Trouble Mandeson
and KJ Hannah Greenberg

Trouble Mandeson

After Defeating a Dragon
By KJ Hannah Greenberg

Rufus ran his index finger over the long scar on his thigh. He had been fortunate to have survived, let alone to have defeated the green wrym. Most other champions, who had attempted that battle, had been vanquished. A fortunate few had come away from the monster with most of their limbs, but few of their senses, intact.

It had been more than two decades since he had thought about why he had confronted that brute. “Courage” never meant the absence of fear. Additionally, he had been hobbled by his vast imagination. His night terrors and his lapses during sunlight hours had been filled with the array of possible consequences that his antagonizing that demon might yield.

To wit, he had been haunted by that base reptile’s shadow. He saw its wings darken his sup and he smelled the pong of its feet whenever he bathed. What’s more, if Rufus chanced to think about some lovely lass, he felt the dragon’s inferno on his neck. Whereas those experiences were completely within the province of his mind, they, nonetheless, were interwoven with his days and nights. Rufus had not written his life’s script, yet he was compelled to live it.

Eventually, the murk, the fetor, and the scald moved him to challenge the basilisk. He left his horse and his friends behind, tethered his hound, and fasted for three days. Thereafter, Rufus ate sparingly of nourishing fare and then climbed the crag containing the cavity housing the abomination.

It did not take him long to locate the ever-present fiend. With his humble cudgel, Rufus blinded and then killed it. The details remain unknown.

In the years following that feat, Rufus remained freed of shrouded trenchers, of odorous soaks, and of fiery blockages to love. He courted and married a young woman. Soon, their lives were enriched with many children.

As sometimes happens, Rufus’ dearheart was stricken by a plague. His sons and daughters, all of whom were grown, helped shovel dirt over her grave. Unfortunately, thereafter, they sated their grief by consorting with the dragon – that bogey had become reanimated.

At first, the father tried to drive his scion away from the lizard’s mountain. Merely the vapors in its dwelling could bespell a man. Thereafter, being unwilling to once more risk his life, he sent falcons and other fierce birds to deliver messages to his beloveds. All of his writings implored his sons and daughters to separate themselves from that horror.

Occasionally, a raptor outlasted its mission. Still, no responses were sent back to Rufus.

Many years later, one of his children entered his home. Rufus embraced that offspring and prevailed on that child to help free his siblings.

“Da, you have it wrong.”

“That I value your brothers and sisters’ lives?”

“No, about Gaillard.”


“The dragon. He’s no evil. In fact, your weapon caused him much pain for a long time. It’s no wonder he’s planning revenge.”

“He wolfed cattle. He gobbled sheep. He gorged on people. He destroyed entire villages. He used his power to haunt men, including me.”


“We stay away from wickedness, if possible. If not, we carefully oppose it.”

“That’s your spin. Did you know that all of us, even my sisters, are now lords of various domains? Gaillard gifted us!”

“Stolen. Captured through massacres. Ill-fated.”

“You’re presenting only one side. Gaillard taught us that truth’s subjective. Your truth is not our truth.”

“Stay here! Don’t return!”

“Gaillard loves me. He accepts me. His never asked me to uphold any standards. You and Mom, though…”

“Don’t speak ill of the dead, especially of she who carried you, who nursed you, and who raised you. Gratitude!”

“There you go, again! Gaillard explained how all of my siblings and my pain come from our childhood. Instead of discipline, he gives us gold. Instead of pushing us to ‘actualize our potential,’ he invites us to share the animals he conserves. You never gave us roast mutton or pheasant or goose. You said those comestibles were beyond your means.”

“Your mother and I filled you with morals. That’s more precious.”

“I rejected them. Gaillard says they’re old-fashioned.”

“Yet, he’s older than me.”

“And your ideas, as such, are antiquated. So, they are of small utility to me or my sibs.”


“No. I just thought you’d appreciate knowing where we are and that we’re thriving. I was wrong.”

“Dear son, you’re languishing.”

“Gaillard said you can’t understand, that you are a vessel of hate. Fortunately, he’s taught us about your flaws.”

“My child…”

“Only by fact of birth. You are the source of everything that was wrong in my life.”

The youth turned his back on his father and returned to the to the dragon’s lair.

Thus, it was that Rufus came to be tracing the scar on his thigh. He had thought that the evil was dead. He had thought that he’d not, a second time, have to confront it. He knew that he would not outlive another skirmish.

Even so, Rufus was principled. He bound his new dog, bade his companions farewell, and trudged toward the cave.

His children showered rocks upon him. They likewise lobbed him with epitaph after epitaph.

The man anyway continued onward, one foot at a time.

Finally, he faced the beast.

Unfortunately, he also faced his children, who were covering the scaly awfulness with their bodies. They yelled at their parent to perish. They urged the magical creature to disappear their father in a puff of smoke or to engulf him in a ball of flame.

The dragon smiled and exhaled. Until now, no one had ever worshipped him. Unlike Rufus, he had sired no descendants. Stealing human hearts had proved to be much easier than stealing their livestock.

A few of Rufus’ enslaved sons and daughters shed tears as their tattered father limped back to his home. However, their sorrow was short-lived; their defender proposed a party to celebrate the newest hamlet he had razed.



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