Conor Paddy and
the Dragons of Dinnertown
Before recorded history, when magic swirled through the air, there was a village called Dinnertown. You may be wondering why any town would be called “dinner,” or what creature would live there. Patience, I will tell you soon enough. Dinnertown stood in the midst of great fields of corn that had grown there so long they kept sprouting up year after year out of habit. Beyond the fields, there stood one mountain. It was old, gnarled riddled with caverns and sunless lakes filled with gloomy fish. Dragons lived here. Yes, you may have guessed, Dinnertown was so named, because its citizens fed the Dragons. Literally. Long ago, Dragons would attack outright, steal plump maidens, cause much damage to the town, and often come back with injuries of their own to lick. After Knights began killing many Dragons, they tried a different tactic, and used their craftiness more than their hot flames.
Carefully they began to whisper from behind walls, often posing as a conscious, or guardian angel. The guardian angel was difficult to pull off, because Dragons have naturally deep ominous voices, and hiss and smack their lips while talking. Despite this, it wasn't long before they had convinced the humans to build a high wall around the village. They neglected to build a gate, which was just to the Dragons design. In a couple generations (Dragons live much longer than humans), the villagers were literally eating out of their … claws.
Each morning a “seminar” was held in a large building on the south side of the wall. The Dragons, who had now established themselves as the unseen leaders of the town, would speak from behind a billowy red curtain, encouraging the villagers to eat lots of corn, and cover themselves in butter. From your perspective it may seem rather silly that the townsfolk did not immediately guess what was going on, but you must understand they had been under the influence of Dragons for a long time, and everyone knows the enchantment of Dragon Speech is hard to resist.
It was at one of these seminars that Conor Paddy began to suspect the Dragons. It was a cold late winter morning, when Conor stepped out the door of his house. He was tall, thin, and pale. He moseyed along the path to the seminar. Already there was a great crowd of villagers gathered, all of them fat and colorful. They ignored Conor as he stood near the back. Most of them were blue. Some were red or green. It was fashionable to be colorful, which is partly why they ignored Conor. You see, Conor was not any color at all, but a clear pasty white. In fact, the only color about him was his red hair, which curled independently on his head.
The crowd shifted anxiously waiting to be fed. Some of them had brought butter, and were slathering it onto their skin. Conor half rolled his eyes. He did not approve of the enthusiasm for being fat and buttery. He was a practical man, and did not see the point in it all, plus it was very irksome to be cramped between dripping people, and he was always sticky afterward.
A rumble started somewhere out in the corn fields, and a booming sound like the beat of huge wings was heard, and the villagers grew quiet. Soon the beating stopped, and a huge mass of corn was pushed under the curtain by unseen hands. The crowd cheered and sprang on the corn at once. It was steaming and hot, as if someone had just boiled it in a pot of water. Conor tried to push in and grab a piece of corn. He just managed to snatch one that bounced off the platform. He chewed on it quietly, waiting. The curtain shuffled slightly, and a spiral of smoke whiffed out from behind it. Conor took little notice of it. It was routine. A hissing voice called out over the crowd, which hushed quickly.
“All right! The winner of today is...” It paused for effect, and smacked its lips. “You in the front! Yes you!” A young fat girl with a blue face and dripping body squealed happily, and trotted up to the curtain. The voice continued.
“Doesn't she look delicious?” It smacked its lips. This was the Dragons fault.
It was Drigas the Dreadful who had decided to talk that morning, he had missed his meal the night before, and was hungry. Conor was taken slightly aback. He had never heard the Masters talk that way, and it made him suspicious. What with the buttering, and the urgings to be fat...His thoughts were interrupted by the Masters voice.
“Come, join the worthy in the Green Land!” said the voice. You see, Dragons need regular meals just as you and I, and the villagers were told the fattest of them would be taken to a beautiful green valley, saved only for the most beautiful. Of course, the Dragons were actually eating them. She stepped behind the curtain, and disappeared. Conor did not forget his suspicions, but winter waned on and they faded. It was spring, and Conor had climbed the wall to find seeds for his garden. He loved gardening, chiefly because he did not like corn. Despite his timidity, he could be stern at times. He once strictly scolded a rabbit that he caught nibbling on his carrots without permission. The rabbit never nibbled his carrots again, without asking that is.
Conor carefully slipped down the wall, and landed, plop on the ground. He began to walk through dead corn stalks, when he heard a shuffling sound, and a voice singing a rather out of tune song that went something like this:
A plump young maiden
A tasty treat
Went out a-walking on her feet.
She sang a tune that waked me quick,
And set my drool a' droolin' thick.
Oh tra la la
Tra la la li
A maiden plump and just for me.
Oh tra la la
Tra la la la
Poor plump delicious Maiden.
I took to flight.
And with my might
I swallowed Maiden whole.
When Maidens family came enraged
I took a second go.
Oh tra la la
Tra la la li
A maidens family just for me,
Twelve knights a king and mother too.
Poor Maidens tasty family.
It was at this point that Conor interrupted.
“Excuse me for intruding.” He said to the voice. “But it is very rude to eat someone without asking first.”
A great rustling sound came from somewhere inside the dead stalks, as the Dragon wheeled around.
He stuck his huge snout at Conor through the corn stalks.
“And who are you to tell me I am rude?” It was Ziargoth the Disastrous, a great red dragon with a dark purple shine around his snout.
Conor Paddy puffed out his chest, and tried to stand a little taller.
“Conor Paddy.” He was quite frightened now, though he did not show it. The snout was huge, as big as him, or bigger, and he hated to imagine what the rest of the body was like. He did not have to, because at that moment, Ziargoth rose to his full height (before, he had been crouching, searching the ground for some rabbits, or foxes), and arched his long neck to look down at Conor, standing with his hands on his hips, and heart in his mouth.
“I shall eat what I like, when I like. In fact, I'd be rather obliged to eat you, if you weren’t so thin, and frail looking. Are you sick? Or are you naturally so ill-natured.”
This struck Conor to the core. If there was one thing he prided himself on, it was his kindness and good nature (which is rather ironic, I hope you notice).
“Now look here! You're the one talking of going around eating people!”
Ziargoth sniffed impertinently.
“How would you feel if someone swooped down and ate you?”
It wasn't a good response, and Conor knew it, but he said it anyway, if only to buy time for a really painful insult.
The dragon chuckled slightly. It was not at all a nice sound.
“Well, I don't think I would have made half as much a fuss as many I have eaten.”
His chuckle broke out into a laugh, and it was even nastier.
Conor grew red in the face. It's always aggravating when someone turns something that you meant to be sobering into something funny. Then he thought of that really painful insult, and he said it. Many years later he looked back on this moment, and almost regretted it, but he always reassured himself it had a good outcome, so he was, in sorts, redeemed.
“Overgrown salamander!” he said hotly.
The dragon reeled back. Conor could not tell whether he was pretending, or getting ready to eat him. Either way it made him uneasy. Then suddenly, Ziargoth burst into tears, big hot dragon tears that sizzled and fizzed when they hit the ground. Conor was nearly in shock. He was even more surprised, when Ziargoth flopped to the ground with a heavy thud. Now, if you've never seen a dragon crying you cannot understand the awkwardness of it. It is like being in a room that a baby is crying in. Everyone is quietly wishing the baby would stop, and the poor mother is in a tight spot trying to hush it. This is the position Conor found himself in. He looked around the corn fields oafishly. Everything was silent, except for the disquieting blubs of the big red dragon sprawled out on the ground sniffling.
Conor itched his leg stiffly. He stepped forward, and patted the dragon on his snotty dribbling nose.
“There, there. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it,” he said quietly, really wishing the Dragon would stop making all this dreadful noise. “It's just, well, you see, it's not decent to go around eating people, not to mention singing about it.”
The dragon stopped sniffling a bit.
“People are people, after all. And even dragons have to respect that not everyone wants to be eaten for dinner.”
The dragon started sniffling again.
Conor sighed. “Now, do stop sniffling, I can barely hear my own words over it, and I'm sure the whole valley can hear you crying.” This did not comfort Ziargoth at all, and in fact, made him cry even harder and louder.
Conor blinked and took a deep breath. “There are lots of other foods than maidens. Duck is rather good. Have you tried duck?”
The dragon stopped his blubbing and thought for a moment. He had not tried duck; they did not often come into the valley, and were too small to be of any notice to him, especially when he had large young ladies to snack on at will.
Ziargoth let out a heavy “No,” and began blubbing again.
Conor tried to be chearful. “Well, there you have it. Duck is very good, and I'm sure you'll enjoy is just as much as maiden.”
Ziargoth rolled over slightly. “No. I don't think I will. I don't think I shall ever enjoy anything again.”
Conor tried hard not to be angry with the dragon. He thought he was being terribly over dramatic, and completely impractical. “Now, come on. Buck up. I'm sure if you went and apologized they would forgive you. Though, I don't suppose you could apologize to those you'd already eaten...”
At this the Ziargoth perked up a little.
“Do you really think they'd forgive me? Erm, the ones who aren’t eaten yet?”
Conor sighed. It was a big relief to have the dragon stop crying. “Yes, I really do.”
The dragon smiled. That is, as close as a dragon can get to smiling. It looks more like a grimace actually. “Well, in that case, come along. I will carry you back to my village.”
Your village? Conor thought. You see, Ziargoth had not guessed that Conor was from Dinnertown. In fact, he thought Conor must be some brave Knight come to slay all the dragons, and rescue the village.
The thought never entered his insidious mind, that Conor could be one of his piglets (as the Dragons called them.) For one thing he was so thin, and for a second, he was not a color. Actually, the dragons had nothing to do with the color fad in Dinnertown. I am not sure how it started, but at any rate the dragons didn't really care if their food wanted to make itself more appetizing. Presentation is, after all, half the meal.
Conor clambered onto Ziargoth's back, which was uncomfortable, due to all the spikes, and Ziargoth took to the air. It wasn't far to Dinnertown, so there wasn't much of a point in Ziargoth flying, and they got there quickly. It was right in the middle of the seminar, when Ziargoth touched down behind the curtain.
“This is your town?” Conor said incredulously. “How long have you been here?”
Ziargoth drew himself up slightly, adopting an almost aristocratic air. “Oh, maybe a century or so. Dreadful business, really. Horrid upkeep...um...er...” He finished off, remembering he was talking to a Knight, or so he thought, and was at the village to apologize.
Conor was still in shock, when he heard a dragon nearby (Arione the Awful, who was green) say:
“The winner of today is” pause for dramatic effect, “you! On the left of the stage.”
Conor had been so surprised talking to Ziargoth that he had completely failed to notice the two other dragons standing near to him. One, Drigas the Dreadful, a sort of blue-ish color, was cooking corn in a large metal basin, and the other, Arione the Awful, whose name I have already told you, was still congratulating the poor young lady from behind the curtain. Suddenly Conor gave a great cry, and the crowd on the other side of the curtain grew silent. Arione had ushered the young lady in, and was now standing, quite near to Conor, with her limp body just inside his jaws. The dragons must have also been preoccupied, because this was the first time they noticed Conor. Arione was so surprised that he almost dropped the maiden out of his mouth, almost.
Conor cried out again, and did something he never would have expected to do. Conor stamped right up to the dragon, and rap! smacked him on the nose. Arione was so shocked, partly that he had been slapped, and partly that it hurt so much, that he dropped the maiden right out of his mouth. The girl had merely swooned, and stumbled right up, but Conor took no notice. He was too livid. He was more mad than he had ever been before, or after. He stared right into the Dragon's eyes, and shouted.
“How dare you?” he yelled. “How dare you?” At this point the girl ran out, and caught the curtain by accident, pulling it back, and revealing the scene to the flabbergasted crowd.
“You ought to be ashamed! Ashamed I say! You are a horrible Dragon! You all are!” At this the entire scene from the corn field was reenacted, almost verbatim. All three Dragons burst into tears. Ziargoth was the loudest, since he had already warmed up that morning. Conor knew they were crying, but he didn't care. Hearing a Dragon talk of eating maidens is completely different than seeing one do it, even only part way. Conor gave them a good long lecture, filled with many “I am ashamed!” bits interjected. He did not call them overgrown salamanders, which is well, because they probably would not have recovered for a good while longer. As it was, it took them several hours to stop their sniveling. You see, no one had ever been ashamed of them before. No one had ever expected anything of them except to be cruel crafty dragons, and knowing someone had expected good of them, and they had disappointed him was very distressing indeed. After recovering, all three dragons apologized for eating the villagers, and the villagers (the not-eaten ones) forgave them most graciously. Another remarkable thing had happened as well that is worth noting. Some of the Dragons' big wet tears had fallen on villagers, and to the astonishment of the crowd, their bright color was washed away. As it turned out, everyone had thought that being rainbow colored was normal, and that they were abnormal (being of normal colors, like brown, black, white, and those sorts of things.) To avoid letting anyone know this, they rubbed themselves with a fine dust that was found in some parts of the village. The dust was, as you have likely guessed, from the dragons scales, and once the matter was all cleared up everyone felt much better about themselves, and took a bath to wash the nasty stuff off. The dragons helped knock down the wall around the village, and many of the villagers saw the outside world for the first time. Conor explained to the Dragons why the food in the valley was scarce, and told them that moderation is needed in all things, and the village of Dinnertown lived in peace for many years, as did the Dragons. And Conor Paddy, to the end of his days continued to respect all creatures, and always give them the benefit of the doubt.