Thursday, 7 November 2013

Saint George - 21. Epilogue

In some ancient chronicles it is told that afterwards the officer, presumably, rode to the pond, raised his sword over it and told the fishermen to cast their nets, which shortly thereafter they hauled onto the bank brimming with fish. This Miraculous-Draught-of-Fish redux is in serious doubt. One suffices.
With the monster out of the way the fish stock will have recovered by itself soon enough.
That the border patrol was passing by that very day was not exactly coincidental, of course. For the benefit of men of science God simply loves to make His miracles appear as inconspicuous as possible, in accordance with the laws of nature and probability if only He can help it.
After his defeat in the council the junior councillor had retired to his study and abstained from any involvement in subsequent events. When by and by the dust had settled he noted with heartfelt pleasure that once again there was as much joy and love in the land as before the dragon's advent.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2013
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

The first episode of this tale is called:
1. The Oasis
and can be found here.
From there, you can read all the way up
to this Epilogue using the Blog Archive.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Saint George - 20. The Miracle

It was no longer necessary. He was already there. As if waiting for them. Sitting his stationary horse, the princess riding pillion.
The people were dumbstruck. Nobody moved. Face to face at ground level is something quite different than from high upon the wall. He was a dragon slayer, after all.
Now he slowly approached them. The people backed away. Through the open gate he entered the town. In the square he halted and, for a while, they stood facing each other, the people grimly.
Someone in the crowd dared hurl an abuse. The officer drew his sword and what the people expected, that he would hit out with it, didn’t happen. Instead, he turned its point downward and raised it high, right in front of him. Like a priest the Host. Here it was an image of the Cross.
Then the miracle happened.
From this cross a radiance jumped forth that all but dispelled from the town the brown breath of the monster, from its streets and from its dwellings and from the people, also. All of a sudden, every single one of them came to realise the full extent of the pitiful state of wickedness to which they had stooped, recalled how gay they had been before, how much they’d loved each other and they burst into tears of shame of themselves. And these same people, who only moments ago had been out to stone them, now wrung their hands in agony and sank to their knees in horror of what they had taken for profit and pleasure and their shameful tears melted into tears of joy because now they had been redeemed from it. They looked up to him as their saviour and to their eyes it seemed as if his whole armour was taking part in the radiance emitting from the cross.
One of the elders came forward and reverently kissed his stirrup.
The rider thereupon raised his voice and spoke, ‘Not to me thou ought to be grateful but to Jesus Christ, my Lord. His servant I am and in His name I have done this. Convert to His teachings of love and nevermore wilt thou fall into the state in which I have found thee.’
Everyone became a convert. Nobody stayed behind.
When the officer and his soldiers - he was in command of a border patrol that had pitched camp a little farther up the oasis and had been completely ignorant of the whole event - moved on, he left behind a penitent but happy people.
The royal family was reunited.
The prisons were turned into chapels.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2013
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

Monday, 4 November 2013

Saint George - 19. Rage

But what was that?! Quicker even than lightning the rider had jumped to his feet and into the saddle, snatched the lance from its special casing and ere the monster realised what was afoot had driven it deep down its throat. It had been a ruse, one often used by Roman soldiers. The horses were especially trained for it.
Still, the people couldn’t believe their hero had been slain; still, they clung to their conviction that it would keep laughing and, shortly, crunch the Roman spear to smithereens, but when a wide stream of yellow goo started gushing from its jaws and its limbs slackened one after another, there was little space left for doubt. The cheering turned into a roar of rage, of boundless rage.
The game was over, forever it was. What a dirty trick of that guy! Such a special animal that’s never hurt a soul, ever. What a bastard! What a jerk!
A flare like this was never to be quenched by words alone. There, someone already threw a stone to the rider, dislodged from a wall. Then it took but an instant for stones and roof tiles to rain down on him. Poles and shelves, too. Tearing down the now useless stands offered another outlet for their anger.
Through skilful maneuvering of horse and shield our officer succeeded in dodging the greater part of the avalanche and whatever hit him couldn’t do much harm because of his helmet and body armour. That he still defied them drove the crowd’s rage to a head.
‘Now for that wench’, the mother of a dragon bride shrieked, ‘that witch child’ and she cast her stone in the direction of the half-naked princess. This was a signal of sorts and the girl would have been stoned to death without fail but for the immediate intervention of the officer who slashed her ropes with his sword, hoisted her onto the horse in front of him and raced in full gallop beyond the range of the projectiles, all under protection of his unerring shield.
If ever there was a baffled man it must have been this Roman officer. During the fight, shouts of encouragement were meant for him, the torrents of abuse and imprecations for his adversary, or so he’d assumed. All at once, the very opposite proved true, he himself being the bad guy.
For their next target the people sought out the royal family but in the general uproar they had slipped away unobserved.
With venting their rage the crowd had made hardly any start. They pulled down literally everything related to the show. Even the dead dragon didn’t escape their attentions. How stupid of him to let himself be fooled. Why hadn’t he just blown some flames from his nostrils! A petty dragon could have done that! A travesty of a dragon it had been, a mock dragon from an operetta.
That they’d been in such awe of it. Pathetic!
There, with a dull thud the first stone landed on the dead beast. This was another signal and soon it lay buried under a heap of rubble.
Even then, the people still remained restive.
Now they raised the cry: ‘We’ll seek him out, the bastard, him and that witch child. He shall die!’ Therewith the people streamed to the gate in dense throngs.
It was still closed as it used to during the festivities but no sooner the gatekeepers learned of the will of the people than they hastened to open it.
‘We’re gonna find him, the scoundrel!’

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2013
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

Friday, 1 November 2013

Saint George - 18. Single combat

Suddenly, a great sigh went up from the crowd, a sigh of dismay. For, at a brisk trot, there approached a Roman horseman in full armour.
For all but an instant the dragon could have owed the consternation to the royal blood, once it picked up the sound of hooves, not any longer.
That it was akin to scorpions was now plainly to be seen, for as fast as these can curve their body to inflict a deadly sting with their tail, in a flash, the monster swung its bulk around to take the spoilsport head-on.
And now, to their great delight, the people were treated to a duel between the armour-plated rider and the panzer-scaled dragon.
Once more suspense reigned supreme. This was quite a different victim than that pathetic wench at the pole - about his ending up a victim the people had no doubt whatsoever, a foregone conclusion. Now, at the least there would be resistance. His helmet was an officer’s and in the Roman armies the only way to become one was by gallantry.
At first, there was exploratory skirmishing, seeking out the opponent’s weaknesses. It gave the impression of a mock battle but it was well understood: this was a fight to the death.
The armour of both was equally heavy, never to be penetrated by either claw or sword. The beast’s sole vulnerable spot was its beak. Therefore, biting was precluded, its fangs being no match for steel.
The beast was evidently stronger than the man and his horse but the Arab was nimbler. It was going to be a battle of force against speed.
Soon it became a matter of pricking and teasing, prying between plates or scales, trying to wriggle or tear them loose, preferably at a joint. Now and then, they made a scratch, drawing some blood. This only enhanced their fierceness.
The people were watching breathlessly, as were the princess and her family.

The end came by surprise.
During a breathing-spell, the monster curved its body scorpion-fashion and treacherously, with the end of its tail, knocked the other from the saddle and to the ground where he was left for dead. Dazedly, the horse remained at his side.
The beast had triumphed and as a sign thereof, it raised its head heavenward, gaped its beak wide open and filled the air with its house-shattering laughter.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2013
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Saint George - 17. The Dragon's Dance

But history must take its course and after six days the moment had come when all of the people, in great excitement, had taken their places on the now flower-decked stands and other equally adorned lookouts.
Down there, the princess, fettered to her stake, deadly pale and trembling with fear.
That did not bode well.
The people felt disappointed.
Had they been doing their utmost to brighten the place to this end? Had they enjoyed themselves so much, all week, in anticipation of this? Of a spectacle this poor?
Was that, supposedly, the bloom of the royal blood? They recalled others who had stayed the course magnificently unto the bitter end, daughters of shepherds, bakers and butchers. And how their families on the grandstand had sympathized, an example for all.
And now, behold this family sitting over there. Heads all down. Bet they will not even watch, presently.
The people were getting annoyed.
The start of the music and, within moments, the monster’s appearance in the distance were barely able to dent their irritation.
How is it ever going to engage with such a bundle of nerves? they wondered.
On its approach, however, it became apparent that to him this offering was indeed something special. It had preened itself to perfection, its colours brighter and its shine more radiant than ever.
Coming closer, it raised itself, standing erect, and was now walking on its hind legs like a human. Once in front of the princess it made a courtly bow, almost to the ground.
By doing so, was it bent on teaching the people a lesson? That they should continue to respect their royal family?
After its bow, which failed to stir any reaction from the princess, the monster cast a searching glance around and then it did something it had never done before. Raised on its hind legs it made a couple of dancing-steps. At once, any remaining vestiges of annoyance disappeared. Expectation had been roused afresh.
And it went on. In the direction of the orchestra it made the telling gesture of gladiators which was promptly understood. A slowly stepping melody commenced and what the people were now to watch was the Dizzy Dance of the Dragon. Its tail it draped on its left foreleg to give an impression of a partner, the grin never leaving its jaws. Back and forth and then around it went. Gradually, it increased the pace - or was it on the director’s behalf? - and lo, now it was even making figures! It let go of its tail and reeling around, it made it whirl about him in a wide circle. Now and then, it curled it over its head and danced right underneath. And how its colours sparkled with all its scales ashine.
When, at last, it blew the final whistle, the exalted public gave it a standing ovation. Only the princess and the VIP box for whom this performance was apparently meant, too, remained still.
The beast, now again on all fours, seemed unprepared for this, shook its head dejectedly and slowly approached the girl. No shrinking away or resistance was to come from her, paralysed as she was by fear and terror.
Once upon her, it began to undress her with ever so soft a claw. A modiste couldn’t have taken off a garment from a noble client more carefully than it was disrobing her now.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2013
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Saint George - 16. The Princess

Into this state the nation had now come and one is to wonder what would jolt this already over-excited people with a still heavier excitation. What on earth might thereto still happen?
And yet it happened. One day, the whole nation was immersed into a daze of great rejoicing. All around was singing, dancing, drinking and kissing. What could be the cause of this common bliss?
The lot had befallen the king’s daughter!
It was as if everyone had hit the jackpot; as if the envy of ages, at once, had met with full satisfaction.
For the whole week, the revelling never ended.

The king who had presided at every council meeting where decisions to this end had been taken, including this latest one, now could hit himself over it. Never for a single moment, had he considered his little daughter and even if he had, he would have brushed aside the very thought, instantly, in the firm conviction that the people would never allow his princess to be eaten.
In this, how wrong he would have been. Every street had been festooned. From every dwelling, there was music and singing. Nobody was working. The stands had been turned into the likeness of flower gardens.

And the young princess herself?
To her, the role of a prima donna had nothing special to offer. The most gorgeous dresses and the most sumptuous meals, they had been her birthright. And the attention, everywhere, had been more of a nuisance to her than a joy.
She felt utterly miserable. Although she and her family were as much moved by the emotions on the stands as everybody else, never had she, like her father, entertained the idea that it could happen to her personally.

Aside from being highest in station, she also was one of the most beautiful girls in the land. To think of these slender arms, this slim neck, these newly budded breasts, soon to become feed for that horrible monster; that by next week, it would be lying at the bottom of its lake digesting them, she couldn’t bear it. But she was unable to think of anything else; she simply had to, caressing every part of her young body as if bidding them a farewell and giving them solace for what lay in store for them.

The daze got no hold on her. On the contrary, she was all but overwhelmed with sorrow, onto the brink of insanity.
Her family was crying all the time.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2013
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983