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The Great Knight MacCrumbee’s Scotty
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Aileen, old Jimmie MacCrumbee’s Scotty, sits overlooking Northern Scotland’s Scapa Flow, watching the ships come and go. A cold ocean wind blows straight in to her eyes, and brushes back her long coal black coat. The small dog leans forward into the breeze, and puts much of her 5 pounds on her little front legs. Her ears perk up, and she lets out a sharp excited bark.
Maybe she’s seen a sparkling glint from her master’s silver blue armor on a ship tossing in the sea below. She’s ready and anxious to run down to the docks, if she suspects it came from her friend and master. Disappointed, Aileen puts her head down in the heather groans again, and dreams of their life together. He’s been gone too long.
She was right beside him the day the great knight stood in the village square declares “Dragons! Dragons! Tell me where they be hiding. Aileen and me will slay them all, and in the courtyard here, hang their scaly hides!”
She points her small black nose, growls and bares her teeth at the amazed crowd. The people hush, then someone giggles, another laughs, and then the mocking begins.
“Great Knight, where is your steed? Surely you ain’t ridn’ that wee pup into battle agin’ one of our dragons, are yeh?”
“MacCrumbee, MacCrumbee, have ye lost your mind? All our dragons are house pets now. Why don’t ye swing your sword at our rat problem instead?”
A moldy vegetable hits the knight in the visor, splattering bitter juice past the face guard on onto his lips, and children begin throw rocks. MacCrumbee and Aileen retreat, ever careful not to turn their back on the mob, as they back step to the edge of town. The children press their attack, McCrumbee knocks away flying stones with his sword, and the townspeople continue their mocking.
“There’s hasn’t been a dragon in these parts for nigh on two hundred years, ye crazy loon! Do me some good with your energies, why don’t yeh? Go chase me milk cows back into the barn, or me stray horses back within me fences!”
In the middle of the dirt road, outside the town, the old knight plants his feet, and makes a last stand. Waving his sword frightens the crowd into making its last taunts.
“Aileen, you’re a wee scunner, you are, and up to high doh!”
“MacCrumbee, ye aff yer heid! Go ahead with your dragon hunting then, but do it in somebody else’s back green!”
The children are called back into town, and MacCrumbee and Aileen begin their humbling walk back home.
It takes several weeks for MacCrumbee to even look at the suit again. As it stands outside under the arbor, field mice eye it, and begin to build their nests in the helmet sitting near the grinding wheel.
Aileen dreams of the day it started.
One afternoon a courier brings a note, quickly placing it in old MacCrumbee’s hand, as Aileen nips at the messenger’s heels. Minutes later MacCrumbee and Aileen are off to town to pick up a large wooden crate. As her master pulls it home on a rented cart Aileen proudly rides atop it, with her head lifted high and her eyes looking out for robbers. She feels mighty happy and proud to be serving her MacCrumbee in such a royal way.
Aileen’s been MacCrumbee’s doggy since her first wagging, and only his hand has caressed her since her first day. She growls fiercely at any other. He often feeds her pieces of his golden brown honey biscuits, and bits of lamb from his shepherd’s pie, and to Aileen it tastes like a queen’s feast.
Back on the cliff a still sleeping Aileen licks her face, and whimpers a little. Surely a bowl of haggis, and a chunk of blood sausage from his hand, would taste mighty good today. Her legs beat the air as she dreams of treks with her master; slogging through muddy fields, and skipping along dusty roads. She wakes with a start, barking at the head of a spear thistle that the wind has blown over to poke her ear. Moving over a few feet, circling, then finding the right spot, Aileen falls asleep again and continues her fond remembering.
In daylight she prances next to him, and follows him everywhere. By the firelight she sits on his lap, listening to his tales of wild adventure. She may not understand it all, but she loves each telling, just for the sound of his excited voice.
Old Jimmie MacCrumbee considers himself an outdoorsman, and feeds her tales of climbing cliffs, and hunting stag, and one day he begins telling her tales of dragons, and rescuing maidens in peril. During Aileen’s life she’s never seen him do more than farming, but she believes in and hangs on his every word, barking, and sometimes growling, as he tells his tales.
Dumping Aileen from his lap, Jimmie stands, grabs a poker from the hearth, and illustrates a battle with violent waves of his fireplace sword. Of course Aileen participates; woofing and snarling, and dancing around his feet, while he parries and thrusts his weapon. In minutes the dragon is vanquished, and aging Jimmie is laying back in his chair, heaving for breath. Many nights she sits on his lap after a story, or at his feet, listening to him snore and snort while he sleeps in his chair. It is a good world she knows there, by his side.
Under the arbor Jimmie rips into the crate, while Aileen yelps, and nips at the packing fodder flying about. After her master lays the sides of the crate flat to the ground, she cautiously approaches the contents, and sniffs. Aileen has no idea what this shiny silver metal is, but it is making him happy, and that is enough for her. She yips joyfully again as Jimmie eagerly pulls pieces of it out of what is left of the crate.
First he pulls out and tries on a breast plate, not quite large enough to circle his proud heaving chest. Then he straps on leggings, and shiny pointy metal shoe guards, and a helmet that is a bit too large. It covers his eyes, at least until he pushes the top edge of the visor above his brow. The last item in the box is a large broad sword, with a gold hilt, that Jimmie can lift, but only swing a few times.
“I’ll have to work on this,” he says to Aileen. “And I have to work on me too. I’ve got to get fitter!”
She stands outside the arbor and watches Jimmie heat and pound the steel armor to fit him. They have lunch, a shared kipper, and then Aileen rests her head on his shoe as he polishes and shines his metal suit.
That night, by the fire, he starts to read to Aileen from the book that came with the suit.
“Dragons; Dispatching, and Destroying,” by Sir Lancelot Boyington, is the title. She whimpers a little. Aileen isn’t sure she likes the danger in that headline. Night after night he reads her one chapter at a time, just before he falls asleep in his chair. The book starts with a history of dragons, tells where to find them, then how to defeat and kill them. Jimmie loves the extra chapter on what to do with dragons after they have been slain.
“One thing I will be sure to do, my lady,” he tells Aileen, “is bring back a dragon’s ear for you. The book tells me they are quite tasty.”
In three weeks he has the suit on again, and it seems to fit him better. Though she still doesn’t understand its purpose, Aileen thinks he looks wonderful, especially when the sun gleams blueish silver rays of light off her MacCrumbee’s chest and helmet.
“I am ready!” he declares one day, “Come with me, girl!”
And off they clank down the road into town. Aileen is very proud of her MacCrumbee, even though they have to stop to rest every 500 yards or so. She is sure the people in the village will cheer him when he arrives to slay their dragons, but it is not to be, and a humble return to home is their only reward.
The next time Jimmie MacCrumbee appears in town he is back in that suit of armor, walking through quickly.
“Ye are back, Jimmie MacCrumbee?” a woman in the street says to him. “We still have no dragons to slay, sir, so where should ye be off to?”
“I’m a headin’ to the docks,” he answers, “and to the good ship Jinny Pirwin. There be dragons elsewhere, where people are more willin’ to part with them.”
A shopkeeper shouts from behind a fruit stand. “Where’s the wee pup Aileen, Great Night MacCrumbee? How can ye ride to victory without your little steed?”
“She is not ready for this adventure,” MacCrumbee answers, bowing to the lady. “Though it breaks me heart, I’ve left her home, and it must be as it be.”
The shopkeeper laughs as Aileen comes running up the street, and sits down between MacCrumbee’s steel covered feet. The knight lets out a sigh, and carries her home.
“Me ship is gonna be leavn’ soon, Aileen,” he scolds. “And I can not have ye with me this trip.”
He shuts her in the house, and locks the door. Much too late she finds a way out through a broken window, leaving one little shoulder cut and bloody. Although her little legs take her faster than she’s ever run before, Aileen doesn’t catch up to MacCrumbee this time. He is already on the boat, his suit shining bright and proud from the bow of the Perwin.
The great knight waves to his beloved Aileen one last time, and his suit of armor glimmers and sends a ray of silver blue to the sad Scotty’s eye. Some may question how much dogs really remember, but this ray of light burns a place into Aileen’s memory, and chains her heart to a mission; watching the ocean for her Great Knight in shining armor, Jimmie MacCrumbee.
Aileen would make her home on the pier forever, but punishing sailor’s boots chase her from her first sentry post. Escaping them, Aileen still knows she can’t return home, and soon find her place on the cliff above the docks. From her high perch she can see his armor shining in the setting sun, at least until the Jinny Pirwin slips beyond the horizon.
And there Aileen sits today, growling, licking her wounded shoulder, and imagining the dragons he must be facing and defeating. Though lonely, she feels proud still, dreaming of the day he will return, with a dragon’s ear for her to chew on.
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