Monday, 10 August 2009

Saint George - 3. The Siege

Exactly one week after it had plucked a first sheep from the flock, another fell a victim, also during the night, and judging from the remains, mauled in the selfsame manner as the first. So, though this be a monster, there was method in it.
In consequence, a decision was taken to lay a full-scale siege to the pond. Never again this brute should be given a chance to put a paw ashore. Around the pond a ring of guard posts was set up to be manned night and day by armed bands of the strongest and bravest men.
For a full week nothing happened. The guardsmen were growing weary. Already some of them, in the rash supposition that their mere presence sufficed to scare the beast, brought dice to their post.
Until, on the morning of the seventh day, the beast raised its head above the water. And some head it was!
A head that was all jaws. When they opened wide - as the beast was doing - they showed double rows of fangs in both the upper and lower part, so horrific that whoever saw them, presently realized that whatever was caught between them would be successively crushed, shattered and pulverized.
The palate resembled red plush. The eyes were placed in the upper lip, as were the nostrils. From the latter spurted two jets of brown smoke. Evidently, the beast could aim them, for now they spouted straight up and then they skimmed the water. All there was to be seen of the body was covered in scales shining like armour-plates with high, razor-edged crests in between.
In dead silence, the men stood gaping at the apparition while it too kept silent. But once it made its sound roll across the water, the whole body took to flight. That sound lacked anything human or animal, neither shrieking nor roaring; it rang like the laughing of a collapsing house.
No man, not even the bravest, remained behind, dared to wait for the beast - if it would approach the bank - to raise more of itself from the water. Its head alone had nipped any thought of resistance in the bud. Panic was raging, a unanimous save-who-can behind the walls of their town. Here their excited stories were causing a major alarm. Drums were rolled and the council was summoned with all speed.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2009
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

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