Coffee Break Read – Strike Off the Chains

“All hail Emperor Sulieman and his Empress Leonore.”
People ran from their homes and businesses to line the streets and stare at their dark emperor in his dented armour and drink in the beauty of the velvet-clad empress.
At the palace, they rode through the wide open gates, and if the empress saw the heads that decorated the walls above the gatehouse she gave no sign. The first sign of any interest came as they progressed through the dragon’s garden.
“Husband,” she said in a wooden little voice, “why is that Drake so chained?”
“He always has been.”
“For a hundred and half a hundred years.”
She frowned. “Then it is past time to strike off his chains.”
“And let him fly away?”
“Whether he flies or does not fly is immaterial. He should not be thus imprisoned.”
Sulieman shrugged. “Very well. I will give the order.”
“And I will stay to see it done.”
She slipped from her horse and went to stand at the dragon’s head. Those who gathered in the garden were later to swear that it was as if the Ivory Empress and the green/gold dragon were communicating on some subliminal level too deep for mere humans to comprehend. But that was much later. Truth to tell nobody saw anything to remark save the straight tall figure of the Empress with one hand on the dragon’s neck as the smiths struck off the chains that held him captive. Once he was free the firedrake inclined his head to the Emperor, almost as equal to equal, before curling himself into the soft grass and closing his eyes.
Sulieman was curious. “Why does he not fly away?”
“On wings unused for more than a hundred years? It will take time before he can fly. If indeed he ever can.”
A shadow passed over Sulieman’s face and he tugged his intricately plaited beard. “I shall be sorry if that is true. Bad enough to be tricked and held prisoner, without being maimed.” He turned his handsome head towards the dragon. “Good firedrake,” he said with extreme formality, “if it should so be that the actions of my father’s father’s father have maimed thee. I would apologise and make such reparation as I can.”
For the first time since his capture the dragon spoke. His voice was like the crackle of flames around the Yuletide fire and it made one think of woodsmoke and autumn. “I think myself unhurt, Magister, it is just to think of whether I wish to go or stay a while and observe.”
Then he shut his mouth and closed his eyes.
Sulieman looked at his Empress. “He can speak, habiiba, why has he never spoken before?”
The Empress sighed. “For the same reason you did not beg your captors for water.”
Sulieman bowed his head. “That is hard hearing, and I feel shame that I had not thought that a firedrake may have his pride too. I should have freed him long since.”
For the first time in their too brief acquaintance, Leonore reached out a hand to her husband. It was a massive step forward and Sulieman smiled.

From ‘The Chained Dragon’ one of the stories and poems in Pulling The Rug III by Jane Jago

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