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"Encounter the Dragon"

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You are the hero.

Your quest has been long
     but now,
          at the end of your journey,
          at the apex of the hill,
You see your prize.

A golden apple?
Forbidden fruit?
Fleece from a flying golden ram?

Whatever it is
     hangs from a tree,
     as always,
And between you
     and the fulfillment of all your dreams
          the predator awaits.

The dragon.

The serpent.

The guardian of secrets.

"How many licks
     does it take
to get
to the center
of a Tootsie Pop?"

A riddle!

Was this not what the old lady warned?
The dragon is wily
     and holds forbidden wisdoms.
This one,
     like a sphinx,
plays with its meal.

"I know not this . . . 
The word is foreign to my tongue."

The dragon roars!
     Or laughs.
Perhaps it has
     more humor than appetite.

"Then riddle me this instead.
     how many teeth
     are in the mouth of a dragon?"

"Um . . . "

"No peeking!"
     It clamps shut its mouth
          and talks through closed lips.
"That would be cheating!"

A wrong answer,
     and you'll be eaten.
Run away,
     and you'll be eaten.
Attack the creature,
     and you'll be eaten.
So you think,
     and you think,
          and you think,
     and you think,
and you smile.
     "An even one-hundred!"

The serpent smile fades.
     "How do you figure?"

"Cadmus killed one such as yourself
     at the founding
          of seven-gated Thebes.
     A monster!
     A terror!
     A . . . um . . . no offense?"

"None taken,"
     says the dragon,
"Go on."

"He harvested the teeth,
     planted them in holy soil,
and fifty warriors sprang up."

"That's fifty,"
     says the dragon.

"And another fifty at Colchis
     to challenge Jason.
Those were said to be of the same source."

"Perhaps there were more,"
     the dragon suggests.
"Perhaps Cadmus set aside
     three batches of fifty,
     or five,
     or ten.
Perhaps he discarded a remainder,
     to make an even number."

You falter,
     filled with self-doubt,
"But no!
     Cadmus was a prudent man,
     founder of a city,
     the sort who would use half and keep half,
     fifty and fifty out of a hundred.
          Aetes was a tyrant,
          the arrogant son of a god,
          who used his full force
          to destroy a perceived threat,
          fifty out of fifty.
There could be no more."

     the dragon roars.
"You have slain me.
     Take your reward."

     you ask, ever wary.
"How can this be?"

"My kind are predators
     of thought, not flesh.
Safe from us are sheep and cattle,
     creatures of the forest,
     and the crunchy bones of men.
My kind consume
     logical falicies,
     false premises, 
     deduction errors,
     and on, and on.
We hunt by dangling
     shiny baubles of wisdom
          and prey on the fools
          who try to collect.
You have provided no meat today,
     and for that,
          the wisdom you seek is yours."

"But what of you?"
     you ask with concern.
"As ages pass and men grow wise,
     with every discovery,
     with every advancement,
     as literature and art
          and advance humanity
          toward universal truth,
what happens to the dragons
     if you feed only on foolishness?"

The dragon roars!
     but this time,
     you recognize
     the laughter.

"Have you seen the world of men?"
     the dragon asks.
          "My kind will survive
          and thrive
          in your world

Greg R. Fishbone
July 2020

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23 Jul, 2020 02:10

I love this take on dragons.   And he is right. Sadly.

Author of Fillimet, bright fantasy land of possibilities