When composing Wisdom’s Kiss, I created a second volume of stories, songs, and fake encyclopedia entries for the enhanced ebook. Here is one of the stories, set in the mythic country of Sottocenere (which by the way is an Italian truffle-flavored sheep’s cheese). I love this story for many reasons, not least because the mother dragon is so awful.
also check out The Adventures of Mommy Buzzkill, which explains why so few children’s stories have mothers.
The Dolorous Draper
from Gory Dragons Galore: A Treasury of Educative and Cautionary Tales for Unformed Youngsters and Others Yet Morally Deficient
Once upon a time a dragon lived in the mountains of Sottocenere. He lived with his mother, in a cave overlooking a tiny valley, where people tended their cows and made their cheese and had sense enough to keep away from dragons.
All day long the dragon would lie on a boulder outside his cave, watching the villagers far below (he was a young dragon, and so had excellent eyesight), and when night fell, he would watch them still. Sometimes when the evenings were warm and the villagers felt safe, they left their shutters open, and the dragon could observe them eating dinner. He particularly liked to watch the burgomaster. How glorious that dinner looked! The table set with china plates and candles, the plates spread upon a pristine white tablecloth.
Oh, the dragon yearned for a tablecloth. The candles were lovely, and the china, yes, but most of all he wanted that snowy white cloth. The food looked so delicious — much better than the cattle and stringy mountain sheep he and his mother ate off the floor of their cave, surrounded by bones and the few scraps of treasure they’d stolen from other, richer dragons.
His mother, when he worked up the courage to voice this dream, scoffed at him. “A dragon doesn’t need tablecloths!” she’d sneered. “A cloth doesn’t change the taste at all. Besides, cloth isn’t treasure. It isn’t valuable — not like gold.”
“Not even silk?” he’d asked, tentatively. “Not even damask?”
“Nothing like gold,” she’d sniffed. And that was the end of that.
So the dragon returned to his boulder, still dreaming of banquets spread on damask. And there he might have remained, full of longing, were it not for the arrival in the village of a cloth merchant, or as they used to call them, a draper.
The man appeared pushing a heavy cart laden with the most beautiful fabrics: silks and woolens, fine linens and sheer voiles, cotton grown in far-off lands and damasks woven in intricate detail, some colored with borders of fruit or ornaments, and others snowy white.
Intently the dragon witnessed the man’s approach, and at once the beast flew down to the village entrance, transforming himself into a fat matron with a purse of coins. “Have you a tablecloth?” he asked the draper, affecting disinterest and hoping the man could not hear the pounding of his black dragon heart.
“But of course,” the man answered, displaying several so lovely that the dragon nearly swooned. Yet he was still a dragon through and through, and haggled for some time for the loveliest one (so the dragon felt, anyway), and with feigned reluctance handed the man his dragon gold before hurrying off with his treasure.
Woe for the draper, for he was not from Sottocenere and so had no experience with the dangers of dragons, and the widespread belief that dragon gold is cursed. Instead, he promptly visited the local brewer’s and purchased an enormous bucket of beer. (The brewer wasn’t so bright either, accepting that dragon gold, but there’s never been much to say for Sottocenere brewers.) The draper then settled himself beneath a shady tree, and drank so much of the beer that he fell into a deep, deep slumber.
The dragon by this point had returned to his cave, where he could not resist showing the tablecloth to his mother. She did not share his delight, however, and slapped him and called him names (dragon insults such as “Ice Lung” and “Pappy Tooth”), and told him to return the fabric to the draper and get their gold back. In fact, he should take all the man’s earnings, and anything else of value the man might have. “Which does not include cloth,” she added, with a final blow across the young dragon’s snout.
And so, heartbroken, the dragon flapped slowly back to the valley. He landed beside the draper, curling his nose at the stench of beer. But no matter how the beast shook him, the man would not waken. The dragon sat back on his haunches and stared sadly at his lovely tablecloth, and then at the cloth merchant, who was rather plump, even with all that cart-pushing.
At once an idea came to the dragon, and quick as a flame he wrapped the draper in the cloth, and flew back to his mother. “Look,” he cried, slithering into the cave. “Look at this!” And with a great flourish he pushed aside the litter of bones and treasure and spread out the tablecloth, the draper centered upon it.
His mother pursed her dragon lips. “Hmmm,” she mused, smoke curling from her nose. “Is that what you’ve been talking about all this time?”
“Yes!” cried the dragon. “Tablecloths make everything look better!”
“Well, son, I stand corrected,” she conceded — for while dragons may be greedy, selfish, envious and altogether cruel, they are not above admitting their faults. “You have an excellent point, and, I must add, you have made an incomparable presentation. Shall we?”
With that, the two dragons fell upon the draper and gobbled him up, pausing only to squabble over the juiciest bits, and to set aside the man’s purse. Afterward, their bellies bursting, they flossed their teeth with the shredded remnants of the tablecloth, the mother dragon praising her son for his excellent choice of fabric.