Long, long ago in days of old
When dragons roamed and knights were bold
Damsels a plenty hung loftily from towers
As shining heroes wrestled for hours
With green scaly demons, that is, until
A knight came along to challenge their will
The kingdom cheered and they honoured him
He rode off to battle, our knight, not so dim…
Sydney, our shining knight of the realm, casually waved aside a nervous fellow called Gravel and the armour presented to him.
“But, Sire… you really ought to wear this.”
“Worry not Gravel.” Sydney continued to throw his spiked iron ball up in the air, catching it repeatedly only just managing to miss Gravel, his long suffering aid, by inches.
He flexed his upper body and neck, and with precision in his eyes, directed the ball at a makeshift target of stacked wine urns. He took a full length of his tent and made a run using an overarm tactic that an impressed Gravel had never before seen. The ferocious article travelled, obliterating the urns and piercing the tent and an unsuspecting guard on the outside.
“Aargh! God almighty!”
“Oops,” offered the knight, “sorry out there. Gravel, go and see to, err – whoever that is.”
“That is Googly*…your watchman, Sire.”
“Ah, well see to him and return here, I have a plan to conquer these dumb beasts and it will not, I may add, require your tin can mechanics over there.”
Gravel duly returned to report bad news.
“Googly is being attended to Sire. He sustained a rather nasty injury, but begged me to thank you for not killing him and murmured something about his family being too large to feed as it was.”
“Good man – that’s the spirit – and Gravel, what is more; in honour of that faithful chap, I will call my new manoeuvre the Googly. Let it hereby be known throughout our small domain and on our sports fields…” Our good knight prattled on pompously for several more seconds before Gravel interrupted him in good flow.
“Mmm…it could catch on, Sire. But Sire? What of your plan and these scaled green demons from hell, who are at this very moment waging war with fire causing devastating destruction in our valleys, and who in fact loom ever closer?”
“Think about it Gravel,” The creatures are the size of a castle and have a brain the size of a gnat…hence their imminent extinction I shouldn’t wonder. How many carcasses do we discover in a year, hmm? And burnt out carcasses at that? They are so dim-witted they can’t even turn around and greet each other without one of them setting his neighbour alight. But, that is to our favour, and we must act upon it.
We will send out into the valleys some fairly useless persons from our hamlet. Offer them riches and the hand of the King’s daughter if you have to, but assemble a likely crew to post notices on as many trees as they can before they’re erm… well before the idiots are flambéed and eaten, basically. We will send an invitation of sorts to these dragons.”
“What kind of invitation, and Sire, I know I am but a lowly, humble servant and farmer, with no schooling and it irks me to question you, but I don’t think dragons can read – can they?”
“You’re quite correct Gravel, you are a lowly servant and peasant farmer – of course they can’t read! What kind of idiot do you take me for? Quite simply, or simp- le- er, ” the knight peered at Gravel down his nose. “the men will act as a decoy – the poster hangers are a ruse, an entrée, if you like – since they have exhausted their platter in the neighbouring towns; half digested, rancid flesh has been reported for miles in and around villages, and they are so stupid they will plod on and on till they have burnt our forests down and ruined our harvests before unwittingly making a clearway to more delectables, namely us, here.”
“OO,” cried Gravel, “A cruel but a worthy sacrifice, if I may say so Sire.”
“Indeed. “Now…oh, before I forget, what news of our attacking enemies who, last I heard, lay behind the Green Gorge?”
“None,” replied Gravel.
“None? Have they moved at all since last we spoke?
“They are still there, aren’t they, Gravel?
“Oh, definitely, Sire. In fact, before our soldiers pulled out….”
Our knight spluttered and removed the dribbles of the finest wine from his chin. “Pulled out? Pulled out? By whose orders?
“Oh him. Fair enough. But what reasoning is behind this.. this order?”
“Dragons, Sire… lots of them.”
Our knight stared at Gravel…his answer clearly didn’t satisfy him at all but Gravel promptly continued.
“Erm…the two unfortunates posted to stay and keep watch have reported no advance or anything much that poses as a possible threat – unless we count the unruly debauched festivities in their camp. On the whole Sire, we are safe as long as they don’t sober up too quickly. After all, we will be somewhat pre occupied with our current more pressing problem. I think Sire, that was the King’s reasoning…the dragons.”
“Thank you, Gravel I think we have established our situation viz a viz the dragons!”
“If I may, Sire, I will leave you and round up the men as you asked, and we can implement stage one of our plan.”
Our knight stood in front of Gravel and rocked back and forth on his toes. There was a sour upturned lilt in his voice.
“Stage one? Our plan?”
“Pardon me, Sire. Your plan. “The knight tapped Gravel rather harshly on the forehead with his goblet causing a delicious trickle of wine to travel down onto Gravel’s covetous lips and proceeded to wax lyrical about better days.
“Camp fires? Escapades, debaucher…. merriment! Whatever happened to the thirst for war, blood lust? Parties?…I ask you. Ee Gads.”
Our knight’s ramblings stirred something in Gravel.
“Invitations, Sire!… Parties!”
“Oh, not again, Gravel – there will be no invitations – not in a literal sense…”
“No Sire, I have an idea.”
“Out with it man, what is it?”
Gravel cleared his throat and wiped his hands down his shirt front at the same time shifting himself on his feet, feeling rather important. Our knight looked on with an unimpressed eye and quite impressive amount of loathing .
“We should begin luring the dragons after we secure the attention of our enemy, to whom we send a real invitation offering a truce. If they accept, a fantastic banquet will be held in their honour, and their soldiers be given every hospitality outside of our walls whilst their leader and our King hammer out the finer points. Whilst we have their key leaders in our grasp, the army will be enough of a distraction and feast for the dragons – thereby providing us ample opportunity to destroy them…both…Sire.”
“Gravel! What a truly expected, simple idea.”
A few days later, on the outskirts of a woodland forest and after the ‘truce’ was declared…
“Oi! Mind your tail! That was too close. When you’re not setting fire to me rear, you’re trampling me half to death!”
“Sorry mate!” Tarragon struggled to release a balloon of air to which Arnold promptly set fire too – as he was apt to do – partly because he could and partly because he would never give up finding it funny, and partly because Tarragon had a way far better name – a name befitting of a dragon of old, and Arnold resented him immensely for it.
“Hey, Arnold, have you seen this scrawny lot? Not a juicy tit bit amongst them.”
“Yeah. What on earth are they doing – apart from looking like last year’s leftovers? They don’t look very happy to be here.” Arnold surmised that they were either very brave or very stupid, and either way they would do as an appetiser. His laughter brought on another shot of wind. Arnold was always fond of his own musings. He laughed primarily because, as he often told it, and more alarming to anyone with a brain larger than Arnold’s – ‘I’ve heard it before.’
The petrified, but faithful men hammered away at the trees and old fence posts and whatever they could find to display the ‘official notices’ and, as ordered, clattered and banged as loudly as they could to draw attention to themselves. As the dragons’ curiosity piqued and appetites grew, they moved closer to the men who immediately began to run for the thickest parts of the trees in order to carry out more of their work.
“Mmm, this poses quite a challenge, and is it worth it?” Arnold pondered..
“I do feel peckish, but what about the bloomin’ trees, and they’re such small bites, is it indeed worth the effort; they could get away before we begin to plough through such a lush, ripe green….god – I am hungry.” The dragon flared its nostrils, and wafts of putrid green smoke emanated, souring the air around them both.
Staring down the barrel of both nostrils and the billowing puffs gave Arnold the idea to attack from above with fire. Both dragons would make a clearing of the treetops then his chum could block any nearby exits.
Arnold sucked in his fat belly and regretted his idle days of obesity before engaging his tail – the very ragged and sharp end of which caught Tarragon across the head. His somewhat singed wings spread and engulfed the air in a pathetic but almost poetic slow motion until he gained momentum enough to hover, being careful not to breath so ferociously as to alert the tasty bites unaware of their imminent danger.
“Are you ready yet?” Fumed Tarragon waiting down below.
“Will you stop bellowing and breathing so much dam fire…they will see it!” Arnold rallied from above before he swooped – as well as an unfit, old demon from hell could swoop – onto and into the dry, green vegetation.
Very soon a portion of forest near the swamp was ablaze but the dragons could see nothing of the men who had heard the commotion of the unkempt and rather poor excuses for dragons before their plan and them had even got off the ground, and so they had ran as fast as they could over the swamplands which, since the dragons occupied most of the time, they thought was their best chance for escape, and they were right. The men had abandoned their tools and satchels containing old tax notices, which now lay all around, littering the parts of the forest.
Back on terra firma, Arnold was soon joined by Tarragon, done with hovering over the scorched forest.
“Dam! I was rather looking forward to exercising and using my talons to pluck them like wild strawberries.
“Never mind,” panted Arnold, “we have made a start on the clearing and a path to that juicy kingdom over there….Crap! I’ve got a stitch!”
The other dragon seemed pre occupied. With one clawed foot he held down large scraps of paper and turned them, surprisingly deftly….
“What on earth are you doing?” Enquired Arnold.
“Oh, these just look like a bunch of those TAXDEM thingys…. and some numbers. Kingdom business. Must have been what they were doing, all that banging.”
Arnold took a closer look. “Tax Demands you idiot. No wonder we get a bad press!
Arnold read on, “Hmmm, they are being screwed. 3,000 shelics to rummage around in squalor – I ask you. We’ll probably be doing them all a favour by eating them, save them from more misery. Apparently the King and his lot are twerps, so it shouldn’t be that hard either.”
At this point, Arnold swung suddenly, not giving Tarragon enough time to dodge the huge ball of fire ricocheting off Arnold’s behind and a nearby broad English oak.
“You really are an inconsiderate bastard, aren’t you Arnold?”
To be continued…
* Googly – In cricket a googly is a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler…or so I am informed.