A Very Sad Tale
How Love Led to Death
It was in Loschy Wood near Stonegrave that this saddest of tales begins, and it is in Nunnington Church under a stone effigy of a knight and his dog that it has its lachrymose ending. Those who have never loved a dog or been loved by a felicitous canine can not know the sadness that opens to the hearts of those of us who are otherwise blessed.
Although you would be hard pressed to find it now, once upon a time there lived a giant dragon that breathed fire and smoke and terrorised the neighbourhood round about. Those who saw him tell that his teeth were as long and as piercing as the tines of a pitchfork and a tongue that slavered poison. This fearsome beast had taken the life of all the knights that sallied forth to do battle with it. He had gnawed their flesh, chewed their bones, chomped their armour into dust, and devoured their horses – saddle and all!
Then came brave Sir Peter Loschy, a bold and fearless warrior whom, when he heard of the slaughter that the fiery beast was wreaking on the innocent, determined to put a stop to the flame breather with the poisonous tongue, or else to die trying. Tenacity is the stuff of heroes, and the course recommended to those who would be heroes.
Sir Peter was not only brave, but also clever. Before he went to do battle with the brute he had the blacksmith fashion a suit of armour that was covered with razor sharp edges, all facing outwards against his foe. When first he donned the suit his squire asked him how it felt. “Sharp,” was his reply, followed by a cheerful wink to the page.
Right quick he mounted on his steed and armed to the teeth with the accoutrements of knighthood he aimed his horse towards the slopes of Loschy Wood whereon the dragon had its lair. He rode up the hill in the dense part of the wood with his faithful dog Leo. As he got to the middle, he heard a tremendous crashing sound as if a house was rolling through the trees, and a voice crying, “Don’t trouble yourself to come up, I’m coming down!” It was the fire-breathing monster and he was indeed coming down.
Before he had chance to escape, the dragon caught hold of Sir Peter with its massive tail and wound it tight around him to crush out his life and make himself a dinner of canned knight food. He would have done it too, except he had not reckoned on the razor blades that cut him into hundreds of pieces. The tighter he coiled, the more he was cut, and the greater was the pain he suffered.
He let out a yelp, “YEEEEEOUIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGH,” which is an awful sound to come out from a dragon’s mouth, and immediately released the bold knight. The dragon was enraged, which, when you consider that he lived in a state of permanent anger, resulted in a terrible escalation of his meanness and doubled, nay threbled, his intention to have that doughty knight for his supper. But as he released his grip the knight unsheathed his sword and struck the wounded animal some fierce blows, one of which cut the dragon deep on his shoulder. “Ha! Now I will finish him,” quoth the warrior, but the dragon did no more than roll on the ground and his wounds were magickally healed.
The pair was locked in ferocious mortal combat for the space of three hours, but each time the sword cut the animal’s flesh, it rolled on the ground and was healed, and his strength renewed. One blow struck off the dragon’s tail, and at that Sir Peter whistled Leo, and his dog ran and took the tail between its teeth all the way to the hill close by Nunnington church, so that it could not be rejoined to the body.
When he ran back to the bloody arena, the dog snatched up another piece of leg that the knight had just detached, and did the same with that that he had done with the tail. Time and time again the dog returned, picked up the loppings of his master, and took them to the hill. This he did until only the head of the creature remained, and Leo took possession of this also and delivered it to the hill, whereupon it was certain that the knight was victorious and the dragon was dead.
The dog was so pleased that his lord was safe than he ran to him wagging his tail. “Well done,” said Peter Loschy, patting his faithful companion on the head. As he did so, the dog licked his face, as dogs are wont to do to those they love the most.
Oh, dreadful moment! On Leo’s tongue was some of the poison from the dragon’s body, and it was so venomous that the knight fell backwards instantly and was a dead corpse. The dog was so sorrowful at the death of his master that he would not leave his side, but laid on his body and died there of a broken heart.
Sir Peter was entombed in Nunnington church; his grave topped with a stone effigy showing Leo laid at his feet as a symbol of the dog’s outstanding fidelity to his owner. How moving a tale, how sad that victory should end in defeat, but how gloriously told is the tale of the love of a faithful friend.
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