The beautiful Enchantress Ligiv had known the Dragon was seeking the Mother and child. The spells she cast prophesied of the miraculous birth. Long had she tended the Mother, a sacred vessel of the Hero to be born. The Father had known too. It was given him by the Spirit to know that the son would come and the Dragon would seek him.
The Hero sprang forth in manly stature though yet a youth. Tall and dark, heir of great power and blessing. His Mother had come from the City of Saints where her Sires were Lords of great power. Like the Ancient of Days, the first Dragonslayer of old, the heroic Youth greeted the light with black steely eye as the roar of the Dragon was heard from below.
The Hero’s Father had never slain dragons himself. With his age and graying temples he did not want to be tested, but knew he could do what he had to. He was a wise man, a Priest of the Holy Order. He laid his hands on the Hero and strengthened him.
Though in appearance a comely youth the Hero had need to be nurtured. He was taken by the Dwarf Secnarf to a Cave of Crystals. Dancing lights and glowing jewels cast protective power on the Youth. Secnarf laid him on a bed of silver where his head rested in a pool of sweet ambrosia. The Hero drew strength from the sacred elements. Magicians and elves were called forth to attend to him.
|The Mother visits the Hero in the Cave of Crystals|
The Father had followed him to the cave. He came with Asa, another Priest of the Holy Order. They hid in dark corners wary of the magic then came forth in secret to lay their hands on the Youth and bless him.
The great sorceress Sekyd arrived to attend to the Hero. She had eyes that saw into his body and sought for the poisons of the Dragon. She perceived great harm to the Hero and began her spells and incantations to ward off the monster. She called forth the fire beast to carry the Hero away to her fellow Wizards in the City of the Duke. The elf Annod from the land of the Lonely Star served the Hero while the great beast coursed North in its fiery dance.
The fire beast came under the leash of tall golden angels of glowing light. The angels knelt before the bed of the Hero and offered a diamond shield and armor to encase the Youth. With the shield and armor the Hero stood tall and strong. He bade a sorrowful farewell to the Mother whose arms reached out but were held back by the loving arms of the good fairy Kintolz.
|The diamond shield and armor|
The Father followed the Angels to the fire beast and hid himself on its head under the folds of the hairy, elephantine ear while the Hero was strapped on the great shoulders of the beast. The Magician Sekyd had warned the Father there was grave danger in dealing with the beast, but he was undeterred and the Angels knew but looked the other way when he climbed onto the animal.
Fire and Ice. The beast with great loping strides burst through the clouds of night on the southward journey. Snow flew and scattered at his approach. The great beast’s wail was heard as a lone wolf approached then turned and ran in fear, but otherwise silence gripped the night. The flashing red eyes of the Beast turned the snow to glowing red.
The Castle of the Ancient Ones is vast and strong, stone upon stone. The towers of the City of the Duke were dark in the cold night. Nearby was the Castle of Saint Joseph where Sir Andrew of the Beaver had received his knighthood. Under the Castle of the Ancients is a hidden entrance where the beast, now silent with eyes dimmed slipped into the bowels of stone.
The Father followed the shining Hero held aloft by the Angels through winding corridors of gray stone and up floating stairways. Much magic was in this place.
The Father found the maternal Grandfather, one of the noble Lords, waiting in a corridor. A Knight of St. Mary approached to provide the two sires with tokens and passwords and cloaks of invisibility to allow them to follow the Hero.
The Hero was placed in Nicu, the Chamber of Tortures in the North Tower where servants of the Dragon and powerful Wizards led by the Great Mantews fought for control of the knights. The knights underwent unspeakable tortures to prepare for their battles with the Dragon.
The Wizard Eibors stood by while the shield and armor of diamonds was removed. The Elf Eiluj waited on the holy angels as they served the Hero. He was chained and bound on cold steel. Fiery darts pierced his flesh and blood flowed from all parts of his body. Poisonous snakes hissed and writhed around the Hero. The Father could do nothing to stop the torture but silent and invisible, hidden by the magic cloak, he laid his hands on the Hero’s feet, hands, back and head to sustain the Youth in his battle with the Dragon.
Hours upon hours the Youth suffered in the chamber while the Father held him up to receive and give the blows. The Father wearied of his task much sooner than the Hero and slunk off to a secret room shown him by a holy woman of the Order of St. Mary to refresh himself and sleep. The Father found a spring of holy water where he bathed himself and received strength. The Father found many such secret places in the Castle as he wandered its halls. He even appeared in the Great Room where the Lords and Ladies, Wizards, Elves, Goblins and Demons all caroused together. None of them were aware of the Father because of his magic cloak. At one point the Father left the great castle to seek comfort at an Inn on the Highway of the Sixes. He was refreshed and the serving maid did not question his tears.
At times, the Grandfather would come when the Father was away or weak and serve the Hero. The Youth continued his struggle under never-ending torture.
On the second day, the Sorceress Nerak placed a magic sword down the throat of the Hero, the elves Eitten and Ellechor in attendance. The sword appeared to cut but in truth it fooled the Dragon by providing sweet ambrosia to the Hero as the Dwarf had done before. That night the Hero was served by the elf Ujuf who had come from the lands across the great western sea. For two days the sword laid in the chest of the Hero. On the Fourth day, the sword was removed and the Hero was provided a mask of power. The Holy Woman of the Order of St. Barbara also presented the heroic youth with a fleece of gold to warm and protect him.
That day the Father had earlier stolen away to return to the Castle of St. Vincent to rescue the Mother who had been healed by the ministrations of the beautiful sorceress Ligiv. The Father had to use his cloak to steal warily into that Castle. Though not as big as the Castle of the Ancients it had labyrinthine passages that fooled him at every turn. There were also great monsters imprisoned it its walls that banged and hammered to be released. The Wizards and Sorceresses could do nothing to ease the burden of their wards from the fearsome noise.
As the Father and Mother were prepared to leave, the cloak slipped from their shoulders and the Mother was found by the Dragon who pierced her head with a blinding ray. She fell to the floor as the Father knelt at her side. He sought the help of magicians who raised the Mother up and laid her down again as they healed her with her own blood.
The Father then carried her South to the City of the Duke. No more dark and snow. Instead, the day was bright and warm. The sun burned the eyes as they rushed to serve the Hero. The great highway was sure and straight. The Castle of the Ancient Ones rose above it where the old highway of the Sixes crossed below.
Inside the Castle of the Ancients, the Father taught the Mother the secret signs and tokens to pass into the torture chamber.
The Mother was guided in by the Holy Woman of St. Barbara who laid the Hero in the Mothers arms and tears were shed to heal the wounds.
|The Mother's hands on the Hero|
That night the Grandparents attended to the Hero. His bloodied and soiled clothes had been removed and clean linens were placed on his body to warm and comfort him.
On the fifth day the Dragon clutched the Hero’s throat cutting off his living breath. The Wizards fought off the Dragon and restored the Youth. To the chamber came the sweet Grandmother bearing the Mother who was in great agony still because of her battles with the Dragon. The Mother held the Hero in her arms and they both received great strength. The Hero received the services of the elves Nibor and Acceber as well.
The Satyr Sartorius came that night to the Father from his long journeys in distant lands. The Satyr was to have attended to the Hero but he told the Father that it was fortuitous to have been absent because the Great Sorceress Sekyd was more able than he to do battle with the demons and poisons unleashed by the Dragon.
On the sixth day the Father fought his way again into the chamber. The doorway was then closed and guarded by the companions of the Heroes, the Knights of great legends, Sir Alan the Big, Sir Andrew of the Beaver, Sir Aaron the Spokesman and Princess Anne Withanee. The noble Queen Angela accompanied the Father into the chamber. After the ritual cleansing the Queen and the Father approached the Hero who was being guarded from the dragon by the Elf Nylorac. The Queen was awed by the powers of the Chamber of Tortures and the ordeal under which the Hero labored. The great wizard Mantews approached to tell the Father that the Hero had nearly passed his ordeal but days would yet fly before he could leave the chamber.
Later that day the Holy Woman of St. Barbara taught magic to the Father and Mother so they could assist the Hero in his battles with the dragon. The Father and Mother brought magical animals, gifts from the five companions. There was a white bear, a long-legged bird the color of rose, a fearsome tiger, a friendly skunk and a long-necked giraffe. The magical beasts entertained the Hero with acrobatics and stood guard at his bedside while the Youth slept.
|The Magical Beasts guard the Hero in his rest|
Also that day the Father learned of a magic mill like a sampo that produced golden liquid that would nourish the Hero. He traveled with the Mother on a long journey to seek the instrument of power. The golden nourishment that flowed from the machine of the wizards was sweet and nutritious like mother’s milk. In fact, the Mother and Father learned that only the loving powers of the Mother could operate the machine although she was assisted at times by the Princess Anne who also shared in the feminine arts. The Father was the one who carried the glowing liquid to the chamber. Stealing inside, without drawing attention to himself, he would offer up the sweet sustenance to the elves in attendance, and at times, would lift a brimming bowl to the lips of the Hero himself.
The Father also learned a secret incantation. He had listened and observed the wizards and elves enough to know that there were things the Hero had to do to defeat the dragon. The Father heard talk and formed in his own mind the sacred mantra for the Youth to repeat. He rehearsed the incantation in the ears of the silent and sleeping Hero--A-R-T-B--over and over again. These sounds on human lips had great power and the Hero used the phrase in his battles with the dragon.
On the seventh day, the sacred day of rest, as the bright dawn broke over the City of the Duke and the great castle, a solemn processional formed in the hallway outside the chamber of tortures. Bright lights shone on the great wizards and elves as the young Hero was led to a new chamber, a quiet and restful place, where the Youth was to be knighted. The Hero had conquered the ordeals of Nicu, the Chamber of Horrors.
The new chamber was in the South Tower of the stone fortress called the Ecn by the knights and squires who had passed the first ordeals. The Ecn was a blessed place of rest where heroes refreshed themselves after battling the dragon to prepare for great quests out into the wide world.
The young Hero was pleased to enter the new chamber. However, the dragon knew of the restful place and sent one of his silent monsters to torment the youth. The monster was Apnea who would invisibly steal upon the Youth in his blissful sleep and steal the life's breath from his throat. Enna, Esioul, and Enaj were the elves in attendance who fought off the monster Apnea.
On the eighth day, the Mother was in the new chamber nursing the Hero attended by the elf Aivlys. The Father traversed the city of the Duke accompanied by the five companions to the Portal of the Sun where the paternal Grandmother had arrived on the silver wings of a giant bird from the fair summer lands. The Father was momentarily confused when the great sun in the Southwest blinded his eyes and the Grandmother was lost for a time in the heavens. However, Queen Angela, attentive while the Father was misled, found the Grandmother and brought her to the Father and the other companions. The Father led the Grandmother and the Companions to the Castle of the Ancient Ones where again the Companions guarded the doors while the Grandmother, Queen Angela and the Father entered to attend to the Hero.
On the ninth day, the Father and Mother presented a fabulous chair to the Hero. Like the Seige Perilous of old, only the greatest of knights could sit in the honored place. The Hero sat and the chair served him as it was meant to do holding him tall and straight. The Mother also presented the Youth with vestments of honor that had been worn by the noble companions before him.
A strange man appeared to present the Hero with a wondrous box with jewels of emerald and amber that flashed and sang out at the approach of the Dragon and his monster Apnea. The Mother appreciated the gift for the protection it offered the Hero but did not favor the strange man and his mysterious ways.
That day also, the holy woman of St. Barbara conducted the Hero, the Mother and Father to a bare room in the old Northwest tower of the castle to hide the Youth until he could make his escape from the realm of the Wizards. She also gave to the Hero and the Parents a key of gold to allow the Hero to escape. The key was slipped without notice of the wizards into a bowl of the golden draughts the Mother produced to nourish the young Hero. He grasped the key and held it close to him. The Mother was pleased.
That night, the elf Anif stole in secret to the bare room to serve the Hero. The night was dark and fearsome hiding in the great castle. At times the Father would cautiously seek out the darkened corridors and the bright places where the elves and wizards continued their preparations of the many knights they attended. But the Father would not traverse the corridor outside Nicu, the Chamber of Tortures, while darkness ruled the world. At morning's light the corridor was not so fearsome.
On the tenth day, the final initiations completed, the holy woman of St. Barbara came to assist the Hero and the Parents in their escape from the castle. As they were preparing to leave the great wizard Dranoel snatched the golden key away and said the Youth must stay. The wizards and elves valued the Hero's spirit and did not want him to leave to seek after other quests. The Father, Mother and maternal Grandmother did steal away from the castle to seek nourishment at the Inn on the ancient highway of the sixes. Returning to the castle, the Father and Mother were ensconced in a finer room, the same secret room in which the Father had refreshed himself the first night in the castle. A tradesman first had to provide for the waters that flowed and a servant maid, an unwitting tool of the dragon, had filled the room with noxious fumes that the holy woman had to disperse before the Hero and the Mother could enter.
That night the Hero and the Parents struggled over the loss of the key. The night was darker than the rest. The elf Eitten reappeared to prepare the way for the Hero to be served knowing that the key was lost. The Father and Mother were devastated when the elf led the Youth back to the Chamber of Ecn though they knew it was for his own good. Greatly weak in spirit, the Mother and Father fled the castle to seek shelter with the Grandparents.
On the eleventh day, the elves Ydnic, Yhtak, and Eibrab attended to the Hero. A new and more slender sword of magic was placed in the Hero’s throat to provide sweet nourishment to the wearied Youth still separated for a time from the loving care of his Mother. The Black Knight of the Lights, companion of the Hero in the Chamber of Ecn, set out that day on his life’s quest. The Hero bade a fond farewell to his noble friend.
On the thirteenth day, the Hero recovered the key that was lost. His mother came to shine and polish the key and reminded the Youth of its importance warning him to hold it close and not let go. The elf Eitten attended to the Hero that day while the Knight of Acosta, arrayed in splendid armor with a magic jewelled box like that of the Hero’s, left the Chamber of Ecn to seek his life’s quest.
That night the Hero was served by the elves Aluap and Ellehcim. On the fourteenth day, another elf by the name of Annod appeared in the chamber to serve the Hero.
On the night of the fourteenth day, the companions held a feast in honor of Aaron the Spokesman in the great hall of the lodge of the Grandparents. Many toasts were drunk as well to the Hero, honored while yet remaining in the Chamber of Ecn.
The Father also departed to the City of the Holy Faith to joust with the Jester Zlaw over a piece of land stolen from the King by the peasants of Oyidnuc. The Father served the King well. The elf Eibrab served the Youth while the Father was away. The Mother and the Grandmother stayed in the City of the Duke to pass into the Castle and visit the Hero. The Mother met a magician, Oelc, who aided the Hero in preparing the escape from the Castle of the Ancient Ones.
On the sixteenth day, the escape was accomplished. The Hero turned the shining key in the lock of stone. The great rocks heaved as the door swung to reveal the light of a day of golden glow. The Fire Beast was summoned forth again to carry the Youth North to the City of the Holy Faith. There yet remained a few more tests for our Hero before he could begin his life's quest. He returned for a brief visit to the Castle of St. Vincent. The Hero was welcomed there by the dwarf Secnarf who guided the Hero to the Cave of Crystal where he could rest in a place of honor. The elves Airtimid and Asil served his needs. The Satyr accompanied by the great wizard Sekyd appeared to perform incantations over the Youth. The Father also came to the Cave of Crystal to sit with the Hero.
The Hero was later served in the Crystal Cave by the elf Annod from the Land of the Lonely Star and Yram who attended him in the dark hours of the night.
On the morning of the eighteenth day, bright and clear, the Father and Mother journeyed to the Castle of St. Vincent, to the Cave of Crystal, carrying vestments of honor for the young Hero. The Youth was attired in armor of shining blue with great love by his Mother. The Father attached the chain from the jeweled box that would warn the Hero of danger. The young Knight then rode forth from the Castle amid shouts of honor to seek his life’s quest.
|Aaron the Spokesman greets the Mother and the Hero|
Note the chain to the jeweled box (apnea monitor). I only noticed upon posting this pic that it appears the Mother has glowing, angel wings fluttering behind her. True that.
Our eternal gratitude to dozens of doctors, nurses, and staff at St. Vincent's Hospital in Santa Fe and Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque!
Addendum (same day):
As requested by my daughter, Princess Withanee, here are a few more pictures of the Hero with the Companions:
|Princess Withanee holding the Hero with the Knight of the Beaver and the Spokesman|
|Sir Alan the Big & Magical Creatures|
|The Queen, the Hero & Princess Withanee|