Sunday, 14 September 2014

A Dragon in the Sea

It's been a week since I last posted a story from Folk Tales of the Sea People, so here's the next one...

A Dragon in the Sea, July 2014

A Dragon in the Sea

There was once, long ago, a Dragon, who lived in the sea. His name was Takumi, and though he had great golden scales and long whiskers that were quite admirable, the other folk that lived in that stretch of water disliked him, for the fire within Takumi’s belly made the water quite hot. Whenever he went by, all kinds would swim away, be they shark, Merman, dolphin or Nereid. Takumi was shunned by society, and it made him quite grumpy. He decided that, should anyone cross his path, he would eat them. Takumi thought they deserved it, for rejecting him so unkindly without knowing anything of him.
And so, he became all the more unpopular.

In truth, Takumi was a lonely Dragon. He once had a wife, but they had argued and she made him leave. Takumi and his wife had come to the sea as a last resort, for in those days Humans had armoured knights who went out to slay Dragons. Takumi had a big scar upon his leg from where he had been cut by a magical blade, and in that place, his scales grew no more.

One day, Takumi was swimming through the sea when a large mob of people appeared before him. There were Merfolk, Siren, Nereids, Glashtyn, Selkie, and a great many others, all with angry looks upon their faces.
“Well,” thought Takumi. “My stomach is quite full, but I am sure I can eat them all.”
“Stop, Dragon,” said a Selkie. “Leave this place. We are tired of your heat and your murder of our people.”
“I only eat those whom get in my way,” Takumi replied, his red eyes narrowing. “And I cannot help my heat, for I am a Dragon.”
“But now you must leave.” A Mermaid stepped forward: the queen of the kingdom in which all lived. “I hereby cast you out, Dragon, for you have caused much trouble for us.”
Takumi wished to eat her, along with everyone else, but he suddenly noticed weapons hidden amongst the crowd. Disappointed, he bowed his head. “I understand,” he said, and turned away.
Takumi swam far, but was turned out of every kingdom he passed through. The constant rejection caused him sadness, which in turn caused him anger, for Takumi felt ashamed at being sad: he believed that no strong Dragon should feel sadness.
As his anger grew, his regard for others diminished. Takumi no longer entered kingdoms quietly to humbly beg acceptance. Instead, he rampaged through them, destroying houses and killing any who cast ill words or ill look towards him.
Throughout the oceans, Takumi became feared.
As the people’s fear grew, their hatred of him became greater, and their rejection stronger. Takumi became sadder, angrier.

Then one day, as he left the ruins of a town he had destroyed, Takumi happened upon a young couple: a Siren girl and a Selkie boy. They started when he appeared over the rocks behind which they were hidden, and the young woman started to cry.
“Please do not eat us,” she said. “We have done no wrong but love each other!”
Takumi felt a pang of jealousy at the couple’s love, but her words made him curious. “I do not eat people because they love each other,” he said, a frown upon his features.
“But that is what our parents have said,” the young man spoke up. “That the great Golden Dragon will come and eat us, if we do not repent our sin and cease to court each other.”
“I will not eat you for that,” said Takumi. “I will eat you for your rudeness.”
“How have we been rude?” asked the young woman, surprised.
Takumi could not answer, for these young people had not shunned him. “…you have not,” he said after a moment. “So I shall not eat you.” After further consideration, he said, “But I may have eaten your parents.”
“Oh,” said the girl.
“Ah,” said the boy. Then he laughed. “Now I can marry my sweet Aysu.”
The girl, Aysu, smiled. “And I can marry my dear Gursel,” she said. “Thank you, golden Dragon.”
“Yes, thank you!” exclaimed Gursel.
Takumi was so surprised by their gratitude that he sat down. The shock was great after such a long period of rejection, and tears escaped his eyes. “You are welcome…” he said.
“Why do you cry?” Aysu asked curiously. “We have heard tell that you are a strong, angry and wicked Dragon. But you are not.”
Embarrassed, Takumi swiped his tears away with his paws. “I am strong,” he protested. “…and yes, I am often angry.”
“But why?” asked Gursel.
Takumi had already humiliated himself before the pair, so he thought he may as well tell them. “Everywhere I go, I am shunned. They do not like my heat, and they do not like me eating people.”
“Well, it is not nice to eat people,” Aysu said. “But the warm water is nice!”
Gursel nodded. “Your belly-fire makes the water more pleasing,” he said. “Nobody should reject you on account of that.”
“Even my wife turned me away,” admitted Takumi, shame-faced. “We argued, and she made me leave.”
Aysu swam up to Takumi’s head and patted him. “You should make up with her, and then you can live with her again!” she told him, smiling. “What did you argue about?”
Takumi sighed, his great breath knocking a nearby school of fish from their path. “She wanted to have children, but I said we were too young.”
“What a silly thing to argue over!” Gursel exclaimed. “Aysu and I have talked about children. We know it will be difficult, and I am afraid of being a poor father, but children are lovely. I want to be a good father.”
Aysu nodded. “Why do you not go back to your wife and apologise?” she suggested.
“Do you say that it is my fault?!” Takumi asked, frowning.
“No,” said Gursel. He swam up beside Aysu and smiled kindly at the Dragon. “It is alright to be afraid. But if she is angry and sad, your apology would help make up with her, and you can talk honestly with her like I do with Aysu.”
“I want children, now I am older...” Takumi mused. “Ah, but she is so far away.”
“Where does she live?” asked Gursel.
“We lived in the Hidden Sea, beneath a mountain,” replied Takumi. “It is on the other side of the world.”
“It sounds so magical!” Aysu clapped excitedly. “Do let us come with you, Golden Dragon! We can all start afresh. Besides, you likely destroyed our homes in the town, and other family will certainly come here eventually to tear us apart.”
Takumi considered this. Though people had rejected him for a long time, and he had grown tired of him, these two were different. Having travelling companions would make the journey less of a lonely one. “Very well,” he said. “You may come with me.”
“Thank you, Golden Dragon!” exclaimed Gursel, taking Aysu’s hand.
“My name is Takumi,” the Dragon replied, trying to sound gruff.
“Takumi,” Aysu smiled. “And what is the name of your wife?”
“Tiamat. Her name is Tiamat.”

The trio left the kingdom and started their journey across the seas. Takumi could swim much faster than his new friends and the Siren girl and Selkie boy became tired long before he did. When this happened, he allowed them to ride upon his shoulders. Aysu and Gursel clung to his scales and cried out in delight, especially when he swam faster.
Takumi began to enjoy the company of others. What’s more, other sea-folk seemed less afraid of him when they saw Gursel and Aysu riding upon his shoulders. Often when people looked fearful or started to swim away, Takumi’s travelling companions called out and told them he was a friend, and comment on how lovely and warm the water was. Slowly, the news spread across the seas that the Golden Dragon was not wicked, but a friend with a warm belly that would heat even the coldest sea.
Takumi learnt to not only enjoy the company of others, but to appreciate them too.

At length, their journey came to an end. Takumi swam towards the mountain beneath which the sea was hidden, but he stopped at the underwater entrance, hesitant and worried.
“What is the matter?” asked Aysu. She patted Takumi’s head. “Your wife will be waiting!”
“What if she has found a new husband?” asked Takumi, uncertain. “Or if she does not want me? Or if she has left this place?”
Gursel shook his head. “I do not think she has left, for the water here is doubly warm as it usually is around you.” He smiled reassuringly. “Let us go beneath the mountain with you, Takumi. Aysu is curious about your Hidden Ocean, and I would much like to meet your wife.”
“Yes, and if she is unhappy, maybe we can help,” Aysu spoke up. “Come, Takumi. We have travelled very far and I am sure she misses you.”
With a nod, Takumi swam beneath the mountain.
The entrance to the Hidden Sea was a series of caves, connected by tunnels. In one cave, the walls were studded with diamonds, in another they were emeralds, and in another, rubies. The final cave was filled with sapphires, and then they were out into the giant, endless cavern that housed the Hidden Sea. Aysu exclaimed in wonder at each of these caves, and Takumi swam closer to the walls so that Gursel might break off some of the gems for his love.
Aysu and Gursel fell quiet as Takumi swam through the Hidden Sea, though both continued to pat his head and stroke his scales in silent reassurance. He was grateful of their presence.
Eventually, Takumi neared the part of the sea where he and Tiamat had lived.
“Tiamat?” he called out. “It is I, Takumi.”
Slowly, from behind rocks and weeds, the grand form of Tiamat appeared. She had blue-green scales and yellow eyes, and frowned when she saw her husband. “I told you I did not wish to see you again,” she said. “Why did you return?” Spying the Siren and Selkie on his shoulders, she added, “And who are these creatures?”
“These are my friends, Gursel and Aysu,” Takumi replied, a little defensive. “It is they who persuaded me to return to you, for I have been alone and rejected by all I encounter.”
“What a surprise,” Tiamat snorted scornfully. “Your temper has always turned people away.”
“You are right,” Takumi replied humbly.
His wife looked at him in surprise. “You have not agreed with me so readily in the past,” she said.
“I know, and perhaps I should have.” Takumi swam closer to her. “I am sorry for our arguments, dear Tiamat. You were right. It was not that I did not want children, only that I was afraid…” He lowered his head. “Gursel taught me that.”
Tiamat eyed Gursel. “You, the Selkie?”
“Yes, madam,” Gursel nodded. “I understand, for I am soon to marry Aysu, and I am also afraid to become a father, for I do not wish to do a poor job of it.”
“Oh Gursel, you know you will be a wonderful father,” Aysu smiled at him.
“And what have you taught my husband, Siren girl?” asked Tiamat.
Before the young woman could answer, Takumi spoke up. “Aysu has taught me to be humble and accept when I must apologise.”
“Really, Takumi. If not for these two, I suspect you would still be swimming around in the sea, destroying villages and eating people.” She laughed at his surprise. “Yes, the news even spread as far as here. So did the tale of the Golden Dragon, with the Selkie and Siren companions who rode upon his shoulders.”
“So you already knew they were my friends.”
“I suspected such, and wondered if I would ever see it for myself,” Tiamat nodded. “But now you must bid your friends goodbye, for it has been a long time since I saw you, Takumi. We have much time to catch up on.”
“You accept me back?”
“I never truly wished for you to leave, I only wanted you to apologise.”
Tiamat laughed. “You big fool. Come inside. You can see your friends later.”
Takumi sighed in relief. “Thank you, Tiamat…”
Aysu and Gursel swam from his shoulders, and Takumi looked over at them. “There is a pleasant place in the diamond cave; I think you will like it.”
“Thank you, Takumi!” they called.
“No,” said Takumi. “Thank you.”

And so it was that Takumi was reunited with his wife Tiamat, and over the years they had many children. Aysu and Gursel discovered a lovely place within the diamond cave that was perfect for a house. It was close to the open sea but also close to the Hidden Sea, and beautifully warm. They were wed and built a house together, and they, too, had many children.
Little did any of them know that the water, warmed by Takumi, Tiamat and their family, flowed out of the mountain here and there, into hot pools where the Kappa-folk played and the Nereids danced, and the occasional human came to bathe.
Even today, long after Takumi and Tiamat have passed into the otherworld, those pools are warm, for the descendents of those fire-bellied Dragons continue to live in the Hidden Sea, far beneath the mountain.

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