The Song of Fafnir || Di_Rossi

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Many have heard the Song of Siegfried and how he slew the evil dragon Fafnir who lies within his father's mountain, curled tightly around a vast treasure, bloated from greed and gold-lust.

A song woven out of nothing more solid than rumour and the imagination of wispy-bearded bards hoping to ingratiate themselves with this lord or that one, for a roof over their head and a leg of rabbit hot from the spit.

Siegfried did come, but he never raised a hand against me. In the hours he spent with me, drinking my mead and warming himself by my hearth, in all those hours his sword never left its sheath. And why should it have?

I have no quarrel with Siegfried. May the bards praise his name until they grow old and perish. He is an honourable man with a pure heart. Too honourable to spot lies hidden under the wolfish pelt of the truth. Kill Fafnir, that murdering dragon that lies at the Eastern gate of the Mountain Palace. Kill him and his gold and power will be yours.

Poor Siegfried. I gifted him a silver brooch for his pains.

I am no more a dragon than you are.

So tilt your heads, you mortal men, and listen to the Song of Fafnir, the strongest of the sons of the Mountain King.

I was a violent youth. Sprinting and jumping with the rams and shaggy goats that made their home between the boulders and in the crags of the Mountain Palace. An unforeseen punch in the gut or a bucket of icy water over the head was what the men in my father's guard could expect from me. I was wild and convinced of my own superiority.

One day, the King summoned me to him in the darkened end of the cavernous royal hall of the Mountain Palace where he sat on his throne, observing the industrious activities of his subjects.

"Boldness and bravery are one thing, Fafnir, unchecked violence another. Youth does not sit well on you, and the hostility in your blood must find a channel. Therefore, hear me: you will descend into the forges and will take out your aggressions on the anvil, not on the bones of your kinsmen."

Until that point, all I knew was play, and my Father's decree seemed terribly unjust.

"I have done nothing wrong!" I protested, loudly. Too loudly. My younger brothers, Regin and baby Otr, who were amusing themselves with wood-and-rag toys in the light of the nearest hearth, lifted their heads and stared.

"Not yet. But given time, you will. Now take your leave and descend. Guards."

Regin's piercing eyes followed me as I fled the hall, my father's guards on my heels. I stomped my feet on the tiles and screaming that I did not deserve such treatment. I would show whoever that I was not a troublemaker. Without even bothering to say a farewell to my mother, I snatched up my cloak and leather boots and went huffing down the miles and miles and miles of twisting, winding stone stairs until the orange glow of the forges began to appear, glinting against the black rock like the first light of the sun caressing its way into the day.

"You must be Prince Fafnir," said the oldest of the smiths and the overseer of the uppermost forge, "Come with me. We have orders to start you in the lowest level. You'll work your way up, or stay there indefinitely."

"I am here unjustly! I have done nothing against the King except not having witnessed enough summers to be pleasing to him."

In my own outrage at being sent down and away from the royal hall, I did not see the glimmer of amusement in the old dwarf's hooded eyes as he shrugged. "Orders are orders. Oh, and until the day you leave the forges, you are no longer a prince, but an apprentice."

I was taken down into the lowest, hottest, most stinking forge and shown to my anvil. I was given a hammer and a pair of tongs and placed under the direction of a wrinkled, foul-tempered smith who had nothing but disdain for my uncalloused hands and a quick fist for my ear when I did not heed his instructions. But he was strong, his arms muscled and thick. I lost many brawls with him before I learnt to reign in my emotions and beat them into the metal before me instead.

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