Batcha and the Dragon: The Story of a Shepherd Who Slept all Winter
The wizard, still mumbling from his book, handed Batcha a bridle.
"Throw this around his neck!" he commanded.
Batcha took the bridle but was too terrified to act. The wizard spoke again and Batcha made one uncertain step in the dragon's direction. He lifted his arm to throw the bridle over the dragon's head, when the dragon suddenly turned on him, swooped under him, and before Batcha knew what was happening he found himself on the dragon's back and he felt himself being lifted up, up, up, above the tops of the forest trees, above the very mountains themselves.
For a moment the sky was so dark that only the fire, spurting from the dragon's eyes and mouth, lighted them on their way.
The dragon lashed this way and that in fury, he belched forth great floods of boiling water, he hissed, he roared, until Batcha, clinging to his back, was half dead with fright.
Then gradually his anger cooled. He ceased belching forth boiling water, he stopped breathing fire, his hisses grew less terrifying.
"Thank God!" Batcha gasped. "Perhaps now he'll sink to earth and let me go."
But the dragon was not yet finished with punishing Batcha for breaking his oath. He rose still higher until the mountains of the earth looked like tiny ant-hills, still up until even these had disappeared. On, on they went, whizzing through the stars of heaven.
At last the dragon stopped flying and hung motionless in the firmament. To Batcha this was even more terrifying than moving.
"What shall I do? What shall I do?" he wept in agony. "If I jump down to earth I'll kill myself and I can't fly on up to heaven! Oh, dragon, have mercy on me! Fly back to earth and let me go and I swear before God that never again until death will I offend you!"
Batcha's pleading would have moved a stone to pity but the dragon, with an angry shake of his tail, only hardened his heart.
Suddenly Batcha heard the sweet voice of the skylark that was mounting to heaven.
"Skylark!" he called. "Dear skylark, bird that God loves, help me, for I am in great trouble!