Writers, they say, often dread the question ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ Neil Gaiman has a lovely post about how he used to answer it and how he does it now. For me, I usually have a fairly concrete memory of how an idea came about, and in the case of Edras and the Dragon, I can even point to the book that sparked it off.
But first, a bit of a history lesson. Aelian, a Roman writer of 2nd and 3rd centuries CE (AD) came up with (or, more likely, collected) this tale:
Of the Gratitude of a Dragon.
Patræ is a City in Achaia. A Boy there had bought a young Dragon, and brought it up with care, and when it was grown bigger, used to talk to it as to one that understood him, and played, and slept with it. At last the Dragon growing to an extraordinary bigness, the Citizens turned it loose into the Wilderness. Afterwards the Boy being grown to a youth, returning from some Show with other youths his Companions, fell among Theeves, and crying out, behold, the Dragon came and slew them; which stung some, slew others, but preserved him.
(If you really want, you can read more of the original here)
As you can see, it’s one small paragraph. But it was enough that when Roger Lancelyn Green, famous for retelling Arthurian myths, decided to put together a collection of dragon stories (A Book of Dragons – see on Goodreads), he chose this as one of them. He extended it beyond the limits of the original and made it a touching story about friendship and loyalty. He of course mentions of Beowulf and Sigurd and other more famous dragons, but Lancelyn Green’s retelling and embellishing made it one of the most striking tales in the book.
Now, give something like that to an erotica writer… well, the possibilities begin to emerge. For me,
it felt a good start for something, something potentially erotic, that married the comfort and warmth of friendship with the excitement of something new and definitely unusual. A man and a dragon – definitely a bit unusual. (Though in these days of dinosaur erotica, perhaps not so much…)
My original idea was to take the tale and essentially extend it. My editors had other ideas. Not that I blame them – the first version wasn’t great. Luckily, they saw something in it could be worked on. After a bit of hashing it out (and a full draft of a very different story that I put aside because it was too awful) we finally arrived at the idea of the boy – or rather, a young man – not living with his family, but rather alone in the moutains, hunting and gathering to survive, and the dragon arriving already fully formed as well. Rather than a youthful story of growing up, it became about the development of a relationship between two vastly different creatures.
The setting remained Greek, but I didn’t want it to be ancient like the original, nor especially modern. And I wanted a forest-like setting rather than the rugged, arid hills that the country is often known for. Internet searches yielded a territory called the Pindus mountains, so I chose that, and for an era I settled on that of the Byzantine Greeks somewhere between 800-900 CE (AD).
But enough of this history: what will you, the reader, get out of it? It’s a love story, yes, but it’s also a friendship between a lonely man and a curious, adventurous dragon. It’s about the dangers that arise from living off the land and outside society, and also the beauty and power of the natural world. A story about how life is more than just mere survival, but also, dare I say, about friendship and love.
Edras has grown accustomed to his life alone on the mountain, hunting and foraging and selling animal skins in the nearby town. When Dragon falls from the sky, almost dying, Edras chooses to take him in and nurse him back to health. What blossoms is a friendship, and more. So when Dragon tells Edras of the real reason he was flying over the mountain, Edras fears another loss in a long line of many. (M/M)
As he prepared to skin the rabbits he heard a rush of air followed by a heavy boom on the ground. Trees swished harshly, and there was a cry of birds and a flutter of wings.
Edras frowned. He’d never heard such a crash before. It couldn’t have been far from the cave, probably just near the copse. He picked up his spear and his short club, and left the cave, careful to replace the thatching once more.
Outside, the beech and fir trees of the copse were still swaying, needles and serrated-edged leaves falling, a strange sight for early summer. Rabbits dashed from the copse, birds continued to shriek – there was a deep sense that the world had been disrupted, everything running from its natural place. Edras trod lightly, prepared to defend himself if needed, and circled the copse to what he thought was the crash site.
There was something there, a kind of animal. It was camouflaged by the grass, lying across the rocks near the drop, as if it were part of the landscape. Edras came closer to get a better look, and halted. He’d never seen one before, but he knew from its shape and features, that it was a dragon.
Edras approached, every step measured, and circled it to get a better look at its face. The dragon’s head rested right on the edge of the cliff. Its head was long, and had two short, pale yellow horns. It had a nose like a crocodile and ears like a horse, and under its lulling jaw was a small beard. It was limp, and as Edras drew closer, he saw that its eyes were closed.
It was, however, still breathing.
Edras tried to recall what he knew about dragons, but his mind yielded very little. The only certainty was that they were magical creatures, and came from the lands south, beyond Mesegeios, the sea—Libya, was that what it was called? Apart from that, there were the various and contradictory tales he heard from travellers. He always thought dragons to be enormous creatures, the size of a rich man’s house, or even a mountain. This creature was much smaller. Its torso perhaps the size a small horse, though its neck and tail were both long and snake-like, especially its tail, twice the length of its body, and tapered to a point. One wing spread out from its body, about the same in length as the body itself but far wider. The wings were attached from what would have been its shoulder to half way down its back. The wings were bat-like, as he’d expected, but its skin was not especially scaly—more like that of a lizard than a snake. It was smooth, or seemed it. The other wing was tucked under its body, and from the angle, it looked like it was broken.
Some stories said dragons were peaceful. Others said they were cruel, and loved to eat human flesh.
Some of the tales told of dragons as if they had minds almost like humans, but others suggested they were like other wild animals, and wild animals were seldom safe when injured. As such, Edras wasn’t sure if he wanted to wake it or not.
He held his spear up and stepped closer. Cautious as he was, the creature dazzled him. Even in its fallen state, and despite being smaller than he’d have thought, it was strangely beautiful. Its very existence was amazing.
About the Author
Jacqueline Brocker lives and writes just north of Cambridge, England. Her short erotic fiction has appeared in anthologies such as More Smut for Chocoholics (House of Erotica), Best Bondage Erotica 2014, and Best Gay Erotica 2015 (both from Cleis Press). Her novellas Body & Bow and Gods Among Men, along with several short stories have been published by ForbiddenFiction. Originally from Australia, when not writing she is a Scottish Country Dancer and a dabbler in foreign languages (current dabblings being German, Korean and Spanish).