When I was a child, my friend and I would often swim in the local lake that was a fair distance from any village. It would take us over an hour to walk there, but it was worth it, for even in the hottest summer the water would be cool and refreshing. There was a reason why nobody had ever built near that lake, or made use of it in any way, and that reason begins with a tale:
Once upon a time, there was a great dragon that made this land his own. The dragon had always been here and he enjoyed the domination over the land. But for centuries, man had grown and spread across the continent, eventually coming to the dragon’s domain. The people sought the land for it was beautiful and bountiful but the dragon would have no trespassers. Among the people, there was one knowledgeable in magic, and he crafted a magical spearhead that would be able to penetrate the dragon’s scales.
But who would dare come close enough to hurl the spear at the monster? This is where the story gets muddy and there are many names for the hero that threw the magic spear. But no matter the version, the dragon was always killed. On his last breath, the dragon put a curse his own body as he crashed into the lake, making it plague ridden and putrid. Such goes the tale which all in the area takes to heart. However, the age of superstition is past us and a new era of science have begun! We knew this already as children, thus we dismissed this tale.
Alas, my friend and I grew healthy into our adult years (even though we swam in the cursed lake), and we would return upon our childhood lands, riding in what would be the ultimate proof of the change of times!
Soaring across the sky, we sailed the current with what they called a Hot Air Balloon. People gasped as we passed and we waved at them, passing many places me and friend often played. It was humbling to see the view of the lowlands which we’d grown up, a view no man had ever seen, except the dragon himself!
As we closed in on the lake, hidden in the wilderness, we saw nothing man made, only unspoiled virgin land. The water was still and dark. We were unable to see anything below the surface, and as we sailed away I saw something at the corner of my eye. There was a shimmer, not that of the sun reflecting on water, but a clear, single red glare in the darkest depths of the lake.
I stared at the light, and it seemed as if it stared back, glaring at me. Suddenly, my legs barely held me up and my mind was swirling. A voice echoed in my head. “Ye who has not suffered upon my curse shall bare witness to the folly of man.”
Then, the voice stopped and my mind became clear once more. My friend stooped over me and wondered what had happened, but I could not tell because I didn’t know myself. Had I succumbed the so called Altitude Sickness which they warned? Or had the voice really been there, warning me of a great evil set on man?
We landed in a nearby town, a few hours later. It was not my hometown, thankfully, for chaos would soon ensue. A sickness ravaged the town which forced us to flee. But even as we came to the next town over and the next after that, the disease would follow us and soon the bodies piled on each other. I didn’t want to believe it, and only when my best friend caught the ailment did I face the reality of those words the dragon had spoken.
He died shortly after.
I knew then that man cannot hope to look to the future without understanding its past, of that I am certain and living memory. I write these last words as I will end my life in the darkness of the greatest ravines and on the highest mountains, hoping that nobody will find my remains which carries the Dragon’s Curse.
© Christopher Stamfors
Art by ChrisCold