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A Journal of the Dark

A New Year in Fear

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The Gardener and The Wyrm
Sean D. Francis

Once upon a time, there was a gardener who so dearly loved his garden that he spent every day of every week of every year tending to it.

In the spring he tenderly tilled the fields, loosening the dirt from its winter embrace.  Each seed was handled as if it were a newborn child.  A quick poke at the ground with his finger created a cradle in the rich earth from which the seed could grow.

The gardener not only cared for the plants of his garden, but also each and every creature that passed through or made a home there.  The gardener protected his seedlings but planted enough that some could be eaten.  Rows of berry bearing bushes provided ample food for most of the creatures.  Trees of fruit took care of the rest. 

Come summer, the garden teemed with life.  Vines became roads for the crawling insects.  The leaves gave the lowliest of creatures shelter from the elements and protection from the predators.

The gardener would be upset when he saw one of his guests or a resident of his garden be killed, but that was the way of  nature, so he mourned as he uprooted, he grieved as he repanted.

Periods of mourning were short as there was so much life to tend to in the garden.

With autumn came harvest.  After harvest came the final clearing of the land, burning the remains to energize the soil for spring.

Winter was a lonely time for the gardener.  His only friends were the bare trees, which didn't require much tending.  To his delight, on a blustery winter day the gardener came across a small serpent, near its death.

The gardener took the serpent into his house and warmed it on his hearth.  The serpent thanked the gardener for his generosity and said it thought it was able to go. 

The gardener told the serpent that it was still to cold and it could stay until the snows passed.  The serpent agreed  and asked if it could sleep in the rocks of the fireplace.  The gardener told the serpent it could sleep wherever it was comfortable.  After eating a bowl of broth, the serpent slipped through the cracks in the hearth to sleep.

Every day the gardener would put a bowl of broth on the hearth for the serpent.  Every night the serpent would poke its head out and eat the broth.  Not much was said between the two, but that suited the gardener.  He was used to his friends not talking back to him.

Spring was approaching and the gardener noticed the bowls of broth weren't being eaten.  He paced in front of the hearth asking every once in awhile if the serpent was okay.  The serpent finally told him that it was okay, but it had grown through the winter and couldn't get out without ruining the fireplace.

The gardener assured the trapped serpent that the fireplace could be rebuilt, and to break free from the stone prison.

The serpent then warned that it had grown very hungry and will need to eat as soon as it breaks free.  The gardener assured the serpent that since the dawning of sprng, the garden  was blossoming and being visited once again by all manner of creatures.

The serpent thanked the gardener.  The hearth stones began to bulge. The fireplace exloded in a hail of debris.  The gardener was taken by surprise that the little serpent was able to do that.  When the dust and ash settled, the gardener saw that the little serpent had grown into a large dragon. 

The dragon stretched its wings for the first time.  And looked around until it saw the garden.  The leathery wings lifted the beast into the air on its first flight.  The dragon landed amidst a copse of trees, splintering and uprooting them.  The dragon began to feast on all it could find in an effort to sate its appetite.

Finally it came to rest at the door of the gardener's ruined house.  It tried to apologize for the destruction by telling the gardener that it is evil and could only do evil things.

The gardener, saddened by the traumatic loss, told the dragon that it wasn't evil for being what it was.  Evil, the gardener explained, is refusing to acknowledge your own nature.  I am a gardener, the man said to the dragon.  I get my joy from tending to the living, you are a dragon, you get your joy from destroying the living.  We are at odds, but only in the way summer and winter are at odds.  Both are necessary to complete the cycle.

And that is how they lived their lives, the dragon hunting and destroying, the garndener tending and growing.  The dragon didn't hunt or destroy the gardener because it knew it would have more to hunt and destroy if the gardener was allowed to continue to plant, grow, and tend.  The gardener couldn't even imagine destroying the dragon as it would be completely against his nature.