By Colyne Stewart, Jan AS XXXVI (2002)
Once, not so long ago, a strange figure came to the Cliffs of Ardchreag. He was dressed in a jacket of blue with red and yellow tassels. Behind him he drew a loom and a covered cage in a wagon.
Upon his arrival he built a small hut from where he began to sell his services as a tablet weaver. Hearing from the canton-folk that another weaver lived close by, he went to seek her.
He found this weaver, called Mahault van der Eych, busily working on a new belt in colours of green, white and red. Her skills, he saw, were equal to or greater than his own.
Being a petty, jealous man, he resolved to destroy her business so that he would be the only weaver in eastern Ardchreag. So he challenged Mahault to a contest to see who could make a powerful belt from special materials. Mahault agreed and set out to collect the special items the stranger had named.
First was the beard hair of a Gnome. This she acquired easily enough from Cynred, Baron of Septentria, who was himself of the Gnomish race.
Next she needed the blood of a dragon to use as dye. South she went until finally she came to the castle of the Dragon of the
Midlands itself. Upon being granted entry she explained her mission to the Dragon, whose blood was the most potent of its kind. The Dragon agreed to help her, if she could defeat it in battle. Though only a fledgling fighter, Mahault readily agreed to this bargain. For a day and a night they battled, the dragon eventually emerging victorious. Still, so bravely had Mahault fought that the Dragon still gave her a cask of its blood.
Now al Mahault required was the fur of a tygre. She then traveled towards the rising sun until she came to the den of the Tygre of the East. Again she explained her quest, and the Tygre agreed to help her if she could write a poem for him to recite to the Tygress, who was at that time angry with him. Sitting down with pen and parchment, Mahault wrote such a moving verse that upon hearing it from the Tygre’s lips, the Tygress forgave him all his transgressions. Happily, they both gave large locks of their fur to Mahault, and she began the journey home.
After a year and a day had passed, Mahault and the stranger met again, this time in the Court of the King and Queen of Ealdormere. Mahault’s belt was long and tasselled, bright crimson with white wolves running down its length. The stranger’s looked equally as impressive.
The stranger gave his belt to the King who remarked upon how strong he felt while wearing it. Walking outside he ripped up a tree with his bare hands and broke it over his knee. He then jumped a hundred feet in the air and ran to one corner of Ealdormere and back again in less than five minutes.
Truly, everyone agreed, this was an amazing belt.
The King then tried on Mahault’s belt and his eyes blazed. He tore up ten trees at once and cracked them over his knee. He jumped two hundred feet in the air and ran to one corner of Ealdormere and back again in under a minute.
The King proclaimed Mahault the winner. Incensed, the stranger cursed and tore about, knocking the cover off his cage as he did so. Inside were a small dragon, a tiny tygre and a gnome, all thin, worn, and sickly.
Enraged at the stranger’s cruelty, the King had him locked in the dungeon and the Queen took the dragon, tygre and gnome into their household to care for them.
Mahault then went back to her home and continued to weave, teaching her skills to anyone who asked.