I was requested to post this short story. So, here it is.
“Hail Hestia, holy hell dragon!” exclaimed the boy.
Hestia opened one of her scale-covered eyes. “What is it, boy? What brings you to disturb my slumber?”
“I found a knight…and a princess…sort of,” the boy said.
“Two in one morning Brenton?” asked Hestia, “And what do you mean by ‘sort of’? One does not ‘sort of’ find someone. Are they dead?”
“Well, the princess is dressed like a knight, but she isn’t exactly either since both are rather rare nowadays…particularly in this monarch-less land,” Brenton said.
The dragon opened her eyes completely and understood what Brenton was talking about. It was a girl carrying a broadsword. She wore a gold circlet around her forehead, dingy as it might be. Normally, Brenton would have disarmed the girl, but it was obvious this girl was too scared of Brenton’s rifle to do anything with the sword.
“What is your name, girl?” Hestia asked.
“Annie Maud Smith ma’am,” the girl said, in the slow drawl of the natives of the strange land Hestia and Brenton had landed in a few years before.
“What brings you to trifle with a dragon?” Brenton asked.
“Silence, boy,” Hestia said, “I will ask the questions. What brings you to my humble cave?”
“Well, ma’am, we’ve heard down the mountains that you live in these lands,” Annie said, “My family is from England, back before these lands even were thinking about separating from the mother country. (We were debtors down in Georgia, but we moved up to North Carolina.) Anyway, there are stories that if a fire dragon’s scale from a certain dragon is put into a cold river, it can stop wars.”
Hestia sat up at this and paid attention to the girl’s tale.
“Well, ma’am, we been at war for about four years now. It is tiring and so many of our boys have died. My papa died long ago and I don’t have no brothers, so it ain’t my immediate family I’m worried about. It is about my cousins. I have about a dozen, and seven of them are dead already. The other five are itching to get into a fight. I don’t want no more blood spilt anymore. That cursed Sherman has already marched on through and ruined everything.
We were hungry before, but now we’re starving. We have lost so much and I don’t think our Confederate pride will let us surrender. That’s why I came, with this old sword and crown my grandpa bought in England back when he was a merchant and before he had money for the plantation. The crown was to bribe the dragon and the sword was to kill the dragon if that dragon wasn’t too keen to help out. There have been rumors that a dragon has settled in these here parts. So, I thought I might as well see if you be the dragon of tales.”
Hestia thumped her tail in amusement. “Well, you Southerners have always had amusing tales. Why did you believe that there would be a dragon in the area? We usually live in Europe and the Far East. I know of no other dragons in this strange new world of yours.”
“Well, like you said, we have amusing tales. Nevertheless, sometimes tales are true. I just pay attention to them more than most. People say smoke and fire are in the mountains that comes from no human hand. Animals are getting eaten left and right that ain’t by no human or animal that we know of. Then, of course, there are the tales of a huge beast like a dragon flying around.”
Hestia put her long face up the young girl’s. “Now, about that certain dragon. How can you be sure I am that dragon?”
“I wasn’t sure, ma’am,” Annie Maud said, “Not until I got here and Mr. Brenton here said you were called Hestia. In Greek Mythology, Hestia was the goddess of the hearth. Now, dragons being called after fire related things ain’t that unusual, but the hearth is the center of the home and peace. In the tales, it is the dragon of the hearth whose scales can stop wars.”
Hestia threw back her head and laughed. “Aye, aren’t you a clever, stupid, brave girl. Annie Maud Smith, I will take your crown and give you a scale of mine in exchange. I must warn you though; some good men will die who would not have because you will try to speed up the wars of men. The numbers of the war will be less, but the loss will not. My skills are not natural. Do you accept that burden for the ending of this war?”
“Yes ma’am,” Annie Maud said, suddenly bursting into tears. “You won’t eat me, will ya ma’am?”
“Of course not!” Brenton suddenly exclaimed, “Hestia the holy hell dragon would never stoop so low to eat humans!”
“You have such a fiery temperament, Brenton,” Hestia said, “a perfect companion for me, but you need to be gentle to the girl. All the myths are true, they are just not all accurate, Annie Maud Smith. Some of my kind has eaten humans, but they were very bad dragons. One of my cousins, I think his name was Campbell, tried to eat a princess once. Now, he met a bad end by some young knight named George. No girl, I will not eat you. I can still fly out and get non-human food easily.”
Hestia then removed a scale from her arm that was about to fall off. “Here you go, Annie Maud Smith. The circlet?”
Annie Maud quickly gave the circlet to Hestia and clutched the scale to her bosom. “Thank you, ma’am.” She curtsied.
“I have two requests, Annie Maud Smith,” Hestia said.
“Of course ma’am,” Annie Maud said, too eager to leave the cave.
“The first is that you bring Brenton with you to your home. That boy is in need of human company again. A dragon is only good for some things, but he needs to return to his people.
I release you from my service, Brenton. I am sorry that I cannot pay you for your services. After all the dragons were removed from England, we left in too much of a hurry to bring anything but food and clothes for you.”
Brenton fell to his knees and begged not to leave Hestia’s service, but she would have none of it. She finally convinced him it was better for him to go then to stay. “I will have to leave here soon, after the war is over. I will go out west, into the desert, a place you cannot survive.”
Brenton kissed one of her claws. “Yes, my good lady.”
“My final request, Annie Maud Smith, is that you only speak of this meeting like a fanciful story. I do not want my existence to be too well known. The knowledge of dragons is what happened in England, now I am the last from that island. Soon, we will all die out. I want my name to live on, but I do not want bullets in my body.”
“Yes ma’am. I swear to do such.”
Hestia waved her claw. “Now go, let me return to my nap. Can’t an old dragon get some peace around here?”
On April 9, 1865, the Confederacy surrendered to the Union. Five days later, Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth.
Annie Maud Smith’s plantation was burned to the ground by carpetbaggers. She moved to Texas with her mother, sisters, five remaining cousins, and a family friend, Brenton Jones. Brenton Jones and Annie Maud Smith married and had several children.
Hestia was not officially heard from again. However, there are tales of a dragon living in the Grand Canyon up until World War I. After that, the stories stopped. However, sometimes visitors there (including Brenton and Annie Maud’s descendents) see smoke coming from certain caves in the cliffs.
Until Our Next Meeting,
The Lost Writer of Rohan