Month: November 2014

The Dragon of Komodo

Upon the islands of Komodo in the farthest reaches of Asia lives a mighty beast known as the Dragon of Komodo. A relative of the dragon, the largest are said to reach lengths of ten feet or more, and weigh more than a fully-grown man. His scaly belly drags across the ground as he walks, and tongues of flame lick from his mouth as he searches for prey. His head is like that of a dog, but hairless and noseless. At first glance, the Dragon of Komodo seems to have no teeth, only gums, but the teeth are hidden from sight underneath the gums, to lull the unsuspecting into a false sense of security.

The Dragon of Komodo’s teeth are long and serrated, and carry a deadly poison. Even if his prey escapes, having suffered the Dragon’s bite, his victory will be short lived. Within hours, the poison of the Dragon of Komodo will take effect, and the prey will suffer illness until he is deceased. The Dragon of Komodo has a preternatural aptitude for finding carrion, and he will travel miles to find his escaped prey after it has expired. The Dragon prefers to find dead carrion to the tiring process of hunting out prey himself, but this does not make him any less capable of indiscriminate murder. He is a deadly creature who has truly earned his title as a Dragon, with sharp claws that can slice through hide, meat, and bone, and armored scales that can turn aside the heaviest of blows. Sadly, leather made from the hide of a Dragon of Komodo does not function as functional armor, though it is as hard as steel when worn by the Dragon.

With his poisonous bite, his sundering claws, and his armored skin, it is no surprise that the Dragon of Komodo is the greatest predator on the island that is named after him. No animal on this island is safe from his hunger. He will eat anything he can sink his teeth into; livestock, birds, man, and even Dragons smaller than he is. The hunger of the Dragon is endless, and he will travel many miles a day in search of food. All creatures flee when the Dragon approaches, but the mighty predator can pursue his prey in short bursts of great speed, before tearing his prey limb from limb with terrible claws. The Dragon has shown the ability to open his mouth wide enough that he might swallow whole animals as large as a goat. After filling his stomach, the Dragon drags himself into the sunlight to sleep, and after several hours, will regurgitate a sticky pellet made of the parts of his meal that were indigestible.

Despite his many natural weapons making him an ideal hunter, the Dragon prefers others to do his work for him. The main staple of the Dragon’s diet is carrion, and the beast has shown a preference for the meat of Christians. When given the option, he will always choose to consume the bodies of the faithful before all other types of meat. Astoundingly, he finds the flesh of heathens to be revolting to taste, and he would rather starve then consume the body of a Jew or a Muslim. After consuming a Christian, the Dragon of Komodo has been seen to regurgitate the Christian’s immortal soul as part of his disgusting pellet, and many have reported seeing the Devil himself come to claim the Christian’s soul and reward the Dragon for his service.

The Dragon has a keen sense of smell, being able to find carrion that is miles away; however, his sense of hearing is incredibly weak, leaving him unable to hear even the loudest of screams. In particular, he has no visible reaction to the name of the Lord, or Christ, or any of the saints or any passage of scripture. This is likely a boon from his master, the Devil. The Dragon cannot be deterred from hunting his favored prey, Christians, even when he (the Christian) invokes holy words to protect himself. Were the Dragon able to hear the words of his Christian prey, he would likely be turned back by such a show of faith, as all animals do when a devout Christian yells out “CEASE, FOUL CREATURE, IN THE NAME OF THE LORD OUR GOD, LONG MAY HE REIGN IN HEAVEN” at the top of his lungs.

When Dragons hunt in packs, it is the largest of Dragons that eats his fill first. The smaller wait until their leader has filled his stomach on carrion before they begin to eat, showing a strict hierarchy with the strongest Dragon at the top. However, if there are any arguments regarding the pecking order, they are addressed not through diplomacy, but through single combat between the two opposing parties. The Dragons fight fiercely, tearing through scaly armor with tooth and claw, ripping at throats and stomachs, while sharp tongues of flame flicker from their mouths. When the battle is over, the loser must obey the victor, usually by allowing him to eat his fill first. This is only in cases where the loser is still alive afterwards. In many of these arguments, the outcomes are fatal, and the victor is the Dragon who remains among the living while his foe bleeds in the dirt at his feet. Frequently, the victorious Dragon consumes the corpse of the defeated, a horrible cannibalistic act that is his final declaration of total victory over the weak.

The Dragon thrives in hot and dry places, indicating a choleric disposition. The Dragon’s connection to fire can be seen in the tongue of flame that sticks out of his mouth, though the Dragon of Komodo cannot release great infernos from his jaws like true dragons. Further evidence that the Dragon of Komodo is a choleric beast can be found in the fact that he mates in the hot and dry months of the summer, the season most closely connected to the choleric humour. After the mating has been finished, the female Dragon digs a hole and lays her seeds in the dirt. Months later, in the end of the months of spring while the air is thick with insects, a number of Dragon hatchlings will burst from the ground. These hatchling Dragons will spend their youth in the branches of trees, to escape the predations of elder Dragons who have no scruples about eating the flesh of their own young.

In many ways, the Devil is extremely similar to the Dragon of Komodo. When hunting, the Devil, like the Dragon, lies in wait for his prey, and hides his true nature behind a harmless façade, appearing to his prey as a harmless friend. When his prey, the innocent Christian, is within his reach, unsuspecting of the Devil’s true nature and most susceptible to his corrupting charms, he strikes, claiming the soul of the Christian and carrying it down to Hell to nourish his unholy palate for all eternity. Even those who escape the clutches of the Devil’s sinful ways are not truly safe. The allure of hedonism is a constant companion to he who has escaped its clutches, and one day will prove to be too strong to be resisted. The innocent will succumb to the poison of the Devil still flowing in his veins, and the Devil will have his prize. The Devil delights in deviously deceiving the downtrodden, drawing them deeper down into disgusting derelictions of duty, dooming them to dark depravity and damnation. Only through a life of worship and penance can a Christian who has been tainted by the Devil’s poisonous hedonism find forgiveness and salvation, and only then can he truly escape the Devil’s clutches. Furthermore, the Dragon and the Devil share the same talents at seeking out the vulnerable, the easiest prey for both creatures, and both breathe tongues of flame that do not burn their flesh. Beware the Dragon of Komodo, for he is the ally of the Devil!

As I have said previously, the Dragon of Komodo is the favored monster of the Devil, but recent discoveries have shown that this may not be the case. In the past, some female Dragons in captivity have conceived hatchlings, despite never having come into contact with a male Dragon. The eggs that survived long enough to hatch produced sons, born untainted by the Original Sin in the same way as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But why? Why has God given the Dragons of Komodo a shepherd to lead them from sin? Has He deemed these creatures as worthy of salvation as Man, His favored creation? Do these pure Dragon hatchlings truly share the same blood as Christ? Is the Lord our God the father of a lizard? Does the Lord see the Dragon of Komodo as equal to Man? Is He trying to steal one of the servants of the Devil from him? What does it all mean? Are the Dragons of Komodo somehow superior to us, with their armored skin and their sharp claws and their gluttonous, slothful, rage-filled lifestyles? Why has God forsaken us in favor of a creature that has shown a preference for the taste of His children? Is this an omen of things to come? Truly, we must work to regain the favor of the Lord, and reclaim our rightful place as His favored creation. Besides, the Dragon of Komodo would not find any solace in Heaven, and would much prefer the climate of Hell, where he, by all rights, truly belongs.

Author’s Notes: Something a bit different this time. This is an essay I wrote for a medieval literature class I’m in. We’ve been reading old medieval bestiaries recently, so our assignment was to take an animal and write a bestiary entry about it, using modern knowledge about the animal.

See, medieval bestiaries weren’t what would be considered ‘scientifically accurate’. Many of the entries we read not only contained information about animals, they also had moral lessons, most frequently by comparing the animal to some Christian figure (usually Jesus). There was also a lot of information that was by no means accurate at all. For instance, the strange case of the goose barnacle. Medieval bestiaries actually believed that goose barnacles were the ‘eggs’ of barnacle geese. Which meant that geese were considered vegetables.

I’m not joking.

As an added bonus, the bestiaries contained very bad drawings. Most pictures of snakes had wings and/or legs, a lot of animals looked like they had dog heads, etc. I like to think of the middle ages as ‘Europe’s deviantART stage’.

So that’s the story behind this. I took modern knowledge of the Komodo Dragon and spun it to sound like it was written in a medieval bestiary. It was fun to write.

The Troll

The dirt path through the forest that Wallace walked upon had been well worn by the boots of the guards who had walked this same route in years past. Wallace barely needed the lantern to know the twists and turns of the trail, but the orange, flickering light was a calming presence in the darkness of a moonless, autumn night. Its light only barely pierced the heavy darkness that had swallowed the naked trees of the forest, but some light was better than nothing.

Forests are never quiet, especially not at night. The wind hissed through the leafless branches, making a clacking sound like a drumbeat. Insects clicked and buzzed all around. Every so often, an owl would let out a low hoot, as if it was asking a question to whoever was listening. Wallace had gotten used to the sounds of the forest on patrol, but he would never get used to the sounds that his boisterous partner made every time he opened his stupid mouth.

Randolph, matching Wallace’s pace, was in the middle of telling a story that Wallace had been ignoring, as usual. Randolph tended to grate on the nerves like a knife on a grindstone. He walked with the casual swagger of a man who was trying to impress people on the street. His pike was held in one hand, supported on his shoulder, while his other hand was being used to make wide, sweeping gestures to punctuate the story he was telling.

“…And so then she says to me – and may the Gods strike me down if I tell a lie-” Randolph’s clamorous voice changed to a pitch that he thought sounded feminine, but had more in common with the common rooster. “‘But Randolph, I don’t have a twin sister!’”

Wallace braced himself. Sure enough, Randolph began to roar with laughter that echoed through the forest. Still caught up in the humor of his own story, he slapped Wallace’s back, making the younger boy stumble and almost drop the lantern. Wallace, fifteen summers old compared to Randolph’s seventeen, rolled his eyes as he recovered from the friendly smack. After a minute, Randolph’s laughter finally petered out, and he turned his attention to Wallace, finally noticing the completely blank expression on his face.

Randolph nudged Wallace with his elbow. “Wallace? Wallace, don’t you get it? It’s – it’s supposed to be funny, Wallace. See, when you hear something funny, you’re supposed to laugh, see? Wallace? Wallace, why aren’t you laughing?”

Wallace sighed, his breath clouding the air with mist. “Oh, I thought it was hilarious,” he said, knowing that Randolph had no understanding of sarcasm. “I was just so busy keeping an eye out for trolls that I forgot to laugh.”

Randolph groaned. “God, you’re such a killjoy. ‘Ooh, look at me, I’m Wallace, I don’t have a sense of humor and I’m scared that I might get eaten by a big, scary troll! Ooh, ooh!’” He danced around like a bad jester, imitating what he thought Wallace’s voice sounded like. Wallace, for his part, ignored his patrol partner’s antics, content to keep his eyes on the forest around them.

He did have to admit that Randolph was right about one thing: Wallace was afraid of trolls. He thought it was a very sensible fear. His mother had frightened him into good behavior as a child by telling him stories about naughty boys who were dragged away by trolls in the middle of the night because they didn’t do their chores like they were supposed to. Now, he was a grown man, fifteen summers old, and he’d learned that the trolls in his mother’s bedtime stories were as terrifying as newborn puppies compared to the real thing.

Everybody knew about trolls. As tall and broad as two strong men, they were a horrible parody of the human form, created by the Devil himself to mock and defile God’s creations. A single troll could overpower five strong men, and an entire tribe of them could destroy a village.

Wallace had heard stories about what trolls did during their raids, and had been kept awake for days afterwards. Out of a burning desire to protect his home and his family, he had volunteered to join the village watch for the harvest season. Trolls were at their most active and most dangerous during harvest season, desiring easy sources of food to help them survive the cold winter. Nobody had seen any trolls in the area in years, but troll packs were nomadic. The king’s army had tried, time and again, to hunt down the troll packs and exterminate them, but victory was difficult when the enemy was gone before they could get there. Even when the army met a troll pack, the odds were usually in favor of the eight-foot tall beasts with the strength of a behemoth.

Wallace knew that since he was only armed with a pike and a lantern, he was probably doomed if ever a troll appeared on his watch. He might not be able to fight a troll, but if he was lucky, it might choke on one of his bones.

He tried very hard not to think about that possibility.

He and Randolph continued on their patrol, with Randolph refusing to shut up no matter how much Wallace told him to. It was almost a tradition, after so many weeks. Every patrol was exactly the same. They would meet just before sunset, collect their gear, and head off on the circular path around the village to keep an eye on the forest. At the first sign of trouble, they would send out a warning on the signal horns provided to them. Thankfully, they’d never had to use them.

As that thought crossed Wallace’s mind, the silence was broken by a rustle in the underbrush.

Wallace and Randolph froze, both completely silent.

“Did you hear that?” Randolph whispered, the quietest he’d been all night.

“Yeah,” Wallace answered, equally quiet. Randolph, hands shaking, removed the signal horn from his belt

Another burst of rustling. Close by. Both guards took in sharp breaths, scanning the forest to try and find the source. Wallace swallowed, though his mouth had gone dry.

More rustling. Randolph brought the horn to his lips.

A great brown shape burst out of the forest not five yards away.

Randolph let out an echoing note that pierced through the cold air and traveled for miles.

The deer, startled by the sudden noise, bounded across the trail and vanished into the darkness.

Wallace and Randolph watched it go, their hearts still pounding like mad. When it had disappeared into the darkness, both men let out a nervous laugh.

“Almost jumped out of my skin, I did,” Randolph confessed. He brought the horn back to his lips, and sounded three short notes, signaling to whoever might have heard that it was just a false alarm. With that done, he returned the horn to his belt. “You should have seen the look on your face,” Randolph continued, turning his head to look at Wallace. “If I was any good at painting, I’d-”

In the forest, a branch snapped. Wallace, feeling like he was moving through thick syrup, twisted around to look, and got his first sight of a troll as it leapt from the trees, silent as a swooping owl.

The stories Wallace had heard were, in essence, correct. The troll was a massive, ugly beast, a horrible parody of the human form. From a distance, its size and shaggy fur might make it look like a bear, but up close, the illusion was broken. The troll had the arms and legs of a man, and its eyes, illuminated by the lantern in that brief moment, were frighteningly, disturbingly, terrifyingly human.

They weren’t the dopey, slow eyes of a behemoth, or the quick, flighty eyes of a chicken. They were vibrant, observant, calculating, human eyes.

But the one thing even more terrifying than that was the log-sized club it carried in one hand.

The troll hit the ground barely even a yard away from them, bringing its club down on Randolph’s skull. His head burst like an egg, and he fell to the ground, never to tell a stupid story ever again.

Wallace screamed. The troll turned its attention to him, lifting the bloody club and swinging it sideways at Wallace. During all of this, the troll hadn’t made a single sound. A bear would have burst out of the forest roaring, an intimidating wall of fur and muscle and noise. The troll was as quiet as a hunter stalking a deer.

Wallace ducked under the club, and took off running into the forest, dropping his pike and lantern in his unadulterated fear. Still, he screamed in terror, and he could hear the troll loping after him, breaking through the underbrush like a plow through untilled soil.

Wallace kept running, adrenaline pounding through his veins. Branches whipped against his sides and thorns scratched his shins as he ripped his signal horn off his belt, tearing the leather cord that had kept it there. Behind him, the sound of the troll approaching was growing steadily closer, and Wallace made a sudden turn to the left, hoping the beast wasn’t good at sharp turns. In the darkness, he could barely see what was ahead of him, only narrowly avoiding tree trunks as they suddenly loomed out of the dark. Still running, he brought the signal horn to his lips, took a deep breath, and-

A moment of weightlessness as his foot caught hold on an unseen root. The horn flew from Wallace’s hand, disappearing as he crashed to the forest floor. The wind knocked free from his lungs, Wallace crawled forwards, still aware of the sound of the troll charging through the undergrowth behind him. Wallace searched desperately for the horn, knowing that he was going to die here. Snippets of his life rose to the front of his mind, but Wallace ignored them. This troll was probably only a scout. The rest of the pack would be close behind it, and if the village wasn’t warned…

Wallace’s fingertips brushed against the familiar material of the signal horn. He lunged to grab it, turning over onto his back as he brought the horn to his mouth. He took a deep breath-

The troll broke out of the bushes, club prepared. Its eyes locked onto Wallace, and Wallace almost saw what looked like understanding in the troll’s expression.

As he blew out a single, clear note, the most beautiful sound Wallace had ever heard, Wallace understood why the troll had attacked Randolph first. The beast had seen Randolph blow his horn when the deer ran out of the forest – was the troll responsible for that, Wallace wondered – and knew what the instrument’s purpose was. And now that Wallace had played that warning note, the sound that he knew would be heard for miles, the village would be able to prepare for the imminent troll raid.

Wallace had won, and the troll knew it.

Abandoning all pretense of stealth, the troll bellowed, loud and throaty, as it lunged at Wallace, still lying prone. Wallace couldn’t stop himself from smiling, safe in the knowledge that he had beaten the troll, even as the club came closer and closer, until it was the only thing in his vision.

A short, intense pain-

The troll, breathing heavily, stood over the fallen human. He lifted his club, trying not to look at the bloody, bony, squishy pulp that was all that remained of the human’s skull. He had failed. The human had warned its clan. It had won, even at the cost of its own life. A respectable death, if a messy one.

The troll’s eyes fell on the instrument, still held in the human’s lifeless hand. An idea came to him. The other human had blown the instrument when the deer had appeared, but after realizing its mistake, had used it again. The troll, mind thundering like a glacier towards inevitable understanding, felt a rush of relief.

He reached down and took the instrument from the dead human, wiping the saliva off the tip with his fur. He spent a moment inspecting the instrument, and then brought it to his mouth, trying to imitate what the human had done.

It took a few tries, but the troll was able to get the hang of it. Three short, sharp notes tore through the forest. The troll hoped that his interpretation was correct, and felt a small twinge of pride in his chest.

The troll lifted his club over his shoulder, and loped away from the corpse of his fallen adversary.

He kept the instrument. It would make a fine trophy.

Author’s Notes: Another short story written for an assignment, this one about ‘heightening the drama’. It’s set in a world where certain species of megafauna didn’t go extinct. For example, the troll is meant to be a species of giant ape, somewhat similar to Bigfoot. I’ll let you guess what a ‘behemoth’ is supposed to be.