Other people’s dragons? Maybe you find your rooftop scorched and have to change your weekend plans. But when you say “MY dragon”, that’s a different story. My world was all fucked and I could no longer ignore it. Two choices: 1- Keep stumbling along, half-assing a mediocre existence, or 2 – Take control.
The latter meant vanquishing my dragon: to find it’s lair as well as the means of slaying. Go to the Royal Armories Museum website. The preferred method for taking out a dragon was employed by Sir Willam de Somerville, when he “killed the Linton Dragon using a spear tipped with burning, pitch-soaked peat.” Sir John Conyers, who took a less orthodox approach, “slew the Stockburn Worm using a falchion, a kind of heavy, single-edged sword .”Forget the “burning, pitch-soaked peat”, I picked me up a nice second hand falchion.
My feet led me to a range of mountains that rung a huge lake. I almost lost it crossing the boggy foothills, where I became addicted to the mushrooms and coca-like leaves I fed on for months. My clothes in tatters, I imagined myself a hulking flightless bird, cawing and chasing the other animals away from my feeding grounds. I was rescued by a Basque shepherd who found me unconscious, my lips purple and pocked, cracked dry by the sun. He nursed me with goat and sheep’s milk until I was strong enough to walk and swing my sword again. He knew of dragons, pointing me to the highest peak towards which he and his flock would accompany me halfway. No further, he warned, since the dragon’s dens are guarded by wolves. They surprised us that same night, as if summoned by our fears. He grabbed a flaming tree limb from our campfire and swatted at the wolves who were tearing into his animals. I took out dozens of them with my falchion, which had grown light in my hands, until exhausted I collapsed, the last wolf laid open at my feet. I kept their gold fang-teeth as trophies.
After taking leave of the Basque I would wander the mountainside for years still, unable (or unwilling?) to locate the dragon’s lair. After escaping death, disease and disaster more times than I care to tell here, it was the instant I yelled “enough!” that I discovered it.
On my belly and halfway through the opening, my eyes struggled with the dark adaptation. I faintly heard a hissing and roar, and took comfort in considering that the beast remained far away. As my sight adjusted to the light, I realized he was only just across the room. The roof of the cave was plenty high inside, but the dragon, my dragon, was just a wee thing.
He was squatting before what looked like an altar and piled on the altar were relics from my past. My stuff: school backpacks, sport uniforms… By the dragon’s demeanor, and positioning, I took it he was guarding the altar. Now battle-hardened, my falchion deft in my grip, I thought it ignoble to annihilate him with that sort of outmatched violence. Wary, nonetheless, of what powers he might hold in his slight breast, I set out to trap and immobilize him.
The fire flowing from his tiny mouth surprisingly showed enough to light the entire cave, although the flames weren’t greater than what you’d expect from a Zippo. Maybe a barbeque lighter. I’d be able to get close when I made my move.
My research had advised me that “it is wise to know your dragon, and exploit its weakness.” I had also read that “One temperamental weakness that all dragons seem to share is greed. Some dragons cannot resist milk, which makes them sleepy, and therefore vulnerable.” I thought of my Basque friend, the shepherd, who would have been a great help at that moment. From my pocket I grabbed a handful of golden wolf fangs. Immediately the dragon’s eyes began to glow a sharp green. I tossed the teeth just a bit behind him. As he went for the gold I pinched his wings together with one hand and held his neck fast with the other. This didn’t slow his breathing flames or the bright light that accompanied it. I turned him, like a torch toward the altar and we advanced.
The altar turned out to be the entrance to an adjoining cavern, much larger than the anteroom where my puny cavernicole had been positioned . After digging a few feet into there, a chill grabbed me. It was clear that I’d be coming across reminders more painful by the inch (the football I dropped in the endzone, a registry of my carbon footprint…). I stopped and braced myself before moving forward through every inch of the chamber. After each step and each discovery I murmured things like, “oh yeah, right, of course” as though I had been expecting each and every one of them, and in the exact order they appeared. There was nothing like time to account for. Hours, maybe days, passed.
His screeching stopped when we returned to the cavern’s arched entrance, and I spoke thus: “I will release you, my dragon, on your solemn promise to carry your lessons to another man or woman.” His eyes spoke silent but definitive assent. Pointed towards the chamber, he knew immediately what to do. Now in my hands he was a flamethrower. We burnt that hall of tortured memories, leaving only the ashes of regret. Then they, along with the outer walls of the cave itself, disappeared. There was nothing left but to look out at the surrounding mountainscape, the low lying valley lake, and the paths to everywhere that lay out before us. For us.