The Wawel Hill Dragon
NOTE: I don't own the rights to Jane Eyre. This is out of love for the novel. Based on the Polish legend of the Wawel Hill dragon.
He laid inside his cave, his yellow eyes peered down at the small village nearby. He then raised his head, shook it from side to side, and took flight. His flight did not go unnoticed as the townspeople spotted him in the sky and an alarm was sounded. The townsfolk then took to the safety of their cellars and basements as a winged creature flew over their village and sprayed it with his fire-laden breath. Unfortunately, for the inhabitants of Wawel Hill in Krakow, Poland, this was a common occurrence. Thankfully, their houses were made of stone; unfortunately, their crops and the local flora and fauna weren't and were often burned down by a flying fire-breathing dragon who lived in a cave near town. Many brave men have tried to kill the dragon only to find themselves burned and eaten by said creature and now the inhabitants of Wawel Hill are in desperate need of help to rid themselves of the dragon once and for all.
It had been four months since the newest Rochester came into the world. Little Helen Jane Rochester was the light of her parents' eye as well as her four-year-old brother Henry, who was now allowed to hold his infant sibling, albeit under the guidance of an adult. The proud parents, Jane and Edward Rochester, couldn't be happier.
"She's constantly getting big," mused Jane one morning, holding her daughter. "Pretty soon, she'll be walking." Jane sat in the drawing room with her husband and son after they had breakfasted.
"When will that be, Mama?" asked Henry.
"Not for another several months, Dear," Jane replied. "It will take some time."
"I remember when you were starting to walk," said Edward. "You had wandered into the privy. Thank goodness no one was in there at the time." He smiled and rubbed his son's head.
One of the servants came into the drawing room with a letter for Jane and Edward. Edward took the letter, opened it, and quickly read its contents to himself and then gave it to his wife to read, who in turn, handed off little Helen to her father and read the letter herself.
"What does it say Mama?" asked Henry.
"Well, it's from a gentleman in Poland. He has written to us requesting our services."
"Now that's one country I haven't been to, I think," said Edward. "I don't know a single soul there."
"It's written from someone named Dr. Leon Stanislaw."
"The name does not sound familiar to me, dear."
"Me neither. However, he does write to say that a certain gentleman by the name of Angus MacFadden had recommended us to him; apparently, the two of them had attended Oxford together."
"Now that makes sense," said Edward.
"Mama, what does he want you to do?" asked Henry.
"He wants us to get rid of a monster for the village he lives in," replied Jane.
"No, not quite," said Jane with apprehension in her voice. "Something quite larger."
"No son," said Edward with a smile. "There are no elephants in Poland, I'm afraid."
"It's larger an an elephant, Henry. It's a dragon!" cried Jane.
Henry's eyes widened like saucers. The only dragons he had heard about were in the stories that his parents read to him before he went to bed at night; the kinds that threatened kingdoms and were slain by brave knights to win the hands of fair maidens.
"Will you kill him with a sword like in the stories you read me?" Henry asked.
"Well no," said Edward. "It's much more complicated than that. It will take a lot of work to figure out how to bring down this creature."
Henry then left to be with his nanny who promised to take him to play with his friends, twin siblings Martin and Matilda, for the day while Edward handed off Helen to her nanny to be fed and bathed for the day. Meanwhile, the creature killers retreated to Edward's study so that they could talk more of the subject of dragons.
"Jane, my dear," said Edward. "We've never taken on a dragon before."
"Yes I know," said Jane quietly.
"It pains me to say this but I'm afraid we would have to refuse the offer." Edward sighed heavily and put his hand to his face in frustration. "It's too risky and far more dangerous than anything we've faced. I do not want Henry and Helen to spend the rest of their lives without parents."
Jane put her own face in her hand and shook her head. "There's got to be some way."
"Impossible!" exclaimed Edward. "How would our guns kill a flying beast that breathes fire?"
"Like I said, there must be some way, Edward. There must be a way. You can't leave these people to hide in their attics and basements every time this creature tries to burn their village!"
"At the risk of leaving our children to be orphans?"
"Edward, we face death in the face every time we come across the monsters and creatures we kill every day! What makes this one any different? We must trust God to carry us through as we always do." Jane then calmed down a bit and spoke softer. "I believe that there is a way. We've always figured out ways to defeat the evil beings that threaten our lives."
Edward then sat back with his arms folded and smiled. "Now that is more like it, Jane. Normally you would back out of a challenge like this but I decided to be facetious to provoke some sense of urgency in this matter to keep you from backing out."
"Really now! The last time you were being facetious was when you made me jealous of Blanche Ingram!"
"That was trickery, not facetiousness, my dear little elf," Edward said with a smile. "Those are two different things entirely."
"Oh whatever, Edward," Jane sighed. "I suggest we respond to this call immediately."
Almost immediately, the Creature Killers of Thornfield arrived in Krakow and barely made it to the village of Wawel Hill after a great deal of detours, bad directions, and good directions lost in translation. The carriage they traveled in pulled up to a medium sized home made of stone masonry among all the homes and buildings made of the same material to prevent them from burning down. Jane and Edward made their way to the front door with their bags. A well-dressed black-haired gentleman about thirty years of age answered the door.
"Good day to you," he said in near perfect English. "My name is Dr. Leon Stanislaw. You must be the creature killers."
"Yes we are," said Edward, removing his hat. "I'm Edward Rochester and this is my wife, Jane." They all shook hands and Dr. Stanislaw showed them inside his home while his servants took their belongings to their room. "Thank you for responding to my letter," he said as he showed them into the drawing room. "I've been good friends with Mr. MacFadden since our days at Oxford."
"What did you study at Oxford?" asked Jane.
"Medicine. I'm one of the few physicians here in Wawel Hill."
Suddenly, a young woman no older than twenty appeared in the drawing room. Dr. Stanislaw immediately recognized her and welcomed her in.
"Mr. and Mrs. Rochester," he said. "This is my wife, Elzbieta Stanislaw." Mrs. Stanislaw dropped a curtsey.
"It is a pleasure to have you here," she said in perfect but accented English. "Would you care for some tea?"
"I would love some, thank you," said Jane.
"None for me," said Edward. "But do you have coffee?"
"But of course! I'll send for your libations in a moment." She then left the room. Mr. Stanislaw then continued to speak.
"We are newly married," he said with a smile. "We have been married for about six months. Her father is also a physician here in Wawel Hill but he decided to retire and award me with his practice."
"That's wonderful!" exclaimed Jane.
"It is wonderful. She's a perfect hostess to our guests and despite having a couple of servants, she insists on doing some housekeeping."
"Sounds like my wife," said Edward with a smile. "Sometimes I have to remind her that we have a housekeeper living with us."
Jane said nothing but elbowed her husband in the side.
Dr. Stanislaw chuckled a bit. "Very well," he said. "Do you have any children at all?"
"We do. We have a four-year-old son and a four-month-old daughter," said Jane proudly.
"Well, my wife and I are not at that point yet but we hope to be," said Mr. Stanislaw.
"My advice would be to take your time and enjoy yourselves," said Edward. "When children come into the world, they become your priority."
"Thank you Mr. Rochester," said Dr. Stanislaw who then watched his wife bring libations to his guests.
"Here is your coffee and here is your tea," she said.
"Thank you very much Mrs. Stanislaw," said Jane.
"Well then, let's get down to business," said Edward, taking a sip of his coffee. "Care to tell us about this dragon that's been wrecking all sorts of havoc on your village?"
"Well, we thought it was just some old Medieval legend but it turns out that everyone has seen this creature," said Dr. Stanislaw. "Every once in awhile, he will hunt for food, mainly livestock but he has been known to consume humans. He also breathes fire which accounts for many of the burn victims that I have seen."
"That's awful!" cried Jane.
"Indeed it is. There are watchmen on duty all day and night and when the dragon is sighted, they sound a series of alarms that warn everyone to take refuge in their basements and cellars. In fact, I'll take you to see ours."
The three of them made their way downstairs to the cellar which looked very much like a normal home with all the comforts such as a parlor, a couple of bedrooms, a small kitchen, and a water closet. It was more than a cellar, the Rochesters thought, it was some sort of secondary shelter. It was also well-furnished with what seemed like everything except a fireplace. Dr. Stanislaw even showed them his wine cabinet, stored safely away from anything remotely flammable. Also in his cellar was a small laboratory and pharmacy. After being shown what was underneath Dr. Stanislaw's humble abode, they made their way to the dining room for dinner.
"This is a wonderful meal," said Jane. "The stew is excellent!"
"Did I mention my wife is a wonderful cook?" said Dr. Stanislaw with a grin. "The best bigos I had ever tasted!"
"Certainly more interesting than the dumpling stew that I'm used to eating," said Edward. "But it's wonderful."
"Thank you very much," said Mrs. Stanislaw. "We normally have a cook but there are occasions where I'd like to..." She was interrupted by the sound of loud church bells from an open window.
"That's the alarm!" cried Dr. Stanislaw. "Quick, close the windows and head to the cellar!"
The servants closed the windows and everyone made their way below, with only a small, closed window to see from. Almost instantly, Wawel Hill appeared deserted; the streets were empty and not a soul was in sight Looking up in the night sky from the small window, Jane and Edward, along with their hosts, saw a winged figure flying in a serpentine manner. It flew in close and landed in a nearby field, its giant, scaly body covering said field like a shady tree. It stuck its long nose in the air and sniffed. Unfortunately, there were no livestock of any kind to be seen so the dragon snorted in frustration and flew away.
"Some people actually put out lamb just to feed the dragon since they have figured the dragon can be dealt with," said Dr. Stanislaw. "But they're merely contributing to the problem. Fortunately, there are times like these when the dragon cannot find food so it'll fly out to the nearest forest for deer and wild game."
"Interesting," said Edward.
"I've never seen any creature this big or horrifying," said Jane.
"I've gone on a safari in Africa about five years ago," said Dr. Stanislaw. "This creature is by far the most frightening thing I've seen compared to the lions and elephants."
"Jane my dear," said Edward. "I believe that we have our work cut out for us."
Jane said nothing but nodded in her husband's direction. This was by far the worst creature they have seen. The more she thought about it the more she doubted their chances of ridding this village of a monster that threatened the very way of life for Wawel Hill. The reality of not making it back to her son and newborn daughter started to well up in her throat. Still she sighed and thought to herself that there must be a way to defeat the deadly beast and save the citizens of Wawel Hill and their animals from certain extinction.
As they were getting ready for bed that night, Jane was pouring over her copy of Nasty Creatures and their Habits, desperate to find something related to dragons. Meanwhile, a very tired Edward yawned and stretched his arms and sat on the bed next to his wife.
"Jane," he said. "It's time for bed. We'll worry about the dragon in the morning."
"I can't help it," said Jane. "I'm frightfully worried; worried that we will fail and possibly perish."
"Worrying will not do you a drop of good, my little fairy," he said sitting close to her. "Trust in God in all things." Edward took his hand and stroked Jane's chin with it. Jane looked from her book and smiled a little. "That's better," said Edward. "Now, put away your book and get some sleep. You will feel better in the morning."
The next morning, the creature killers woke up, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and were given the opportunity to explore Wawel Hill with Mrs. Stanislaw as her husband, being a physician, had calls to make. There was a marketplace, several small shops, some boutiques, and a Catholic church where, according to Mrs. Stanislaw, parishoners go to confession on nearly a daily basis since they never know when or if they will be the victim of the dragon and preferred to leave the Earth with a clean conscience. It was also the church where she and her husband were married and was anxious to show them inside. The church was ornate with stained glass windows and a highly decorated altar but yet simple; the inside was lined with plain wooden pews and the artwork consisted of the 12 stations of the Cross.
"I remember like it was yesterday," said Mrs. Stanislaw. "Father Henryk Bajek married Leon and myself here only six months ago."
Jane and Edward noticed that the church was not empty. Some of the Catholic faithful could be seen kneeling in prayer, probably for the same reason that many of their fellow churchgoers attend confession. After they looked around for a bit, the trio left the church and proceeded to walk around town. After visiting a cafe and several boutiques, Jane, Edward, and Mrs. Stanislaw headed back to the Stanislaw home, with Edward carrying at least three boxes full of clothing.
"Finally, I can stop carrying these damned boxes!" cried Edward as he dropped them on the floor. "My arms are tired. Had I known we would be shopping for clothes, I would've hired a carriage."
Mrs. Stanislaw laughed. "You are quite funny, Mr. Rochester."
"I happen to think so myself," said Jane. "Thank you for showing us around your community."
"You're quite welcome. It is a very pleasant place to live, if the dragon wasn't around."
"That reminds me. Edward, we need to figure out how to rid Wawel Hill of that beast."
"Yes, of course." The two of them were permitted to go into Dr. Stanislaw's library if they needed any reference material. Some of the books were in Polish, others in Russian and in German since Dr. Stanislaw spoke several languages, however, most of them were on the field of medicine. Still, Jane managed to find a book in English that was on the topic of chemistry. While looking through the chemistry book, Edward decided to look through Jane's copy of Nasty Creatures and their Habits and finally found information on dragons.
"Jane," he said. "I think I might have found something."
"What?" she asked. "Tell me."
"Apparently there is a way to defeat dragons and that is to get them to consume toxic chemicals that react with their fire-breath, more specifically, the chemical of sulfur."
"Easier said than done, Edward," said Jane. "We can't just go up to this dragon's cave to bait it with sulfur! We'd have to bait the dragon with deer or lamb or..."
"That's it, Jane!" her husband interrupted. "Remember when Dr. Stanislaw said that the townspeople feed the dragon livestock?"
"What if we could bait the dragon with fresh lamb stuffed with sulfur?"
"If he ate the the lamb, the sulfur would react with the chemicals producing his firey breath and the combustion would kill him instantly!" exclaimed Jane.
"Dr. Stanislaw has a laboratory in his cellar. Surely he has a cache of chemicals there."
"And the butcher is not far from here, Jane. Let's plan this out and tell Mrs. Stanislaw at once!"
At dinner that evening, Jane and Edward discussed their plans to eliminate the Wawel Hill dragon once and for all. It turns out that Dr. Stanislaw did in fact, have sulfur in his cellar laboratory and was more than happy to part with some if it meant doing away with the frightening beast for good. The plan was to buy some lamb from the butcher, stuff the lamb with the chemicals and wait for the unsuspecting winged reptile to consume the deadly meal. The next morning, Jane and Edward purchased some of the best and finest lamb and took to tainting it with just enough sulfur to kill but still taste and smell like meat.
As they dragged it out the nearby field where the dragon was last seen, Jane and Edward could hear the tolling of the church bells, signifying the dragon's presence.
"Edward, we need to hurry," said Jane, pulling on the hunk of lamb. "If we don't, we'll be part of the dragon's dinner this evening."
Edward looked in the sky but didn't see anything. "I don't see it," he said. "Perhaps it's a false alarm. Dr. Stanislaw told me that this happens from time to time."
"I really hope you're right. Besides, the way to the Stanislaw's cellar can't be too..." Jane was interrupted by a loud grunting and the sound of something large flying in the air. Both Jane and Edward turned around and saw the dragon in all its grotesque glory. Before it had a chance to snort and breathe fire, the creature killers were already on foot, running toward shelter; the open passageway to the cellar. No fewer than ten yards, Jane tripped on a rock and fell, spraining her ankle in the process with the dragon in hot pursuit.
"Jane!" yelled Edward. "Get up!"
"I can't! My, my ankle. It's..."
"GET UP NOW!" Edward grabbed Jane by the arm and yanked her up, putting her arm around his shoulder, practically dragging her into the safety of the shelter and not a second longer as the dragon's flamed breath barely singed the closed door of the cellar.
"My goodness, are you all right?" cried Mrs. Stanislaw.
"I tripped and sprained my ankle," said Jane out of breath and limping.
"Mr. Rochester, take her to the sofa. I'll attend to her while you watch the dragon from the window," said Dr. Stanislaw.
Edward did as he was told and then quickly went to the window and just in time, saw the tdragon feasting on the sulfur-laden lamb. After eating, the creature made its way to the local river to drink, and drink, and drink. "It took the bait and now it's drinking the river dry," said Edward.
"Probably because it was thirsty," said Dr. Stanislaw.
Edward continued to watch the dragon quench its raging thirst; the more water it drank, the bigger its belly became. And then the inevitable happened. An earth-shattering BOOM. The monstrous dragon that haunted Wawel Hill was no more as the water mixed with the chemicals from his body caused him to explode. Unfortunately, the field nearby was covered in bloody dragon flesh but that didn't matter to the citizens of Wawel Hill as they came out in droves and celebrated.
"The dragon, is it dead?" asked Jane.
"Dead like Bertha Mason," replied Edward as he came toward her and put her hand in his. "Jane, I'm sorry for my tone of voice moments ago but I did not want you to become the dragon's meal."
"It is all right," Jane said with a smile. "You saved my life."
"You saved mine when my bedroom was on fire," said Edward with a smile. "The least I can do is repay the favor."
"How did your bedroom catch fire?" asked a very puzzled Mrs. Stanislaw.
"That's a long story," replied Edward.
After the citizens of Wawel Hill found out about the heroic deed of the Creature Killers of Thornfield, they treated their saviors like royalty. The butcher offered his finest cuts of meat and the jeweler offered Jane his most expensive piece of inventory. Jane turned down the jewelry and she and Edward suggested that the meat be given to the poor. What they did accept were rosary beads given to them by the nunnery near the church. Before they left, Jane and Edward thanked the Stanislaws for their hospitality and let them know that they were welcome at Thornfield any time. With Jane's ankle on the mend, the two of them headed back home to England. When their carriage pulled up to the front of Thornfield, they were greeted by their servants, Mrs. Fairfax, and their children and respective nannies.
"How was your trip?" asked Mrs. Fairfax, helping Jane and Edward out of the carriage.
"It was wonderful," said Jane. "It's small but it's such a wonderful place to stay and visit."
"Mama!" cried Henry as he ran full force into his mother's arms. "I missed you very much."
"I missed you too, my darling boy," said Jane, embracing her son.
"Papa, I missed you, too!" Henry then gave his own father a hug.
"So did I son." Edward embraced Henry and kissed his forehead.
One of the servants handed Jane her infant daughter, Helen, who looked back at her mother with glee and giggled as soon as Jane smiled at her.
"Did you miss Mama?" Jane said to Helen, gently bouncing her daughter in her arms. "Here, let's go see Papa." She handed Helen off to Edward who promptly started making funny faces.
"The children were extremely well-behaved," said Mrs. Fairfax as they all walked in the house. "They didn't give the nannies too much trouble."
"That's good to hear," said Jane.
"Mama," said Henry, as he took his mother's hand in his. "Can I tell you something?"
"Of course, Henry. What is it?"
"I was scared that you and Papa weren't going to come back home but I prayed to God that you would and you did come back home."
Jane smiled at her son. "That is wonderful, Henry. I'm very glad you did pray." She took her son into her arms and held him. "Papa and I love you very much and God loves you very much." She kissed her son's forehead and took him inside.
That night, Jane was busy working on crocheting a blanket to send to the Stanislaws while Edward was relaxing in a warm bath nearby. It had been a long way home and both were happy to be back in Thornfield. Edward then slouched in the bath tub, submerging his head in the water and then came back up. He put his hands through his hair, slicking back the excess water and then finally reclining in the tub.
"How is your bath, dear?" asked Jane.
Edward sighed happily. "'Blissful," he said. "I could very well fall asleep right now."
"Let's hope you don't," Jane said with a smile. "I wouldn't want you to drown,"
"It just feels good to be home again. Travel is wonderful but nothing is more wonderful than to sleep in your own bed at night."
"Very true, indeed, Edward. On a somewhat related subject, Henry told me something when we came home today."
"What did he tell you?"
"He told me that he was worried that we wouldn't come back home but then he prayed to God for us to come back. It made me think about how close we came to being dragon food."
"But the Good Lord saved us from certain death, did He not?"
"Then there is nothing to worry about, my little elf. As long as we're called 'creature killers' and not 'dragon slayers.' I think I am ready for bed now." He pulled himself out of the tub as Jane handed him a towel and his bathrobe, the latter in which he quickly slipped into. "Let's go to bed, dear," he said with his arm around Jane. "I'm long overdue for sleeping in my own bed."