The Dragon Parable....continued
Over time the skin on the prince's legs became calloused from gripping the dragon's back and his hand grew rough and hardened. He began wearing gloves to hide the malady. After many nights of riding he discovered scales growing on the backs of his hands as well. With dread he realized his fate were he to continue, and so he resolved to return no more to the dragon.
But after a fortnight he again sought out the dragon, having been tortured with desire. And so it transpired many times over. No matter what his determination, the prince eventually found himself pulled back as if by the cords of an invisible web. Silently, patiently the dragon always waited.
One cold moonless night their excursion became a foray against a sleeping village. Touching the thatched roofs with fiery blasts from his nostrils, the dragon roared with delight when the terrified victims fled from their burning homes. Swooping in the serpent belched again and and flames engulfed a cluster of screaming villagers. The prince closed his eyes tightly in an attempt to shut out the carnage.
In the predawn hours the prince crept back from his dragon trysts, the road outside his father's castle usually remained empty. But not tonight. Terrified refugees streamed into the protective walls of the castle. The prince attempted to slip through the crowd to close himself into his chambers, but some of the survivors stared and pointed toward him.
"He was there" one woman cried out, "I saw him on the back of the dragon." Others nodded their heads in angry agreement. Horrified the prince saw that his father the king was in the courtyard holding a bleeding child in his arms. The king's face mirrored the agony of the people as his eyes found the princes. The son fled, hoping to escape into the night, but the guards apprehended him as if he were a common thief. They bought him to the great hall where his father sat upon his throne. The people on every side railed against the prince.
"Banish him" he heard one of his brothers cry out. "Burn him alive." other voices shouted.
As the king rose from the throne bloodstains from the wounded darkly on his royal robes. The crowd fell silent in expectation of his decree. The prince who could not bear to look into his father's face, stared at the flagstones on the floor. "Take off your gloves and your tunic", the king commanded. The prince obeyed slowly dreading to have his metamorphosis uncovered before the kingdom. Was his shame not already great enough? He had hoped for a quick death without further humiliation.
Sounds of revulsion ripped through the crown at the sight of the prince's thick scaled skin and the ridge growing along his spine.
The king strode toward his son, and the prince steeled himself, fully expecting a backhanded blow, even though he had never been struck so by his father.
Instead his father embraced him and wept as he held him tightly. In shocked disbelief, the prince buried his face against his father's shoulder.
"Do you wish to be freed from the dragon my son.?" The prince answered in despair, "I wished it many times but there is no hope for me." "Not alone", said the king, "You cannot win against the serpent alone."
"Father" sobbed the prince, "I am no longer your son; I'm half beast.'
But his father replied, "My blood runs in your veins. My nobility has always been stamped deep within your soul." With his face still hidden tearfully within his father's embrace, the prince heard the king instruct the crowd. "The dragon is crafty; some fall victim to his wiles and violence. There will e mercy for all who wish to be freed. Who among you has ridden the dragon?"
The prince lifted his head to see someone emerge from the crowd. To his amazement he recognized an older brother; one who had been lauded throughout the kingdom for his onslaughts against the dragon in battle and for his many good deeds. Others came, some weeping, others hanging their heads in shame. The king embraced them all.
"This is our most powerful weapon against the dragon," he announced. "Truth. No more hidden flights. Alone we cannot resist him."