The dragon, most noble, most fair
Most beastly, a master of terror
Haunts the crags, haunts the villages
Holds men in thrall as it pillages
This beast, this lord, so great
Made for a girl, her name Kate
Because a boy loved her, loved her most dear
A poor boy, but a saint, named Seer
So this tale begins
A tale of chivalry, of woe, of fear
The story of a girl and a dragon
All begun by the boy named Seer
A home, left; a father, dead; a lover, lost
So Seer departs, astride a steed of silver
Bearing a sword, rusted, named Willow
He rides forth, to adventures so bright
Damsels to save, foes to fight
Eyes clear, so strong, home's boundaries crossed
There goes Seer, riding, hair like fresh earth blowing
Strong hands grasping the reigns, back straight
Skin pale, eyes azure bright
But his cloak tattered, patched, its edges frayed
And his weapons rusted, for never has he been paid
But Seer, his heart is true, his thoughts pure, his intentions glowing
O'er hills of green, through forests so old
He goes; a widow, helped here; an old man, there
Never, he thinks, can life get better; he sings, so free
But coins run out, his money bag clanks no more
His belly rumbles, days pass, and his stomach feels always sore
So by the roadside he waits, a traveler to find, wishing for gold
A man approaches, handsome and fair
To grand Kestrel the capitol he goes, cloak a-billowing
Steed nickering, sword flashing, eyes winking
For he seeks the hand of fair Catherine, princess of the land
The object of nobles, a treasure, her beauty lauded to every band
He sees not the poor starving man, and encamps without a care
Fire flickers, a-crackling, a-dancing, shadows entrancing
Lounging beside it the nobleman, mead in hand
Out creeps Seer, belly churning, heart rebelling, but stomach yearning
At the nobleman's head he pauses, and raises Willow
But his heart stills him, for he cannot kill a fellow
Up starts the nobleman, a cry escaping his lips, his heart racing
"Kind Sir!" cries Seer, "I beg thee not harm me, for my end was near!"
The nobleman's lip curls, showing teeth so bright
"Trouble me not, foul peasant, for my sword thirsts; now leave!"
Seer begs, but the nobleman will not give in
Forced by deathly hunger, Seer strikes, feeling so thin
The nobleman collapses, Seer snatches, and flees into the drear
"Return! Foul peasant! Lord Arliman am I, feel thou terror!"
Seer runs, heart shaking, a satchel of food so precious against his chest
Stumbles, catches himself, goes on, while Arliman rages
Casting about for his sword, Arliman knows fear
For his sword is missing, taken by Seer
Who still runs, food clutched close, of a new sword the bearer
Revenge Arliman vows, never to give in, while Seer stops
Breath gone, legs trembling, beneath a tree to rest
Stolen food he gulps, while his stomach twists, so guilty
"I'll pay him back," he mutters, "When next we meet"
But no coins does he have, and, fear churning, he knows this will be a feat
Belly full, though guilt sighing, Seer lays his head down on the tree-roots' tops
The sun rises, and Seer yawns, stretches, but then comes memory
His misdeeds, his ill-begotten sword
Holding the blade to the light, he names it Thorn, for Willow he left
Arliman would've had me starve, thinks he
And so, heart lightened, Seer leaves his tree
To resume his journey, a new destination in mind, the capitol most lovely
Onward, helping all, his misdeed not quite forgotten
And Seer reaches Kestrel, that great capitol
With walls, towers, great mansions of fine alabaster
Streets a-throng, the beautiful, the ugly, urchins
Merchants, thieves, friends and foes, dogs by his shins
Seer stares, overcome, mouth open, hands closed in the pockets of his jerkin
Through the streets he wanders, arrested by cries
"Buy this! Buy that! Come here! Go there!"
He stops at last on the steps of a great house, the temple
Weary, lonesome, his horse as tired as he, Seer watches
The passersby, the sun setting, the sky, across it colors in swatches
Then "Hark! Make way! The princess comes by!" Seer raises his eyes
The crowds part, the priests run out upon the steps;
Lines of soldiers enter the square. Marching, in rows
A palanquin behind them; its curtains of gauze, trumpeters hanging off it
The crowds bow, pressing away from the street
Seer rises, shading his eyes, longing for the palanquin to part its sheet
Then a hand, pale, delicate, between the lines of gauze, it peeps
Eyes, grey, and a face, most fair; hair like sparkling sunflowers
The Princess Catherine, loveliest in the land, she smiles
Seer's heart, it goes a-flutter, but the hand withdraws and gauze sweeps back
The knight offers a smile to the ground, and a mutter
"She's too beautiful for me. The princess! I can't have her."
But he follows all the same, after that golden palanquin, drawn by delicate powers
In the glittering shadow he goes, away to the palace, a mountain of gold
With towers high, and windows of stained-glass
Jeweled pillars, a mighty door, lit like Heaven
Seer stops, and he stares, up at the door so high
He swallows and stills himself at the threshold, for he cannot go nigh
"Oh princess! Would that I were bold!"
For if courageous were he, Seer would enter
Glumly he turns away, boots scuffing the stairs
A man trudges up the steps behind him, dirty and thin
Arliman! The enemy of old! Seer turns away, heard a-pounding
Down the stairs he hurries, unnoticed, but breath resounding
What does Arliman here? What deeds? Why goes he to the center?
A place to stay he must find, so Seer ponders as he walks
What to do? Where to go? It becomes clear
The palace he must enter, the princess he must see
Arliman's dark deeds, unmask them he must
But the princess, she is better, and in her Seer wishes to trust
So a place he finds, a tavern, the sign of Two Hawks
A room and meal, bought with his last gold
A booth to sit in, and watch, the barkeep to ask
"How might I enter the palace?"
A girl he is directed to, rosy, plump
Sitting alone, mug in hand, looking fit to jump
"A way into the palace you might find, I was told."
Jump she does, and glare, brushing back her hair
"Who speaks? Why want you this?"
"I am named Seer, and my wants are mine"
The girl laughs, high and clear
"Oh foolish knave! Think you I would help one so drear?"
Now it is the knight's turn to glare
"I am in love with the princess!"
Seer stares, aghast, for those words he meant not to speak
Does he mean them? He knows not, but the girl's attention he has caught
Smile does she, and says, "most romantic, therefore I shall help thee!"
Stands she does, and offers her hand, "my name is Bri."
Seer takes her hand, uncertain, but here is help for his distress
Out of Two Hawks Bri takes him, through the streets of Kestrel
Back to the palace, and now to its side
A special door to find, and on the way she explains
"A servant am I, but the king I hate
So I help those who wish to hurt him, who will hasten his fate"
Seer cares not, but he smiles and lets her lead him, for without her he should be a wastrel
Into the palace they go, through secret passages so narrow
And into broad halls, high walls, gilded galleries
"Here is where I leave you," says Bri "Look for me by the sea"
And with a flash she disappears.
Seer scratches his head, but here he is, and he will not give in to his fears
"On we go," he whispers, and creeps on, avoiding his fellow
For the princess's chambers he searches, his heart aflame
Is this insane? What will she say?
But all Seer knows, is this princess's beauty and allure
Her chambers he finds, down a hall of stern portraits
And heart pounding he knocks on a door carved most curiously with hornets
A thump from inside, the sound of soft slippered feet, and shows the face of acclaim
Soft lips, big eyes, the princess smiles and she says
"I've been waiting for you"
Seer stares open-mouthed as she leads him in and sets him in a chair
And sits legs curled upon her bed
"You came! I thought you would have fled!"
Seer grips the arms of his chair, unbelieving of this
"My lady," he says slowly, "how do you know me?"
"I am Catherine," says the princess, "but call me Kate
I do not know you, but I have been waiting for one to come
To free me, for my father the king is cruel
And keeps me trapped, and will force me to marry a man who'll
Never love me, keep me as treasure, only want my body!"
To this Seer has no response
"So?" says she, "will you help me?"
To be gentlemanly or a knave? What will avail her?
For to defy the king means dying
And to take his daughter, a most horrible crying
A spell has he been placed under? To help this girl, resting in nonchalance?
"What do you want me to do?"
"Take me away! Take me far away!"
Seer looks inter her eyes, those beautiful eyes, and he knows
"I will help you, let us go"
Gathering her things Kate smiles, hiding a spellbook, a crystal all aglow
Flee they do, climbing a rope of bedsheets from the window
The king's guards aroused a day late
As princess and pauper into the countryside ride
Sleeping in culverts and up trees
And speaking, and growing to love
For their hearts long to come together, to know of
Each other, to find if the other will be a mate
Arliman leading the guards, they comb the land
For to him the princess has been betrothed, and love her he does
Though she hates him, to have her he dreams
But find them he cannot, for Seer knows much of woodlore
And hidden they stay, protected by Kate's spells, her knowledge of yore
Grinding his teeth Arliman goes on, for the princess will not escape his hand
And so love blossoms on the run
Twixt princess and pauper, highborn and fool
Unknowing of the blight Arliman carries, the curse given him by the king
They reach a city, golden, upon the eaves of trees
Home to the Elder Ones, who praise the leaves
And they stop, a marriage to seal, thinking their enemy outrun
With "I do" on his lips, Seer holds Kate's hand
And Arliman comes thundering in
Cries the princess does, for her freedom she will lose
And for Seer's fighting, his valiant struggles
For they will not avail him, and just beginning are his troubles
Arliman the curse holds high, paper, burning, the king's voice, so grand
"Thou fool! Thou beast!
Cursed you will be for all time
To be wing-ed, horn-ed, fly
Never home to come, upon blood to feast!"
Horror takes Seer's eyes, and fire pierces his veins
The princess screams as betrothed begins to burn
And limbs twist, and neck stretches, and wings from spine unfold
From back tail sprouts, from hands claws flash
Scales they do shine, teeth they do gnash
A dragon Seer becomes, that most hideous thing, that monster of flames
To the air he takes, writhing
As Arliman his bride captures, though she struggles,though she cries
To take her home, to Kestrel and her father the King
While Seer laments, crystal tears dripping from his snout
Huddled in a cave, sides shuddering, lets out a roar meant to be a shout
Broken is he, beastly, to be hunted, and killed despite his striving
For the princess all hope is lost, and bitterly she weeps
While Seer longs, and dreams, visions of their love undying
In his cave he lays, no movement to make, despairing
To die he determines, for such would be better, than always inside hearing Kate's cries
To water only dragons are vulnerable, so he flies
To the sea, to waves crashing, salt spray and the One Who Sleeps
Against the rocks he dashes himself, and he falls
Into the water, to the bottom to sink
But here now he sees Bri, hair floating about her, aglow
"Do you remember me?"
He can naught but nod mutely
"Cursed you have been, but still you have come to my halls
My heart joys to see you, for I knew
That great your fate would be
When first we met in Kestrel
Now, thou dragon, arise! Do not weep!
Hope still lives! A man I know, with whom your sins you may reap
Gnarl is his name, and he is powerful too"
Seer's heart is failing, but Bri, nature now revealed,
Onto the shore she pushes him, and on the sand he rests
Eyes glazed over, hardly remembering
To be found by the children of fishermen
A little girl and a little boy, who scream and run and call then
For their father, and the king's soldiers, to strike before the dragon is healed
His head he raises, wondering if to hope again he may
And when the mob screaming comes, he raises himself from the sand
And flies, refusing to strike, into the distance
Where is this Gnarl? He thinks as his wings beat
And then rain comes, and the nymph's face he sees in a droplet, so sweet
"To the mountains, the fields of clover, the place called Cray"
Pumping his wings, he flies on, soaring
Over fields, towns, endless forests
Those who see him scream, and they run
But Seer ignores them; only one thing can he see
Visions of the mountains dancing in his eyes, beyond the blust'ry Sea
Across the waves, and the land all around, the boats far below, rowing
And rise the mountains do, across'd that old Sea
Seer cries out in delight, flames leaping to the heavens
And dives, dives, dives, far down
To alight atop the mountain
To search through snowflakes a thousand
For Gnarl, that old wizard, for help to plea
The winds howl, shriek, roar
Seer presses on, head down, scales cold
The snow does not faze him, for inner fires burn
Long will he last, and so he does, for three weeks searching
Until, upon the last frozen hillside, a hut he finds at gloaming
A joyous shout he cries, and runs to the door
Flies open does the door, and a man stands in its frame
Tiny, bearded, like a dwarf he seems
One hand he raises, and Seer sees from whence comes his name
"What dost thou desire, oh thou dragon?"
He speaks with power, though his face is ashen
"Cursed I have been," rasps Seer, "And I have heard of your fame"
"Have thee, have thee? I wouldst ask thou in, if thy size were less!"
A smile Seer tries, for surely to be friendly would be best
"Please kind sir, the King has made me so"
Gnarl looks at him, eyes a-gleam, and smiles crookedly
"Is that so? Help thee I can, if thy despairing calls thee verily"
"I will do whatever I must," declares Seer, "For my lover I must once again caress!"
At this Gnarl grins, and rubs together his crooked hands
"Is that so? The Princess Catherine dost thou love?"
Seer does not dissemble, for the secret is out, and says simply "yes"
"Most excellent! I will help thee!"
Relief! Seer collapses, fangs showing in a smile, and heeds not the snow-face of Bri
Saying, "be careful now, be careful, trust not his demands"
Seer sleeps, and he does not dream, until days later he wakes
Now the snows have stopped, and all is pristine crystal
Seer stirs, spreading his wings, snorting out fire
"Good morning!" says Gnarl, "Are you ready?"
Seer blinks, and yawns, and says, "yes, we must not tarry"
Grinning, the wizard withdraws from his robes a handful of colored flakes
Into the air he tosses them, and a canopy they make
Glowing lines stretching between them
"Within this we may not lie," says he, "Now art thou ready?"
Nods Seer does, and Gnarl kneels
His fingers in the snow, his beard a-bristling, a demand he reveals
"Tell me thy name, and promise my requests thou shall not forsake"
"I am Seer, and I will do whatever you ask if only human you will make me"
"Very well! Thy blood I require, fair dragon"
A knife Gnarl draws, and into Seer's paw he stabs it
Taking a drop of green blood, he swallows it
And his own arm he cuts; "lick my blood, for to the spell thou must submit"
Eyes closed distastefully, Seer licks, and the spell is sealed; laments does Bri
For unknowing, she has led him into a trap, but he will not listen
For now his demands Gnarl makes:
"Destroy the Grindledark Army of the King
Sink his ships, and slay his cattle
His walls tear down, his sons burn, ruin his chattel
And thy princess thou shalt have, thy humanity restored, thy heart un-riven"
Seer swallows, his gut with fire churning
But love and magic compel him, and refuse he cannot
"Your demands I shall perform"
Gnarl smiles that sly smile, and in a cloud of smoke disappears
Collapses Seer does, chin in the snow, his heart shadowed by fears
Snowflakes swirl and and turn, forming
Bri rises before him
"Sorry I am! Into death I have led you!"
From her eye slides a tear, glistening, into the air
Raising his head, Seer tries a smile, snout iced
"What else would I do? To gain a princess much must be sacrificed"
To his feet he heaves himself, and to the sky takes, his face grim
To the South now, to the soldiers of Grindledark and the foes they fight
A war beyond the memory of the oldest gaffer
A land torn, obliterated twixt the chaos
Of cities entwined in vicious battle
Of families torn, men slaughtered with their cattle
The Southlands on the horizon rise, smoke, and crows in flight
In lands afar, in the north, the city of Kestrel
On her balcony does the princess reside
Watching the sunset, her heart set
Against the lord behind her, Arliman
And on a spell, her true love to show, that is her plan
"Leave me," she declares, and as he leaves gathers her mortar-and-pestle
A spell to make, a potion to mix
Into the bowl go alembric and fayle and lorquest
Kinderark, cabriwillow, wondencrollow
Silver it glows, circling in a bowl just as silver
A reflection to show, of a place far away; the potion it does quiver
Over it the princess leans, heard a-pounding, and speaks the spell, "Sabrix!"
Into the silver Catherine stares, gaze lost
A vista unrolls before her eyes:
Fire, a pall of smoke, and flashing wings
A beast from the sky dives, its maw gaping
Countless soldiers a-murdering, countless homes destroying
Ashes it spreads, and from ashes, dust
Screams echo through the glass, faintly
Bodies writhe, and twist, burning
Tears the dragon sheds, great hissing drops, falling
And where they strike, the ground withers
A hand to her mouth she presses, as the silver flickers
With horrid scenes, caused, every one, by her love, no longer so saintly
With horror in her cry, the bowl she smashes
Its shards tinkling on the floor, flames still showing
Through the drips and puddles of silver
From her room the princess flees, to the chapel to go
To pray to her gods, to intercede for Seer's soul
On her knees she falls, on her head ashes
"Oh Lord of the Sky! Do not treat him too harshly!
For in him still, is that man, that man I love
Oh Sky Lord! Forgive him I pray;
Strike him with Your Holy Lightning, so he falls
And catch him with a breath of Your Wind, so he will not go to the Spirits' halls
Hide him away, where safe he will be, not to be harmed awfully"
To her plea the Sky God listens
His hand he raises, his eyes sparking with a holy light
A jagged bolt, a furious searing, flies from his hand
Striking Seer the Dragon
With a roar of pain he falls, into the swamp of Alagon
Mists rise and hide him, and in the half-light his skin glistens
Slowly his sides rise and fall, asleep now
While the land burns around him, and Gnarl looks on
On his face a sneer, in his eyes a light
On bare, twisted feet he walks, down into the land
At his back an army, of corpses frozen in ice, their eyes like bits of sand
The dragon his work has done, but from his curse unreleased, not until he does bow
Now for a journey the princess prepares, to find Seer in his dreaming
And to the south are dispatched warriors
The King sends his finest: Jin, Dakra, Cedwyn, Arliman
The dragon to slay, while the princess goes to offer aid
Succor for the weary, a light to the wounded, a debt to be paid
But all the while in her heart, to find Seer, a secret desire residing
The dragon lays in slumber
Gnarl of the Frozen Dead, great necromancer of old, advances
The King on his throne broods
While south the princess does go, followed by warriors
Amongst the armies of wounded she travels, even among the foreigners
Using her magic to heal, and always after the dragon does she wonder
The warriors search, but they can't find him either
Seer sleeps in peace, unknowing of the land's troubles
Until at last, in a village near Alagon
A wise woman the princess meets, who to the swamp directs her
And with her retainers she goes, into the mud, to no one will she defer
Arliman follows, for to protect her he has vowed, never to leave her
On they forge; in the meantime the King fights Gnarl
Magic against magic, ice against sand
A maelstrom of power, tearing over the land
Neither side the upper hand to gain
But steadily, the King's power will wane
While in Alagon the princess is lost, in thorns ensnarled
But with much toil, and through many monsters
Arliman at her side always, she reaches
The center of Alagon, where the dragon sleeps
To slay the dragon Arliman tries
But with her magic the princess stops himaway his sword flies
And on the ground he lies, while the dragon Catherine kisses, heedless of watchers
"Oh, what have they done to you?" she cries
"How did you fall this far?
How could you slay so many?
My beloved! How to remove this curse may I?"
At her presence Seer wakes; at her kiss his blood thrills; he raises his wings to fly
But stops, staring at her face, at that beauty, into her eyes
"My curse you may not cure," whispers he
"Only Gnarl, the wizard for whom I have slain"
With shame his face burns, though through his scales it may not be seen
"To him I must fly, now task is done;
A man I will be, and, my love, we will at last be one!"
Now bitterly the princess regrets ensnaring him, though as one she longs to be
For twisted love has been; to slaying it has changed
"Oh Seer," whispers she, "may I come with thee?"
To this he agrees, and on his back she climbs, to seat herself between his spines
Off they go, and Arliman they leave
His honor lost, but his love undimmed, he has no time to grieve
For a swift flight he must follow, his heart unchanged
Now frozen the land lies, wheat turned to crystal
Flowers iced over, trees creaking
Beneath the weight of a thousand icicles
While corpses crawl, over hills, frozen fingers grasping
For the King's soldiers, his citizens, his slaves, as they die gasping
And the King in his palace hides, fighting the ice away from Kestrel
Out of the frosted sky flies Seer
With the princess upon his back, they descend
Into the desperate city, to land atop the temple spire
Out of the bell slips a shape, feminine, lovely
Bri it is, a smile on her lips, her fingers bloody
"Sent me the Storm God did, for the future he has foreseen, and he holds you most dear"
"Me?" Seer arches his neck, confused
Her hands Bri holds up, and wider does her smile spread
"See my fingers, I have been fighting for this city, for you
The Princess Catherine is the Sky Lord's blood
As are all royalty of Kestrel; think you he would help thee, if in your veins ran mud?"
"And because she loves me..." Seer says, bemused
"So, and this is true," says Bri
"Now fight we must, and destroy the usurper Gnarl
And then, maybe then, the King your curse will remove"
Seer smiles, and agrees
His neck the princess holds, and rests her cheek on his scales, her hair lifted by the breeze
"I love you," whispers she
With his nose Seer nudges her, tenderly
And off he flies, his tail trailing behind
His place on the gates to take
And Gnarl sees, from his camp in the distance
The dragon perched there; and he sees his chance
For bound in blood is Seer, as Gnarl convinced him to be, so cleverly
A spell he speaks, and Seer feels his heart tugging
He roars at the sky, fearful, for against the city he finds himself set
Takes off he does, writhing, and fire flies from his jaws
To take what ice has not, to consume what hunger has left
Until his wings he wraps around himself, and he falls into a cleft
On Gnarl marches, an opening made, and the gates he throws down, laughing
The princess on her spire, the king in his palace tower
In horror they watch, while unnoticed behind Gnarl, in comes Arliman
From his journey distressed, barely alive, but there
Her hands the princess raises, a spell to work
Her movement echoed by the king, struggling, against the dark
And Bri flies, heart a-thunder, to Seer, his fallen power
Beside him she lands, while the cold takes Kestrel
And on his sleeping brow she sets her hand
Words she speaks, and her body dissolves
Seer's bonds broken, but Bri dead
He wakes, roaring, to a pain in his head
And a whisper, "I loved thee, my knightly wastrel"
Unfettered, he leaps to the sky, Gnarl now to fight
Over the roofs he rages, claws skittering
Ice breaks beneath his anger, and the undead die again
On his feet before Gnarl he lands, and paws the snow
Smoke rising from his nostrils, he snarls, his eyes aglow
Fire from his mouth flies, and consumes the wizard, his entire height
But unburned is he, and Gnarl does but laugh
A storm from his fingers releases
Icy shards into Seer's chest fly, and he screams
Collapsing, into the snow his tail slapping
Blood dyeing the white scarlet, from his wounds leaking
Gnarl smiles, and the princess screams, and the King's eyes fill with wrath
Down the spire's stairs the princess runs, cloak billowing behind her
A spell on her fingers, building as through the streets she runs
And around the corner she comes, stopping to see Gnarl
"Foul wizard!" screams she, "Fiend! Face me!"
Gnarl turns, and at this moment Seer acts, before his spirit can flee
Around the wizard he clamps his jaws, and snaps, the world a blur
In two Gnarl is cloven, and his blood stains Seer's jaws
Screams the princess does, and to his side she hurries
Her spell turned to healing, over him her hands she runs
His wounds to fix, saying always, "Stay with me!"
Onto the street comes Arliman, his sword held high, agleam
Seer's bulk hides the princess, and at the dragon's side does he pause
"Justice is done," Arliman whispers
Seer hears him, but too late
And a sword into his breast is plunged
Slain the dragon is, and the princess weeps
Arliman breaks to see her hurting, though his heart had leaped
"Sorry I am," says he, and his sword he raises
"No!" screams the princess
But too late it is, for into Arliman's heart the sword is plunged
And he falls, blood spreading, to match Seer's
Now bitterly does the princess weep, for all are lost
Across the snow she lays, her eyebrows covered in frost
And this is how the King finds them; down does his heart press
To his knees he falls, and releases Seer from his curse
And now a curious thing happens:
A wisp forms above the dragon, man-shaped, and smiles
To the princess he goes, and her shoulder touches
"As a ghost I love on," says Seer, and the princess, she blushes
The King leaves them then, his broken kingdom to attend to, into his troubles to immerse
Now thusly our tale is ended
This tale of the girl and dragon
In waste the kingdom lies, upended--
But Gnarl now dead, ashen
Pleased is the Sky God
For peace has returned
On his throne he will sit, to rule with an iron rod
And men will languish in the ice, their lives overturned
But though Darkness has come
And one of them may be a wight
Together always they will be, forever one
The princess and her monster-knight