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The Dragon Pearl

Szechwan Province, China

In the province of Szechwan, central China, there was a great drought. Vegetation withered under the relentless beat of the sun. Rivers dried up, crops failed, and there was no indication that the rains would arrive.

Nie Lang was a young peasant boy employed in the stables of the cruel and greedy Lord Zhou. Each day he was sent out with a huge wicker basket and a scythe to cut grass for his master’s horses. Each day it became harder to find fresh grass and Nie Lang had to search further afield. At last, in desperation he decided to climb Dragon Mountain and see if there was any browse to be found on the other side.

After an arduous climb he reached the summit and descended through the mists to the other side. Sadly it seemed that the drought was just as awful here as it was on his side of the mountain. Suddenly a movement caught his eye. A large, snow-white hare had emerged from behind some rocks and sat watching him. Softly the boy approached the animal. It seemed plump and well fed. Suddenly it leapt to its feet and bounded off a few paces before looking back at Nie Lang as if it wanted him to follow it.

Nie Lang followed the hare for a while until it came to a narrow valley. Hear beside a ruined temple was a luxuriant carpet of long, thick, juicy grass. The hare sat down to eat and the boy gave the animal his thanks and cut a basket full of grass. Then he set off home having memorized the way to the secret valley.

Next day he returned for more grass and was amazed at what he saw. The patch of grass he had cut the previous day had miraculously grown back overnight. He refilled his basket and returned home. So it was, day after day Nie Lang trekked to the valley and cut more grass from the never-ending source.

One day Nie Lang hit upon an idea. Instead of climbing all the way up the mountain to the valley each day he would uproot some of the grass and plant it outside his house. That way the unwinding supply would be in easy reach. Congratulating himself on his cleverness he did just that. But as he pulled up the turf he found a jar buried beneath it. Opening the jar he found it was full of water and at the bottom was a large and beautiful pearl. He put the pearl in his pocket and set off home.

Latter he planted the grass beside his house and showed the pearl to his mother. The pearl lit up the whole house with a silvery glow. His mother hid the fabulous gem in their biggest rice jar for safekeeping.

The next day they found that the grass had withered and died, but upon entering the kitchen they found their rice jar overflowing with rice. The pair quickly realised that the pearl was magick.

There was far more rice than Nie Lang and his mother could eat so the kindly boy shared his bounty with his poor neighbours. News of the pearl and its powers soon reached the ears of the evil Lord Zhou who instantly craved it. His soldiers rode out to the boy’s house and began to ransack it. The smashed crockery and destroyed what little furniture the boy and his mother possessed. Nie Lang swallowed the pearl and ran from the men.

He was hidden by a grateful neighbour, but in the night the pearl began to burn in his stomach. He drank bowl after bowl of water. In the morning he was awakened by the sound of men approaching. This time it was not only soldiers but Lord Zhou himself who came to find the pearl. As they burst into the peasant’s hovel he fled through the back door towards the river with the evil lord and his men in hot pursuit.

Stumbling down the steep dry banks he began to drink what little water that still feebly trickled at the bottom. As Lord Zhou and his soldiers reached the banks they skidded to a halt, horrified at what they saw. Were Nie Lang once stood there was a gigantic dragon. Its serpentine, electric blue body coiled like a river on the dusty bed. It raised a huge head with a flowing cobalt mane and branching antlers to gaze at the mortals with opalestant eyes the size of watermelons. Great wings like patterned fans opened and the huge reptile rose up in flight. Its immense mouth opened and bolts of blue lightning flashed from between the razor teeth.

As the dragon rose there came a distant rumbling that grew louder with every second. Thundering down the impoverished river their came a great torrent of water filling the river. With a casual flick of his mighty tail the dragon sent a magickal wave that swept the tyrant and his underlings down river and drowned them.

The skies darkened with massive thunderheads and lightning danced from the clouds as rain began to lash the parched land. As the dragon that was once Nie Lang ascended to heaven, the pearl glittering beneath his scaly chin, his mother called out 24 times to him and he responded to each call with a nod of his head. From then on he was watched over the province of Szechwan.


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