Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 10 –

– 10 –

Bethany duels Edmund in the sky above the school.


Well, it’s only natural.

I mean, specifically, it’s only natural that in a whole school full of renegades and bad elements, there’d be one or two people who’d object to having cannibalistic wolf-people running around eating other students and wearing non-regulation hats.

Such as: Bethany!

Also there was Theodore Cetera, but he had already been et.

Bethany slams Edmund down. She stomps him into the ground. She stops just short of killing him, though. She takes his hat and leaves him to grovel about on the earth, instead, desperately whining for someone, anyone, to bring him a new white hat to wear.

She should have killed him, of course. Humiliating him was pointless. But there’s something about killing fifteen-year-old kids that makes it hard to feel morally at your best.

Even if you’re only sixteen and a half yourself!

That night, she realizes her error. She realizes her error because she wakes up and Sally is in bed with her. Only, Sally isn’t planning to do something naughty with her. Sally is planning to kill and eat her.

. . .

Possibly I have phrased that poorly. I mean, Sally is not planning to do something untoward.

The point is, I mean —


What I mean is, this story is going to retain its solid for-young-people rating. It is not going to have two girls in bed together doing something of which good upstanding Christian adults would not approve. Particularly when they are really young and immature. So instead Sally just attempts to strangle Bethany.

Bethany isn’t quite awake yet. She has vague dreams of a slavering maw and a pale, stretched-out face. She flinches, reflexively. She throws Sally into the wall above Bethany’s bed. This resolves the problem for all of two seconds before Sally falls back on top of her. Bethany slams her against the other wall over her bed and this time manages to twist her enough that Sally falls onto the floor instead of back on top of Bethany, and with a ringing clang.

Bethany curls up in her quilt. She tries to go back to sleep. Sally lunges up from the ground.

Bethany bonks her on the head.

Sally goes down. Sally clangs. Sally shakes her head vigorously. Sally tries to stand up again.

Bethany flails. She is not actually trying to knock Sally out. She is trying to press Sally’s snooze button. But the Sally-beast has no snooze button! Sally bites off two fingers of Bethany’s hand.

“Gah!” says Bethany.

She wakes up. She spurts blood in Sally’s face. She draws her night-tanto, which is like a regular tanto only it is smaller and snugglier for sleeping with. Its sheath is basically a teddy bear, only long and solid and straight. She squirms into a crouch.

“Get out, Sally!”

Sally is her neighbor. Sally was her neighbor. Now Sally is a member of the House of Hunger who has broken into her room, tried to strangle her, and eaten two of her fingers. This does not affect her residential status but it is arguably not neighborly.

Sally lunges. Bethany stabs her eye. It’s grotesque. Sally claws at her.

Bethany pulls back. She crawls to the far end of the bed. She stabs Sally again. Sally bites through the blade.

“Get out!

Bethany tries to remember what a proper ninja does in this situation. It is difficult because she is wearing fuzzy pajamas. Well, it is difficult because she is wearing fuzzy pajamas that are not black. They have an adorable frogs and fishes pattern instead. Then she remembers, just as Sally scrambles up onto the bed with her again.

Bethany twists sideways and vanishes. She transcends reality. She walks three steps through the shadow world. It is exhausting and she cannot breathe there. She tumbles back into reality outside the walls of her dormitory.

She catches herself —

Well, first, she falls, but then she catches herself — against a window railing two floors down.

Sally leans over the open window. Then Sally begins to crawl down the wall like some vast gecko.

Edmund’s leaning, kind of casually, against a tree not far below.

“Damn it,” Bethany says.

She lets go of the wall. She drops.

“Don’t start fights,” says Edmund, “that you don’t intend to finish.”

He makes a head-gesture. The Bernard-beast approaches, and the Lucy-beast.

“I didn’t —”

Bethany remembers that technically she had started the fight. She had stopped Edmund from eating Sid, who had really seemed to have enough problems on his plate already.

“Well, fine,” she says.

Then she is a river of motion. Then she is striking this way, this way, and that. The sharp point of her wrist catches the Bernard-beast’s throat; he gags, chokes, and goes down. She hops on one foot, backing away from the snarling Lucy-beast’s attack, long enough to rip out the emergency footie-knife from the footie of her pajamas. Then she takes the offensive, but Lucy slides back and away. She is as elusive as the wind.

Then it seems like Bethany has her. Lucy’s eyes are wide and cavernous; they draw Bethany’s attention in, they fixate her, and she slams the knife towards Lucy and Lucy does not dodge —

Edmund catches Bethany’s hair. He pulls her staggering back.

Sally has caught up to them. She springs snarling for Bethany’s leg. Bethany topples. Bernard is recovering. He is pulling out his own weapons now, glass wind-and-fire wheels — like fist knives, only with razored glass semi-circles for their blades — and Bethany’s knife has gone skittering away.

She’s almost out of night-time backup weapons. There’s the wire in her hair, of course, and the suicide tooth, but she doesn’t really want to spit the suicide tooth at anybody and it’s really hard to get the wire back in once she’s ripped it out.

She’s first-ranked in her class. She is on track, as she tells her friends when lazily hanging about on the couches in the dormitory lounge, to be the Valedictorian of Lethality, or possibly of Lethal Magnetism, at the end of the following year.

She is Bethany.

Edmund discovers that he might not want to be holding on to Bethany’s hair. She twists about him, tangles about him, dances as even the nithrid dared not dance, and a confused Sally gets a mouthful not of Bethany but of wolf-gold and Edmund’s back.

Edmund can’t help it.

He snarls. He lashes out at Sally. The hunger in him escalates into an ulfserk fury and Bethany is skipping away, fluttering up into the trees, her eyes a gleaming in the dark.

Lucy is waiting for her.



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