DANIEL AND THE DRAGON
By: Adam B. Cozort
It was a cool, crisp night on the farm. The sun was just setting and farmer Jacob Harkness had just finished supper. He was preparing to go to bed when suddenly there was a roaring sound outside. As Jacob went to look out his window he heard something fly directly over his house. The animals began to squawk and squeal in fear and the winds howled with the sound of flapping wings.
Finally, Jacob saw the beast. It was big and long with wings as black as coal and a fiery red head and body running back to a pointed tail. As the beast made a high arcing turn again toward the farm it flapped its wings and sped toward the ground. As it did, sparks began to come from its mouth, and smoke came out its nostrils.
Jacob stood at his window, frozen in fear, as the beast swooped down and, with a single bellow, set his entire crop of corn on fire. Then it came around again, swooped down low to the ground and took one of the farmer’s cows in its mouth and proceeded to fly away into the night. …
The next morning Jacob went into town as mad and frustrated as an old wet hen. He went to the one place everyone went for help when things like this happened – the town square. In the town square people would come to sell their wares, catch up on the local news, and make deals for services that needed to be done.
As he came up the dirt road to the square it was already beginning to fill with the day’s goods and news. He saw a group of men standing off to the left in one corner of the square. As he headed that direction he recognized most of the men in the group.
There was Able Barker, who always had a vegetable stand in the square during the fall. John Turner was the local lumberjack and carpenter. Jerry Lane was the local butcher, whose meat was the best in these parts. The fourth man was a stranger that Jacob had never met.
They were already discussing some of the news of the day when Jacob got there. “I understand you had some trouble out at your place last night.” Able said.
“Trouble doesn’t even begin to describe it.” Jacob replied, “I lost most of my corn crop to that beast, and not only that: by the time I got the fire out I had lost half of my beans as well. Not to mention the cow.”
“What was it?” asked Jerry.
“I don’t know, but it was big; with dark wings and a red head and body.”
“I know what it was.” said the stranger in a low voice. “It was a dragon.”
“Are you sure?” said Jacob, rubbing his chin. “We’ve never had one of those in these parts before.” John chimed in.
“I’ve seen them a couple times before further north,” the stranger said, “I can help you get rid of it if you’d like.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” said Jacob. “That dragon, as you called it, was a monster! It had to be thirty feet long and about ten feet tall. Did I mention that it blew fire?”
“I know what it is and what it does. I’m telling you I can get rid of it for you.” The stranger persisted.
The other men all looked at each other with varying degrees of skepticism and doubt. How could this man think that he would be able to remove such a creature from among them, especially by himself?
“What is your name, stranger?” Jacob asked.
“Daniel,” replied the stranger, “Daniel Martin.”
“What do you do, Daniel?”
“I’m a soldier by training, but I’m no longer in the army.” Daniel explained.
“Well, Daniel,” Jacob said, “If you can remove this beast as you say you can, I will give you the fruits of the harvest I can spare. I don’t have much money but what I have available to me is yours.”
Daniel agreed and said he would come out that afternoon to get some final information before leaving.
The next day, Daniel headed west toward the forest in search of the dragon. As the miles passed he began to think about the task he had agreed to do. This would not be his first encounter with a dragon, but that did not make it any easier.
On three previous occasions he had faced dragons, twice while in the army. In each of those occasions there was a great fear that settled in the pit of his stomach. These were very large and dangerous creatures and every encounter with one could be the last encounter he had with anything before meeting his maker.
“But,” Daniel thought, “people are more important than animals, and this animal is threatening the lives and livelihoods of a number of people.” With that thought, Daniel swallowed his fear and focused on the journey before him.
After traveling all day, he had finally made some progress into the outer edges of the forest. As darkness began to come he found a nice flat area where he could build a fire to keep the cool night air out of his bones. He also had a few chunks of meat he had bought from the butcher’s shop in town that he could cook and eat.
As he sat back on the ground enjoying his meat and the evening’s peaceful noises he heard a rustling in the bushes to his left. He sat still, listening for the sound of more movement. A few seconds later he heard a twig snap and knew there was something out there just beyond his view.
“Come on out.” He said, hoping that it was someone instead of something.
“Who are you?” A voice called out from the darkness. It was a bit high and raspy, showing the signs of age and weather.
“Just someone trying to do a job.” Daniel replied. “My name is Daniel and I don’t mean anyone harm.”
After a few moments the bushes spread apart as an old man with a long gray beard appeared. He was wearing a coat of skins that Daniel was positive had not come entirely from one animal or even the same type of animal. The funny coat alternated with light and dark colorations in odd shapes and intervals showing where one piece of hide had been attached to another.
The man stood there giving Daniel the same once over that he had been giving the man. When he saw the armor with the sword and shield on the far side of him his eyes became wary and his jaw firmed.
“I didn’t catch your name a moment ago.” Daniel said, trying to be polite.
“That’s because I didn’t give it.” The man said, still appraising the armor. “But I don’t mind telling you my name is Jasper.”
“Would you like a chunk?” Daniel said offering a piece of meat.
“I appreciate the offer,” the man said, “but I make it a point not to take food from strangers; especially ones with armor.”
“Well I’m not in the army anymore.” Daniel said. “I’m simply up here trying to do a job to help some folks in town.”
“What kind of job?” Jasper asked with the slightest hint of distrust.
“There’s a dragon that has been attacking some of the farmers around the town. He’s been described as a large dragon with a red head and black wings and body. You wouldn’t have happened to see him, would you?”
The old man thought for a few moments. “I haven’t actually seen anything, no.” He said. “However, there have been some mighty strange happenings deeper in the forest in the past few weeks. A lot of animals that generally don’t venture out this close to the town have been moving this direction and every couple of nights you’ll hear a movement in the wind, like something awful powerful going right over your head. If you were to ask me, I’d say it was your dragon.”
Daniel considered what the old man had told him. “Do you have any idea where the dragon’s lair might be?”
“From what I can tell the sounds always seem to be coming from the southwest, with the wind.” The old man paused for a second. “You know, come to think of it there’s a canyon about a half days trek to the southwest that would be perfect for a dragon like that to hunker down in. That’d be the first place I’d check.”
“I appreciate your help.” Daniel said. “I guess I had better try to get some sleep before starting out in the morning.”
“Sorry to disturb you,” said Jasper as he headed toward the bushes again, “but when I saw your fire I wasn’t sure what was coming through this part of the forest and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something troublesome.”
With that the old man was gone, and Daniel was left trying to figure out how to get some sleep knowing that tomorrow he would probably come in contact with the dragon.
When Daniel arose the next morning it was with a feeling of determination. He was not going to allow worry and fear to keep him from doing what needed to be done.
As he headed out in the direction told him by Jasper the night before he stayed alert for signs of trouble. As Jasper had told him, there were a number of animals that generally stayed deep in the forest that Daniel encountered far outside their normal area. There was also an uneasy feeling in the air; a stench born of worry and fear.
As the sun was reaching its crest, Daniel came upon the canyon. It was deep enough that the dragon could have stayed down there and never been seen from beyond the crest. At one end of the canyon an underground spring came out of the rocks at the mouth of a small cave. As the creek created from the spring wound its way through the canyon it watered a number of clumps of tall trees, some reaching to the height of the canyon’s edge where Daniel was now standing.
Unlike some canyons this one did not have sheer rock walls. Instead, it was a craggy, jutting surface that had many routes down toward the bottom of the canyon.
As Daniel descended into the canyon he began searching for any sign of the dragon’s presence. About halfway down into the canyon he spotted a section of rock that had what looked like giant claw streaks through it. He also saw signs, toward the bottom of the canyon, of unusual smoothness to some of the rocks showing where the dragon had rubbed itself along the rocks on various occasions.
“There’s no doubt the dragon has been living here.” Daniel said to himself as he reached the bottom of the canyon. With his sword in one hand and his shield in the other he examined his surroundings for signs of the nest. “If I’d have known it was living in a canyon I’d have found some archers to bring with me.” he thought.
Just then, he saw where the dragon must be. At the back of the canyon, close to where the spring appeared was a furrow leading back underneath the rock wall; except this furrow had been made by an animal.
He began to wind his way along the walls of the canyon so as not to place himself too much out in the open. When he had gotten within about fifty feet of the hole he started to smell the rank odor of the dragon’s home.
He creeped closer, trying to be quiet as he got to the edge of the hole. Not seeing anything on the outside he began to peek his head over the edge into the hole. Suddenly a roar of flame came out of the hole. Daniel just barely got his shield in front of his face before the fire raced out of the hole, singeing his back and legs.
As the fire raced out of the hole, Daniel felt more than heard the strength of the dragon as it left its lair. It did not fly out of the hole but leapt out with the strength of its back legs.
Daniel knew he had to think fast if he was going survive this ambush by the dragon. He began circling back around the wall of the canyon toward the creek trying to get close to water in case the dragon attacked with fire again.
Instead, the dragon leapt up in the air, flying circles around Daniel and looking for a place to strike. It’s wings filled the air and it roared a deep and fearsome bellow as it sought to overpower its prey.
Daniel stayed low, making sure the dragon could not get behind him. He watched as it swooped down to try to pick him up, the claws on its feet opening and closing in anticipation of grabbing him.
Just as the dragon was about to close its claws around him, Daniel stabbed the dragon in the hollow of its foot. The dragon wailed in pain and again flew up and began circling.
Daniel was finally over to the creek. Just as he got there the dragon swooped down again, opening his mouth to belch fire once more. This time Daniel was ready, he jumped back first into the creek placing his shield over him as he landed. He let the water and his shield deflect the effect of the fire as the dragon roared past once more.
Daniel knew he would not last much longer in such a battle as this. While the dragon was flying away from him, Daniel moved into one of the crevices in the rock. The dragon began a circling pattern once more, trying to find its prey. It flew close to the wall’s edge trying to take in as much of the canyon as it could. As it passed by Daniel’s hiding place Daniel jumped out with a great swipe of his sword as he left the canyon wall. He cut off the wing of the dragon about six feet from the edge.
The dragon again howled in pain as its wing rolled up beneath it and the dragon crashed to the ground. It was angry and hurt, a very dangerous combination for anyone to face.
The dragon wheeled around to face Daniel, intent this time on simply running over him and burrowing him into the ground.
Daniel waited, shield up, sword ready, waiting for the dragon to strike. It gave a final roar and charged. The gap closed quickly and the dragon paused to swipe at Daniel with one of its front legs, which are much less powerful than the back legs.
Daniel sidestepped the swipe moving in close to the animal. Just as it prepared to run over him, he fell backward and thrust up his sword. The dragon continued to charge, prepared to crush its prey into the dust. But as it lunged toward him for the final blow the sword pierced its soft underbelly and went into its heart.
The dragon fell on its side and slid to a stop against the edge of the canyon wall. Daniel stood, making sure that his opponent was dead, not just hurt. When the dragon’s chest stopped heaving, he went and retrieved his sword. He had defeated the dragon.
Two days later Daniel returned to the town square with the claws of the dragon as proof of his deeds. He did not give great illustrative stories of all the details of his travels but simply told them the basic facts and let the evidence do the rest of the talking.
Jacob thankfully paid Daniel just as he said he would, but Daniel did not expect the outpouring of thanks from the rest of the town. He received all the food he could carry from Able the grocer, a side of meat from Jerry the butcher, and an offer from John the carpenter for a house to be built for him.
Daniel thanked them for their kindness, but refused the house. He said he needed to be moving on down the road.
In the years to follow, stories would often be told of the soldier named Daniel, and the way he saved the people from the dragon.
‘Red Dragon Rock Water’ Image used under Creative Commons License