Bedtime Fantasy Fiction

           Once upon a time in a faraway land, high on a mountaintop overlooking the tiny village of Elderberry, lived a fire-breathing dragon named Fillibert.” Legend had it that Fillibert had been hatched from an egg that glittered like an enormous crystal in the sunlight. The crystal was said to have given Fillibert his ferocious fire.

Dragons are, by nature, hoarders, so, often their lairs became as thick as berry brambles with treasures! Fillibert didn’t hoard gold or art or magic like other dragons. Fillibert’s special weakness was hats. How he first came to love “tops,” as he called them, he couldn’t really say. But suspected this love derived from his great, tall, handsome Great Grandfather Dragon, for Great Grandfather Dragon was always dapper in his fine herringbone fedora, so high up it sometimes stuck through the clouds!

While other young dragons wanted magic stars plucked from the night sky or pots of gold gathered from the ends of rainbows, even precious works of art collected throughout the centuries, all Fillibert ever requested for his birthday gift was a brand new hat.

Once, Fillibert’s best friend, Montaclur Dragon, received a soft, pastel painting by a Frenchman named Claude Monet, and another by his friend Edgar Degas. It was of pretty ballerinas stretching and preening before the dance. Oh!” Fillibert blinked at these marvels and wondered if he might create a hat as frothy and sublime as Degas’ ballerina tutus. Soon it would be Mother Dragon’s nine hundredth and ninety-nineth birthday, and he wanted to make a special hat for her. His fingers fairly itched!

So, Fillibert got out his shimmering ribbons and swaths of frothy tulle and snippets of this and snatches of that, his scissors and silken threads and fancy trims and began to cut, and to piece, his mind afire. Fillibert worked and worked until the stars came out and his lids dropped. But come morning, he was back at his worktable, his dragon claws cutting and twisting and fluffing and tucking. How elegant Mother Dragon would be in the annual Dragon Day Parade!

Never had Mother Dragon thought Fillibert’s love of hats odd or peculiar or turn down her mouth at him or wagged a finger and “tut, tut, tut” him. Instead, whenever Mother Dragon saw Fillibert debut one of his new creations, she would lift her high, smooth silky neck and smile. Mother Dragon knew Fillibert had special gifts.

Early one morning, tugging the warm woolen muffs of the reindeer knit down over his small dragon ears, Fillibert stood out on the frozen ledge in front of his lair watching the shivering, bare-headed children way down below trudge through the snow toward the school bell. He snorted out two lines of fire and kicked his foot at the children. Remembering back to their terrified faces the moment they caught sight of him, he smiled from ear-to-ear. How they screamed and threw up their hands and scattered like mice. This was always hellish good fun! He saw himself laughing and slapping his knee. Ever since he was a very small dragon, he had always strived to win the medal for “The Most Malevolent Dragon of the Year,” but, because all young dragons are taught increasingly clever child- scaring strategies in Dragon Training School, competition was stiff.

That afternoon, puffing out a plume of fire, Fillibert made up his mind. The very next day he would thunder down into the village and scare the wits out of the children the moment they walked out of the schoolhouse. Wearing a devilish grin, he returned to his lair to primp and to dance around in his hat-cluttered lair. Taking in his multitudinous hats, his small yellow-green dragon eyes glowed with delight. Hats were everywhere! Piled on shelves, stacked along the floor. Hats overflowed trunks and boxes and hung on the walls. There were hats in cabinets and stored beneath the bed. Hats even hung from the chandelier! If wealth were counted in hats, Fillibert was a very rich dragon!

Head held high; chest puffed out, trying on one hat after the other, Fillibert admired himself in the wall mirror. Sometimes he wore three, even four hats at a time, and had to dip to pass through the door! He placed a bright red hat with a Goldfinch feather on his head, and then a black and white polka dot bowler and then, balanced a violet hat with chartreuse and royal blue stripes on top. Excellent!” he exclaimed. “How fine!

But then, suddenly, the next day, Fillibert’s fire went out, and he had to take to his bed for a whole week. Miserable, he tossed and turned and snuffled and sneezed and coughed, and he could not get warm no matter what! “I’m dying,” he thought - but dragons don’ die! His fire could not go out! Every day he awoke, he groaned, “No fire! No fire! No fire!” Puffing out a tepid puff of smoke, and because dragons are, by nature, very, very hot, Fillibert began to worry that his fire would never come back. He simply did not know what to do!”

And then one morning, he opened his eyes and coughed - his fire was back! It raged out of his mouth as red and flaming as a Chinese ribbon. So, he went to the cupboard and took down the beautiful tall, gold brocade hat his father had given to him on his hundredth birthday and placed it on his head. “Excellent!” he exclaimed. “How fine!” And again he went and looked down over the mountain at the freezing shivering children pushing their way through the wet snow. But, now, watching the miserable children wasn’t fun anymore. He knew how they felt as they made their way to school, and a soft, sad feeling mixed with guilt wavered in his breast like a chilled troubling wind. He saw himself rampaging through the village terrorizing every child in sight, even gleefully scaring the very ancients hobbling along on canes, and he shook his head. Then he remembered his laughing face and his hands slapping his knees until his ribs hurt.

To try and make up for his heartless rampages, Fillibert decided, “I will give those children hats!” But just as quickly he shook his head angrily and thundered at the troubling wind coursing through him, “Why? Why, why, why should I give those children my hats! What a screwball idea! It’s taken hundreds of birthdays and lots of hard work to fill my lair! Let those scaredy cats get their own!”

However, early the next morning, Fillibert found himself standing in front of his lair watching the children way off in the distance. It had stormed during the night, and the snow was deep and nearly blocking the cottage doors and hung around the windows like swaths of white lace. Two blonde pig-tailed girls had fallen behind the line of others and were beginning to whimper and cry. A red-faced boy had turned back and was trying to help them along. “I’m tellin’ ya, Bita,”Fillibert could hear the boy admonish, breathing hard, “if’n ya don’t catch up, yer ears’ll freeze off! An’ yer nose too! So c’mon Lizzie and Malina, hurry! Ya never know when that dragon’ll come! ”

 Hearing the boy, Fillibert could not help but smile, and he let out a fearsome roar, threw up his hands and muttered angrily to himself, “Let their ears fall off! And their noses too! But then, he noticed a strange wavering in his voice, and frowned and returned to his lair. To put the children out of his mind, he dillied and dallied with his ribbons and bows and all the blindingly bright satin hats, the pinks and reds, and yellowy greens. As hard as he tried to keep the cold wind from whispering, its low, commanding voice just kept getting louder and louder until it thundered in his head, “Fillibert, you’re being selfish! Give those children your hats!” Just as if there were rocks in his pockets, Fillibert’s guilt began weighing him down.

There was plenty of time before he would go down into the village to tear about, roaring great orange streaks of fire, his tremendous tail knocking everything helter skelter, sending the villagers flurrying in fear. “I’ll just do a quick tidying up,” he thought. “That’ll stop that nagging wind!”

In a sudden fit of energy, surprising himself, Fillibert, dashed outside, grabbed the old wooden wagon from around the back of the mountain and parked it in front of his lair and started stacking hats along the bottom, thick woolens first, embroidered on top. “Oh no!” he exclaimed, standing back. “Those hats won’t do! They’re way too big! And he raced back inside and looked around. “The perfect size!” he thought spotting the little hats he had made his dragon dolls.

At once, Fillibert started grabbing hats off the dolls and neatly stacking them in the wagon. “Just a couple more oughta do it,” he thought and dropped to his knees and began pawing dolls out from beneath the bed. His eyes fixed on the lavender felt hat his mother had given him for his first birthday and he snatched it too, in case he decided to wear two!

 After balancing a full box of warm-looking doll caps atop the others, Fillibert nodded with satisfaction. The sun was going down and everywhere purple shadows lay on the snow like exhausted trees. The village women would be preparing suppers, the men not yet home, the children about to let out from school. Muffled up in his plaid woolen scarf, long red overcoat, and tall red and green paisley top hat, almost running with excitement, wagon bumping, Fillibert pulled his load down the mountain trail and tiptoed over to the school house door. Just as he did, a little boy of about eight door stepped outside. He gasped, stared up at Fillibert, and started screaming.

Out of natural ferocity, a flicker of dynamite sparked in Fillibert’s heart. Just about to flash his dagger sharp teeth at the boy and thrash his monstrous tail, he paused. He considered the boy’s thin, miserable clothes, his blue terrified eyes, his face twisting with fear. He had never been so close to a human child before. As soon as they saw him coming, they always screamed and ran away so fast, he never actually felt the children’s’ fear. Just then, tenderheartedness seemed to have taken hold in Fillibert, for he did not feel mean anymore. He did not feel fierce. He did not feel scary. He just felt sorry.

That’s when Fillibert swallowed his fire. And he started swishing his great green tail and whirling around like one of the ballerinas in Mr. Edgar Degas’s beautiful painting. The little boy began to laugh and laugh, and the other children rushed to the door and lifted their eyes up to Fillibert’s smiling face, the line of his mouth, a great big upturned curve, and they started laughing too, because none had ever seen a smiling, pirouetting dragon.

Fillibert bent his enormous scaled body forward, and took the boy’s small hand in his gigantic paw and began to whirl him around and around.

The following day, the sky blue and low, the snow still flurrying, doll hats of every kind, fury caps and woolen hats and French chapeaus and others with funny shapes made hundreds of years ago when they were “high style” bobbed gaily toward the schoolhouse. Watching and smiling, Fillibert stood on his ledge. And then he went back inside, picked up his pot of glue and began to whistle.

As it turned out, Fillibert was not a heartless dragon after all. He was just Fillibert, just Fillibert.

February 17, 2023 23:55

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Russell Susko
00:59 Mar 22, 2023

I enjoyed your story. Nice phrase, "shadows lay on the snow like exhausted trees."


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Mustang Patty
14:01 Feb 23, 2023

Hi there, What a magical story!! This was storytelling at its finest. Thank you for sharing, ~MP~


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