For the years of its quiet existence, it was known by the local people as Blue Water Bay.
At first, it was called Dragon Bay in derision of an old fisherman who said that a dragon had surfaced near his boat as he was coming back into the bay. He said it was a small dragon and seemingly harmless, and the people did not believe him. He simply said, “I fed it a fish. It will come back. You’ll see.”
And they did see, because the dragon approached other boats. One boat that had no fish to offer, the dragon capsized, but it swam away without harming the fishermen. After that, no one questioned its right to part of their catch, and a peaceful coexistence lasted for some weeks. Then the dragon came with another of its kind, and both of them grew rapidly.
The fishermen began to complain of the severe taxation that the dragons put on their catch. Those who held that the fishermen should offer no violence, should continue to feed the dragons as a due tax to nature, met with, “Your boat hasn’t been visited yet, that’s all. Small boat, bad day at sea, they can clean out your hold in minutes.”
Gray Man brought his small boat into the bay after an unproductive day at sea, and the dragons made their demand. He fed them his entire catch, but it was not enough. One dragon dove beneath the boat and rose up and capsized it, and the other slashed down upon it and broke it in half. Both dragons attacked the halves and broke them into smaller pieces. Gray Man swam for it, and one of the dragons set out after him, but Arn entered the bay and saw what was happening. He steered his boat close to the dragon and threw it fish to divert it, then pulled Gray Man on board with him and kept feeding until the dragons were satisfied and swam away.
The fishermen held council that night. Gray Man said, “You’ve seen how they grow. In the Spring, they were the length of Arn’s boat. Now they are that plus half the length of the brother’s boat. Keep going at that rate, and they’ll be eighty feet by Fall, and their appetites grow apace. As for a tax to nature, I’ll share with gulls and pelicans and seals and otters, as we have always done, but these dragons aren’t nature. God, who made the birds and the fish and the otters and you and me, didn’t make these creatures.”
“Then who did?”
But Gray Man had had his say and waited to see what would develop from the meeting. And that was that no boat would come in alone. Each boat would hold at sea until there were several, and they would come in together and see what happened if they refused to feed. They hoped if they stood together, the dragons would leave them alone.
They wouldn’t. Three boats were capsized. Arn’s boat was broken up. Gray Man took the end of a line and jumped into the sea, dove for Arn, who was injured and unconscious. One of the dragons turned after him, but two of the men still on the boats began to throw fish to the dragons, and they desisted their violence to eat their fill and then retreated into the deeps as the men in the water were pulled aboard and they salvaged what they could of the damaged boats.
Both Arn’s legs were broken. They laid him on his bed and sent for a doctor.
Arn’s oldest son asked for a delay. “You must give me two or three days,” he said, but he was yet a boy, and the men did not listen to him but set to sea the next morning heavily armed.
In that first battle, two men were killed, three badly injured, and one man, Arn’s brother, went mad. He had helped pull Arn, insensible in pain, out of the water at the first confrontation, and the anger had begun to build then and continued to build as it seemed clear that Arn would never again have full use of his legs. He watched two close friends die, and he stood tall in his boat and fired nine shots from a high-powered rifle into one dragon, four of the shots sure hits in the eye, and the dragon was slowed no more than if they had been blanks fired from a toy gun. He tried to leap overboard to attack the dragon with his knife, but Gray Man hit him in the head with an oar and knocked him unconscious and then commanded a rescue, recovery and retreat, effected only after the dragons had fed on all the fish in the holds as well as on the parts of two men.
There was an immediate immigration of newspeople, scientists, thrill-seekers, and recorders. There was little skepticism among the visitors. Two men dead, four men injured, one man gone insane, five boats broken up put it beyond hoax or imagination, and the only question seemed to be what are the beasts, and where do they come from?
Gray Man told the reporter, “We cannot feed them and feed ourselves. There will be no boats put to sea until they are destroyed.”
With no food offered them in the bay, the dragons came ashore. The people retreated into the hills, and the dragons ate a cow and her calf and about thirty chickens, and it was shown across the nation on television as a camera crew worked from the bluffs. The dragons came up out of the bay and into the village, smashed fences and houses until they had found enough to eat, and went back into the ocean.
People continued to arrive. Among them were sportsmen, who hoped for a chance to kill this very big game, and showmen, who hoped to exploit the situation for financial gain. They brought in cattle for feed and built bleachers, sold tickets for seats. The showmen were successful in stalling the sportsmen; if no attempts were made now to kill the dragons, scientists would have time to make whatever observations they could and the showmen would have time to build publicity for the big event. There was an attempt to sell licenses for the chance to kill a dragon, but the sportsmen formed their own organization and drew lots for positions so that an orderly battle could be undertaken.
The first day, the dragons surfaced in the bay, swam around a little and then came up on the beach where the cattle and goats had been staked. They ate three steers and two goats and went back into the ocean.
The second day, the dragons came ashore and began feeding. Five sportsmen who had drawn the first lots opened fire. The dragons showed no more reaction than cattle would to bothersome flies. The men who drew lot numbers six and seven moved into position and opened fire with a fifty-caliber machine gun and a rocket launcher. There were no injuries to the dragons, but the force of the heavier armaments was enough to stop their feeding. They charged the men and quickly dispatched them and then charged up into the bleachers. On the bluffs, the camera crew stayed on the job and broadcast “The Dragon Bay Massacre.” When the bleachers and most of the spectators were destroyed, the dragons once again returned to the sea.
The next day, military forces were there, but they agreed to delay their attack for two reasons: the area needed to be effectively cleared so that the very heavy arms they intended to use would not destroy any of the local population, and scientists wanted the chance for further observation if the dragons only fed and did not attack.
Arn’s son said that the dragons grew when the heavy weapons were used, that they seemed to soak up the force used against them and make it part of themselves. The scientists said that could be true, but they couldn’t be sure without some means to measure or weigh.
Arn’s son had gone inland and selected yew wood, cedar, and ash, and he had returned and worked quickly but carefully with blade and fire and abrasive stone. He cleansed himself and his weapons. He kept secluded and prayed all night. In the morning, when the dragons surfaced, he walked toward them from the cover of the trees on the low hill above the bay, carrying the bow and the two arrows he had so carefully made. The dragons paid him little heed until he was within thirty feet of them, and then the largest dragon turned to look at him. Arn’s son called out, “Through me, you come to an end.” The dragon rose to his great height and attacked. Arn’s son pulled the bow and sent the first arrow deep into the dragon’s breast. The dragon coughed, spat blood and sank to the sand. Its mate charged. Arn’s son loosed the second arrow, and it pierced the second dragon when it was only fifteen feet from him. The dragon dropped, skidded a deep furrow in the sand, and was dead at his feet.
Arn’s son went back up into the hills before the observers got anywhere near him. Two men who knew him, who talked with him, reported that he had little to say, only that we ignore and lose the knowledge and power we are freely given. “He said though he defended us by killing the dragons, he will do none of our thinking for us, and he would speak with us no further.”