Sunday, 6 December 2015

Cassandra and the Dragon, a small story

Illustration by Daria Hlazatova

Here is a virgin named Cassandra. She wears a flowing white dress with puffed sleeves but she does not know why. She can’t remember choosing it and somehow feels it is ugly on her, even though it is a self-consciously pretty dress. She leads a dragon by its nose on a long silver thread. The dragon is big as a house, which is to say big enough to hold three bedrooms, a large living room and a reasonably sized kitchen with room to spare. It is scaled and every scale is a mirror the size of the kind made to fit in a pocket. It is a dangerous beast that growls low, makes the ground shake and breathes white fire alternately hot and cold. It can freeze the rain as it falls with its white-lightening breath, resulting in a sound like a breaking chandelier. Or it can breathe hot to make water boil, earth scorch, charcoaled trees snap in two. The dragon does not have a name. It is old as the earth, as the sky, as the ocean. It is older than names. Cassandra leads the dragon and it is docile on her thread that will not break, but she cannot remember why she leads it. Certainly it cannot be taken to any civilised place or calamity would ensue. She leads it away from ideas, people and the world, through wild places where no one will mind. You see, it is a curse: an old curse, all but run its course. It is Cassandra’s curse that she will lead the dragon as its master, but only in uninhabited lands where it can cause no harm.

They are being followed.

A knight follows Cassandra and her dragon and by some strange chance, or fate if you prefer, the name of the knight is Cassandra too. In fact, it is worth pointing out that the virgin and knight are very similar in appearance except that the knight wears full armour and has short hair and carries a long sword and shield.

The shield is unusual because it has been polished to hold a perfect reflection. The tip of Cassandra’s sword is so sharp it becomes invisible. It is a whole two inches longer than it appears. The knight, being of chivalrous nature and heroic heart, has taken pity on the maiden whose fate he sympathises with; it being his own fate to wander the wildernesses of the world, keeping company with the dark and the monsters he meets. But the knight at least is experienced in the dispatch of monsters and knows the dragon has reached its time to leave the world of men and make way for new beginnings.

The knight waits until the sun is at its highest point in the sky, knowing that a dragon’s weakness is sun sickness. The creature is in love with the fire that gave it form. (It thinks the sun is its mother or its lover, as moths love the moon.) It cannot help but grow woozy in the intense light of the afternoon.

As the dragon is distracted by the tantalizing golden ball on high, the knight charges down from his hiding place on the hillside and with the tip of his sword, cuts Cassandra’s thread. The girl turns and recoils as though seeing her monstrous pet for the first time and as the dragon rears its head, spreads its gleaming wings, gnashes its teeth as though to catch them both, the knight slays the beast, the sword finding its mark between two mirrored scales in the dragon’s breast. The knight has caught the sun in his shield and brought it down to earth and the dragon dies in ecstasy thinking it has caught the sun between its jaws.

Cassandra the virgin is slow to react but her saviour is used to an anti-climax. The girl has bent down to look at the face of the fallen beast. Its jaws are open on the ground and, framed with pearly teeth, is the dark tunnel of its throat. Cassandra takes the knight’s hand. ‘This way,’ she says, and her dainty silver slippers step up each row of shining teeth as though they were a staircase. The knight follows his maiden without a word, pleased to get away from the midday heat that condenses his sweat on the inside of his armour.

It is cool inside. It is not a house but a forest, a dark forest at night. But there are pinprick stars in the sky and, between the shadowed trees, white pebbles glow softly suggesting many paths.

Cassandra is content thinking how they might decide together which way is best to take. She senses the stirring of the potential of a whisper of an unborn child within her and seems to feel its small hand already in her own. But something troubles her alabaster face. The child does not have a name. What would be the child’s name? How terrible to be nameless!

She relaxes, she realises it doesn’t matter. The name will find its owner. You reader, will choose the name.

The knight and the virgin follow a white stone path. In the distance music softly plays. Cassandra has heard it somewhere before. It is music with the power to enchant dragons, waken hearts, build new paths or put a stone to sleep.

Illustration by Daria Hlazatova


by Cassandra Solon Parry, 2015©

No comments:

Post a Comment