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Friday, 7 February 2014

A Suffolk dragon...

There are a number of dragons in the folklore of Suffolk and Essex, all attested around the early years of the 15th century.  The Suffolk black dragon from Bures, which is said to have fought a red-mottled black dragon from Essex, and fled the scene.  Another dragon which appeared near the River Stour in Wormingford made a nuisance of itself devouring wayfarers until killed either by Sir Bertram de la Haye or Sir George Marney [there are two legends] both of whom bear names currently reflected in in local villages [Layer de la Haye and Layer Marney].  Previous to this, a dragon in Bures was shot at unsuccessfully by militia from Colchester, and may have been the dragon killed subsequently by Sir Bertram [or Sir George].

Where, you may ask, are you going with this, Sarah?
Where I'm going is to explain to you that I've agreed to write an anthology of modern fairy tales with author Giselle Marks [who has guest blogged for me regarding her regencies] and I'm writing one story into which this information falls.  Find the facebook page for the anthology here

So, I have the opening of my story, which I want to share with you all, because I want to check if the archaic speech I've given her is clearly understandable [I wrote it in Middle English and ruthlessly culled most of it] to give the flavour of 1435ish without being too OTT.  And also I want to advertise the anthology when it comes, which should be at the back end of summer...

Oh, and I have named her Tanduistla, a Latinised version of, so far as I can put it together, Brythonic Celtic for Lady Dark Flame. This will come out later in the story.  -istl is a name ending in Medieval Welsh and Cornish female names. 

Lady Darkflame

She woke up and stretched, stifling a scream as the wound in her armpit pulled. 
It was festering, and the poison struck into her, burning, aching, sickening her to her very stomach. However, she could not afford to give in to the pain; soon her baby would be waking, hungry, and in need. She must go and feed herself, and then she could feed the infant who had consumed all her energies to care for,  ignoring the pain to return to her offspring.
She cautiously stretched her limbs one at a time, and dragged herself off her couch, to make her painful way out into the light.
The light hurt her too after so long; and as she attempted to set off to search for food, she knew that she was doomed to failure.  Dizziness filled her head, and she collapsed on the ground with a little cry. 

 Davy heard the cry and climbed over the stile to see if someone was hurt.  What he saw took his breath away.  A cynical eight-year-old  is not readily impressed, but Davy had to pause for a moment to collect himself before he turned and called.
“Dad!  Dad, come quickly, and bring your vet kit!” he called.  “You got a patient!”
He gave a high pitched giggle that was half nervous; he could not prevent it from escaping.
Richard Marney looked suspiciously at his son.
“What kind of practical joke are you trying to pull, young Davy?” he said.  “Your giggle did rather give it away,” he added apologetically.  It was a shame to quench the lad’s high spirits since his mother had left them for a richer man.
“It’s not a joke, Dad, there is a patient for you, but… but it’s a patient who’s rather outside your normal patients,” said Davy.  The note of urgency in his tone convinced Richard to pick up the case he always kept in the car, and hurry over towards the style.   Davy had already moved forward and was saying,
“It’s ok, my Dad is a vet, and he treats me, and there’s nothing he can’t do!”
Richard wished that this was true, and wondered if he would be treating some female hiker who had hurt herself.  He had trained long enough that he was quite capable of treating humans as well as animals, but some women might throw a hissy fit if confronted with a doctor who was a vet, not a human doctor.
He climbed the stile and gasped.
Davy was approaching the huge, black, reptilian creature with absolute confidence.  It was not a crocodile.  It had wings.  It…
There were no such things as dragons.  It must be a puppet, a hoax.
The stench from the infected wound came to Richard on the light breeze. 
That did not smell like a hoax.
“Here comes Dad,” said Davy.  “You need to let him see the wound, Mr Dragon.”
The dragon opened its eyes.
“Mistress,” she said, in a hissing sort of voice.
“Ooh, you can speak?” Davy was enchanted.
“I wis your sspeech is strange; dis iss the passage of time, I trow,” said the dragon.
“I know some Latin,” said Davy. “Nihil titillandum draco dormiens.”
“Thaet is wise rede, youngling,” the dragon panted, puffs of small flame coming from her nostrils. She hated to trust; but the boy showed no fear or hatred, and nor did the man.  Perplexity was the main scent from him.  She had to trust.  What a ‘vet’ might be, she could not guess, but the boy had, if she had understood him correctly, told her to show the man her wound.  She rolled onto her left side and raised her right arm.
“That’s very nasty, Mistress Dragon,” said Richard, deciding that politeness was always a good policy to any intelligent beast with six inch teeth who could breathe fire.  However unlikely this situation seemed.  “How came you by this wound?”
The dragon hissed, agitated, and smoke billowed.
“I was sore attacked by thaet murrain, Sir George Marney,” she said.  “His despite hath laid sore curse  upon thaet wound.”
“I know that story,” said Davy.  “Some people say the dragon – you – were killed by Sir Bertram de Haye!”
“Thaet was my mate,” said the dragon. “Yt was some turns of thaem seasons before.   Thus had I need to mate wid thaem Essex dragon.”
“I know a story about the Suffolk Black dragon fighting the Essex Red,” said Davy.
“Yt was a rough wooing,” said the dragon.
“You have a young one then?” asked Richard, who was busy cleaning the wound. Keeping her talking would keep her mind from the pain.
“My babe iss still in ye  schelle” said the dragon.  “Dis wound I, thou wilt not heal wid all the erbes in thy care, yt be cursed.”
“But that same George Marney is my ancestor, so I may remove the curse he laid,” said Richard, thinking it easier than holding forth about the wonders of antibiotics.  “I will fetch food for you and for your baby when it hatches.”
“Thaet one of Marney’s blode should be so good heartens me,” said the dragon.  “And I will learn thy language presently , as I learned that of the last time of waking.”


  1. OH this sounds very interesting.. I would like to read more of this tale, thanks for this little tid bit..CARMALEE

  2. Thanks Carmalee!
    I've got her up to speed with modern language a couple of thousand words further on - largely because of my convenience - and I'm now struggling with how they can hide her in human form...

  3. Wow, I totally love this beginning. It sounds like a great story - and yay for Middle English! You made it a really nice accent more than a difficult thing to read.