Three strangers met in the woods one day at sunset. They had each traveled a great distance alone and agreed to make camp together for the night and share their provisions among themselves. The first was Frawd, a Dwarf from the mountains who leaned heavily on a cane as he walked. The second was Amos, a Human hunter from the valley who wore a patch over his left eye. The third was Tyrone, a Dragon with a broken horn and a weak and shriveled right arm.
“Perhaps our friend the dragon could oblige us with a fire,” suggested Amos.
“I’m sorry,” said Tyrone. “But I have no fire. I lost it some time ago.”
“A dragon with no fire?” said Frawd, who was far more compassionate than people expect dwarfs to be. “That must be very difficult.”
“It is,” said Tyrone. “You see, among dragons, the day we can first breathe fire is like…like when a man’s voice changes or he starts to grow hair on his chin. It is sort of a coming-of-age, you see. A dragon who cannot breathe fire is considered little more than a hatchling.”
“How does a dragon lose his fire?” Amos asked, preparing to light a fire the old-fashioned way.
“Perhaps the same way a hunter loses an eye?”
“You’re right, of course. With only one good eye, I cannot tell how far away my prey is. A hunter with a handicap like that is no more use than—”
“Than a dwarf who cannot work,” interrupted Frawd. “Ever since I lost the use of this leg, I have been unable to work the mines. Working is very important to dwarfs, you know. I am as much an outcast among my people as you two are among yours.”
“So, we are all outcasts,” said Tyrone. “Perhaps it is fate that we meet.”
“Forgive me if this is impolite,” said Amos, “but I’m still very curious about how you came to be in this state. I’ve never heard of a dragon losing his fire before.”
“As far as I know, I’m the first one to suffer such a fate. My story begins with a beautiful dragon named Morina. I wanted to ask her to be my mate, but a bigger, stronger dragon beat me to it. I challenged him to combat and lost…though not after receiving these souvenirs,” he added, pointing to his injured horn and arm. “But it was the internal injury that was the most terrible. You see, we dragons make our fire with a special organ in our throats. Our own personal flint, you might say. This other dragon damaged it in the fight. I have not been able to produce so much as a smoke ring since.”
“Still, fighting for love,” said Frawd. “At least that’s a noble pursuit. My injuries are due to arrogance. As you may have noticed, I’m getting older, and I’m not as strong as I used to be. But it’s so difficult for me to admit any kind of weakness. And while working in the mine one day, my fellows and I came upon a long-abandoned tunnel. Certainly dug by our ancestors and abandoned even before we were born. The others wouldn’t dare step inside, but I was certain I was a match for anything. Once inside, there was a rockslide and my leg was trapped. Without my crutch I cannot move at all.”
“Trying to reclaim your youth is understandable,” said Amos. “In my case, however...You see, where I come from I am known as the greatest hunter of all. But a new hunter came to our village…or should I say huntress. And she soon surpassed me in skill and talent. I am ashamed to admit that the idea of a woman besting me infuriated me and I attempted to play a trick on her and drive her out of my valley once and for all. I followed her into the woods on a hunt one day, intending to create a false path and lead her into the darkest, densest part of the forest where I felt sure she would get lost. But I underestimated her skill and she sensed my presence almost at once. Assuming I was either an animal or a threat to her safety…she fired her arrow.”
“And that’s how you lost your eye?”
“What? No, she hit me in the leg. It hurt like all heck and as I was stumbling around in the underbrush I fell on some thorny bushes.”
“And you poked out your eye on the thorns?”
“No, the sound of my thrashing alerted a wild boar and he gored me in the eye.”
Both the dragon and the dwarf cringed slightly at Amos’ story. Eye stuff is always the worst, isn’t it?
“But now, Gentlemen,” said Amos, “I must ask if it has occurred to either of you, as it has to me, that we all might be bound for the same destination?”
“The thought crossed my mind,” said Frawd.
“You don’t mean that both of you are also going to the Falls of Flicken?”
“The very same.”
It made perfect sense that these three downtrodden souls would all be making their way toward the legendary Falls of Flicken: an immense waterfall to the north which was said to have healing powers to anyone who walked beneath its waters. No matter how serious or old the injury or malady, one trip through the curtain of those falls was said to cure anything, even if nothing else in the world could.
Except death. Cuz, ya know…obviously, right?
So the three strangers-turned-friends decided that very night to travel the rest of the way together and help each other along whenever possible.
As our party traveled north together, all was going well. Then, all of a sudden, Amos held out a hand, signaling for the others to stop. “Did you hear that?” he whispered.
“I don’t hear anything,” said Frawd.
“I do.” Then he inhaled deeply. He was smelling for something. “There is another hunter in this forest.”
“So what? We’re not animals…well, not wild ones, anyway.”
“Thanks,” said Tyrone.
“You don’t understand,” said Amos. “I’ve heard of the hunter who lives in these woods. He has a violent temper and has sworn to kill any trespassers who try to hunt on his territory. Even if we could convince him that I’m not trying to hunt here, he might not believe it. Trust me, we need to pass through these woods quickly.”
“I can fly,” said Tyrone. “But dragons’ wings are not built for long trips, which is why I was walking to the falls instead of flying. And they’re usually just strong enough to carry the dragon’s weight.”
“Do you think you could manage?” asked Frawd.
“Just long enough to get out of the woods? Yes.” And he wrapped an arm around the man who wrapped an arm around the dwarf and the dragon took off into the sky. Sure enough, the hunter Amos had heard (and, apparently, smelled) fired an arrow at Tyrone after he broke above the tree line. Luckily, it missed, and Tyrone was able to reach the far side of the forest and safety.
“How do you feel?” asked Amos.
“A little worn out,” admitted Tyrone. “Could we stop and rest for a bit?”
“Of course,” said Frawd. “You saved our lives back there. It’s the least we can do.”
“I never would’ve flown away in the old days,” said Tyrone. “Back when I had my fire…and both my arms…I wouldn’t have been afraid of some lousy human…no offense, Amos.”
“I was the same way when I was younger,” said Frawd. “As a matter of fact, that’s why I dug into that cavern where I got hurt. To prove I was still not afraid of anything. But, trust me, sometimes in life it’s better to just walk away. Or fly as the case may be.”
“Maybe you’re right. Say, I meant to ask,” he added, turning to Amos. “How did you know there was a hunter in the woods?”
“I know what a man sounds like when he’s trying to make as little noise as possible,” said Amos. “But it was the smell that gave him away. Hunters sometimes cover themselves in pungent flowers and plants so that animals can’t pick up our scent. It works on animals, but not on me. The thing that smelled like stinkweed was moving. That’s how I knew it wasn’t stinkweed, but a hunter trying not to be traced.”
“Wow! You must be the best hunter in the world!”
“I don’t know about that. Admittedly, losing my eye has made me appreciate my other senses a bit more.”
For a moment, they all sat in silent thought. When Tyrone was feeling better they continued on their journey. And it wasn’t long before they arrived at the legendary Falls of Flicken! That famed waterfall of magical healing water! That glorious…spectacular…tiny little…it was a spring. That’s all it was. Just a little trickle of water passing over some rocks.
“These,” said Frawd, “are the Falls of Flicken?”
“I guess some of the stories were exaggerated,” said Tyrone.
“Well…are they at least magical?” asked Amos. To find out, Frawd cupped some of the water in his hands (which took a very long time, as you can imagine) and splashed it on Tyrone’s bad arm. They all three stared at it. Nothing happened. It was clear that the Falls of Flicken did not have healing powers. They had come all this way for nothing.
Sadly, the travelers went their separate ways, readying themselves for the rest of their unhappy lives…but that’s not quite how it happened. They met again, these three companions. Once more, years later, as they did the first time, by chance on the road and shared what had happened in the meantime:
When Tyrone got to his home, everyone was still laughing at how spectacularly he had been beaten and teased him about his lack of fire. Except one very pretty girl dragon who didn’t like guys who were always fighting and preferred the sensitive, gentle type who looked before he leaped. She felt bad for what Tyrone had been through and became a very good friend to him…and a very good wife!
When Frawd arrived home, he was asked to take over the position of Chief Dwarf. His years of experience and wisdom, not to mention the bravery he showed in trying to mine that abandoned tunnel, made him perfect for the job!
When Amos got back to his village, the huntress who had shot him, thereby indirectly causing his injury, felt terrible for what she had done. And she admitted that while she was a good shot and had a keen eye, she needed training on some of the subtler aspects of hunting. Listening carefully, recognizing smells, things like that. Amos agreed to teach her and, about a year later, to marry her!So, you see, even though all three of our friends thought their lives were over, all that their injuries really meant was that they had a chance to start new lives. Lives that were very long and very happy…all thanks to the Falls of Flicken!
Freddy Flunkerer wrote some extraordinary (and unusual) fairy tales back in his native country of Jolsonburg. Read all about the man and his stories in Flunkerer's Fables, for the Amazon Kindle or whatever mobile device you prefer!