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

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