Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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Tom manages to convince himself that he’s doing the right thing. He may be giving birth to monsters like Sally and Bernard, but he’s won folks like Amber and Harold for the House of Dreams. In the end, he thinks, isn’t it better to have two more science adventurers and any number of cannibals, then to have neither and leave the world helpless before great beasts?

He doesn’t start realizing just how far he’s going wrong until he slips the hat onto young Morgan’s head.

Plus, he thinks, those cannibals — at least they find it filling!

Morgan’s in runics. He’s hanging upside down from a tree and he’s thinking. You’d think that what he’d be thinking is “how can I get down from here?” but he shows no actual evidence of this intent.

Fulfilling, Tom corrects. Then he looks up. There’s Morgan!

“Dude,” says Tom.

Morgan smiles at him.

“I’m looking for wisdom,” Morgan says. “This world’s spiraling out of control. Did you know that? Hans, who kept it sane, is dead.”

“I think the blood is going to your head, man,” says Tom.

Morgan laughs.

“Seriously,” says Tom. “You think that’s a way to get wisdom?”

“C’mere,” says Morgan.

Tom does.

Morgan whispers, “I completely blew off my runes all year, but if I hang upside down for nine days and nine nights in search of wisdom, it’s basically a guaranteed A on the midterm.”

Tom draws back. He squints at Morgan suspiciously.

“Don’t you need a spear in your side and to have one eye out,” he says, “for that?”

He’s referencing the story of Odin, who hung in such a fashion, and learned the runes and also mastery of the world.

Only:

“It’s just a midterm, man,” says Morgan. “Chill.”

So Tom winds up sitting beside him. They talk. Morgan hangs there. And after a while, Morgan wishes he didn’t have to hang there; or rather, that he could hang there, only without the negative consequences, like the agony and the wind.

And to such wishes as these Tom has an answer.

He puts his crowning hat on the hanging boy.

It’s hard, of course, because Morgan’s hanging upside down. It takes some serious ingenuity. Tom has some serious ingenuity, though.

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