Under

BY DR. AGONSON

The soft earth spreads out, wisps of the late morning’s fog settling in disparate patches across the field. Breakfast done, I’d left the hall, my brothers conversing still, and climbing this old battlement now stare over the rolling plain. Knowledge’s a curse; I would forget—I would join them down below—but here I am, separated; I know. May God forgive me; I know. The stairs leading here threatened my life, the moldering stone thrice giving way beneath me. This tower feels the breeze like a dead tree swaying, ready to fall. Yet the wind is easy, the time pleasant.

The overcast skies disperse the sun, the grey clouds grown white with its light. The air, so crisp, greets my hungry lungs like a song, as if the earth itself were singing into me, filling me with its joys. I’d come up here, a boy, before I’d pledged myself, before I had become one of them. Now I am again apart, without a home, and I return to this quiet place.

The spiders still inhabit here, a glistening web informs me. Sparkling with a thousand colors, the dewy strands stretch across a missing patch of masonry—perhaps a hundred years ago a cannon ball had crashed through and made this hole. The cannon built the spider’s home. He hides himself, somewhere, waiting for a stray insect to fly into his trap. What would he do if a second ball came flying through? Would he catch it?

An illness kept me from sweet sleep, from slumbering dreams, and half mad I had gone down into the library. So many books, but one seemed strange, displaced. There among the old records, a little book, undusted, sat in dark brown binding. The tan volumes beside it held no interest for me. In a delirium I grabbed the text and took it to the table.

I set the candle down to read by, and it burned through the night. As its flickering flame died, I brought my face closer to those words. What horrid history I unveiled. Our rituals and holy days, our chants and observances, they were all prescribed in that book, but there the reason was given. Beyond my mind to understand, the scrawled text was in no language I knew, the book breaking into feverish scribbles near the end. Yet I could read, somehow, I could read, that alien script.

And in this strange benediction the reason for all our religion, our brotherhood, was given. Below, buried below, imprisoned—I know not what to call it—a dragon. It had been slain, its rotting corpse bounded by cruel hooks and chains. Its carcass bled and would not cease to flow with blood. The hill our castle stood upon was made to stop the flood. They piled earth above it and buried it.

There the madman wrote that the dragon still speaks to him, entering his dreams, sharing strange knowledge. What power was gained by these dark magics. Our rituals, necromancy, our songs, incantations—but that last line, those last insane words, haunts my thoughts: Those who worship the dragon are the dragon, and dead may worship still.

I thought of our vault, our huge compendium of dead members all sleeping, and the strange pattern in which their bodies are placed. The dragon’s body is being rebuilt.

The sun will climb into heaven, and noon will shine, but hidden under the earth, the sun’s light will not unveil those sordid mysteries beneath our castle. The rolling field is full of bones, this sepulcher of the sleeping dragon but a hospital for the foul demon.

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