Photo credit: Bryan Pocius (modified)
Long ago, Elvak was ruled by a tyrant, Cvetna Pavalashkan. Pavalashkan filled his court with cruel toadies and vicious soldiers, keeping his people hungry and afraid.
One day, a peasant girl named Iva found a huge egg. Pavalashkan claimed everything in Elvak as his. But Iva imagined a beautiful bird inside, and yearned for it to fly free, far from Pavalashkan’s clutches. So she kept it secret, caring for it until it hatched.
What emerged was no bird, but a dragon. Iva named it Zuashk, and raised it, like her sheep. Soon, though, Zuashk was too big to hide.
To Pavalashkan, anything he couldn’t control was his enemy. He set a trap. He captured Iva and dragged her to the tower, beside a poisoned cow for the dragon to eat.
Zuashk flew closer, toward the cow, but Iva wriggled off her gag and shouted a warning. Zuashk swooped down and grabbed Iva from her captors. When soldiers rained down arrows on them both, Zuashk turned and engulfed the tower in flames, killing Pavalashkan and all his soldiers.
The new, fair-hearted cvetna earned Iva’s loyalty, and Zuashk became Elvak’s protector. And that is why, ever since, dragons have adorned our gates.
Word count: 200. (Although see the additional material I’ve snuck in below.) This one has a lot of weird names in it, sorry about that. If you were from Layor, they would seem perfectly normal.
Inspired by this week’s Sunday Photo Fiction flash challenge, hosted by our dedicated host, Al Forbes, who also provided the original photo prompt, below. Click here to read the other stories, and to submit your own!
Photo © Al Forbes, A Mixed Bag
Additional world notes, for anyone who’s interested
Some eight centuries after these events supposedly took place, Madhaq of Pavalbat wrote:
The story of Iva the Dragonfriend must be considered by any rational historian to be questionable. The name Pavalashkan, for instance, translates directly to “evil giant” or “bad important man” and was commonly used to refer to the antagonist in children’s tales. Although it is plausible that a cvetna be nicknamed Pavalshkan, no such person appears in any records of Elvak. It is believable, if trite, that the heroine would name her dragon Zuashk, as that is the Bogedze word for dragon (literally, big lizard). However, as I have argued in previous treatises, the persistent notion that dragons could breathe fire (much less ice bolts or lightning) has repeatedly been proven false by scholarship. In this case, earlier versions of the story made no mention of fire for at least two centuries. There is no credible evidence that these wild beasts were ever effectively tamed, much less by virtuous young women. Furthermore, the notion that the dragon’s tears healed Iva’s arrow wound (found in many later versions) is a late addition to the dragon mythology, not appearing until long after the creatures became extinct. I am comforted only in that this story never devolves into Iva riding the dragon, which anyone who has studied the skeletons of these creatures must admit would be physically impossible, despite the many paintings and sculptures laboring to illustrate such a scheme.
Editor’s note: Madhaq of Pavalbat made his fame making outrageous claims countering many of Layor’s most prized legends. He remained undaunted in the face of almost universal criticism among his peers, who considered him a charlatan, but died in ignominy. Later, Pyanni scholars resuscitated certain of his treatises, and he earned a commoners’ reputation as a wise man speaking up against ignorant leaders. Ironically, given Madhaq’s field of study, several of the quotes and treatises he is most famous for have recently been found to be falsely attributed.