ago and long forgotten,
when the world was wild and young,
when the pace of life was slower
and the towns of men much smaller,
when the peace that we are used to
was not even ever dreamed of
lived the dragon Arhoneery.
Lived the mighty Arhoneery,
lord of all the frozen Northlands,
also of the varied Southlands,
lord as well of all the Westlands.
She who ruled without compassion,
ruled by fear and bloody slaughter,
bent the backs of all the people,
made their lives so sad and painful
that they thought all hope beyond them
and their misery eternal.
Arhoneery, mighty dragon
with her hide of midnight leather,
tougher than the oldest oak tree,
stronger than the finest steel,
ruled in terror all the Northlands,
all the cold and frozen Northlands.
Ruled the ancient pine-tree forests
and the alpine stands of birch tree,
ruled as well the lakes and fiords
and the dismal misty moorlands,
everything her magic showed her
and the people bowed beneath her.
Arhoneery, mighty dragon
with her fiery, thunderous breathing,
and her mighty jaws and canines
sharper than the sharpest spear-point,
longer than a soldier’s forearm,
ruled the dry and burning Southlands.
Ruled the wide and rolling grasslands,
ruled the deserts hot and barren
and the mountains swathed in forests.
Ruled as well the sweating jungles
and their fearful suffering peoples
till they lived only to serve her,
made her gifts of gold and silver,
filled her caves with precious gemstones,
offered her their finest carpets;
many were the tears they gave her.
Arhoneery, mighty dragon
with her wings of toughest leather
larger than a rich man’s mansion,
and her legs like mighty beech trees
with their claws like iron sickles,
sharper even than her canines,
ruled the wet and fertile Westlands.
Ruled them and their fields and pastures,
fed herself upon their cattle,
eased her evenings with their sweet wines,
fed as well upon their horses,
drank as well their beers and ciders,
ate also, sometimes, their children,
to ensure that they obeyed her.
Thus the mighty Arhoneery
ruled in savagery and violence.
Long the life-span of a dragon
long the years of Arhoneery,
endless was her rule upon them.
Thirty generations served her
knew no other law than her law,
knew no hope or chance of freedom.
Thus the weight of her oppression
weighed upon the people daily
like a mighty storm cloud resting
over every town and village,
sank into their souls so deeply
they forgot that they were human.
Only in the pleasant Eastland,
in the birth place of the new day,
in the landscape of sweet morning,
were there people who new freedom,
was there life to be enjoyed.
Great Kharnoon their mighty ruler,
greatest of the world’s magicians,
greatest too of all the wise men,
undefeated yet in combat.
Great Kharnoon, the kind and gentle,
raised an orphan by the hill monks,
by the laughing wily Daoists,
raised and bathed in all their wisdom.
Bright Kharnoon took in that wisdom,
filled his mind with ancient learning,
filled his heart with sweet compassion,
trained his body to be supple,
learned of courage and conviction
in the pathways of true thinking
then he left them as a young man.
Young Kharnoon then travelled widely
journeyed all across the Eastlands,
saw the world in all its glory
and he talked to all the people,
talked to lords as well as farmers,
talked to artisans and painters,
and to labourers and soldiers
till he understood the people,
understood their loves and longings,
understood their fears and hatreds,
yet somehow he loved them still.
So in time he came to rule them,
with the wisdom of the mountains,
with the wisdom of the valleys
and the wisdom of the great plains,
ruled them all with patient caring.
Taxed them little from their labour,
kept his councils small and learned,
gave them justice, peace and freedom
and in time they came to love him.
Thus he ruled them for a long time,
three times longer than an old man.
Wise Kharnoon, to his great sorrow,
knew no other as his equal,
met no other ancient warrior
who remained as young as he did
nor any hoary-headed thinker
who saw half as far as he did.
Lonely lived the great Kharnoon.
Meanwhile in the troubled Northland,
in the mixed and servile Southland
and the poor downtrodden Westland
all the remnants of their wise men,
great-grandchildren of wise leaders
long since killed by Arhoneery,
met in secret at the midpoint
of the bright time of the year.
There together formulated,
in their painful desperation,
in their hope of some redemption,
one last plan to save their peoples.
Many schemes had they invented
in the past to help their peoples
and their fathers too before them
strove to gain their peoples' freedom.
Many heroes had come forward,
singly or in bands united,
trained to fight with skill and courage,
girded well their loins for battle,
wrapped themselves in mighty armours,
magic talismans and weapons,
went to challenge Ahoneery
gave their lives in desperation,
but no sword could ever cut her
nor an arrow ever pierce her,
all their spears just broke upon her
and their magics died before her.
Arhoneery ruled unchallenged,
punished all who spoke against her
punished them and all their family
'til no voice was raised against her.
Yet in secret some men cherished
a small flame of hope of freedom,
over many years they pondered,
talked to many passing travellers
gathered all their scraps of data.
And in time reached the conclusion
that if there was still hope left them
it lay in the distant Eastlands
and the might of great Kharnoon.
Thus in secret they dispatched her,
Soolienna, with her guardsmen
to the warm and pleasant Eastlands.
Beautiful was Soolienna,
far more so than any other.
Blue her eyes and bright as diamonds,
black her hair as clouded night-time
fair her skin, and sweet her figure,
fair also her face to look on.
From her beauty flew enchantments
that beguiled all those who saw her,
so she kept her face well hidden
kept her beauty veiled and secret,
guessed at only, for the most part,
through the music of her speaking.
Go - they bid her, to the Eastlands,
to the warm and pleasant Eastlands,
to Kharnoon their mighty ruler,
to Kharnoon the great magician,
tell him of our long despairing,
of the callous Arhoneery.
Tell him of these lands now blighted,
of our peoples' endless suffering,
of the pain and fear we live with
and beseech him to assist us.
Offer him your hand in marriage,
offer him as well our loyalty,
offer him all that he asks for
just so long as he will help us.
So departed Soolienna,
travelling slowly, and in secret,
first with one group, then another,
hiding sometimes for a few days
in a distant inn or homestead.
For three months she travelled this way
'til they reached the Eastland’s borders,
from thereon they travelled quickly,
one more month to reach Bandonny
capital of all the Eastlands,
home of great Kharnoon the wise man.
In his great hall Soolienna
lost the veils that hid her beauty,
bowed before him most demurely,
asked that she might tell her story,
smiled her sweetest smiles upon him,
whereupon the great and mighty
ruler of the pleasant Eastlands
gave her all the time she asked for.
Slowly then she told her story,
told him all about her people
and the suffering they lived in,
begged him for his intervention,
promised him her hand in marriage,
promised him her love forever
if he only would assist them.
Long he listened to her sorrow,
let her tell her tale in fullness,
let her tell all of the details
of her people’s endless torment
at the hands of Arhoneery.
At her tale he felt compassion,
for her people in their suff’ring,
knew that he must surely help them
knew this job was his to do.
But her beauty touched him also,
as his beauty spoke to her,
there between them, in the great hall,
a new bud of love was formed.
So he swore to ease her burden,
told her plainly he would offer
all his wisdom and his powers
to ensure her people’s freedom.
Gave her and her people comfort,
rooms to stay in, guides to teach them,
bid them wait until he called them,
then prepared his own departure.
After setting all in order,
wearing only simple linens,
with his power-laden magics
and his staff of ancient wood law,
and also his broadsword True Light,
brave Kharnoon left for the Westlands,
for the wet and fertile Westlands
and the dragon Arhoneery.
Flying like a mighty storm cloud,
faster than a speeding comet,
driven by his great compassion
great Kharnoon soon reached the Westlands.
Hidden by his ancient magics
he assessed the situation,
travelled all around the Westland,
saw in truth the peoples' anguish
knew their long despair and torment.
Visited as well the Northland,
and across the varied Southlands,
saw the people's broken spirit
and their bitter desperation,
saw the hand of Arhoneery
as it struck in retribution
those too poor to pay their taxes.
Returning to the central Westlands
with his mind now well determined
to confront mad Arhoneery
and to ease the peoples' burden
great Karnoon sought out the mountain
where the dragon Arhoneery
rested in her hidden cave-home
far away from mortal humans.
Some way up a distant mountain,
in a smooth and barren cliff-face,
half a mile above the flatland,
there Kharnoon espied her doorway,
inaccessible to humans,
open just to bats and dragons,
where his magic told him truly
Arhoneery waited for him.
Rising on a wave of magic
great Kharnoon ascended quickly
to the entrance of her temple,
stood and waited at her doorway,
but no welcome was he offered.
So he stood and watched the ravens
and the ugly, long-necked vultures
as they fought and picked for morsels
from the dead and rotting bodies
half devoured on the rock ledge,
cows and sheep and also people
that the dragon fed her minions.
Arhoneery did not greet him,
left him standing there in silence,
with the birds as his companions.
Thus she offered him her insult
from the arrogant conviction
that she knew the way things would be,
that she was the only master
or yet mistress of her fate.
So he raised his staff a little,
thumped it on the rock beneath him,
on the carcass-littered cave floor,
smote the rock only the one time,
yet he made the mountain shake.
Then Kharnoon called out in power.
“Arhoneery, evil dragon,
hiding in your dismal cave home.
Why is it that you are hiding?
Silence cannot save you now.”
Loudly Kharnoon cried his challenge.
“I have come this day to slay you,
to tear down your reign of terror
and to give these people freedom.”
Laughter was the only answer,
deep and fearless from the cave depths
and beyond this only silence.
So Kharnoon the great magician
strode into the high cave’s hallways,
walked into its deepest chamber,
there he found her, smiling at him
with her treasures all around her,
scattered piles of plundered riches.
Gold and silver in abundance,
plates and cups and crowns galore,
gems of every size and colour
piled in heaps across the floor.
But Kharnoon ignored the riches,
straight away his challenge found her,
loud and clear his voice rang out.
“Arhoneery you are evil,
you have ruled without a heart.
Trampled on a world of people,
torn their simple lives apart,
chained yourself to dark desires
learned to live without the light.
Savagely have you abused them,
when it never was your right,
long and dark your ruling of them
but your death shall yet be easy,
I shall make the torment cease.”
Reaching for his greatest magics,
drawing on his years of study,
focusing his mighty powers
he brought forth a spear of lightning.
Holding high this mighty weapon
great Kharnoon stood still before her
stood and watched mad Arhoneery,
scourge of many lands and peoples
for too many darkened lifetimes,
stood and faced her unafraid.
“Stop Kharnoon.” Cried Arhoneery.
Holding up her palm before her.
“You the mightiest of wise men
from the warm and pleasant Eastlands
larger than my North and Southlands,
near as great as all my three lands.
By what right would you now fight me?
I have never crossed your borders,
never troubled you or your lands.
Why come here with this great challenge?
Let me rule my own in my way,
all the known world bows before us,
better we should live in peace.”
Thus continued Arhoneery.
with her tone sweet and alluring.
“I have other caves like this one,
all of them are filled with riches
and my lands are full of cattle,
horses, sheep and other livestock.
There also are clever craftsmen,
steadfast servants, gorgeous women,
I will gladly share these with you,
let you have all you desire
if you’ll only put that spear down.
You and I, we are the same now,
it's not right for us to argue.”
But Kharnoon the great magician
closed his ears to her entreaties,
would not hear her sweet enticements,
or pretend to argue with her,
would not pander to her playing,
or postpone the needed action.
So he sent his spear in answer,
launched his lightning shaft upon her.
Through the hide that lances broke on,
that the swiftest arrows bounced off,
through her muscles tough as old wood
flew the shaft of magic lightning
sharp and straight into her great heart
where it stopped its mighty beating.
Then the face of Arhoneery,
in that awful, fateful moment,
filled with shock and apprehension
as her blood and strength flowed from her.
Falling forward to the cave floor
there she faced Kharnoon in anguish.
“Dear Kharnoon for all your wisdom,”
spoke the dying Arhoneery.
“You are but a stubborn youngling
know the truth of what you’ve done here.
Where from, think you, came your powers?
Came your strength and skill at fighting,
came your excellence at magic
and your years without much aging?
Why suppose you, you have never
found in all the world an equal?
Foolish youngling, see the truth now.
You were never born a human.
Know you that you are my offspring,
dragon born to dragon law.
The sweet child of these my late years,
mine the mother’s flesh that bore you,
mine the heart that gave you life.”
Then at last she finished speaking,
finished living there before him.
As her life at last was ended
Arhoneery the great dragon,
ruler of the frozen Northlands,
mistress of the varied Southlands,
scourge of all the fertile Westlands
changed her shape and lay before him,
formed exactly as a woman
in a robe as black as midnight
and the blood that flowed around her.
In the instant Kharnoon saw this
then he knew her words were truthful,
and his heart beat loud within him
then his soul was filled with anguish.
Falling to his knees he held her
and let out a dreadful cry,
from his eyes his tears were falling,
soon they hit the floor like rainfall,
like the rains of monsoon seasons
from his warm and pleasant Eastlands,
flowed the tears of the last dragon
as he knelt and held his mother
whom he’d never met before.
And his tears now flowing round him
washed the blood of Arhoneery
from the cave floor, hard beneath him,
washed the plates of gold and silver
swept up all the gems and jewellery,
all her misbegotten riches,
flooded all the cave around him
till it flowed out of the cave mouth,
washed away the loathsome bodies,
put the birds up in the air,
poured at last onto the flatland
half a mile or more below.
From below the people watching
heard the dragon’s dying bellow,
heard Kharnoon’s great cry of anguish,
saw the water start its falling
saw it fall and reach the flatland,
watched the pool begin its growing,
watched in wonder and amazement
as the carcasses and riches
danced around each other madly
tumbling to the ground before them
as the tears Kharnoon was weeping
gave the world a brand new river.
Still Kharnoon remained unmoving
still his painful tears kept falling.
From that day to this unending
waterfall and river wending
through the forest to the ocean
in their gentle, swirling motion
sing their sorrow and their grief
for the unborn and the dying.
Without rest, without relief
are the tears Kharnoon is crying.