Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Dogs of Draaken (a short story)

Hello, dear reader (well, there may be more than one of you, but I'm assuming only one of you is reading at a time, so addressing to "reader," singular, is still probably appropriate). Thanks for visiting my blog. Today we're going in a new direction, fiction. Specifically, my own fiction, from ages ago. Well, many moons ago... 1993, specifically. Or 20 years. Wow, how time flies. Anyway, you see, my aunt, Peggy Jolly, is (was, I believe she's retired now) an English professor (at UAB), and she edited her own literature textbook, The Freshman Sampler (out of print, but you can still find some copies if you wish). The book is a collection of short stories used for literature classes, and she asked if I'd write a piece for it, which I did. In 1993. While I was in Naval Nuclear Power Prototype training. Instead of studying the nuclear chemistry, I wrote this story (I did pass the prototype training, if you care, before I joined the crew of the John C. Stennis, CVN-74; I was, in fact, on board the ship when they were filming "Executive Decision" using our carrier in place of the Eisenhower - and, no, I wasn't "seen" in the film - I was below decks, probably working in the #2 machinery room at the time, and no, I didn't meet Kurt Russell). So, with that intro, here we go...

The Dogs of Draaken

Anthony R. Moore

The dogs had been gathering for about three hours now. I would say there were a couple of dozen at least; it was hard to tell the way they were all pacing around. That is, all except the first one; he sat rooted in the same spot he had been all this time, rhythmically emitting an eerie thirty-six second howl every twelve minutes. It was the sort of sound that chills your blood and leaves you wondering if perhaps you are dead, wandering through someone's nightmare. It was a sound that seemed to pass right through your self and soul, as if you were a misty shadow with no substance or being. A sound that filled your mind with an unknown terror that you can neither explain nor escape. The sound, the howls, of the Dogs of Draaken.
Draaken was a well-known legend in these parts. I, having only recently taken up residence here, had not yet experienced the phenomenon that supposedly had driven the previous owner of my new home mad, first to lunacy, finally to suicide. I say home, but that is quite an understatement. The Fourth Century castle I had recently acquired was much more than a home: it was legend, history, grandeur, and most of all a dream come true. I have always loved castles, and the previous owner's recent misfortune left me in possession of this glorious work of art which was so well constructed it has stood for over fifteen hundred years. It has lasted through three national wars and numerous servant and townspeople rebellions. It also survived a fourteen-year occupation during which all the rightful tenants were beheaded. Today it is no less stout than when it was built so many centuries ago by a man with the name of Draaken.
Draaken of old, I am told, was a great and powerful magician who used his power for the good of his townspeople. His kindness was well-known throughout the land. Warriors from a neighboring territory, however, held only disdain for Draaken and his town. They thought the tariffs were too high and the quality of the wine produced here too low. One day these people came to visit, swords and daggers drawn, intent upon "improving" the village. The townspeople fled to the castle, begging Draaken to to save them; Draaken, his soul sworn to the forces who bestowed his power to use his magic only for good, could not force himself to cause anyone's harm. Thus, he refused the townspeople's plea. His bond signed his death warrant. By their own strength the townspeople gathered together and turned back the assaulting horde, but not without grave losses. The entire stock of wine was destroyed, and many men did not return home that evening. Draaken was hated by all the townspeople; blamed for their losses, he was forever vanquished from their hearts.
Although Draaken no longer had the fealty of his townspeople, he quietly continued to use his powers for their good and benefit. He aided their strength and endurance and doubled the next year's crop yield. Because of him, a local epidemic of deadly illness touched not one of the townspeople. Unaware of his constant concern and guidance, they never forgave Draaken's refusal nor forgot the war.
Some years later, Draaken's wife went on a journey to console her father and pay tribute to her mother as she lay dying. She had been gone three weeks when a messenger brought news: on the return from her journey, she had been assaulted in a nearby mountain passage, and a blow to her head had claimed her life. Draaken, taken by grief, wept for three days; once the tears had ceased, he built a shrine and planned her funeral. He planned a fitting spectacle to pay tribute to the woman he had loved with all his heart. He had a servant inform the townspeople of the tragedy and the memorial service. Not one person returned any kind words or consolation through the servant to Draaken.
The time came for the service. The music, the speech, and the burial were befitting of a queen. However, Draaken and his castle servants were the only mourners at the funeral. Not a single townsperson showed up to pay tribute to the great woman who had been Draaken's wife. Their hearts remained stony with unforgiveness for his refusing to use his powers to slay the invaders. This searing insult drove the great man mad. After burying his wife, Draaken vowed that when he died no townsperson would avoid his mourning. He then set to work on an enchantment that took most of the rest of his life to create.
This magic he made is what I am now seeing. His spell causes a mystic dog to appear every year on the day of his death. This dog sits at the top of the hill under which Draaken is buried and howls chillingly, rhythmically into the night, a mourning how that causes every dog in the town below to come to this spot and grieve over the body of Draaken. These village mourners wander about the hill for six hours, the length of the battle between the townspeople and their assailants. The howling can be heard in every inch of the town, can be felt in the very marrow of every bone, and pierces the souls of all the townspeople. And they observe, once again, the death of their beloved patron.
And there you have it - my first (and only, so far) published work (not counting anything you may read in this blog, which might be considered published?). I hope you have enjoyed the short story, written while I was supposed to be studying nuclear chemistry in the US Navy. This version is devoid of typos and misspellings in the originally published version (some mine, some my editor's, although I won't point that out... whoops!).

And, as mentioned previously, check out "A Slip Of the Clock" by a virtual friend of mine (I say "virtual" friend because we've never actually met in person, only online). The link goes to the Facebook page for her book, which includes links to Kobo and Lulu (where it's "self published" in electronic format), available for $2.99 or so (and worth more, probably worth $6.99 or $7.99 like your normal paperback novels would be).  She can write "full length" stories, whereas I seem to peter out after much more than a chapter (or, say, a short story or blog entry). I have some ideas, but just can't seem to flesh them out like Jane Edwards.

Until next time... a topato!


Anonymous said...

I can see Draaken...evocative story! I liked it.

Jane Edwards said...

Evocative! I'm turing it into a movie already in my mind. (But really, a plug with every post is unnecessary. Though appreciated.)