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|This is based on a traditional Chinese legend. There are probably many problems with the conventions, not all of the dialogue sounds real. If you can help me out, please comment or e-mail! Thanks!||
In the times when people believed that four brothers, the great dragons, controlled the weather, a story was told of a boy…the Dragonbane.
The Dragon King, the eldest of the four brothers, was the blue dragon of the Eastern Sea, who caused rain to fall. The red dragon created lightning with his fiery breath, and the white poured snow, ice, and hail on the land. The black dragon made wind howl throughout the world.
Together, the four dragons could give the people what they needed most—rain for their crops. However, they withheld the much-needed water. Only through a sacrifice would the people receive the rain they prayed for.
v v v
General Lee was reading peacefully in his room when his most faithful servant burst through the door.
“M’lord,” he said, bowing respectfully. “My Lady has delivered at last!”
The general was on his feet immediately. “Is it a boy, or a girl?”
Strangely, the servant hesitated before answering. “We…we are not sure what it is, M’lord.”
Puzzled and fearing deformation, General Lee strode quickly to where the child was, his servant trotting at his heels. When he entered, an egg-shaped object caught his eye.
This is the child I sired? He thought. After waiting three and a half years for his wife’s delivery, rage and mortification led him to draw his sword.
“This…thing…is evil!” he cried. “It must be destroyed!” He raised his blade and brought the glinting steel down upon the object. Instead of splitting, however, it began to open, like the petals of a lotus flower.
As the last, quivering petals fell, a tiny boy, only a few inches tall, sat up and began to stretch.
Within moments, the infant stood and looked around curiously with innocent eyes. He picked up a lotus petal and used it to cover his bare skin. He soon stepped out and ran among people and murmurs of disbelief, a mischievous smile blooming on his face. He reached the open door, and disappeared outside. The general followed, hoping to find the his son, but the child was nowhere in sight.
Just then, there was a flash on the horizon, and everyone turned to the enormous crane that was making its way toward them. Atop the bird sat an old man with white mustaches and a long, white beard. The crane landed gracefully, and the man stepped off.
As the crane’s rider walked toward the strange gathering of people, one of the servants whispered in awe, “An Immortal!”
“Congratulations, General,” the Immortal said, smiling. “You have a son!” When General Lee simply sighed, the man continued. “Where is the child?”
The general gathered himself and answered. “He began to wander around moments after he was born, Honored One. We looked, but…well…no one could find him.”
The immortal laughed. “Come, little one. Come.” Suddenly, the small boy appeared from behind a fence. The old man laughed again. “Is he not here, General?” He held out his hand, and the infant hopped onto it with a giggle. “You need a name,” the man declared. “I name you Nir-zah. I would like to have you as my disciple.”
“Thank you, Great Immortal!” Lee said graciously. “You give our family the greatest praise.”
The Immortal nodded, holding out a tiny ball, and Nir-zah merely glanced at it before swallowing it. As soon as he did, he began to grow, until he was the height of a normal child. The man produced a shining, golden ring and hung it around the boy’s neck. Then, he gave Nir-zah a long, red ribbon with a golden phoenix depicted on it. At his call, a deer appeared, which was given to the child for a mount.
“Whenever you need to, call for me. I will see you again, Nir-zah!” The immortal mounted his crane and flew off into the mountains, leaving dozens of people gaping in wonder.
v v v
The rain still did not come. The earth became parched and cracked. Crops, brown and withered, crumbled to dust at the slightest touch.
Plates were loaded with pigs, chickens, the best meals the people had to give. As soon as the dishes reached the river, they were dumped in, floating off to the sea as a final, desperate offering to the dragons for rain.
The food was eventually received in the Crystal Palace, where Dragon King waited. His servant reverently handed the king a plate, but the blue dragon knocked it to the floor of the sea scornfully, letting the pig’s head drift awkwardly along the bottom of the sea.
“Pah!” he said in disgust. “What is this? Dead animals? They want rain in exchange for this? I want live offerings. I want children!”
He squinted, examining the assembly of creatures surrounding him. He found the best of the King’s Guard and pointed a claw at the toad-like beast. “You, soldier,” he commanded. “Go out and find some live virgins for me. I’m feeling hungry.”
v v v
Nir-zah rode on the back of his deer, entertaining himself by throwing his ring, then galloping forward to catch it. Upon reaching the sea, he heard voices hailing him.
“Nir-zah! Nir-zah! I want to ride the deer!” A small boy and his younger sister were running toward him, excitement written clearly on their faces.
Nir-zah smiled, lifted both onto the deer, and told them that he was going to bathe in the waters. As soon as he saw them ride off, he found a rock in the sea. Walking over, he laid his ribbon and ring on the surface and dove into the water. As he immersed, he was amused by the fish that came to swim alongside him.
When he surfaced for air, he heard a voice.
“Nir-zah! Help! The monster took my sister! Help!”
Nir-zah whirled around and saw the boy on the back of his deer. Then he saw the monster, a great toad-like creature wielding a wicked-looking spear. Picking up his weapons, the ribbon and the ring, Nir-zah looked the creature dead in the eye and shouted,
“Give back the little girl! Give her back! Give her back!” He splashed water at the soldier for emphasis. The beast only laughed.
“Sorry, boy,” it sneered. “No one comes out of the Crystal Palace once they go in. One more child, though, will satisfy the king!” It brought back its arm and threw its spear at Nir-zah. The boy jumped out of the way as it thudded into the rock on which he had been standing. The monster quickly retrieved its weapon and turned to once again face Nir-zah. This time, instead of throwing, the monster brought the spear down on the boy’s head.
The spear snapped like a twig when it hit the golden ring. Suddenly weaponless and terrified, the creature turned and tried to run back through the waves. Nir-zah reached back and threw the ring, which hit the monster. It immediately began to shrink until it turned into its true form, a toad that hopped into the sea. The boy called after him.
“Tell your king that I am Nir-zah, son of General Lee!!” As he turned away, he said calmly, “That’s a pity. Now I have to wash my ring.”
V v v
A toad hopped into the Crystal Palace. Before the court’s eyes, it changed back into the monstrous soldier whom the king had sent to find children. The Dragon King hissed in rage.
His soldier had been defeated in battle.
By a child.
“Nir-zah has dishonored the name of the dragons!” he roared. “I want his hide!” One cool voice broke the thick silence that followed.
“Let me bring him for you, father. It’s just a little boy.”
The Dragon Prince, in his human form, strode calmly into the throne room and looked at his father haughtily. “Just wait for your meal.”
“Go, my son,” the blue dragon replied, eyes flashing. The prince, a young dragon, nodded to the king and exited the room.
The prince left for the surface with a hundred warriors at his back. When he reached the top, he found Nir-zah and laughed aloud. “You beat my father’s soldier?” he said incredulously. “See if you can fight mine as easily!”
His men darted toward the boy, wielding their swords, maces, spears, and staves. Nir-zah looked around at the circle surrounding him. Suddenly, he lashed out with his red ribbon, the soft, silk-like material seeming to become stiff and as hard as iron. The front line of warriors were knocked back into the waves. One with a halberd rushed forward, swiping madly at the boy. Nir-zah danced back from the weapon. When he had enough distance between the halberd and himself, he threw the ring and struck the warrior, the force of the blow throwing the man back. Nir-zah caught his ring as it returned to him.
Without warning, three spears hissed past him. Looking around, he saw three lancers surrounding him, weapons at the ready. As they charged, he whipped the ribbon out and wrapped it around all three attackers. With a flick, the three warriors followed their fellows into the water.
The prince watched his soldirs as, one by one, they all failed. Then he challenged the boy himself.
“Give the little girl back!” Nir-zah shouted in response to the taunt.
“Too late,” he returned. “She’s in my father’s stomach now!”
The boy screamed in rage. “Murdering, evil, craven monster! Watch me skin you!!”
Lifting his own mace, the dragon prince prepared to capture the furious boy in front of him. He lunged, and suddenly, he saw a flash of gold before the ring made contact with his skull.
The prince turned back to his original form, a dragon. Nir-zah whipped out his ribbon, and it wrapped tightly around the prince. The panicked dragon took flight, and the boy grabbed its feet as they left the ground. Eventually, he got a firm grip on his ribbon. When the prince dipped lower, he leapt off, and the dragon came to a sudden and brutal halt before falling back to earth.
Nir-zah knocked it once more, sharply, against the head, and it lay still. Then, he grabbed one end of the long tendon that was in a dragon’s vertebra and pulled it out.
“It’s strong,” he said to himself. “My father could used it as a girth for his saddle.” He flung the Dragon Prince’s corpse back to the sea.
When the prince’s body settled on the floor of the Crystal Palace, all stared at it in shock. Then, the king’s howl rent the stunned silence.
“Nir-zah! I will destroy you and your family!”
v v v
General Lee’s servant stumbled into his room. “M’lord, the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea is here to see you!”
Lee looked up in surprise. What could bring the King of Dragons to see me? Puzzled and worried, he stood and left with the servant.
When he had found the dragon, he was pacing the floor. “King of Dragons,” the general began. “You do me the greatest honor by—”
“Where is your son?” he cut in angrily. “He’s caused a lot of trouble with me!”
This startled Lee. “Trouble? You mean Nir-zah? He is playing outside. What kind of trouble could he have caused? He’s only seven years old!”
“If he was any older or bigger, I’d be dragon soup now!” the king hissed. “He killed my son, the Prince of Dragons!”
“What?” Lee said, not knowing whether to be amused or appalled by this news. “Surely you’re joking!”
“BRING HIM HERE!” the dragon demanded again.
The general rushed to call his servant, who in turn rushed to call Nir-zah. He found the child playing with a piece of rope. At a closer glance, he recognized it as a string of tendon. Quickly, he hustled the boy off to his father.
The Dragon King stood to one side as Nir-zah approached. He saw General Lee begin scolding his son. Before long, the boy started speaking, explaining his side of the story. The king drew his sword and ran out to the child, intending to get rid of him on the spot. However, Nir-zah dodged, and his blow met the table instead.
“Nir-zah!” his father shouted. “How dare you offend the Dragon King! Apologize at once!”
“I will not!” he retorted. “He was wrong! He deserved punishment!”
Suddenly, the king realized that if this boy defeated his son and soldiers so easily, he himself had no chance whatsoever. “I’m going to the Jade Emperor to report you, Nir-zah!” Then the dragon fled, heading for the Jade Emperor’s palace in Heaven.
General Lee rounded on his son in a rage. “Look what you’ve done! The Jade Emperor is the ruler of all living things. What will you do now?”
The boy turned his golden ring in his hands pensively. Then, he smiled.
“I know. I’ll go ask my master for help!”
v v v
Nir-zah went to a cliff from which he could see the mountains. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he shouted, “Master!”
Within moments, a crane could be seen. When it had reached him, the old man stepped down, smiling. “It is good to see you again, my disciple. What do you need of me?”
When Nir-zah began his story, the immortal frowned. When the tale ended, however, a grin was on his face.
“Indeed you have caused a lot of trouble, child, but it was for a good cause. The Dragon King is a sly one, so be careful. This is what you must do.” Nir-zah began to smile as well as he was told the plan.
When his master had finished, the boy nodded and set off for the palace of the Jade Emperor.
v v v
When the dragon reached the Jade Palace, he banged the drum announcing his arrival. Before the guard could even arrive, the voice of the Jade Emperor boomed out.
“Dragon King of the Eastern Sea! Why have you come to see me?”
“Jade Emperor, I feel that I have been done injustice by a boy named Nir-zah. He—”
“Lies! It was your soldier’s own wrongdoing to take a small girl, and your son struck first.”
“No! That’s not what happened! It—”
“It is true! Do you doubt the word of the Jade Emperor?”
“No! But I—I speak the truth!”
Impatient, Nir-zah stepped out from where he had been imitating the Emperor’s voice. “How dare you lie to the Jade Emperor?!”
The Dragon King’s face was a mask of rage. “How dare you mock me by impersonating the Emperor?!” he bellowed. He lunged forward to strike with his sword.
Nir-zah neatly stepped aside. When he turned again, the king had shed his robes and was in the long, snaking form of a dragon. Quickly, the boy tossed his ring around the king’s snout. It fell to the ground, writhing and trying to remove the golden circle. Soon, it took to the skies, and Nir-zah jumped onto its back.
He forced the ring down to the dragon’s neck and looped the ribbon through it, taking total control of the creature. After a short scuffle, the king had been wrested to the ground, collapsing at the shore. Nir-zah hopped off lightly and yanked the ribbon. The dragon’s head jerked up.
“Will you take children again?” The king shook his head fervently. “Say it!” the boy demanded. “Say it!”
“I will never steal another virgin as long as I live. If I do, may I been struck down where I lie.”
By then, quite a crowd of excited children had arrived, watching. Nir-zah removed his ring. “When you return to the sea, see that you do not go back on your word. We need rain, too. Be sure we receive it.” When the dragon nodded feverishly, Nir-zah let it slide back into the waters. All the children cheered.
Nir-zah returned to his home and immediately told his father what he had just done.
“What?!” General Lee roared.
“I’ve defeated the Dragon King, father!”
Furious, Lee turned his back on his son.
“It is forbidden to harm the Dragon King! This will not go unpunished! From this moment on, I have no son. Tie him up!”
As Nir-zah stood bewildered, some servants tied him to a pillar with the tendon taken from the Dragon Prince. Struggle though he did, he could not move from the column to which he had been bound.
v v v
All of the three other dragons met in the Crystal Palace, where they had been called to by their king. Outside his chambers, they bowed and awaited his presence. When he finally came out, they were all flabbergasted at his bedraggled appearance.
“Great brother,” they all said in unison. “What terrible fate has befallen you?”
“A mere boy, Nir-zah, has killed my son and has nearly done the same to me,” came the answer. “My brothers, I require your help in destroying this child.”
“Of course,” they responded. “We must show them who controls the land.”
The black dragon first stirred up a wild wind that blew in clouds. The red tossed lightning, followed by the king’s rain. At first grateful for the long-awaited rain, the people were soon frightened by the flood it caused. The white dragon soon rose up and caused hail to fall everywhere.
Before long, the general’s house began to fill with water. Nir-zah, standing in water to his waist, struggled against his bonds in vain, until he was untied by his father’s servant. He ran out to his father.
“Father, please, I need my weapons!”
Lee thrust him aside. “You’ve done enough! You are no son of mine!” At these words, the dragons roared with laughter.
Nir-zah’s deer seemed to hesitate, then dashed off.
The lords of the seas rushed in together, but even bereft of his weapons, the boy lashed out with the tendon with which he had been tied. They recoiled and turned to look at the general.
“Kill your son!” they shouted. “Kill him, or everyone in the town dies!”
Slowly, Lee drew his sword and advanced on his son. Nir-zah stood pale but defiant. “You are no son of mine,” the general whispered again, almost to himself, and raised the blade. The boy closed his eyes, but the blow never fell. His eyes snapped open at the sound of metal clanging on stone. His father had dropped his sword.
The red dragon’s lightning hit the ground once again. “If the boy does not die, then they will!”
Water was pouring in more quickly. Nir-zah looked out at the sea, where babes were clasped tightly in the arms of their drowning mothers. Others found rooftops and stayed close to each other.
All those innocents were dying because one boy would not.
Before he had time to think, he snatched up his father’s sword from where it still lay on the ground. He walked, composed and resigned to his purpose, to the edge of the wall.
Then, the deer came running back. The red ribbon and gold ring were in its mouth, and it moved at full gallop. It had almost reached the boy. Just a little farther…
Nir-zah threw his head back and screamed, “Master!”
Then his head dropped onto the keen edge of his father’s blade.
By the time the deer reached his side, the lifeless body had fallen. Gently, it laid the ribbon and ring next to him as satisfied laughter filled the air. The dragons fell back into the sea with a splash, and the storm ended as quickly as it had begun. The voice of the four dragons echoed through the still night. “Be thankful for our help. Remember this when you are reluctant to send your children to us!”
The deer sorrowfully laid his head on the boy’s body.
The Dragon King was thoroughly enjoying himself. All of his subjects were celebrating the death of what was quite possibly the toughest rival they had ever faced. The dragons wore grins on their faces as they watched the celebration.
An octopus banged on eight drums at a time. A crab scuttled along beside it, also on the drums. A few fish accompanied the beat with horns. Two swordfish fenced in a ring. They made their way into the mouth of a whale and soon emerged again, still battling. The king’s advisor played the gong. With an contented grin, the dragon turned toward the clams. They were dancing gracefully, leaping in and out of their shells.
“Let the celebration continue as long as we know victory!” he declared.
Finally, he could relax with the knowledge that he had defeated the boy, Nir-zah.
v v v
The deer looked up as a large, white crane flew into his sight. Recognizing it as the one that belonged to Nir-zah’s master, it stepped aside as the bird landed. As soon as its feet touched the ground, it bent down to the boy and plucked the soul from his body. The bird flew off and disappeared into the distance.
The crane flew into the mountains where the Immortal lived. When he got there, the old man took the soul from its beak and set it in a lotus flower. There he left it, for forty-nine days and nights. During this time, it soaked up the sunlight, rain, and the Immortal’s power. Then, on the forty-ninth day, it began to open.
Inside, Nir-zah had been newly formed. This time, his bones were made of lotus roots. The leaves of the flower formed his flesh, and the petals, his garments. Nir-zah opened his eyes and saw the old man. Grief and sorrow came in a rush, and tears streamed as he ran into his master’s arms.
“Master! I have come to take my revenge.”
“Nir-zah,” his master said. “You have grown. And now it is time to fight the final battle with the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea. But first, you must be prepared.”
Instantly, wheels of fire appeared under his feet. He was given a spear. Then, he was presented with his familiar gold ring and whip-like ribbon with the phoenix depicted on it. Last of all, he received the power to transform. He was now able to have the advantage of three heads and six arms.
“Thank you, Master,” Nir-zah said with heartfelt sincerity and respect. “I will do justice to the dragons.” With that, he turned and departed on his fiery wheels.
He traveled away from the mountains until he reached the Eastern Sea. Once there, he dipped the point of his spear into the water. In one smooth motion, he lifted it, and the sea parted to allow his passage. Upon reaching the middle of the sea, he plunged the spear into the waves, and a hole appeared. Without hesitation, he jumped through the gateway into the Crystal Palace.
v v v
The celebration in the Palace ceased abruptly when two guards entered the room. Hastily, they bowed shakily to their lord and delivered their message. “Your Majesty, Nir-zah has r-returned!”
“What?!” The Dragon King’s exclamation covered the noises of surprise from the performers. “That’s impossible!” He hastily picked up a crystal ball, put it in front of his eye, and looked toward the entrance. There, he saw a boy. He was garbed differently than before, he wielded a spear, and he walked on wheels of fire, but the face was unforgettable.
“Attack!” he bellowed.
Instantly, a whale swam up and swallowed his opponent. Nir-zah set about with his spear, stabbing randomly, and the huge whale was finally forced to spit him out.
Next came a giant squid. It attacked with all of its eight arms and two tentacles, flailing wildly, left and right. It kept up its assault, until the boy overwhelmed him. He let out a cloud of jet black ink and swam away. Through the fog of ink, an army of swordfish, crabs, and all of the king’s soldiers rushed in.
Nir-zah grimly kept up his defense, and before long, all the soldiers were scattered. The four livid dragons charged in to take the others’ places. Unable to defeat the more experienced warriors, the boy shouted—
“Change!” Immediately, he transformed to have two extra heads to see with and four more arms to fight with. Wisely, his four enemies backed away, knowing that they could not best him in this form during a melee. The red dragon spat lightning at Nir-zah, who was soon engulfed by flames. He lashed out with his ribbon, but to no avail. Then, the picture of the phoenix on the ribbon touched the blaze. The picture of the fiery bird came to life and flew around, sheltering the boy and controlling the fire.
Infuriated, the white dragon blew snow, and the black dragon of wind forced the icy flakes toward Nir-zah. This time, the boy could do nothing, and he was frozen in a block of ice.
The dragons stood and watched their handiwork for a moment, then burst into simultaneous guffaws. Their mirth was cut short, however, when the phoenix floated back into view. Using the fire it had taken control of earlier, it flew toward the ice that was Nir-zah and flung the flames toward it. Within seconds, the boy had thoroughly thawed, and the dragons fled to an inner chamber, oblivious to the fact that the king had dropped his crystal seeing ball.
Nir-zah picked the ball up interestedly, and studied it carefully. With a wicked grin, he hopped lithely off his fiery wheels. Setting the ball on the ground, he sent the wheels whirling around it until it had become as hot as a poker—and explosive. Looking in the direction in which the dragons had departed, he subtly gave the ball a push toward the area with his spear.
The Dragon King, seeing his crystal ball, picked it up. With a yelp from the heat, he dropped it.
It reacted like a bomb.
All four dragons were thrown by the blast. The king recovered first and made an attempt to scramble away.
Nir-zah eyed the fleeing king, took aim, and let fly his spear, pinning the dragon by the tail at the Eastern Sea. It uttered its last groan, then spiraled up the pole like a statue. The rest of the dragons met the same fate at their respective ends of the sea.
When Nir-zah left the Crystal Palace, it was to find children of all ages, parents, and the ever-faithful deer waiting for him, the Dragonsbane. As he broke the surface of the water, the noise of the cheering was deafening.
All of the dragons still stand as statues, guarding their ends of the sea.
|The Dragon Stones||Ravlei|