Maud and the Wyvern

It appears as the emblem of envy, insignia of war, personification of pestilence, representation of non-transmuted matter in alchemy, disguise of the devil and as a prevalent device in heraldry. Rarely, however, does it elicit emotions of friendship or love - which is why the medieval legend of the Mordiford wyvern is so unexpectedly poignant.

Maud's parents had little objection to their young daughter owning a cat or dog - but they were more than a little perturbed by the creature that stood before them, small and colourful though it might be. Earlier that day, Maud had been walking through the woods near her home at Mordiford, in English county of Herefordshire, when she came upon a strange little animal looking forlorn and dejected. It was poking its snout listlessly a clumb of flowers, and was quite evidently lost.

The creature looked like a baby dragon: its body was no bigger than a cucumber and its bright green scales - sparkling like a shining peridots in the sunlight - made it appear even more like one as it squatted upon its single pair of legs. Every so often, it would open its fragile, membranous wings and flutter them hopefully, but it was clearly far too young to fly. As soon as it saw Maud, however, its sadness evaporated, and it began chasing merrily around her, frolicking with joy that it was no longer alone.

Maud was throughly enchanted by her unexpected playmate, and happily took it back home with her, convinced that her parent would share her delight in the tiny creature. But they recognized it as a wyvern (albeit a very young one), and their reaction was very different. In word that brooked no opposition, they insisted that she should take it back to where she had found it and leave it there. Steeling themselves to ignore her tearful protestations, they closed the cottage door behind her and wathched, sadly but with great relief, as their daughter walked slowly back to the woods, followed by her strange little companion.

Once out of sight, howerver, Maud turned away from the main woodland path and ran instead toward her secret hidding place - a little nook known only to her, where she spent many happy hours concealed from the rest of the world. Here she placed her new-found pet, and here would remain, where she could visit it, play with it, and feed it every day, safe from the prying eyes of her parents and the other Mordiford folk.

As the months went by, howerver, Maud's pet grew even larger, and at a quite alarming rate. The cucumberlike youngster was maturing into an impressive adult wyvern, whose soft green scales had hardened into razorsharp discs of a deep viridescent tone, whose gossamer wings had become leathery and bat-like, and whose curly tail bore at its tip a deadly sting.

The saucers of milk brought to it everyday by the ever-faithful Maud, which had once satisfied its juvenile appetite, were no longer able to dispel her pet's pangs of ravenous hunger. And so it began to seek sustenance elsewhere. The local farming community soon suffered great losses of livestock, and it was not long before the culprit was unmasked. Maud's dragon had acquired a liking for the flesh of sheep and cows. But worse was to come. When some of the bolder farmers attempted to deal with the monster, it ably defended itself, and in so doing discovered another taste much to its liking - humans!

Maud was devastated by the actions of her former playmate, and begged it to end its murderous assaults upon the townfolk, but to no avail. Not even gentle rearing by a loving child could suppress indefinely the irascible and predatory insticts of a true dragon. With the advent of maturity, these had inevitably been unleased in a violent torrent of uncontrollable, primeval force. Just one person remained safe from the marauding wyvern - Maud, its early playmate and friend.

Not for her the flame and the fear, only the love that ever the heart of the most terrible dragon contains, but which is so rarely ignited by human. She alone could walk safely beside it, stroke its ebony claws and gaze without trepidation into its eyes of blazing chrysolite. Such is the power of friendship and love.

Neither of these, howerver, was sufficient to change to inevitable course that events were about to take. The wyvern's tyranny had to be countered if Mordiford's habitants were to survive. And so it was that one morning, a tall figure encased in armour and mounted upon a magnificent steed rode into the woods, with a sturdy lance grasped firmly in his hand.

A member of Mordiford's most illustrious family, the Garstons, he dismounted and courageously sought out his dreadful quarry. Suddenly, from amid a tangled mass of foliage, a massive green monster lunged forward; it scaly covering had imitated so intimately the leafy vegetation that it had been completely invisible as it lay in wait for its opponent.

Instinctively raising his shield, Garston deflected the great blast of fire that roared from the wyvern's gaping jaws, and aimed his lance at its thoat, distended from the force of its expulsion of flame. The lance pierced the monster's flesh, and an explosion of dark blood burst forth, staining the grass. Garston also carried a sharp sword, and was about to plunge it into the stricken creature's head when a young girl, screaming not in fear but in hysterical rage, ran out of some bushes and starled hurling stones at him. His horse reared up in alarm, but far more starling to Garston was the extraordinary sight of this same child, kneeling on the blood-soaked grass and weeping uncontrollably, with her arms around the neck of the dying wyvern.

Unnerved, and oddly perturbed by his success in slaying the huge dragon that had terrorized Mordiford for so long, Garston rode away, back to the joyful villagers - leaving behind a dead monster with its only friend, a girl called Maud for whom the innocence of childhood had come to a sudden and savagely premature end.