Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sea Dragon

The old man sat at a table nursing a mug of beer, anyone who didn't know him would immediately guess he was a sea dog, his hands were calloused from years of hauling on wet hawsers and despite his years his arms were thickly muscled.

He nodded to the barmaid who wended her way through the tables, her skirts making a slight swishing sound as they brushed against the floor. She took the mug and went back to the bar, filling it up from the large keg. The barman and owner of the pub, a small man with a permanently worried face looked at the sailor and shook his head, 'Tis a shame' he murmured 'To see a man like Joshua brought low, he was a fine man and a good sailor.'

'What happened to him?' the barmaid asked, piling a plate with bread, cheese and ham.

'Of course lass, you are new here and have not heard his tale, go and ask him, but don't be afraid, he's touched, but harmless and his tale is entertaining.'

The barmaid took the ale and food over to the sailor and whispered timidly 'Sir, my master says you have a tale to tell.' She waited, looking ready to bolt.

Joshua looked at her, his eyes a muddy blue and he nodded slowly, 'Aye lass, I'll tell you my tale, sit.' He indicated to the chair opposite him and she slowly sat down.

'What's your name lass?'

'Kitty, sir.'

'A pretty name, tell me Kitty do you believe in dragons?

Kittys mouth dropped open and she snapped it shut, 'N..n..no sir, I don't' She glanced at the bar hoping her master would beckon her over, but it was too early and there were few customers.

Joshua laughed, 'Don't worry, Miss Kitty, I'm not going to bite you, but I will tell you a sea tale, be a good girl and fill my tankard again and old Josh will tell you a tale that will change your mind'

Kitty did as she was bidden, surprised when the landlord didn't object when no money was offered. She placed the full tankard in front of ale in front of the grizzled old sailor and ventured 'Have you seen a dragon sir?'

Joshua took a long pull of beer, wiped the foam from his lips and answered 'Aye lass I have, I've seen the leviathan of the deep and what a magnificent beast it is. Twas 20 years ago now, I was second mate on a ship out of Plymouth Harbour, we sailed the seven seas trading cotton, silks, spices and even slaves, our captain was a fair man and we always got a bonus at the end of every voyage.'

Joshua's muddy coloured eyes grew distant as he remembered, his mind travelling back to the ship he had called home for so many years.

'Ah lass she was a beautiful ship, 'The Golden Lady' she was called and she looked after us well,
she did. We were on our way back from Zanzibar, the sultan there was a rich man and he paid handsomely for english goods. We did well on that trip and we had loaded up with trade goods to use as barter with the tribes along the coast of Africa, for a handful of beads you could get ivory, hides, gold and diamonds.'

'We were but a handful of leagues from Madagascar when a storm blew out of the east, none of us had seen such a storm, it was as if all the gods of the sea were angry, the waves were as big as the great dome of St Pauls Catherdral in London Town, I've never seen the like and the gods willing, I never will again. The captain ordered the sails shortened and we tried to run before it, but it fell on us like a ravening beast.'

Joshua stopped and drained his tankard, thumping it down on the table when he was finished. Kitty stood up without comment and went to refill it. 'I'll pay for Joshuas ale' she assured the landlord.

He smiled 'Don't fret yourself lass, I'll not go bankrupt for want of a few coppers.'
Kitty nodded her thanks and returned to Joshua.

'Sir, where did you see the dragon?' Kitty asked as she set the mug in front of him.

'We barely survived that storm, we were blown far off course and we lost 8 good men to the sea, the ship was almost wrecked, we lost the mainsails and the main mast was split through and the hull was leaking. The captain ordered us to make what repairs we could and tried to figure out where we were. He set a course and we started limping towards where he thought land was.'

'On the third night we were becalmed, I've never seen the sea so still and there was St Elmo's Fire dancing around the masts, it was a strange sight, Kitty and I don't mind admitting that I was more frightened than I had been during the storm. There was a feeling in the air, like a memory of things passed. At just before 9 bells one of the deckhands started screaming and pointing aft and the captain and me, we went to see what all the commotion was about.'

'What we saw none of us will ever forget the sea was boiling like a pot on a fire and from the there rose a beast, golden it was and so beautiful, it's hide shone even though it was night, higher and higher it rose from the sea and then it took flight, oh such a magnificent animal it was, I would give my hope of salvation to see it again. It flew north and before we could catch our breath it was back, it headed straight for us and we thought we were doomed, but before it reached us it dived back into the water with a scream. It was the cabin boy who noticed the orcas on our starboard and it was then we realised what it was doing, it was hunting.'

'Now Kitty, you don't know what an orca is, but they are the wolves of the sea, they are fearsome beasts that all sailors dread, they are cunning and dangerous, and this beast, this dragon was hunting them, twas a sight to behold and we stood, the whole crew and watched as it fed. When it had done it once more took to the sky flew over us, circling us 4 or 5 times before once more disappearing into the sea, leaving us alone.'

'We made land 2 weeks later almost dead from hunger and we told our tale, but we were not believed, some people said we had imagined the whole thing, others accused us of demon worship, but let me tell you this Kitty, we didn't imagine it, it was a true beast and a beautiful one.'

Joshua paused and reached under his shirt, pulling out a chain, 'See this Kitty?' He held up the chain and dangled it in front of her, hanging from it was a large leaf shaped object that glowed with an inner light, 'This is one of its scales, I found it on deck after it went back into the sea.'

Kitty reached for the scale and gasped, it was heavier than it looked and softer than she expected, it felt like leather and she thought she felt it pulse slightly as she touched it. She looked at Joshua with shining eyes and he nodded, 'Aye lass, you've just touched a dragon.'

Kitty got used to seeing Joshua in the weeks and months that followed and always spent a few moments with him, no matter how busy the Inn became. Her master did not mind and even seemed to tacitly approve of the attention she gave the lonely sailor.

One day Joshua didn't arrive, instead a letter was delivered by a young lad. It was addressed to Kitty.

She took it to her master as she couldn't read and he opened it and read the contents to her.

Dear Miss Kitty,

I've signed up to a ship that is going to Madagascar, I have enough money to buy a small fishing boat and I am going to find the dragon, I have something that belongs to it and I must give it back, God willing I will return in a year or so. Thank you for believing an old salt like me, I will always treasure your friendship.

Your True Friend


Joshua never returned.


Blogger lime said...

very wistful. very lovely

4:20 AM  
Anonymous logo said...

Wow Shez, what a yarn!
Good read.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Andrea said...

This is Sherri's Mum. Sherri passed away on July 22nd 2008.
She died of Cancer. She held her 3 months old Grandson in her arms, and looked after him, before she went to the hospice. Please visit http://www.justgiving.com/sherrifuller

6:32 PM  

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