“God is sad my son!……..and he has created a world in His very image. It is a sad sad world”, the old man slowly opened up his eyes. His grey eyes looked at me with an amused curiosity.
“And why is God sad?” I failed to grasp the image of a sad omnipotent being.
“Why is God sad?” the old man repeated my question sounding perplexed. “Well He is the only powerful being. The only one who deserves pride. A being which can create and which can destroy.’
’Well, that should make Him happy. Don’t you agree?’ I searched for mischief within the blue-grey mist of his deep eyes.
‘Hmmm…..you are forgetting something my son.’ The old man smiled. ‘God is lonely. Despite all the power and all the might, He is lonely. No one to talk to and no one to share his laughter with. His is the eternal loneliness and the never-ending sadness”. He looked into my eyes:
‘Remember son, the more powerful you grow, the lonelier you become. Loneliness is the price you pay for power.’
I saw the white smoke rings billowing out of the old man’s nose and mouth. They floated up and wandered outside the cave. Then they rose up until they joined the white billowing summer clouds floating above the green valleys.
I looked at him closely. He had a head full of silvery hair, which fell down in cascades over his bent shoulders. His complexion was fair and a broad forehead topped a square and intricately lined face. The eyes were deep and rarely opened to their actual width. In fact I always saw them as amused slits bordered by an ever spreading network of fine lines. An almost deformed wide nose sat in the exact centre of the face underlined by heavy sensual lips. He was a wise man but unlike all the wise men I had ever come across, he was clean shaven.
There were other odd dissimilarities too. He had a silver earring dangling from the left earlobe. He wore a velvety maroon-colored robe, bedecked with golden dragons. The dragons were surrounded by forgotten scripts and ancient symbols; and yes he smoked a most wonderful pipe.
The pipe, gripped in his yellowing teeth and dangling out of the corner of the mouth, fascinated me the most. Most probably carved out of some ancient mahogany root, it was lovingly polished and curiously shaped like a dragon. The dragon’s mouth opened up towards the top of the bowl while the tail ended up between the old man’s lips. The exquisitely designed gold metal work defined the scales on the dragon’s body.
“It was called Agonious the Firestarter. The last of all the majestic dragons”, the old man noticed my interest in the pipe. “Do you know why diamonds are found in the frozen lava pits?”
“No I don’t. I never knew diamonds were found in old and frozen lava pits.” I peered beyond the fragrant smoke, into his misty eyes.
“Then let me tell you the story of Agonious and Miria. Agonious was a big and powerful dragon. He could throw fire over tens and hundreds of miles. When he flew, the earth darkened under the spread of his dark wings. He was so powerful that none of the dragon slayers could kill him. They came from all over the world, desperate to claim the head of Agonious. They fought well but Agonious was too powerful, too big to be overcome.”
Agonious could kill them from far but he knew the human thirst for self-respect. He gave them a good fight. He even tolerated a few sword wounds, mere pin pricks to him but enough to quench the blood lust of the dragon slayers. Agonious had a heart made of pure fire but it was a large heart. He therefore never killed any of the dragon slayers and instead let them leave in peace”.
The old man stopped to refill the pipe. He picked up the old leather pouch embroidered with gold. Loosening the binding string, he started filling up his pipe one pinch at a time. I loved the smell of his tobacco. The warm fragrance turned the cave into a cocoon – a womb of safety. It reminded me of dark rain drenched cedar forests and the sweet smelling glowing embers. It took me back to times when I thought I was happy.
‘A large hearted dragon who let his enemies leave in peace?’ I smiled at the old man. ‘I am a fan of dragon lore myself but I have never come across the myth of a kind dragon’.
‘You haven’t? Eh?’ the old man chuckled softly, his tobacco ritual complete.
‘Agonious was really a kind dragon. He never hurt the villagers and rather sometimes brought them gifts of wild goats and fruit. He also helped them mow the hard land. He built dams for the poor lot and lit their fires in cold winter nights. His kindness made him popular. Children called him Papa Agonious and the villagers called him Agonious the Kind. But despite all the popularity and love, Agonious was a very sad dragon. Can you guess why?’ the old man peered at me inquisitively.
‘Yes!’ by then I had become quite familiar with the old man’s line of thought. ‘He was sad because he was lonely.’
‘Aha! Exactly!’ the old man flashed a satisfied smile.
‘Despite all his power and all his might, Agonious was lonely. He believed he was the last of his kind swimming across the river of sadness we call life. Until one day, a sparrow told him of Miria. She was a beautiful golden dragoness living across the seven seas. She had wings made of crystal and had the most wonderful grey eyes. When she spit flames, they were the loveliest shade of emerald.”
“But like Agoneous, Miria was sad too. She was sad because she thought she was the last of all dragons.”
“Hearing of Miria, Agonious laughed and danced and wept with joy. He begged the sparrow to make haste, fly to Miria and tell her of Agonious. After the sparrow left, Agonious collected the most precious of gems and the most brilliant of diamonds in all the land. He begged leave of all the villagers and the children. They all cried and requested him not to leave. But loneliness is a more powerful drive than kindness. So one day when all preparations were in place, Agonious spread his powerful wings and left for Miria’s land’. The old man fell into a deep reverie.
‘The sparrow did not reach Miria. Wasn’t it so?’ I asked the old man hesitatingly. I knew his stories always had a dark ending.
‘Yes!’ the old man slowly raised his head. ‘The sparrow couldn’t make it. She was killed by an arrow and roasted over a hunter’s fire. But Agonious did not know that and kept on flying east, towards Miria and a lifetime of happiness.”
“The sun dipped beyond the horizon and rose again many times in a row but Agonious did not stop. His large dark wings kept beating the wind hard. The moon observed the flight of this dark knight on a love quest and shined more brightly to facilitate his passage. The eastern wind sensed the haste of the its lonely heart and changed the direction. The ancient dragon spirits made the stars twinkle and the constellations glitter brightly to guide the weary dragon. But Agonious was oblivious to all help. The load of diamonds he carried for Miria was heavy but he just flew on and on towards his destiny.”
“One day when the morning sun rose, Agonious could see the land in far distance. His heart trembling with anxious joy, Agonious flew all over the land and looked for Miria. He searched in the mountain caves and he searched in the forest glens. He searched the blistering hot deserts and he searched the snowy mountain peaks. But he couldn’t find Miria.”
“Everywhere, people talked of a golden dragoness with crystal wings. All the birds whispered of her majestic beauty. But Agonious couldn’t find Miria no matter how hard he tried.’ The old man fell quiet again and got up to prod the dying embers.
I looked out the cave. The sun was going down. Suddenly a shadow flitted across the pale sunlit sky. ‘Agoneous?’ I suddenly jerked my head and then smiled at my own stupidity. It was just the piece of a wandering cloud. I was under the spell of the story the old man was weaving.
“What happened then? Where was Miria?” I couldn’t stay quiet for long.
“Hmmm!…….Where was Miria? That was indeed the question”. The old man again repeated my question.
“This is what the dragon asked everybody but was unable to find the answer. He wandered around for days looking for Miria and one day he came across a unicorn drinking from a silvery stream. Now unicorns and dragons are close. They both share a common ancestry – the ancestry of myth and magic.”
“O! noblest of all creatures, please help me for I am weary in my quest.” Agonious begged the unicorn.
“You are looking for Miria. Arent you?” the unicorn slowly raised its head.
“Yes…yes….Miria. I am looking for Miria. I have flown for months to reach her but now that I am here she is nowhere to be found.” Agonious desperately rubbed his veiny wings together.
The unicorn grew sad and bent its noble head in silence.
“Why don’t you say something? Why don’t you tell me where is Miria?” Agonious was gradually becoming furious.
“Come follow me.” The unicorn guided Agonious towards a long winding path going in the mountains. They climbed on for hours and finally reached the rim of a smoking volcano.
“What is this? Where is Miria?” Agonious looked around.
“Miria is dead”. The unicorn told him sadly. “She grew tired of her eternal loneliness. She was heartbroken. So one day she just flew up, kissed the clouds for the last time and then dived into this volcano.”
“No!” Agonious cried in anguish and disbelief. “I sent the sparrow to tell her I was coming.”
The unicorn just shook his head in sadness and walked away. Agonious kept on peering inside the volcano looking for Miria. Then he flew up, kissed the clouds one last time and dived into the volcano along with the treasure he carried for Miria. The lava burnt him to ashes in seconds. Since that day, whenever the volcano gets frustrated and spews out lava and ash, it rains diamonds.’