The Guardian of Fagan's Keep

art by Sue Dawe

   The red dragon, guardian of Fagan's Keep, lowered his head. He was tired. For centuries he waited for Fagan to return. He gave his word that he'd guard the castle, and wouldn't leave until Fagan returned. Fagan never returned.

The dragon was weak. He hadn't eaten in years. He knew that he was dying. That was his fate. He sighed as he turned his head to the decaying castle. For centuries, the castle lay abandoned. He told Fagan that he'd guard the castle from trespassers and conquerors while Fagan was away.

The dragon fought off armies and thieves, beggars and vagabonds. Yet he couldn't fight off time. As the centuries passed, the castle began to crumble since there was no one there for its upkeep.

Even in its current state, the castle was still a wonder to behold, thought the dragon. Even after all these years, I'm sure Fagan would be proud to return to such a home.
The red dragon sighed again. "Whom am I fooling?" he said aloud. "Fagan will never return, and I am too weak to move. I'm doomed."

A few more years passed, and the dragon could barely lift hid head above the ground. He looked thinking he heard a noise. Then walking right up in front of him was a single man.

"FAGAN!" he thought in surprise. "No. Much too young," he realized.
"I'm too weak to do anything," the red dragon said to the man, in a weak voice. "Slay me now and the castle is yours...until Fagan returns."

"Nay, dragon. I'm not here to slay you. But your castle is mine," said the man with a big grin. "I am here to set you free, for I know of the bond you made with Fagan the Great, many centuries ago," he said. "I release you of your servitude, dragon, for my name is Fagan the V. I am heir to the thrown of Fagan."

"You are too late to set me free, Fagan the V," said the red dragon. " I have guarded this castle for a very long time and I never left. I have grown very weak." He paused, looked down at his tired feet and said "I am dying."

"As I have feared, mighty one," said Fagan the V. "The original Fagan, your friend, died in battle as well as most of his subjects, at the Battle of Southern Fields. A dark king, Haverstroff, mighty in the dark magicks of the south, defeated Fagan. But before Fagan died, he told the tale of his regret to the wizard, Janov. Fagan recounted to Janov that he left Fagan's Keep in the care of a mighty red dragon. He made a pact with the dragon, in exchange of guarding the castle; he would give a portion of his land to be a safe haven for dragons. He regretted not living to keep his word. Upon bearing his sorrow, he died. Janov brought the news to his only living descendent, his sister, Fabolia. She promised to the wizard that she or a descendent would return to the castle and let the dragon be free.
"Alas, King Haverstroff forbid any of his people to leave his kingdom, and Fabolia, was under his rule. She and her sons tried to escape, but Haverstroff's magick was strong and she and her sons were killed. I am a great, great, great, grandson of her daughter. I have risked my life as well as my family's to reach you. You see, Haverstroff still lives, but his magick is waning. It took me 12 years to reach you, dragon. I regret that I come too late. All I can now offer you is my food and your freedom as well as the freedom of all dragons, on this land."

"I am grateful, Fagan the V," said the dragon, weakly, "for not giving up hope. I am sorry for your family and for Fagan. He was a great man. I have been honored to serve as the guardian of Fagan's Keep and you honor me for returning to free me. Thank you, my lord. I accept your offer."

The red dragon accepted the food and found that his strength had returned. He lifted his enormous body and strode towards the horizon, the first time in centuries that he left Fagan's Keep.

The End.


Copyright 2001 by Steven F. Boettcher