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the Dragon


The dragon yet remains in the desolation of his battlefield.
Those final weeks of battle in which he, mighty and fierce enough
to stand proudly and with strength after all battles,…had been

Tricked by a foe he had underestimated and believed to be his ally,
he had been taken by surprise in battle and nearly lost,…barely
escaping with his life.

Near death, he nurtured himself back, but still, he was disabled –
unable to leave that desolate battleground. His only protection
from any foe being his reputation and still awesome appearance. He
felt sure any new foe would mean his demise.

But surely starvation would be his end if none would approach him.
Now, having had time to recover, yet weak none-the-less, he
wonders how long this agony will last before he departs this world.

As the days grow shorter and the weather brisker, the dragon begins
to accept his plight.
Maybe soon his end will come.

One bitter morning a lone shadow appears on the horizon…
a speck on the bleakness of the surrounding desolation.
The orange morning sun rises behind it, the rays streaming over the
distant ridge nearly blinding.

The dot grows larger.

Seeing this the dragon grows silent.
He realizes he is easily seen from such a distance.

Surely this would be the end.
Any creature so brave and sure to approach so steadily must be
coming to challenge him.
Any creature so brash must have powers enough to defeat him in this

The dragon watches as, for three days, the shadowy figure approaches
across the expanse of waste.
Wherever it passes, the landscape is changed.
To either side grass sprouts, trees emerge, flowers grow and blossom
while the trail behind the creature is that of solid gold.
Yet in the distance from whence the figure emerged, black clouds
brew with great and destructive storm while the earth below them

At long last, the creature appears as more than merely a shadow.
This lone creature, surely the eventual destructor of the dragon is…
a unicorn.

The unicorn in its white, clean splendor, with a smirk of sureness
and a glint in its eye, seems sure that the menace of its horn will
be sufficient defense against the dragon whose mass outweighs
that of the unicorn ten fold.
The dragon knows better, though.
He realizes that this type of creature has great magical powers.
He can only hope that his still remaining powers may yet defend him.
He refuses to die without a fight.

Pausing for a moment, the unicorn observes the dragon.
He needs this conquest.
His whole life has been centered on that need.

Only by succeeding in overthrowing the dragon may he defeat the
destructive forces behind him.
Those destructive forces which haunted his past and still follow him,
getting closer or farther away from time to time but always being

Breaking the unicorn’s concentration, the dragon says,
"I know your reason for being here. Delay no longer. I can but
feebly defend myself or attack you."

In reply the unicorn calls,
"My only desire is to be safe and free and to be no longer haunted
by destruction. If only I could do so without harm befalling you,
that would be my choice."

No sooner does the unicorn finish than the dragon releases a
breath of flame at him.

Jumping out of the path of the searing gust, the unicorn charges the dragon
and, before he may take offense, plunges his horn into its breast,
past the mighty, protective coat of scales, into the heart.

The world seems temporarily frozen in time as anguish and pain
flow through the dragon.
Yet as the unicorn removes his horn, no blood is to be seen.
The white and golden skin of the unicorn is untainted.

As the unicorn looks to the dragon, he notices its size diminishing.
Before his very eyes, the dragon changes.
His form shrinks, reshapes, softens.
Now he, too, is a unicorn.

The storm still brews and more violent than before are the eruptions
beneath it.
Both unicorns bolt from the encroaching danger.

Within what seems a short time, they appear to be in a totally
dissimilar land.
Flora and fauna flourish with and without the effects the unicorns
leave behind and beside.
The battleground is now merely a memory.

For many on many days the unicorns outrun the storm and continue to
draw farther away from that destruction.
Still, the unicorn worries about his new companion.
A dragon yet lies behind those eyes.
The new unicorn seems more of a dream than does the dragon within
Days pass as the unicorns outrun the menace behind them.

During these days, the once-dragon realizes how free and happy he is,
thanks to the unicorn.
He will never be able to thank the unicorn enough.
He wants to help eradicate the destructive forces behind them.

He will never let harm befall the uniform.
He loves him.

One morning he stops, turns, and runs toward the storm.
"No!!" cries the unicorn, noticing too late what has passed,
"You’ll be killed!!" 

Alas, it is too late.
He is an almost invisible speck in the distance when at last the unicorn
chases after him. 

After a short time, the unicorn sees a bright flash of light, hears a thunder
clap, and is knocked down by the sudden wave of force emanating from
the destruction. 

When at last the unicorn arises, the skies are clear.
The desolation is abated…
The new unicorn is not to be seen. 

Only now does the unicorn realize he had loved him.
Only now when it can no longer matter. 

For the duration of the day, the unicorn wanders in a daze. 

As dusk comes and the saddest sunset in history draws to a close,
the unicorn notices a black spot on the horizon –
His love – the unicorn.


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the Dragon, by Paul Cales, © 1983