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||Edwin Drood's Column
||5 August 2014
|The gigantic dragon dump|
part the first
|One fine morning, a colossal dragon with wings the size of football fields and a tail as long|
as long as long, flew over the valley and dumped an enormous dump, big as a church, right
in the middle of the village square, before flying away to the west, never to be seen again.
As the dragon disappeared into the distance, the horrified villagers emerged from their homes to find their market place entirely occupied by a mountain of excrement. They shook their fists at the receding speck of dragon and shouted curses (but only just loud enough for it NOT to hear them).
Fortunately, the dragon poop didn’t smell too bad, as the beast had not roasted any knights recently, nor eaten anyone’s cattle, but had subsisted mainly on fruit for the past month, as dragons generally do in summer. Nevertheless, the good people of the village were very upset by its presence.
They could no longer walk across the market place, but had to go the long way around the enormous heap. It blocked the view. It altered the skyline. Families could no longer wave to their cousins across the way. Several people complained that they could not read the village clock or see the mountains. And as the giant lump was so close to some of the house fronts, the village elders decided it would be best if horse-drawn traffic only went one way, thus turning it into a roundabout and making every journey longer.
The village market, traditionally held on Tuesdays and Fridays, now took place in the meadow along the riverbank. This was fine for the farmer who rented the meadow, and as long as the weather was good, people were happy enough with the new location. But when it rained, the meadow became a muddy mess, and at such times the river was often too swift and full for children to be safe nearby. Mothers were terrified to go shopping and fashionable ladies feared for their footwear.
|~ ~ ~ ~ ~|
Meanwhile, the real problem wasn’t going away, but rather the contrary. For it would seem that dragon poop, like everything else about those flying behemoths, is almost immortal. The great lump hardened and baked all through the hot summer months until it took on the toughness and resistance of cured leather and the hardness of millstone. While it was still soft, no one had risked carting it off as fertilizer for fear that it would poison or bewitch the soil, but now that it was hard, nobody could think of anything useful to do with it at all.
A committee was formed and meetings were held. Scientists and engineers, artists, even magicians, were called upon for their advice. What were the specifics of dragon dung? Did it contain valuable minerals? Would it burn as fuel? Other questions considered were whether the heap should be painted in cheerful colours, but that was thought too garish, or broken up as rubble for roads and foundations, which was thought too risky. After all, it was dragon do: buildings constructed on such a foundation might simply fly off or become haunted; roads built with dragon waste might take you absolutely anywhere. Everything about dragons was known to be tricky. This was probably no exception.
Finally, after listening carefully to everyone’s opinions and advice, the committee adjourned for a week to take long walks by the river and think things over. When they reconvened they quickly decided to hire an architect and a team of coalminers. The architect would draw up a design for a new market hall, using the enormous turd as his material. The miners would execute his plans with drills and picks and shovels. All the material carved out of the lump would be carried off to build a new bridge across the river, the old wooden one being in a perilous state after the last spring floods.
|~ ~ ~ ~ ~|
Carving out the monolithic lump proved backbreaking work, as the substance grew daily harder and more resistant. The miners, most of whom came from a distant valley, had to be lodged in the village at the expense of the inhabitants. They were small, powerful men with large appetites, so lodging them for longer than expected was a financial burden. Yet they were helpful lodgers and cheery enough besides. They would work in three shifts of eight hours, singing all day and all through the night in the stone galleries, much as they were used to down the mines. Local girls were charmed by their lilting voices. The local boys were less charmed. Fights broke out. The locals usually lost. Morale was not good.
The miners also had more spending money than was healthy. This was because their contract stipulated, in addition to quite a handsome wage, that they could keep anything of value they found in the excavated rubble from the mound. Dragons are not fussy eaters; their digestive tracts may hold bits of armour or weapons, purses complete with their contents, rings, pendants, diadems as well as pieces of horn, antler, tooth, claw and tusk. Draconic scholars insist that dragons use such jetsam, stored in a crop below the first stomach, to aid in the reduction and digestion of the bones, stones and shells that ensure the exceptional hardness of their eggs. As this crop is constantly filling with new material, older items are gradually expelled, sometimes after many centuries.
While such objects of value as the miners unearthed were seldom complete or undamaged – for dragons chew their food most thoroughly, never being in any hurry – still hardly a week went by without some lucky fellow finding a gold doubloon, a ruby the size of his thumbnail or a battered silver hunting cup in the cleared rubble. Villagers were understandably envious of some of these glittering finds. However, by strict orders of the architect, anything that was still embedded in the gallery wall had to be left where it was, setting firmer and more permanently by the hour.
The atmosphere might have been less tense if the villagers had been aware of how the project was coming along. But the architect, whose genius and eccentricity were notorious, wished to surprise everyone with a great unveiling. Thus he had ordered the entire mound to be covered in tent canvas while work continued. Only the village elders and members of the committee were permitted to make occasional visits and even they were sworn to silence. The miners, known to love a nice long chat over a cup of mead, were surprisingly evasive on the subject too, and could not be drawn out other than to say that the result would be worth it. “Wait and see, just wait and see”, they said, “people will come from miles around, miles and miles”.
To be continued ... >
© Edwin Drood
, August 2014
Dragon from "Fabelwesen" by Friedrich Justin Bertuch (1747-1822).Bilderbuch für Kinder
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