from smoke filled cavern
sword in hand she emerged
sometimes dragons lose
the dragon takes wing
leaving naught but ash behind
back to the mountain
“Monsieur Perreault, we have been looking for you!”, said Louis Baston.
The disheveled man behind the bars pried open one eye and then the other, “I cannot say the same, monsieur. Not only have I not been looking for you, I can hardly see you at the moment.” He rubbed his eyes and moved away from the ray sunlight streaming through the window.
“Monsieur, we are here to help you,” Rosa spoke softly.
Even so, the man winced at the sound of their voices. “Come back later, I need nothing from you. My friend Monsieur Lacombe has helped me enough for now. I have a nice warm cot and a pillow…so excuse me if I bid you good day,” he turned to lie down again.
Louis looked at Rosa and feigned exasperation. “Monsieur, you are coming with us! You have to save the town from the dragon!”
This got the man’s attention. He sat up and rubbed his eyes again. “What? You’ve seen it? They thought I was mad…even I thought I was mad! You can’t imagine how…” He stopped in mid sentence and stood up. “What do you mean, I have to save the town?! Surely, you jest?”
Rosa leveled her most serious look at him, “No, we do not make a joke, monsieur. He is your dragon to slay.”
“Why would you ever think that?”
“Because, monsieur, you saw him first!”
Claude Perreault scratched his head at this.
It wasn’t long before he was standing in the street outside of the local gendarme’s office with Louis on one side and Rosa on the other.
Louis rubbed the top of his shoe against the back of his trousers. Soot and mud were ground into the polished leather. These shoes will never be the same, he thought.
Claude Perrault wobbled a little as he stepped into the morning sunlight. Gendarme Lacombe was more than happy to release his charge to the two visitors. It took only one call by Louis to arrange his release. Gendarme Lacombe snapped to attention when he spoke with the government official on the other end of the line. Being the Secretary of the Bureau of Dragons gave Louis more clout than most heads of state. He was still trying to get accustomed to this. After showing them to the door, Gendarme Lacombe returned to his desk to continue his mid morning nap.
Rosa scanned the street and gave the sky a carefully inspection. This did not go unnoticed by Claude. He grew nervous and looked ready to be on his way.
“Monsieur, do you have a place in town?” Rosa asked.
“I have a small farm just outside of Bonneval…me and my daughter.”
“Is your daughter at home, now?”
“No, I sent her away when the dragon came back to our farm.”
“And when was this?” Louis asked as they climbed into the roadster.
“Yesterday morning, Monsieur. He came down from the mountains and snatched up two of my sheep. Amelie and I saw the creature swoop down and snatch them.”
He paused for a moment and his hands trembled a little as he tried to smooth out a wrinkle on his shirt. “I’ve heard about dragons, but in all my fifty-eight years, I’d never expected to see one.”
“Cheer up, Monsieur! At least the dragon flew off with the sheep. He could have snatched you away as well!” Rose smiled.
Louis frowned when he heard this. That didn’t sound too cheerful to him. He wanted to ask Rosa, what if Claude runs out of sheep? But he thought the better of it and instead concentrated on staying inside the roadster as Rosa swerved to dodge a pothole.
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Rosa’s roadster shuddered to a stop at the bridge to Bonneval. This gave her passenger time enough to catch his breath and unclench his fingers from the dashboard.
“And I thought meeting that dragon would be the most terrifying event of my day!” Louis Baston gasped. He looked at the dashboard and watched as the impressions from his grip slowly disappeared.
“Bonneval”, Rosa said, “and somewhere in the small medieval town there’s a woman destined to kill a dragon.”
“How do you know it’s not a man?” Louis inquired.
“Men usually start things and women have to finish them,” she said pulling a pair of well used field glasses up to her eyes.
“Well, according to my notes, female dragons account for only eighteen percent of the….”
But Rosa de la Cruz was no longer listening. The field glasses showed a small walled town with many old stone buildings from the medieval period.
“Rosa, that town looks like the perfect setting to battle a dragon, no?”
“Monsieur Secretaire’, fighting dragons is not a group sport! This wouldn’t turn out well if we treated it like a football tournament. We must make sure the dragon does not fight near the town.”
Louis thought how much he needed to learn. Being the Secretary of the Bureau of Dragons was certainly an impressive feat, but he was wise enough to listen to his wardens. Zhen Po, the last Secretary had stressed this very thing to him.
The mountain town was picture perfect, its tile rooftops colorful in the morning sunlight. Rosa popped the clutch and stepped on the accelerator and the little roadster flew across the bridge and into the town.
Bonneval-sur-Arc, still sleepy in the cool morning air, echoed with the rumble of the roadster. Rosa made a circuit around the main fountain and parked on the side of a narrow road. An old man looked up and frowned as Rosa jumped out of the car accompanied by Louis.
“Which way to constable?” Rosa asked of the old man. He grunted and threw his chin in the general direction as he continued to shamble down the sidewalk.
Louis and Rosa walked through the small town, admiring the old architecture and sturdy stone buildings. The modern world looked as much of a visitor here as they did. Up the street a blue door marked with the seal of the town, was the office of the local gendarme.
Rosa rapped on the door and entered. Sitting at an old roll top desk, feet in the air, was an older man in uniform. He jumped up as if awakened from an early morning snooze.
“Good morning! I am Gendarme Lacombe. Can I help you?”
Louis began to rifle through his charred valise, looking for a scrap of paper. Rosa laid her hand gently on his arm, “Monsieur, we are looking for Claude Perreault? Perhaps you can tell us where he lives?”
“Madame, that is not necessary! He is not home. I am certain of this fact!”
“How do you know this, Monsieur?” Louis spoke up.
“Naturally, he is right here!” The gendarme motioned to the small cell on the opposite wall. Lying on the cot was a man sleeping soundly.
Louis looked at Rosa. They both hoped that this wasn’t the man who had contacted the Bureau.
The gendarme permitted the two a brief visit with the prisoner. After a bit of coaxing and a prod with the broom, Claude Perreault was ready to receive visitors.
He looked up at Rosa and Louis with bloodshot eyes. He blinked several times and made a halfhearted attempt to pat down his hair. A small bruise sat on his right cheek and his clothes were soiled with mud.
“If this is our hero, we’re in a difficult situation,” whispered Louis.
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Update–Congratulations to our three winners!
Joe@ramblingrump, Frederi Pochard, and David Litster
Thanks to all who entered!
The Bureau of Dragons is giving away three License to Slay Cards this weekend. The contest is much easier than slaying a dragon. Post a greeting below or send a comment to our Contact page. Winners will be picked randomly using random.org. One entry per person. The cost of international shipping (outside of the US) is not included at this time.
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Good Luck! There will be three (3) chances to win this time, so be sure to enter!
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Continuing the narrative of Louis Baston’s first case.
Louis Baston struck a match and touched it to his pipe. His hands were trembling as he coaxed the pipe to glow.
“Chilly, perhaps?” said Rosa de la Croix. She was leaning against a blue roadster with a map of the French Alps in her hands.
“Yes, just a bit,” Louis replied. Both of them knew that the brief encounter with the dragon was the cause, but neither cared to address the real reason for the trembling.
It was odd to Louis. When he was a arm’s width from the beast’s jaws, he’d just stood there mesmerized by the creature. It was only later, when he had time to reflect on it that he began to shake.
“He’s a big one, and quite cranky as well,” Rosa said. “I can only dare to imagine what will happen when he decides to wander down the mountain. Killing a few sheep won’t satisfy him for long. With his temperament I’d guess we have less than a month before he grows bored with sheep and decides to hunt farmers.
Dragons weren’t common in the French Alps nor any other mountain range it particular. They seemed to wander up from some crack in the ground with no rhyme or reason. The ones that emerged in isolated areas of the world were often content to stay away from human civilization. On occasion a one may crawl from the ground and make a nest so secluded that humans will never know about them.
Others met humans head on with all the fire and destruction they could muster. Learning to know which is which was now Louis Baston’s job. He’d only been appointed as Secretary of the Bureau of Dragons for one week and here he was in the thick of things. How in the hell, did I get here? he thought. Someone’s made a mistake. What do I know about dragons?
As if reading his thoughts, Rosa turned to him and smiled, “You’ve done quite admirably, Monsieur. Why, most people would be in shock, worse off…dead. I’ve been at this for nearly eight years and it shakes my nerve seeing them up close.”
“Rosa, what made you become a warden?” Louis had read the dossier on her and how at the age of 17, she had single-handily slain a large dragon in the Spanish Pyrenees. She had saved her village from certain destruction, yet became looked upon with superstition. People couldn’t understand how she had done it.
“I guess you could say dragon hunting is in my blood,” she smiled.
“Wardens don’t kill dragons, at least that’s what I’ve read, ” Louis continued, “In fact–”
“Facts only get you so far, Monsieur Secrétaire. You do realize that the French government is fabricating a story to explain the disappearance of the herds of sheep in this region? Wardens are honor bound not to kill, but I would readily defend myself if pressed to do so. I killed a dragon to keep my village safe, now I serve as a warden to protect dragons too. Trust only what you see, hear, and touch for yourself. There is more out there than we know.”
What a remarkable woman, Louis thought. She has lived most of her adult life in pursuit of dragons, but has the sensibilities of someone three times her age. Louis didn’t think her overly pessimistic except when discussing politics, yet he admired her courage and strength.
Rosa folded up the map neatly and placed it in her rucksack. She brushed a leaf out of her dark hair and stood up. “We’ve got plenty to do before sunset. There’s a small town nearby, Bonneval. There we may find our hero.”
Louis stood up and stretched. He still had a kink in his back from ducking for cover when the dragon had swooped at them. “I hope Bonneval has a nice warm inn…I remember reading that–”
But Rosa was already putting the roadster in gear. It was all that Louis could do to hang on as she raced down the narrow mountain road.
Somewhere high overhead, the dragon took wing. Flapping his leathery sails to gain altitude, his blood was up from the chase of two creatures. They were not sheep and that’s what thrilled him all the more. This was something different. His curiosity got the better of him and he turned on one large wing and made a lazy arc towards the town of Bonneval.
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