Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Pottage

Erwin was a peasant, just barely a man by modern standards but he'd been mucking slop across the fields for over a decade, though his scruffy beard put him more towards the death-and-tribute-to-his-lord end of the spectrum. One fine spring day, when the air was still cold but the ground had already thawed, Erwin was clearing stones out of a field that the family would be farming this year. After jamming a pry bar underneath it, he grabbed it to steady himself. It felt hot to the touch.

A great bellow came from the sun. Or rather, from the fuzzy blobs of purple in his vision where the sun had overloaded his eyes. A large shape emerged out of the blobs, all wings and talons and scales, descending out of the sky and landing with a sticky thud into the boot-high muck. The impact had buried it up to its scaly knees.

"How dare you sully the egg of a dragon!" it announced.

Erwin mumbled.

"Speak clearly when addressing a dragon!" the dragon boomed.

"Are-you-gonna-eat-me?" Erwin asked, louder this time. "I'm-good-at-working-I'm-the-only-one-who-works-these-fields-please-don't-eat-me."

The dragon appeared to consider this. "I will not eat you at the moment. But tell the peasants that a dragon has laid its egg in this field, and that any caught here will be eaten in their sleep and digested as they awake. And you, sir, who have already infracted, owe me. Meet me here tonight at twilight."

Erwin trudged back to his hovel. His mother was stirring pottage over the fire, a thick boiled mixture of both food and things that looked like food after they'd been boiled for six hours.

"Ma, a dragon says not to use the west field."

"Okay," Erwin's Ma said. She stirred the pottage. "Pa ain't going to be happy," she said.

"Pa can suck an egg," Erwin said.

"What can I suck?" said Pa, emerging from the shadows where he'd been crouching.

"An egg, Pa. Out in the west field. A big old dragon egg. Or you could've, until the dragon came around. It's probably watching the egg now."

"Convenient!" Pa roared, and hid back in the shadows. He had always thought that he was a vampire, or at least that was the reason he gave for never going out to work the fields.

Erwin went out into the west field at twilight after he had a bowl of brown pottage the same color and consistency of the field that he'd been working. The dragon came to light upon a boulder that Erwin hadn't yet moved.

"I told them," Erwin said.

"Did you bring any food?" the dragon asked.

"No. We haven't had any meat but a little salt bacon, and that's long gone."

"But do you have...pottage? I can smell it on your breath."

"Sure," Erwin said.

"May I have some?"

"Okay," Erwin said. He led the dragon back to the hovel. The dragon couldn't fit inside, so it made do by sticking its head through the door.

"May I have a bowl of pottage?" it asked Ma.

"Of course you may not!" Pa shouted, leaping from the shadows and throwing a length of thick rope around the dragon's neck. "Laying eggs in my field! A field that Erwin's gotta work! I'll kill you!"

The dragon bit Pa right through the middle.

"Ha!" announced Pa, "I'm a vampire! Your teeth can't hurt me!"

"But I am an old dragon, and I have wooden teeth!"

"Shite!" bellowed Pa, before disappearing into a wisp of oily smoke that smelled of black peppercorns and lemon zest.

Ma served a bowl of pottage to the dragon, who ate it, bowl and all.

"And it is because of those wooden teeth that I cannot eat meat. That and my sworn vegetarianism. Thank you for the pottage."

The Moral: Always keep your house clear of any vampires in case you don't have any pottage with which to placate a dragon.

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