(WP) Hoards of Knowledge

(WP) Hoards of Knowledge

               Legend has it that there is a dragon whose hoard lies deep within the mountains.

               What kind of hoard? A treasure hoard, full of gold and jewels and wealth beyond imagining?

               No, my child. It is indeed a hoard, but of a different sort.

               What kind of dragon doesn’t have a treasure hoard?

               Listen, child, and you will know.

               **

               This dragon feeds on knowledge, ravenous for words, paper, and stories. Unusual, to be sure, but not unheard of. Dragons are creatures that are just as varied as human beings.

               But how do you know that if you’re never seen one?

               Patience, child. We’ll get to that in its own time.

               Once upon a time, there was a scholar, one who thirsted for knowledge more than food, than drink. But she was a woman, so naturally, even as she studied in secret, she was opposed on all sides.

               ‘The lecture halls of our great nation are no place for a woman, for it is she who bears and rears the children, who makes the home a safe haven. Who are you, of all people, to defy our gods-given roles in society?’

               Naysayers from far and wide disapproved of the scholar filling her mind with words, stories, facts and figures, but she persisted, refusing to give up until she unlocked every secret that captured her imagination.

               One night, under the darkness of the new moon, people began to gather throughout the country, whispering about the stubborn girl who insisted on rising above what the world had seen fit to give her. Tempers and emotions ran high, stoked by alcohol and dissent.

               At last, the townspeople set out, armed with knives, pitchforks, axes and staves, determined to silence the scholar once and for all—

               What happened, Grandma? What happened to her? Please don’t tell me that this story of yours doesn’t have a happy ending! What kind of story doesn’t have a happy ending?

               Hush, my love. Let your old grandma tell her story. At her own pace. No interruptions anymore, yeah? And there will be a reward in it for you.

               **

               Where was I? Ah, yes, the townspeople. So, under the cover of near-complete darkness, for the stars seemed to be hiding their eyes for shame, they descended on the scholar, breaking into her tiny cottage at the intersection between the village and the forest.

               They took her from the house and in the scuffle, a candle that she had been using for light fell upon her papers, and the dwelling burned to ash. To this day, all that’s left is the bricks that the woman had used as makeshift bookshelves.

               What happened to the scholar, Grandma? Did they kill her?

               The fire that had burned down her only home had transformed her into a dragon. Blinded by rage and grief, she slew every last villager, except for one woman who had brought a book for her.

               Taking the volume in her jaws, she flew away, into the mountains.

               No one knows if she still dwells in those mountains, surrounded by the written word. Few even remember that there was a time that she was human.

               But Grandma. How do you know what happened?

               I was the girl who gave her the book, child. And I like to think that she rebuilt her horde of stories and tales from it. I hope that she’s happy, and that she has been allowed to do what she loves.

               She deserves the peace she’s been looking for all that time.

               **