Once upon a time there was a grand kingdom beset by two fierce dragons. Had it not been for the dragons, the kingdom would have been a wonderful place to live. The people were strong and kind, the lands vast and fertile, and the artists, musicians, and craftsmen were some of the most creative, inventive, and inspiring there had ever been.
One day, two huge shadows came over the kingdom. A commotion that no one had seen coming, nor could have ever prepared for, broke out in the skies above them. It began as rumbles and flashes of light in the distance. Many dismissed it as thunder and lightning – a passing storm. But the wise men of the land – the lords, wizards, and clerics – were concerned.
It wasn’t long until the distant rumbles became very nearby roars. The citizens of the kingdom began to leave their homes, the taverns, and castles, wondering what was happening and why. The looked up and saw two great dragons, one fiery red, the other as blue as sapphire, locked in a ferocious battle. Over and over they would withdraw, spread their wings, extend their claws, and come together with a great crash.
The red dragon was wild, unpredictable, fierce – the blue dragon was more calculating and maneuverable – and from their mouths came blasts of fire and ice – that were so powerful they could be felt all the way to the ground – but neither dragon seemed very hurt.
The battle raged for days, and weeks, until the whole kingdom had come nearly to a standstill. The dragons battle was all encompassing. Some had lost their homes, even loved ones, as the dragons swooped closer to the ground, blasting huge, flaming scars into the land – or completely freezing any crops, animals, or people that were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Occasionally, the red dragon would land in a field and eat whole herds of cattle…. but the blue dragon preferred people, and would sometimes swoop out of the night sky and grab two or three people with his giant talons, toss them into the air, and catch them in his great, gaping, fanged mouth. And then, once they had feasted, their battle would continue.
The dragons didn’t seem to care about the kingdom at all – all they cared about was defeating the other.
After many more weeks, the citizens were forced to try to live with the battle above them. The people were forced to adapt. Some seemed excited by it – exhilarated by the thrill and wildness of the combat, even creating a scoring system and placing bets on which dragon would win the day. Others were terrified – refusing to leave their homes. Still others – though they were a rare few – were finding ways to profit. Occasionally a scale or a drop of blood would fall, and they would venture out to find and sell it. The more practical townsfolk knew that regardless of what was happening above them, winter was coming. The crops needed harvesting, the roofs of buildings needed repair, or the dragons wouldn’t be their only problem.
For the whole winter the battle raged, and then into spring, and into summer… but as time went on something strange had started to happen. The people began to not only get used to the battle – they even started to figure out ways to use the dragon’s fire and ice to their advantage. They began to chart the patterns of the battle, watch the changes, and predict where the next blast would be. In the winter they would set up long lines of wood and meat and other objects that would be set aflame and then collected. They discovered that the blue dragon’s ice had the unique property of taking a very long time to melt, and so, in the summer, they would collect the blasts of ice and use them to preserve food, even cool their drinks.
Sure, some people, buildings, and crops were occasionally destroyed – but after so long, the people had not only adapted, but had come to see the dragon battle as normal – just part of life.
But the lords, wizards, and clerics didn’t feel that way – not at all. They knew that that the kingdom couldn’t continue this way.. Eventually, the battle in the sky would consume everything and everyone. And so they worked day and night to find a solution.
Then one day, the wisest of the wizards came to the parliament of Lords and presented something that would change the fate of the kingdom. He had been gathering dropped scales and blood, bits of ash, shards of ice, and through his magic and alchemy and science, was able to create a single arrow – one that had the power to not only pierce the hard dragon scales, but to weaken one of the dragons so much that they couldn’t fight anymore. The Lords raised a great cheer, and praised the wizard, promising lands and riches and rewards – but the old conjurer continued to look grave.
The Lords soon calmed down, an uneasiness settled over them as they looked at his furrowed brow… and then, as silence fell, the wizard looked around the room and said, “But which dragon gets the arrow?”
“Can’t you just make another?” one of them asked. “Yes… but the formula requires not only many ingredients, and many scales and drops of their blood, but must be brewed for at least two years. And, what’s more… the effect of the arrow only lasts for two years. There is no way around it. You must decide which dragon you want.”
For many days they argued the costs and benefits of fire and ice, red and blue, until one day, the wizards apprentice – who was also a very wise young man – said to them all — “Why not let the dragon’s decide?”
Soon, a party of adventurers, soldiers, lords, and wizards, climbed the highest mountain in the land. Upon reaching the top, they yelled out as one, “Dragons! Stop your battle for a moment! For we have something we must say! This is a request and a warning – you must listen to us or it will be your doom.”
Never before had either of these dragons been spoken to in this way. It surprised and intrigued them so much, that they pulled back from one another… the red dragon looked at the blue and said in a booming voice, “Hold for a moment. Let us hear what these little things have to say. It has been many years since we had a break from our battle for any entertainment – so, if only for amusement, let’s hear them.”
The blue dragon replied, his own voice incredibly loud, yet strangely pleasant – “Yes, brother… this should be interesting.”
The dragons looked at the tiny human band, turned, and flew at them. Even the most courageous of the soldiers felt his stomach sink within him, not knowing what would happen next.
But the dragons merely landed, coming to rest upon some crags on opposite sides of the mountain. The blue dragon simply said, “Speak.”
The Wizard had been chosen, and said, “Oh great and mighty dragons. Your battle has done great damage to our kingdom. Your fire and ice have destroyed our lands, houses, and people. We have grown weary of your battle and have spent many months creating a weapon against you, and have come to present you a choice – either take your terror and mayhem away from our lands, never to return – or choose from between you which of you which we shall cripple for two years, leaving the other the victor.”
The red dragon’s eyes flashed with red fire, the blue dragon’s with blue flame – and they said, in unison, “We will not leave. These skies are our sacred battle ground. We will not leave.”
And they flew up together and began to battle again – but this time it was more ferocious than ever. They tore at each other leaving gashes and scars, tearing holes their wings, and huge bite marks on their necks.
For three days they continued, devastating more of the land than ever before. Some people called the Lords and wizards foolish for ever going to the mountain, for ever presenting the choice…
And then, on the third day, there was silence. Everyone came out of their homes to see what had changed. And there, standing perched on the great city wall, were both dragons. They looked worn, beaten and exhausted. The blue dragon spoke, “This fight has gone on longer than either of us can remember. We know nothing else other than to fight one another. And no matter how hard we fight, there never seems to be a clear victor. Your threat has broken this stalemate, and for that we are thankful. Both of us desire victory as much as we desire rest. And so we have come to present our cases to you.”
The other spoke, “I am the Red Dragon. I am wild, unpredictable, fierce, and powerful. There is nothing more that I love than myself. If you let me survive, I make you no promises other than that so long as my interests align with yours, you will be well. But if they do not, I do not care if you live or die. Sometimes I feel like roaring and displaying my grandeur to the whole world, and if you do not worship me, I will become angry. Sometimes I feel benevolent, and will use my magic and flame to help you – so that you may worship me all the more. I love battle, and will often fly to other kingdoms to demonstrate my power to them – and they may become angry and fight against you, or in their fear they may cower and bring gifts, of which I will sometimes share, sometimes keep, and sometimes destroy, for that is my nature. I am the Red Dragon.”
Then the other spoke, “I am the Blue Dragon and I am not like my hot-headed brother. I too want your worship, but I am willing to work with you. If I am chosen to survive, I will use my magic and ice to help you, for you have not even begun to see the miracles my ice can do! I do not love to fight, except with my brother, and so I will spend most of my time wandering your lands, speaking well of you, basking in your adulation, and performing great tricks to excite and entertain. I have but one requirement of you. I have a great thirst for human blood – and it is your blood that gives such great potency to my magic. And so, once per week, you must bring me four people to eat – and I will make it easy on you. I do not want your warriors, wizards, craftsmen, or cooks. I will accept an old person, a sick person, a weak person, and a baby. I do love eating the babies most of all – for it is their blood that gives my magic the most potency. If you choose me to survive, I will do many good things for you – but my price is the blood of the old, sick, weak, and infant. I am the Blue Dragon.”
Then, both dragons closed their eyes, raised their heads, opened their wings, exposed their sparkling chests, and spoke in unison, “We are ready. Aim your weapon. Decide between us.”
The wizard, atop the highest tower of the castle, produced the arrow from his robe. It gleamed with magical white light. He handed it to the archer, who took it carefully, armed the bow, and looked at the wizard… which do I shoot?
The wizard replied, “That is for the people to decide.” And cried out from the tower, “Citizens of this great kingdom. Before you stands the Red Dragon and the Blue Dragon. They have made their cases. And now you must choose. Red or Blue.”