A Gift of Dragons – Scene 7

They awoke to the tumult of morning birds.  The fireflies of the night before were replaced by clouds of insects rising from the meadow in a living mist, and countless shimmering dragonflies glinted in the low-hanging sun as they hunted within the mist.  Three hummingbirds sat on a nearby bush and watched Aithan stir, then flew off as one in a dazzle of color.  As Aithan arose he felt himself renewed by the energetic life of the meadow and the promise of the rising sun.  Then he remembered the new dream he had dreamed in the night and he smiled.

The magician arose not long after, supporting himself with his staff and complaining in his way of the treacheries of old age.  Aithan listened to it all and felt complete happiness as he packed up their camp.  The magician noticed he was being genially ignored.

“You seem in fine spirits today, boy.”

Aithan welcomed the invitation to speak.  “Yes, I had a new dream last night.”

The magician waited, but Aithan said no more.  His face became serious.

“Tell me, if you would be so kind, what was this new dream?”

“I dreamed of the dragon again, like every night.  It has hard sharp scales and evil red eyes, you know that.  It was looking for me, as always, and this time it found me.”  The magician watched a flash of dread shoot across the boy’s face.  He had heard the tale of this dream many times, but never before had the dragon found its prey.  For an instant he shared the boy’s dread.  Aithan finally went on.

“But when it started to come towards me, was almost upon me, another dragon appeared by my side.  It was soft and warm, not scaly, and it had eyes made of pure gold, and it was as strong as the world, and the evil dragon was angry and afraid and would not come near it.  Then the warm dragon turned to me and said ‘Do not fear these demons, for the King guards you from their wickedness.’”  As Aithan spoke of this soft dragon and its soothing words, peace returned to his features.  After another pause, he added, “I hope I have the dream again tonight,” and there was longing in his voice.

The magician pondered this man-boy whom villagers called the Baby Bull.  The magician had never been a big man, and now Aithan was a full head taller than him, and with the strength to be worthy of his nickname.  But he was still the boy, the orphan, the child afraid of bad dreams.  He would have to grow up very quickly now.  The magician blinked and turned away.  Soon Aithan had loaded their belongings onto the donkey and they were headed through the final mountain pass that would bring them to the sea, eating carrots and dried beef as they walked along the road in the silence of their thoughts.

A Gift of Dragons – Scene 6

That night they bed down in a meadow off the road.  Aithan lay staring up into the darkness, breathing carefully.  Red stars continued to arc across the sky and disappear into the four corners of the world as they had done each night for the past year.  He knew the magician would also be awake and watching.

“I don’t remember the sky before the red stars,” said Aithan, needing to talk about them.  “There seem to be fewer tonight,” he added hopefully.

“A bad omen,” the magician answered from the nearby blackness.  “The pieces of the tragedy are nearly in place then.”

“What tragedy?”  There was alarm in his voice.

“That I do not know,” the magician lied.

“Do you think they are the dragons?”  The dragons that had haunted Aithan’s sleep in childhood had returned to his dreams when the red stars began falling, and they were more malevolent and more real now, to the point where sleep itself had become an enemy.  He was certain that there was a sinister connection between the red stars and the blood-eyed dragons of his nightmares.

“They may as well be your accursed dragons as anything.  Whatever they are, they are certainly dangerous, and they have invited themselves into our world.”  The magician’s tone was distant, pensive.

“At least they are landing far off.”

“That won’t save us, boy.”

Dismayed and afraid of falling asleep, Aithan continued to watch the flaming stars fall one after another, until suddenly there were no more.  It took Aithan a moment to realize that once again only the peaceful white stars of the Greeks filled the sky.  Then a great vengeful star appeared, greater than all of the others, and it flared like a moon of blood, growing until it filled the entire sky with its deathly stain before it vanished behind the woods.  After that there was nothing but blackness and the dim twinkling of the ancient stars, once more restored to their rightful place. Aithan felt ill.

“I believe we will be seeing no more red stars.  Now it truly begins,” said the magician, laying unseen not far from him.  “Go to sleep.  We will reach the coast tomorrow.  Our fate can find us there as well as anywhere.”

Aithan turned onto his side, dreading the dreams he knew would come, and was surprised to see that the meadow was bright with fireflies.  Their light was warm and close and covered him like a living blanket.  As he watched them flash to their unknown song, images of the ancient grotto flickered into his mind, and now the old feeling of peace and longing mixed with this feeling of dread.  Eventually he fell into an uneasy sleep and dreamed again of the horned beast with red hungry eyes hunting him, coming for him.  He never saw the silent forms circling high in the black sky, but the magician saw them and wondered if his magic would be enough to protect them.  At least he and the boy – no, the man, he corrected himself once again, but it was no use, Aithan would always be “the boy” – he and Aithan would confront their fates together, and that thought consoled him.  Long after his slave companion had fallen asleep, the magician finally closed his eyes.  The last thing he saw was the bright dance of the fireflies, and he pondered this second omen briefly before sleep overtook him.

A Gift of Dragons – Scene 5

The child hid motionless in the tall grass like a hunted rabbit.  Not far away the dragon searched methodically among the trees and brush.  Its red eyes were hungry and patient.  In the opposite direction lay the grotto, cool and shimmering with invitation and untold promise.  The dragon could not enter the grotto, could not come near it.  If the child could reach the grotto he would be safe.  He was on his hands and knees, ready to bolt as the dragon moved closer, but he knew he could not outrun the dragon.  He knew he had to reach the grotto, and he knew he could not possibly reach it before the dragon was upon him.  Only a miracle could save him, and the dragon was coming closer, rumbling softly to itself, and time was running out.

A Gift of Dragons – Scene 4

As they walked through the day they passed through a number of villages, but not once did the magician stop and gather a crowd with his tricks and sell chances to out-guess or out-trick him, or to wrestle or mock-swordfight the boy.  This odd behavior only increased Aithan’s sense of urgency.

In the afternoon warmth the magician finally seemed to relax, and he began one of his travelling pastimes, magicking rocks out of the road with his staff.  Aithan slowed down and kept the donkey with him as the magician moved further ahead.  Soon, as Aithan knew would happen, the magic began to turn and the rocks began to fly off in random directions, not where the magician urged them.  Then a few of them made a wide loop and came back at the magician, who swatted each one down with a sharp curse and a practiced swing of his stick.  Finally the rocks began to seek out Aithan and the animal.  After one struck the donkey in the flank causing him to buck and dump part of his load, Aithan called out “Uncle Fri, please!

The magician stopped without looking back.  “Damned foul magic!” he yelled.  “I should never have learned it.”  He took a few steps and then turned, raised his staff to the boy and shouted, “And you should never learn it either!”

“Uncle Gaufridus, you know we cannot talk about this when you are angry at the magic,” the boy answered, allowing a hint of challenge into his own words.

The magician paused and watched as the boy and the donkey came closer.  “Now, don’t scold your old uncle for being a fool,” he said after a moment.  “A fool for learning this filthy magic,” he added.  “I promise we will discuss it when I believe we are safe again.”

At that the boy hugged him like a bear, and the magician’s eyes glistened, and they continued along the road, each making a quick scan of the skies whenever he thought the other was not looking.

A Gift of Dragons – Scene 3

As the sky began to lighten the magician rustled through his bag and pulled out a piece of dark bread.  He broke it and gave the larger portion to the boy.  Since winning Aithan as a child, the magician had always thought of him as a boy, and neither the magician nor the brawny young man sensed the growing incongruity of this.

Aithan in turn took a wine skin from the donkey’s pack and handed it to the magician, and they ate and drank as they walked.  When he was done with his bread, the magician ruffled the crumbs out of his beard and spoke.

“Tell me about your new dreams, exactly.”

Aithan answered quickly.  “They are getting worse.  The dragon is getting closer, and I’m sure it knows where I am hiding.”  He looked around him when he said this.

“You will be happy to know that as of last night, I finally believe in your dragons.”  The magician said this without smiling.  Aithan looked surprised, but not happy.  The magician continued.  “I had a dream too.  This was unlike any dream I have ever had.  It was a true vision.  I saw your accursed dragons, an army of them, and they were consuming the world.”

“Uncle Fri!”

The magician raised his hand.  “No, they do not know where you are, yet.  That is why we are leaving.”

“So you know the dragons are real then?  You always told me they were only figments”

“What I saw last night were no figments.  Your dragons are as real as anything can be in a vision.  And I saw something else, an old and very real friend.  We will not take any chances.”

They walked on a bit, then Aithan spoke again.  “And the red stars.”

The magician grunted.  “Yes, and the red stars.”

A Gift of Dragons – Scene 2

The magician awoke with a snort.  He rubbed his open hand across his mouth and his glistening forehead, wiping the sweat from his eyes with his thumb.  He sat up on the edge of his cot, blinking and waiting for his eyes to find the light.  After a time the cold rays of the waning moon showed him enough of the room that he could stand and walk safely.  He went quickly to the other cot and shook the sleeping figure.

“Get up, boy!” he said in a loud whisper.  “We have to leave immediately.  Get up!”

The bundled figure reacted violently, and the magician had to jerk his head to the side to avoid the arm flung at him.  “Aithan, you must get up now!” he said, no longer pretending to whisper.

These words seemed to jolt the other person awake and he threw off his coverings and stood up.  He was no boy at all, but a well-muscled young man who was nearly a head taller than the magician.  “What is it, uncle Fri?” he asked.  Concern filled his voice, and the remnants of sleep.

“We must go this very moment,” the magician answered as he rolled up his blanket and grabbed at his stick and his bag.  “Do not ask questions, not now.”

The boy-man did as he was told, gathering up a large bundle from the corner of the room, and the magician opened the door.  They descended the narrow stairs as quickly as the faint moon and dull fireplace embers would allow them, and were soon in the street.  Aithan unlatched the stable door along the side of the inn, and entered.  The stable boy scrambled up from his pile of hay, but when he saw the magician standing in the road watching him in the sickly moonlight, he stood still and uttered no sound, only making the sign of the cross repeatedly.  As Aithan went past him and got the donkey and led it out, the magician held the stable boy in his gaze and put his finger to his lips.  The magician reached into his money sack and pulled out a brass coin.  After a moment he reached in again and withdrew a small silver coin.  As Aithan began pushing the door closed the magician tossed the coin through the opening and smiled as the stable boy dove after it.  Then all was quiet again.  The magician held the donkey’s lead while Aithan wrapped its hooves in strips of cloth with practiced efficiency.

In the streets the faint moonlight on the glistening wet stones helped to light their way, and soon they passed through a small gate in the city wall and were on the southern road.  Once they were out of hearing range of any guards on the walls, Aithan unwound the cloth strips from the animal’s hooves.  He turned to the magician and asked “Uncle Fri, what is happening?  Why are we leaving like this?”  His voice remained anxious.

“I’ve had a sign.  We must reach Eldonas and board a ship.”

“What was the sign, uncle?”

“Not now, boy.  Trust me in this.”

Aithan, who had trusted the magician’s signs all his life, trusted this one with no more thought or effort than drawing breath.  After a pause, he said “I’ve been having my nightmares again.”

The magician grunted and turned to reply, but then turned back without any answer.  They continued along the road under the soft splintered light, walking as if not to disturb the looming trees.  In the distance, from one direction, then another and another until the sound filled the darkness, steeple bells rang the call to matins.

A Gift of Dragons – Scene 1

All the world was engulfed in fire, consumed by great tongues of flame that roared and snapped like tormented beasts.  In the center of this burning world was a clearing that was not touched by fire.  At the center of the clearing was a sorcerer dressed in rich silks and sleek furs, and adorned with gold and jewels.  Behind the sorcerer stood an army of black-clad warriors, armed with bright steel and hungry for war.  As the sorcerer scanned the glowing skies, dragons of many sizes and colors appeared and descended until they had filled up the clearing.  Unlike the warriors who stood at stiff attention, the dragons moved about with angry energy.  A great silver dragon landed next to the sorcerer and glared at him with hateful red eyes.  The sorcerer looked up at the dragon and stared back with eyes that glowed red in return.  After a moment, and without taking his gaze off of the silver dragon, the sorcerer made a waving motion.  A number of men came forth and went to the smaller dragons and mounted them.  The mounted dragons twisted and writhed, and then took to the sky as the riders fought to control them.  The other, larger dragons followed, and as they rose into the air the silver dragon stood on its hind legs and stretched out its leathery wings, and it aimed a furious gout of dirty red fire straight up to the heavens.  Then the silver dragon took off and flew to the head of the host of circling dragons.  As the dragon armada flew away, the sorcerer made a new sign and the black-clad army began to march into the fire, and the fire leaped hungrily.

A Gift of Dragons – Scene by Scene

I was speaking with my cousin Peter over the weekend, and he knew I was writing a novel, and he said “you should put some chapters online.”  Turns out my wife Diana has said the same thing multiple times, but this time, for whatever reason, the idea stuck.  So, for better or for worse, it begins.  As time permits I will post consecutive chapters of the first book (of what I plan to be three books).  Some of these chapters are written, some are not, I’ve bounced around as the muse dictated (that is to say, I’ve picked the lowest-hanging fruit first).  I’ll post additional chapters when I can, which is to say, randomly.  These are all first-draft efforts, or even pre-first-draft if such a thing exists.  I figure Peter and Diana will read them.  If anybody else joins, welcome and I hope you find some enjoyment and some fair to middlin’ storytelling.

EDIT: OK, these are not chapters, more like scenes.

A Blazing Hatred

If there is one thing that characterizes Satan and all the demons, it is their hatred.  Being separated from God, and thus from the ability to love, all that they have left to them is the ability to hate.  Whereas to love is to will and strive for the good of the other, to hate is to will and strive for that which is worst for the other, which is most destructive for the other.

They hate God first and foremost, of course.  We will not know in this life why that is so.  Do they all hate God for the same reason, or does each demon have his own reason?  But in any case, they hate God with a furious hatred, and all their other hatreds flow from that.

They also hate all those things that God has made.  To start with, they hate the holy angels, their former comrades.  The holy angels, the angels who did not follow them in rebellion, earn their special hate because the holy angels have witnessed their fall.  The holy angels have seen the demons as they were before their rebellion, and see them now after they have been cast out of heaven.  The holy angels are like the students who didn’t get expelled, and the students who did now hate running into them and remembering that they too once had what the holy angels have and will always have.

God has shown us that he takes names very seriously, beginning with his own.  With God there are no “cute” names, no names “because I’ve always liked that name.”  Every name is tied to the identity of the person (or angel).  It is not unreasonable to think that every angel has been given a name by God that unique and special to that angel.  It is also at least imaginable that the fallen angels lost their original names and gained new names, or perhaps they rejected their original names and chose new names on their own.  It is not unreasonable to think that every angel has been given a name by God that unique and special to that angel, a name that perfectly captures the specific purpose for which that angel was made.  It is also at least imaginable that the fallen angels lost their original names and gained new names, or perhaps rejected their original names and chose new names.  The holy angels will know the God-given names of all the fallen angels, and the fallen angels may strongly resent this, as a continuing reminder of their infinite fall from heaven.  Perhaps the holy angels even call the demons by their God-given names in their interactions (that is, in their ongoing battles over the fate of the world and humanity), to the furious annoyance of the demons.

The demons also hate the world that God has made, simply because God declared the world as good.  That culminates in their implacable hatred of mankind.  What God has declared very good, the demons hate very greatly, and seek without rest to destroy.  Whatever demons might call “joy” (let us call it demon-joy), they get no greater demon-joy than when they are able to cause a human to turn away from God, culminating in the exquisite demon-joy that comes when a person turns away from God completely and permanently at death and chooses hell over heaven.

Lastly, I think it is very safe to say that the demons very much hate each other.  There is not the slightest bit of camaraderie in hell, not the merest trace of bonhomie.  But I think that is worthy of a separate post.

And now, from Psalm 42,

First Post

Hi, my name is Mike Silva.  Welcome to my new blog.  I have no idea why I’m doing this.

Well, maybe that’s too harsh.

I’m in the process of writing my first novel, and both my wife and daughter suggested I start a blog about it.  I had already used up my quota of “NO” for the day, so I agreed.  Inspiring, right?

The novel is something that has been floating around in my head for decades, though in a much different form than I now envision.  It is about angels and demons, and how it would be if they became embodied and we could see them in action, and interact with them in a more concrete way.

Over a period of about a year I had almost daily thoughts (insights?) about the interior life of angels and demons, and how they might interact with humans.  I should add that the angels and demons I speak of are the classic Catholic creatures, created by God out of the same generosity that led Him to create us.  The demons are those angels who turned against God, probably for the same reasons some humans turn against God, and were cast out of heaven.  Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that they fled heaven, the radiant love of God being too oppressive for them to tolerate.

The title of this novel will be “A Gift of Dragons,” the dragons being the embodied demons.  If you wonder in what sense demons could ever be considered a gift, it is in the sense of “felix culpa,” the “happy fault” of mankind’s original fall.  That was a happy fault only because it brought the world our savior, Jesus Christ.  So the gift of demons is a gift only because of what it ends up bringing into the world.  More about that in future posts.

Hmm, did I mention that I’m a Catholic?  A Catholic revert, to be exact.  However, if I end up writing a story that only Catholics can enjoy, I have done a very bad job indeed.  I like to think that I will be telling a story that will be fascinating to anybody, religious or non-religious or “other.”  Time will tell.

I have read, and I believe, that it is difficult to write of a perfectly good character, and a true angel must be perfectly good.  No edgy, moody, errant angels for me!  No, my angels will retain their angelic perfection.  At the same time, I will fill in a lot of missing details with my own thoughts/insights/inventions, and I don’t think my angels will be at all boring (nor my demons!).  It has been quite fascinating to muse over a prolonged period about both angels and demons, and I think the results of that musing will give the story much of its flavor and character.

By the way, did you know that St. Thomas Aquinas taught that each angel is essentially its own species?  You could spend a lifetime just thinking about that!

So take a moment now to think about your own guardian angel, the angel that God gave to you to guard and guide you throughout your life.  A creature who always beholds the face of God, and who at the same time serves you night and day.  Felix culpa!

One final thing.  I also owe to my choir conductor wife Diana a love of sacred choral music, so for her and all of you (and because music is the language of heaven):