The Dragonslayer

A Savior

Our saviors are dead! They remain dead. The frigid pool of their blood clings to our human, all-too-human skin. Oh, who will wipe this blood off us? The burden of responsibility mounted on their shoulders now lies deserted on the ground. What limits must one of us now transcend to prepare for the arrival of the unconquerable dragon? What hero must we now summon to stand for us?

It is no secret that the tyrannous General Nauman will soon approach our snowy town riding his dragon while his legion follows him into the raid. Under their rule, our town will go to ruin―they will snatch everything. Destined are we to put up a futile fight, it appears―oh, how are we to save our town?

All is hopeless …

―Illahabad News, Pakistan

Folding the newspaper and sighing, the frail, old Professor stood shaking on the summit of the only high mountain that overlooked the rural town of Illahabad, while the merciless blizzard necessitated the crossing of his arms pressed against his chest. With profound irritation, he took his eyes away from the sublime view and turned around to ask the guide, who sat with his legs crossed before a fire, the same question yet again.

“Are you sure he’s coming, son?”

“As sure as one can be of something like this, doc,” the guide replied. 

“It’s Professor.”

“Alright, Professor. He should be here any minute now. Chill, will you?” 

“I certainly hope so. God knows we need him.”

“Need him for what?” 

The Professor coughed.

“Need him for what, Professor?” he asked again. 

“He’s the only one who can save us.”

“Save us from what?”

The Professor shot him a look of annoyance.

“Oh, right … right. The expected attack. Is it true what they say? The leader of their army rides a colossal dragon?”

“Yes, son. Nauman is the only one who can ride it and he’s quite a fine general. The whole town’s panicking about their arrival.”

“And this man you’re looking for, he can help us fight them?” 

“That’s what I am hoping.”

“I don’t get it, Professor. How will he possibly fight a freaking dragon? He’s only human, right?”

“Well―not quite, son. For the most part, I suppose he is.” 

“Is he superhuman?”

“I wouldn’t say that either.” 

“What exactly can he do?” 

“He … he can―”

They heard someone hiking up the mountain.

“Is that him?” the Professor asked, not able to see clearly through the fog. 

“I think so, Professor. Take a peek, will you?”

“It’s him! At last!” the Professor announced.

The approaching figure suddenly stopped. Clothed in the attire of a lumberjack, Fareed stood before them in confusion.

“It’s really you.” The Professor stood mesmerized. 

“Professor Kashif?”

“We need you, Fareed.”

“We?” Fareed asked.

“The whole town. The rest of the country has been taken over―it’s in every newspaper. Haven’t you heard?”

“I’ve got to get going.” Fareed turned around.

“Come on, damn it! At least hear me out―for old times’ sake.” Fareed sighed.

“Let’s talk in my cottage. I am only extending this courtesy to you because you used to be my professor, and I owe you. Just consider us even when we’re done talking, alright?”

The Professor nodded and followed him through the thick snow, confident in his ability to persuade Fareed to employ himself in the service of their town. 


“What the hell do you want from me, Professor?” Fareed asked after they had seated themselves on the porch.

“It’s Nauman―he’s the one who’s leading them.” 

Fareed fell silent. “And I ask again―what do you want from me?” 

“I think you know that.”

Fareed chuckled.

“I don’t design anymore if that’s what you’re aiming at here.”

“You don’t, huh? You mean to tell me that you absolutely gave up on your relentless passion for creative invention and curiosity―that the sight of a pencil no more stimulates your imagination?” 

“Even if I do design―what makes you think I would use those in a war?”

“It’s Nauman―you know how destructive and tyrannous he can be. You were both my best students, but he’s abandoned his creative prospects and intends to conquer the country, maybe even the globe―and that of course includes this little town of ours. He’s a military general now―and his army will attack; there’s no doubt of it.”

“I won’t have anything to do with him,” Fareed answered at last.

“The stakes are too high―our freedom depends on it, Fareed. Surely you understand? Don’t you?”

“Daddy!” Erum came dashing into the living room. “You’re back.” 

“Where’s daddy’s kiss?” 

She came closer and gave Fareed a kiss on the cheek. 

“That’s my girl. Erum, this is Professor Kashif.” 

Kashif shook her hand and smiled at her.

“Go play with the dog, baby. Daddy will be right there.” 

“That’s Erum, huh? I have been meaning to come to see her. I am sorry about Aiman, Fareed. I heard. What was it?”


“How long has it been?” 

“Ten years today.”

“I am very sorry.”

They sat silent for a while.

“You have a gift, Fareed. You’re super-humanly creative―the boundaries of your imagination know no limit. And you’re just going to sit here in this dreadful cottage, doing nothing? Does this town mean nothing to you? You’re the only one who can design extraordinary weapons of mass destruction that can help us fight Nauman’s army. They could be attacking us any minute now―even as we speak!”

“You think I don’t know that? I know the consequences, but I can’t have the blood of so many innocents on my conscience―of so many children. It will drive me mad, don’t you see, Professor? I have always taken you for a smart man, but how can you not see that if put in the wrong hands, my weapons could wipe out the human race itself from the planet? I am no hero. Only a father. I have no intention of changing that.”

“What about Erum? What about her future?”

“You don’t need to worry about that. I can protect her myself well enough.”

“You and your conscience,” Kashif scoffed. “There are hundreds of thousands of lives at stake―there are more important concerns at hand than your conscience!”

“I won’t compromise.” 

“You won’t, huh?” 

“Get out.”

“Son, you have to listen to―” 

“Out!” he exclaimed in fury.

The Professor reluctantly left and slammed the door behind him. Once outside, he scoffed again and said to himself, “His conscience, ha!”


That night while the Professor returned to his office having failed, a sudden violent growl boomed from the sky. The whole town emptied their homes and with utter horror beheld the spectacle of the approaching dragon which ferociously growled. Seated on the dragon was Nauman, clad in a dark full-dress uniform, his short hair slicked back. The soaring dragon would reach them any minute now.

While Professor Kashif shuddered in horror, someone tapped him on his shoulder. “Fareed!” he cried out as he turned around.

“It’s too late, Professor. We can’t escape now.” Beside Fareed, Erum stood perfectly calm.

“So, you will help us?” 

“Let’s counterattack.”


Having secured Erum in the basement located beneath the Professor’s office, they ran off back to Fareed’s cottage and entered the small partition that hadn’t been entered for years. On a table by the door, a whole clutter of engineering designs lay still―designs of scythed chariots, tanks with arrays of highly shielded archers mounted around them, and motorbikes with machine-guns hinged all around them.  Fareed pulled the dirty cloth off from something the outlines of which seemed to resemble a canon.

“The sight of a pencil no longer stimulates your imagination, huh?” the Professor chuckled.

“Let’s get this motor-canon over the high mountain.” 

“How? Are we going to drag it there? There’s no time.” Fareed pulled off the cloth entirely.

“I have installed an engine and wheels―all we have to do is ride it.”

“Let’s go ahead.” 


“Yes, Fareed?”

“Your basement is safe for Erum, right?”

“Of course. It’s caged by metallic walls. No one can pass through that entrance. You have my word, okay? Hurry, we don’t have any time.”

“She’s only twelve years old, Professor. If anything were to happen to her, I will be your worst enemy. Better that the whole town should die than she be hurt in any way, do you understand that?” Fareed had his forearm pushed against the Professor’s neck while the Professor was pressed against the wall.

“I do.”

“Now let’s head for the mountain and attack.’’


While he prepared the canon for fire, his thoughts kept wandering back to Erum―he wondered if she felt abandoned and scared inside the darkness of the basement the way she feared the presence of monsters under her bed at night. She’d obeyed without question when he told her to hide herself there―she was such a brave little girl after all who was not fond of admitting weakness or fear. The dragon hovered over the town now, spattering fire everywhere, and Nauman wore an expression of glory as he reveled in the deaths of the handful of rebelling residents as they turned into ashes. As he caught glimpse of Fareed, perched up on the high mountain, his expression turned even more joyful, and he steered his dragon towards Fareed. However, before the dragon could reach the high mountain close enough to cause any damage, the canon was fired. Letting out a monstrous cry, the dragon, its ribs severely injured, fluttered about out of control, and Nauman fell, unable to latch on to the uncontrollably shaking dragon. Nauman came crashing down and hit the ground, only a few paces away from the blood-hungry crowd. The dragon flew back to the legion assembled outside the town’s locked gates.

The crowd with violent cries and triumphant cheers surrounded Nauman―while Nauman’s face still refused to betray any semblance of fear or concern for his current predicament. A steady stream of blood drops dripped down his forehead, while his face was contorted into a mischievous smirk.

“Don’t kill him!” yelled someone from behind the crowd. Fareed slid through the crowd and stopped before Nauman, panting with an expression of competitive triumph. 

“It’s been too long,” Nauman said to Fareed. “A nice reunion of old classmates, huh, isn’t it, Fardi?”

“Lock him up inside the jail cell,” Fareed commanded the crowd, who stood mesmerized before this strange man of such assertive and unusually dominating composure. Without question, they obeyed.

“We can hold him hostage and the attack can be easily subdued―my job is done. Take it from here yourself, Professor, alright?” 

“Just one more thing, Fareed.”


The Professor turned around and exclaimed to the crowd, “Residents of Illahabad, this man here is your savior―he’s the one who designed the weapons with which we injured the dragon. Thank him for his service.”

“What’s his name?” asked one from the crowd. 

“He’s … uh, the Dragonslayer.”

The crowd cheered on for him, while Nauman clapped in the background. Every eye was then transfixed on Nauman as if he were an alien. They almost shuddered at the sight of this fearless general.

Fareed started walking back to the professor’s office to retrieve his Erum and to finally take her back to their cottage to continue their peaceful existence without any serious threats looming around anymore. But there was still a lurking suspicion in his mind about Nauman―about his peculiarly cheerful composure despite his defeat. As he walked over the scattered corpses, he kept seeing the little limbs of children scattered about the whole way; his heart grew nervous, and he felt short of breath. But he had to remain strong for his baby girl. He suddenly recalled the memory of Aiman holding little Erum in her arms, and how he would feel a surge of almost super-human affection for them as had seen his family grow with the irreplaceable water of love and care.

When he arrived at the office and descended down the basement, he almost collapsed in horror. He found the basement empty.


 “It’s Nauman’s doing. I know it is!” Fareed told the Professor.

“How? He’s been in holding all this time―I don’t see how he could possibly have any hand in this.”

“His men. Some of our residents must be his rats.” 

“Let’s not jump to conclusions, son, this could―”

Fareed suddenly grabbed Kashif by the throat.

“You didn’t have anything to do with this, Professor, did you?” 

“Of course not,” the Professor squealed.

“I’ll burn you into a crisp if you dare have anything to do with this, you understand? You gave me your word.” Fareed let him go.

“What do you want to do, Fareed?”

“I’ll interrogate him.”


“Don’t provoke him. Let him speak for a while―he knows he’s got the upper hand if he really did take her.”

“I know what to do, Professor. I’ll go in now.” Fareed entered the interrogation room.

“Well, hello―Dragonslayer. The Professor has taste, I must say. You know why that’s the absolutely perfect name for you?” 

“Because I almost killed your dragon?”

“Partly, but that’s not it, is it? It’s because you slay the dragon inside you.” 

“What’re you talking about?”

“You know what I believe?” 


“I believe when you gaze into the abyss, the dragon gazes back into you. The dragon of grandiosity. We’re dragons―you and I, Fareed. We have a kinship that you’re too afraid to admit. Listen to me, we’re―”

“You’re just a tyrant who wants to rule this town with your fist.”

“Is that what you really think? Don’t just repeat what they say. Ask me what I want to do.”

“What do you want to do?”

“I want the soul of this city. I want to make people retreat back to their true nature―and that true nature is always as an individual, do you understand? I know you do. Even you―your dragon of grandiosity is tamed because of your daughter; it stops you from going after glory, doesn’t it? This whole town is like that―tamed by family. I want to free them from this nonsense.”

“You want to deprive them of family? Of companionship?”

“Family? Ha―what’s the point of it? Take Erum for example,” Nauman replied. Fareed’s blood gushed with fury. “You think she’s always going to be like this―sweet and innocent? Oh, you clueless fellow―she’s eventually going to resent you for even the little things you couldn’t provide for her; she’s going to see to it that as an old man, no respect ever is wasted on a useless fellow such as yourself. Ah, I see―you have already deluded yourself into thinking that the little moments of love and happiness with her are going to be enough for you even if your ‘service’ to your daughter is forgotten, haven’t you? Even the Professor’s daughter resents him now, doesn’t she? Doesn’t she, Professor?! I know you’re behind that wall and can hear me, Professor. The dragon inside Erum will one day not be tamed, and it will turn yours into ashes. Well, I feel so sorry for you, my dear friend―I hope there are no hard feelings between us.”

Fareed abruptly bashed his head against the table. “Where is she?!”

“And your dead wife―how’s she going to feel when she sees your baby girl growing up to be of a stained nature.”

“Where is she?!”

Nauman maniacally laughed.

“You did her the worst injustice by letting her be born in the first place, you pathetic man.”

Fareed had had enough. He shoved his fingers into Nauman’s eye sockets, but before he could blind him, a few officers came dashing into the room and pulled Fareed off the criminal.

Nauman kept laughing relentlessly. “She’s the anchor, isn’t she? She’s the reason you don’t revel in blood-lust. You coward. You’ve got to gaze at the abyss.”

“There won’t be a return from that abyss. I would become just like you.” 

“And what’s wrong with being yourself?”

Fareed remained silent.

“Tell you what―let’s have a trade, shall we? Send me back to my legion with your designs, and Erum will be back with you.”

“We can’t trust him,” the Professor told Fareed.

“We don’t have an alternative,” he turned to Nauman. “We agree to your terms. You can have my designs.”

“Fareed, are you out of your mind?” the Professor pulled him towards himself. “He’ll kill all of us. You said yourself your conscience can’t take that. How can you let this happen?”

Nauman laughed again and replied, “Professor, you still don’t realize who he is, do you?”

The Professor raised an eyebrow and turned back to Fareed. “Fareed, what’s going on? What’s he talking about?”

Fareed stood still without speaking.

“Let me speak for him if I may, Professor. He’s not sensitive to the death of these meaningless residents at all, oh you hearty fool―he’s only afraid of reveling in their deaths and the destruction of this town.”

The Professor could not stand it any longer. “Liar” the Professor retorted. “Right, Fareed?” Fareed still stood silent. “Fareed? You refused to help me because of your conscience of course?” Fareed’s silence spoke all. “You would let all of us die just so Erum could live?” 

“Yes,” Fareed replied unflinchingly.

“You monster!” Kashif started hitting Fareed with his fist. Nauman sat amused. Fareed pushed the Professor away.

“You think I don’t have a daughter? I’d let her die a thousand times if it meant hundreds of thousands of other daughters could be saved!” the Professor exclaimed.

“I’m not like you.”

“It’s just one life, Fareed―only one!” 

Fareed didn’t respond.

“Daddy’s coming for you, Erum,” Fareed said to himself.


Nauman’s legion and the Illahabadi residents stood on the opposite sides of the snowy meadow right outside the town gate. Fareed, standing alongside Professor Kashif, pushed Nauman forward with his hands tied behind his back. The legion also pushed forward Erum who could hardly stand the tension brewing between the two sides. She shook with terror as she walked along, trembling. A surge of anger ran through Fareed as he stood waiting for his baby girl. As Nauman, with the designs in his hands, walked towards his legion and his dragon, a malicious smile came over his face. When he was half-way through and Erum stood right next to him, he yelled out, “Kill the girl!”. Leaving the crowd in a frenzy, Fareed ran for Erum, his heart racing. For Fareed, it was almost as if the apocalypse had started.


The legion came into action straight away, and the archers fetched arrows from their quivers. The first round of arrows was launched.

“No!” Fareed screamed at the top of his lungs and ran towards Erum as he realized that there was no stopping the conflict to which Nauman had risen so abruptly.

The first round missed Erum. The second round was launched.

“It was all planned,” he realized as he was sprinting towards her. “He got caught on purpose, the devil!”

An arrow suddenly penetrated her thigh and she fell on her face. Another round was launched. Another arrow penetrated her stomach.

As the blood of his daughter came splashing over his face, the last burning light of this world for him suddenly started to extinguish―his mind which had till that time somehow stayed intact suddenly cracked ajar. Starting to experience violent convulsions, he picked the almost lifeless Erum in his arms and left the battlefield quickly, leaving the barbarity of war behind him. Kashif followed him. Muttering to his little baby fatherly consolations, and laying her on the bed as soon as they reached the cottage, he bandaged the wounds on her stomach and ribs―all the while the low supply of hope not hindering in any way his resolve to save his baby girl, his last meaning on earth.

Hardly able to breathe, Erum seized his hands as he sat crying by the side of her bed―she kissed it and called him. He sprang up at once and drew closer to her.

“My baby, you’ll be fine―daddy’s here, you’ll be fine, you hear me, my life?” 


“Daddy’s here, Erum.”


“Yes, my baby?” he tightened his grip on her hand.

“My daddy, my hero―you must save our town, mom’s town. This town is her last connection to this earth. Mom would want this, daddy. That’s what Erum wants, daddy.”

“Of course, my baby girl,” he muttered, his eyes soaked with tears. “Your daddy will save our town.”

“My daddy, my hero … daddy … daddy … daddy.” Her eyes closed. He cried his eyes out and kissed Erum’s icy-cold forehead.

“Go, Fareed, go! I’ll be here. I’ll take care of her body.”

Fareed shook with a despair that he had only experienced once before; when his wife, Aiman, had died of cancer a decade ago. Since then, Erum had become his last connection to her―Erum had become the embodiment of everything that he loved about her. A radical shift took place inside him after he saw the last flickers of life leaving Erum―it was akin to the panic of a man who had lost his direction in life suddenly. Erum’s last wish came ringing in his head: Save the town, daddy! Saving the town was the only way of saving her and Erum; the only way they could be saved, he realized―the frozen meadows that they had trodden over could not be allowed to be someone else’s possession! How could a town that had the flesh of all his treasured memories attached with it be left to someone else? And how many little Erums were still in danger due to this invasion? There suddenly appeared the remnants of a fire in his eyes―they were boldly resolute now. He would not desert this town―this was his town!


“Look!” a child from amongst the fighting residents suddenly cried out, pointing towards the dark sky. The Dragonslayer soared through the air, with his sharp mechanical wings cutting through the air like a blade. On the outlines of the wings, a long series of arsenals were attached, and he shot a round of grenades straight at the face of the infuriated dragon. They all applauded and cheered with incredible vitality as they beheld the sight of the dragon falling face down on the snowy ground. 

While the dragon spattered fire in the direction of the crowd, the Dragonslayer, his wings completely spread out, rushed forth and acted as their protection with his body outstretched in the position of a cross. When the dragon ran out of fire, he still stood, barely able to stand.

“Hold on!” he cried to the crowd behind him as he realized his longs wings would soon turn into crisp. Fareed was inoculated with a frenzy that called upon him to take the burden of the entire town on his shoulders

He suddenly jumped over the dragon’s mouth and took all the fire upon himself. Before he fell with pain, however, he shot a round of bullets in the dragon’s eyes, blinding it. The dragon shrieked in pain and flew away. The legion followed their general and his dragon back outside the gates.

While he lay unconscious on the ground, the crowd ran towards him. His mask had slipped off and they could see his face clearly.

“Dragonslayer!” the crowd cried.

They lifted him on their shoulders and carried him back to the town, where this little victory could be celebrated. While he was being carried, his eyes fluttered open for a moment, and he saw the corpses of little girls that had been burned to death and slaughtered by Nauman when he had counterattacked in the battle. His heart could hardly endure it this time―and a bead of tears trickled down his face.


“Behold the Dragonslayer―the preserver of family, the only savior of our town,” the crowd chanted when Fareed appeared at the funeral.

“Erum! Erum! Erum!” the crowd chanted in a congregation. 

“They want you to give a eulogy,” the Professor told him. 

“I can’t.”

“They will celebrate her name forever in this town. They should know about the unsung heroine of Illahabad.”

Fareed turned around and facing the crowd began his speech:

“My baby Erum, she feels like a dream now―and suddenly waking up from this dream and realizing her absence has left a void inside me―a void which can never be filled no matter what. Maybe all voids can be filled somehow, but how can the loss of all meaning be filled now? She … she once told me that her mother, Aiman, told her that a father isn’t someone who is perfect, or is devoid of monsters inside him, but someone who loved his girls infinitely nevertheless. She told him that only a father could be a hero―that being a hero requires fatherly love and nothing else. She was a peril of wisdom, my Aiman. But here I am―a father without his baby girl, a husband without his wife. After Aiman’s death, my Erum used to crawl over my shoulders and ask me to fly her to her mommy like a dragon, so I made the suit and took her to the sky as she held fast to my back. I am not your hero―she is. Every impulse of gratefulness should be directed at her. Make her memory immortal. That’s how you can repay her.”

In the following days, monuments were erected in her honor, and her name was revered throughout the town. Residents named their newborns Erum.

Fareed walked back to Kashif. They both sat before Erum’s grave. While the whole town was in tears, Fareed sat with an expression of worry on his face.

“They have my designs,” he told the Professor. “They’ll be back with new weapons. Better ones.”

“I know.”

“I need to tell them.”

“Don’t. We’ll prepare for the next attack in secret. Trust me, it’s the best way.” 

“This was not a victory.”

“I know … I know. But look at the cheer on their faces―they have hope. You’d be a monster if you took that away from them.”

“I suppose.”

“Why did he do all this―getting caught on purpose, kidnapping Erum, and trying to kill her? What was the point?”

“To provoke me.” 

“Into what?”

“Into embracing my grandiosity. Into seeing the world just as he does.” 


“He wanted to rule this town with me―making me his military engineer. And he also wanted some competition after the death of the superheroes, the saviors―he wanted to seduce me into his way of life because that sort of a victory is what really counts.”

They sat silent for a while.

“Was what he said about your daughter true, Professor? She resents you?” 

The Professor sighed. “She said I was never there for her.” 

“Were you?”

“I guess not.”

“Would you really have sacrificed her for the town?”

“I guess so,” the Professor reflected. “Can I confess something?” 

“Go ahead.”

“I think I only wanted to sacrifice her for the greater good because I wanted to start over.”

“Start over?”

“I envied you. I thought that through the cause of saving every little girl, I would get to feel the fatherly love I never could for her. But seeing how you feel about Erum―I did something.”

“What, Professor?”

“I went to her yesterday. I told her how much I loved her. How sorry I was for being emotionally vacant. I told her that nothing meant more to me than her and that nothing ever will. I said all that to her because I didn’t want to die without having given her closure―how would she remember me if I did die without telling her that I always loved her? You taught me to love her, Fareed. For that, I am eternally grateful to you.”

“There’s nothing more sacred than family, Professor. There never will be anything more fulfilling to have or more painful to lose.”


Day after day, Fareed sat before Erum’s grave, the empty expression on his face hardly ever changing. Sometimes, he would press his head against the tombstone and bury his face into the rocks, and he would cry for hours. Then he would go to Aiman’s grave and burning tears would trickle down his face uncontrollably again. His imagination irresistibly stitched together the kaleidoscope of all the expressions he had perceived when looking at Erum. His pain only grew more brutal till, at last, he would fall asleep with his family. Oh, days changed into nights, but nothing would stir him sufficiently to realize that there was still a world that existed outside the graveyard.

From the gate to the graveyard, Nauman would sneak inside in disguise and would stare at Fareed with wonder. Nauman would suddenly recall the memory of his father kneeling similarly against his mother’s grave when he was but a mere child. Like a child curious to try a new piece of clothing, he tried to let go of his indifferent nature to love and compassion. To feel! But in vain. 

“I have gazed into the abyss for too long. It’s too late now.” He threw away the locket containing his mother’s picture and trampled it, leaving the graveyard never to return again to this dead place for him.

“Till next we cross paths, Dragonslayer,” he whispered to Fareed from afar as he left.

After two weeks, Fareed returned to his cottage, put on his Dragonslayer outfit, and went back to the graveyard again. This time he stood indifferently before their graves.

“To protect every Erum and Aiman from harm’s way, to save the home of all their immortal memories,” he repeated his resolve to himself and walked out of the graveyard. With Professor Kashif, a vast crowd comprising nearly the whole town stood waiting for him.

“Dragonslayer,” the Professor said. “The protector of our children, the only savior of Illahabad, everyone would like to thank you for your existence. As mankind has long known, whoever can imagine the most, whoever can imagine the world to be different, to be perfect, suffers all the more. Due to your boundless imagination, you suffer the most, and you suffer for all of us! The pain of the death of our children rings a hundred, nay a thousand times, louder in your ears. You have taken the suffering of this entire town upon yourself. How can we ever thank you? All of our children are now your children too.”

He hardly managed to walk into the crowd. After every few steps, he would almost fall down, and a piece of the crowd would help him up. He was absolutely consumed. Mothers would fling themselves at him in tears and thank him for having saved the lives of their children while children would idolize him and cheer him on. Every face of a girl he looked on, he only saw Erum, his baby girl. He suddenly collapsed among them. “Is the savior alive?” many people from the crowd asked in a panic. Everyone shook with worry, laid him on their shoulders, and carried him back to his cottage.

He woke up alone. The house no longer felt like home―the empty spaces of the house through which no giggles, no lively pleadings of his baby girl drifted anymore only seemed to further shove him into the chasm of despair. His mask lay on his nightstand. Putting on his mask instinctively, he peered out of the window and saw the crowd waiting for him, and at his sight, he saw them bowing in reverence for their savior. He suddenly lost his breath for a few seconds as he saw the mosaic of Erum’s face that the crowd had prepared outside his cottage. He shuffled out of the house and ran to kiss Erum’s forehead on the mosaic, but he felt something still missing from the mosaic. Professor Kashif walked up to him from the crowd.

“They wanted to thank you for saving their lives,” Kashif told him. Fareed suddenly held onto Kashif to stop himself from falling.

“I … I could have saved more. I could have saved more.”

“Look at them. They are all free only because of you―free to have their families, free to love and care.”

“Not enough… not enough. If only I’d listened to you earlier. If only!” he cried, his face wet with tears behind his mask. 

“Thousands of Erums … thousands of my Erums. Ah … no!”

His knees hit the ground as his sobbing only grew more painful. “Thousands of my baby girls…” he muttered to himself.

Then he pointed to a little girl he had been eying from afar and asked her to come to him. The girl appeared frightened as her parents urged her to go forward. She wrung her hands, and her heart thumped almost violently. She walked towards the Dragonslayer, shaking. The sharp scales running through the Dragonslayer’s back glittered and in his sharp-red suit, the Dragonslayer seemed to resemble a dragon himself. 

When she reached him, he embraced her with fatherly warmth and cried, “I am so sorry, Erum. Daddy’s very sorry.”

 The girl stood confused but sensing that this stranger needed her words replied, “It’s okay, daddy. My daddy. Save us … save us all again.” 

The crowd found themselves licked with tears. The mothers whispered something into their little girls’ ears and patted them forward. Noticing that the Dragonslayer’s mask was loosening and about to fall down to the ground, the little girl tightened it with her little hands. The Dragonslayer kissed her cheeks and forehead and embraced her again, even more tightly. A flock of little girls came rushing to his rescue, and they all rapturously embraced him in an ever-expanding circle―finishing Erum’s mosaic at last.


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