A Stay at the Waters Kingdom
hrough the vineyards and the olive groves of the South of France, at the foot of the proud castles of the lords of Provence and along the villages with the tiled roofs of their vassal, ran the Rhône whose majestic course could not, it seemed, conceal a dragon. And, however, in its depths, close to the small town of Beaucaire where the curve of the river is directed towards the sea, was hidden the cave of Drac.
The monster expert in sorcery, Drac liked the human flesh and enjoyed to hunt the mortals. Sometimes, he left the river to go to Beaucaire where, on the place of the market, he wandered, invisible to the eyes of humans, in the shade of the plane trees in the middle of the fish baskets and the fruit and vegetable inventories. Cold, with a pale glance, the dragon observed the women chattering with the merchants and, from a swift claw, sharp-edged, removed a child whom his parents had, for a moment, neglected to supervise.
Sometimes, for the simple pleasure, Drac attracted the humans in his river to trap them. He was doing this one day, for a strange purpose. Here is exactly what occurred:
By beautiful afternoon of summer, under a burning sun bathing the city and the fields, a young woman went at the edge of the river to wash there the swathes of her new-born baby. While rubbing her linen vigorously, she threw a distracted glance on gleaming water, and saw floating on the surface, not far from bank, a cup engraved with gold in which shone a pearl.
The young woman did not see the trap. Without taking time to think, she tightened the arm to seize the object but the cup scintillating at the sunray deviated out of her range. Again, she leaned very far ahead, stretched and, as one could envisage it, lost balance abruptly.
As she fell in the water, an invisible claw seized her wrist. The young woman tried in vain to break free. The irresistible grasp dragged her downwards. Right before she sank, whereas she felt her skirt fill up water, she had a last vision of the ground with the scattered linen drying on grass and her crying baby, then the Rhône engulfed her.
She returned to her senses in a crystal cave. Beyond the translucent walls, several long algae undulated, as rocked by the breeze. Fishs slipped by among grasses. Close to her was posed the gold cup containing the pearl which she had wanted to seize. Then she saw her kidnapper. Enormous, the dragon with the shining scales contemplated her, lying close to the cup.
Fascinated by his emerald glance, she tried to rise and felt her memories of her life of the surface to be erased: her child, her husband, her house of Beaucaire, the fields, the silver olive-trees all around the sunny city, all this faded and grew blurred, like the memories of dreams. She did not hear nothing more in her head except the words of the dragon whose voice had resonances of a gong. She could only subdue to the will of the monster.
Drac had taken her because she was young and robust, and because she nursed herself her baby. The dragon needed the milk of a mortal to nourish his own young, a fragile freshly hatched creature. Thus, taken with the snares of a magic spell, the young woman became the slave of Drac and... the nurse of a dragon.
In the dim green light of her crystal prison, the days passed monotonously. The prisoner was rocked by the movements the water and bewitched by the dragon. She lived in a kind of trance, nursing the young of Drac and looking after him with all the tenderness of a mother. She slept when the dragon gave her the command and absorbed food he presented to her. Through the opalescent walls of the cave, she observed the movements of the river and its inhabitants; the striped of green and gold pike, the sinuous eel, the trout as fast as the thunder had become to her as familiar as her formerly neighbors of Beaucaire. In the watery world which surrounded her, the rocks and the algae had become the fields and the wood of her abolished past.
The visions came to her without her knowledge of the evil spells of the dragon. Every evening, on the command of Drac, she anointed the eyes of the young with a balsam intended to give him the piercing vision of a dragon and, each time the nurse rub her eyes, she impregnated them with traces of the ointment and thus received a piece of the magical capacity of the creature.
Seven years passed. The young of the dragon became large and strong, and the day came where Drac did not need anymore the services of his captive. However, since she had nourished his offspring, He did not kill her and, after having called on her the charms of forget and sleep, he brought her back to the fresh air.
When she awake on bank of the river not far from her home, the young woman felt disorientated. She preserved the confused memory of a burning sun day, the white and wet linen spread out in grass and of the merry laughter of her baby who played beside her. But now she was alone, the evening fell, the lights of the city were lit up one after another. She hesitated one moment then moved towards the city, and regained her house.
The door was opened for the freshness of the evening; she crosses the threshold. Two familiar faces turned toward her, those of a bearded man and a young boy who make her remember her husband in his youth. They were disfigured each other for a moment. Then, under the eyes of the astonished child, the man pushed a cry, sprang and took her in his arms. Her husband, who had believed her drowned and had cried her for seven years, overpowered her with questions, but she was unable to answer, having no memory of the universe of the dragon. The young boy, her son, remained mute in front of this stranger in rags whose silence worried him.
But the love of the man for his wife was so deep and his joy so sharp for this reunion that the child soon adopted the unknown stranger. Her neighbors accepted her in the same way although her seven years absence remained for all a complete mystery. She dreamed of dragons, she often said and her entourage listened to it with indulgence. Slowly, she took again her peaceful existence of the old days, being occupied with the domestic tasks, taking care of the father and the son, working in the fields accompanied by the other villagers.
The life had thus followed its course, serene and without troubles, but, as she went one day on the market place, suddenly, among the fish and vegetable salesmen, she saw appear Drac. The shining scales, he dominated crowd, his enormous head almost at the level of the roofs. His green eyes shone of a charming glare but all the busy merchants and the variegated crowd of the barges were not aware of him. The monster was visible only for the young woman. When she fetch a cry, he threw on her a penetrating glance.
"You see me, mortal?" a voice asked in her head.
"I see you, dragon," she answered and at the same moment she remembered the seven lost years.
She remained motionless when a claw of the dragon dropped on her and covered her left eye.
"You still see me?" asked the dragon. She answered yes. The claw posed on her right eye and, from the other, she distinguished nothing more than the crowd and the inventories from the market. Docile, she says to Drac that she did not see him any more. At the same moment, a fulgurating pain was irradiated in her head. From his claw, the dragon had torn off the eye that could saw him.
During many years, the woman lived, one-eyed, re-telling without rest the story of the dragon. The inhabitants believed her insane and refused to take account of the warnings which she persisted to gives them. Thus, every year, of the children continued to disappear on the market place and nobody, never, knew why.