The Drognar

📅 Published on December 22, 2020

“The Drognar”

Written by Christopher Burke
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 8.50/10. From 2 votes.
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“When you’re Dead…you live in a box, and it’s always dark, but you’re not ever afraid.”
– Kelly Link, “The Specialist’s Hat

When Ellen and Juliya were 4 and 6 years old, Dad would leave out the most gruesome parts of the story of the Drognar. But when they had gotten to be 7 and 9, though Juliya was getting a bit old for bed-time stories and could read pretty well on her own, they asked him to tell the whole tale and leave nothing out.

Dad would extinguish the cigarette before entering their rooms, push his glasses up on his nose, take a sip of the whiskey nightcap he had each night, and finally settle down on one of their beds. It was a ritual the three of them shared that they pretended amongst themselves was secret from mother.

“Once upon a time, long ago, there lived a clever and terrifying beast called The Drognar,” he’d begin. Over the years he’d added more and more adjectives, such as “terrifying” and “clever,” in order to ensure the story’s continued appeal to them. “We have the story of Adam and Eve, of God creating the world and all of its animals and plants and oceans. But one thing that is largely missing is the story of the creation of the Drognar. For not only does no one know, it is also the case that maybe, just maybe, the Drognar is the only thing on Earth that wasn’t created by God. No one knows how long it has existed, for it is notorious for its ability to blend in unnoticed.”

Ellen pulled her blanket up to her chin and closed her eyes. Juliya looked at Dad, pretending to an air of confidence that was due the older sibling.

“Legends have it that the Drognar used to eat one small child each year, as a sacrifice to ensure the fertility of a town’s harvest, or the success of the next year’s hunting season. The Drognar did not much care which of the town’s children were offered, but invariably they chose the worst behaved, for children who break the rules too much could grow up to be quite bad for everyone indeed. This was how the Drognar survived; once he consumed the naughty child, he or she would become a part of him, their soul trapped inside, sustaining him for another year. But the Drognar grew stronger over the years, as more and more souls of naughty children accumulated in him. Sometimes, these would be children who had become notorious thieves even at a young age, or who went about picking fights amongst the others, or who were unaccountably cruel to animals, and the like.”

Juliya develops a faint smirk as she sees Ellen try to feign that she was asleep, rather than frightened. Father reaches over to the dresser and takes a sip of his whiskey, and then resumes the story.

“Many warriors, for a time, had attempted to hunt and kill the Drognar, but they never returned. Legend holds that the Drognar has a lair, somewhere, in which their remains are gathered, for the Drognar is quite a packrat indeed. So, over time, the villagers stopped sending warriors and chose simply to cut their losses and appease the Drognar with a single naughty child, and accept that this was simply the way things were. But one day, the daughter of a famous scholar, a renowned teller of tales and legend, took it into her head that she would defeat the Drognar by becoming that year’s sacrifice. Since she’d heard the legends more times than anyone, she felt that she knew the secret ot its defeat. This little girl’s name was Ellen,” Father said, looking over at Ellen on the bed. Her fake-asleep eyes fluttered at the attention and she failed to suppress a faint smile that came over her. “Sometimes, the brave child’s name was Juliya. The name did not matter, after all; surely, it had varied a thousand times with each Father’s different telling of the legend.”

“Ellen would become the most brave, most strong, most determined person in her soul, and her soul would survive beyond her body inside the Drognar, and she would use the force of her will to slay it from inside, no matter how long it took.

“This was very brave indeed, but she knew that if she revealed her plan, her parents would do everything they could to stop it. So she set about to misbehaving terribly. Overnight, she underwent a complete change of character. Where she had been noble, she became petty, where she’d been peaceful, she become combative, where she’d been generous, she became cruel. This caused enormous distress to her parents, for obvious reasons. After much arguing and being punished, over the next several months everyone in the village had grown tired of her behavior, and her parents’ worst fears came true; she was chosen as the child that must appease the Drognar.

“She was taken to the forested path at which each year’s sacrifice was taken. There was much weeping, and her parents had to be restrained and led away by the villagers.”

“Daddy?” Juliya interrupted.

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Why didn’t they all just gang up on the Drognar?”

“Well, you see, the Drognar would only appear if the child was the only one there, for deep down it is cowardly. And if the villagers tried to trick it and ambush it when it came for the child, they would incur its wrath and it would smoke at its nostrils, breathe its fiery breath, open its mouth wide, and devour them all one by one, and more people would have died that way. And the Drognar had special eyes that could see far better than humans. Some legends say it has fake eyes to blend in with whatever environment it’s in, and that it can remove the fake eyes so that it can see from inside its head with the power of all the souls that it has devoured.

“Now, Ellen was brave, but she was also terrified, as anyone would be. I know I would be,” Father said.

“John!” Mother called from down the hall, “are you getting the kids to bed or keeping them up all night?”

“Just finishing up now, sweetheart,” Father said, and winked at his daughters, whom he loved very much.

“It took every ounce of courage that Ellen had to stand still and wait for the Drognar. But she had brought her special blanket with her, which had been blessed by the town’s alchemist, so that whenever she got underneath it, nothing could see her. So if she lost her courage to carry through her plan, she could hide, and maybe the Drognar’s eyes would not be able to see her. As the hour approached, and the sky faded to darkness, and the sounds of the day were replaced with the sounds of the night, she became more and more lonely and frightened. She second-guessed herself. She spread the blanket on the ground and curled up underneath it, pretending that she was already dead and that the darkness of the blanket, within the darkness of the night, was just like it must be for her to be swallowed up by the Drognar and have her soul carried along inside him.

“Soon, she heard a snorting, and a coughing, and a heavy breathing, and she knew it must be the Drognar, looking about for its yearly meal of naughty child.

‘Where is my meal?!’ it bellowed after searching fruitlessly, for Ellen was very, very frightened and still hidden in the magic blanket. ‘If I cannot find my meal, I shall pluck out my false eyes and hunt you with all my powers, and I shall find you, for I can see everything! If you come out, I will make it easier for you. If you do not, I shall be very angry indeed.’

“So Ellen summoned her courage, deciding she must follow through with her plan, for she loved her parents and neighbors very much and wanted to save them at whatever cost.

“‘Here I am, Drognar,’ Ellen said as she revealed herself. ‘I am to be your meal, now be quick, as you’ve promised.’

“The Drognar snorted smoke through his nose, breathed his fiery breath, opened its mouth wider than wide, and gobbled her up quickly and painlessly.

“None of the villagers knew of the girl’s brave plan, and they mourned her even though she’d been very naughty indeed. But Ellen’s soul lived on inside the Drognar, and she was very strong. She worked hard to make the Drognar weaker and weaker. Eventually, the Drognar figured out what this brave girl’s soul was doing, and he vomited her right back out, bellowed savagely, and left the village for good to go do his evil deeds elsewhere. Many years had passed, and Ellen had grown to adulthood.

Her parents were quite old, but they were extremely grateful to hear what had happened. They cherished their daughter, and she cherished her parents, for years to come. But nobody knows exactly what happened to the Drognar. It is extremely difficult to hunt, because it can change forms at will. It is thought though, that its natural form is something like what we think of as a Dragon, and that it is the origin of all of our stories about evil Dragons. For you see, stories of Dragons exist in almost any culture, from which we could guess that the Drognar has been on the move ever since, choosing to keep a lower profile so nothing like the brave Ellen could ever happen again and defeat him. These are the sorts of things Daddy studies, and maybe someday one of you will grow up to do the same.”

Father kissed each of them and said goodnight, the faint fire of his nightcap causing them to wrinkle their nose as his glasses bumped into their foreheads.

“Goodnight, Daddy,” said Juliya.

“Goodnight, Daddy,” said Ellen.

“Daddy,” Ellen said.

“Yes, sweetheart?” Father asked.

“Can the Drognar see through the magic blanket if it plucks out its false eyes, and uses the power of all the souls inside it to see?”

“Well, sweetie, we don’t know,” Father said. “The legends are different. Sometimes, yes, and sometimes, no, but in this version it never gets the chance to take its false eyes out because the Brave Little Child steps out and confronts the Drognar.”

It was a story they’d heard many times over the years, as her father was quite fond of telling stories, and they were quite fond of hearing them. As they lived in the countryside with no nearby neighbors, they often amused themselves by playing together. Ellen and Juliya would take turns being the Drognar and the brave child, and they had a worn, beat-up blanket they kept separate from their bedding that they used for the magic blanket.

The family lived in a house that was small, but they had a great deal of land surrounding it, which bordered on a forest that was pleasant to stroll through and play in. Father and Mother frequently took walks down the path when they needed to clear their heads from the stresses of the day, or Father needed to think about the research he was doing for his book on folklore for the University in town where he taught.

“I AM THE DROGNAR!” Juliya would bellow out in the field between their home and the forest. “I AM HERE TO EAT YOUR SOUL!”

Ellen would smile into the oblivion provided by the blanket and do her best to jump out and surprise the JuliyaDrognar.

Sometimes, Ellen would shout “I AM THE DROGNAR! I AM HERE TO EAT YOUR SOUL!” and Juliya would hide in the welcoming darkness of the magic blanket until she could surprise the EllenDrognar.

* * * * * *

This was the manner in which many of their days passed during the summer when they were not in school, for none of their friends from school lived near enough to see very often. But one day, while Father was teaching his classes, Mother called each of them into the living room and sat them down.

“Listen, girls, I need to talk to you about something very, very important, I need for you to do as your told.”

The girls nodded politely.

“Okay, Mommy,” Juliya said.

“Do you know a little girl named Rosa Vaughan, from school?” Mommy asked.

“Yes,” said Ellen.

“Yes,” said Juliya.

They were in different grades at the small school nearby, but it was the sort of school where everybody knew everybody.

“I don’t want to frighten you, but something very sad has happened recently. It seems Miss Rosa has gone missing, and her parents are very worried.”

A sudden pang of fright panged at Juliya’s heart.

A sudden jolt of panic jolted at Ellen’s heart.

“Now, have you girls talked to Rosa any time recently? Have you any idea if she might have run away, or where she might have gone to?”

“No,” said Juliya, looking very sad.

“No,” said Ellen, looking equally sad.

“Okay, well, I thought not. But until Rosa comes back, we have to be very careful, because sometimes there are bad people who do bad things to girls and boys. I need you to be big girls and stay closer to the house. You can play your games here all you want, but I don’t want you going into the forest by yourselves any more. I need you to not go past the big tree out in the yard. Do you understand?”

“Aww, but Mommy!” Juliya said.

“No ‘buts’, girls. I need you to be brave and grown-up for me right now. You’re going to be okay if you obey me and your father.”

“Was it- was it the Drognar?” Ellen said. “Maybe the Drognar got her!”

“Now now, that’s just one of your Father’s stories, Ellen. If you do as I say, no one – not even the Drognar, will get you. Understand?”

“Yes, Mommy,” Ellen said.

When Father returned home, he was astonished to hear about Rosa’s disappearance, but he reinforced to the girls that it was important for them to obey Mother and stay close by.

“What if it was the Drognar, Daddy?” Ellen asked.

“I promise you, sweetie, it was not the Drognar,” Father said.

* * * * * *

Later that week, the girls asked if they could walk through the forest with their parents, since they were growing bored being so close to the house all the time. Mother and Father agreed, and they packed a small picnic and set off down the trail through the woods.

After they’d gone into the forest for a time, they came upon a clearing where they usually took a break when they were strolling through the area. They spread their little picnic on the ground, ate their lunch, and then Ellen and Juliya asked if they could go off and play for a bit as long as they didn’t go too far.

“Yes, that’s fine, kids. Just behave yourselves and don’t go too far.

Ellen and Juliya scuttled off into the woods a short ways. Soon, they came by a strange little cave they’d never seen before, even though they thought they’d explored the area exhaustively.

“What if this is the Drognar’s lair?” Ellen asked.

“Don’t be silly, that’s just a kid’s story,” Juliya said.

“But how do you know?” Ellen asked.

“I just do, now hush up,” Juliya said.

They entered the first few feet of the cave where the light penetrated, too frightened to go any further, for although Juliya felt that she was outgrowing the story, enough belief remained in her that she didn’t want to chance upon inadvertently stumbling upon the Drognar and getting gobbled up.

But just at the edge of the light, something caught their eyes. Whatever it was, it was brightly colored.

“What is that?” Ellen asked.

“I’m not sure,” Juliya asked. “Go in and get it, why don’t you?”

“I’m not going in there,” Ellen whispered. “I don’t want to get gobbled up!”

“Don’t be silly,” Juliya said. “Dragons aren’t real.” But as she said that, she thought she detected a faint odor of smoke. She couldn’t be sure if it was real or just her imagination.

“Oh fine, I’ll get it,” Ellen whispered. She crept forward slowly and quietly, doing her best to be brave for her sister. She picked it up and scurried back to the lighted portion of the cave entrance.

“That’s Rosa’s backpack,” Juliya whispered fiercely. They both became very, very frightened, and screamed when a hand was laid on each of their shoulders.

“Girls,” their Father said. “Girls, calm down now, it’s just me.” He took his hands off their shoulders and reached up to the cigarette in his mouth, flicking some ashes aside. “But what did we tell you about staying close by? This is too far away. You’ve been very, very naughty.”

“That must have been the smoke I smelled,” Juliya thought with relief.  “No dragons after all. I knew it. I just knew it.”

“What is that you’ve got there, girls?” Mother asked. Ellen held it up to her. “Why, this is Rosa’s red backpack!” Father said. “We must go home now. This is serious!”

When they got home, Ellen and Juliya went to their room, quite frightened by the turn of events. Ellen hid under the magical blanket, and Juliya sat on her bed, thinking. Ellen pretended that whatever had gotten Rosa, the Drognar or some other monster or maybe just some bad person out there, could not see her underneath it.

“I’m scared,” Juliya said.

“What if that’s the Drognar’s lair?” asked Ellen.

“What if it gets Mom or Dad when they’re on one of their walks out that way?” asked Juliya.

“Wouldn’t we have seen it, or heard it, or smelled it, if that was his lair?” Ellen asked.

“Well, we smelled smoke, but that was just Dad. What if the Drognar’s smoke smells like cigarette smoke? You wouldn’t be able to tell,” Juliya said. “And since we couldn’t see anything in there, maybe the Drognar sees around his lair with the power of the souls that are inside him, those would make it so it could see in the dark.”

Ellen didn’t say anything, but grew more frightened.

“I don’t want the Drognar to gobble up Mommy and Daddy!” Ellen said finally, her voice muffled by the blanket.

“I know, we’ll sneak into Daddy’s study and read more about the Drognar. There has to be some way to tell if it’s out there. We have to protect them. They walk out that way all the time and it could get them!”

While Mother and Father were in the kitchen at the phone, talking about the backpack and making phone calls to the proper authorities, Juliya and Ellen snuck into the study and looked for one of his books that might have more information on the Drognar in it.

“Giants, Magick, and Dragons: An —-something—- of M…Myth,” Juliya read off the spine of one.

“’Imaginary Fire: Being an Inv…est…ig…a…tee…on… of the His…History of Dragons and…’ Why are grownup books’ names so long!” Juliya said angrily. She read off a few more titles and flipped through tables of contents, as she’d learned how to do in school last year.

“Here,” she told Ellen. “This chapter says it’s about the Drognar.” She flipped it open to the specified page and began to read. Many of the words were too big, but when she found a passage she could read, she did so.

“The legends vary, but one consistent thread is the sacrificial daughter. In every story, it is a young girl that must be brave to save her family or neighbors. The Drognar is often a shapeshifter of some kind, but its true form is usually pretty similar to what we now call ‘dragons.’  It seems likely that “Drognar” is one source for the word and that it has simply changed over time. It should be noted that this creature often has the outer look of whatever form it has adopted, but it remains able to perform many of its reptilian functions, such as opening its mouth almost 180 degrees on a hinged jaw. It often has some form of smoke that comes out of it, and fire on its breath, and the ability to remove its eyes so that it can see with the power of the souls it has eaten.”

Juliya struggled with some of the words, but the gist of it was clear to them, as this seemed to confirm the story as they’d heard it from their Father.

“But…How did Mom and Dad know where we were? What if…what if DAD is the Drognar? It can shift shapes!” Ellen said.

“Don’t be silly,” Juliya said. She continued to read aloud:

Some forms of the legend have the brave child being swallowed up and then ‘defeating’ the Drognar from inside until it leaves the village alone. In most cases, it usually moves on, sets up somewhere new, and adopts a new outer form. In some versions of the story, it can be killed by tricking it into drinking poison, or into falling into some elaborate trap. But these seem to be later additions to the tale, and for most of its history, it cannot be killed, only forced to move elsewhere. These tricks are invariably plotted by the figure of the Brave Child1 after her family or neighbors are believed to be under threat from the Drognar. It is often made clear in the legend that the Drognar is neither male or female, though it can adopt the outer appearance of either. Some versions hold that the Drognar is solitary, and in some cases it lives with one or more others of its kind.

“Dad’s cigarettes,” Juliya said suddenly after pausing at the end of the passage.

“It just says the Drognar breathes smoke, it doesn’t say how! Maybe the Drognar has turned into Daddy!”

Ellen started to weep in panic.

“Don’t say that! Daddy is NOT the Drognar. It’s just cigarettes!” Ellen said.

“Keep your voice down!” Juliya whispered fiercely. “We aren’t supposed to be in here.”

“Girls?” Their mother called from down the hall. “What are you up to?”

They quickly cleaned up and put things back where they’d found them, then scurried back to their room. Ellen pulled the blanket over her head and said a muffled, “I’m scared.”

“It’ll be okay,” Juliya said. “Dad’s not the Drognar, it’s just a story. And even if he is, in the stories, the brave child wins in the end and gets back with her family.”

“But what if that part isn’t true?” Ellen whispered, for they could hear their parents coming down the hall, the sound of their deliberate footsteps bouncing down the hall toward their room.

“The whiskey,” Juliya said. “The whiskey–FIRE!”

“What’s that, then?” Father asked, poking his head into the room.

“Are you girls all right?” Mother asked.

“Yes, Mommy, just scared,” Juliya replied.

Ellen made a noise that sounded like an affirmative from beneath her magical blanket.

“Juliya, can you find your sister please and both of you come down to the kitchen? Some nice men are coming out to talk to us about Rosa and her red backpack, and it’s important that we have our stories straight.”

Mother and Father walked back down the hall to the kitchen. Juliya walked over to where Ellen was hiding under the magical blanket.

“What did they mean, ‘find’ you? Couldn’t they see you were under the blanket?”

Ellen started to cry; had she been invisible to their Father? But how could that be?

“The whiskey,” Juliya whispered. “It smells like FIRE.”

Ellen wept and trembled, and tried her hardest to be brave for the sake of herself and her sister and mother. She had doubted at first but now was beginning to wonder if her Father really could be the dreaded Drognar in human form.

“And his glasses,” Juliya said. “What if those are his fake eyes? What if Daddy really did gobble up poor Rosa, and her soul is inside of him?”

“He wouldn’t!” Ellen sobbed, even though she was starting to think that just maybe he would.

“We’ve got to go to the kitchen or they’ll start to suspect we’re on to them,” Juliya said. “We have to be brave. He’s not going to harm us while Mother is here; the Drognar can only gobble people up if they are alone, remember?”

Ellen summoned all of her courage, quieted her sobs, and cast off the magical blanket. Holding hands, the sisters marched quietly down the hall to the kitchen, where their parents were sitting with somber looks.

“Girls, the police shall be here in a few moments, okay? Now we’re going to need to tell them what we saw,” their Father said. “Just be honest and it’ll be over soon. They’re going to help find Rosa, okay?” Ellen and Juliya looked at each other, scared, but hopeful.

Soon, the police arrived, and they were all quite nervous, but they told the police what had happened as best they could. They told the police about taking a walk in the woods, and about wanting to play their pretend game about the dreaded Drognar, and about stopping for a rest, and about stumbling upon the strange little cave, and about seeing the little red backpack, and about their father exclaiming “Why, this is Rosa’s red backpack!”

At that, one of the nice police officers asked, “And how could you ascertain that the backpack belonged to Miss Vaughan?” His voice had the flat tone of a person going through a routine procedure, repeated day in and day out with persons who often forgot things and had to repeat their story several times before all the details were clear.

Juliya and Ellen both gulped. How HAD Daddy known that it was Rosa’s backpack?

“I noticed the school papers inside,” Father said. “They had her name on them.”

The children wanted to feel reassured, but they couldn’t remember him ever looking inside of the backpack. After an hour or so, the police appeared satisfied. They collected Rosa’s red backpack and thanked the family for their information, then left.

* * * * * *

Later that night, the girls could not get to sleep, for they were even more frightened now that night had fallen.

“We have to find out for certain. I don’t want to get gobbled up!” Ellen whispered.

“Me neither. We have to figure out some other way to defeat him, if he’s the Drognar,” whispered Juliya, for as brave as she was, she wasn’t brave enough to risk getting gobbled up and having her soul trapped inside somewhere.

The two sisters stole down to their Father’s study while their parents were asleep, looking for more information that might be useful.

Juliya pulled out the volume they’d been reading from, and began again.

According to most legends, the only way to tell for sure if something or someone was in fact the Drognar in disguise, would be to ask it to say its true name. For the Drognar is unable to say its true name aloud, for it is a creature devoted to deception. If, after three attempts to get it to say its True Name aloud it refuses or is unable to do so, or it otherwise tries to trick the asker, most versions of the legend hold that the creature can be confirmed with certainty as being the Drognar, or one of the Drognars if there exist more than one. Although the Drognar cannot die of natural causes or old age, one such legend differs from the story in which the Brave Child gets gobbled up and defeats it from within. In this version, reports indicate that the Brave Child tricked it into drinking poison. Where swords and traps and arrows failed, poison seems to have worked for this village.

“That’s it!” Juliya said. “We’ll test him, ask him to tell us the story of the Drognar so we can get to sleep. When he does, we’ll ask him his name three times. If he can’t say his True Name, then we’ll know it’s him and we’ll have to tell Mom and we’ll have to get away!”

So Ellen and Juliya went down the hall to their parents’ bedroom, and woke them, explaining they were too frightened to sleep, and could Dad tell them a story? They did not say which story, as he had always asked them to keep their bedtime story ritual a secret from Mom. He grumbled for a moment, but kindheartedly got out of bed, urging Mother to stay while he read the children to sleep.

He stopped in his study, poured himself a small glass of whiskey, pushed his glasses up on his nose, lit a cigarette, and then set it in an ash tray. Father followed the girls down to their bedroom and they got under their blankets, hearts pounding furiously.

Before he started, Juliya asked, “Daddy, what is your True Name?” Ellen looked on nervously.

“What?” Father asked, with a look of confusion.

“Your True Name,” Juliya said. “I was just wondering.”

“I’m afraid I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, darling,” Father said. “You know my name, silly.”

“But we’ve never heard you say your True Name,” said Ellen. “Can’t you just tell us?”

“Look, I don’t know what game this is, but if we’re going to have a story to get you to sleep, I’d like to get on with it,” Father said. “I’m very tired, as I’m sure you understand.”
With that third request avoided, Ellen and Juliya exchanged a meaningful look. They knew. The fear was almost too much for them, even after they tried to be even braver than they’d been earlier in the day.

* * * * * *

The next morning, while their Father was at work, they agreed that they simply must tell their Mother, who was the only grownup around that they could trust.

“You think your father is a what?” she asked.

“The Drognar,” Juliya explained for what felt like the hundredth time.

“Listen, girls. I know you’re deeply upset over your friend, but that’s no excuse to go about accusing your own father of having been involved or something ridiculous like being a monster you heard about. I really don’t know why he tells you so many stories, but that’s all they are: stories. There’s been a real crime here and it’s incredibly irresponsible to go about making these kinds of bizarre accusations,” Mother said.

“But MOM!” Ellen said.

“Mom, you’ve got to believe us! We read about him in the books in his study! It’s him!”

“That’s ENOUGH!” Mother said. “You’re being extremely naughty all of a sudden. You’ve been so well behaved! I don’t know what has caused this change in behavior overnight, but you must drop this, right now. Do you understand?”

“But MOM! We don’t want to get gobbled up! What if YOU get gobbled up? You’ve got to do something!” Both girls were now crying and frantic.

“That’s enough, I said,” Mother said. “Now go to your room until supper and calm down; your Father will be here any minute and I don’t want him to have to listen to this nonsense.”

The girls went to their room, sobbing and terrified. Would no one listen to them? Would no one protect them? Or would they have to be brave enough to defeat the Drognar on their own, before it gobbled up another child?

They talked quietly in their room while their Mother prepared dinner.

“We’ve got to do what it says in the story,” Ellen said.

“How? Is there any poison in the house,” Juliya said.

“There’s got to be something,” Ellen said.

While Mother was finishing supper, the girls crept down to the bathroom. The medicine cabinet was just out of reach, and they’d been told they must never open it.

“Well, we’ve been quite naughty anyhow, and that’s part of the story,” Juliya said. She boosted Ellen up onto the sink, and Ellen opened the cabinet. She couldn’t read the labels on the bottles, so she grabbed all of them that she could carry, and dropped down onto the ground.

“Quick, down to the study,” Ellen whispered. Juliya nodded and they crept down to their Father’s study. They looked about frantically, and found his favorite whiskey in the drawer to his desk.

“Can you open it?” Ellen asked.

Juliya scrambled, half-panicked, but trying to be brave as they did what must be done, wrestled with the bottle for a moment until she got it open.

“Ew!” said Ellen, as she smelled the fiery drink.

“Ew!” said Juliya, as she too smelled the fiery drink. It was much stronger in the bottle than when it was on their Father’s fiery breath. The girls took turns opening all ten of the bottles they’d scavenged from the medicine cabinet. They opened every capsule from every bottle, and dumped the powdery, or liquidy, contents into the whiskey, hoping the dark color of the stinky drink would cover up what they were adding to it. Pill after pill after pill, medicine bottle after medicine bottle, the girls emptied them all as quickly as possible. They reclosed the bottle of Father’s whiskey and put it back in the drawer just as they heard him pull into the drive.

“Quick!” Juliya said, as she and Ellen frantically scooped up the empty pill bottles and hurried down to their room. “Where will we hide these?” Juliya whispered as the front door opened and the Drognar’s footsteps echoed through the house.

“Girls! Supper time!” Mother yelled from down the hall.

“I know! Under the magical blanket!” Ellen whispered. “He won’t see them!”

“Juliya! Ellen!” the horrible Drognar masquerading as Father called. “Come on, now. Time to eat!”

They stashed bottle after bottle after bottle under the magical blanket, and dashed down the hall, doing their best to compose themselves and calmly face the Drognar during dinner.

They did their best to wolf down their chicken and potatoes and corn, and to drink down their milk, and to finish their dessert. They tried to be as brave as the Brave Child in the stories, and talk to the Drognar without becoming too frightened, and the Drognar told them all about his day at work.

After dinner, they went back to their room and pretended to play, but they mostly just talked nervously and tried to figure out what might happen after the Drognar was dead. They tried to figure out what might happen if the poison didn’t kill the Drognar. They tried to figure out how to comfort their Mother when the Drognar died and revealed its true, Dragony form. Hopefully, then their
Mother would finally believe them.

“Daddy!” Juliya called after a while.

“Daddy!” Ellen echoed after Juliya.

“Are you ready for bed and a story, then?” their Father said, poking his head into their room. He carried his customary nightcap of that awful fiery stuff, and smoked his customary cigarette, and pushed his glasses back on his customary nose. He took a sip of his customary nightcap, and placed his customary cigarette in the customary ashtray he carried, and sat down.

“Before we do storytime, I’m afraid I’ve got to talk to you girls,” Father began. “This isn’t going to be easy,” he added, and finished off the last of his customary nightcap.

Juliya and Ellen exchanged a glance. He’d drunk it and hadn’t noticed!  They’d tricked the Drognar! Their hearts beat faster. How long would it take for the poison to destroy the Drognar? How long before they no longer had to be afraid of being gobbled up?

“Your mother tells me you’ve been talking to her about this Drognar business,” he whispered, and then sighed with a look of sorrow on his face. “Don’t you remember, I asked you never to tell her about that?”

Juliya gulped and nodded, trying to be as brave as the Brave Child.

Ellen gulped and nodded, trying to be as brave as the Brave Child also.

“That was a very, very naughty thing to do,” the Drognar said. “I just don’t know what has come over you girls all of a sudden, you’re normally so well-behaved. Don’t you imagine I have my reasons for not wanting you to tell your Mother about the tale of the Drognar?”

Juliya and Ellen just looked at one another, confused.

“Don’t you know by now that I’ve been trying to teach you, in secret, about how to defeat the Drognar? It was very, very bad when you told your Mother that I’ve been teaching you all these years. I wanted to protect you from getting gobbled up.”

Tears started to run silently down Ellen’s cheeks. Juliya began to sweat in fear, trying to fight it off like the Brave Child would.

Just then, the Drognar began to cough.

“For you see-” the Drognar began, but his face started to rapidly change color and he could not get the rest of the sentence out. His coughs and gasps grew louder. The poison! It was working!

They had tricked the Drognar!

He hacked and coughed and gasped and tried to cry for help, but to no avail. The Drognar skin started to change color, and he fell to the floor, and grew still. The Drognar’s face was purple, and it appeared to be dead.

Ellen said, “But what if it’s a trick?”

Juliya said, “Only one way to find out”

They ran to fetch their mother in a panic.

“What is it, girls?” Mother demanded. They were babbling excitedly and she couldn’t decipher their sentences. “Where’s your Father? Would you stop with this Drognar nonsense, I can’t understand you at all!”

“Just come, Mother, please!” Juliya pleaded. They dashed down the hall to their bedroom, leading their Mother. When they got there, the Drognar had not reverted to its Dragony shape.

Mother let out an inhuman wail when she saw the body.

“What have you done?” she demanded, hands on her hips.

“We’ve killed that awful Drognar, can’t you see?” Ellen said.

“We didn’t want to get gobbled up,” Juliya explained.

The Drognar’s face was still purple and swollen, and a bit of froth had trickled out of its mouth. Its brown, human eyes stared vacantly at the ceiling. The girls each tried to be as brave as the Brave Child while mother stared first at the body, then at them, as though trying to construct a narrative of the events that had taken place out of her sight.

“You’ve been very naughty, girls,” Mother said. “Very, very naughty. Perhaps the naughtiest girls in our whole village.”

Ellen and Juliya looked at one another, scared and sad.

“I thought Rosa had been the naughtiest,” Mother said. “Apparently, I was mistaken, for murdering your own Father is just about the naughtiest thing I can think of.”

“I don’t–” Juliya started.

Smoke began curling out of Mother’s nostrils.

“Mommy?” Ellen said in a frightened voice.

Mother let out another inhuman wail, opening her mouth wider than they’d ever seen her open it before. She grabbed Juliya, who began screaming, and the room became hotter and hotter. Somehow, her mouth continued to get wider, and she pitched the struggling Juliya into her gaping mouth, and gobbled her up.

Ellen ran into the closet and got beneath the magic blanket. Sloppy wet sounds came from the bedroom as Mother chewed on Juliya. Such awful gnashing, crunching sounds. She began to cry, harder than she’d ever cried before.  Another roar, and the heat from a belch of flames that must have come from Mother’s — the real Drognar’s — gaping maw.

Ellen tried to be as brave as the Brave Child.

Ellen hoped that the magic blanket would work.

“Foolish child, don’t you know I can take my false eyes out and see you, no matter where you are!? I don’t know what hogwash your Father has been telling you, but rest assured, I’m going to gobble you all up. That blanket won’t protect you, for I can see everything with the power of all the souls I’ve gobbled up before!”

Ellen hoped desperately that at least some of her Father’s version of the story was true, most especially the part about the magic blanket, because as she peeked out from under it she heard a pair of ripping sounds, as of flesh being torn, and then two popping sounds, as of two eyeballs being popped out of a Drognar’s head, and she saw through a gap between blanket and floor the two fake human eyeballs land on the other side of the room.

She felt very, very unbrave after all, because the stories she had been told had been very, very misleading, and the Drognar still seemed very, very hungry.

Rating: 8.50/10. From 2 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Christopher Burke
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Christopher Burke

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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