The Dragon

Once there was a peaceful realm of woodcutters and farmers. It wasn’t a kingdom so much as a loose collective, assumed by general consensus. Peaceful must always be understood as a relative term, as petty quarrels will always arise. Thus is nature and likewise the nature of man. Nevertheless, we may say that within this realm good will and honest toil to the general benefit of all prevailed. There were no princes or kings among them as there was found no need for these.

Life continued in this happy fashion for some generations. The inhabitants of the realm were content to apply their various talents and enjoy the fruits thereof; in short, to prosper. They did not concern themselves with those quarrels outside their realm and dealt in their own fashion with those which should arise from within. Their’s was not a paradise, for inequality and injustice still existed within their borders. Still, they had no need of code or statute; accepting that natural law is realized, for good or ill, as Nature will ever find her own balance. Thus was it that their society, while as imperfect as any other of man’s creations, was more just than that of all others.

As the virtue of their industry multiplied they became known to other realms. Their people prospered further from trade with those outside of their own boundaries. This indeed led to an exchange in human capital as well, for they welcomed those from kingly realms to join in their good fortunes. No titles did they wield, nor banners did they fly. Their home was known only as the land beyond scrutiny.

Kings and princes of other realms observed this fair land of woodcutters and farmers, and with time grew concerned that as the reputation became more broadly known to their own subjects, they should become aware of their rulers’ shortcomings. Among the various courts of these realms it was thought for some time that there should be a net benefit in the exodus of their people to this strange and distant land beyond scrutiny. However, over time they learned that the opposite was true. The tradesmen, artisans, the skilled of their populations were the ones to leave. As news of their successes in their new home spread back to their peers there were still more queuing to leave. Finding their extravagant treasuries sagging in tax collections, the kings and princes convened to plot a solution. Being over leveraged, they invited the money-changers to join them in forming their plans.

King Archos was the greatest among them and assumed the direction of their royal confab. With him was his chief money-changer, Neotoma, and the rest of his beady eyed associates. There were many ideas debated in this forum. Some suggested that they should combine their navies, or perhaps contract mercenaries and pirates, to disrupt their trade upon seas and lay blockades upon their ports. This led in turn to the idea that mercenaries might be employed to raid and pillage those lands, stealing their treasures and terrorizing their people. There were those who favored the approach of barring the exit of their skilled subjects and instead export their own human refuse as a burden to their economies. All of these ideas and more were found to have merit. Inevitably it was asked, “Why not do all of these?”

King Archos was the most shrewd of them all. All of the suggestions were sound, in his opinion, yet he considered that even with all employed at once they might only be setting themselves up for a prolonged battle. In the grand scheme of things this did not suit his ultimate objective. Prolonged battles are taxing upon the treasury. Further, and most importantly, a prolonged battle increased exposure of the idea that others might prosper absent the benign rule of their leaders. He alone saw clearly that this and this alone posed the greatest danger to their interests. There was still something missing from these plans.

After a time Neotoma cleared his throat and rose to address the assembly in his reedy voice. “You are all making this too complicated. What you need here is a dragon.” From the sudden murmur that arose from their number some were heard to ask out loud, “A dragon? What should a dragon accomplish?” King Archos, intrigued at this, rose to quiet the room.

“Please, my brethren. Let us have order”, he exclaimed, and turned to Neotoma. “Please go on, Neotoma. Explain.”

“Thank you, my liege. I and my esteemed colleagues may, for a nominal fee of course, conjure a dragon which we shall loose upon these simple peasants. Their people may already know of our navies and armies. If we should employ those, or even mercenaries under no banner at all, they may learn more of them and imitate these methods. With their demonstrated industry and known resources they will in little time be able to effectively resist. A dragon is not known to them. A dragon will strike fear into even their boldest hearts. And they are unable to conjure dragons of their own to defeat it. Only another dragon may defeat a dragon. A dragon will plunder their treasures and store them into a hoard and once there is enough? We will then conjure another dragon to wrest away that hoard for our own.”

The room was silenced, so in awe were the kings of princes of this diabolical plan. Heads began to nod at the brilliance of it and voices began to cry out, “Yes! Send the dragon!” King Archos was pleased, though he solemnly weighed this plan and was left to conclude one shortcoming.

“Neotoma your idea has found favor. Indeed, there is little fault to be found in it, yet I fear that you may be too focused upon only the treasures. What of their peoples? Do you suggest that your dragon may slay them all? “

Neotoma’s eyes squinted into ever narrower slits. His hands folded upon themselves at his chest and he offered a gracious bow. “Ah, my liege, herein lies the true brilliance of this remedy. The dragon may very well slay them all, but that is not required. We may slay one half and enslave the other. Once they become aware that they may not defeat the dragon, we shall come to afford them our protections and be welcomed as heroes.”

King Archos was instantly struck with the sheer and beautiful simplicity of this plan. His mind leaped instantly to it’s ingenious conclusion. To assure the others present who may not have reached it, he encouraged Neotoma to continue.

“Yes, for you see once we should come as saviors we shall inform them all that we too have suffered this scourge, but that our law and custom (under your wise rule, of course) has saved us. We will teach them to institute a lottery to appease the dragon. They will see that submitting to this rule shall permit them to still enjoy a share of their labors, whilst our rule will spare them utter destruction. If they will accept this most barbaric tenet in exchange for their safety, then surely it will be no time at all until they should destroy themselves. Then we shall be left to rule and take from whatever is left.”

Thus was the end of natural law and the ascent of the rule of man, until the land beyond scrutiny was forever lost. It is now known only in legend, like the lost continent of Atlantis. Men still dream of it, others still seek it, but her history now sleeps beneath the waves where only fish may know.

3 thoughts on “The Dragon

  1. Yes indeed, as you suggested, the philosophy behind this isn’t a million miles away from my own. One paragraph reminds me of George the Third, who banned skilled workers from leaving England (for Belgium, which was the second country to industrialize). That ban wasn’t rescinded until 1824.

    There’s a seed in here of a series of similar stories, relating the subsequent conflict from the perspective of both sides. But it would probably drag on a bit too long.

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