Ferrin watched the latest dragon slayer leave the township and head up into the slopes of the fiery mountain. The leaders of the community wanted the dragon gone or dead. It had intermittently destroyed building with its enormous powers of claw and fang, the strength of its sinews and the wind generated from it's enormous wings, and of course, burned crops and buildings with its fiery breath. It could not be tolerated by the leadership any longer. It created nothing but havoc since it had come to live on the crumbling, sparsely grassed, slopes of the partially sleeping volcanic peak, it was said, long before his birth.
Ferrin's mother was secretly a witch of light and a healer, come to this township heavy with child, living in the forest before he was born, to escape the ignorance and fear of prejudice and the inevitable burning stake. She had taught Ferrin in all the nine languages she knew, both modern and ancient, and all the readings of hidden knowledge her privately stored books of magic contained, both practical and worldly, mysterious and hidden that were helpful to others and those far reaching tufts of wisdom within her great ability.
Yet there were some things, though very few, he did not know of, for there were still some items and secrets that were too dark for him to fully appreciate the dangers of, his mother had told him. And Ferrin respected and trusted her judgment. He did not go behind her back to seek out and uncover what those insidious bits of knowledge and voicings might contain, or produce in their incantations. He knew danger when he read it, or felt it, and waited for his mother's timing. He knew she would educate his mind with those pieces of truth, when needed, if ever.
With sixteen summers beneath his wide belt, Ferrin could do most everything his mother could, al-be-it, not as expertly or as smoothly.
They kept their magic hidden, however, for she had warned Ferrin of the dangers of their knowledge, and did not want her son to suffer the fate so many of her skills had suffered at the hands of that corrupt and, sometimes, downright evil clergy of that hated religion; Using fear and superstition to enforce their interpretation of divine law and goodness upon the masses. His mother had taught that the motivations of their leadership, at the highest levels, often were born out of the love of money and power, and most improbable, but true, over the lusts of the flesh. Though she did temper her knowledgeable and opinions by saying there were many, many good people in that church who tried diligently to help the poor they served.
All the township knew and needed to know about them was, he was a clever and skillful blacksmith and she, a quick and talented seamstress. What they didn't understand, or have knowledge of, was their discernment of the basic elements of life, and how to manipulate those things for the use and benefit of men.
His mother stood beside her son, both watching the doomed man grow smaller in the distance and whispered again, "These towns people are so foolish. They keep sending off these good but mislead men to die in the agony of fire, thinking they have a chance against such power. Dragon's never die or move on unless someone gives them the sacrificial heart of a virgin."
"You mean, literally?" he asked, surprised. This was the first time she had used those exact words. "Somebody has to cut the heart out of a young girl and give it to them? They kill her?"
"No, silly," she smiled, reaching up to touch one of his rose tinted cheeks and smoothing back the undisciplined, though beautiful, she thought, ebony curl over his forehead. "I'm speaking figuratively. Not one's body, but their spirit, their total devotion and love. They must forsake all things, all others and sacrifice themselves completely, with loyalty, and fidelity towards the beast. And it is not a woman that must be sacrificed, usually. It must be a man of perfect dominium over himself. He must give himself to her. And he must be a man of exacting sincerity, and nobility of spirit. He must be young and a virgin, for most dragons are female. They give birth to their own kind, in their season, but very seldom. Generations may pass before any new dragons are born.
"Not all is known about them," she told him. "But some knowledge has been passed down through the ages, a little here, a little there, and very few books exist concerning them. We possess one, as you know, and perhaps it is time I let you read it. But understand, sweetheart, it is not the final word. So much of the book is speculation. Informed speculation but they are no more than guesses."
"Dragons are very old, Ferrin," she continued, Ferrin looking at the fairness of his mother's beauty, her unearthly youthfulness. "Much older than man and will live forever. They long for the peace they've never known, though, it is written, and this love men and women have for one another, when man is at his best. But because they can never, or very rarely, receive this kind of peace in their fiery hearts, they are always filled with rage and hatred for all things man-made. Especially for the leaders of people that send men like that poor soul to try and kill them."
"I fear for this township, Ferrin," she said, looking over the skyline of the frontier settlement and out towards the disappearing dragon slayer as if a vision had suddenly appeared before her eyes.
"I think we should move and make a home for ourselves in the forest, again, to that place were you grew up, hidden from this particular dragon's attention. It is an old wound, with them, and can never be mended, but these recent and constant attempts at killing the beast, I fear, will bring grave consequence upon this town. As long as these leading men continue their assaults on it, fields will continue to burn, homes will be destroyed, and there is nothing these silly weak men can do except stop the hiring of dragon slayers. I've never known anyone that could kill a dragon, wizard, witch, or king, much less injure it."
Ferrin looked at his mother with the deepest of thoughts, and wondered at the kind of love one would have to show such an animal. Could he, with his depth of knowledge, stop the beast from further killings and destruction?
His mother seemed to know instantly what his thoughts were, as she always did.
"No," she said, coming close to embrace her only child, resting her head upon his broad chest. "Put those kinds of thoughts out of your mind, Ferrin. These things are beyond our learning. I know something of dragons, yes, but not enough to let you risk your life against one. They are wise and ancient with devious plans and cunning in dealings with men through the ages. Do not think that you can be one of those rare people that can reason with them. They would just as soon crush you beneath one of their huge paws as they would to set you aflame. No, my beautiful boy," she said. "Leave such ideas to others who dream of wonders beyond themselves. I will not allow you to throw away your life."
Ferrin knew she meant it. Her powers of witchcraft might already be stopping him. His desire to leave and try to calm the wickedness of the dragon already seemed to be waning. He noticed it, now, that she had touched him with magic. He could feel the silent spell working in him already.
"Mother. I give you my word. I will not leave you. I will not disobey. The spell is unnecessary."
She kissed him but left the spell in place. "I know you won't, but let me do this for my own peace of mind," she said. "A mother needs to feel her children are protected. I don't know what I'd do without you."
She was known as his sister, locally, still gazing into her beautiful face. She looked as young as he and the mother scenario would never have passed scrutiny.
"Very well," Ferrin said, smiling, and kissed his mother in return upon her cheek. "I better get back to the forge. I've got several jobs to finish," he told her.
"You have so much of your father in you," she said. "He would be so proud of you."
His father had been a wizard, as he was becoming. An ancient and wise wizard, she had told him. He realized she was so protective of him because he had been killed by that hated church. He would not further her pain by seeking after things that were too dangerous, though his heart longed for more than what he was. No. He would be patient. All things would come to him that were needed, in time.
But in spite of the spell, Ferrin continued to look up into the peak of the fiery summit-gorge, where the dragon kept the fires of the old volcanic vents open and active. The orange glow could be seen there still, at night, on occasion, as well as the infrequent smoking rivers of noisy magma that snaked their way down-slope with the combined roar of the magical beast. He couldn't help but wonder at the strength and will of such eternal animals, as he beat hot steel into shapes useful to men, the glow of the furnace and the white hot metal of the forge constantly reminding him of the last man sent out to kill the animal. He knew, as his mother did, that the dragon slayer would not be returning.
For two days, there was silence on the slopes and then the dragon flew. It was mid morning when someone first saw it and cried out, warning others. One never knew where it would go, what it would do, but after several low passes over the teaming spires of the town, Ferrin and his mother understood all to well, its current mission.
.... There is more of this story ...