Do you want more conversational material to listen to in English? Do you want to find out all about my personal life and opinions? Do you want to learn authentic words and slang that British people use in everyday life?
Well then, Elevenses with Ariel is for you! Elevenses with Ariel is a short daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners. In it, I talk about my hobbies, my past and pretty much whatever I feel like. It’s fun and much more relaxed than the main show, and the listeners LOVE it! Many have said that it’s like sitting down to drink a coffee with me, although I’ll have a tea, I think!
You can listen to the first episode for free at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Eleven, and further episodes are available for $5 a month on Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. People are leaving comments and chatting about each episode, and I think you’ll really enjoy it. So again, you can listen to the first episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Eleven.
I look forward to having elevenses with you!
OK, let’s start the episode.
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for advanced learners. The name of the story is Three Dragons. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dragons. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Dragons. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
I’m going to keep today’s introduction short because this is a long story. It’s another original one, so another one I wrote myself, because I was just feeling like, “Argh, recently I haven’t written any stories myself!” You know? I wanted to, to flex my writing skills a bit, write something original. I don’t think this is my best work but I’m happy with it and, I don’t know, everything I write now seems to, uh, involve dragons? I dunno, we’ll see.
But um, I do wanna write more original stories for the podcast and especially, I think I’ve kind of figured out a good format for doing that, in which I do it as advanced stories, because if I write my own stories I naturally tend to use higher-level language, I naturally tend to have slightly more complicated plotlines, which then are much easier to adapt to an advanced level. Sometimes I get comments and emails saying, ‘Please do more advanced stories.’ I don’t want it to take over because, you know, I think there’s more of that level of material online, but I do want to make sure that there’s enough advanced stories for people who do want to read them, so I’m gonna try and write more of my original stories in the advanced level.
So I hope you enjoy today’s story! It’s a cute story with dragons, but actually it’s not a cute story—it’s a tragedy! [wails]. Hopefully, today’s story won’t make you cry too much! Oh, I’m starting to cry now! Oh dear.
Also, I’m really sorry if you are on my email list and you didn’t get an email this [last week]. Um, that’s because I didn’t send an email. Um, I’ve had a busy week. So, I went to a protest last Sunday, and then on Thursday and Friday, so… Ugh, it’s a long story.
So I was taking part in Esperanto event that finished on Friday, and I was one of three judges in a talent competition that we were doing so people could send in videos of them singing or dancing or juggling or reading a poem or whatever, and then we judged it and we picked the best winner. So it was kind of like Eurovision but within this Esperanto event. And, as well as judging—so I had to sit with the other judges and record the whole thing which was like two hours—I had to edit the whole video and it got very stressful, the editing, I wasn’t sure how long it was gonna take, and I was running out of time, and then uploading it was stressful… In the end, I figured it out and it was OK, but it was a lot of work and that was all on Thursday and Friday, so I didn’t really have the energy to write the usual weekly email, unfortunately.
Um, I’m sorry about that! But also, I didn’t want to push myself and force myself to write it because I think that would be, it would read as, you know, not, um, not fun on my part? Like, it wouldn’t read as genuine and I wanna make sure that I can continue to do this work in future. Uh, my levels of motivation and also my levels of energy vary a lot, as I’ve said before on the podcast, so I think in many instances it’s much healthier for me to maybe miss a week or two than to try and force it. A few of you did reach out to me and ask if everything was OK, so that’s why I’m mentioning it here. But thank you for your concern, and there should be an email next week. We’ll see.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
Slay, and the past participle is ‘slain’, means to kill, but specifically to kill a very big creature or a monster. So you might slay a dragon, a giant boar and so on. You also slay vampires, although I love vampires, so please don’t slay them!
A lair is the home of a monster. Lairs are usually caves, and they are usually very dark and full of treasure. If you want to go and slay a terrifying monster, you will have to go to their lair to do it.
A dragon is a mythical creature that is found in most cultures around the world. Dragons are big monsters with horns and claws that can breathe fire and eat people. Dragons like to collect treasure and hide it in their lair, and knights come to try and slay the dragon, although most of them just get eaten. Dragons have scales, like snakes, and they can fly.
A knight is a person from the Middle Ages who worked for a lord or a king. Knights wear heavy armour, clothes that protect them, they ride horses, and they fight for their lord or king. Knights fight using swords and shields. Sometimes, there are big competitions called jousts where knights ride horses and fight with long weapons called lances. In fairy tales, a knight often comes and rescues princesses.
When you spit, and the past tense is ‘spat’, you go [spits], you throw water or saliva out of your mouth. In the UK, it is very rude to spit outside, but in the past, people used to chew tobacco and spit it out. If you eat some very bad food, you might spit it out. Dragons can spit fire.
Belligerent means hostile and unfriendly. If someone is belligerent, they always want to fight. If a country is belligerent, they always want to go to war.
A claw is a long, sharp nail that animals have. So instead of nails, bears, tigers, cats and so on have claws. They can really hurt you!
An assassin is someone whose job it is to kill. They are a professional murderer. These days, assassins wear suits and use guns to kill people, but in the past, assassins wore dark cloaks, sneaked around and poured poison into people’s drinks to kill them.
A dungeon is an old-fashioned form of a prison. Dungeons were dark, horrible places that were built underneath castles. If someone broke the law or was a spy, they were thrown into the dungeon.
Petals are the small, thin parts on the top of a flower. Flowers usually have about five to ten petals, and they are arranged in a circle. Petals can have all sorts of colours, and they are usually the most beautiful part of the flower. Petals can be used to make jam, e.g. rose petal jam, to make perfume, to use as decorations and so on.
A carnation is a type of flower. Carnations can be red or pink, and their colours change at the end of their petals. They are native to the Mediterranean, and they have a slightly spicy smell.
A boulder is a very big rock. It is very hard to pick up a boulder on your own, unless you are very strong.
A catapult is a machine from the Middle Ages that was used to throw large rocks, or boulders, at buildings. Catapults were very big and required several men to use them. They were used to attack castles and break down the walls. Nowadays, we don’t use catapults.
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support us on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5, you get Elevenses with Ariel, a daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners, as well as an extra story every month. You can support us at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
A big thank-you to our new patrons, as well as patrons who have increased their pledge: Ray House, Paweł Ciechera, Pirada Chaichanacharoensri, Tereza Plevelkova and Adam Kolek. Thank you so much. Your support really means a lot to us.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
Once upon a time, there lived three dragons on three mountains. They were brothers, and each ruled over their own mountain. One was black, called Ba, one was red, called Ra, and one was green, called Ga. In the middle of the three mountains lay a small kingdom, ruled over by a human king, but the dragons paid little attention to this.
Within the kingdom, however, the dragons caused much anxiety.
‘They will come any day and murder us all!’ cried the townspeople.
‘They are a threat and must be destroyed!’ cried the knights.
‘They fly over the city as if they own it!’ complained the King.
And fly they did, although the dragons had no interest in ruling over humans. They flew over the kingdom and around the mountains like skilled athletes, spitting flames at each other and trying to knock each other out of the sky. To the humans, this looked like fighting, but in reality they were only playing.
So life between the three mountains continued in this way for many decades, and although the people complained endlessly about the three creatures, all were content to leave the problem alone as long as the dragons did not harm them.
But as the King got older, his anxiety and greed grew. He wished to rule over the kingdom with an iron hand, and the terrifying creatures represented a threat to his authority. But as much as he campaigned to send an army out to each peak, the soldiers and knights of his kingdom refused, coming up with various excuses to leave the situation alone.
So when a wandering knight came from far away with a proposal to slay the dragons, the King listened.
‘I have climbed into their lairs and listened to their whisperings, my King,’ said the knight. ‘The red dragon, Ra, is belligerent, but ultimately foolish. The green dragon, Ga, has an iron will, but uses it for peace. And the black dragon, Ba, is weak-hearted and artistic.’
‘Peace!’ said the King. ‘I am sure that is just a lie. All monsters’ true natures come out eventually. Excellent work. And you wish to slay them all?’
The knight smiled. ‘For the right price, of course.’
‘Very well, but let’s be patient. You will go out and slay just one of them first. Then we will discuss the rest.’
‘I would not advise that, my King,’ said the knight. ‘It would be much safer to kill them all in one go.’
‘Hmph!’ said the King. ‘I am the one who makes the orders around here, and I do not know if I can trust you yet. I think Ba would be the best to start with. If, as you say, he is weak-hearted, then you should have no difficulty in defeating him. Bring me his head as proof.’
The knight lowered his head. ‘Of course, my King. I will bring glory to your kingdom.’
So in the dead of the night, the knight climbed the mountain and entered Ba’s lair. While the dragon slept, dreaming of paintings and sculptures, the knight poured a poison into his nose. The dragon’s breathing went deeper and deeper until it finally stopped, and the knight began the difficult task of cutting off the dragon’s head.
When the King saw the head, he was thrilled. He placed it on the outside of the castle, and loudly declared to the people that the threat of the dragons was coming to an end.
The townspeople were not happy, though, as now the dragons threatened them even more. Surely they would come for revenge? But the King waved away their concerns, saying that their little problem would be “dealt with soon enough”.
Unfortunately for the King, the dragons acted faster. Furious at his brother’s death, Ra the belligerent dragon swept over the kingdom, and roared into the sky, ‘Who is responsible for this?!’
Then he saw the King down below, standing proudly by Ba’s head. Without hestitating, the dragon dived down and grabbed the head in his claws, before raining fire on the castle.
‘Help! Help!’ cried the King.
The knights and servants ran screaming out of the castle, all courage gone, as Ra flew down again and tore apart the stone with his claws. Within minutes, the entire castle had been reduced to a flaming mess.
‘You’re lucky I don’t kill you all!’ roared Ra, before flying away to his mountain.
Once the remains of the castle had been cleared and the panic had died down, the King spoke with his men.
‘You see?! They are a threat that we should have gotten rid of long ago!’
‘My King, I have a different perspective,’ said his advisor. ‘I must say, I was very surprised that you did not ask for my advice when planning this action. I could have saved us all from disaster. But anyway, do you not think this was planned by our enemies? This strange knight appeared from nowhere and offered shining dreams of peace, and what has he brought us? Death and destruction. He must be imprisoned at once.’
‘Perhaps you are right…’ said the King. Having seen the dragon in action, he felt far less confident about killing the remaining two now. ‘He is an assassin, and he could kill any one of us! Guards, seize him!’
The foreign knight, who had been drinking himself blind at one of the expensive drinking houses in the city, was dragged out by his neck, insulted by the people and locked up in the deepest, darkest dungeon of the castle.
‘Hey, you can’t leave me here!’ said the knight. ‘I told you, it would’ve been safer to kill them all at once!’
‘Quiet, spy!’ hissed the King. ‘You should consider yourself lucky that I am letting you live!’
But the King wished to take no risks, so when nobody else was looking, he stole the poison the knight had used to kill the dragon.
The assassin’s imprisonment calmed the people, who were always eager to blame enemies from abroad, and when Ra did not show up for a week, they assumed they were safe again. That was, until one day an unexpected visitor showed up outside the city gates.
Ga, his scales shining green like morning grass, stood outside the city, a piece of white cloth hanging from his mouth. His eyes were red from the tears of his brother, but he did not look angry like Ra. People were throwing rocks and spitting at him, but he ignored them completely.
‘What does that dragon want?!’ said the King.
‘It appears he wishes to make peace with us,’ said the King’s advisor. ‘He has an offer.’
‘An offer…’ mumbled the King. ‘Damn, I hate negotiations! But fine, bring him in. Perhaps we can get him to turn against his brother.’
But what Ga sought was not war, but to help.
‘I feel so bad for what my brother did. We do not know what killed Ba, but I cannot imagine that it was anyone from your kingdom. For decades we have lived in peace. No, someone must have come from outside to kill him, although I do not know why.’
The King and his men kept entirely silent on the matter of Ba’s death.
‘I want to show how sorry I am for Ra’s actions. I will help you rebuild the castle. I can bring in strong stone from far away, that will resist even the hottest dragon’s fire. I promise that this land will see peace once more.’
The King had not been expecting such a proposal, but he was in no position to refuse. Without a castle, they would be defenceless against further attacks.
‘We accept your kind offer,’ said the King.
So over the next few weeks, a rush of activity began to rebuild the castle. Ra, in the meantime, was occupied with other matters: crying over his brother’s death and trying to find the cause of it. Dragon skin was hard as diamonds, so it would take an incredible strength to kill a dragon by cutting its head off. That must have happened afterwards, and there were no other visible signs of struggle on Ba’s body.
The only hint was a strange smell coming from Ba’s nose: a faint spicy smell—that of carnations.
So Ra sought the help of a medicine dragon, who inspected the body for many hours, before finally concluding, ‘He was poisoned.’
‘To make a poison this powerful… only a human is capable of it.’
So Ra had been right all along. Filled once again with anger, he flew out to the human’s land, and saw Ga working alongside them, building the new castle.
‘Brother! What are you doing?’ he shrieked.
‘Do not hurt them, Ra!’ said Ga, covering the castle with his wings. ‘They did not do it, I am sure.’
‘You are wrong! They poisoned him, and displayed his head on their castle.’
Ga hesitated, and then said, ‘I have seen no such thing.’
The people of the kingdom watched the skies anxiously. Their fate hung in the balance between these two great creatures.
‘What are they saying?’ hissed the King. ‘I cannot understand their language.’
‘It is the language of the dragons,’ said his advisor. ‘A foul tongue.’
‘You did not see his head there because I took it from them!’ cried Ra. ‘And I know how they killed him. They used poison smelling of sweet carnations!’
For a moment, Ga was shocked and had nothing to say, but eventually he shook his head.
‘What will you get by hurting them? We lived in peace for almost a hundred years. We can have peace again!’
Ra spat out a huge column of flame, which just missed Ga. ‘I don’t believe you!’
‘This is what Ba would have wanted!’ replied Ga.
Ra shook his head. ‘Ba might’ve been soft-hearted like you, but even he understood that peace cannot come when there is a boot on our neck!’
And without warning, the dragon threw himself forward and grabbed Ga by the neck. Ga hit Ra with his tail and pushed him off, before flying high up into the clouds. Ra followed, and the two monsters disappeared into the veil of clouds. The people watched, but all they could see were red and green outlines pushing occasionally through. They heard everything, though: the gnashing of teeth, the clanging of claws, and the horrible roars that shook every building of the city.
The King stared up at the sky, practically unable to breathe. This was all the fault of that knight, and at any moment one of those dragons could come crashing down and destroy the entire city.
‘My King!’ said the advisor. ‘We have prepared the catapults. Which dragon should we attack?’
The King woke up from his dream and saw a row of ten catapults standing ready outside the new castle.
‘Fire at the red dragon.’
The captains cried their commands and the catapults launched, sending the stones flying into the skies above. For a moment, it looked like they would miss, but then there was a great THUD, and the huge body of the red dragon fell out of the clouds, twisting wildly in the air. The catapults had broken Ra’s leg, and thick purple blood poured from the wound onto the buildings below. The people screamed, as it looked like he might fall onto the city and squash it, but Ra regained his balance and stared down at the city.
‘I’ll destroy you all!’
‘No you won’t!’ cried Ga, bursting out of the clouds and slamming into Ra. ‘Leave them alone!’
Ga pushed Ra away from the city and kept him there, and as they continued to fight, the King’s men prepared the catapults to fire again.
‘This time, aim for the green one,’ he said, ‘but wait until my word.’
‘You know that they killed Ba, and yet you defend them!’ cried Ra. ‘Brother, what has happened to you?!’
‘If we kill them, we will be no better than them!’ said Ga, fire shooting out of his mouth with every word.
‘You’re a disgrace!’ screamed Ra.
But he couldn’t keep fighting. His leg was losing lots of blood, and Ga was pushing him back again and again. Weakened and defenceless, Ra had no choice but to give up.
‘I’ll be back!’ he cried, before disappearing towards his mountain.
The people cheered, the King told his men to hold their fire, and Ga slowly came down to rest by the castle. He was beaten and bruised, but nowhere near as hurt as Ra had been.
‘I am so sorry,’ said the dragon. ‘He has always been so wrapped up in rage. I wish he would understand.’
‘Do not worry,’ said the King. ‘We are lucky to have you to protect us. With your help, the kingdom is safe, and our new castle is almost finished! We must have a celebration tomorrow, after the last stone is put in place. You will be our guest of honour.’
The rest of the King’s men looked surprised and uneasy about this development, but they did not dare speak against their king.
Ga smiled broadly and said, ‘I would love it! But now, I must go and sleep, for it has been a long day.’
‘Of course, my friend.’
Ga flew back to his mountain to rest, and while he slept, the King made plans.
The next day, the construction was finished in record time, and a huge feast was held, throughout the new castle and the entire city. Despite the remaining fear from the day before, the people gathered in the streets, pulling out tables and piling them up with food, to say thanks to their great defender, Ga the dragon.
Ga, so used to the rough ways of his own kind, was happy that the humans appreciated him so much, and ate and drank until he could hardly stand up. He had gone that morning to speak to his brother, but Ra had placed a huge boulder over the entrance to his lair, shutting Ga out. It would only be a matter of time, thought Ga, so he tried to forget about their fight while he ate and drank.
But while the celebrations went on, one of the King’s men slipped away and went to Ra’s lair. He slipped through a crack between the boulder and the rock wall, and hid in a dark corner. The dragon raged about the cave, smashing whatever he could find.
‘We can’t forgive them!’ he screamed. ‘They’ve been planning this the whole time!’
As the assassin listened, he became more and more convinced of his duty. This dragon was a threat to them all. Eventually, Ra tired himself out and fell down onto the floor to sleep, and the assassin did his work, using the same poison that the knight had previously.
The next day, still sleepy from the celebrations, Ga went back to Ra’s mountain.
‘Brother, let me in!’ he cried. ‘We must make peace, for Ba’s sake.’
But there was no response. Tired of waiting, Ga pushed the boulder aside and entered into the lair.
‘Brother, wake up! Let us talk.’
But Ra did not move an inch. Ga leant down close to him and shook him, but the dragon’s eyes did not open. And then Ga smelled something coming from the body. Carnations.
Ga felt a boiling in the bottom of his stomach, an anger which he had never experienced before. He had been wrong, oh so wrong, and now he had lost both of his brothers because of it.
He cried bitter tears. His brother looked so weak and defeated, lying there on the stone floor. They had left his head in place, but what good was that?
Ga knew what he needed to do. Quiet as a snake, he flew down towards the kingdom, where the sun was just starting to rise, and most of the city still slept. With the careful precision of a trained artist, he breathed a wave of flame over the buildings. The fire waved out like the petals of a carnation, setting everything on fire. The people inside screamed and ran, jumping out of windows, but the flowers of fire poured over every roof and down every street, claiming more and more sections of the city as the great creature headed towards the castle.
‘My King!’ cried the advisor, running into his bedroom. ‘Ga is coming for us! He is setting the city on fire! What should we do?’
‘What?! That monster has betrayed us! Prepare the catapults and keep everyone important inside. This stone cannot be harmed by dragon fire, remember?’ The King smiled. ‘He built it himself.’
The catapults rained boulders down on the dragon, but he quickly flew from side to side, avoiding them. One or two struck him, but they only slowed his descent. Ga did not waste a single drop of fire on the building, instead landing on top of it and gripping it with his claws.
The King and all his men felt the castle shake from within. When they looked out of the windows, they saw the green leathery skin of the dragon, and they knew their time was at its end.
Just as he had built it, Ga tore the castle apart brick by brick, throwing them aside like the torn-off petals of a flower. The royal family, their advisors and soldiers panicked, fleeing into the burning remains of the city—anything to get away from the cold hard stare of the dragon with his razor-sharp teeth, leaning just metres above them.
The King did not escape, however. Despite his overwhelming fear, he stood proudly in front of the creature.
‘You broke your promise.’
‘You killed my brothers.’
‘No!’ said the King. ‘It was a knight, a knight from abroad!’
‘Do you really think I am so stupid to believe that? You could have had peace. We had peace. And you destroyed it, for what? To be remembered a few more decades by your people? Now you will be remembered forever, as the king who brought his people to ruin.’
And without another word, Ga tore off the King’s head and flew back to his lair. The city burned, and the kingdom between the three mountains was soon forgotten.
But not everyone died in the fire. A few hundred survived, fleeing from the burning city into the surrounding fields. And one man, no matter how much he tried, was unable to escape.
Deep beneath the ruins of the castle, in the darkest dungeon, sat the foreign knight, Ba’s murderer.
‘Hello? What’s going on up there?!’
The fire-proof stones prevented the flames from coming down and killing him, but foul smoke filled the darkness. He felt like Death himself was coming to take his breath away.
But the knight was denied such a kind fate. The smoke did not kill him, and although he screamed and shouted, nobody came to help. He was truly alone, and he died alone, just as the two slain dragons had.
For glory comes with a high price.
If you enjoyed the story, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Go to Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. For just a few dollars a month you can get extra episodes, conversational podcasts, exercises, and much more. Thank you for listening, and until next week.