Yesterday, Patrick O’Scheen’s dragon reviewed The Fall of Onagros, Book 1 of SAGE, and pronounced it better to read than to eat. I promised him The Dragon and Her Eggs, and here it is. This is a story being told by a “praiter”, a storyteller from Istok.
Dragon and Her Eggs
Silver and Iron, Book 3 of Sage — excerpt
by Marian Allen
Long, long, ago (he said), back in the days when there wasn’t much yet to tell, there was a Primarch who was afraid to die. He asked each member of his Council of the Wise how he could cheat death.
The very last one, an old woman, bent and nearly hairless, told him that the remedy was known by only one person: Alith Mayros, the Cook Who Couldn’t Lie.
This was greeted by sounds of satisfaction. Alith Mayros was a great favorite in the Istok pantheon.
So Alith Mayros was sent for, and the Primarch put his question.
Alith Mayros said, “Only a fool fears death. Death loves us tenderly and embraces us all, sooner or later. Life is joy, but life is pain, and it often wounds us worst in taking leave.”
If anyone else had spoken so to the Primarch, he would have thrown him in prison, for the Primarch was, indeed, a fool. Alith Mayros, though, had leave to say what he pleased. After all, what is the good of someone who cannot lie if his tongue is tied?
Again, the Primarch asked for freedom from death, and Alith Mayros could not help but reply, “I have heard that one who sits down to a meal of a dragon roasted with her own eggs will never die thereafter.”
The Primarch said, “Cook me that meal.”
Now, at that time, dragons were easier to find. Every settlement had at least one guardian dragon. Every path, every stream, every bog, every woodland, every inch of Istok rested under a dragon’s wing. To harm one, even accidentally, was a disgrace. To kill one was a crime and a sin. To eat one was an abomination, as – of course – is eating a mother in a dish with her young. Yet the Primarch insisted.
“And you, Alith Mayros, are granted the honor of preparing and serving this wonderful meal. Who else would be worthy? Go, then, and return tomorrow evening with my immortality.”
“So soon? I need more time!”
“Every day you fail me brings me another day closer to death. Every day which brings me closer to death, ten people will die. Any ten – it’s all the same to me.”
Alith Mayros left the audience lodge and stumbled across the clearing to the cookhouse, where he sat by the cold hearth and wept.
“Truth is a curse!” he cried up the smoke hole.
The praitier’s audience shouted the next line along with him, a line which appeared in every Alith Mayros story: “Oh, what I wouldn’t give for one little lie!” When the laughter had died down, he continued.
Then there was a scurrying in the thatch, a scraping, a dusting of straw, then a plonk, and a blue-tailed lizard no longer than my hand dropped to the floor. It gleamed in the sunlight that poured straight down the smoke hole.
“What are you weeping for?” the lizard asked. “I know what you want, and I bring it to you. Where is the roasting dish?”
Alith Mayros brought the red clay dish and placed it on the floor near the lizard.
“Go fire the oven.”
The Cook Who Couldn’t Lie went out and lit charcoal in the fire holes of the big clay oven. When he came back in, the lizard had lined the dish with bright blue and green scales and gold-yellow thatching straw. There came the sound of wings. A kingfisher dropped through the smoke hole as if plunging into water, swooped over the roasting pan, and dove back into the sky. He left one kingfisher’s egg behind. Another rush of wings, and a hawk passed in and over and out, leaving one hawk’s egg. One after another, ten different birds each left one egg, ten eggs for ten innocents who would die without them. Then the lizard crawled into the roasting dish and made itself comfortable.
“Now, Alith Mayros, put on the lid and seal it. When the charcoal is ash, put the dish into the oven and seal the door. When the Primarch sits down to dinner, break the seal on the oven but not on the roaster. Place it before him and tell him this: If he sends the dish away unopened, he will have a long and blessed life. His people will prosper and he will die gently. If he opens the dish, he will never again have cause to fear death.”
~ * ~~ * ~~ * ~
If you’ve read many folktales, I think you might be forgiven for suspecting that things may not go well for the Primarch.
JaneAugust 19, 2013 at 10:13am
Oh, how delightful a tale!
Seriously, I love this storytelling voice.
Super, great work!
Marian AllenAugust 19, 2013 at 2:17pm
Thank you, dear Jane! 🙂