Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 2 –

– 2 –

Edmund and Peter weave through the audience.

“It’s good,” Peter says.

He’s using his ninja skills to balance three buckets of popcorn as they scramble to their seats.

“It’s good,” Peter says. “It’ll make a man of you, this place will.”

“I ate a death ray once,” Edmund says.

Peter shrugs eloquently.

They sit.

“Also, we’re in the audience.”

Peter ducks forward as a throwing axe smashes into his seat. He smashes it through the back of his seat into the person behind him with his head.

Edmund waves off a snake someone has thrown in his direction.

“It’s an audience participation thing,” Peter says. He hands Edmund a bucket of popcorn.

There are rings and rings of people fighting down below. There are at least four battles going at any given time. It’s dark and the area is tented like a circus.

“Oh, man,” Peter says. He points vaguely. “There’s Sid.”


Sid is squaring off against Max. They’re in the summoners’ circle. That’s where the summoners fight.

“Know your wimps!” says Peter. He spits to the side. “He’s the worst-ranked kid in your class. Cosmic whipping boy, that one is, but no, he’s gotta think of himself as a winner.”

“He looks like he’s got potential,” Edmund says.

“That’s just his summon,” Peter dismisses.

Sid’s scraped out a summoning circle in the dirt of the summoners’ circle. This always sounds redundant when he’s talking about it to people but it doesn’t feel redundant at all when he is fighting for his life.

Light glitters upwards from his circle.

He cries out, INTIMATION!

That’s the best summon he can manage right now. It’s an intimation that he might one day summon something better.

The ninjutsu fight from a different ring storms out through the audience. Two of Peter’s classmates are a stuttering, tumbling blur of weaponry, clashing, vanishing into ninja-space for a step or two and reappearing in a spinning bundle out over the audience’s chairs. Emily starts up from her seat, then settles back into it; she’s too far away to do anything —

There’s a scream as one of the prophesy students takes a nunchaku to the eye.

Meanwhile, Max stomps the ground with his summoning stick. It’s like a regular stick, but at the bottom it has the reversed imprint of a summoning circle on it. It saves time.

“HAND PUPPETS!” Max shouts, and tosses aside the stick.

He summons two hand puppets. They resemble sea monsters. They fit neatly over his hands.

Sid launches himself at Max, wreathed in the intimation that one day he might summon something that will totally show Max what for. Max stops him with one sea-monstered hand held firmly against his head.

“Oh, that’s a good show,” says Peter.

He snatches a napkin — well, a headband — from the tumbling ninjas as they go past and he wipes his mouth. “See, you lose points if you touch your enemy directly, but Max’s summon lets him put his hand on Sid’s forehead fair and square.”

Sid continues to flail.

“You’re sure it’s not potential?” Edmund says.

“It’s INTIMATION,” Peter says. “Geez, you’d be a sucker for CERTAIN DOOM.”

The mouth of the sea monster puppet in Max’s other hand begins to gleam. It is building charge for a puppet beam.

The light brightens.

Sid ducks under Max’s hand. He pounds the earth. He free-summons DIRT SPEAR. This fails because free-summoning is an extremely advanced topic and only three people in the world have ever managed it. Instead there is only the sudden, furious intimation of a spear striking up from the Earth through Max’s bowels.

“Ha ha!” says Max. “I’ll be regular tonight!”

His sea monster hand puppet’s maw opens. He blasts Sid.

Sid falls.

“Ooh yeah,” cries Max. “Who’s the champion?”

That is when Eugenie, whose summon is a gigantic four-armed ape, steps into the circle.

“Oh,” says Max, embarrassed. “Right. That would be you.”



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