I’m doing an Old Races short story project throughout 2011. This project will deliver 6 Old Races short stories to its patrons. This story of Janx, “Saint George & the Dragons,” is the second story in the project, and has now been delivered to the patrons who have thus far subscribed. I’m pleased to offer the rest of you a teaser for it.
The Old Races Short Story Project patronage window is now closed.
Saint George & the Dragons
At the heart of the River Seine, a dragon. Spoiling waters, fed on sheep, but in thrall to maidens fair. Daughters, never wives; a treasure trove, until the daughter is the daughter of a king, and a kingdom is bereft.
A saint with sword and cross: a princess saved, and a dragon slain. He is Quirinus, he was Perseus, Marduk, Tahrun and Thor; and his dragons Cetus, Tiamat, Illuyankas and Jormungandr. He has slain dragons for a thousand years, and will slay them a thousand more.#
“He is a menace!” Outrage, rumbling like thunder through caverns near a shore. Well enough, that: there was little thunder to be had in this land, and the roar of a dragon’s fury might at least be mistaken for heavy seas. Or they could be if the seas were heavy at all, but beyond the cavern mouth they lay serene and calm, cerulean skies reflecting on still waters.
“He is a mortal.” Insouciance, uncaring; even boredom. Not at all the desired emotions, when the question at hand is the survival of a species. But the water was very blue, a jewel in itself, and there should have been a way to claim it.
“He has murdered one of us!”
“It happens from time to time.” Hardly the right answer: new outrage rose from some twenty throats. Janx sighed and turned from the view. Mediterranean blue could neither be equaled nor captured, and the beasts at his back were losing patience. “For the third time, will you not take human form to hold this discussion? How do you think they find us, these dragonslayers? They listen for storms where the sea is calm, they follow stories to cities of gold, they come to where legend claims virgins are sacrificed to mighty wyrms, and there we are, awaiting them in all our ancient, vulnerable glory. Humanity’s guise may be distasteful, but it will also save your lives.”
He had made the argument countless times over countless years, and it had fallen on countless deaf ears. He, at least, took his own advice: lanky with red hair cropped close to his skull, and a beard too tidy and sharply pointed to meet the approval of Roman matrons. There were, after all, limits: he couldn’t bear the thought of his own fine features hidden behind one of the curly monstrosities worn by the wealthy. But details of fashion aside, with his skin warmed to gold by the sun’s caressing touch and jade eyes, Janx was by all immediate appearances human. His brethren knew better; they could sense his dragonly mass, shuffled to some unreachable spot until it was needed. That he chose to wear a human shape did nothing to undermine his presence.
But they, all of them, kept to their serpent forms. It had taken months to find caves large enough to hold them when they would not shift, and even so there was sinuous life to the walls as one dragon shifted and made minute way for another. They did not, as a whole, bear each other’s presences well; dragons were large, and largely solitary because of it.
Large and greedy, and all the more solitary for that. “Virginity,” Janx muttered, “is a stupid thing to treasure anyway. It doesn’t last, you know.”