Lavengro tells the story of his dragon hunt...
Sit by the fire with me. I have a tale to tell.
When I was a boy, my mother would tell me stories as I fell asleep in her arms. Once she told me a story about a dragon, a very brave dragon that was falsely accused of trying to eat a maiden, when all he was doing was trying to save her from an evil knight with low intentions. The knight killed the dragon and told everyone he had saved the girl himself. The girl tried to tell the truth but no one believed her, because people thought that dragons were evil and knights were good..
I loved this story and had my mother tell it to me many times. I asked my mother if dragons were real and she said, ``if you believe in them, they are.” So I have always believed in them.
I heard that in this enchanted realm into which we have come that there exist real dragons. So I resolved I must see them for myself, and if it be so, then perhaps I could persuade one to come with me – for dragons, my mother told me, are proud creatures, and cannot be held as captives. She also told me the only way to catch a dragon was with Turkish Delight – they cannot resist it.
So I took some boxes of Turkish Delight with me on my dragon quest.
And a butterfly net. You never know when you’ll need one.
On the first day of my quest I walked deep into the forest, following the trail where the dragon had been seen. Oh yes, I was afraid – I had heard this was a fierce dragon. But my mother said a dragon could be won over with sweetmeats and I believe in my mother even more than I believe in dragons.
The part of the trail where the dragon had been seen was very quiet. I spread my cape beneath a tree and opened one of the boxes. It smelled delicious but I didn’t touch it – surely it would attract the dragon?
Long hours passed. I manfully refused to eat the Turkish Delight and instead chewed on some cheese and olives that I had brought with me.
Suddenly, I felt something brush against my shoulder, and a puff of warm air touched the side of my face. I froze – whatever it was, it was behind me, and had crept up so silently that I had been unaware of it.
A long snout appeared over my shoulder, stretching down the length of my arm and sniffing at the olives in my hand.
Sniff, sniff, went this long, scaly snout, while little puffs of smoke erupted from its nostrils. I longed to turn my head and see the rest of this extraordinary head, but I dared not move.
Something touched my other shoulder. A paw covered in greenish bronze scales, and with long sharp talons rested there. I opened the hand with the olives in it, and the snout delicately snuffled them up, and smacked its lips with a long, forked tongue.
The scaly paw with its long sharp talons squeezed my shoulder gently. I drew more olives out of my pocket and held them up. Once more they were quickly gobbled up.
I turned my head and found myself looking into the strangest eyes I had ever seen. The pupils were lengthwise, shaped like lozenges, deepest black with a flickering flame in the centre of each. The irises were gold, with speckles of emerald green.
My mother, it seems, was not always right about everything. Some dragons prefer olives to Turkish Delight. But when I ran out of olives, the dragon looked so disappointed that I hastily took some Turkish Delight from the box and offered them to him. He enjoyed them very much, and sat down beside me.
With him sitting on his haunches, and I on mine, we were about the same height – so I thought he must be a very young dragon, a baby perhaps, in need of a friend and companion. So I hoped, for I loved him already. When he had finished the box of Turkish Delight, he gave a contented sigh and settled down beside me. But his eyes remained wide open and watchful.
Ah, now, listen, because this is old wisdom. If you want a wild creature to trust you and love you as a friend, you must be patient. The hawk learns to think of his master as his roost, and the faulconer will stay awake for many days and nights until the hawk falls asleep on his arm. That is the moment of truth – if that moment does not come, the faulconer must release the bird back to the wild, for the two will never be one.
The same with my stallion Clodoveo – he came to me as a young noble beast, full of spirit and fire, and for three days and nights, I shared his pen, sleeping and eating there until he accepted me as his friend. I had no need of ropes, no need to `break’ him, as some call it. Once he knew me as a friend, he allowed me to ride him with no need of saddle or bridle.
Thus I knew that if need be, I would have to spend many days and nights here, by the side of this beautiful creature, until he closed his eyes in sleep. Then I would know that he and I were truly meant to be companions, and that I had won his trust.
But it was he who won mine – for I slept at the side of the fire breathing dragon, and when I woke, he had curled his tail around me and spread his wing over me to protect me from the creatures of the forest, and breathed warm air on me so I would not feel the cold.
His name is Glais. He is, as I suspected, very young and knows very few words yet. He is asleep in the caravan now. I think I shall not ever have to use my cast iron stove again, because he keeps the caravan warm with his breath. Luckily, he does not snore, or he might singe the carpet.