The Hero and the Dragon (Tales from Zuaka)
Filed Under: Adventure Stories
Date Created:19 Nov 2013
Last Modified:19 Nov 2013
Number of Views: 487
Put more wood on the fire, Asemu, it’s time for a story. Now I want everyone to be quiet and comfortable. Hush now, young Maseke, or you will be sent to your hut. Are we all comfortable? Good.
A long time ago, in a land beyond the horizon we see from the top of our greatest hill, there was a village – just like this one. It was called Ikroso. The village was troubled by a dragon, a big and menacing beast. It burned their homes and fields, and when their children wandered close to the forest – it ate them. For a long time they lived in fear. They cried out to Ru for help and begged their Chief to find a way to deal with the dragon.
One day, a man came to the village. He was a stranger, his loin covered by an exotic fur. He looked strong and he wielded a double-headed spear made from godsoak, the heads made of strange stones. “I am Yanga,” he said. “I am a hero come from afar. I have heard of your dragon and have come to get rid of him.”
The Chief and Elders gathered the entire village and told him of how the dragon troubled them, and how some of their warriors went to slay it but never returned. Yanga boasted of his accomplishments before them. “I am the one who killed the giant bull of Inde. I fought it for seven days and I had its roasted heart for supper. I have also been through the fiery pits of Lupili and carried out a hot piece of firestone in my hand. Here it is as one of the heads of my spear. The other I got from the floor of a deep lake where I killed a monstrous water beast. Thirsty for many days, I resisted the beguiling serpents of the great desert. I slashed to the left and to the right and to the left, and all four of them were headless before they could open their fangs.”
The villagers “oohed” and they all agreed that Yanga was the one they were looking for. The Chief was glad and said, “Name your price.”
“My price is the death of this dragon,” the hero said proudly.
One of the Elders stood up. “Legend says the dragon never dies.”
Yanga snorted. “After the dragon, I will slay legend next.”
Even though he refused to name a price, the Chief insisted that he should be given something as a show of their gratitude and faith. When the deed was done, he would receive ten cows, ten goats, ten pigs, and a flock of chickens. He accepted only because they begged him to. Before… What’s that you say, Mashti? Why wasn’t he given a wife? Just listen to the story, girl.
Where was I? Yes. Before he could go, they made him promise upon his hero’s honor that he would protect them no matter what. He spit into a gourd and proclaimed that if he failed to protect them, a curse would befall him, a disease or something like that. And that he would break the spear he regarded as his own life.
And so he bound into the forest, only looking ahead, slaying everything that blocked his path. Snakes jumped out from the bushes, boars charged at him, a panther and a lion preyed upon him from either side, but none of them were worth his attention. He slew them without slowing his pace. Soon he came to the steep side of a large mountain. A large cave gaped on that face of the mountain many feet above the ground. Carrying his spear in his mouth, he climbed the cliff, pulling himself up with his muscular arms and legs.
He pulled himself into the cave, and there was the beast, lying down. It was larger than four huts, spiked from head to tail, and terrible claws extended from its limbs. Its eyes snapped open – fiery eyes, and it growled when it saw him.
“Hello,” our hero said, smirking. “You are the biggest I have had to face so far. I will enjoy this.”
The dragon roared out a cloud of fire. Yanga dodged aside, bounding towards the beast. It swung its tail, swatting him onto the cave wall. But he laughed and came again at the dragon. Dodging another blast of its fire, he stabbed it in the shoulder.
The dragon spread its wings, leaped into the air, fluttered out of the cave and faced him, preparing to send fire. Yanga thrust his spear and it sunk into the creature’s chest. The dragon roared in pain, flames billowing out of its snout and it fell to the ground.
Yanga ran to the brink of the cave and when he looked down, the dragon was crawling away into the bushes. Bounding from one jut to another, grasping crevices and swinging on appendages, Yanga went swiftly down, jumping the rest of the way when he was nearly there. He would not let the dragon escape.
The dragon clawed him out of the way, cutting him deeply. Bleeding and relentless, Yanga grabbed the beast’s tail, pulling himself up its back. As it took to the air, it tried to shake him. He yanked out his spear from its heart and he landed to the ground flush on his feet, sprayed by the blood gushing from the beast’s chest. Desperate, the dragon sprayed fire to the trees.
Yanga agilely climbed up a tree, unswerved by the fire. He ran along a burning branch, leaped into the air and grasped on the dragon’s legs. He drove the spear into its belly, and they both plummeted down, at the edge of a brook. The beast convulsed and died, and that was when Yana allowed himself to pant. He knelt down and drank some water as he laughed.
But then something strange happened.
He began to change. His arms grew large and ugly, his belly expanding and dropping. His face pulled forward and sharp things pierced out of his body. With a scream, fell down and lost consciousness.
When he awoke, the world was smaller. He felt awkward and heavy. He looked into the water and saw that he had morphed into a dragon, with fiery eyes, ugly scales and spikes and webbed wings. What sorcery is this? he thought to himself. He became confused and afraid for the first time in his life.
He flapped his wings and flew towards the village. The villagers were waiting for him at the forest entrance. They had with them the livestock gifts they had promised him. He flew down and landed before them. They looked afraid but they did not move. He tried to speak but only growls came out.
When they all knelt before him, he realized he had been tricked. He now understood the legend of the undying dragon. He roared at them.
“Please understand,” the Chief said. “We had to do this, it was our best option. There will always be a dragon here, so it is better we have it on our side.”
In fury, Yanga unleashed fire upon them and they scampered. He flew to the village and breathed out flames onto their fields and huts. He was going to destroy the whole place, but he glimpsed the gourd he spat into and remembered his promise. He was a man – a beast now – of honor and he was bound to his word. He stomped out some of the fire and flew away to the dragon cave, his new home.
And so he became the village’s protector. And with him by their side, Ikroso prospered into a big kingdom. That was long ago, Ikroso is no more but it is said that somewhere, there is a dragon that never dies.
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