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Holiday Microfiction: “The Dragon and the Silver Bell: A Christmas Story” by S. H. Paulus

Happy December everyone! It’s been a long year, but we finally made it to the end of 2020!

To celebrate the holiday season the staff at Fantasy-Faction have prepared a little treat! Every Monday and Friday for the rest of the month, we will feature a piece of microfiction from one of our contributors.

Today, we have S. H. Paulus and “The Dragon and the Silver Bell: A Christmas Story”.

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The Dragon and the Silver Bell (detail)

“The Dragon and the Silver Bell: A Christmas Story”

by S. H. Paulus

Soth was terrified she would have to bury her son on Christmas Day.

It began with him complaining his throat was sore. Then he whined of body aches, headaches, and chills. After three days, her son burned like a hot ember and wouldn’t stop coughing.

Against her better judgement, she ascended the mountain to the dragon’s lair. Hoping against hope today might bring a miracle for her dying son. Basing it all on a legend she had heard from the old widows of the village.

The tale happened many years before, when a man had awakened the dragon, Snawdath, from his deep slumber. Flying down from his cave, the dragon visited Somburr like a cruel blizzard, destroying homes with his icy breath and killing anyone who got in his way. However, there were three curious truths that arose from the dragon’s attack:

The first: No child was killed by the dragon.

The second: Many children who had been sick were miraculously cured.

And the third: Everyone’s silverware had mysteriously gone missing.

Nearing the cave, Soth halted in a heavy drift of snow to catch her breath. The wind roared around her in a violent fury, tugging at her shawl and the wool cloak wrapped tightly around her son.

“Christmas is a magical day,” she said to those who tried to stop her. “Perhaps the day could bring a miracle?”

Now, she wondered if she had done the right thing. I could be making his condition worse, she thought. Maybe this was a fool’s errand?

She clasped the large, silver bell hanging on a chain about her neck, a Christmas present from her son. If he were to die, it would be the only thing she would have to remember him by.

“No,” she whispered, letting go of the bell. It’s too late to turn back now.

Soth stepped into the cave and was assaulted by the acrid odor of rot. Ducking her head to avoid the icy stalactites jutting from above, she stumbled over a rock, causing the bell about her neck to jingle.

“Who dares to enter?” a voice rumbled.

Soth froze, clutching her son closer as a new coughing fit assaulted him. “My n-name is Soth.”

“What?” the voice snarled.

“M-my name is Soth!” she yelled over her son’s wheezing. “And my son, Ludolf, is sick.” Warm, putrid air gusted into her face, the stench so foul she had to turn her head. She coughed into her shoulder. “Can you h-help him?”

“Hmm.”

Bodies in various stages of decay were strewn about the floor. Amongst the dead were coins, pocket watches, and silverware.

“You think Snawdath, the wurm of biting freeze, the harbinger of death, would save your son?”

Soth hesitated, pulling the shawl tighter about her with a trembling hand. “Y-yes?”

Squinting, she could now make out the dragon in the low light. He was large, with pale scales flecked in blood, slit eyes, and dagger-like teeth and claws.

A low rumble sounded deep within the dragon’s chest, “What could you possibly offer me, to save the boy’s life?”

“I…,” she muttered, fumbling in panic. “I-I don’t know–”

“How about you?”

He roared and bolted forward, his maw reaching for her. Soth threw herself over backwards, screaming in terror as the dragon’s fangs narrowly missed her head. Clutching Ludolf against her, she scrambled for safety behind a large rock, sobbing.  

“You cannot hide from me,” Snawdath bellowed, eyeing her hiding place. “Little mother.”

“Please!” she screamed, clutching her son close. “He’s all I have!”

“It’s no matter to me.”

Snawdath stood over her, poised to strike. With a trembling hand she clutched the bell, causing it to ring with a high peal. “Mercy!”

The dragon hesitated. He tilted his head, tasting the air with his tongue, fixated on the hand that held the bell.

Soth opened her hand, staring down at the bell for a breath. Then, she raised it on high, jingling it beneath Snawdath’s nose. “How about this?”

Pretty.”

He snatched it from her hand with a long claw and raised it before his eyes. The dragon jingled the bell on its silver chain, ringing with a musical chime. “Yes, this will do.”

Snawdath blew down a shimmering frost that collected around Ludolf’s shuddering body. The wheezing that had been torturing her son abated and his trembling ceased. Soth pulled back the heavy cloak. The color had returned to his face. Her son was saved.

“Return next Christmas,” the dragon growled, snowflakes swirling from his nostrils, “and bring more bells.”

“Oh, thank you!” Soth cried. She climbed to her feet and backed towards the entrance of the cave. “And Merry Christmas!”

“Bells,” Snawdath repeated, his eyes narrowing. “Bring bells.”

Thus, every Christmas Soth and Ludolf trekked up the mountain to the dragon’s den, fulfilling their agreement in exchange for their lives. They would place a silver bell at the cave’s entrance, and a long claw would reach out and retrieve it. When both mother and son raced back down the mountain, they would hear the distant cacophony of jingling bells—Snawdath, with his growing horde of Christmas bells.

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The Dragon and the Silver Bell (cover)Dedication

Dedicated to the love of my life and my best friend, Martin.

Special Thanks

I’d like to thank Richard Marpole, A. M. Justice, and Jennie Ivins for reviewing my “Christmas present”. Your critique helped shape “The Dragon and the Silver Bell” into a beautiful, cohesive story.

And Martin, for continuing to read my manuscripts. Without your invaluable feedback, and critical eye, I wouldn’t have grown into the writer I am today. Thank you.

– – –

Thanks to Summer for sharing this story with us! And thanks to you, reader, for reading it! 🙂

Stay tuned for more microfiction and some other fun surprises later in the month!

Heart Book with Lights by Theo Crazzolara (with words sm)
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2 Comments

  1. […] Hey everyone! My first published story, The Dragon and the Silver Bell: A Christmas Story, has dropped at Fantasy-Faction. You can read it here. […]

  2. […] you read my micro fiction piece for Fantasy-Faction, titled The Dragon and the Silver Bell: A Christmas Story, then you already have an idea of the theme. Each story will be based in a season, and will […]

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