Posts Tagged ‘wyverns’

Long ago, in the Scottish borderlands, a dreadful wyvern made its lair on the side of Linton Hill. This creature would hunt at dawn and dusk. It wasn’t a picky eater — men, beasts and crops all found their way into its gullet. The villagers fought back, but no weapon could pierce its armored scales.

In desperation, a messenger went to the castle of the local laird, John (or perhaps William) de Somerville. De Somerville was famed as a warrior, reckless and fierce. In this case, however, caution seemed to temper his actions. First, he went to all the villages around Linton Hill, gathering tales and advice. Then he found a vantage to watch the creature in action.

De Somerville observed that the wyvern had an exceptionally large maw. It would snap up and swallow anything in its path. However, when it encountered an obstacle too large to be devoured, it would momentarily freeze with its mouth open. In this, the laird saw his chance.

He went to the nearest blacksmith and directed the man to create an unusual weapon. It was a great spear, but with a wheel on the front. He then stuck a chunk of peat on the tip, covered it with tar, and set it alight. Next followed several days of practice getting his war horse used to having a flaming object in front of it.

When he was ready, De Somerville rode out at dawn. Just as the wyvern emerged from its lair, he lit the spear and confronted the beast on horseback. As ever, the wyvern charged with its mouth open to snatch up a meal. But it had never encountered a person on horseback before. It froze, mouth gaping.

Unfortunately for the dragon, De Somerville did not halt his charge. He ran his burning spear straight into the wyvern’s throat. The monster shrieked and thrashed. Dying, it retreated to its lair, which collapsed upon it. De Somerville was knighted and named Baron of Linton. His family crest depicted a wyvern perched atop a wheel.

Wyrmflight: A Hoard of Dragon Lore — $4.99 e-book or $17.99 trade paperback. Available at Amazon or Draft2Digital.

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When I re-tell folk stories for this blog, I find it a very different experience than writing original stories. While I may compare meanings and how they have changed over time — as when I remarked how the tale of St. George reflected European doubts and fears toward Muslim powers rising in Africa — I seldom attempt to revise them. Folk stories are not my personal creation. They’ve been handed down and it’s not my place to make changes.

Yet, while re-telling Maud and the Wyvern, I found myself doing exactly that. Partly it was to add elements of drama. The original source material did not include the scene where Maud begs the wyvern not to kill people and it flies away rather than obey her. Likewise, in the original, Maud arrives too late to save her pet. In my version, her arrival actually leads to its death. These additions simply felt more natural to the way we tell stories in the 21st Century.

Another change was a bow to modern sensibilities where child care is concerned. I was struck, in reading my original sources, how Maud’s parents let her to wander around in the forest all day by herself. These days, no responsible parent would ever allow this. If we did, eventually, the police or CPS would arrive at our doors to discuss allegations of child neglect.

Having Maud wander in the forest by herself wasn’t something I could change in my re-telling. Her ability to act independently and deceive her parents about the wyvern’s fate is crucial. Yet this concern did lead me to modify the ending slightly. In my source, while Maud wept over the dying wyvern, the knight shrugged and rode off to be acclaimed a hero. My addition there was to have the knight take Maud home, making sure she was safe, before he rode off to be congratulated on his victory.

Perhaps this is always the way with re-tellings of traditional stories. Each generation adds or subtracts in small ways, so that the meaning suits the times.

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Previously: A sweet girl named Maud raised a tiny baby wyvern to become a magnificent adult dragon. Because of her kindness, the wyvern was ever gentle in her presence. But when she was absent, it indulged in darker pleasures such as devouring farmers who defended their livestock. When Maud begged it not to hunt, the wyvern flew away.

Maud wept, thinking she would never see her dear friend again, but the wyvern didn’t fly far. It settled in a darker part of the forest and expanded its rampage from there. After several more deaths, the villagers begged the local lord for help. The eldest son of this family was a knight. He rode into the village one day, garbed in shining armor and bearing a strong lance. The populace told him what part of the forest the wyvern haunted, and he headed straight there.

When Maud heard that a knight had come to do battle, she rushed after him. Through the tangled woods she raced, tearing her clothes and cutting her skin, but she dared not stop. She had to save her friend.

Meanwhile, the knight approached a dense thicket. He didn’t know the wyvern lurked inside, camouflaged by its emerald scales — until it attacked with a fearsome roar. It spat fire and lashed out with ebony talons. The knight was hard pressed, but he bravely wheeled his horse and lowered his lance to charge.

It was then Maud burst into the clearing, crying, “No, stop!”

She was calling out to the knight, but when the wyvern saw her, it instantly stopped fighting. Alas, the knight’s charge could not be halted. His lance drove through its open mouth and pierced its brain. The wyvern thrashed and spat blood and fire. The knight was triumphant, and probably relieved, too.

To his surprise, the young girl wailed with grief. She ran to the dying monster and threw her arms around its neck. When the spark of life had left the wyvern’s eyes, the knight put Maud on his horse and took her back to her parents. He was acclaimed as a hero. Young Maud was never the same sweet and loving girl after that day. Her childish innocence had died along with her best friend, the wyvern.

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Previously: Young Maud had brought a baby wyvern home to be her pet. Knowing the fearsome beast this helpless hatchling would grow into, her parents ordered her to return it to the forest.

Sadly, with lagging steps, Maud took her new friend back to the forest. But then she had an idea. As soon as she was out of her watchful parents’s sight, she hurried away to a secluded glade where she often played. This became the secret home of her pet wyvern.

Maud’s parents believed she roamed in the woods as before. But now her hours were spent with her best friend, and most of the food she took with her went to feed it. Under Maud’s loving care, the wyvern thrived. The soft green scales became hard emerald plates. The frail wings grew mighty, and its paws were tipped with ebony claws sharp as razors. And it grew from the size of a cucumber until its shoulders brushed the treetops.

Despite all this, Maud never had any fear of her great companion. The wyvern was gentle in her presence, letting her sit on its back and weave flower crowns for both of them. She gazed into its blazing eyes without fear. Such is the power of loving kindness.

What the innocent girl didn’t know was that her meager offerings of milk and bread were no longer enough to satisfy her dear friend’s appetite. The wyvern craved red meat. It hunted in her absence. First it caught woodland creatures, but soon the farmers began to complain that their sheep and cattle had been taken. A few of them set out to track the predator. They were never seen again, but the wyvern discovered a delicious new treat… human flesh.

Even a sweet child like Maud could understand what was happening. She ran to the glade, where the wyvern met her mildly as ever. Maud begged the wyvern to stop hunting livestock and farmers. She asked for its promise. The wyvern was sad to have upset her, but its eyes blazed with a true dragon’s fire. For the first time it shook out its mighty wings and launched into the sky.

Weeping, Maud went home. She thought she would never see her dear friend again. Her parents thought she was grieving for the dead, but it was her own innocence that had been lost.

Check back on Tuesday for the conclusion of Maud and the Wyvern!

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