As a dragon I live in a cave. I like my cave. My father and grandfather both lived here before me. I feel safe here. I have an excellent view of all the countryside around me. It is set in a hill so if anyone wants to come and see me, a certain amount of effort is needed. It also means that I cannot have anyone creeping up on me unseen. A sensible precaution if one is a dragon. If I have visitors they come because they want to find me. Some come in confidently, knowing that they are safe here. Others come more nervously, with much coughing, clearing of their throats and noise generally. To warn me of their arrival, I think. (As if I hadn’t known of them for several days. One does not live as long as me without knowing who is approaching!) Others come in like a mouse. They make themselves small walking carefully and quietly. So that I am not surprised or disturbed seems to be their idea. (As if that were possible!) But I want to talk about one visitor. A young man who found me. He came to my cave and stood at the entrance, looking in at me. I looked back at him, trying to look friendly and not worryingly fierce. He carried on standing for a long time. I waited. Eventually he spoke to me “Are you dangerous? If I come in to your cave, will you eat me?” I thought about this for a little while. “No” I said, “I’ve already eaten today.” He seemed unsure what to make of this so I said nothing more. “Are you sure?” he asked. “Only I’ve heard bad things about dragons. How you eat people, capture princesses, burn down villages…”
“Would you like me to?” I asked.
He thought. “Well, there’s one or two people I wouldn’t miss if you ate them.”
“Who?” I asked.
He reeled off a long list of people who had hurt him and his family. “I’d kill them myself, if I knew how. But I’ve never killed someone and might make a mess of it.”
His story was a sad one. His family had fallen on bad times. The local Lord had put up the rent. Grain prices had gone up. Milk cost more to produce than it sold for. Several very hot summers had spoiled their harvest. Stock had had to be killed. The story was never-ending. His father had killed himself, leaving my visitor to manage alone. His sister had chosen to sell her body to whoever would pay her. His mother had gone to her bed months ago and stayed there. He was all alone, or so it seemed to him.
“What do you want from me?” I asked
“I want you to show me how to kill. My sister and mother would be better dead. Then I’ll kill the animals and burn them. Then I’ll burn the farm. Then I’ll kill myself. We’ll all be better off that way.”
When in doubt stay silent. It took many years for me to learn that lesson. I said nothing. Nor did he. We both said nothing for a long time. (It’s always amazing how much gets said when nothing is being said. This was one of those times.) Finally he came into my cave and sat down in front of me. He cried for a long time.
One of the things we learn in Dragon listening school is when not to speak. So I sat with my visitor until words seemed helpful.
To be continued…