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The Dragon Awakes (youngsters:fairy tales, 3142 words)
Author: Ian HobsonAdded: Feb 15 2007Views/Reads: 5296/2193Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
The dragon had slept for three hundred years, thrice cursed by three sisters, three witches, who had raised her and loved her and named her Firethorn.
 



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'That's just a song,' said Willowherb, interrupting.  'A good song, but
it's all just myth and legend.' 

'But what about those fires in the next village we heard about?' asked
Gromwell.  'And that house fire near here the other night?  I've heard 
people saying they don't know what's causing the fires.  Perhaps there 
is a dragon abroad.' 

'That's right,' agreed Sedum.  'And that fire the other night was at the
old witch's cottage - Asperula's cottage - and they say that dragons 
hate witches.' 

'That was probably just one of the witch's spells going wrong,' said
Willowherb.  'Her cauldron catching fire, or something.' 

'How do you know it was Asperula's cottage,' Gromwell asked Sedum. 

'Luzula told me,' replied Sedum.  Since Luzula had discovered that she
too was a witch, she had also discovered the gnomes' secret - that at 
night they could walk and talk just like real people - and sometimes 
she would stay out after dark to talk to them; especially Sedum, or 
Fisherman as she called him. 

Something caught Gromwell's eye, and as he looked up at the sky his jaw
dropped and his mouth opened wide.  'Look!' he exclaimed.  Sedum and 
Willowherb turned to look as, in the moonlight, something flew over the 
village a little to the south.  It was long and thin, rather like a 
snake but thicker in the middle, and as it hovered on huge wings, a 
long yellow flame spurted from its mouth, and then it dipped out of 
sight. 

'I would never have believed it; there really is a dragon!' Willowherb
admitted.  'And up to no good by the look of it.' 

'Perhaps we should go and investigate,' suggested Sedum. 

'Investigate!' exclaimed Willowherb.  'We three gnomes?  The dragon
could burn down half the village before we could do anything about it.' 


'Willowherb's right,' said Gromwell.  'What we should do is raise the
alarm.' 

'But how?' Sedum asked.  'Who can we tell?' 

'I can tell Zoola,' said a voice. 

'Who said that?' said Willowherb, looking around but seeing no one. 

'It was me, Squill.'  The three gnomes looked up, surprised to see
Luzula's pet biloba sitting on the roof of the cottage.  Though they 
were used to seeing him following Luzula around, and knew that he could 
fly, they had not realised that he was allowed out at night and had 
been sitting there on the roof listening to their conversation. 

'Have you been spying on us?' asked Willowherb indignantly. 

The lizard-like creature spread his wings and glided gently down to land
beside the three gnomes.  'Spying?' he said, not fully understanding 
the word.  'You mean like, I spy with my little eye?' 

'Never mind that now,' said Gromwell, glad to have an offer of help.  'I
think you should fetch Luzula at once.  I'm sure she'll know what to 
do.' 

'Fetch Zoola at once,' repeated Squill as he turned and scurried away to
the rear of the cottage where he hopped up onto a windowsill and in 
through the open window. 

'I'm not sure I trust that biloba creature,' said Willowherb.  'He seems
to grow bigger every day.  He's even taller than us now, and three 
times as long.  And he's not that different from a dragon, what with 
his wings and his long tail.' 

'I thought you didn't believe in dragons,' said Sedum.  'Anyway, the
dragon we saw in the sky was a different shape, longer and thinner, and 
shinier too.  Did you see how its scales reflected the moonlight?'  He 
and the other two gnomes looked up into the sky again, hoping to catch 
another glimpse of the dragon, but there was no sign of it. 

'Look,' said Gromwell, 'here comes Luzula.' 

Luzula had fallen asleep and was having a strange dream about three
witches living together in a castle when she was awakened by Squill 
coming in through the window and leaping onto her bed.  At first she 
had been a little annoyed at having been woken, but as soon as Squill 
mentioned a dragon she had got dressed immediately and hurried into the 
garden. 

'Hello, Luzula,' said Sedum excitedly.  'We've seen a dragon!  It was in
the sky, and a big flame spurted from its mouth!' 

'Where did you see it?' Luzula asked, not doubting Sedum's words for a
moment.  Only the day before, she had been to help Asperula repair the 
damage to her cottage, and the old witch had spoken of her fears that a 
dragon might be to blame for the fire. 

'That way,' said Gromwell as he and his two companions pointed to the
south.  'Close to where your friend Asperula lives, I think.  I hope 
its not going to start another fire.' 

Luzula looked towards the south of the village. She could see nothing
but the stars in the night's sky, but her intuition told her to expect 
the worst.  'Poor Asperula,' she said.  'I better get some help.'  She 
turned away, meaning to back inside and wake her mother but then 
thought better of it and decided to fetch some men from the village 
instead. 

'Can we help?' Sedum asked, as Luzula made towards the garden gate. 

Luzula turned and smiled at the little gnome.  'I don't think so,
Fisherman.  If there is another fire, I'll need someone big and strong 
to help put it out.'  But then, with a look of inspiration on her face, 
Luzula reached into the leather satchel she always carried and took out 
what looked like a large pebble, except that it was jet-black in colour 
and almost perfectly spherical. 

This was Luzula's talisman and, kneeling down, she held it out towards
the three gnomes and asked them to come and place their tiny hands on 
top of it.  And then, as Luzula closed her eyes and recited magic words 
that the gnomes did not understand, the most amazing thing happened: 
Gromwell, Sedum and Willowherb began to grow bigger and bigger, until 
they were even taller than Luzula.  The three gnomes just stood and 
stared Luzula and at their surroundings, at first wondering why she and 
everything around them had shrunk. 

'They got bigger!' exclaimed Squill.  'Very very bigger!' 

Luzula had forgotten about her pet biloba.  'You stay here, Squill,' she
said, 'and you three come with me.'  And with that she ran off into the 
night with three huge, and somewhat bewildered, garden gnomes plodding 
along after her in the moonlight. 

*** 

After the fire, two nights before, Asperula was lucky to be alive, for
if it had not been for her magic doorknocker waking her by shouting 
'Fire! Fire! Fire!' she might have perished, just like a distant 
ancestor of hers had perished in a fire, many, many years before, if 
she was to believe the stories her grandmother had told her.  
Fortunately Asperula had been woken by the doorknocker's shouting and, 
once alerted, she had been able to beat out the fire with her 
broomstick and dowse it with water from the garden rainwater butt. 

But now, for the second night in a row, Asperula had not gone to bed. 
Instead she sat outside her cottage in a rocking chair, waiting and 
watching, for she believed she knew what had caused the fire.  So when 
Firethorn the dragon came swooping down out of the sky to perch on her 
garden wall, Asperula was ready for her.  'Go back!' she shouted as she 
leapt to her feet, brandishing her broomstick.  'Go back to where you 
came from and trouble me no more, before I turn you into a slug and 
chop you into pieces!' 

Now, Asperula was never the cleverest of witches; sometimes her magic
spells worked well and sometimes they didn't, which was probably why 
she had decided to first try frightening the dragon away.  This of 
course was a mistake. 

Firethorn, perched high on the stone wall, folded her wings and looked
down at Asperula.  'So you are a witchshshsh,' she said, her words 
hissing like water spilling onto hot coals.  'I thought as 
muchshshsh...  Once upon a time three witches were my friendssss... 
three sisters they were, identical tripletsssss, so it was hard to tell 
which witch was witchshshsh...' She laughed at her own joke, though her 
laughter sounded like red hot nails falling into a bucket of cold 
water. 

For a moment Asperula did not know what to say.  She stood and stared at
the she-dragon, who resembled a rather fat snake but with four short 
fat legs and a pair of huge bat-like wings.  'So it is you,' said the 
witch, sounding quite astonished, 'the one they named Firethorn?' 

'Yesssss,' replied the dragon, pleased that her name had not been
forgotten.  'And you are?' 

'I am Asperula,' replied Asperula. 

'Asssssperula.' Smoke escaped from Firethorn's nostrils as she repeated
the name.  'Well, say goodbye to your home, Asssssperula.' 

And with that, Firethorn opened her mouth wide and breathed a long spurt
of yellow flame that would have burned Asperula severely, had she not 
turned away and thrown herself to the ground.  But the dragon was not 
aiming for Asperula.  She was aiming for the thatched roof of 
Asperula's cottage, and with two more fiery breaths, the thatch was 
soon set alight, and Firethorn danced along the wall and flapped her 
great wings with the joy of it, while Asperula's magic door knocker 
franticly shouted, 'Fire! Fire! Fire!' once more. 

*** 

'Look!' exclaimed Sedum as he and Luzula, and the other two gnomes, ran
past the last few houses in the village and on towards Asperula's 
Cottage.  'There is a fire!' 

'We'll need water,' said Luzula.  'There's a well just ahead.  You must
take some from there.' 

'But there's only one bucket,' said Gromwell, as they reached the well. 
'We'll need at least three more.' 

'Six would be better,' said Willowherb, 'so we can carry two each.' 

Luzula stopped and put her hand on the single bucket that sat at the
edge of the well and then, as she recited another magic spell, one 
bucket became two, and then two became four, and four became eight.  
'Multiplication,' she said, 'one of my favourites spells.  Now, fill 
them quickly and follow after me.'  Then she ran on towards the burning 
cottage. 

*** 

There was so much smoke from the burning thatch that the poor magic
doorknocker had stopped shouting and was beginning to choke, while 
Asperula was back on her feet, angry with herself for using threats 
instead of magic, but even angrier with the dragon for setting fire to 
her cottage again.  So now, she reached for the talisman that she wore 
on a gold chain around her neck.  Like Luzula's it was the shiny black 
centre of a shooting star and, gripping it tightly, she began to recite 
what she hoped was a magic spell for turning a dragon into a slug. 

'Be ssssssilent!' Firethorn commanded.  She knew too well the sound of
spells being cast, and she took to the air and circled Asperula, 
breathing fire and trapping her in a spiral of flames that grew ever 
closer.  Asperula screamed and fell to the ground again, pulling the 
hood of her cloak over her head. 

'Stop that at once!'  Luzula shouted.  She had stepped through
Asperula's garden gate just in time to see the dragon doing her worst. 

Firethorn stopped breathing fire and, for a moment, seemed to hang in
the air before she turned and flew straight at Luzula.  But strangely, 
the dragon stopped short and dropped to the ground and gazed at Luzula 
as though the sight of a young girl fascinated her.  'Matricaria, 
isssssss it you?' she asked.  'No, Mirabilisssssss... or isssssss it 
Incarvillea?' 

'I am Luzula,' replied the young witch, her puzzlement at the dragon's
strange questions showing in her eyes as they reflected the flames of 
the burning cottage. 

'But you look jusssssst like them,' said Firethorn, leaning closer and
scrutinising Luzula's face.  Luzula could feel the dragon's hot breath 
as she spoke again.  'I loved them,' said Firethorn.  'And they 
pretended to love me....  But they lied, they were wicked, three wicked 
witchesssssss.  I should have ssssscorched them!  I should have burned 
them!' Firethorn's expression had quickly turned to one of anger, but 
just as quickly it turned to delight.  'Never mind,' she said with a 
crooked smile, 'I can burn you instead.' 

Now Firethorn leaned back and began to take a deep breath - the prelude
to another blast of yellow flame - but out of the shadows came a giant 
garden gnome.  It was, of course, Willowherb carrying a bucketful of 
water, which he tossed into the dragon's face.  Firethorn reeled 
backwards coughing and spluttering, and giving Willowherb time to 
return to the gate for the other bucket he had brought from the well 
and throw that too.  'I would never have believed it,' he said to 
Luzula.  'A real live dragon.' 

But no sooner were the words out of his mouth when an enraged Firethorn
turned and lashed out with her tail, knocking both Willowherb and 
Luzula into a flowerbed.  They were not seriously hurt but as they 
tried to scramble to their feet, again the dragon took a deep breath 
and, summoning all of the fire that still burned within her, she leaned 
towards her two victims and... turned into a slug. 

Asperula was on her knees and her clothes and hair and, even her
eyebrows, were well and truly singed.  But in her hand was her 
talisman, and on her lips were the final words of the magic spell she 
had cast upon the dragon; thus fulfilling her promise to turn her into 
a slug.  Which was lucky for Squill, because he had been following 
Luzula and had bravely chosen that exact moment to swoop down from the 
sky and come to her rescue, and though he was taken aback by the 
dragon's sudden disappearance, something else soon caught his 
attention.  'Yum Yum!' he said as he gobbled down the fat juicy slug, 
'Squill like slugs!' 

*** 

Well, I'm sure you can guess the rest of this story.  With the aid of
three giant garden gnomes and several more buckets of water and, of 
course, a little more magic, the fire was soon put out and Asperula's 
cottage was restored to its former self.  And the three garden gnomes?  
Well, they had not had so much excitement since the night they had all 
fallen down one of the village wells, but they were very glad when the 
magic wore off and they were back to normal size and seated around 
their pond again.  Though they did have an invitation from a very 
grateful magic doorknocker to go back and visit as often as they 
wanted. 

*** 

So tell me; do you believe in dragons? 


   


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