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Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Dragon's Maid Part VIII

I've been running a fairytale in parts. If you’ve missed them, you can read them here:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

Or you can chance it with my synopsis:
Fenrick is a poor farmer who seeks land and title by slaying the problematic dragon of a neighboring kingdom. However, he fights the dragon to its near death only to discover that the dragon has hidden his soul inside his beloved Telanja, and can not die so long as she lives. Unable to tell the King the truth for fear that Telanja will be killed, Fenrick and Telanja are married, but their happiness is tinged with the worry of what they will do when they are discovered.



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Days passed. The princess had returned, looking pale and worried, though the dragon had only sent her to fetch him food. Still, the look on her face broke Fenrick’s heart, and so they devised the only plan they could. Fenrick would have to travel to the dragon’s cave every month and deal it damage until he could convince it to release his beloved wife from her terrible bond. The task was not as easy as it sounded, and Fenrick returned home tired, worn, and burned; for there was no armor known to man that could protect him from the burning dragon’s blood. Telanja tended the wounds in secret (for how could he admit to having fought a dragon when the dragon should be dead?) and Fenrick did his best to pretend that everything was all right.

In this way, a year passed away and it was summer once again. But, people were starting to notice Fenrick’s general run-down condition, and the pinched, worried look of his wife. At first they blamed it on her condition, but when winter came and she gave birth to a baby boy, tongues started to wag. Far from the couple’s anxiety fading, it seemed to grow, and by late spring even the King had commented on it.

Fenrick knew they had to do something, though a solution eluded him. There was only person he could think of to speak to, one other person who shared his secret: the old man who’d guided him to the cave. And so, after a long talk with his wife and a kiss to his infant son, Fenrick set out to find him.

The task proved more difficult than Fenrick had imagined. The old man had been a dragon slayer in his youth, as well as an adventurer, and something had suddenly compelled him to start “adventuring” again. Fenrick followed his trail, guided by the memories of people the old warrior had spoken to. He wound his way through the small kingdom by the sea, and into neighboring lands. Summer was in full bloom when he at last found him in a tiny, decrepit village. A family of strangers had taken the old man in, and they seemed loath to let Fenrick see him. But, he had no other hope, so Fenrick told them he was the old man’s son. Reluctantly, the family led him to their tiny, thatched house, and then respectfully withdrew.

Whatever Fenrick had expected to find in the man, he was disappointed. The old adventurer lay before the fire, wrapped in blankets, his face sallow and cheeks hollow as he gasped for breath. Tired, watery eyes met Fenrick’s and sought to find a match in their memory for his face. And then, comprehension dawned.

“Why have you come?” the old man wheezed.

Fenrick twisted his hat in his hands, uncertain what to say. But the words found themselves, and soon the whole story had tumbled out in a semi-coherent torrent that left Fenrick breathless. When he’d finished, the old man nodded slowly and leaned back, his eyes closed. Fenrick had just decided that the man had gone to sleep, when his raspy voice sounded. “What makes a King out of a slave? What makes the dawn come up like thunder? Courage! And that is something that you lacked, my lad. You have a pretty system, but as you say it can not last,” he broke off into a long cough and, when it had subsided, he continued. “Things are never so bad they can't be made worse, and worse they will get unless you do the thing that you must. The thing you should have done already.”

“But how?” Fenrick demanded furiously. “How could I kill my wife?”

The old man held up a hand to silence him. “She should never have been your wife, my lad. You have only delayed the inevitable. You may think that you can trick the dragon, but the dragon will only trick you. A dragon is a complicated enough creature without a grudge to settle, and with one it becomes impossible to sway. This dragon plans for the princess to die, which means it plans to die with her. There is nothing left that it values, so there will be no way to bargain with it-“

He broke off into a heavy coughing fit, and before it had subsided, the mistress of the house came scooting inside and sent Fenrick out. She promised him he could return that evening, but the day brought with it death in the afternoon, so that by nightfall the old man was buried in the cemetery.

Fenrick paid his last respects and saddled up his horse. It would be a long, journey home and, without hope, it would be a miserable one.

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TO BE CONTINUED

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