In days of yore, when the world was flat, mapmakers wrote “Here Be Dragons” on the edges of their maps as a warning to seafarers. What lay beyond was the unknown. Such is the world of dragons – they are as old as the world itself, or at least as old as when man first told stories – and our knowledge of the breadth of their realm barely scratches the surface. Yet they inspire our imagination, both good and bad, permitting we mere mortals to spin fantastical tales. As Llona Andrews says in Fate’s Edge, “If the sky could dream, it would dream of dragons.”
Have you a passion for dragons? Have you begun such a quest? Verily, ‘tis not the easiest subject to hunt, be it in real life or within the pages of historical tomes.
Never fear! My lady fair comest to thy rescue. She has traveled near and far, hither and yon to gather even the smallest iota of fact to aid in your gallant quest. You think I jest? Prithee, I do not!
Harken well, for I willst tell of my lady fair’s travails to ferret out yon truth. ‘Tis indeed a tale of perseverance and stalwart heart. Didst it not begin on a dare?
Once upon a time and not so long ago, my lady fair dreamt of dragons. Alas, they rarely frequented the realms in which she doth spend long hours. By candlelight in darkest night her quill doth scrawl upon endless scrolls crafting tales of yore in faraway places with the strangest of names. (Two examples, I warn, be the wild Highlands of Scotland and the eerie pirate enclave known as Barataria. Forsooth, ‘tis true, I swear!) But one day, a winged messenger arrived bearing tidings from one most inquisitive, who also spoke of a contest. (Nay, not the ones where men dress in heavy metal suits and ride gallant steeds just to knock each other to the ground.) This be a contest of words and spinning wee tales of pirates, a particular specialty of my lady fair.
Having wisdom, she foresaw where most would set their tales. ‘Tis oft called a golden age, but with some of the fiercest villains upon the seas, I see naught golden about it. Whilst such knaves the likes of Blackbeard and Black Sam Bellamy might be bold and daring, too many yarns about them doth put the reader to sleep. Nay, my lady fair, whose knowledge reaches back to before the kidnapping of Julius Caesar and stretches to our present day, chose intrepid Norsemen, who sailed unknown seas aboard swift longboats with dragons perched upon their bows.
Alas, my lady fair had one wee problem. What, pray tell, doth she know about dragons? Not so much as would fill a thimble. But was she deterred? Not at all! A bibliothecary for a score of years, she was well-versed in sleuthing. ‘Twas a difficult task indeed, albeit not impossible. Afore many moons passed, she deciphered many tomes. From this trove blossomed a most impatient, but clever, misfit – a fledgling earth dragon of shimmering peacock blue. I dare not reveal his true name, but the Norsemen call him “Rumble.”
“What kind of name is that for a dragon?” Rumble smacked the longship’s prow again. Thwack! Like thunderclaps from the distant storm, his growl, combined with the swipe of his tail against the dragon head, echoed across the heaven. “I belong with Dragon Father, not banished to this longship with these Norse pirates.”
Rumble growled low and long. Exile – the only thing he had in common with these Northmen. They could no more return to their homeland than he could go home to Dragon Father. Just because he guessed the answer to Myrddin’s riddle.
“Meddling old mage.” Thwack! Thwack!
“Stop hitting my ship!”
As if Thor had thrown his magical hammer, Ragnar’s guttural roar knocked Rumble from his perch. His wings kept him from tumbling onto the stony shore, but when he resettled, he no longer faced the cliff. He glared directly into the head Northman’s cold, flinty eyes. With arms folded over his chest, feet planted wide apart, and lips pulled back to bare his teeth, Ragnar challenged him to smack the longship’s dragon head once more. Rumble’s eyes narrowed into long slits as heat roiled in his belly. He lifted his tail and drew in a deep breath to expel sufficient fire to incinerate the Northman, a toasting long overdue.
What thinkest thou of my lady fair’s Rumble? He be not as malevolent as many would have thou believe, for she doth believe dragons be benevolent, regardless of where in the world they live. Alas, as be true of all creatures, they retain an ancestral remembrance of wickedness and this be all that scriveners recall when writing of dragons. My lady fair verily cautions any who venture into dragonology to remember this. Ne’er do victims recall the good of their enemies, only the bad. Their tales explain the unknown and put the fear of God into reluctant believers, rather than bear witness to the truth.
Only the boldest should tread amidst dragons. Lest you think one dragon be the same as another, think thrice. One of the Occident be not the same as of the Orient. They look not alike. They behave contrary. My lady fair’s best advice?
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.
If you be still intrepid seekers of the truth, my lady fair invites you to partake of her learned teachings in “Here Be Dragons.” From the evolution of these beasties to their many types, from their physiology to their lifespan, culture, and habitats, she illuminates what one must to know to spin fantastical tales with three-dimensional dragons. When readings and tasks are done, she doth provide a free chapter edit.
‘Twould pleaseth my lady fair greatly for you to come anon and join her . . . If You Dare!
A retired librarian, Cindy Vallar is a historical novelist and member of the Historical Novel Society. She is also a freelance editor and for seventeen years, she’s penned “The Red Pencil” column for their Historical Novels Review. As the Editor of Pirates and Privateers, she writes monthly articles on the history of maritime piracy. Dark Oak Press recently published her historical fantasy, “Rumble the Dragon,” in its short story anthology, A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder. She invites you to visit her award-winning website, Thistles & Pirates to learn more.
A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder
Banned from his home after answering a wizard’s riddle, Rumble must live in the dangerous world of men. He forms an uneasy alliance with exiled Vikings to retrieve a sacred chalice stolen by their fiendish arch nemesis, Ivan Skullsplitter. “Rumble the Dragon” is one of twenty-four amazing tales of bravado, daring, and dastardly deeds committed by legendary pirates. Travel the High Seas and the far reaches of the galaxy in this collection of tales that explore the past, present, and future of our favorite scallywags. Good luck, and may the wind be in your favor, blowing you toward good pickings and a safe harbor