Number four in the series of Flash Fiction challenges.
D is for Dragon
Britain doesn’t have as long a tradition of dragons as some countries. Historians believe that even the Red Dragon that adorns the Welsh Flag to be based on Roman iconography. Heraldic dragons (or Wyverns, to be more accurate) only date from the end of the 16th Century. Even St George had never slain a dragon before we brought him back from the crusades. That myth came later, as he wove his way into legend. Our most home-grown reptiles are ‘Worms’, in various spellings, which you can see throughout history depicted as giant snakes, wingless dragons or enormous lizards. We’ve already met one in the tale of Ashipattle. My grandparents used to live near a pub called the Lambton Worm, the tale behind which inspired this story.
D is for Dragon
He ought to have gone to church, John knew. As heir to the lordship, they expected him to set an example. But when the sermons are dull and the people duller, who wouldn’t prefer fishing for trout? Not that they were biting. All he had caught was one small newt, and a mangled piece of a plough that had snapped his line.
Trudging home, he spotted the minister sauntering off for his lunch. Quick as a flash, John dropped his rod, the catch-pail, and the newt down the town well. Hidden from sight, there was no evidence of the young man’s truancy. Once the frowning preacher had gone, unwilling to mention the heir’s absence, John hauled up his illicit wares. He didn’t care that the newt had elected to remain behind in the fresh water.
And there it remained, bothering no-one for many years. It grew, exploring the underground rivers and springs that fed the well and feasting on the eyeless fish that lurked beneath the earth. Until one day, it grew too large to be sated, and having devoured all the fish, broke free of the well and rampaged through the village. Pikes, spears and even swords were no use against it, every cut healing and stitching the creature back together in moments.
John was Lord Lambton now, his father succumbing to the ague the winter before. When the villagers arrived at his door, begging for his help and protection, he saw what he had to do. The blacksmith was called and worked day and night for a week to John’s design. The following sabbath, everything was ready.
John stood in the village square, clad in armour wrought with spikes and blades. He called the beast; the villagers peered from the safety of the church as the giant worm bore down on their Lord. John bolted for the river.
On the bank he paused, just for a moment, remembering a day of idle fishing. Then he charged into the waters, waist deep, turned back and raised his hands in surrender.
The creature coiled around him, wrapping him from head to toe, and squeezed. Metal spikes pierced its skin; sharp blades chopped it apart, and the river whisked the pieces away before they could reform.
The villagers helped their saviour from the bloody waters, stripped the dented armour from him, and carried him back in triumph. From that day forth, you could always find him sitting in the front pew of the church on Sundays.
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