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Dragon Rider

Once upon a time, a boy lived in a seaside village. Every night when the moon was full, he sat on the beach and watched the dragons come down from the mountains to bathe in the moonlight.

Then one night the boy jumped into the sea, swam out to the dragons and climbed on to the back of one of them. The dragon didn't mind, and the boy sat there until it rose from the water and flew away with him. His family were very sad at first, but whenever the dragons came back so did the boy, year after year until he was a grown man, and he lived to be so old that his hair turned white.

Only then did he come back to visit his brothers and sisters in the village, and see their children and grandchildren. But no sooner was he back than he fell ill - so ill that no one could help him. On a night when the dragon rider's fever was particularly bad, a solitary dragon came down from the mountains, even though there was no moon. He settled outside the dragon rider's hut and breathed gentle blue fire all over it. When morning came the dragon flew away again. But the dragon rider was cured, and he lived for many, many years - so many that there came a time when everyone had lost count of them. And as long as he lived, enough rain fell on the village fields every year, and the fisherman's nets were always full.

When finally he died, the villagers built a tomb in honour of the dragon rider and the dragons. and once more, the night after his funeral, a solitary dragon came down from the mountains and breathed dragon-fire over these white walls. Since then, they say, any sick person who touches the stones of these walls will be cured too. When the land is cold by night and people are freezing, they can find a warm place here, for the stones are always as warm as if the dragon-fire lived on in them.

(Dragon Rider, page 292-293, by Cornelia Funke)

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