(WP) The Monster’s Demands
forest had been taken over by a dragon, a winged creature of smoke, heat, and
flame; no one could actually prove the rumor, as no one had actually seen it.
For my part, I thought that this was ridiculous. There was nothing, absolutely
nothing, to indicate that the forest’s new denizen was there.
that had been before the mayor of our village had declared a state of emergency;
just about all the adults had lost their heads at the mere mention of the
beast. The whole of the village was buzzing by the time that we reached the
mayor was a fat, portly little man with a fondness for fine suits and rich
foods, and it showed. Someone had to put a crate behind the lectern for him to
stand on. Even before he addressed the public, he was dabbing at his perspiring
brow with a handkerchief, his face bright red. The talk was such that he had to
slam a gavel just to get everyone’s attention.
last, silence reigned, and the mayor coughed. “My dear people, I have called
you all here today to discuss the monster that lives in the forest. It must be
appeased with flesh.”
statement, cries went up: mothers tucked their children behind them, holding
their babies close, as if they feared the creature would burn the village
understand!” I called out, and much to my surprise, the crowd hushed; clearly,
they wanted to hear the answer to my exclamation.
son went to the heart of the wood and asked the dragon what he wanted. Other
than a place to live, well…” He hesitated, gulping. “It has also demanded two
children. Not one, not three, but two children. In exchange, the village will
be left untouched.”
beside his father, the mayor’s boy nodded, confirming his words. It was decided
that all of the village’s children would be put in a sort of lottery; one of
the ladies kindly lent her hat to hold it all.
was called, and so was the baker’s son’s. We were given one last day with our
families before we had to depart for the forest at dawn. I spent the day with
my parents and siblings, and they helped me choose what I would take with me.
There were only a few things: some books, a packet of paper and a quill, and a
necklace I’d been given at birth. I said my tearful goodbyes to my family in
the baker’s son, Ronan, standing outside of our cottage before the sun had even
come up. I shouldn’t have been so taken by surprise; his trade caused him to
keep all kinds of hours. His face was pale, and his lips were twisted in a thin
line. Despite the cool air, he was sweating.
to go?” He asked, and I nodded, not trusting my voice. We walked in silence,
only birdsong and our steps, keeping time.
reached the wood, it wasn’t a dragon we found; at least, not exactly. It was a man,
young, but older than us; in his early twenties, I might have guessed. There
was a man there with bright, gleaming ruby eyes, sitting in between the trees.
We almost didn’t see him.
you going to eat us like everyone says?” Ronan asked, gulping audibly.
course not, boy. I’m going to raise you and teach you all the secrets of my
kind. But you mustn’t ever return to the village. After all, you’re one of my
children now. Welcome home.”