In the early days, when the earth was young, the land was full of fire and steam. Lava hissed in pools and poured from cracks in the ground. One creature who lived then also breathed fire and steam; the mighty dragon ruled the sky. Giant titans ruled the land. The titans were so enormous they could lasso the dragons from the air and hop on their backs like we ride horses. Fire was pleasant to a titan like sunlight is to us, causing only a little redness with prolonged exposure.
Titans wielded enormous weapons, broadswords longer than spears and maces heavier than anvils. In battle, the noise alone could level mountains.
Two twin titans were born, and they grew taller than the foothills, but the younger had a very weak arm. Barnabus could not wield the heavy, titan swords with his weak arm, and his brother Lucius made him a dagger, light and narrow. Barnabus loved his dagger, and he was very grateful to his brother.
“I’m going to forge you a magic ring, brother, if it’s the last thing I do,” said Barnabus as he lassoed his favorite dragon, Long-Tooth.
“Where are you going?” Lucius asked.
“I don’t know, but I know I must go.” Barnabus responded. He jumped on Long-Tooth’s back and flew into the clouds, over mountains, past forests and over lakes. Lava hissed, rain fell, and water rose in steam and mist. Still Barnabus flew until he saw a flashing in the sky. A meteor fell, and Barnabus reached out and seized it in his stronger hand. He flew to the land of the dwarves, and with their fires forged a magical ring with the power to influence the minds of others. It would always fit its owner. The meteor turned out to be a unique and magical metal that was stronger than dwarvish steel and shinier than gold; the dwarves named it Starspun. The dwarves reforged his dagger with Starspun, and made it shinier, stronger and lighter than any blade on earth had ever been. The dwarves predicted that when the ring and the sword were together, they could accomplish amazing things.
Barnabus thanked the dwarves, tucked the dagger into his belt, and put the ring on his finger. He set out for home, jumping and hopping in his excitement, being only 100 years old and very young by titan standards. Titans could live a thousand years after all. His jumping set off a series of earthquakes that wakened Long-Tooth. The dragon came winging to Barnabus right away, and together they flew back to Lucius. As they flew, Long-Tooth coughed into the forests, and fires grew up behind them.
Lucius was cracking ammonites between his fingers and eating them when they landed next to him. He leaped up and yelled: “Barnabus! You’re finally back!” His voice was so loud it scared a hundred birds from the trees. Prickly pears rained down on them from giant cactuses on the rim of a great lava lake.
Barnabus gave Lucius the ring. As long as Lucius and Barnabus were near each other, the ring and dagger radiated like the sun and had magical powers. The dagger always struck true and the ring gave Lucius luck in all he did. People always agreed with him. But when they were apart, the metal grew dull and did not seem magical at all. Lucius thought the metal Starspun seemed sentient but symbiotic, needing all of itself to be truly alive. Lucius and Barnabus became great leaders of the titans. They were peaceful and friendly to dwarves and dragons. They lived one thousand years, ruling for eight hundred of them. After they passed into the elder world, the titans left on earth carved their likenesses into granite mountains, on either side of the lava lake, and gave these likenesses the ring and sword. So far apart were the statues, that the dagger and ring went dull. All memory of their radiance gradually faded away and was lost with the mists and steam of the long ago land.
Men were born long after the race of titans had left for the elder world. Dragons left with them, except for Long-Tooth. Dragon memory is as long as earth memory, and Long-Tooth could not forget Barnabus. He slumbered at the feet of the statue of the titan with the weak arm. Slowly, he and the dagger became covered with lichen, moss and grasses. In his slumber, he dreamed of battles that leveled mountains, emptied lakes and shifted continents. He dreamed of the cooling of the lava and the waves of the oceans.
His rest was undisturbed until Kintano was born into the world, red-faced, red-haired and screaming as loud as a titan. A wise woman attended the birth, and when the baby cried louder than any human baby ever had, she went into a trance.
“I see lava hissing,” she said. “I see beings tall as hills. I see weapons big as saplings. Battles level mountains. Dragons breathe fire! A dragon is coming, and Kintano must stop him!” The wise woman fell back in her chair exhausted. “What did I say?” she wondered. No one wanted to repeat the prophecy. Kintano’s mother tried to put it out of her mind, but she could not forget it.
Kintano’s cry woke Long-Tooth. It was as though he heard the echo of Barnabus’s step on the ground, as if the deep rumblings of earthquakes jarred him from his rest. In his confusion, he thought he had heard Barnabus himself. He shook off the dust and dirty sediment of thousands of years, and took to the air.
As he grew up, Kintano often felt people looked at him strangely. Adults covered their ears when his laugh rang out, scaring birds from the trees and children from their games. If he lost his temper, the fish would be knocked from the water by the sound waves. These shock waves also disturbed Long-Tooth, who was slowly hunting for Barnabus, and snatching sheep and cows from the fields. He was too hungry to find his friend right away.
Eventually, news of the dragon made its way to Kintano’s people, on the great steppes. Kintano was twelve, and a man. Although he would not be allowed to take a wife for three more years, he could leave his parent’s house and make his own way. This he decided to do. His parents gifted him valuable sheepskin robes, a kit for cooking and a goat he had raised from birth, Dustoy, who never seemed troubled by his loud voice.
“Mother, I will miss you, but I feel the call of the next hillside, and I want to see the ocean.” His mother nodded sadly. She had lost other children to that same restless urge, and none had ever come back. She filled her eyes with her last sight of him, and then turned away quickly, before he could see her tears.
“Father, I will remember all you taught me.” Kintano hugged his father fiercely. He loved him. He hated him. He loved him again.
“Remember to take care of Dustoy, and she will always give you milk,” his father reminded him. “Make a shelter. Always make sure Dustoy will drink the water before you do.” His father seemed prepared to go on and on, so Kintano laughed his world-shaking laugh and clapped his father on the shoulder.
His father covered his ears and winced. Kintano walked up the hill with Dustoy, stopping to wave from the top. His parents looked tiny from here.
Kintano felt like a man, not for the first time, but feeling that finally others would see him as a man. He had been wanting to make his own decisions for a long time, but always his father was there, giving him advice, advice and more advice. He walked down the other side of the hill. Ahead, he could see a raven, flying across a stream. Dustoy hopped happily up to the stream, and took a long drink. Kintano drank upstream and saw a fish.
“I’m hungry!” He shouted at the fish, and the shock wave tossed the fish right up onto the far bank of the stream. He milked his goat, and then ate the fish poached in the milk with some wild chives and sage that he found beside the stream. He rolled himself into his sheepskin robes and went to sleep.
Long-Tooth was confused, he felt the trembling in the earth from Kintano’s shout, and he flew the last mile toward it, but he could not find Barnabus. He settled down only one tall hill away from Kintano. He breathed fire on the grass, getting it good and hot, and then settled down on the burn. Kintano’s dreams were undisturbed by the nearness of the dragon, and he did not know that his future was nearly upon him.
The next morning, Kintano set out early, and climbed the hill. Down below, he heard a rumble, and felt a warm breeze despite the cool morning, coming from behind a huge boulder, thrusting through the grasses. He headed right for it, curious to see if it was a hot spring. His mother had bathed regularly in hot springs when she was a girl, but Kintano had never been so lucky. Kintano did not know that a dragon at rest looks like rocky earth. He had heard of the dragon, but the stories were told by travelers from afar. Kintano did not know a dragon could fly five hundred miles in a day.
When he came around the front of the boulder he laughed to see Dustoy trying to eat the burned grass. His big laugh shook walnuts from the trees, and they rained down on the huge boulder. Kintano was looking here and there for the hot spring, and walking ever nearer the warm breeze, which smelled a bit like sulphur, the way his mother had described the hot springs. He was about to jump up on a lower part of the boulder when it opened an eye.
Long-Tooth was wakened from a dream of Barnabus. They were flying through the air, dodging lava spouts and geysers and snapping pine trees from their roots. He was rumbling deep in his belly, which is how dragons laugh. Then all of a sudden, a puny human shook the earth with his Barnabus laugh, but he was nothing like the titans Long-Tooth remembered. He roared, but no fire comes from a laughing dragon belly, and he did not fry the tiny human morsel. He cleared his throat where a bit of sheep wool was sticking. Perhaps he should fry the human which would get him breakfast and clear his throat of that pesky wool, he thought to himself.
“You are a dragon!” Kintano exclaimed, scrambling backwards. His voice blew the warm air away, and he felt chilled. The sun was slanting through the trees, climbing higher. Dustoy hid behind Kintano.
“Who are you that laughs like a titan?” Long-Tooth asked.
“My name is Kintano,” he replied, and twenty squirrels dove for cover in the surrounding trees at his loud voice. “I have always been the loudest person I know.” Kintano said wryly.
“I have missed the trembling of the earth and the feel of the sound breaking over me since the titans and my other kin left for the elder world. Give me a really loud bellow!” The dragon was amused when Kintano walked over to a brook and bellowed at the water. Forty fish were thrown onto the shore. The dragon ate thirty-nine and Kintano ate his raw, rolled in delicious grasses. The scales from the fish finally cleared Long-Tooth’s throat of its wooly annoyance, and he decided not to eat the human.
“What’s a titan?” Kintano asked. Dustoy started eating cattails.
“Creatures taller than this hill behind you, with huge feet capable of shaking the earth. They wielded huge swords and weapons that would smash a hundred year old pine tree with one blow. I miss them horribly,” he said, with a dragon sigh, that felt like gases released from the belly of the earth to Kintano. “Perhaps I should leave for the elder world myself, and there see my old friend Barnabus. I fear he is gone from this world forever.”
“I have never heard of creatures like titans,” Kintano admitted. “I wish I could see one.”
“Climb on my back, and I will show you statues raised to the greatest titans that ever lived.” Long-Tooth was surprised at himself, but he wanted to be ridden one last time. Kintano threw Dustoy, his goat, around his shoulders like a cape and sat on his pack between the spikes on Long-Tooth’s back.
The wind was so cold, high above the earth where Long-Tooth flew, that Kintano had to beat his hands on Long-Tooth’s scaly shoulder to keep them warm enough to hold tight. He felt the rumbling under him that was Long-Tooth’s laughter at this loud human’s tiny blows. Dustoy bleated in protest and started to shiver. Kintano was exhilarated, and shouted so loudly, that thousands of migrating swifts rose in fright, only to dive again to escape the enormous winged dragon.
The dragon soared out over an endless blue sea, rough with whitecaps below him. Kintano was pleased to see the ocean for the first time. He wondered which one it was.
After a long flight, the dragon landed with a deliberately huge thump onto the desert sand, and the vibration from his landing shook the thin covering from the titan statues. Kintano looked up at them in awe. They towered over him and made him feel insignificant. The lava lake had long since hardened and been covered by the shifting desert sand.
“Roar with me, loud human,” the dragon asked wearily, for they had flown hundreds of miles. Kintano was numb and his feet were asleep, but he put his head back and roared out his defiance of death, danger and the unknown. The dragon added his voice, and prickly pears fell like rain. Kintano slid from the dragon’s back. He put down Dustoy, who investigated the prickly pears.
Near the base of one statue he saw a dull metallic gleam. He scooped the sand away, and found a longsword. He picked it up, but it felt heavy to his arm. After many moons of practice, he would grow into wielding it, but that first day it was like trying to pick up an antelope with one arm.
“That was the dagger of Barnabus,” Long-Tooth said sadly. “Now I know he is gone. He forged that dagger and a magic ring from a meteor that fell as we flew past the Dwarvish Mountains. He gave the ring to his brother, whose statue is across there.” The dragon pointed one claw toward the far away second titan statue. “I will say farewell now. Before long I will pass into the elder world.” He raised sand when he beat his wings, and Kintano had to cover his nose and mouth with his shirt and close his eyes tightly. When he opened them again, Long-Tooth was gone for good, and was never seen on the earth again by human or sheep.
Kintano was sad, but relieved at the same time, it was not easy keeping up his courage around a being that could fry him with a breath or eat him with one gulp. He thought about those thirty-nine unfortunate fish.
He hiked over to the other statue with Dustoy stepping lightly behind him, spines from prickly pear sticking out of his mouth like toothpicks. After some digging, Kintano found the ring. At first it was as big as his arm was around and thin, but as he held it, it shrank to fit his finger, and he put it on. It covered his finger from the first joint to the second and was very thick, but he wore it on his left hand to not interfere with the longsword. The day was almost done. He milked Dustoy and had only enough energy to drink it. In the lingering last light of the sun, he saw the ring and sword begin to shine and sparkle as if the sun were still high overhead. Little did Kintano know that he was now the luckiest twelve year old on earth.
Kintano always found water, could throw the sword from a distance and take down a rabbit or even a deer, and found his way out of the desert after three peaceful years into a rich green land with wild grouse, pheasants, deer and antelope aplenty. Dustoy never ran out of milk, and remained faithfully beside him. One night turned bitter cold, and just when he thought he might freeze sleeping outside despite his warm robes, he came upon a small hunting lodge, and he knocked at the door. A large man with a forbidding scowl answered the door.
“What do you want, urchin?” he demanded.
“I was hoping to share your fire tonight,” Kintano offered. “I bring a haunch of deer that I can share with you. I can also offer you milk from my goat.”
“Huh!” the tall man exclaimed, but he backed up and let Kintano into the warm, dim interior of the lodge. The man was surprised at himself. He had ridden his horse far away from the rest of his village to get away from his ten children who were always wanting things, always talking or singing. Amazed I haven’t lost my mind, Wilfred thought to himself. Now here was another child wanting to share his fire, but he could not turn him away. “I’m Wilfred,” he mumbled, a bit embarrassed at how friendly he was being.
Kintano did not know that Wilfred was being unusually friendly, and made himself useful spitting the venison and turning it slowly over the fire. He was silent after giving his name, hoping that his loud voice would not scare this man into tossing him into the cold, and his silence reassured Wilfred that Kintano would not make a nuisance of himself.
They ate in amity with each other, Wilfred feeling happier than he had in a long while. He liked the warm goat milk. He started to think himself a changed man, not realizing that the magic ring was working on him, making him appreciate and become receptive to Kintano, its new master. Finally, the silence had gone on long enough even for Wilfred.
“What are you doing out here by yourself?” Wilfred wanted to know. In this part of the world, boys did not become men until eighteen, and a young man on his own was likely to be an orphan or a thief thrown out of his own home.
“I am off to seek my fortune,” Kintano responded happily. “I met a dragon and flew with it far from my home in the steppes. Now after bellowing his final breath, the dragon has passed to the elder lands, and I am come to seek my fortune.” Kintano decided that telling this large stranger about the ring and sword might not be healthy, so he glossed over parts of the story.
“You rid the land of the dragon?” Wilfred was amazed, even he had heard of the dragon.
“Yes, I suppose I did!” Kintano agreed, thinking if he had not ridden with Long-Tooth to the statues, then they would not have found the sword and Long-Tooth might not have decided to pass to the elder world.
“You must go and tell King Tiberius! He has offered the hand of his eldest daughter to any who rid his land of the dragon.”
“The dragon must have eaten a lot of sheep!” Kintano exclaimed.
“Not just sheep!” Wilfred clarified. “It sat in the Great Salmon River and ate almost every salmon that tried to swim by! The King was enraged, but none of his nobles could get the beast to move. Almost all the salmon were eaten, and now it will be years before the salmon population recovers. If we don’t have a good harvest, people might starve.” Wilfred was morose, thinking of his ten constantly hungry children.
The next day they hunted, and Kintano’s skill with his sword brought down a deer and an antelope. Kintano gave most of it to Wilfred, who would smoke it and make it last through the long winter coming. Together they headed back to Wilfred’s village. Kintano was surprised to see that Wilfred had children older than Kintano still living at home. He was the age of Wilfred’s third son – his fifth child, Haruff. Haruff had an eighteen year old sister, Edyth, two seventeen year old twin brothers, Harold and Horace, and a sixteen year old sister, Anys. The five younger kids were off playing with friends. The family referred to the older boys as the Haitches. Haruff asked to borrow the sword, but when he carried it to the firelight to look at it, it went from sparkling to dim. He brought it back to Kintano, and the sword started to shine again. Kintano was unable to explain why that happened.
The next day Wilfred pounded him on the back, surprising him into a loud protest, the first really loud sound he made in front of Wilfred. Wilfred laughed. “Good thing you weren’t that loud when I first met you or I might have tossed you into the cold!” he said. “Now you follow this deer path up and over three hills. It will bring you to the forest track, a wider path, and that you should follow toward your right for many miles. Eventually, you will get to a fork when you reach the first foothill. Always stay to your right at the forks and you will find King Tiberius’s castle in three days time.” Wilfred patted his full stomach and watched the back of Kintano walking away fondly. The Haitches walked with him to the forest track, and waved him off on his way to the distant castle.
The weather had turned fine again, and his sheepskin robes kept him warm enough. He made good time, and on the morning of the third day, he came in sight of a castle on a tall promontory, surrounded by a river. A small town had grown up around the base of the castle, and fields were being harvested of grains and vegetables as he walked past. He waved to the farmers, and they waved back. One old man rested his scythe on the ground and offered Kintano a deal.
“If you finish cutting down this barley, my missus will make you a fine meal of biscuits, apples and chicken.” Kintano’s belly rumbled. He had not had a meal like that since he had left his mother’s house.
“You have a deal!” Kintano cut barley with a will, and soon the job was done. He was sweaty and grateful for a cup of ale. Dustoy rested in the shade. Cadel, the old man, gave her some barley and patted her head.
“Why are you here?” Cadel wanted to know.
“I’m seeking my fortune,” Kintano replied happily. “I have rid the earth of the dragon, and I have come to tell the king and collect my reward.”
Kintano was pleased to tell his story to Cadel, and he even demonstrated his earth-shaking bellow. He only left out the part about the sword and ring.
“I would love to see the statues of the titans.” Cadel said. “Never in all my days have I seen a creature as tall as a foothill.” The meal that Rachel, Cadel’s wife, cooked was every bit as good as Cadel had promised. He stayed another day to help with the threshing and storing of the barley. Cadel cautioned him, even if the King has promised the hand of his daughter, she might not consent to the marriage if she did not like Kintano.
“She is fond of wild boar, and it’s very hard to come by.” Cadel told Kintano. “Bring her a wild boar and you might yet win a kingdom. You are a fine boy, and I hope you do it. I would be proud to call you king one day.” Cadel loved him like a son after only a few days. Dustoy liked Cadel and his barley, and Kintano left him with Cadel.
Kintano walked back into the forest, searching for signs of wild boar. Soon he found spoor. He followed a game trail for hours, and then he heard crashing and shouting.
“You’ve lost it, you fools!” Kintano came upon an angry girl, spitting words at the men in her company like spears. All of them were on horses.
“What have you lost?” Kintano asked.
“The boar. We have been hunting boar for a week, and finally we saw it, but this clod scared it off before we could trap it!” She hit the armored man next to her with the back of her hand.
“I will get it!” Kintano promised, and he plunged into the underbrush after the wild boar. He could maneuver easier than men on horses, but was at greater risk of being gored by the boar’s savage tusks. Soon, he had run down the boar, and tossed his sword straight at it. As usual, his sword could not miss. He triumphantly returned with the boar.
“You did it!” All the men and the pretty girl got off their horses to admire the boar, which was almost as heavy as Kintano.
“I have to give this boar to the princess!” Kintano panted. Carrying the boar had been thirsty work. He gratefully accepted some ale from the celebrating men. One of them pounded him on the back, guffawing. Kintano managed not to spill his ale.
“That is the princess!” The man roared. They tied the boar to a pack horse, and slowly the happy party made its way to the castle. The princess’s chestnut hair gleamed in the sun and sparkled like his sword.
The king rejoiced to hear that the dragon was gone evermore, his daughter satisfied with her future husband and wild boar would be served for dinner for days to come. In the fullness of time, Princess Rowan married Kintano, and together they had twelve children, each born in a different year and month from the others. They lived happily ever after, never separating the ring and the sword, until their seventh son took the sword to the wars and their eldest daughter retained the ring. But that is another story.
River Trout Poached in Cultured Goat Milk with Chives and Sage
(aka Fairy Tale Fish by my children)
8 ounces cultured goat milk
¾ pound of trout with skin
Fresh or Dried Sage
Heat the goat milk slowly. Twist half inch pieces of fresh chive into it, and crumple the sage in, too. I use a cast iron pan. Add the fish skin up, and bring to a boil, then return to low. After several minutes turn the fish carefully and let it finish cooking skin down. Sprinkle more herbs on top of the fish if desired. The goat milk should thicken so that it starts to have the consistency of fresh goat cheese. Serve when most of the watery part of the goat milk has cooked off, or drain it off if the fish is fully cooked.
We serve it with homemade buttermilk biscuits and cooked apples.
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham