It was an age of superstition, shrouded magic, dark legends. It was an age of valour. In a land until at present forgotton was born Joran, seer and doer of the will of the Dragon. Humble were his beginnings, son of a blacksmith and brother to a harvester Joran applied himself in the apprenticeship of both. His father Preol, had Joran manage the fires in his shop in the mornings. In the afternoon Toran, 10 years the elder or Joran, taught him the delicacy with which the seeds must be sown to yield the optimal crop in the perfect season.
Joyful in his labors Joran became strong in both body and mind. His dutiful mother, Sieleya, would impart intelligence to him; reading, writing, history and philosophy. In such a situation one could not help but grow in satisfaction and admiration of the life gifted. Joran was such a one, ever grateful to those whom he loved, obidient because of said love, ever mindful of becoming the best man they all hoped he would one day achieve.
The Dragon claimed to be neither good nor evil, but the seer and speaker of unfulfilled truth. His power was in to show people the future. But to just witness the future without understanding the consequences was, in the Dragon's mind, insufficient knowledge. So he endeavored to enlighten the minds of those willing to gaze into his eyes. What he showed them was that the future is always conditional, but nobody can escape the consequence of their decisions.
The Dragon, in the age of Joran, had become nothing more than a distant memory to those of the land. But superstition wayliad many plans of courageous adventurers, superstition so strong that even the most outspokenly valiant did not dare enter the caves of the great mountains for fear of meeting the Man-Eater, the Terrible, the great Dragon of the past. Of course nobody in truth believed that such a dragon existed, but superstition held them at bay.
Until one day.
Joran was planting corn on the edges of farm near the northern borders of the forest. The light caught his attention, a light that eminated from deep within the forest. It wasn't a natural light, the sun was in the south this time of year. This light changed color and shape, and as Joran approached it he noticed that all view of his farm had dissapated into the darkness of the trees around him. Now the light seemed to be moving, slowly at first then faster and faster as Joran approached.
Out of breath and reeling of pain in his side, Joran fell to the ground and moaned. Water, he just wanted water to quench his insatiable thirst.
"Then water you shall get, young Joran."
The voice startled the young man, it seemed to be coming from the source of the light, which was now in the opening to a giant cave. Joran was at the base of the Great Mountain, and the cave of the Dragon.
As Joran stared at the light it began to shape shift. First it was a deer, then a bear, then a mammoth, then a snake, then a lizard, and now a giant Dragon. Startled and frightened Joran quickly glanced around him for anything that could be used as a weapon, but found that he had fallen in a grassy field that preceeded the cave.
"A blade of grass, as beautiful as it is will not serve as protection against me, the Man-Eater," snorted the dragon. His laugh was menacing yet hinted at playfulness. The Dragon did not wish for Joran to fear him, for he was, in truth, a peaceful creature who only wished to impart intelligence and wisdom to man. To Joran, in particular.
"Peace, Joran, I shall not eat you. I have brought you hear so that you may see. You must see! Will you not gaze into my eyes to see the truth of your future?"
Joran, stunned and confused by the tone and the change of subject from the dragon started. Slowly he rose and approached the dragon. Curiosity overcame reason and Joran spoke to the Dragon: "Who are you, what is it that you want to show me? I care not for my future for I will make it each day that I live. There is nothing you can tell me, show me or do to me that will change me. So be at it, Dragon, do your worst."
"It is neither bad nor good that I am come to give to you, but a choice. Look and see."
Joran gazed into the eyes of the dragon - and light filled his mind.
The next morning Joran found himself waking in his bed, his real and very much his own bed.
"Just a dream?"
His brother's voice refuted the question, "I doubt it, thick-head. I found you asleep in the field late last night, obviously I've been working you too hard. What happened?"
Jorans retort was cautious and slow, he wasn't sure if he had experienced what he thought he experienced. "Nothing, I must have fallen asleep, that's all."
"Huh! Well, it's time for breakfast, sleepy-head. Mother has food for you at the table, get up and get clean and get moving, kid!"
Morning at the blacksmith was easier than usual. His father tasked him to move all the tools from the storage onto the new wall recently constructed to fit all of the tools the blacksmith had acquired over the years. But the tools seemed light and the task simple. Cheerily Joran worked and soon was finished. It was a wonder to both Joran and his father, Preol, who was pleased to see Joran finish so quickly and so early.
"You may go home early today, Joran. Very well done. I expected the job to take two full days at least, I was preparing excuses to give to Toran as to why I kept you late these two days, but now that you are finished you may spend the next day harvesting the yearly mellons. Give this to your mother as well, will you child?"
Preol handed Joran a small envelope. Maybe this was another love letter or poem and Preol had written to his wife Sieleya. After 28 years of marraige they loved each other more now than they day they first fell in love.
"Yes father, and thank you. I will see you at supper."
As Joran walked from his father's blacksmith shop and started down the road to his home, he felt a strange feeling in his heart. He couldn't describe it, it was if he was reliving something from his past, some evil event that already occured but he could not describe nor remember it clearly. It only came to his recollection moments before he thought of it. What an odd sensation this was to him, but worse it was ominous. Something was about to happen, and Joran suddenly felt that he did wrong.
He turned and ran back towards his father's shop when all of a sudden a giant explosion erupted from the blacksmith's fire, blasting the entire building to tiny pieces of metal, wooden slivers and ash. Horrorstruck Joran screamed in terror as he was witness to the destruction laid before his eyes. His father was dead, he knew this. Not simply because he felt it but his father's severed hand landed directly in Joran's path as the shop exploded. Grasped in the hand was a simple blacksmith's hammer, burning hot from the eruption.
Joran was inconsolable as he brought the news to his brother and mother. Falling on their knees the family wept through the night. Shortly before the sunrise when Joran's brother and mother had fallen asleep, Joran saw a light outside his window. He ran to it, accross the field and through the woods to the opening of the cave.
"You knew this! You knew it would happen and did nothing! Dragon, come forth and answer for your sin!"
The Dragon came forth with no look of triumph in his eyes, only sorrow. "I can do nothing, that is not in my will or power to do. It's my destiny to show you yours, nothing more and nothing less. But if you don't remember, look again at what I showed you."
Joran was crying but felt the truth of the Dragon's words. He gazed into his eyes and witnessed two scenes. The first was what occured the previous day. Stung by the horror of having to witness his father's death twice he attempted to wrench away from the Dragon's gaze, but once you gaze you may not be released until the vision is complete.
The second scene began in his father's shop, but Joran was not done with his job. He was struggling under the weight of his own complaining, which made the assigned task difficult in the extreme. He saw his father speak to him and say he had a message to deliver to Sieleya and would be back before mid-day meal. As his father approached his door 3 villans hiding in the trees ambushed him and threw him indoors. Already inside were Sieleya and Toran, bound with rope. Preol was bound as well as the thieves rummaged through their valuables. Upon leaving one said, "We cannot leave witnesses, they have seen us and now they must die."
He witnessed the cries of his family as their heads were torn from their torso and the house burned down. Horror, evil, it was the heart of the Dragon as Joran believed it. Released from teh Dragon's spell he stared in disbelief.
Calmly the dragon said: "The villans, upon seeing the explosion moved on to a different village. They will not return, ever. Your choice, young Joran, was to decide whether your entire family died or just your father. Although you seemed to forget much of what I showed you, in your heart you knew that your best choice was to live without complaint. That led you to work harder, smarter, and faster than you ever have before. As a result only your father died, and you shall have the comfort of the rest of your family until the end of your days. Not everyone is so selfless, indeed had you chosen to whine and complain and proceed in selfish ways the consequence was the destruction of your whole life, of all your relations. I commend you, therefore Joran, for a choice well made."
Joran wandered the forests for weeks, unable to believe that he had a choice in the matter at all. That no matter what he did he could not save his family from pain. 'Is this any less pain', he thought, 'to lose just one rather than the whole? Death is pain, life is pain. Why was I given the reigns of fate to whip and direct at will'?
Joran lived the remainder of his days in agony, but only within. Outward appearances were of a man who lived well, married better, and had many children of his own. He was good and kind and thougtful and ever cheerful. Inside, however, he wished selfisheness because he wished death upon himself. Why could he not bring that upon his own fate? Why did he seem destined to do the will of the Dragon and never his own?
It's a question that haunts him even today, in peaceful slumber.