The Dragon of Ghost Mountain.
By Elias Mann.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a village that lay in the shadow of Ghost Mountain, there lived a young girl, named Isadora. She and her father resided in a small cottage on the farm that they owned and worked together. Isadora was a very inquisitive child, who, having stumbled upon something new, would ask and ask and ask her father about whatever it was until she got an answer, no matter right or wrong.
One morning, as the sun began to rise high and higher into the heavens, she was awoken by a most terrible sound. It started as a low growl, and grew to a horrifying roar. The roar was so loud, it rang the church bell in the city, a mile away. The racket didn't stop for what seemed like a very long time.
Jumping out of bed, she went to get her father. When she discovered that he was already awake, she asked, " What was that?!"
His expression grew dark, making the fear inside of her grow, to an almost sickening feeling. Her father only looked this serious when it was this serious.
" It's what I, and all the others of this village have feared for many years to come. The dragon has reawakened from its slumber," said he. He looked at her with a grave expression, and said, " You must listen closely, for we haven't much time. Do not ask questions, do you understand?''
" Yes, father." Although she was very curious, she knew she mustn't. He was giving the look he gave when she was being scolded. Besides, he was talking about a dragon, for gods sake.
" The elders of this village, including myself, locked that dragon away, in a deep, deep slumber, using the most powerful magic that we could summon. We knew, that our magic wouldn't hold the dragon. No amount of magic could hold a beast of that size. It was only a matter of time until he broke free of our bondage. I told them, that we were only buying time. I told them that someone should have slain the beast. But none of them listened t-"
He was interrupted by another roar, this one even more deafening than the last. Isadora had to clasp her hands over her ears. Almost as if the roar had been a command, the birds took to the sky, the cows began to moo, and the horses to whinny. The land under their feet started to shake, and rattle their little shack of a home. A mirror fell to the floor and shattered, never to cast a reflection again.
" Yanosh and I are going to go slay the dragon!' he shouted over the roar, 'If something happens, I want you to take this,' he said, as he handed her a key, 'and go into the cellar! Unlock the chest that is behind the barrels! Take the letter to the tailor! Much of what the chest holds will seem strange to you, but you will come to understand in time! I must go now, my child! Be safe! Always know I love you!"
At that, he gathered the sword that had been hanging above the fireplace, and departed.
Isadora lay there on the floor, until the roar had subsided, and then got up. She knew her father and Yanosh had no chance of defeating the gargantuan beast, and so she wept. She wept for the loss that yet to come. She wept because she had never had a mother, and now, after today, would never have a father. She wept for her friend, Goshen, son of Yanosh, who would never see his father again. She wept in envy for those who would always have the family that she had never had as a child, and she also wept because she would never have a chance to tell him how much she loved him again.
When the tears finally stopped, she remembered the key, and began to examine it more closely. It was then that she realized that it was very beautiful. The silver key was engraved with etchings of perennial vines and leaves, all swirled around a huge, green, capital M.
She heard another roar, not near as loud or as long as the last two, followed by a snarl. A vicious sounding gag, that made her skin crawl. It was hard for her to imagine such nasty, horrible sounds, even in her worst nightmares.
The next sounds that Isadora heard, were the most frightening of all. The first, was the sound of something going up in flames. A sort of wooshing sound. The second, was a scream of agonizing pain. She knew who it had come from. It was her fathers voice.
She dared not to hesitate, for her father had been urgent. She hurried to the trapdoor that led to the cellar, yanked the rug off of it, and ran down the stairs to the basement level. Once there, she hurriedly made her way to the back of the room.
The barrels were not easy to move, so she just decided to climb over them. There, she found the chest her father been telling her of. On the top of it, was the same symbol that was on the key. The one with the capital M, framed in those beautiful, flowering, perennial vines. Paying it as little mind that a curious teenage girl could, she unlocked the chest, and lifted its heavy top.
Inside, there was a blanket, covering the heavy load of the chest. Under it, was a sword in a sheath, a silver shield with the all-too-familiar M symbol in the center, but this time, the vines were swirled all the way to the edges of the shield, leaving not one inch of it bare. She also found a letter to the tailor that was sealed with wax. The wax had also been pressed with a capital M.
Under all this, Isadora found a suit of armor. Embedded with emeralds and rubies, the plate armor was just as silver as the key, shield, or the sword. "A work of art," she thought, with a laugh. How strange, she thought, that it was fitted exactly for her.
After she had put the armor on, fitted the sheath to the belt, and figured out how to wear the shield on her back, she took the letter, and headed for the tailors Shoppe.
. . . .
"As soon as I hud all dat ruckus, I knew dat good-for-nuttin dragon had dun got loose. It wudda took a heckuva lot mooah than dat magic yo pop and the rest o' them folks used to keep dat ova grown lizzad down. Lemme tell ye what, dat thang there is down-right powaful!"
Besides his appalling grammar and crude way of speech, the tailor was tolerable, Isadora thought. He was an old, slightly obnoxious colored man. She remembered that her father told her once that the tailor had been a slave at one time.
He seemed to know more about this dragon than her father had, because he explained all the dragons weak spots, and that the only place that the dragons scales weren't to hard to pierce, was its belly. He kept saying things that she didn't quite understand, like watch out fo dat tail, and keepat sheld up if you wantin to keep 'em eyebrows (she supposed he ment because of the flame).
Isadora came to a problem.
" You want me to slay a dragon?!," she exclaimed.
"Well yeah! Who else but the daughta o' the great dragonslayah, Hue? Yo pop was the man ta call, when dem ova grown lizzads came around. Lemme tell ye, dat man made quick work o' dem lizzads."
Well, this came as a shock! A dragon slayer? Not her father. That was impossible. Before today, she hadn't even known dragons were real! But when she calmed down, the fact gave her confidence and strength. So finally, she agreed, and asked the tailor, " How am I supposed to get to the cave at the top of Ghost Mountain?"
He gave her a look, and held it. She couldn't read the expression he was giving her, but finally, he spoke.
" Wait heeah," and with that, he turned, and went into the door that led to the supplies room. She could hear him rummaging around in there. It must have been messy in the supplies room, because she heard several crashes, and a couple of dagnabits.
After a few moments, he returned, with a small leather pouch. It looked like it might have been engraved with the same symbol, but she couldn't tell from this distance. He pulled an acorn out of the pouch.
" Don't yoo dayah use this foe yoo get to the base o' Ghost Mountain, yoo heeah? All yoo gah do is bite it in half, and it'll take yoo whe eva yoo wanna be. Now I reckon, dat this lil contraption will take ye to the top o' dat there mountain. Use the otha one to git back down," said the tailor.
This struck her odd. " you want me to bite into an acorn?" she asked. The tailor, who was starting to look aggravated with her, replied, " Well, yeeah! The fate of this country is countin on you! You got to!"
He seemed like he could have been a warrior at one time, when he was in his prime. She could almost imagine him without his hunched back, gray hair, lack of muscles, and his snaggletooth. She could almost hear him talk without his slang, and shout orders to an army, actually using r's in his words. Or………Maybe she wouldn't go that far.
Taking the acorn pouch, she left his humble little shoppe, and made her way towards Ghost Mountain. She had to pass her own home on the way, and when she did, she refused to look at the charred and burnt thing on the ground, that she knew to be her fathers body. It sickened her, and gave her rage enough to tear the dragon from limb to limb. If only she were physically able.
She walked around back of her home, and looked up at the mass of the enormous Ghost Mountain. She was at the base of the slope, and was starting to have second thoughts. The dragon had slain her father, and most likely Yanosh too, with one breath. How was she, a mere child, supposed to kill it? Just then, she heard a voice.
"Isadora……. Find strength…. Look deep inside yourself, and find the inner courage that we both know is there…," It said.
It was her fathers voice……
"Father?," she called. No one answered, but no matter, for his words had given her strength. Isadora fished in her pocket, and pulled out the acorn pouch, only to drop it again, at the sound of yet another deafening roar. She found, and picked up the pouch, and studied it more closely. It was engraved with the M symbol. " I have got to figure out what this M stands for," she said quietly to herself.
Isadora carefully pulled one of the two acorns out of the leather pouch, and remembering the tailors words, bit into it, shutting her eyes tightly in case something happened. Indeed, something did happen.
Isadora felt herself being wrenched roughly off the ground, and shot upward. When she opened her eyes, the world had changed around her. She was being pulled very quickly toward the heavens. The space that she was flying through, was more blurry than anything she had ever seen. She could still make out the tiny houses getting smaller and smaller below her, but anything else was just a blur of color.
When she reached the top, she hit the ground with a thud. She was standing on a small patch of dirt, in front of the opening to the cave. She was a bit flustered, but could still function. " That was very….interesting. I can't believe it really worked! Wow, " She said to herself.
She now realized that she'd spoken to loudly, because the response she got, was yet another call from deep within the dragons lung. This one was very much louder, because it echoed through the cave, and shot out directly too her eardrums. Or, at least that's what it felt like to her. The roaring was followed by a deep, booming voice, that Isadora thought would have belonged only to Zeus.
" Who goes there? Who dares to enter my lair, my kingdom, my domain, and my presence? "
It was startling to her, but then she heard her fathers voice say, " It's alright, my child. Find your strength, and answer him. You have to finish this.''
She looked to her right, and leaning up against the wall of stone, was a skeleton. It was wearing a shield, a breast plate, and a helmet. It was a fallen dragon slayer. She immediately became very frightened, and started to back away. But again, her father spoke the right words to keep her going.
" Be strong, my child. I'm here to protect you. You will not suffer the same fate as he." said he.
Again, this gave her the strength she needed to stand against the dragon. She stood her ground, wondering if she could do it. She drew in a breath, held it, and the spoke strongly in a reply to the dragons interrogation.
" It is I! Isadora, daughter of the great dragon slayer, Hue! I have come to avenge my fathers death." She declared, with a strong heart.
" You and what army?" the voice boomed.
" None! I stand alone!"
The dragon laughed evily, with such a confidence that it made her sick.
" You, a lone woman, defeat one such as me? I think not! Come into my cave, where I can have a closer look at my meal." said the dragon. She couldn't decide if she was thinking " I can do this! I know I can!" or "I just can't do this…"
Isadora slowly stepped into the darkness. Weary of what she knew was ahead, she took the shield off of her back, and unsheathed her silver sword.
The light was growing fainter with every step of the way, and soon, it had fizzled out into nothingness. Now she was just feeling her way through the darkness. Her father had always used to say that there was a light at the end of every tunnel. She really hoped that was true.
Finally, the tunnel opened up into a huge corridor, filled with glorious light! Never had she been so happy in her life to be blinded by sweet, sweet light. Until she saw what was waiting for her in that light….
Isadora looked up slowly, and saw the monstrous beast. The dragon, with his green scales, his powerful arms, his horns, his claws and his wings. Never had she seen such terror and such beauty at one time.
The thing about the creature that really caught her eye, was his size. He was huge! She couldn't have compared it to anything else she had ever seen. His eyes, too, were intriguing. They glowed very red, and were shiny like diamonds.
The massive thing before her stood, and bared a mouthful of sharp, jagged teeth. Then he spoke, with a voice closer to Hades than Zeus this time.
"Ha! Not even a woman at all! Just a girl. If I may correct myself, you wouldn't be a meal! Not even an afternoon snack!"
After saying this, he laughed stupidly at his own joke. This angered the young Isadora, to a point of no return. She remembered the words of the tailor, as he told her that the dragons armor was weakest on the underside.
Isadora positioned her shield so it would cover as much of her body as it could, and thought she could get him while he had his eyes shut tight, and his head thrown back in a laugh. Better now than ever, if she was going to get the first blow. If she didn't, the she was toast.
She ran forward, and lashed out at his belly only thrice, but that was all it took…. To anger it at least.
As soon as the beast realized the pain he roared again. It was more of a scream this time, though. He opened his mouth, and belched a column of flames at her. She threw her shield up just in time, and the fire of the dragons breath heated her shield, only to irritate her arm with heat. She found a large stone on the cave floor, and hurled it into the dragons mouth. The flame stopped immediately, and the dragon began to choke.
Isadora saw her opening, and went for it. She ran forward, having to dodge the tail of the monster, which he had swung at her. When she reached the underside of the dragon, she wasted no time. As soon as she stopped running, she got as close to the dragons heart as she could, and plunged her sword, with all her might, into the dragons heart.
Groaning, the beast that had plagued their village began to die. It fell, and lay there, lifeless. The dead body of the great fallen beast slowly turned to stone. The graying corpse lay there, never to move again.
As it became a statue, she knew it was over. She couldn't believe what she had done. It almost seemed like a dream. How could a humble girl really be the hero of her story?
. . . .
Isadora was awoken from her dream with a shake from her father. "Arise, my child. We have much work to do today. On your feet."
A dream? It didn't seem possible. But somehow, it was. She got up, and followed her father to the field. She could not stop thinking of her dream. It had felt so real, but also very distant, like all dreams do. On one hand, she could never imagine herself slaying a dragon. On the other, she had felt the heat of the dragons breath. She thought she felt the pain in her ears from each of the roars. It was so real……
She concentrated on pulling weeds from the garden, and her fathers grunt noises every time he struck the ground with the hoe, to keep her mind off of the dream. The next time she looked at her father, he had hunched over to pull a weed or rock out of the ground. This little motion caused his shirt to lift up…
Isadora could NOT believe her eyes. What she saw on her fathers back, was a very artistic tattoo, of perennial vines swirled around a capital M.
She nearly fainted.
"I had a dream that we were dragon slayers, and disposed of the dragon, father."
He stopped what he was doing, took a deep breath and held it, then let it out in a sigh. He turned to face her, and then said, "It is time,"