of a lot closer to him than either Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, and much more fit to be president. Make no mistake: a protest vote is a vote for the Republican.
Tuesday – or before, if you are able – go to the polls. Think carefully about who you want to be the face of our nation for the next 4 years. Who you want comforting the nation when the next Hurricane Katrina hits or the next Ferguson or Newtown. Who will care about all Americans regardless of race, creed, sex, or sexual orientation. Regardless of how fat their wallets or fawning their praise. Hold to hope, not fear. Don’t be intimidated or deterred. Use your heads and hearts – swear a little if you want – and vote.
If we can all do that, I think – please Great Dragon! – we’ll be ok.
Another MotD has come to an end.
First, a hearty welcome to all new WAFDE members, and my thanks to one and all who have made MotD 2016 such a pleasure and success. You help to insure a profound, eternal, Dragon presence in the world.
I have always thought it fitting that MotD ends on Samhain (Halloween). This is a very special day for Dragons around the world – though Westies and the lesser dragons in their ken tend to lay special claim to it. Indeed, as much as Dragons have holy days, Samhain is right up there at the top of the list.
On this night of ghouls and goblins, it is only right to look at a chapter from Dragon history full of blood and gore and nightmares that would make the strongest Dragon weep. I am speaking of the centuries of loss and grief heaped upon the enchantments of Europe known as The Dark Times. For some of you, this may be a familiar tale, yet, here at the Nest, we believe it is one worth repeating.
Technically the Dark Times ran from 2000 BCE to 1450 CE, though it was the indiscriminate dragon slaying of the Dark Ages that nearly drove Western Dragons from the face of the Earth.
By the 7th century, the Trans-Atlantic Transmigration , which had diminished the continental Dragon count by half, was deeply etched into the historical record. Gone were the havens of grove and spring and standing stone. The weyrs were on edge: Queens laid smaller clutches – stress even forced some to skip generations of hatching altogether. For most, it was coming down to fight or flight, and the former didn’t hold much appeal.
This was when the sidhe came to the rescue. They offered the Dragons of Europe a way out, a refuge in the Otherworld. And so it was that Dragons retreated into the mists – along with the unicorns and other rare and unusual beings – until the world of humans became more Dragon-friendly.
Except on Samhain. Once a year, when the veil between the worlds of sidhe and human thinned, and an expectation for the strange and unusual was in the air, the Dragons returned. In the umbra of streetlight and balefire, they flew over housetops and buzzed the frost rimmed pumpkin patches. They danced across the face of moon – often mistaken at a great distance for large bats – and played hide-and-seek with those who, attuned to the mystical, could actually see them. As night tipped towards dawn, a great lamentation coursed through the heavens, a keening for Dragons lost and lives left behind….
Then they were gone.
So it continued decade after decade, generation after generation. Then, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the tide began to change. Some say it was the strength of the Enlightenment, driving out the darkness of superstition, others the resurgence of mysticism and neo-paganism. Either way, it was the opening Dragons were looking for, the glimmer of hope that the worst of the anti-Dragon madness had passed. And from then on, every Samhain, more and more Dragons not only came through the veil, but chose to stay on our side of it.
October 31 is a time of somber and jubilant celebration. When we mourn Dragons gone and rejoice in their return.
As is noted in The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook:
It is now the twenty-first century. By the blessing of the Great Dragon, we made it past the Dark Times and farther than many thought possible.
Out of the darkness, Dragons roared, reminding us we need them. Reminding us of their right to be. With horns charmed and scales ashimmer, they walk amongst us. They share our lives and lend mystery to the mundane. They fill the skies and sing in thunderous tones for all to hear, “We are Everywhere!”
Wishing you all a very draconic Halloween. Keep safe, fly high. See you all next year.
And for those of you in the States, don’t forget to get out and vote on November 8th (or earlier if you can). Dragons may have little use for politics, but this election is vital for us and the planet. Including our spikey-wikey friends.
 An exodus of a passel of adventurous European Dragons who were fed up with the rampant anti-Dragon sentiments coursing through Britain and the Continent in the Dark Ages. Shortly after the Saxon invasion of the British Isles, they heeded the call to “Go west, young Dragons!” and crossed the Atlantic. In the New World they made their way amongst the enchantments of North America.
Depending on local custom, the day before Samhain is set aside for tricks, not treats. Devil’s Night, Cabbage Night, Mischief Night – in centuries past it was a time for late night garden raids and scarecrows ablaze with Dragonfire. When humans got in on the fun there were eggs dripping off windows, frost-spoiled cabbages smashed hither and yon, and firecrackers blowing mailboxes off their posts. In all, it is a night of messy but harmless shenanigans. What Dragon wouldn’t want to join in?
Of course, any time Dragons are involved, a certain amount of prudence is advisable. Through no ill-will of their own, our friends can be a destructive, especially in urban and suburban areas. They are, after all, forces of nature. Very large forces of nature.
So it is best to establish some ground rules and stick to them. This will help keep injuries to body and property – and any ensuant legal actions – to a manageable minimum. Back in the 1990s there was a Mischief Night so incendiary – 130 + arson reports in one day – that Dragons and their people were under suspicion from New Jersey to Michigan. It took almost a decade of laying low and being on their best behavior for public perceptions of Dragons and Mischief Night to return to some semblance of normalcy.
So, keep things safe and fun. Raise a little ruckus – maybe offer dragon rides to the kids. After all, Dragons are better than cherry-pickers for getting toilet paper into high branches. Try not to spook the neighborhood animals. It makes for terrible Dragon press, especially in rural areas where frightened cows make edgy milkers.
Plus, a civil Mischief Night makes for bigger, better treats tomorrow.
Books, Christmas gifts, Dragon Keeper's Handbook, Dragons for Beginners, Fiction, Jason and Robert Hook, Literature, Month of the Dragon, Pleasure-Dragon, Roger Zelazny, Terry Pratchett, WAFDE, Writing
Tell-a-Dragon-Tale Week is coming to a close. I hope everyone spent the chill October evenings gathered by the fireside, swapping rip-snorting, spikey-wikey Dragon stories.In bookstores and on Cyberian e-book shelves around the world, there is a treasure trove of draconic tomes. With Yule fast approaching – and knowing how Dragon and their people love books – I thought I would end the week mentioning a few volumes you might like to pick up for your libraries.
As MotD sponsor, I hope you will indulge me as I begin a few of works of my own…(Though linked to Lllewellyn, they are also available through Amazon and bookstores worldwide.)
The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook: Including the Myth & Mystery, Care & Feeding, Life & Lore of These Fiercely Splendid Creatures (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2011).
Here be Dragons……
Not the slavering, whimsical monsters from childhood fancies, but real Dragons—fierce, complex, wondrous, and wild. They do not require our belief; they never have.
With hard science, and myth, empirical wisdom and original line drawings, The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook is the draconic enchiridion for the modern world, providing everything you need to know about these extraordinary beings. From disparate theories of Dragon evolution and the golden geometry of their form to modern conservation efforts and how to release a well-weaned orphan back into the wild, this book answers all your questions, even those you didn’t know to ask. From awe-inspiring Cosmic Creators to wee pisuhänds guarding hearth and home, discover the habits and habitats of Dragons and pseudo-dragons both familiar and rare.
The Dragon Keeper’s Handbook shows us how human and Dragon lives are bound together and why Dragons are now—and ever-will-be—relevant: In their wildness lie lessons for us all.
Dragons for Beginners: Ancient Creatures in a Modern World (Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2012).
Welcome to Dragon Country!
Here Dragonfire sears the grass and the wind dances with Dragon-song. Here you’ll find true Dragons, real flesh-and-blood creatures that are as fiercely alive and majestic as they were thousands of years ago.
• Learn about the three true species: Eastern, Western, and Feathered • Explore how Dragons evolved and the various types of pseudo-dragons • Study the science of Dragons: size, diet, temperament, habitat, and more • Discover how Dragons impact religion, art, literature, and occult studies • Find out how to safely interact with Dragons
This essential, comprehensive introduction to Dragons is filled with what everyone must know about these extraordinary creatures. Whether a casual dracophile or a dedicated Dragon keeper, come explore what Dragons have to teach us about the world and our-selves. Discover how, with care and devotion, you can help save them from extinction.
And on the shorter side:
Because the Pleasure-Dragon Whistles, an e-tale. A young Welsh Dragon befriends a young Welsh poet. This is their story, wistful and funny as only Dragons and Bards can be.
For fans of the late, great, Sir Terry Pratchett – and who isn’t?- just out this month, Dragons at Crumbling Castle & Other Tales.
When I was a kid, I loved Kipling’s Just So Stories. Aside from being ripping good yarns, there was just enough fictional cosmogeny in them to keep this kid asking questions about the origin of the universe and her creatures.
The following story is a bit of a Dragon Just So tale. At least I like to think of it that way. Truth is, I don’t know where it originated or even remember when I first heard it. [If anyone knows, please tell me!] That said, I always felt it had a Japanese flavor to it, and have retold it as such. I hope you enjoy.
The Paper Dragon or How the Dragon Found Her Wings
Long, long ago, there was a village on the shore of the Emerald Ocean, and in the village lived a family. One of a hundred. There was nothing extraordinary about the family, mother, father, a daughter, and, of course, Grandma Hoshi and Uncle Jiro. Like their neighbors, they lived in a cottage, thatched and neat. Like their neighbors, the grownups harvested fish from the sea, eggs from the chickens, and vegetables from the garden; the child went to school, did her chores, and climbed trees with her friends. Even the cats kept their place, sleeping in the sun and shooing mice from the pantry. When needs be.
Of course, ordinariness is never as truly ordinary when dragons are around, and the most exquisite dragon lived on the wall of their cottage.
It was a paper dragon, with folded wings and a long tail that fanned out like a peacock’s. Each individual scale was painted in pearlescent shades that shimmered gold and silver, lapis blue and soft damask rose as the sun poured through the window on its course across the sky. Every now and then, the family would hang the dragon on a different wall, give it a different perspective on the world. This always gave the family a thrill, as if dragon energy flowed from every crease and fold, free as the sea breeze, blessing the household, grateful for the change of view. After all, being stuck in one place is no fun for anyone, especially not a dragon.
Visitors to the cottage marveled at the dragon, remarking on his sinuous curves and brilliant hues. “Where did he come from?” they would ask. But no one knew, not even Grandma Hoshi, and she was the oldest person in the village. But that’s as it should be with dragons.
One day a stranger from the North came to the village. He had a well-traveled air about him: tousled grey hair tumbling over a frayed collar, shoes scuffed and sole-worn. Not to mention a beard that had not seen a trim in donkey’s years.
Still he was polite and thoughtful and was made welcome.
“What brings you to our corner of the world,” the innkeeper inquired, placing a bowl of tea in front of the wanderer.
“I heard,” he said between steaming sips, “there is a rare and beautiful dragon here in the village.”
“Oh, yes!” she beamed. “It is the most amazing dragon. Go down towards the harbor, take the second left, then go all the way to the end of the lane. There’s a little cottage with a persimmon tree in the front garden. You’ll find the dragon there.”
The stranger thanked her, picked up his pack and staff, and coin on table, went on his dragon-seeking way.
Stopping at the garden gate, he peered in through the cottage’s front window. On the other side, the paper dragon hung all ashimmer on the wall.
The family came around the corner. “Young man,” Grandma Hoshi said, her arms full of ramps and radishes, “if you’re going to stare like that, you might as well come in. He looks much better up close, I promise you.”
And she was right.
The wanderer had never seen such a dragon, so perfect in every detail it fairly crackled with a mystical light.
Deft as a magician, he slipped the dragon from the wall, draped it over his arm, and went out into the yard. He tied a string around the dragon’s body, then, with the family close on his heels, he headed to a stretch of open shore.
As the breeze rolled off the sea, he let the string out and ran into the wind. Gusts filled the dragon’s wings, lifting it up over the harbor. The whole village poured down to the shore to watch the stranger with the dragon. Who would have imagined the dragon could fly?
Higher and higher it soared. With wings billowing, tail fluttering behind, it danced among the clouds. Then, suddenly, the string broke.
Untethered, the dragon continued to climb. Necks cricked, mouths open, the family stared at their beautiful paper dragon, rising into the heavens, a tiny speck, back-lit by the setting sun.
Squinting beneath shaded brows, the village was all-but sure the little dragon had kited away. But on the back of their collective remorse, the painted dragon began to grow right before their eyes. And not just a little, either. Wings stretched wide, their fragile paper shed for sturdy leathern sails; body muscled, all covered by hard, iridescent scales. Her tail arced like a rainbow, then flicked and twitched, ruddering her across the sky. She was a real dragon now. Wild as the wind and big as childhood dreams.
She dipped her wings into the cove, then flew away.
Rolling the string back into a ball, the stranger turned to the family and smiled:
Today, I am pleased to step out of the way and turn the Nest over to another spinner of Dragon yarns, Cathy Sosnowski, and a soupçon from her book, Dragon Fire.
My name is Cathy Sosnowski, and I have been a writer and a storyteller all my life. It has only been over the past ten years I seriously began to put material together for publishing, for myself, my friends, and the children I teach.
Several years ago, as part of an English lesson for first graders, I began writing about an orphaned Christmas elf that got accidentally delivered to the home of a little girl on Christmas day. I enjoyed working out the details of riding the edge between fantasy and reality.Overtime, the one book became ten related stories, branching out into the realm of elves, dwarfs, fairies, pixies, and of course, dragons.
The excerpt I am sharing is from my first dragon story, DRAGON FIRE. There is a companion piece entitled JOURNEYS, which continues the tale, and a later story, HALF LIGHT, which includes more of the dragon story.
I’ve been an elementary school teacher for 37 years, love gardening, photography, reading fantasy, British literature, historical fiction, movies, and new age music. In 2014, I self-published a book entitled KOI GIRLS, which was about 5 girls who overcome the anguish of being bullied by joining together, supporting each other, and developing their individuality.
I’m an avid Facebook-er, and enjoy meeting people from all over the world. I’ve been married to my husband for 27 years, and have one son who loves to write as well.
Hope you enjoy my work!
CHAPTER FOUR: Glowing Is Good
Franklin stopped dead in his tracks.
He turned and looked at Drummon with dread in his eyes.
“Did you break into the chamber?” Franklin asked, his voice was cold as steel.
“No, we weren’t sure what to do. We wanted to ask you first.” Rom said, wondering why the leader was suddenly so still.
“Creator be praise,” Franklin whispered under his breath. “Tell them to stop. Leave the ‘drive’ immediately.”
“What do you think it is?” breathed Rom in wonder and the beginnings of fear.
“I don’t know but I want to be very careful. Tell them… now!” Franklin ordered.
Rom trotted back toward the mine with Franklin’s message.
A crowd was gathering around the mouth of the mine as Franklin approached.
Igo came to the surface and made his way to Franklin.
Franklin looked at Raiden and told her to make her way back to camp.
“Why?” she protested hotly.
“Now! Do as you are told!” he commanded.
Raiden shot her father an angry look and turned away from the mine, kicking rocks as she went.
Drummon’s heart was pounding. Was it possible? A treasure chamber! Could there be something guarding it? Could there, dear Creator! Could there be a dragon?
Miners were clambering up from the tunnels all gabbing with excitement. Dragons never crossed their minds. Franklin had never mentioned… the curse.
Dwarves were hard workers, their lives hammered out in the harsh reality of physical things. They did not waste their time trying to foresee the future or wondering about the past, unless it was a piece of information that could make their work safer or better. They did not rely much on labor saving devices, since labor was their first love.
Their lives were set squarely on the present and they solved problems as they went along. Dire omens, spooky curses were as nothing to them.
But for Franklin, his present was fast becoming a nightmare. He was covered in cold sweat as he crawled through the drives toward the spot where the light had been seen.
His mind was combing through things he had heard about dragons and the only thing he remembered for sure was “…if they were glowing, they wouldn’t be throwing, flames at you”. This silly piece of Dwarfling poetry made him laugh morbidly to himself thinking that THIS was all he had to rely on in such a life and savage death situation!
As he neared the end of the tunnel he saw it: a tiny pool of golden light coming from the crack at the base.
“No, no, no, no…” was all he could think now. He crawled closer, tried with all his might to see through the crack to know what was on the other side. He was too large to get into a good position and he greatly feared knocking any more of the wall down between him and, hopefully, a sleeping dragon.
When dragons were trapped in such a chamber, they generally fell into a type of hibernation or suspended animation until they were awakened. Then, once awakened, they were voraciously hungry and desperately thirsty and, well, you didn’t want to be directly in their path.
He crawled back carefully then called for Darian. Of all the dwarves present, Darian was the slenderest, even more so than Raiden. He would be able to maneuver better than anyone else.
Darian ran to the mine and shimmied through the tunnels with the speed of a weasel.
His eyes were filled with the light of adventure and pleasure at being able to be useful to his father, whom he loved.
Franklin swallowed hard seeing that light, understanding everything and knowing he was putting his beloved son in the face of unspeakable danger.
“I need you to move around and look through that crack and tell me what you see,” Franklin said with a waver in his voice.
“It’d be easier if we made the hole bigger, Father,” Darian said trying to be helpful.
“Yes, I know,” Franklin said now with a tremor in his hands, “But I don’t know what’s there. If it is not safe…” he nearly choked on the word, “then… I don’t want to open it up,” sweat was forming on his brow and beginning to run into his eyes, stinging them, making them tear.
“All right, Father,” Darian said. He squirmed around and around until finally, he got his eye close enough to peer through the hole…
“It’s a big room, Father,” he said in a hushed voice. “It’s all aglow with a yellow light.”
He squirmed a little more and said, “Oh, Father!”
Franklin was almost ready to cry out, “Is there a dragon?”
“Father, the walls are covered with the most beautiful opals in the world! Huge perfect, black, fire opals!”
Franklin’s heart skipped a beat. If that were true, his plan would be complete! Daria would have all the opals she could ever want. She could sell them to the highest bidders! Their lives would be set!
Darian squirmed a little more, then gasped! Franklin’s breathing and heart stopped…
Darian sat bolt upright with stark fear on his face.
Franklin grabbed the lad, thinking he might lose consciousness.
“What is it?” Franklin whispered savagely and shook Darian slightly.
Darian looked like a baby with large confused eyes, looking at his beloved father as if he knew him not.
“Darian!” his father barked hoarsely like a command. “Tell me what you saw!”
“Dragon,” Darian whispered and sobbed. “Father,” his voice was soft and shaky, “ there… is …a sleeping dragon…”
CHAPTER FIVE: Do We Stay or So We Go?
Franklin dragged Darian out of the mine. When the miners and Drummon saw their faces, especially Darian who looked like he was about to collapse, their questions flew loud and fast.
“Enough!” screamed Franklin. “Back to camp!” Drummon rushed to his side and helped him carry Darian back. Raiden ran out crying with confusion seeing her brother in such an extreme state. “What happened!”
Drummon and Franklin got Darian to a cot and laid him down.
“Your brother has had an awful shock. Care for him!” And with that, he left the tent and went to answer the turmoil outside.
Raiden turned tearfully to Drummon and asked, “What is going on?”
“I don’t know yet,” he said in his most calming voice. “Care for your brother now and the rest will… take care of itself, you’ll see.”
Raiden found some comfort in his words. The lack of panic in his voice reassured her enough to concentrate on Darian. “Besides, I might be able to find out from him…” she thought to herself.
Franklin faced what he expected to be a mob outside. Surprisingly, they were silent and listening.
“Clansmen, I’ll get right to the point. There is a dragon…”
A gasp came from the crowd. Even for plain speaking dwarves, that was blunt!
“It is not awakened, but we cannot be sure it will remain asleep,” he paused. “Also,” they all turned wondering what else would matter, “the chamber is lined with huge, perfect opals.”
For almost anyone else, opals or no, it was clear it was time to leave. But this was a clan of mining dwarves. Perfect fire opals weighed heavy on the “maybe we should stay and figure something out” scale.
“There should be some sort of guard,” one burly miner said.
“Indeed, and should that soul be unfortunate to be close by when Draco awakens, he’ll have the honor of being the way Draco’s fast is broken.” Franklin said.
A murmur went through the crowd. Some decided to leave. They were young and had many other mines to work. Franklin bid them farewell with full understanding and thanks for their labor. He also allowed them to pick their share from the already sorted opals.
Others wondered what they might do to distract the dragon. Then they could retrieve the priceless, opal in the chamber, which they now considered their rightful property.
After long debates, they decided to move their camp farther away from the mine under the protection of trees and close to small caves. They posted sentries for the night and planned to think about the possibilities before they made their final decisions.
Franklin checked in on his son and found he had recovered and was filling his sister in on everything. He explained to them that the mine was off limits and that they would probably be breaking camp soon.
“But, Father!” Raiden interjected. “If the opals are as splendid as Darian says, shouldn’t we be thinking of ways to get rid of the dragon or at least distract it until we get the jewels? After all, it is OUR mine and we put a lot of work into it already!”
“Well… technically, if the beast was here first, it would be the rightful owner…” Darian began, ever one to see both sides of a situation.
“Are you crazy?” Raiden retorted. “What does a dragon need with opals anyway? It doesn’t even look at them! It’s asleep, for goodness sakes, Darian!”
“I’m just saying that it might not see it that way…” Darian tried to explain.
“Who cares what a comatose dragon thinks, anyway,” Raiden ranted.
“YOU might, if it woke up and decided you’d make a tasty breakfast, and I guarantee you he won’t care what YOU think about it either,” Franklin butted in. “Besides, there is still some talk about finding a way around this, but I am making it CLEAR that you two are to stay HERE, while WE make up our minds. I want you safe as possible until your mother comes and we’ll decide about you then.”
“I’m staying,” Raiden declared, her jade green eyes glinting hard with resolution.
“We’ll SEE,” her father rejoined sounding more authoritative than he felt. Raiden was as self- willed as her mother.
This thought gave Franklin a jab in his heart. So many showdowns with Daria. So many nights arguing with her in vain, the same stubborn set of the eyebrows and mouth. Daria had won more of those matches than he would ever want to count. And yet… even as she stormed out, usually victorious, he could not help the smile that teased his lips and the admiration of her strength.
Raiden saw the change in her father’s expression. She knew he was thinking of her mother now. Before long, she would be forgotten and her mother would get all the attention. This was fine with Raiden because then she would be free to plot!
Late that night, Raiden crept into her brother’s tent and woke him from a sound sleep.
“What’s wrong!” he said with alarm, his voice breaking, thick with sleep.
“Shhhh!” she whispered hastily. “I only want to wake YOU and not everybody in camp!”
“Why am I so lucky?” he grouched rubbing his hands over his face to chase the mental cobwebs away.
“Because you’re going to take me to the dragon!” she whispered excitedly, her eyes aglow with mischief and adventure.
CHAPTER SIX: Because It’s There
Darian argued with Raiden using every logical and sensible reason he or any other sane dwarf would think of for staying put. Raiden watched him with a delighted smile on her lips, as if he were a cute, baby dwarfling babbling nonsense.
She waited patiently until he finished and then handed him his boots and said, “Let’s get going before the morning crew gets started!”
“Raiden! Haven’t you heard a word I said?” Darian demanded.
Raiden stopped dead in her tracks, put her hands on her hips, stared him directly in his eyes and said, “So you are going to let me go all by myself?”
It was Darian’s turn to stop dead in his tracks. “Are you serious?” he asked in disbelief.
“I’m going whether you come or not. I just want a peek at what we’re dealing with. I’m afraid Father will pull out and leave all that fabulous opal to rot in a hole because he won’t take the time to figure out a way around one, shabby, mangy, sleeping lizard!” she shot back at him.
“What do you care? Why is it such a big deal to you?” Darian asked. “Father already has a great haul of opal. Why do we need more?” Darian demanded.
“Because it’s THERE! Because it’s OUR MINE! Because we’ve worked TOO HARD! Because WE DESERVE IT! Take your pick!” she replied hands waving emphatically as she spoke.
“Raiden…” Darian began.
“Good night!” she said as she turned to leave, honey blonde hair whipping around as she headed for the tent flap, taking the light with her.
“Raiden, wait,” he whispered loudly, grabbing his shoes and trying to put them on as he chased after her disappearing figure, following the bobbling lantern light.
Raiden dimmed her lantern as she got closer to the mine peeking behind her, smiling broadly because she could hear Darian’s crunching steps trying to catch up with her. Her heart pounded with excitement, and was not sure whether it was about seeing a dragon or seeing the legendary opal treasure room.
When he finally caught up, winded and angry, she preempted his tirade by asking, “Which “drive” is it?”
“Raiden,” he panted breathlessly.
“WHICH IS IT?” she demanded.
Darian, with true regret, pointed.
Then Darian heard Raiden gasp! “Darian, I see it, the golden light! It’s here!”
“Shhh! Raiden, for Creator’s sake, keep it down!”
All he could hear was Raiden’s suppressed giggle as she scooted to the floor and tried to see into the crack at the base from which the liquid light poured.
“I’m going to make this hole a little bigger so I can get a better view,” she whispered.
Dread poured over Darian and his knees shook so badly he had to get down on them so he would not fall.
“Don’t… Raiden, please… don’t” he kept whispering to himself since it was hopeless to tell her.
“Darian,” she breathed in a long exhalation not knowing quite what to say at the sight before her. The circular room whose walls were lined with smooth, perfect fire opal was lit by a golden glow from the far side of the room. Next to the wall was a great mound of golden scales, its long neck curved elegantly, it had a rather dainty head, huge, closed, and almond- shaped eyes, with several horns forming a natural crown on the top of its head. Gigantic paws tipped with curved vicious looking claws lay motionless and relaxed.
“It’s true,” she wheezed in stunned wonder. She watched the extremely slow breathing of the dragon verifying that it indeed lived.
“Let’s go now Raiden, please, before something awful happens,” Darian managed to squeeze out of his throat constricted by fear.
“Give me a moment,” Raiden snapped as she tried to commit to memory every aspect of the treasure cave. “Now at least I know what we’re up against,” she declared as she got up.
“Thank you, thank you,” Darian whispered with all his heart.
Raiden pushed past him and was headed toward the surface with as much certainty as she had entered the cave.
Darian laughed weakly to himself. Raiden was always COMPLETELY sure about whatever she was sure about. Doubt was not a word in her vocabulary.
As he turned to follow her, he felt an odd sort of tingling on the top of his head. His hand moved unconsciously to the spot as if to brush away the sensation.
He was frozen with… horror… and slowly turned toward the wall leaking golden light more profusely than before.
Again, the tingling, the thrill, the voice, “Da…ri…an, what … do you dooo… here?”
“Who … speaks?” Darian almost squeaked. His mouth was as dry and dusty as the voice.
“Na…wa…ra….” breathed the voice in his mind and as it entered it filled his mind with golden light, even with his eyes closed, and resounded all through him, filled his soul with strength and power, yet he could tell that it was depleted, not complete…
“What do you do here, Darian?” the voice repeated as it seemed to probe every corner of his conscious and unconscious self, like a robber searching a home broken into for something specific, something of great worth.
Before he could devise a plan, Darian simply said, “My sister wanted to see you.”
“That is true,” answered the voice, now taking on a feminine quality, soft, but still probing.
“My treasure room as well, I see,” it continued.
“Yes, that too,” Darian answered, sadly but truthfully.
“You do not lie to me, this is new,” mused the voice.
“I don’t want to,” Darian replied, truthfully again.
“Yesss, I see that too,” answered the voice with a hint of surprise.
Oddly enough, Darian not only HEARD the dragon’s surprise, he felt it too!
“Darian, what are you?” Nawara asked softly again but somewhat perplexed.
Before he knew it, Darian’s answer came to him as a flash of deep understanding and he said, “Someone who would like to be your friend.”
Startled, the dragon paused a few moments, pondering this new sensation. She had heard long ago how dragons had been beguiled into friendships with humans, elves, or worse yet dwarves, only to be cruelly deceived or killed. But she also knew of those few and fortunate dragons who had bonded, bonded heart, mind, spirit, to a special soul, a Rider.
She had forgotten the rising ire that had awakened her from her long, deep, dreamless sleep. Here in her hidden treasure room that no other creature could claim, for she had made it herself, she lived in self-imposed isolation, too disheartened to walk amid the world of thinking, grasping, killing creatures without becoming one of them.
“Let me see you,” Nawara said, curiosity painting each word.
Darian turned and walked toward the puddle of light. He knelt and peered through the larger hole Raiden had made.
Nawara was looking at him, her pale, orange eyes scanning what she could see. A cloud of yellow hair, huge brown eyes, but not enough…
“More,” she whispered her curiosity growing.
Darian knocked down more of the wall. Suddenly, he, too, wanted a better view.
The crumbling wall fell at Darian’s feet. The dust swirled around and around in the golden light.
Then, as it cleared, Darian could see Nawara’s full size and breathtaking beauty. While the scales that covered her were a golden yellow, he could see that they were also iridescent, and changed slightly as she breathed in and out.
Nawara could see Darian was … a dwarf, a species known to be the enemy of dragons because, oddly enough, they shared the same fatal lust for gems, jewels, and precious metals.
She sighed with disappointment and disgust, closing her eyes and shaking her head but then… she felt a tingling on the top of her head and down her long spine. A voice in her mind said, “So, you are that disappointed in me?”
Her eyes flew open in shock. She looked at Darian who now stood in the doorway between them, hands on his hips… laughing!
Never had any being, besides another dragon, enter her mind as Darian just had!
“I see you are surprised,” he continued without moving his lips which were smiling.
“How…? How are you doing this?” Nawara sputtered.
“I haven’t the slightest clue!” he replied laughing again.
The fresh joy in Darian’s heart flowed into Nawara and she felt young and free again! How long had her heart been closed and dark, scarred with old hurts, so much so, she had wanted nothing more than to sleep her life away!
“May I approach you?” he asked with respect and care.
Nawara felt wary, not ready to go that far, too dazzled by this sudden turn of events.
“No… at least… not yet. I have not recovered fully from my dormancy. Do leave now Darian, but please, come back at sunset tomorrow… Will you?”
Darian thought he had heard a tremor in her voice and was touched by her question.
“Aye, I will,” Darian answered sending waves of assurance along with his words.
Nawara felt the thrill of his assertion and was quite overcome by emotion.
“And Darian,” she returned in a soft whisper, “don’t tell anyone yet, not even Raiden, that I am awake.”
Darian had misgivings about this then answered, “Very well, not yet.”
Nawara felt a wave of trust rush through her. She closed her eyes to savor it and nodded, resting her head, thoroughly exhausted by the encounter.
Darian turned and quietly left the drive, thoroughly exhilarated by the experience and full of wonder and awe.
Animation, Dragon Keeper's Handbook, Dragonkeeping, Dragons, Four Dragons, Fractured Fairy Tales, Month of the Dragon, Reversal of the Heart, Short films, SIntel, Storytelling, Tell-a-Dragon-Tale, WAFDE
The Dragons here at the Nest have decided it’s time to jump into the 21st century – at long last – and include among this week’s tales those told in images as well as words.
So, from the delightfully ridiculous to the draconically sublime, I present a handful of Dragon-centric stories. We start by traveling back to whimsical days in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota when Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle the Moose entertained us with Fractured Fairy Tales. And thanks to the wonders of Youtube, we don’t even have to bother Mr. Peabody for the use of his Wayback (aka WABAC) Machine.
The Thirteen Helmets:
From the other side of the world – and the creativity of T Arts Detroit – there is the ancient myth of the Four Dragons and the Jade Emperor.
In “Reversal of Heart,” we exchange ancient sensibilities for modern ones. Carolyn Chrisman has created a touching tale of karma and being not always as one seems.
And, finally, a favorite of mine that goes right to the heart of Dragons, people, and what it means to be wild: Sintel – Girl With Dragon Story.
I hope you enjoy them all.
Tomorrow, a special treat: Guest Dragon tale-spinner, Cathy Sosnowski shares a taste of her book, Dragon Fire.
As we head into the last full week in October, MotD activities turn toward the literary. It is Tell-A-Dragon-Tale Week, a time to celebrate our friends – the fierce and the gentle, rampaging and wise – in word, verse, even film. (Thank you, Artists of the Internet!)
Today, since I fear I’ve given our Asian Dragons short shrift this month, I am starting with a tale from ancient Japan, The Bamboo Cutter’s Daughter. The original story is too long and involved for this space, but I did want to share my retelling of the section which is dragon-centric. Enjoy.
THE DRAGON JEWEL
Once upon a time, there was an old Bamboo Cutter and his wife. They were good, kind people who, though not rich, were blessed with everything they could want except a child. One day the old man was on his way home when he saw a stalk of bamboo glowing in the evening shade. He sliced open the stalk and there, inside, stood a radiant little girl, as small as a fairy and twice as lovely. He scooped her up and took her home; and he and his wife adopted the child as their very own.
The years went by and the girl grew into the sweetest, most beautiful young woman in all the Japans. And when it was time for her to be given a name, her parents called her the Bamboo Princess, because she was found in the bamboo and was more beautiful than any princess.
Word of the Bamboo Princess spread across from one end of the land to the other, and, as is the way of these things, five princes came pouring out of the woodwork to seek her hand in marriage. Now, there was just one problem. The Bamboo Princess didn’t want to get married to anyone. She wanted to be left alone to live the simple life in the woods with her parents. So she came up with a brilliant plan: give each of the princes an impossible task, and when they failed, she would have a good reason to turn them away.
The first prince she asked to go to India and bring her the stone bowl of the great Buddha. He failed.
The second prince was to bring her a branch from the jeweled tree on the floating mountain of Horai. He failed.
The third was to fetch a robe made from the skins of the legendary fire rat; the fourth, to bring her the magical shell which swallows hide in their nests. They, too, failed.
Which brings us to the last prince and the part about the Dragon: The fifth prince, Prince Lofty by name, was tasked with getting the great jewel that hung around the neck of Ryun-jin, the Dragon King.
Now, Prince Lofty may have been rich and royal, but he was also a great boaster and a terrible coward. Oh, he promised to get the Dragon’s jewel, but he had no intention of doing such a dangerous deed himself. So he called his servants and soldiers. “I want you to go and get me the jewel from the Dragon King,” he said. “Here is gold for your trouble, and for your widows and children, should you not return. Now go, and don’t come back without my jewel!”
Well, this was too good an offer to turn down. The servants and soldiers pocketed the prince’s gold and took off, but not to confront the Dragon. Some of them didn’t even believe in the Dragon’s gem and those who did believe, well, they weren’t foolish enough to anger Ryun-jin by stealing it. If the Prince wanted the jewel he could get it himself; and if he failed, well, it was no skin off their noses.
Of course, Prince Lofty, being a prince, was used to having his orders followed. He never thought for a moment that they wouldn’t complete his quest and win him the hand of the Bamboo Princess. So sure was he that he would marry her, he spent his time building a wondrous palace for his bride-to-be, with a hundred rooms, great towers, and gardens on every side. His land had never known such a beautiful palace. All the wood was lacquered, carved, or inlaid with gold and precious stones. The walls were hung with silks painted by the finest artists.
Now, while all this building was being done, the prince couldn’t help wondering why his men hadn’t returned with the Dragon’s jewel. He waited a whole year for them to come back and not a single one showed his face again. Prince Lofty got angrier and angrier as it finally dawned on him: they took his money and ran! It wasn’t even the loss of money he minded, but the fact that he would have to go after the jewel himself.
He called together the few servants who were left and told them to get a ship ready. He was going to find the Dragon King! But the servants were frightened and begged him not to go. “The Dragon will destroy us all!” they cried.
“Cowards!” scolded Prince Lofty. “Cowards, watch me. I’ll teach you how to be brave. Do you think I am afraid of a Dragon?”
So they set sail, and for two or three days the sea was calm, the skies fair. All was well. And the prince stood on the deck, with his arms akimbo and bragged at the top of his lungs, “Ha! The Dragon hides below the waves. He doesn’t dare show his face, he’s so afraid of me!”
Of course anyone who knows anything about Dragons knows two things for sure: They have excellent hearing and they are not afraid of anyone, especially not a puny prince.
In his palace deep beneath the sea, the Dragon King heard Prince Lofty’s words and grew angry. With a lash of his tail he stirred the waters and with a mighty roar he ordered the thunder and lightning out of the heavens. The ship rocked and dipped from stem to stern. The great waves broke in foam over the deck and soaked the crew to the bone. The rain poured down in torrents. The lightning flashed and the thunder growled and roared. It was the fiercest storm the sailors had ever known.
Suddenly Brave Prince Lofty wasn’t so brave. He was sure the ship would be dashed to pieces. And if he did not drown, then he knew a bolt of lightning would come down and kill him.
Seasick and scared out of his wits, he begged the pilot and crew to save him. “Why did you ever bring me to this place?” he cried. “Did you wish to kill me? Is this how you care for the life of your prince? Get me out of this at once or I shall shoot every one of you with my great bow.”
The crew could hardly keep from laughing, for it was only at the Prince’s order they’d set sail at all. As for shooting them, they knew he could not lift an arrow, much less pull the bow.
The pilot, who understood Dragons far better than his master, answered: “My prince, it must be the dragon who sends this storm. He has heard you say that you will kill him and steal the jewel from his neck. You must promise that you will not hurt him, and then perhaps he will call back the storm and let us live.”
“Anything,” Prince Lofty said. “Just please, please, please, make the storm stop!” And there and then, he vowed to never touch the Dragon, not so much as a whisker or a hair on the tip of his tail.
Fortunately, the Dragon King took the prince at his word, and his anger faded away. After a while the storm died down, the lightning ceased, and the sea was as still as glass. Prince Lofty was too sick, however, to know what happened until the pilot brought the ship to land. There his men lifted the prince out of the ship and laid him under a tree.
When at last he felt firm ground under him, Prince Lofty wept aloud, and swore that now he had land beneath his feet, he would never leave it. Though he was on an island far from Japan, he would not return on a ship, not for a thousand princesses. “You never know with Dragons,” he said. “He might just change his mind.” And so he stayed on the island, ruling over monkeys and tree crabs, for the rest of his life.
It’s the third weekend in October. Here in New England, the leaves are piling high and begging to be raked.
Yesterday, our Dragons got to tag along as we went through our work-a-day routines. This weekend it is time for them to not only observe but lend a paw, too.
Of all our companion beings – including even some of our bipedal significant others – Dragons are aware of the expense their care accrues. When it comes to our bank accounts, they are high maintenance, for sure.
And they are keenly aware of the need to chip in and earn their keep.
This weekend, we celebrate that cooperative spirit as Dragons and their pople come together to mulch leaves, clean gutters, and put on the storms. (Dragons are especially helpful with those tricky upstairs windows.)