Lineage

Autor: John Moore

 

For seventy years there had been no dragons in all the land and then one was seen in the forests of the North. Three days later it ravaged a small peasant community, tearing apart the flimsy huts and setting the ripe fields on fire, before disappearing into the dense woodlands. And so the call went out for Jason Ironwielder, whose grandfather, seventy years before, had dealt with the last dragon to appear in the kingdom.

The news reached Jason long before the official summons and he rose that morning from his bed in the west wing of the huge castle, crossed over to the window and stood shivering in the cold morning air. The rising sun threw red light on the hills and fence posts and long shadows dogged the steps of the townspeople, some sleepily, some stiffly, going about the days chores. Jason looked at the peaceful scene and spoke to himself aloud:

"There has not been a dragon in the kingdom for seventy years. It is a great task they set before me and yet I have had no experience with dragons, have never even seen one, nor did my father before me. Am I capable of such a task? And it is a great responsibility that I take on behalf of these people; can I accept such responsibility?

"And yet it is also a great honor to be chosen by the king for this assignment. Am I worthy of this honor? My grandfather dealt with the dragon most capably, but that does not make me his equal." At the same time he knew that, capable or not, there was no other man in the kingdom more qualified than he.

So he dressed and descended the long stone staircase and at the bottom was a messenger, as expected, with a summons to appear before the king. As he followed the messenger through the many rooms and great halls the men stood aside, aloof and envious, and the women grouped together, trailing whispers, "There he is. Jason Ironwielder. I knew it would be him. His grandfather, you know." Jason walked stiffly by.

He was led to a carved oak door, fronted by burly guards. "For three days the feasting lasted," one was telling the other. "So they say. Aye, and the name of Ironwielder was on everyone's lip, they say." The guards saw Jason and snapped to attention. He passed through the door.

He found the king pouring over a table full of maps, flanked by officers. Pins with colored flags denoted the latest dragon sighting. Jason bowed deeply. With a wave of his hand the king dismissed the soldiers. "Well, Jason?"

"I have never encountered a dragon, my liege."

"Who alive today has? Roland from Westalia offered to send some experienced men. Turned him down, of course. Told him we can handle our own problems. Can't we? Did last time, right?"

Jason paused long before answering. "My liege, sixty years ago my grandfather was put to the supreme test of his skills. As every man, woman, and child in the kingdom knows, he passed that test superbly. My father and I have both profited from his achievement, I have accepted respect that was not due by any action of my own, been granted favors that I have not earned. Now is the time that I must prove myself worthy of praise already accepted. I thank you, your highness, for giving me this chance. Would that my father could have done the same."

"Good man. Knew I could count on you." The King gave him a wink. "Incidentally I invited Roland to the victory feast. So, no slip ups, eh?"

Alone, Jason walked back to his room. From his desk he took a key and with this he opened a large trunk that had been locked for many years. Out of it he took the books, books on dragon lore, written notes by his grandfather and his great grandfather, family secrets passed down through centuries. All that was known about dragons was in these books. Beneath the books was a bundle wrapped in cloth. Jason unwrapped it and held to the light the blades, the great blades, finer than any made today, the blades that the Ironwielders had for generations used on dragons. And with the blades under his arm, Jason left the room.

Was he successful? Of course he was! For hadn't he, knowingly or not, been preparing his whole life for this moment?

The entire kingdom, from the humblest peasant to the richest lord, turned out for the victory feast. Long tables were laid out in the park, gaily colored tents were everywhere, wine and ale flowed like water. Roland of Westalia chatted amicably with the king, who managed to catch Jason's eye.

"Jason," he roared, leaving his seat at the banquet and coming over to where Jason was carving the huge roast. "Jason, meet Sir Edmund." A brawny knight presented himself and bowed. Jason bowed also. "Sir Edmund," continued the king, "is the knight who slew the great dragon."

"My respects, sir," said Jason, "then it is to you that we owe this great feast."

"No more than to you, good sir!" cried the knight. "Your Highness, may I have your permission to toast this man?"

"Agreed," said the king, and with one motion the mass of people rose from their tables and roared the name of Jason Ironwielder. Who merely smiled, adjusted his chef's hat and, with the great blades that had been his father's, kept on carving. For such was to be expected of the first man to cook a dragon in sixty years.

 

©1986 by John Moore

 

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