This weeks prompt reads: 26. Dream of ancient castle stairs—sleeping guards—narrow window—battle on plain between men of England and men of yellow tabards with red dragons. Leader of English challenges leader of foe to single combat. They fight. Foe unhelmeted, but there is no head revealed. Whole army of foe fades into mist, and watcher finds himself to be the English knight on the plain, mounted. Looks at castle, and sees a peculiar concentration of fantastic clouds over the highest battlements.
The Resulting Story:The Battle of Timalt Tower
Welcome back, brothers and sisters of our esteemed order! We apologize for the delay, but tests must be taken and some recovery was need after dwelling on the abyss for too long. So we begin this week looking at something a bit new. A dream again, of a great battle worthy of the father of fantasy, with dragons and swords and duels and inhuman powers! So, let us take it a part bit by bit and begin.
I will not begin by examining the nature of the color yellow. That is a doomed rabbit hole of hundreds of cultural contexts that might not lead anywhere. I will, however, begin by addressing Mr. Lovecraft’s most famous character in yellow: The King in Yellow. The King in Yellow and his city of Carcosa actually predates the works of Lovecraft.
The King in Yellow is in fact a play initial, about the arrival of the King in Yellow from his realm of Hali. The book it is found in deals greatly with many horrifying concepts, but chiefly the play is famed for driving those made with truth at the end. The King in Yellow comes as a revelation, a terrible truth that will expand his realm over into Carcosa. The book as a whole focuses on similar revelers, artists and decadents.
For these, the King in Yellow is also often associated with decay, decedance, and entropy. And the allies of the men in yellow, the great red dragons, are similair. While the term dragon has grown to apply to just about anything vaguely serpentine (as giant applies to all things big, and fairy to all things magical), there is something of a concrete definition to be found. In general, a dragon is a serpentine creature, possessing magical powers, and often legs.
This includes a variety of creatures of course. The dragons of the Journey to the West, who are lords of vast treasure and the undersea realms, fit the mold as easily as the great wyrm Fafnir, a transfigured dwarf of the Volsung saga. It also includes perhaps the Feathered Serpent (a proper deity, who we will discuss on article only to him and his kin), and my favorite dragons: the slavic Zmey, who have three heads and spit thunder and occasionally have children with mortals.
But these dragons are known to Englishmen, and are brilliant red. The color is the key here. And as I would not try and unearth all the secrets of the color yellow, I will likewise not do so with red. But a red dragon? That symbol is known. The red dragon, as those who play various tabeltop games or read Biblical lore might know, is the most fearsome of all kinds. For that is the beast of revelation, the great dragon with seven heads and seven crowns upon it’s heads, and a blasphemy on each crown.
So we have an allegiance of somewhat diabolic forces, and an air of enchantment. For if this story is to have weight, I would certainly not permit a dream to be the focus of an entire plot. Thus we have the last section, the strange clouds floating over the tower. Strange clouds and storms are often means of transportation and conscious movements.
But storms also have a second role: They are marks of strange and dangerous creatures. The Umu dabrutu, the Zu, and Pazuzu of Sumerian mythology, for example, are terribly and chaotic storms bearing weapons into battle. The Maruts form another host, underneath the greater storm gods. The thunder birds are kinder creatures, but still, beholding one forces one to do all things backwards. The storm, as a symbol of power among many a high god, is also a dangerous and chaotic force at times. In more recent times, ariel spirits are often counted among the ranks of demons and horrors.
Thus we have something of a notion of what is at stake. There are great forces of desolation and diobaltry on the rise, threatening to overcome the English dead. There is some strange sorcery on the tower, kindly or no. Perhaps some wizard has switched places with the leader of the english, in order to save them. Perhaps it was some working of the enemy leader, who possesses some magic if he’s able to hold a form without a head or body.
This would be where I dwelled a great deal on the formation of our story…but it is again rather plainly laid out. Likewise, we have a protagonist and narrator already. So again, we will leave it be with these wondering on the things themselves.
What relation to these yellow tabard men have with the dragons? Are the dragons their beasts of battle, or are they the dragons servants? They are willing to engage in a duel on foot, and appear to be proficient at their swordsman ship. The dragon might bespeak a welsh character, or even a Norse, with the dragon as a flag or figurehead on a ship.
What is the history of this war? Is it recent? Is it habitual, for men in yellow to assail England from some country unseen? We are told this is a group of Englishmen, not a group of men from any particular reason. This places it probably after the Norman Conquest, or shortly before it. Interestingly, if we take the terms metaphorically (and thus in a way that I, dear brothers and sisters, find incredibly dreary), we find that a flag of such resembles the flag of Somerset. Of course, Somerset is distinctly and definitely English. Still, perhaps that will be useful for your reconstruction.
We will come again next week, then, with this English leader’s corpse. And all will be well.