The Ice Dragon
In ancient days, long before the Devastation left its mark upon the world, there lived in the land of Altra a young woman by the name of Furl.
Furl lived with her parents and her brothers and sisters in a small village near the Impassable Mountains. Furl’s family was renowned far and wide as the most gifted weavers in the region, and all the people who lived within a few days’ ride depended on them for their craft.
Furl imagined that she had a gift and her gift was this: that she could weave anything that she desired onto a blanket and then, when the blanket was done, if she slept beneath it, the desired thing would come to her. In her fancy. In her dreams.
Furl’s imagined gift had come to her as a little girl, but as she grew up, instead of discarding it along with the rest of her playthings, she held fast to it in her heart, for it brought her comfort.
One day, when Furl was 13 summers, a terrible storm blew in from the west. The storm darkened the sky and for days no one left their home fearing the terrible powers that were being unleashed outside.
When the storm finally abated and the villagers ventured from their shelters they found a curious and unsettling thing in the village square: an iron statue of a sinister looking creature had appeared quite magically next to the well. None could fetch water without passing beneath its evil gaze.
Unsettling as it was, no one tried to remove it for fear of the unsavoury magic that such a deed might attract. So for a little time no one wanted to fetch any water and there were even squabbles amongst Furl’s siblings as to whose chore it was.
In the end it fell upon Furl to do so.
The girl carried the pail to the square and looked at the ominous thing.
It was huge and black and its eyes gleamed with malice.
Furl forced herself past it and lowered the pail into the well.
But as she drew the pail back up, a dread hand of iron descended upon her shoulder and a cavernous voice spoke to her.
“My slave has died and I choose you to replace her. Forever more shall you serve me and never again shall you see this village or your kin.”
The monster’s iron face had holes for eyes and mouth and nostrils and through these Furl saw tongues of fire curl and burn.
Furl felt faint and would have cried out for help, but not a word came from her lips. It was as if in her fear she had forgotten the gift of speech.
The fell creature transformed then into a winged beast and bore Furl away, far from the village and deep into the mountains to a castle that soared at the very top of the highest mountain.
In this place Furl began her new life serving the monster that had taken her.
Many moons passed and eventually Furl took to walking among the battlements early each morning and she would look out over the spread of peaks awaiting the dawn of the sun, but each and every morning the monster would bellow for her to come and serve him before the sun could rise.
One day he instructed her to weave him a blanket for his old ones were worn and falling apart. Furl did as he asked. She wove a fine blanket and upon it she placed a design of the giant sleeping under his blanket and through the window of his castle the sun could be seen dawning through the peaks.
The creature grunted at the image but passed no comment.
From that day on Furl had the dawn to herself.
Furl realized what she had done. She had almost forgotten her imagined gift and yet, here it was: no longer imagined but made true by the power of her desire.
So one day she approached her master and said to him:
“Lord, I see that your blanket looks drab and worn. Let me weave you another, a finer one that will serve you better.”
The iron creature grunted that the first blanket was good enough, but Furl felt that, deep inside, he had been pleased by her suggestion.
Sometime later, Furl again commented that the blanket was looking bedraggled indeed and again suggested that she should weave him a new one.
Again the monster declined, but there was a softening to his grunt.
Eventually Furl told her master that the blanket was moth eaten and flea-ridden and no longer appropriate for one such as he. This time he agreed that she should weave him another, and so she did.
She wove a design of her master sleeping under the blanket in his room. She made it much more intricate and beautiful; and through the window in the sky just above the rising sun she wove the image of a dragon, white as snow flying off into the distance. And if one looked very, very carefully, one might see a little figure riding astride the dragon: a tiny figure of a young woman.
On the thirteenth day of the thirteenth moon she presented it to her master.
He took the blanket and looked at it carefully.
“Why have you put that bird in the window?”
“It is not a bird,” answered Furl. “It is an ice dragon flying past.”
Her master grunted.
“And why is there a rider on the bird?”
“It is not a rider,” answered Furl. “It is someone quite inexperienced at riding who is looking for something she has lost.”
Again the giant grunted but took the blanket and said no more.
The next morning before the sun rose, a white dragon flew out of the north and alighted on the battlements next to Furl. She climbed on to his back and rode away into the sunrise in the east.
The Ice Dragon bore Furl back to her village where there was much rejoicing at her return.
Furl wasted no time. She went straight to her loom and furiously began to weave yet another blanket.
On it she wove the image of a mountain keep in flames and of a monster of iron melting into a puddle. But then at the last minute she added something that surprised even her: out of the melting iron she wove the image of a beautiful winged boy taking flight and escaping from the burning ruins.
For a whole moon she slept underneath the blanket.
Then, one morning, before the dawn could wash the sky with golden light, Furl left the house and was never seen again.
No one seemed particularly surprised or concerned that she had vanished a second time. There was more surprise and concern when it was discovered that the loom had vanished with her.
They searched for her then, and cursed her as they searched, for they all knew that there was power within the loom.
But Furl knew better.
She knew that the power had never been in the loom, but within herself.
So she wove exotic dreams for herself and for her winged husband, and they lived elegant and exquisite lives for the whole of their allotted time within the world.