In commemoration of the launch later today of “A Time for Dragons” I thought I’d post a slightly cleaned up version of a story of mine that didn’t make the cut. It’s a bit of an odd story – is “quasi-Genesis-myth “a genre? – but I felt nostalgic after reading it again so I decided what the hell: it’ll stand as a testament to the fact that not everything I submit will make the grade ^_^;
So it’s a tale you wish is it? A tale of the Dragons and their end?
That… is a tale of some controversy. Yes, there is controversy even in heaven my little cherub; for wherever the truth lies hidden, there you will find the contending minds and hearts of men… even men who have achieved their eternal reward.
Is not all truth already revealed to us you ask, we of the elect who have eaten of both Fruits of the Garden? It is certainly the case that in heaven the Truth is an open book to us – but it is a very, very, thick book, and even eternity may be too short a time to pore over its depth and breadth.
Ah I see you grow impatient; you came for a tale after all, and not to hear the philosophies of an old man; I was old when I died though I come from the youngest of ages, from the generation of the Rapture… and this is why I know the tale of the Dragons. Only the First and the Last of our kind ever laid eyes on them, for good or ill. I shall endeavor to accede to your request little cherub, although I should warn you that much of the story is woven of fable and legend, for in the book of Truth, the Dragons and their fates were written in the finest of print.
* * *
Now this tale takes place at the end of times, but we must not rush to the conclusion before passing over the beginning, for in the beginning there were Dragons, and so there were at the end.
In the beginning, when light had been torn from the darkness and the waters above had been parted from the waters below, the One Who Always Was and Would Be brought life forth from the substance of the world. Yet while some accounts differ, it was not man who was First amongst creatures, for the One Who Creates But Was Not Created did not set out from the onset to mold a creature in His own image. No, first came the plants, the flora, the foliage – the carpet and frame of the world, and they grew upwards with outstretched arms in the first of all supplications before the One Who Sits On High, and He saw it was good.
But it was not glorious.
Then the One Who is Root of Truth reached forth his hands upon the waters, and the waters churned in a vast maelstrom of power, and so were born the creatures that swam in the oceans, with their scales and fins a-glitter in the sun drenched waves, and He saw it was good.
But it was not glorious.
Then the One Who is Lord of Radiance and Light ran His hand across the fullness of the soil and where He touched upon the ground emerged the beasts which flew the skies and those which trod the earth with cloven hoof or crawled upon it on bellies of scale or shell, and He saw it was good.
But it was not glorious.
Finally the One From Whom All Wisdom Springs cupped water, sky and loam in His hands, and wrought the most perfect of beasts, a creature of the purest substance, one which would bestride the world as a testament to the perfection of His creation, whose power would know no equal, whose visage would rival the angels, and whose consciousness could grapple with truth. And as untrue dawn filled the horizon on the sixth day, the One Who Rules Over All created the Dragons and gave unto them stewardship over all creation. And they were glorious…
But they were not good.
Fafner. Niohogg. Tarask. Nine Dragons into the world were born, three each from wave, soil and sky. Yam-nahar. Az-dahaka. Um-hubbur. Nine Dragons into the world did come, three each of blue, and red and green. Mameleu. Grendl. Set. Nine Dragons came into this world to rule, and each of the nine thought there ought be but one; even as their first cries echoed through the borderless heavens, the Dragons contended amongst themselves: those born of water against those born of earth, those born of earth against those born of air, and those born of air against those born of water; all this beneath the gaze of the One Whose Love Was Boundless, as this occurred before the time when He walked the Garden.
So it came to pass that Yam-nahar of the Dragons of the Earth, mightiest amongst his kin, did rip the wings from Set and the life from Grendl, the twin Dragons of Water, and sent them both plummeting to the Garden below. Before Cain, before Adam, before any Man, the blood of Grendl was spilt in the center of the Garden, and it carried its knowledge deep into the roots of the Tree, and turned its fruit the color of ichor; and Set, Dragon no more, hid amongst its branches.
Then the One Who Is Past And Future knew regret, and sent the Spirit to enfold these Last of Beasts and brought them to the site where their kin lay lifeless. The One Who is Justice and Mercy intoned solemnly that for their transgressions the stewardship of the land would be withdrawn from them and given to another whom He would form, and the Dragons would be prisoners in the land they had so injured, until Yam-nahar had made reparation for his sin. From each of the Dragons the One From Whom Power Descends withdrew a gift – five gifts of sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing – which He would bestow on the creature He would create in His own image. Five gifts did He take, one from each Dragon that remained, save for Yam-nahar, who slew his cousin, from whom He would take everything; and for Mameleu, who mourned his brothers, and had already lost too much.
Yet did the One Who Had No Equal take pity on His most favored of creations, and so did He make Pact with them, that as they slumbered those who had given of themselves to His new creation would be allowed to experience the world through the gifts of which they had been deprived, and He made Covenant with them that when Yam-nahar had done penance for the first of all sins, so would the rest of them be worthy once more to ascend to His sight.
And when the Dragons went into their great sleep, the One Who Knew Not Failure stretched out a hand and took soil from the earth, rich soil lush with the blood of a dragon, and He did breathe upon it fashioning Man in His own image – male and female, He created them. And it was glorious. And it was good.
For a time.
* * *
You know then, little cherub, the void in the middle of the tale: when Dragon walked not the earth, even after Man too had eaten the Fruit upon which Grendl had bled, and after Man had been cast out of the Garden. You know of Set, Dragon made mortal, and his punishment; of how with the blood of Dragons in their veins, the Sons of Adam would repeat the crime of Yam-nahar – again, and again, and again…
Forget not that the History of Man is the Story of the Dragons, of the Nine who were born and the Seven who slept, played out upon a thousand threads in a million tapestries, of should-not-have-dones and might-have-beens.
You ask now, of the Dragons, and why there are none in paradise, and I have already told you how that tale began, and now I bring you to its end, to the Rebirth of the Dragons and the Death of Man – for the world was never meant to hold two stewards, and the arrival of the one always portends the end of the other.
* * *
And so it came to pass that in those last days, at the end of the stewardship of Man the great Dragon Yam-nahar was roused from his deep slumber by seven great trumpet blasts, to heed the call of the Lord, to atone for the first of all sins by serving as a harbinger to the end of time. The earth, which had forgotten the mighty tread of the Greatest of Beasts, went faint at his footsteps; Yam-nahar took to the skies with a great cry, full of disdain for soil so weak it could not bear his presence; and whilst the soil did sigh with relief as his ponderous weight was lifted from its shoulders, its trembling would not cease; it had not forgotten the morning of the Sixth day, when last such a cry had been heard in the land.
When the Sons of Adam caught sight of the Beast amongst them, great was their fear and trepidation. As was their wont, they sought solace in their implements of death, suppressing their instinct of flight with a show of primal aggression, hurling their soul-less tools into the very maw of the red Dragon… only to have the Beast roar in feral pleasure; for it was a Dragon, and a Dragon – this one most of all – enjoyed nothing better than a good hunt; no prey was as pleasing as that which knew not when it was beaten.
For six nights and six days did the Dragon raze the land with his flame, and his fire was filled with the character of the most malevolent sea, alternately patient and frenzied, consuming the kingdoms of Man which it found wanting… And all that melts is wanting, in the mind of the fire.
Yam-nahar himself sought out the best of men – but of these at first he found little, as the mightiest of nations would wage war from afar. The cowardice of man merely increased his rage, and the Dragon fell upon the armies of the nations, their arsenals and stockpiles, and rent them asunder with a toss of his horned head, and he was not satisfied. He trampled their cities and spat on their works, and feasted on their races by the hundreds, and he was not satisfied.
And on the evening of the Sixth day, the Lord raised up His chosen amongst the people and she came to the Dragon as he sat upon the ashes of the great ships of Man. The girl bore a beaded thread in one hand and a knife in the other, and she looked upon the face of the Dragon and lied:
“I am not afraid.”
The great Dragon Yam-nahar, who had contended and bested two of the mightiest of beasts, looked down upon the small, hairless creature and for the first time saw not prey, but one who had supplanted them as the stewards of the land, and great was his rage. His great neck snapped forward and he engulfed the girl, the rosary and the knife, and she plummeted into his body, but while the beaded thread was consumed from the first, neither the girl nor her knife would dissolve in the juices of the Beast, and as her body lodged in his throat and her knife opened his belly, the great Dragon Yam-nahar fell quiet, breathed his last, and was satisfied.
Yam-nahar bled into the ground where he was slain, and the earth recoiled from its crimson flow. Deep into the earth did the blood seep, deeper than even his kin who he had slain, like as to swallowed tears that wet the parched throat of an earth gone raw from screaming. Blood sought blood, and Yam-nahar’s flowed into the prisons of his kind, wherever they lay, and in the fullness of time they awoke and rose at last to the earth which they had ruled and from which they had been banished, just as the last of Men were being taken into the Kingdom.
They found the figure of a Dragon bathed in light waiting for them atop the bloodied corpse of Yam-nahar; Grendl, their kin, who had been slain.
“Behold,” said Grendl, in a voice that echoed in the hollow of their minds, “Thus sayeth the Lord: ‘I have seen fit to take all creation back into My bosom, for the time for the Old World is at an end, and I ask of you, first of My stewards, if you would attend to Me and to Man in the New World to come. The New Garden is open to you, even to you, the New Garden that will serve as paradise for Man, and which Man’s desires have created – but only if you, My most fractious of creatures, only if you prove that you have repented for the sin of your brother… You ascend only if all decide this action together.’”
And as Grendl vanished from them, the Dragons faced one another for the first time since the sixth day; Niohogg, who had given Man the gift of taste and the virtue and vice that came with it, spoke first; his words were quivering in anticipation.
“It is good that the One Who Came Before has not forgotten us,” said he, “And it is good that we too shall have a part in the Paradise of Man. For I have tasted of their foods, of their fruits born of tree and not-of-tree, and these were good indeed. Such a place as is built on their appetites would be a fit place for Dragons.”
His brother, Fafner, who had given Man the gift of touch and the virtue and vice that came with it, was quick to voice his own agreement; he hovered on his great wings above the land, and shook the dirt from his scales in disgust. “I too would behold this new Paradise, for Man has created textures far more pleasing than the soil with which the One blanketed the earth, of softness and suppleness that calls to be caressed by my own talons. Such a place as is built for their comforts would be a fit place for Dragons.”
“I would not object,” rumbled their brother Tarask, who had given Man the gift of smell and the virtue and vice that came with it, as he lay amidst the detritus of their awakening, “For I fear I would no longer rouse myself to the scent of prey, accustomed as I have become to the sweet incenses that Man has released since the time of Adam. Such a place as is built for their addictions would be a fit place for Dragons.”
The brothers of Yam-nahar too gave their consent, Az-dahaka, who was deaf, and Um-hubbur who was blind, who had given Man the gifts of sight and hearing and the virtues and vices that came with them. “We too, know Man and his works, for without our gifts he would have made none of them.” Spoke Um-hubbur: “I have seen the wonders of his unfettered genius: the movement of his art, the structure of his ambition, the colors of his deep-dark imagination. Such a place as was built for their desires would be a place fit for Dragons.” And his brother merely nodded his great head again and again, unable to speak the wonders of which he had heard.
And lo it came to pass that the five turned their gazes to Mameleu, who had no brothers, but the last of the greens spoke not a word, for unlike his kin, he had given no gift, partaken of no sense, and he knew not Man.
Then did the Dragons of earth and sky, using the old powers that were their birthright, bring before Mameleu the riches of the world of Man, their arts and memorials, their history and their accomplishments, culled from their millennia of observation, of perception, as Man lived and died in the fullness of time: Fabrics and feasts, orchestras and perfumes and moving pictures of all kinds were paraded before his senses – which Mameleu still possessed in their entirety – and each and every one of these senses were tantalized by the objects brought forth by his kin. The sum total of the creations of Man were laid at the feet of the last Dragon of Water, and he looked upon them all and said not a word until the very last had passed before him.
Then Mameleu eyed each of his brothers in turn and asked but one question: “And which of these then, were wrought by our hands?” None of them could answer.
And at this the Dragon of the seas stretched out his great green wings and called out to the heavens for the spirit of his departed brother, and the spirit of Grendl appeared before him in a cascade of light, brilliant to the eye. And Grendl asked his brother, “Have you as well, come to a decision, oh last of the water born? Will you ascend to the heaven that Man has created, and within which a place has been laid for you?”
Mameleu asked his brother, “What is to become of this world, this garden, to which we were born, and which to us was given?”
Grendl answered, “The Lord shall withdraw His breath from it, and it shall be no more.”
And Mameleu answered, “And if I were to disdain this proffered heaven, and instead remain in the land which is my birthright, to hold it and mold it until its end is upon it, would I be allowed to do so?”
Great was the outcry of his brethren, and greater still that of Grendl: “Would you deny us all, even I, even I the brother you loved, of this paradise that the Lord has created?”
Mameleu lifted himself erect and stood upon a mountain of the possessions of Man, and said, “We were made for the land, and the land for us, the land upon which we have bled and for which we have shed. No part will I have of a Garden crafted for Man, no part will I have in a reward granted to another, and no part of it shall any of us have, yea, we who have wrought nothing of our own, who have placed not one stone atop another. For these are the waters that gave me form, and I am its steward. Only this world would be a fit place for Dragons.”
The spirit of Grendl was silent for a time, before he nodded his head. “So let it be done,” said the Dragon, and was made flesh once more, and no one could say if he was light or heavy of heart. Yet glad was the heart of Mameleu to see his brother whole, and he cast his gaze upon the wonders of the ages past, and the dragon treasured them in his heart. And this was his gift, the final gift, to Man.
Then the time came when the Throne entered unto the world, and the first heaven and the first earth fled from its presence, and were seen no more. The Dragons of old went with them.
And it was glorious. And it was good.
* * *
What happened next you ask? Search the heavens from saint to angel and they will not know for certain. Some say that Mameleu’s kin fell upon him in a rage at being denied paradise, and devoured him before time froze forever. Others claim that Mameleu was aided by his brother Grendl, and they prevailed over their crippled cousins and stood witness to the death of the Old World. Still others assert that the fidelity of His first stewards moved the heart of the Lord, and He let his Spirit dwell amongst them, and gave them leave to create a Garden of their own design.
Which version contains the truth, if any do, is no longer within our reach… and perhaps, that is indeed the true and proper ending to the tale of the Dragons: that of all the creatures of the Lord, only they remain and will always remain mysterious, hidden, and legendary.
Even unto heaven.
“Apocrypha” by Paolo Chikiamco. Image by Giampaolo Macorig under the creative commons license: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic,