High on a
hilltop stood a castle. Its towers reached for the sky, poking through
the clouds. Several towers with dark red roofs brought a majesty to the
stone palace. In the castle lived King Irithda and his Queen. Guards
stood at each entrance, protecting and defending the royals inside from
A deep loch
spread out its dark blue fingers, meandering around low lying hills. A
village stood on the opposite side of the castle. Here lived merchants,
shopkeepers, bakers, butchers and wine sellers. Each day they made the
walk around the loch to the castle, where, if they were fortunate
enough, would be allowed inside to sell their wares to the king's cooks
and housekeepers. Many were turned away, forced to tread the dirt path
back to the village and try to sell to the other villagers.
botanist, lived in a small cottage between the village and the castle.
He often bought bread, pastries, wine and meat from the merchants as
they passed by. One misty morning, Joran went into the woods behind his
cottage to gather mushrooms for the stew he was preparing. A small
burlap bag tied around his waist carried his daily find. About to head
back home, he spotted an egg. “How odd. This isn't a chicken's egg. It's
far too big. Curious, very curious.” He picked up the egg and placed it
in the burlap bag with the mushrooms. Humming a song as he walked the
trail through the woods, Joran thought about the egg. “I could use it in
my stew. I could hard boil it and eat it for a week.” All sorts of ideas
went through his mind.
By the time he
stepped into his cottage, he'd made his decision. “I'm going to crack
it, see what's inside and if there's nothing, I'll fry it up for
supper.” He put the egg down on the table and went in search of a
hammer. “Here we are,” Joran said. “That egg is as big as a cat. I still
can't imagine what sort of animal could possibly have laid it.” He often
mumbled to himself, as though he was speaking to someone else.
With hammer in
hand he hit the shell, expecting it to crack. Nothing happened. “Strong
egg.” He hit it again. After ten tries, he dropped the hammer on the
table. “Useless egg. I've no need for it.” He took it outside and put it
down next to his cabbage garden. “Let some poor unsuspecting fox come
along and run off with it.” Joran closed the door behind him.
night, Joran pulled the curtains back and looked outside. “It's still
there.” He let the curtains drop and went to his laboratory. “I've got
better things to do.” He stirred his potions and mixed a few liquids
together in a test tube. Just as he was about to light a fire in the
fireplace, he heard a noise. Tap, tap, tap. “What was that?” He listened
again. Tap, tap, tap.
curiosity, he opened his door. He allowed time for his eyes to adjust to
the darkness of night. “The egg.” Standing over it, he noticed a few
cracks in the shell. “Either it's about to hatch, or an animals got to
it.” Something black and hard pushed its way out of a tiny hole. “What
have we here? What sort of animal are you?”
Joran picked up
the egg and took it closer to his door, so he could see it better. “Come
on, little one. Push your way out of that egg.” A clawed foot burst
through the shell. It was covered with purple scales. “I've never seen
anything like that before.” Joran watched in fascination as the rest of
the egg cracked open. “It's...it's a dragon.”
creature, the size of his forearm, sat in the dirt. Its leathery wings
flew out to the side. Spikes rose from its back, traveling down to its
pointed tail. It looked over at Joran and screeched softly.
Joran stood with
his mouth agape. “What do I do with you? What if your mother is looking
for you? I imagined she'd roast me alive.” The dragon waddled over to
him. “But what if you're lost or the very last dragon in the kingdom?
Heavens, I didn't even know dragons existed any longer. Come inside.
I'll find you something to eat and you can sit in front of the fire and
dry off.” He opened the door and the dragon followed him inside. “Would
you like some beef stew? I bought this beef from Arthur, the butcher,
earlier today.” Joran scooped a spoonful out and put it in a wooden
bowl. “Eat up, young fellow.”
gorged himself with stew. “Whoa! Don't eat so fast. There's plenty more.
You can eat stew, can't you? Well, never mind. Finish it up.” Joran
refilled the bowl four times before the dragon turned his nose up.
“Go on then. Lie
in front of the fire and rest. I'll have to come up with a name for you.
I suppose I should call you something creative and medieval, like
Cuthbert, or Osfrid, but I think I'm going to call you Stewart. That's a
good name. Your first meal was stew. Do you like that name?”
turned to look at Joran and blew a tiny puff of smoke from his nostrils.
“I take it that
was a yes. Very well, Stewart. Now, whatever am I going to do with you?”
Stewart slept curled up next to Joran. The nights after that were much
the same and soon Stewart was eating ten bowls of stew each meal.
merchants from the village walked past on their way to the castle, Joran
bought most of their wares; ten pounds of beef, a dozen carrots, three
potatoes, and a loaf of bread every day.
Since he was a
botanist, Joran knew hot to grow leeks, garlic and assorted vegetables.
He knew where to find the mushrooms and always had cabbage from his
garden to help tie him over when Stewart ate all the stew.
later, Stewart was the same size as Joran. Three months after that he
was double the size.
harder to hide you, Stewart and we're now up to twenty-five bowls of
stew each meal. I can't afford to feed you. I think it's time we went to
find your mother and father.” Joran stroked the dragon's scales. “We'll
leave in the morning.”
When the sun
rose over the horizon, Joran and Stewart left the cottage and headed up
the hills. They left the loch, castle and village behind them as they
began their journey. “Now, where do you suppose other dragons live?
Caves perhaps?” Joran glanced at Stewart, who nodded. “Caves it is then.
To get to the caves, we'll have to go into the mountains. It'll be much
At night, to
help them stay warm, Stewart started a fire by blowing on the wood.
Flames shot from his nostrils and soon they'd be able to cook and be
protected from the cold. Stewart learned to catch rabbits and other
woodland creatures. Jaron would skin them, clean them and roast them on
the fire. His skills as a botanist helped. He found berries and nuts and
mushrooms for them to nibble on.
a week, they came to the mountains. “Well, there they are, Stewart.
Surely there will be caves up toward the peaks.”
behind Joran as they hiked up the mountainside. They came to the first
cave. “Well, do you think I'll find a dragon in here?”
Joran made his
way into the cave. “It's rather dark in there,” he said a few minutes
later when he came back out. “I need a torch.” He found a stick and
wrapped some moss around the end of it. “Blow on this for me, Stewart.”
The dragon blew
a puff of fire and lit the torch.
“Very well. This
will help.” Joran went back into the cave. “Hello,” he called. “Are
there any dragons in this cave?” He stood silently, listening. “No?”
sitting on a large stone, waiting for Joran to come out. He looked up
the mountainside and saw another cave. He flew up to the cave and
out of the cave. “Well, Stewart, there's...” He looked around. “Stewart?
Stewart? Where are you?” He went from stone to stone, searching behind
them. “Now where did that dragon go? Stewart, this isn't funny.”
Joran waited all
day and night, but Stewart didn't turn up. He had no choice but to head
back to his cottage. The days passed slowly. Sad and lonely, he went
into the woods to gather mushrooms. He put them in a bowl on the table.
butcher came by, loaded down with bags of beef. “Joran, I've got plenty
for you today.” He knocked on the door. When Joran didn't answer, Arthur
turned the doorknob. “Joran?”
The man sat at
the table, tears running down his face. “I won't be needing the beef any
ask questions. He grabbed the bags of beef, tossed them over his
shoulder and said, “I hope King Irithda's cooks will want this. I'm
disappointed, Joran.” He turned and left.
The baker, wine
seller, and others stopped by on their way to the castle. All were met
with the same response, shut the door, and headed to the castle.
Joran tossed the
mushrooms into the pot. He had some beef left and dropped it in, along
with carrots and cabbage. The pot of stew bubbled away. “I wish Stewart
was here to enjoy it with me.”
As he stirred
away, he heard a noise coming from behind the cottage. He dropped the
spoon into the pot and ran out back. There stood Stewart and two other
dragons. One was purple like Stewart, and the other was black, and much
must be your mother and father.” Joran ran to the dragon and wrapped his
arms around him. “I've made some stew. Would you like to come in and
have some with me?”
Stewart and his
parents followed Joran into the cottage. It was a tight fit, but he
managed to find room for the three of them. With the ladle, he spooned
up four bowls of stew. Stewart ate his, as did his mother and father.
From that day on
the three dragons showed up every night for a bowl of stew. They didn't
need ten bowls each. They didn't need twenty-five bowls each. They were
happy to have one bowlful.
The merchants kept walking by and the king and queen sat on their
thrones, none aware of Joran's nightly visitors with Stewart and his