Copyright Michael "The Roach" Janszen ©2001
Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion
He came down
from the mountains one evening in late spring. The sun glistened on
His scales, rippling with the barely-restrained power of his muscles
beneath. The men from the village, hurrying home from the fields
where they had been tending the crops and expecting the worst, were
astonished to find Him sitting in the village square, unperturbed by
the women's' fearful looks nor the baron's barely controlled
belligerence. "Dragon!" the village folks whispered.
To her, He looked as if He had come straight from the gods, which
indeed He might have. She noticed everyone was afraid, but she
couldn't understand why. She was only three, after all.
When He spoke, all the buildings in the village trembled. It was
said, later, that some of the windows in the baron's mansion broke,
which was a shame. They were made of glass, after all, and
glass was expensive.
"It's very simple," He said. "Ten days
after each solstice, and ten days after each equinox, you'll bring
ten cows - nice, juicy young cows, no steer, no oxen, no old ones,
nothing else - into the village square. In the following night, I'll
get them "
Ten cows, that was much. Forty cows a year was much more than the
village could afford. Young though she was, she understood this.
Still, she didn't understand the fear. So, she stepped out like she
had seen her Dad do on occasion, hands on her hips, and looked at
him. Behind her, the villagers gasped, but no one dared pull
her back, afraid to draw His attention. "Just 'cos you're
big doesn't mean you can simply take what belongs to us!" she
yelled at Him. In the crowd, her Mum fainted. With blinding
speed, His head shot down, stopping inches in front of her face. She
didn't flinch, even though one of His eyes was almost as big as she
"We have a spirited one here!" He seemed amused. "Rest
assured, I am not planning on killing all of you off. The ten cows,
that's what the whole barony will deliver." He took wing
again. When everyone thought that He had left, He returned one more
time, circling over their heads.
"One day," He thundered, "One day, I might
take away one of your daughters, and if I do, I won't return for any
more cows." And this time, He really left.
And her heart sang out. Everyone else had seen powerful muscles,
sharp teeth, fiery eyes, the hard and impenetrable scales. She,
however, had seen the play of the sun on His body, the finely
manicured claws, the smoothness of His movements, the glint in His
eyes. They had seen power and danger, but she had seen beauty.
* * * * *
every quarter year from the whole barony was manageable,
though still a hardship. 40 cows a year. Being the liege lord, the
baron was hurting the most. So when, together with the hundredth
cow, the dog guarding them disappeared (his favorite hunting dog),
he sent for a dragon hunter.
The dragon hunter was a filthy, unkempt individual. Wherever he
went, an envelope of smell followed him and remained, almost as if
it had taken on a mind of its own. His name was unpronounceable, so
everyone called him Gargi. He was a dwarf.
She had just turned six, and was almost as tall as the dwarf.
In the village pub, they told Gargi about the set-up. How the cows
were led into the village square in the evening. How they would
disappear overnight, leaving only a few cow chips behind.
"Hasn't the dragon taken away any people as well?", Gargi
Strangely enough, He hadn't. Some of the older girls in the village
looked into their wine cups uncomfortably. They had thought of
running away, using the dragon as a distraction - the village
wouldn't realize for three months that they hadn't been taken by the
dragon. But instead, they had fallen asleep with the rest of the
village, only to awaken the next morning. They had wisely kept
silent about it.
A few boys, though, had tried to sneak a peek out at the dragon. As
she had, too. But they, too had fallen asleep.
Gargi stayed for three days, eating and drinking on their costs.
Then, the day had come. They put the cows into the village square,
and Gargi set out to confront the dragon. The next day, the
cows were gone. In one corner of the village square, Gargi's
clothes, chain mail and weapons were found; in the opposite corner,
Gargi himself lay, snoring away, not bothered by the cold winter air
on his bare skin.
When he awoke to general laughter, Gargi didn't bother to dress. He
just grabbed his stuff and ran away, never to be seen again.
That was the only time the village had tried to hire a dragon
* * * * *
passed, and she grew to be an attractive girl. She was very much a
tomboy, but even so she learned a lot about life, and breeding cows,
and everything else a good village girl needed to know.
The summer solstice shortly before her sixteenth birthday, something
changed in the general procedure. For the first time since He had
appeared over thirteen years ago, His shape was seen, circling over
the village waiting for nightfall. She had made up her mind.
When everyone went to bed, expecting to fall asleep, she crept out
of the house, and onto the village square. There, she used a rope to
tie herself to one of the cows. She had barely finished tying the
knot when she felt her lids go heavy, and she fell asleep.
She awoke with a start. It was daytime, and she was in a valley in
the mountains, lying on a stack of cowhides. It wasn't an
uncomfortable bed at all.
She looked around. Next to her bed, she saw a bowl of fruit. She
grabbed an apple, wondering how a completely fresh apple could be
here, before the apples were even ripe. She bit into it, and then
set out to look where she was.
She rounded a corner and saw Him, sitting majestically, looking over
what must have been a herd of several hundred cows grazing. The cows
seemingly were not worried by His presence. Slowly, she crept
closer, trying to move as stealthily as possible. When she had
closed in to ten yards, He suddenly spoke. "I see you have
awoken. Do you have what you want?" Only when He had
finished did He turn His head to look at her.
"If I am allowed to stay, then I have what I want." she
"If I had not wanted you to come here, I would not have
taken you. You would have slept, and awoken on the village square.
Even though it's sad that I don't get the cows anymore."
Content, she sat down next to Him. "A herd of cows? Are
you keeping them?"
"Of course. As long as they will live. I don't need their
Unbelievingly, she looked up at Him. "You don't? But then,
He looked deep into her eyes. "This must remain a secret
between you and me. Promise me that!"
Se looked into His eyes. Slowly, she nodded. "No one will ever
learn it from me."
"Then it is good. We dragons don't eat flesh at all. It is
poisonous to us."
She frowned. "Do you mean you eat plants? Most animals that eat
plants need much more..."
"No, dragons aren't herbivores either. We need too much
energy to make use of material that raw. What we ... well, you might
say, eat... is much more refined." He looked at one
of the cows. Suddenly, the cow gave a start, and ran a few steps
before forgetting whatever it was that had startled her.
Se looked back at Him. Out of the corner of His mouth, she saw a a
white liquid trickle while He... was it a smile? She looked
back at the cow that had been startled. And noticed that her udder
was empty. She looked at the other cows. About one third had empty
udders, the rest were waiting to be milked. She looked back at Him,
understanding dawning deep within.
"Yes, we need milk to survive. Unfortunately, these cows
don't last long before they start to... dry up. They produce very
little milk, and so we are forced to continue collecting new cows.
And being down one barony... well, while I like that you have found
your way here, after all this still means I need to find another
source. I gave my word."
She leaned against His left paw. "Did you know I would
"From the day I first saw you. Your spirit cried out. It
cried out against what you saw as injustice, and you stood in for
what you believed in. Yes, I expected you to come, but still... why
"I wanted to know... When you were in the village, everyone
only saw the mighty, fearsome dragon. I saw the beautiful, noble
creature and wondered whether I was wrong. It seems I wasn't."
"And what do you plan to do now?"
"You have a problem because part of your milk supply suddenly
"One fifth, to be exact. I gathered about 50 cows a quarter,
which is barely enough to sustain me. But I'll manage. Of course, I
won't keep you. What would I do with you? Can I take you
She sat down on His right hind leg, leaning against His strong body.
His smell - unlike anything she had ever smelled before - tickled
her nose. "Say, was there a special reason why you demanded ten
cows? You could have demanded anything, I doubt people would have
"What would I do with anything else? I need the milk. So,
all I ask for is cows."
She smiled dreamily, while three more cows suddenly found their
udders utterly empty. "I think I'll stay with you - for a while
at least. And I'll help you become less dependent on the
"Less dependent? That would be nice. But, how are you going
to do that?"
"Are you done collecting the cows this quarter
"No, there's two more villages."
She smiled up at His eyes and impishly tapped His giant nose with
her index finger. "Can you change your orders to one of the
villages? Have them deliver three or four young bulls. They
ought to be about to kill them or turn them into oxen anyway."
Confusion flew over His face. "Bulls? They don't give milk.
What would I need them for? As I said, meat is poisonous to
"It's what you need, believe me! Ever heard about the birds and