General Prologue: Of Dragons and Their WaysEdit
This is a story from long ago, many hundreds of years ago when Dragons still trod the earth's soil, before they were driven underground by man's increasing commercialism which destroyed many forests and farmland. That was when Dragons still dwelt high in the mountaintops. Now they dwell deep under the mountains, and no one who ventures in may see one, for they disguise themselves so cleverly that none can tell where they are, although many have reporter the pungent smell of creosote reaching their nostrils where there is no fire.
In fact, some have even reported supposed sightings of Dragons in rural, uninhabited areas while they were out hunting. Dragons are not perfect, and cannot therefore totally hide themselves completely. But Dragons have gradually faded into legend and myth, and such reports are dismissed as craziness
Dragons do not desire contact with humans, for they do not wish to be discovered again. Otherwise, they may be hunted and killed out of their new homes and driven to extinction.
Dragons have oft been thought to be mindless demons who kill and destroy without mercy; nay, this is but a terrible mutilation of the truth. Indeed, Dragons have been known to kill and eat sheep and cattle, provided that they cannot find enough wild animals. On occasion they have slain a knight, but this has been strictly in self-defense. Dragons were (and are) quite peaceful creatures (at least with humans). Should a human venture onto their territory, however, they will sit up, clap their wings and let out a stream of flame to frighten the intruder away. This usually is sucessful, although there are those foolhardy who have gone even farther to see what the Dragon would do next. This is the stupidest thing anyone can do, however, for those who have were usually burnt to a crisp by a stream of intense flame.
Dragons are of actually quite high intelligence; they do migrate like other creatures, but they have been known to actually make calls to each other to communicate. These calls differ greatly in tone and pitch, but over time, from a distance, men have been able to discern some of the Dragons' calls. Records were kept in kings' palaces and in the laboratories of scientists, but these have been lost over time and no one has recovered any in recent times.
The most famous story of Dragon intelligence comes from the story which I am about to relate to you. This story has been told many times to many different people, and was the only one to actually remain unchanged throughout the years. All the others have been radically differentiated to include Dragons killing and maiming, flying into rages and destroying whole towns. I could not find a copy of this story anywhere, but have heard bits and pieces of it from various people. This is my attempt to join all of those pieces together, like a puzzle. And here it is.
There once lived in the country of Belanea a poor shepherd. His name was Isaac and he lived by himself in the mountainous regions of the country amid the deeper forests. He had no family; the few animals that he took care of were his closest friends, and he guarded them carefully.
Once a month, when the village was having Market Day, Isaac hitched up his wagon and went into town to sell what animals he could, and used the money to buy very practical things such as vegetables, fruit and flour. He could not afford the bread which had already been baked, so he would buy the flour and take it home. Mixing it with water, he would allow it to ferment for a week and then would use this to make sourdough bread.
Now one day, as Isaac was on his way home from the market, he saw a large mass of pine branches and sticks piled next to his house. "What on earth?" he wondered aloud. "That wasn't here this morning!" He brought his thin horse round to the back of the cottage where the stable was, shut him in, and then went to examine the pile.
The pile was too high for him to see over the top, so he climbed. It was a very well-made pile; the sticks and branches were well-woven together, almost as if to make a sort of net. When Isaac reached the top, he saw inside a very large, round stone-like object. It had to be at least five feet tall, and it still radiated warmth. The surface was shiny; some kind of liquid seemed to have been poured over it.
Now Isaac did know a good many things about eggs, and he knew for a fact that this was indeed an egg of some sort. And from what he had learned about dragons, he concluded that it must be a dragon egg. Dragons are particularly large creatures, and their eggs are naturally about human-size. "Good heavens!" he exclaimed. "A dragon laid her egg here while I was gone!" And then something else struck him. "My animals! She must have eaten my animals! Oh dear, now what shall I do?? I'm to have a dragon hatch on me and I have to living! Oh dear, oh dear!"
Frantically, he ran around back to see if he had any sheep or cows left alive. Since dragons usually carry off the whole carcass to eat, there would be no remains. He ran into the field, which was quite empty.