There Be Dragons

A brief post on dragons in Sojourners in Shadow. Also on a few still talked about in legend.

Dragons came with the Shadow World. Arguably, they best represented it. While most monsters were strange, terrifying, unnatural, they were also mortal and flawed. Some could do magic, yes, but soon humans found that they could too.

Dragons were magic. They came in many shapes and sizes, they flew over continents with ease and made their nests wherever they chose. No one could contend with them. They tried, of course. Humans used science while hateful devil-beasts gathered and struck in numbers. It was all laughable. For one, magic did nothing to the dragons. It was like spitting at a rain storm. As previously stated, dragons were magic. It was their life, their blood and spirit, and they not only wielded it with ease but could do all manner of tremendous acts. Spells are needed by most magic-users, to focus the mind and summon the will along with what power someone possesses. Dragons breathed magic.

I should also take this moment to point out that dragons breathed fire too. Also, this was utterly incapable of harming them. It was their natural element, many would say. In fact, most would say dragons were just like fire – capable of giving, of life enhancing ability, and also highly destructive and tempestuous. Never piss of a dragon was an obvious general rule in the world while they reigned over it. Yet many suffered and never knew why.

Dragons left a century or so ago. They returned to the Shadow World, or at least that is the main claim. No one can say for sure. After all, the dragons didn’t explain themselves. The only person who may have an idea is Havoc, son of a dragon. Yet he is neither giving of information about his mother or her race, nor is he someone you can just stroll up to and bother with nosey questions. Much like a dragon, Havoc is known for letting an enemy live one moment and annihilating a settlement for disappointing him the next. Yet there is strong evidence that the dragons left of their own accord and went home. As previously stated (again), dragons were magic. They were huge flying beasts who spoke, could bless or curse others, and wipe out cities overnight to make a nest. They didn’t match anything this world contained, even after the Shadow World’s arrival. Not only that, but before they left, it had become noticeable that most dragons spent a lot of their time sleeping. In the early days they had soared through the skies, ravaged the land or etched their superiority upon humanity. Over time, they slowed down, then barely moved. Then they left.

A few quick details about the dragon race:

While they had their own names, they never shared them with non-dragons. They took the names of places they resided in or were associated with.

They tried to reproduce but never did. Havoc, of course, is something separate from that. There were never any new dragons. They seemed immortal and sterile. Another reason to leave.

While all were masters of fire, some also mastered other elements of nature.

They often chose islands and volcanoes to live on or in. They were also drawn to magical hot spots, for obvious reasons.

Dragons are very well remembered, also for obvious reasons. Because it has been a long time since they were around, the fear they easily conjured has lessened, as has any hatred. Even at the time, many lesser beings came to understand that the dragons never saw themselves or anything they did as either good or evil. They acted as they saw fit. They looked down on all other life. Impress them and you gained greatly. Annoy them and you were a memory within moments. While they caused many disasters, especially when they first arrived, rarely was it malevolent. People just got in their way. But they also did things to intimidate and conjure submission. Clearly some dragons enjoyed their role in the world’s hierarchy. But by now, people of all kinds speak of the awe inspiring beings, they tell tales of what they did and people enjoy listening, despite the horrors of those who had lived through those stories. People are glad the dragons are gone, many hope they never come back, but some do wonder if they could just see one again some day.

As for those remembered as individuals, here are a few famous ones:

Cornwall – Red. Male. Lived at the end of Cornwall, moved about to various posts along the coastline. Liked to watch the sea. Huge wing span. Would fly off to who knows where but always came back. At first had no time for humans, later taught them a bit, enjoyed the company of some. When he left our world, was sad to go.

Damascus – Green. Female. Devastated the city and curled up in the ashes. A long dragon. Later came to be a sleeper dragon and did not take kindly to the advances of the mutants. Warded them off. After that, they stayed away and she slept on until the dragons left.

Panama – unknown gender. Gold. Many think the reason the destruction of Central America didn’t reach Panama City is due to the dragon. Possibly even why things went weird. A nuclear attack versus a dragon’s magic, so close to a magical hotspot = a weird region to this day.

Gibraltar – Blue. Female. Had a mischievous nature, extorted ships coming in and out of the Mediterranean. Mostly playful, would scare those on ships rather than just attack and sink, but if any fought back she would destroy vessels and devour the survivors.

Hawaii – Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea – Two dragons who took up residence in volcanoes of Hawaii. One Black. One Silver. Genders assumed to be one male, one female. Romanticised story. Claim each dragon moved in, fought for dominance, then fell in love and became a couple. Their fighting terrified the people, but their relationship proved to be a blessing. There are other stories of them fighting a huge sea creature and controlling the weather.

That will do. I said the post would be brief. I should really learn to implement that word more honestly.

Yet this is just to give a flavour of what these beings were like, and how, despite their long absence, how their presence still lingers. People remember them changing their world. Literally.

Hector in High Noon

So Hector is often seen as the true hero of the Iliad. Achilles is impressive but also a childish glory-seeker. Odysseus is clever but yet to come into his own as he does in the Odyssey. In fact it was often the way of Ancient Greek lore to portray their heroes and champions with flaws intact. Not for them the perfect figment of the imagination. They knew even Heracles/Hercules wasn’t pure of heart. Everyone was merely human. Even the gods.

But Hector is a very noble character. He lives for family and homeland. He is a great warrior, second only to Achilles, and leads Troy’s defence. He is proud to do so. He gives everything he can to defend his people. There are other strong fighters on both sides. I always liked Diomedes, daring enough to stab Aphrodite in the wrist when she tries to interfere with his fight with Aeneas. The two Ajaxes are fearsome. Aeneas himself, later claimed to found Rome, is also a brave and powerful fighter. Hector, though, is a cut above. But perhaps the reason his courage and honesty wins out is that he is the one who has to face his nemesis. In this regard, the Iliad is a lot like High Noon.

Now in High Noon, we have Marshal Will Kane, who has just resigned, heading out of town when an old foe is said to be coming back. He picks up his badge again to defend the town, but no one will help him. Miller, the criminal he put away, has three men waiting for him. Everyone decides Will is a dead man walking. But Will refuses to run. He fights. He wins. Huzzah!

Hector has the same kind of problem. After he kills Achilles’s cousin, Patroclus, and provokes the greatest fighter in the war to rejoin it, he knows he will lose to him. Hector is called out, so to speak. Their clash is now inevitable. Hector could try to keep away from Achilles, but he knows Achilles will come for him every time, and he’ll kill a lot of Trojans to get to him. Hector values honour, courage and loyalty. He won’t be a coward, even when facing Achilles. He knows he is going to face a far superior opponent, although I’m sure some part of him is set to win. He was a warrior, after all. But he seems his doo coming in the person of the Greek warrior. Before he goes out to lead the Trojan counter attack, as he says farewell to his family, there is something final for him, even then.

But just as Will Kane had to face superior odds, so does Hector. For Will, it is four against one. For Hector, it is one versus one but that one is a worth a lot more than four average fighters. They both know and believe in doing their duty. They both set out to protect those they care about. Yet the outcomes are very different.

Hector is famous for falling to Achilles. This, I suspect, is why he was defined as a noble and inspiring figure to knights, being touted as one of the Nine Worthies, one of the heathen three to be exact, along with Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. This is the doomed hero who refuses to be cowed by his fate. This is the tragic but noble warrior who meets his killer with a straight gaze and a strong heart. He is set to die, anyone who knows their Greek history knows this as they read the Iliad, but he faces the consequences of his earlier actions, as he knows he must. Brave to the last, caring and loyal to his end, and fighting with the last of his will. Hector typifies to many what a true warrior should be. Not the lustful glory of Achilles. Not the folly of Priam, the rashness of Paris, the strong-arming of Agamemnon. Hector is the one.

The Iliad is an epic, containing many themes and sub-plots. But to break it down to its essence and by claiming Hector as the main character, you see the Ancient Greek version of High Noon. More complex, true, but the same driving force. Of course, the good guy loses this time, if such Hector could be called. He was still a killer, after all. Achilles isn’t all bad, either, and we know he is equally doomed. The war for Troy was tragic on all sides, much like the tale of the Levite’s concubine from the Bible. It is about loss on all sides. A doom for almost all involved. It is about love and lust and pride and greed, but honour and comradeship and loyalty remain. War is depicted as brutal and glorious. An honest account. Therefore Hector was set to die. A movie set in modern(ish) times could not end that way, although I’d love to see it. In the midst of so much tragedy, Hector’s death is not alone, nor the worst – just look at Greater Ajax’s miserable suicide. He can die, so he does, but the manner of his death is what seems to define him the most.

Facing your doom yet overcoming it is brave. Facing your doom and meeting it seems that bit more braver and noble. It is a fantastic story telling device and I hope both continue to be used and used well.