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The Fate of the Final Dragon by Taria Karillion

The Fate of the Final Dragon

By Taria Karillion

(1100 words)

Beside the tavern fireplace a cowled figure sat in the warmth of its crackling flames. He pushed a steaming mug across a rough table towards a newly arrived soldier in a snow-crusted cloak.
“Come, my frozen friend, share some spiced wine to soothe midwinter’s bite.”

The soldier nodded and drank, glancing through the window, where a million white flakes danced in the dark to the tune of a howling North wind.

“I am thankful for your charity, good brother, as I am also thankful to the good Lord that tomorrow’s voyage takes me to a land as warm as this nook.”
“The Orient?” The robed man replied. “I hear the Emperor means to execute those in his ranks who profess the Christian faith – I pray he does not send you to your death… Do you not fear the Saracen blade?”

The soldier smiled.
“I fear only God, and a world where men raise their swords to those of another faith for that reason alone.
But it is not man, but beast, that I am summoned to dispatch. The life of a General’s daughter is at stake.
And what of you, brother? I know of no Abbeys hereabouts - what brings you to these parts?”
For a moment his gaze was drawn by the sudden shrieks of solstice revelers, until the man lowered his hood, revealing a full head of fair hair, made golden by the firelight.

“I, too, am on a mission. I am … an emissary … of sorts. But to give a fuller answer, I must tell you a story - a story also of beasts, but moreover of faith and flame and warmth of heart.”
The soldier smiled again and shrugged.
“A story of warmth is as welcome as this hearth on such a bitterly cold night.”
His companion returned the smile and began.

“In a time long forgotten, in a land known more by rumour than by memory, there was once a race of grand and noble creatures, broad of wing and valiant of heart. They were a fearsome-looking, with scales and fangs and mighty tails, but they were, in truth, a most gentle race. Each was larger than a horse, but not so huge as claimed by those few fearless or foolish mortals who dared to seek them out. Such stories rarely reach the campfires of travellers or the taverns of townsfolk any more however, for a far greater legend of that time overshadows their own.

Why were they so feared, you might ask? Because, my friend, like all creatures of legend, they were possessed of a terrifying power – breath of fire that could melt a frozen lake, or dry up a flooded village in the blink of an eye. Not that news of such benevolences traveled as far or fast as their bloody demise.
Among men, some thought it to be magic. Others believed that one of the beasts - in the time of the prophet Moses - ate of the burning bush, and that it, and all its offspring, were thereafter imbued with the …gift… of fire-breath.

The creatures sought seclusion in their ancestral land - the Fire Mountains of the East where men rarely ventured and their fire would do no harm. Nevertheless, even as their existence eventually fell into myth, there followed centuries of fear – and the swords of men ruled by that fear put an end to all but a handful of these beautiful beasts.

When all but the very youngest one was left - though ‘young’ is barely a fitting word for so long-lived a race, he heard, one cold desert night, the voice of a wandering hermit. The man was thanking the Lord for the coming of the Son of God. The young one listened and learned and yearned for such a coming, for he knew how cold and savage some men’s hearts could be, and how they needed the wisdom and love of such a Guide to restore them to the goodness he also believed them capable of.

The next time he heard the voices of men at night, it was a caravan of Magii – wise men whose camels bore glittering loads and whose talk was also of the birth of a Messiah – a Christ child whose birthplace they sought. But the men had lost their way, and begged of God to deliver them safely from the vast wilderness before they perished from thirst in the heat of the coming day.

The creature waited until the men made camp and fell asleep. He gently warmed the earth around them, that they might not suffer the cold, then rose swiftly into the sky on his mighty wings, higher and higher until the air became so cold that ice bloomed heavy upon his scales.

He cast his gaze around until he glimpsed the lights of a far off city, and he knew, somehow, in his heart, that this was the place the lost men sought. And he knew what he must do. His powerful wings sped him like never before, until he hovered impossibly high over a cattle stall of a lowly inn. Mustering every scrap of his remaining strength, he lifted his head heavenward and released the fiercest, most incandescent breath that his young lungs had ever given. The very air glowed about him so brightly that all that could be seen below was a brilliance like that of a gleaming star. He continued until he was utterly spent, a selfless beacon by whose light the Magii were guided to safety and their Messiah.

Weakened and defenceless, he then descended once more and hid himself in the caves thereabout, to spend his remaining years in quiet contemplation of the awesome wonder he had witnessed. A humble and unseen part of the blessed Nativity.”

“A most stirring and beautiful story, brother, truly… but …you omitted to tell me your mission. It is only fair. You do not know me, but I am a man who demands fairness.”

“I know who you are… George.”
The soldier’s puzzled face glowed in the flickering firelight.

“You know my name? … Perhaps my reputation precedes me.” He paused. “But you, brother, I think you are no simple friar.”

The robed man rose and glanced at the tavern door, which opened to gentle swirls of snowy flecks and the sounds of distant revellers, though no man stood beyond.

“Quite right - I am not. My name is Gabriel, and my mission… was with you.”

 

1 comment (Add your own)

1. Venus wrote:
I relate to this story really well. I love the way it transports us back in time to a location and ambiance that only a stretched and mature imagination could transport us to. It is a beautiful story. Thank you!

09/05/2016 @ 1:53 AM

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