23 October 2005

PROLOGUE: IN WHICH JIMMY TELLS A STORY

“Once upon a time, in a land not too far from here, lived a girl not unlike yourself. She lived in a small cottage with her parents and her little brother on the outskirts of a great kingdom, and they were happy.”

“What was her name, Jimmy Jibber?” A young girl bounces up and down on the floor across the hearth. The fire crackles gently between them, lending the small room a snug glow.

“Her name?” he says, leaning closer on his crossed legs. “Her name was Dandelion.”

The girl shrieks with laughter. “That’s not a name! That’s a weed!”

“Ah, but there is often more than one use for a word. You see,” he gazes into a corner of the room, where the shadows dance with the darkness, “Dandelion was bright and strong, like you, and she had yellow hair like a dandelion flower. But,” his eyes snap back to the girl, and a smile curves his mouth, “she was also a dreamer, and when the north wind blew from the mountains, her mind would blow off in all different directions. She would forget what she was meant to be doing, and would go instead into a world of her own.”

A gust of wind rattles against the cottage and down the chimney, and the fire blazes. The strings of dried flowers and braids of garlic rustle secretively in the rafters. Jimmy settles into the sheepskin rug, and the girl watches him with big eyes.

“One day, when such a north wind sent the clouds running and the branches shivering, Dandelion wandered out of sight of her cottage, and spent a whole afternoon playing by the river.”

“What was she playing, Jimmy Jibber?” The girl’s eyes sparkle with excitement.

Jimmy shakes his head. “I don’t know… What do you think she was playing?”

The girl grins and wriggles in her place, fidgeting with the ragged cuff of her shirt. “I know! I know!” She waits for Jimmy to raise his eyebrows and lean forward, then squeals, “Dragons!”

Outside, the wind dies down, and the cottage falls quiet. Jimmy’s eyes dart to the thick wooden door, the shuttered window, around the room. “Shh…” he whispers, distractedly, “You’ll wake your brother.”

The girl lowers her voice, still excited. “Was she playing dragons?” she asks earnestly.

Jimmy shakes himself, and smiles. “I’m sure she was, and she was having a lot of fun. But while she was away, a real dragon flew down from its lair, and stole all of Dandelion’s family away!”

“All of them?” She screws up her nose. “How did it catch them all?”

Jimmy shifts on the rug, recrosses his legs, and shrugs his shoulders. “Well, dragons are very powerful, and very mysterious, and very, very scary. And if a dragon wants to steal away a whole family, then there aren’t many things that can stop it.”

The child’s forehead wrinkles. “Then how did Dandelion get her family back?”

“What makes you think that she did?” he teases.

“Jimmy, don’t be silly!”

His face turns sombre. “I’m not. Dragons are a very serious business.” He pauses. “But there was one person who could help Dandelion rescue her family… the King!”

“Did she have to go to the castle?”

“Where else would you find a king?”

“How long did it take to get there?”

“She ran all the way.”

“Was the King nice?”

A flicker of something like bitterness crosses Jimmy’s face – or perhaps it is just the firelight playing tricks. “Yes. Yes, the King was very nice, and kind and helpful, and he promised to get Dandelion’s family back. He called together a company of soldiers, and his champion, and they rode on horses up into the mountains, where the dragon had its nest in a big cave.”

“What were their names?”

“The soldiers?”

She nods.

“Well, most of them had names like Michael and Peter and Sarah, because they were ordinary people before they were soldiers – just like your brother and your mammy and daddy.”

“And were they excited about finding the dragon?”

Jimmy purses his lips. “Some of them were, and some weren’t. Like I said, dragons are very scary creatures.”

“They were frightened,” says the girl, with a hint of scorn.

“They were – and they were right to be! As they got close to the lair, they could see smoke rising up from the fires lit by the dragon’s breath. The air became extremely hot. The horses wouldn’t go any further, so they all had to dismount and approach on foot, carrying their heavy shields up the mountainside. At last they came to the mouth of the dragon’s lair, and the King walked forward, his beard bristling with importance.

“ ‘Dragon!’ he shouted into the black of the cave. There was a moment of stillness as his voice echoed through the mountain.

“Then came the slithering sound of scales on the stones, and the dragon replied in a voice like the start of an avalanche, ‘Who comes here?’

“ ‘The King!’

“ ‘What do you want?’

“The King stood up straight. ‘You have stolen Dandelion’s family, and we have come to take them back.’ The dragon snorted, and a plume of flame burst from the cave, singeing the King’s beard. But the King remained still, his champion just behind him. ‘Will you give them to us freely?’ he called.

“The dragon snorted again, and some more of the King’s beard singed off. ‘No.’

“ ‘What will you do with them?’ cried Dandelion, from a little way off.

“The dragon poked its snout out of the cave and looked at Dandelion with one cold blue eye. ‘I will eat them. I am very hungry little girl.’

“Dandelion stomped her foot, because – like you – she was rather impatient. ‘That’s not fair!’ she yelled at the dragon. ‘Why don’t you eat something else?’

“The dragon scraped itself a bit further out of its lair. ‘There is nothing else to eat,’ it growled, towering over the King. ‘I am hungry!’ Although the soldiers were brave, they quivered as the dragon snorted another stream of flame from its snout, setting some of the nearby trees alight.”

“Do dragons really breathe fire, Jimmy?”

“This one did.”

“Then wouldn’t Dandelion’s family be all burnt up?”

“Ah, but you see, this dragon didn’t breathe fire all the time – only when it wanted to frighten people. But Dandelion wasn’t scared, because she had thought of a plan. She ran quickly to the King, and whispered in his ear. The King said, ‘Hmm,’ and ‘Ahh,’ and was not sure that the plan would work, but he thought it was worth trying. Drawing himself up to his full height – he looked very majestic, even with only half a beard – he said, ‘Dragon! You live in my kingdom, and I will not allow you to eat my subjects. However, as you live within the borders of my land, you are also my subject, and I do not want my subjects to go hungry. If you return Dandelion’s family, and promise not to eat any more people, I will tell all the farms in my kingdom to send me one sheep every year, which I will give to you. This amounts to six sheep every month, so you will never be hungry again.’ It was a fine speech, and all the soldiers, the champion, and even the King himself, held their breath as the dragon considered this offer.

“At last it spoke, in its low, rocky voice. ‘You are a wise and generous king,’ it said, and opened its great taloned forehands. Out rushed Dandelion’s mother and father and little brother.

“The soldiers gave a mighty cheer, ‘The King! The King!’

“Dandelion ran to her family and hugged them all. Then the King turned, and all the soldiers and his champion followed him down the mountainside. But Dandelion stood in front of the dragon. ‘Thank you, Dragon,’ she said. The dragon winked at her, and disappeared into its lair.

“The King kept his promise, and the Dragon kept its promise, too. And because the dragon had winked at Dandelion – which was considered to be a very lucky sign – she was, from then on, called Dandelion Dragoneye. And she and her family lived happily ever after.”

They are both silent for a while. The girl stares into the fire as it sinks into coals, and Jimmy watches her. “But it was Dandelion’s idea.” She wavers a moment. “Why didn’t the soldiers cheer for her?”

Jimmy stretches his legs out in front. “It was Dandelion’s idea, you’re right. But only the King was able to make it work. Dandelion wouldn’t have been able to get all those sheep herself, would she?”

The girl rests her chin on her hands, and turns her gaze to Jimmy. “If Dandelion Dragoneye was so lucky,” she asks gravely, “did she get to go on lots of other adventures?”

Jimmy laughs softly and stands, holding out a hand to the child. “Maybe she did, but they would be stories for another time. Come on, time for you to go to bed.”

She jumps up. “But I’m not tired, Jimmy Jibber!”

“I am. Go on, to bed.” He yawns.

She takes a few steps towards the curtained doorway, then hesitates in the hands of the waiting shadows. “You’re an adventurer, aren’t you?”

Jimmy ponders this for a minute, his eyes lost in the dim glow of the embers. “You could say that.”

“Good,” she says with satisfaction. “So am I.” And she disappears through the curtain to her room.

*

So, do you want to read more?!?!?... Dan has just applied for some more jobs (more interesting that the one he interviewed for - he finds out about that one next friday), and we have been looking at units and apartments online. There seem to be a few in our price-range, even! We'll put pictures up soon!!!

OH, BTW, THIS IS COPYRIGHTED TO ME! THAT'S (copy)RIGHT! ahahah, a pun!

2 comments:

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  2. Hey! Cool story! Charlie's making your sweet potato salad and I just read him your story. Thanks for the entertainment! Your blog has been spammed (see above comment)!

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