Alfred Must Die!

Upon a mountainside, the shepherd, a mere lad of seventeen,
at rest beneath a shady tree while watching over his flock,
hears the clamor of fighting men. Hurrying to the scene,
he sees that a band of soldiers in a ferocious battle are locked.

The lad can scarcely believe his eyes, for their fierce adversary
is a dragon! He had heard previous accounts of the existence
of such beasts, which he had thought tall tales, but contrary
proof he now observes. By force of numbers and persistence,

the soldiers overwhelm and slay the fearsome, dreaded dragon,
but at terrible cost of lives. The victorious survivors rejoice,
then load the severed dragon’s head and tail onto a wagon
in order to collect the king’s bounty – land or gold, their choice.

After the men depart, the shepherd decides to go and view
the carcass. Drawing near, some movement from the forest
nearby catches his eye. A baby dragon emerges…Who knew?
The dead dragon was a mother! The tiny creature tries its best

to awaken her with frantic nudges, then lies down beside her still
warm body and starts a sorrowful wailing. Quickly the shepherd
picks up a heavy stone, approaches, prepared in his heart to kill.
But, his murderous heart is melted by the saddest sound ever heard.

So, cautiously he decides to offer the infant dragon comfort instead.
Thus begins a loving bond of friendship between man and beast.
The shepherd raises the dragon, whom he chooses to name Alfred.
He finds him to be playful, affectionate, not aggressive in the least.

For years he keeps Alfred well-hidden, safe, and extremely well-fed
in a high-mountain valley, while visiting him at least twice every day.
Things could have continued in this way…but then he chooses to wed
a lovely lass. At first their marriage is completely happy in every way.

The shepherd shares his dragon secret with his wife. She has fears
that the dragon fierce, dangerous, and mean might some day turn.
Her husband allays her fears. All is well…until months later her tears
greet him one evening upon his return. Her anger does flame and burn!

Her younger sister has become betrothed to the town’s wealthiest man
and will soon live in a fancy house with servants and a personal maid.
Suddenly their modest cottage and poor shepherd’s life no longer can
she stand. Luckily, the solution is at hand, for much money can be made.

There’s a rich king’s bounty waiting to be had for any dragon if it’s dead.
The shepherd staunchly refuses again and again…but men will betray
their principles for sake of love. Finally, though the act he does dread,
he agrees to kill his faithful Alfred and collect the reward without delay.

Solemnly the shepherd carries a sturdy sword to the high-mountain den.
As always, Alfred comes running at the sight of him, bouncing in a display
of joyous affection. Happily, tail swishing, he nuzzles the shepherd, who then
raises the sword …but crying with compassion, he realizes there is no way

that, after he has seen the love and trust shining in Alfred’s smiling eyes,
he could ever betray such trust. Saddened, he returns home to his wife.
Angry, she swears that somehow she shall see to it that the dragon dies,
meanwhile, she’ll make the shepherd’s life be miserable, full of strife.

Some morning hence, when the shepherd goes to the valley to visit Alfred,
a great commotion greets his ears. It signals the very worst of his fears.
Alfred is beset with a gang of armed men, all set upon having him dead.
He is confused, in pain, terrified...from his wide eyes pour gigantic tears.

Alfred wants merely to escape...his mind panicked over why these men
are attacking him, him who has done them no harm. Wound after wound
is inflicted upon his body, while he offers no resistance. But then, then
he turns in fury upon his attackers with tail and claws. Surprisingly soon,

all the men lie dead, broken and ripped upon the blood-drenched ground.
The shepherd now arrives to calm and tend his grievously injured friend,
but Alfred is mortally wounded – the massive blood flow, the raspy sound
of his labored breathing leave no doubt of the ultimate victory of the men.

The shepherd cradles his dear dragon friend’s head in his lap and talks
soothingly to him through his sobs. Alfred suffers. He moans in agony.
It becomes more than the shepherd can endure. Reluctantly, he walks
over and retrieves a sword from the ground. He ends the dragon’s misery.

Throughout the remainder of this long day he sits beside his dead
friend. Finally, to placate his demanding wife, he returns home
carrying Alfred’s head. His wife is totally delighted, for now instead
of splitting the king’s bounty, it is all hers, for her and for her alone.

The bounty now received, she insists they move into town to socialize
with her new, rich friends and so she can spend her money day or night.
They live a life the shepherd detests – a life full of insincerity and lies.
His wife has affairs, one after another, until with one lover she takes flight.

The simple shepherd returns to his mountainside and his flock of sheep.
The years pass...forevermore he remains a lonely, broken-spirited man.
Daily, as he sits under the shady tree tending his sheep, how he does weep,
mourning once having had a love so pure...and how it died by his own hand.

Harry Edward Gilleland      02.10.04