An older woman was watching her grandchildren from a distance; sitting and doing the piles of mending that seem to accumulate when you have two young children in the house. Truth be told, they were old enough to be on their own, but she preferred to keep an eye out for them anyway: be it out of love or out of fear… a premonition, perhaps. They were sitting on an outcrop of rocks that lead into the sea, watching the waves crash around them. One of them looked up at the sky, turned to the other and said: “The dragon will come soon. The water will burn. Gran will want to know.”
The first child was Hughes. He always said things like that. Wynefrede, his sister, was sitting next to him when he spoke. She did not turn to look at him. Instead, she sat quietly and thought about his words, about her Gran’s old stories and the legend of the dragon asleep in the channel. Gran would say that the people were fierce, the land was wild, and they therefore needed vicious protector. Wynefrede thought this was all rubbish, and said so, many times, to both her Gran and to Hughes. But then the devil from Spain was coming, and according to the great Lords, they were coming to burn the land, kill the men and steal the children. When a devil is coming, even if it’s not The Devil, it was better to have a dragon asleep in the water.
Watching the young girl run towards her, Gran stopped her mending and thought about her home. So close to the sea it was often cold, windy, and rainy. A place that was altogether unpleasant, in truth, but safe. It was an important place to live: on the edge of the country, where life was harder but people were stronger because of it. She reminded the children of this often. It was best they remembered this, especially when they grew into adulthood and learned the truth. For a moment, she was so lost in thought that she failed to see Wynefrede standing in front of her, waiting for permission to speak.
Eventually she turned to her, and in a soft voice, asked: “Well dear, what is it?”
“The dragon is coming,” Wynefrede said. “That’s what Hughes said. He said I should tell you. He’s coming soon. Is there really a dragon that lives in the water? Are they here, the devils that want to attack us?”
Against her better judgment and all of her instincts, knowing full well it would expose them all, she sent for Lord Drake. He was the Lord of the Sea: a hero in these parts. Loved by the Queen, feared by the Lords and despised by his enemies. He would know what to do. After all, when it was something to do with the sea, in all its danger and its glory, there really was no one better to ask.
When the Lord Drake arrived, the three of them were waiting in the main room. Cider was served. Gran seemed very comfortable with him as they sat together, chatting quietly. The children remained silent – one was off dreaming, the other was slightly overwhelmed. At one point the conversation stopped, and both adults turned towards Hughes. Wynefrede looked at her Gran in fear – she was always very clear about not telling anyone about what Hughe saw. This time however, Gran looked right at Hughes, and nodded. Unfazed, Hughes said: “ the dragon will come out soon. The water will burn. I saw it.”
Drake leaned in towards Hughes, with a sudden realization in his eyes. Wynefrede and Gran stayed silent, watching. “Explain to me exactly what you saw, young man, all of it,” he asked, forcefully. Hughes was frightened by his tone, and looked to his Gran. She nodded at Hughes encouragingly. “I didn’t see his eyes, or his wings. I saw fire. The water was on fire. There were giant flames, creating a wall. Then there was the spirit of a dragon floating around in my mind,” he said, slightly apologetically. “His spirit floats around here. He’s always been here, I just didn’t see it”.
They saw Drake nod, a look of understanding on his face. There was even the slightest hint of a smile. He sat quietly, in thought, and slowly finished his cider. The three waited in silence, afraid. He eventually got up, patted the children softly on their heads, and headed towards the door. Gran walked him to the door to show him out. Before leaving, he turned to her and said: “ the young man really does have the look of his father, doesn’t he? I had heard stories of the surviving heirs but I didn’t pay them any attention… there is much gossip surrounding the fall of certain courtiers. It would seem that I was mistaken.” He smiled and continued. “After meeting the boy, I do understand why, of course. It is a shame for his sister, however. Perhaps, when this is over, I will come back to see you, and we can discuss her situation.” And he turned and left.
The three of them could not have known what Mayor Drake took from that conversation, or what he would do with any of what he learned that day. The planned attacks by the King of Spain were common knowledge, as was the King’s hatred of their Queen, and his need to destroy her. Port cities and docks were on alert, boats were being requisitioned … it’s all anyone talked about. Drake was one of the few that knew that any preparations to this point to protect their island were insufficient. He spent a large amount of his time plotting against the Spanish, thinking of ways to push back the invasion, to save his country and his Queen. An added bonus would be that he would earn her everlasting gratitude, of course. His attacks on Spanish ships, while so far successful, were not enough to stop the massive flotilla from arriving on his shores.
While he did not know if there was an actual dragon in the seas (his gran had told him the same stories), he would make sure that the legend lived on. There was the dragon in the sea, and there was the dragon on the sea. He was Drake, after all. Drake, Draca, Drago … who else but he could bring the legend to life? He would create chaos, fear and desperation on the seas. He would sow panic and despair; the vast sea would become tiny, cluttered and disordered, and the turmoil would be one’s destruction and another’s victory.
Weeks later, the enemy arrived in perfect formation, a giant crescent gleaming with crosses and filling the air with chants and prayers. Before they could get too close to the shoreline, the dragon rose from the depths of earth and set fire to the sea. The attacking warships were deadly. Pitch and tar fuelled the flames, and the sulphuric vapours of the brimstone created the fires of hell. The ships burned brightly, the blaze setting the midnight sky alight. The larger flames were on the sea, and there were smaller and continuous explosions above them. They were the fires from deep within the earth, menacing the enemy, protecting the island.
The people of the town did not sleep that night. As soon as the first watchtower gave the signal, the church bells began to ring, and everyone woke and went out to watch the Armada arrive. Of course Gran, Hughes and Wynefrede were among them. They witnessed the awakening of the dragon: saw the ships depart, and then chaos. They heard the explosions echoing through the wild wind that had risen and fanned the flames, and could feel cries of sailors and soldiers riding over the waves, crashing into the shore. A wall of ships had arrived, and was stopped by a wall of fire. After a while, they could only hear the crackling of the ships left burning, and a few cries of sailors left alive in the sea. A short while later, it ended, and there was silence.
The woman took the children home and put them to bed. Once calm had return, she sat down, and sighed as she realized how difficult it would be to protect them after this. Lord Drake will want them, of course. Sitting in her chair, alone in her room, she sees that in the end, it was Hughes who had awakened the dragon, and had thus changed their lives forever.
Flavit Jehovah et Dissipati Sunt – He blew with his winds, and they scattered