ANY CENTURIES AGO, before steam and metal transformed mankind, before the Old World collided with the New, before the revival of Greco-Roman thought, Europe lay mired in the moribund murk of the Middle Ages. 'Twas throughout this period dark that progress dwindled and innovation dimmed, threatened with extinction by a millennial dynasty of dullards. Excepting, of course, the exceptions, including such trifles as the scientific method, Arabic numerals, algebra, trigonometry, chemistry, mechanics, optics, eyeglasses, paper, magnets, clocks, soap, silk, mirrors, Chaucer, Dante, Beowulf, Gothic art, Byzantine art, Romanesque art, compasses, universities, or any of the other plentiful advances originated in this period spanning one thousand years. Aside from that, however, the age saw little light indeed. Keep calling it a dark age, by all means.
So the Middle Ages reaped its due in ingenuity. However, the failures, though lost to time, outranked the brilliance a hundredfold. Future generations benefit from a filter spanning centuries, but the citizens of the period abided fools whose productivity far outshone their talent. Trust me, they were manifold. A dark age, no; yet for the Guardian of creative merit, times were dark indeed. I speak of the One charged with critiquing the works of man, the One tasked with a sacred duty: to praise humanity's successes and annihilate all else. 'Twas and 'tis a heavy burden, but one necessary to the creative survival of mankind.
For millennia the Guardian remained legend, His existence often questioned and never confirmed. But one portentous day in the 14th century, the Critic rose from the depths of mythology and revealed to all His reality such that none could deny it. What brought about this magnificent revelation? What ended thousands of years of deliberate concealment? Why, a simple encounter, one quite like many that had come before...
The scribe rode his horse up the winding path that led to the top of the mountain. The wind raged, but he could scarcely hear it over the pounding of his heart. At long last, he reached the cave at the end of the path. Its enormousness threatened to swallow him, yet he could see only darkness; he could discern nothing of the dragon lurking within. As the scribe opened his mouth, a roar emanated from the impenetrable black, a roar that might have cast him into the abyss below were it not for the wind at his back.
"Who dares to intrude upon the cave of the Creative Guardian?"
The scribe retained his composure despite the shiver overtaking his spine. "I am Baldric the scribe, oh magnificent one, and I have traveled for days from a faraway kingdom to consult thee on a matter most urgent."
The dragon laughed. "I would not expect thee to have traveled for days from a kingdom situated nearby." The scribe shifted uneasily. "What is thy business, master of redundancy?"
"I seek thine approval for a tome over which I have toiled for many a year." He unlatched from his back a massive scroll and held it before him. "The king himself commissioned it, and in his name I humbly submit the fruit of my labors that thou might endow it with the blessing that legend foretold."
The silence that followed seemed interminable. At last the beast spoke once more. "Bring it to me." The scribe obeyed, then waited.
Despite the bitter chill of the wind, perspiration trickled along Baldric's forehead as the minutes crawled slowly by. Finally he heard a deep grunt from within the cave.
"My lord?" said the scribe, lowering his eyes lest the creature reveal himself.
The dragon snarled. "I detest it. I detest thee, as well. Cease thine abominable hackery lest I expel thee from this mortal coil."
Baldric looked up, his face drained of all expression. "It displeaseth thee? But magnificent one, considerable gold was poured into its production. The populace adored it. It hath generated bountiful gold for my kingdom."
"The populace are given to preferences dubious and fickle. And what relevance hath gold to thy tome's creative merit?"
The scribe was silent for a time, then simply sighed. "His Majesty will be most displeased."
"Then I entreat His Majesty to implant his lips upon my life-bestowing rod and extract my mystical essence."
Baldric gasped. "Impudent fiend! Thou art naught but a vile lizard! Well, it matters not. My work will yield riches with or without thy pathetic blessing."
"Thou durst unleash thy tongue upon the Guardian?" The dragon, suddenly visible at the mouth of the cave, brought himself to his full height. "Out, blasphemous knave! No stars for thee! Give my fiery regards to your king." As Baldric turned to flee, a stream of fire shot from the beast's mouth, singeing the scribe's arse as a potent reminder of his indiscretion. Yet it was not enough. The dragon, weary of man's mediocrity, sprang from his cave and into the night sky, raining terror from above onto the continent he had suffered so long.
Thus did I reveal myself to the world. A third of Europe fell to my wrath in what was thereafter known as the Red Death. But history has forever distorted the cause; the truth, well known then, has been lost to time.
You may believe I overreacted. To this I can only reply that you never had to contend with the tripe I suffered during my reign. In any event, my escapades helped to usher in the Renaissance, a time of great critical approval. Believing my work was done, I returned to my cave and fell into a deep sleep. However, the Renaissance's many innovations did not consist of the alarm clock, and I overslept by some 600 years. Awakening in 2009 (by your reckoning; you're a bit off on the birth of that Christ fellow, and I should know), I quickly realized two things: You mortals still haven't learned, and the old methods are no longer adequate. During my centuries of slumber, you have developed weapons that make my third of Europe seem like a pittance. Therefore, to avoid humiliation, I decided to do the next best thing: write scathing reviews and post them on the internet. I assumed the guise of a mortal named James Beardsley, and upon the World Wide Web I craft my domain, reigning supreme as the Creative Guardian, the Ancient One, the...
FIRE BREATHING CRITIC
Short version: The name is James Beardsley, and I founded Fire Breathing Critic in 2009 as a way to express my love of cinema through comedic reviews, news updates, and informative articles. My dual goal is to entertain and to get more people interested in classic films. And that's really all you need to know. Below are the links to my social networking accounts. Go crazy.
Copyright 2009-2016 by James Beardsley