Legend of the Jewel-serpent, Part 1, by J. W. Cassandra
When the Earth had been populated yet by dragons, once in the dawn of time immemorial, a legend had arisen. This legend has been handed down for centuries, milennia, for time immemorial at the flaming fires of legends, by those who know the secrets of human soul. At the time of the legend, on the border of the Western Dragonland and the Eastern Dragonland, where a wide wilderness stretched and was crossed by a coiling river, people sheltered behind their tents, and all offsprings came into the world to fight against dragons. In defence of their well-running horses, their hawks flying with the wind, their fearful weapons, even the least battle-hardened men marched intrepidly against the evil creatures wasting their lands, kidnapping their daughters, and ruining their lives.
And so this have been taking place on for time immemorial.
Till, on a beautiful day, one girl, hurrying to the river bank, so beautiful that the suitors rivalized for her, did’nt see a tiny serpent meandering right on the path where she could get to the water. She stopped, glancing the tiny serpent for herself. Well, there was something to look at it! Each of the scales of the tiny serpent sparkled and glittered with tiny gems, a tiny golden crown with three branches was on its head, and a small, shining diamond sat on top of each branch. And if all that isn’t enough, it said to the girl in human language by this manner, „You girl, give me a swallow of fresh water from your jug, and behold, you’ll see a miracle!”
She gave a drink the jeweled-crowned little serpent, then it yielded to her as expressing its gratitude and thus sighed, „If you take me to your home, hidden in your chest, and entertain me well with fresh milk every morning till the evening of the third full moon, you may be grateful for the rest of your life, and not only you, but all your offsprings, along with your family!”
She didn’t think much: she took out an embroidered kerchief, the jewel-serpent slipped in it, and she hid it, then, after ladling water, she hurried home because the premonitory signs of coming of the evil dragons appeared on the sky: shadow of wings covered the sky, the shining sun. Midnight darkness enveloped the landscape, but then all the jewels, the golden crown, and set of diamonds of the crown of the tiny serpent hiding in her chest, began to scatter their light, and she quickly found her way home.
Around the tents, spears and swords rose to the sky for defence, the horses kept snorting nervously, and the warriors encircled their homes ready to fight.
The girl was sent to the shelter of their tent by his brother, and scarcely she reached it, the dragon army had already swept down. Wild fighting, desperate struggle began: bows were drawn, bowstrings twanged, shot arrows whizzed, swords slammed, enraged, painful shouts, blood-curdling dragon howls, unearthly screams were sound and the army of warriors dwindled away at a quick pace.
The very moment the little serpent slipped forth and said, „Just give me to drink some milk and you’ll see, you won’t regret it!” She gave a drink it, and the little serpent suddenly slipped under the flap of the tent and disappeared. Nevertheless, she regretted it, you should think, how much she regretted it! So much the more as, people of the Middle Wilderness believe that the little serpent who asks for milk to drink, brings good luck. Well, even if it is jewel-scaled, diamond-crowned! Even the eldest elders had never heard of such an event, it was considered a very fortunate omen. And its disappearance foreshadowed ill fortune. As soon as the little jewel-serpent disappeared, the Dragon King appeared in the sky and cut ahead the furious dragon army. Light of its crown blinded the dragons, who regained their consciousness by it, and the fiery light of the crown-diamonds put them where they came from: to the bottom of dragon-hell in those days… That dragons remained only, who didn’t fall upon the people, but protected, taught them. However, they didn’t even take part in the fight against the people of the Middle Wilderness.
Not only the dragons, but also the warriors were blinded by the luxuriant brilliance, but then happened only the miracle: wounds of the wounded healed over, all the dead revived, and people of the whole village began to dance good spirits. Everyone courted the little serpent’s favour, who of course, somehow came to light by this time. But the little serpent chose only the girl with the jug, it looked at nobody else.
Then it lived with them and the girl entertained it well with fresh milk every morning. So, the time went until the third full moon. Then the little jewel-serpent drank the milk and said: „At full moon, come out with the bravest men, I’ll wait for you on the riverside path! But bring only three men with you! Be careful you all, let no one else come!”, and it slipped away in the grass.
A heated debate arose on who are the three most courageous. But they fought a duel in pairs, jousted and mesured their strength against each other to no purpose – there was not even one warrior for whom the counsel of the elders would have dared to say undoubtedly, he was the most courageous… And the time kept dwindling. It was growing dusk yet, the sun was saying goodbye on glowing clouds, and the moon was drawing on brighter and brighter, and at midnight, the little snake was waiting for the three bravest men and the girl with the jug…
Then lots were drawn: the choice fell on the secret love of the girl with jug, her brother, and her rejected suitor… There was nothing else to do, the three of them took the road with the girl.
Reaching the river, the little snake glided forth, „Choose from the gems of my scales! Every warrior can choose only one gem! You all are lucky, for no one has really accompanied you, not even crouching… Perhaps as a shadow… If anybody tried to follow you, I would feel it and then woe to him!”
As the serpent uttered it in its mouth, a bitter moan broke the riverside silence: it was the evil witch of the village who flew over them in the image of a falcon. She only forgot that evilness casts a shadow over the full moon, what sounds an alarm for the little jewel serpent… And the evil spirit had already fallen for not to fly up any more.
„Well, then choose, warriors!”
„But how?”,they asked. „What is the proper choice?”
„Your heart whispers it, yield to it!”
Then the girl’s rejected suitor chose the diamond that was the most brilliant of them on the crown.
„I didn’t speake about the diamonds! I mentioned my scales, warrior!”
„Oh, forgive me, wonderful jewel-serpent! I don’t know what possessed my mind!”, and he took a jade scale. The girl’s brother chose an amber and her secret love a ruby.
The little snake nodded, „Exactly, as I expected! Well, you, warrior with the jade, set off the moonbeam path! You who took off the amber, head for Occident! And you with the ruby head for Orient! All three of you will find your own fortune on the chosen path!” With that, it blew an emerald scale into the girl’s hair, then abducting her, it disappeared.
But then, luck! But what kind of luck? And how do they get to where they need to be, even if they don’t know what they should find? And how should they find the girl?
Then, a terrifying voice rumbled from somewhere high in the clouds, „If you come back, you’ll find both of us!”
They couldn’t do anything else: they set off, three of them in three different directions. The rejected suitor sprang on to the back of a falcon in order to fly up to the moonbeam path. He left his horse and gun behind, as the falcon wouldn’t have borne them… And the falcon darted upon the azure, with the Suitor on his back. Then, as they were halfway, the falcon flang a word back to the warrior, „Give me something to eat and drink, because I’m tired!”, but the warrior had nothing, so he did not give him food or drink. Even if he had had food and drink, he wouldn’t have given them because he was envious.
Then the falcon bucked him off its back and fell to the ground in a dive-flight. The warrior stumbled up and down, and, thanks to the jade scale, he gripped a beam of silver light. It flew him up the moonlight path and he set off. He waded in a silvery spray, as if in the morning dew, but he didn’t know what to do. He was tired after a long, long journey, so he sat down on a mound that came forth of nowhere.
„Come, warrior, be the Knight of the Silver Light!”, once, he heard a tinkling voice. As he looked around, he saw a silver-winged cricket.
„Where should I come?”
„Well, to the Palace of Miracles at the end of the moonlight path! The Moon Fairy lives there, and he who is so fortunate to come to her, will be dubbed Knight of the Silver Light by her!”
Well, the Suitor rose and set off, because his heart’s eager wish was just to be dubbed a knight. And the silver-winged cricket led him to the Palace of Miracles. „You have to get on here by yourself!” it chirped. „If you find the clue to the magic door, you can enter. If not, the Moon Fairy will put you to death!”, and with that the cricket disappeared.
And the Suitor passed round the Palace of Miracles. But the palace was spinning fascinating, and even if the magic door appeared, it immediately turned away from his eyes. His eyes were already really dazzling, he had been searching for the entrance for so long… then he pulled out the jade scale and it stopped the rotation with its light. Then he touched the scale to the door, and the door of the palace was opened. His eyes started to dazzle really only as he entered! The walls shone in rainbow tints, the ceiling hazed with silver spray, the opening and closing doors gave a glimpse into lavish, splendouring rooms, then hid everything… until he beheld the fairy sitting on a throne: silver light shone forth from her, the fairy herself sparkled and glittered, her marvellously beautiful figure was enveloped by a silver cloak, her dense, silvery flood of locks were falling to the ground through her shoulders, on her head a fairy crown…
And her gaze was enchanting, yet frightening: the Suitor knew at once, that the Moon Fairy knew even his most feared secrets…
„A deceitful desire has guided you this journey, warrior: the Girl with Jug can never be yours! Even if the secret of eternal life were yours after dubbing you Knight of the Silver Light by me, you wouldn’t be able to kill those in whom you see an enemy! For if you could do so, love would still separate you from the Girl with Jug, for you want to bring about the downfall of those who are the dearest to her heart! But if this desire wouldn’t poison your heart and soul, you could not be my knight even then, for you did not follow the path either of the Occident or the Orient: you are not a true warrior, greed, evil infect you”, and with it, she shone on him the righteous ray of light of her fairy gaze. And the Suitor fell dead on the moonlight path, then back to the riverbank where he had set off from.
Meanwhile, the girl’s brother headed Occident with the amber. For a long time he has just kept going, always towards sunset, but he found nothing to direct him on the road. He set out neither armed nor on horseback, either: he meandered on beats, cutting through cinder forests in a beeline, which got their name from the cindery glow of the twilight. He wandered through the country that had been wandered by no man, and where he didn’t know where to turn, he took out the amber scale, which showed him the direction. Once, the warrior was so tired that he sat down on a stone along the path. As he was sitting there, ants flocked passing that way. He watched where they were marching, as the ants show where it is expected to rain…
Then the ants stopped, and one of them said, „You’d do well, you warrior, to find the rock on which the Dragon King hung his sack in the height of the clouds! If you go where we come from, you’ll find it sooner or later!”
„And what is that sack needed for?”
„For that, warrior, that you pull it off there and take it to the Dragon King. Because if you manage to get it out of there, it means that you have defeated the Magus of Occident, who oversees the sack… And then you can take it to the Dragon King. Or you can find your companion who is heading to Orient, to help him…”