“Pappa, Pappa, tell me the tale of the dragon again. Please tell me please. Tell me about our clan’s good dragon.” The toddler urged his grandfather to continue his storytelling, the boy’s wide brown eyes glowing as the fire raged in front of them and his smile melted the old man’s heart.
Others inside the campsite were busy doing useless things that night…reveling, singing, and dancing to the old traveler songs. The grandfather, the one the little ones call Pappa, was the eldest of all the tribe and he loved to tell his clan lore to those he hoped would remember it, believe it, and tell about it…maybe even relive it one day. The grandfather smiled and gave the little boy a gentle hug as he pulled him up to his lap.
The boy cradled himself in the old man’s limbs. He found his perfect resting spot and then gave his grandfather a go-ahead. “Go ahead, Pappa; I am ready now; you can begin.”
So with a proud voice, the grandfather began, using his signature quiet tone, almost secretive and remote as if to conjure the mysterious ways behind the lore of the travelers.
“Serpents from the sea have soared high in the sky above our mountain forests for as long as our people have lived. Their hidden abode – the dark water of the sea – only adds mystery to its magical ways, for the great waters is from where they draw their strength. They come from peaceful waters, but never let such trivial matters fool you. They are fierce serpents that have ravaged the forest whenever the sky turns dark. Rolling thunder calls the serpents to its prey. Whenever the thunder rolls and the sea mists are heavy…a terrible water beast is never far away.
“Once upon a time, many, many years ago, one of these giant water-beasts flew over our own southern skies. Those who watched from below, in a camp just like ours, didn’t know what to do; the sky had not turned dark and the sea mist was not floating in the air that day. The beautiful sun shined bright and the air was clear, too bright and clear for a water beast to show its fire. This scared the people of the clan.
“‘The thing can’t eat the sun today,’ some of the elders yelled out as they grabbed the little ones and huddled them together. The others stood silent, in awe of what they saw flying above them. And that day, it flew so close to the mountain’s edge, so very close, it scared everyone who watched even more than usual. ‘Something is terribly wrong!’ they shouted. ‘Look at that thing…flying so close to our land, and not growling.’
“Fright and worry quickly turned into sorrow, as the people realized the truth of the lore always rises above all others. ‘Such things, flying too close to us, means something bad will appear soon; the evil winds will soon pick up and the sea mist will spray the ground in horror. The world around us then will turn pitch black.’
“‘Look at that horrid creature,’ the people of the clan yelled out. And it was a scary sight to behold, for all of these serpents from the sea were so horrid that simple folks could not stand to watch. It had those heavy prolonged horns and long, wiry whiskers that sometimes burned from the raw fire inside its beast-belly. Thick, elongated paws and claws stuck out profusely…and the giant snakelike tail would always wag and then become stone still just before waving its chaos for everyone to see. The hiss and growls would deafen all those below and shock those who were still in place.
“So this thing flew over our mountain forest that day, getting closer to the cliffs edge, so much closer than normal, fretting the people so much that no one listened to the woman who was franticly seeking her missing child.
“‘Please help me find my child,’ the woman begged. ‘He’s just a baby and he is lost in the forest.’ But no one listened to her. The peoples’ heads stayed perched, looking toward the sky, eyes gazing on the soaring thing above them…like they were in a trance.
“‘He’s just a little baby. Why don’t you help me?’ The woman cried out again.
“Finally the eldest of the clan’s elders responded to her plea. ‘We have no time to bother with such a small worry. The sea serpent is not right; it may become angry and mean. We must keep watch…so to protect the clan. Today…you must find your son alone.’
“But the elders who were closest to the ruckus appearing in the sky sensed this serpent was different; it was a good dragon the ancestors before them even claimed to have seen, at the same time wondering whether such crazy talk could possibly be true. Some said this one glowed, with a wild light…not the innards’ fire that usually poured from the water beasts’ bodies. It had real eyes – like our own – and they were ice green, beautiful, and calming to watch. They even said its horse-like snout was missing; in its place an angelic nose and mouth…with a kind and poetic smile.
“‘Could this sea serpent be different,’ the people yelled out. ‘Is this one like the myth our travelers of the past claimed. Some good sea serpents are said to exist, but none have ever been seen.’ People raised their voices, hoping that such could be true. But these were doubting people; we’ve always been doubting people.
“The people watched and worried until finally the sunlight captured the hue of blue and gold showed on the sea serpent’s surface. Then the memories of old lore came back to the oldest minds. ‘A dragon scaled in gold and azure is a good sign…an omen that danger is near but the thing flying above – the water beast from the calm blue waters below – is there to help.’ People echoed the good news and then shouts of joy rang in the sky: ‘It is a good dragon; it is here to help us.’
“But before long, a shout of pain and dread broke through the joyous shouts. ‘Please help me find my child. He’s just a baby and he’s lost in the forest. Why don’t you help me?’
“‘The boy! The boy! He’s up there at the cliffs! That’s why the thing has come to us!’ The clan’s elders yelled out in unison and led the group up the mountainside. ‘Hurry! Hurry! We must be fast! The boy is in danger!’
“Midway up the mountainside they heard the abrupt end – a sudden screeching came first, then a loud crashing sound, followed by a subtle hiss. A wave of dust rose from the cliffs edge, and it seemed like eternity before the people finally arrived at the top. What they saw at the cliffs edge changed everything, for all of us, forever and ever.”
“What did our people see Pappa?” the little boy asked, his round, dark eyes even larger and his mouth gaping in suspense.
“Shiny scales were scattered all over the ground, like bright star lights broken in tiny pieces,” the grandfather answered. “The sea serpent’s scales were broken…but they still glowed. When the people looked closer, they realized the bright shiny scales reflecting the sun had blocked the little boy – who was sitting still and pointing towards the bright light – from crawling over the cliff’s edge. Its gold and azure scales saved the little boy’s life and beside him was a small crater, the place where the sea serpent landed. In the crater we found the dragon bones, all of them mysteriously collected and piled.”
“Where are our dragon bones now, Pappa?”
“We don’t know, my darling angel.”
“But why, Pappa?”
“The Christians took them from us.”
“Where did they take them?” The little boy prodded his grandfather for more, his innocent face expecting, begging for an answer this time. But the grandfather had nothing more to tell.
“We don’t know.”
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