[Note–the following letter was reprinted from the Bureau Archive. The recipient information has been redacted.]
Reprint authorized by J Feldman, Mythography Division, 12-28-17
[From the Letters of Secretary Louis Baston, Bureau of Dragons–translation from French]
3 September 1958
Monsieur [name redacted],
Dragons are Real. I bear witness to this fact in spite of my young age and naivete of the world unseen. My right arm is visible testament to an encounter with what most people decry as imaginary. Scarred by flame and weakened, it is constant reminder of a dangerous foe–the Dragon.
My story began in the mountains of France where I spent my youth in the safety in the small village of [name redacted]. It was the spring of 1940 and my father left us to fight another kind of dragon terrorizing the people of Europe. My mother was also called to duty as field nurse attending to the wounding soldiers of France and the allies.
My maternal grandparents cared for me, sheltered me from the tragedies of war, waited and prayed for a quick and safe return of my parents. During the evening hours, I would sit with my grandparents huddled in the glow of the radio, listening to the BBC and news of the war. When news grew dire, Grandfather would touch a match to his pipe and tell me stories of ancient times. Knights would scour the countryside in search of the Holy Grail, rescue many a damsel in distress and vanquished many fantastical beasts. The most fearsome of these was the dragon. Great billowing beasts of fire, tooth, and talon, the dragon laid waste to village and castle alike. Only the intercession of a hero, pure of heart and renowned of valor, could slay the creature.
My childhood passed in the midst of war. My father did not return home. Mother did and she did the best she could to put the pieces of our life together again. Time passed and the mountain village of [name redacted] soon became too small for me. I left for University in Paris when I was seventeen years old. The local teacher recommended me, not on the basis of my arithmetic skills, but on my attention to detail. He said that I would be a fine civil servant. Emboldened by the opportunity to make my mark on the world, I packed a scuffed leather valise and walked down the mountain to the nearest rail depot.
I began my studies in Paris, where upon completion I took a civil servant position in a minor government office. The building seemed as lifeless as many of the old men that shuffled to work each morning. I was given a small attic office in an ancient crumbling three story building along one of many side streets of the government district. To my surprise, I learned that the custodian’s closet was more spacious than my own office. My hopes of quick advancement ground to a halt along with the endless mountains of paperwork. Countless days of tedium, compounded with drudgery, began to take a toll on my existence.
Ten interminable months crawled past and I sat at my desk, contemplating finishing the bruised apple lying there or hurling it through the tiny skylight and joining it in a brief moment of escape. Instead, I shoved it into the waste bin along with several of the papers.
In a moment of guilt, I bent down to retrieve the papers and noticed one had fallen behind the desk, a yellowed corner sticking out between the desk and the wall. I held the paper up towards the light. It was written in a thin and spidery hand, but in bold font under the signature were the words, “Bureau of Dragons”. Whether it was a joke or not, the letter was the first ray of sunshine in my darkening career.
I read the letter once, removed my spectacles to clean them, and then read it again. The letter was a general announcement regarding a vacancy in the Bureau of Dragons and that applications of qualified persons would be accepted for review. What kind of nonsense had I come upon? I had no clue, but the letter contained detailed questions to be submitted by candidates–all of them concerning the rules and regulations of hunting dragons!
With a light heart, I placed my best paper into the battered typewriter and began to type. A flood of memories came back to me of my grandfather and the tales I had heard in my youth. I caught myself humming a tune as I worked. The afternoon sped by accompanied by the clacking of the keys. Joke or not, it had been a wonderful diversion from reality. I left it in the typewriter as I put on my coat and hat, clicking the overhead lamp off. Shutting the office door, I realized the rest of the building was dark, everyone had gone home long ago. As an impulse, I walked backed to into my office, grabbed an envelope, hastily addressed it, added a stamp and placed the letter inside. Walking out into the cool evening, I heard the bustle of Paris traffic. I turned a corner and dropped the letter into a mailbox.
Spring came and provided many diversions to take my mind off work. Thoughts turned to the newness in the air and the days growing warmer. I had entirely forgotten about the novelty of the strange application I had posted in the mail, that is until that Friday morning…
I had opened my office as usual, preparing to go about my morning rituals in my solitary confines. As I sat at my desk, I was surprised to see a large parcel adorned with many foreign stamps and tied with a sturdy length of twine. Written upon the front in a spidery scrawl of brown ink were the words, Monsieur Louis Baston, Secretary, Bureau de Dragons.
I laughed aloud at the thought that someone had gone to extreme measures to play a prank on me. Taking my pen knife, I cut the twine, eager to see what clever foolery was within. I sat in silent amazement at the contents. Documents, illustrated folios, journals, and assorted correspondence–all of it regarding dragons. There were signed proclamations and treaties signed by the heads of foreign governments and all bearing authentic looking seals.
My head began to spin as I tried to understand the meaning of all this. There was much too detailed information here to excuse it as a simple prank. This had all the markings of truth–dragons were real!
At letter of commendation was tucked neatly into the parcel. It read… “You have been accorded an important duty, far more important than given to any crowned head of state. I relinquish my authority as 100th Secretary of the Bureau of Dragons. You are the next in a long unbroken chain of humble servants charged with keeping records of all known dragons in the earth and under the heavens. As the sole authority, you have the power to issue permits to slay dragons that are evil in nature. You also must protect the dragons that are peaceful. Mankind has had a difficult time trying to distinguish good and evil. Fear and misunderstanding has led to the near extinction of most species of dragons. The records within this parcel are just a fraction of the library at your disposal. As Secretary of the Bureau of Dragons, you must also oversee the wardens. They will make themselves known to you. Seek their counsel and know that you have their loyalty. They are your eyes, ears, and right arm. I pass this duty on to you with confidence that your wisdom and sound judgement will benefit mankind and dragonkind.” It was signed, Secretary Zhen Po.
It wasn’t but a day after receiving this mysterious parcel, that my office had a visitor. It was a rare occasion that I actually received any human contact in the tiny confines of my attic office. A distinguished gentleman in an impeccably tailored suit came into my office. An assistant waited in the hallway as the man closed the door. I had seen him somewhere before, but could not place him…until he presented his calling card.
Maurice Couve de Murville
Minister of Foreign Affairs
I immediately jumped to my feet, nearly upsetting my coffee in the process. I stammered out a greeting and offered the minister the only chair in the office, my own. Instead, he gave me a short bow and remained standing. “The Secretary of the Bureau of Dragons is much too important to give up his seat. I have come to extend our country’s congratulations upon the new Secretary.”
His admonishment not withstanding, I dashed out of the room and down the hall to find a folding chair leaning against the wall. My nerves were getting the better of me, but the Foreign Minister settled me down as he accepted the chair and told me of his visit.
The Bureau of Dragons had been in existence since the dawn of time. Civilizations, kingdoms, and empires have come and gone but this singular bureaucratic office has always been there. When the first hero took up arms against the dragon, the Bureau was there in the form of a simple scribe. That scribe bore witness and recorded the heroes mighty deeds for posterity. He also made careful observations and notes of the dragon. Time and again, when dragons crawled from some dark hole to terrorize mankind, the Bureau made record of the event.
The First Scribe and his successors became almost as legendary as many of the heroes, but in a different realm of mythology. Their story was the stuff of legend told by secretive government officials deep within their bureaucratic dungeons. In fact the Bureau had been known only to a select few persons in most of the world’s governments. One of the secret duties of each nation’s foreign minister was to maintain connections with the Bureau of Dragons. Monsieur de Murville told me that in many instances, the Prime Minister or President of a country would not even be privy to the knowledge that these men held. The reasons for this vary, but one commonly held belief was that secrecy kept the populace from panic. The general consensus was to leave the Bureau of Dragons to continue its research. This sound advice was not always heeded.
In the late 1860’s the Russians were besieged by a large dragon dwelling in the mountains of Alaska. The awakening of this dragon prompted the Russian government to dispatch an armed force. This resulted in the total destruction of several fisheries and mining operations which the Russians blamed on a tidal wave.
Continued dragon activity prompted the eventual sale of the land to the United States. Fortunately for the United States, an Inuit hero was able to dispatch the dragon with his harpoon. This resulted in both the United States and Russia following Canada’s policy of working closely with the Bureau of Dragons. Canada had long since had successful regulation of dragons by adopting guidelines from the Bureau.
Nations gathered together in 1900 to form the International Council for the Study of Dragons (ICSD). Like many governmental bodies, they allowed politics and not facts steer their decisions. Instead of partnering with the Bureau of Dragons, they attempted to bypass it. This all changed dramatically, when the entire council was eaten by a particularly angry red dragon. He was quite insulted at their findings and came in person to express his discontent.
This resulted in a new council comprised of foreign ministers from each country and under the direction of the B.o.D. During a historic meeting a resolution was drafted and thus began the creation of the International Hunting Regulations Code. The completion of this document would later be known as the September Council.
Monsieur de Murville offered any assistance that the French government could give. The days after his meeting were noticeable in the absence of paperwork that regularly piled up on my desk, brought by postmen and office runners. I also noticed that the entry door to my office now had my name in gilded lettering.
Bureau de Dragons
Louis Baston, Secrétaire
I spent my days pouring over the parcel of information sent by Secretary Zhen Po. Never again would I feel a sense of drudgery or lack of purpose. Dragons consumed my waking hours and on occasion my nightmares.
And so, began my career as the Secretary of the Bureau of Dragons. In the weeks to follow, I received my first correspondence and met the first of the wardens working in the Bureau, Rosa de la Cruz. She would save my life many times and would come to be one of my dearest friends. But that is a story for another time.