Jenna and the River Dragon – Part 1
‘And this, which I have written, may be sufficient to satisfy any reasonable man that there are winged serpents and dragons in the world.’ Edward Topsell, 1658.
The signs were there. Some local people know this stretch of the river quite well and even though a few of them do stop on the track to look around, no-one had ever actually really seen a River Dragon. Until now.
They have lived here a long time, almost since time began; when dragons ruled the sky, the land, and the water. Hunted by the Slayers the few surviving dragons chose to stay out of the way of humankind and sought the most remote places in which to hide. For a while through the centuries they became lost in the mists of legends and mystery, myths, and magic. But they never really disappeared at all. Some of the dragons did continue with their quest for knowledge and even tried to teach the very few humans who had the desire to seek out the truth and possessed the power to see them and to learn from the wisdom of the Old Ones.
Just about two moons ago, the signs were clearer than usual to those with eyes to see. It was obvious that something was happening as new gaps appeared through the reeds across the marsh and strange new wet muddy prints crossed the track from the river bank into the undergrowth on the landward side where crab shells, bony old crocodile tails and grizzly gorgon heads lay half hidden amongst the roots at the entrance to the Weyr.
Deep within the dragon’s lair where the river water rarely reached except at times of the very highest of high tides was a nest of reeds, mosses and sweet smelling herbs. In the middle of the nest lay the egg.
It is likely that old Ben Dragon was the father. He was one of the Old Ones; a giant golden sea dragon who lives out over the western horizon where the sun hisses and bubbles and boils as it sets into the sea every night. The path of gold light on the surface of the water marks his flight path and sometimes the sunlight can be seen glinting off his golden scales as he glides across the sky.
The mother was Gwen Dragon, a cousin of Pen Dragon who was the favourite of Merlin, and she was a fierce fiery red sky dragon from the heights of the Great Orme and well known to the Celtic Druids of Ynys Mon. It was she who had built the nest beside the river.
During the passing of many moons she guarded the egg quietly but, believing that humans could no longer see or believed in dragons, it was she who was leaving the most signs – the remains of the bitten off gorgon heads just outside the Weyr were real tell-tales to those who could look, read, and learn. All the cattle in the fields had disappeared; she had eaten them up and drunk all their milk. Now only a few tough old moorland sheep and a unicorn remained.
Being a dragon, she could not possibly eat the last unicorn. Crops were gathered and the harvest was almost over for another year. And then the last of the gorgons had gone too.
With the meat supply at an end for this season, she turned to a rich vegetarian diet of fruit and nuts from the trees and bushes, berries from the hedgerows, herbs from beside the pathways; and the plentiful bounty from the river and the sea.
The time was rapidly approaching when the egg would hatch; there was nothing more she could do now except guard the Weyr and go out to catch crabs, eels, sea trout and silver salmon in the river and buy honey cakes and a jug of milk from the wise woman in the village.
[It is a fact that dragons love to drink milk and eat honey cakes]
She did not have money to pay for the cakes or the milk, but she did have knowledge to share with the woman in exchange.
Gaylar, tall, with flowing auburn hair and a kind smile was a medicine woman; the white witch from the greenwood. She travelled the villages along the coast and the hinterland, concocting and decocting, prescribing and dispensing her potions, lotions and balm from the herbs she grew in her garden by the river. Just as she had learned from the old dragon who had taught her.
Making sure the egg in the nest was good and safe; Gwen Dragon kept the Weyr totally clean while awaiting the arrival of her new offspring. Sometimes in the late evenings, in those rare magical moments when the sky turns red just before the sun sets, you might just see where she is flying along over the river or out above the hills beyond.
Now the time had arrived when the hatchling broke through the soft thick shell of the egg and found himself alone in the nest in the cool dark Weyr.
Unlike his golden sea dragon father or his red sky dragon mother, he is a brightly shining shimmering electric blue colour with small silvery wings. Born of the sea and the sky, he is a River Dragon.
His name is Draco. The first ever real River Dragon on our stretch of water near to where the river bends to the north and flows out into the great western sea.
Jenna, the beautiful young golden haired maiden had arrived almost three seasons earlier and the story of her earliest adventures has already been written and told around the tables and hearths of her kinfolk. It was Jenna’s grandfather, often to be seen wandering over the fields and beside the river in search of knowledge, who interpreted the signs and first saw the little hatchling.
Draco was just emerging from the Weyr and taking his first look around at the world outside the nest when her grandfather spotted the movement in the undergrowth beside the path on the river bank. Sitting down quietly on a nearby fallen tree trunk grandpa watched and waited in silence and awe as Draco the magnificent shiny blue little river dragon appeared.
Although Gwen Dragon had told him about people, he had never seen a humankind before. Seeing the white haired old man was quite strange for young Draco who had only ever seen his mother Gwen Dragon and the pair of water voles who shared his nest. Dogs and horses, the swallows and the trees; they all knew the old man and always said ‘Hello’ as they passed along the path.
Draco blinked his golden eyes in the bright sunlight and flapped his tiny little silver wings for the first time in the open air, looked in amazement at the old man, and then hopped up on to the log beside him. Where they began to chat.
As Draco taught grandpa some things about the dragons, grandpa shared his peanut butter sandwich and a small bar of chocolate with Draco and told him some things about the people and local places.
For hundreds of years it has been written that dragons eat maidens. But it would seem that this isn’t really true at all. What the old stories missed out, and what they should have said, is that most River Dragons love to see and to be with all the beautiful things in nature – especially young girls with big blue eyes and long golden hair.
So, as the old man learned a little about the ways of the dragons, the young Draco learned a little bit about young Jenna and a lot about humans. And he found that he loved peanut butter sandwiches, and chocolate for afters, and an occasional mint – his mother had not told him about them, but that is probably because she much preferred milk and honey. Of course little Draco enjoyed his milk and honey too, but then who doesn’t?
Gwen Dragon had her human friend Gaylar to talk to, and having already met the old man herself she knew he was a warm and kind human, she was therefore quite happy for Draco to talk to Jenna’s grandfather, each of them sharing with and learning from the other.
Over many weeks Draco and the old man would sit together on the log, learning from each other and sharing stories of the past times, talking of their fears and dreaming of their hopes for the future.
Where they sat you can still see: the log is filled with sweet smelling colourful wild flowers where butterflies gather in the sunshine and birds sing in the branches of the trees above. Another old man, the one who looks after the long-dog, maintains this magical miniature garden with tender loving care while out on his long riverside walks. Herons still wade in the shallows and the wind rustles through the reeds.
It is a special place where things may not always be quite just how they seem and new stories of magic and legends are born.
Travellers along the path are free to stop for a while to enjoy the peace and the view. But please do not touch. Take only fond memories and leave only kind thoughts. And if you ever take photographs then check the pictures very carefully when you get back home because even though you couldn’t see Draco or his family the camera might have!
Soon, now, Jenna was old enough to go walking with her grandfather and he took her along the riverbank to meet Draco.
Even though grandpa had told Draco about Jenna and had told Jenna about Draco, when first they met as total strangers they did not know they would become friends. It wasn’t even certain that she would actually be able to see him. Dragons can always see humans but very few humans can ever see a dragon.
The young river dragon had grown to about one dragon metre in height and Jenna was just about the same.
[1 dragon metre = slightly more than 1 yard which = 3 human 12 inch feet]
But whereas Draco had glowing golden eyes and shimmering electric blue scales and small shiny silvery wings, Jenna had bright blue eyes, long golden hair and soft rosy pink skin.
They saw each other and right there down by the bend in the river that is where their friendship started. And everyone who knows these things can tell you that if you ever have a river dragon for a friend, you have a true friend for life.
The adventures of Jenna and the River Dragons are only just beginning……
[a Weyr – pronounced as in sphere – is another name for a dragon’s lair. That it is also an anagram of the name of the river really is pure coincidence. R]
© Russ Morton 26/08/2007