Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 5 –

– 5 –

Peter is at home for the summer. He is in Ipswich. This proves to be a mistake!

“Agh!” he says. “I’m in Ipswich!”

The earth cracks. Fire bursts upwards from below! Peter falls screaming into the Orwell river. It is presumably all a-fire.

“Doubleplus ungood!” howls Peter, as he’s carried away!

. . . OK, that was actually a dramatization. Not everyone in Ipswich is falling into the river Orwell all the time. That’s just devious propaganda! And it is hardly ever even a little bit on fire. What actually happens is probably more like this:

Peter hangs out in Ipswich. It’s pretty Ipswichy. He writes epic poetry about smashing scissors. He drinks from his saint-drink. He puts away his pen. (It’s got a feather.) He goes to the window. He opens it.

Andrea has come.

Fingers of lightning the width of street lamps stroke along the ground. There is a mother and young daughter standing in the street — the mother is frozen; they do not run. The nithrid lunges; there is a blinding burst; it leaves her staggering, sobbing, burnt, and her child wailing heartbrokenly at her side.

The child’s hair puffs out.

Whiskers of lightning brush all around her but the nithrid does not actually burn the girl. That child! She’s too young!

There is a bearded man staring out at this from a second-floor window opposite. The nithrid leans over. It blasts through his chest into his radio, which was on. His beard bursts into a spontaneous, cheery flame.

A car rounds the corner. It sees the lightning of the nithrid. It tries to stop.

The pillars of lightning move in.

But first, Peter is moving.

He is out of his window. He is skittering down the roof. He is in the air, then he is in ninja space, twisting, he is landing on the hood of the car and finishing his skid to stand in front of the nithrid.

The fingers of lightning try to stop. The car tries to stop. Peter performs unconscious mental calculations and tries to become about two thirds of an inch thinner, at which, being both a saint and a trained ninja, he succeeds.

The nithrid studies him. The lightning burns in front of him, one continuous sheet, until all there is to the world is violet afterimages of its light.

Then it pulls back. It extends a hand-like trail towards him. It is —

He recognizes this after a moment —

Reaching out as if to ask him for a dance.

For shame,” he says. He waves it away.

The nithrid regards him uneasily.

It eddies. In the distance, he can see fires throughout the town.

Peter walks over to the injured woman. He lures the child up onto his back. He picks the woman up in his arms.

He walks towards the hospital.

Lightning punches his side. It’s not anywhere near as hard as it could be, but it’s not gentle either. His shirt smokes. I don’t think the shirts of kids his age should smoke but it does it anyway.

“Andrea,” he says, in a low, warning voice.

She strikes at him again.

There is a space that is not space wherein Bethany once found a hat that was red, red, red; he does not step all the way through to it but simply opens a path in him: he conducts the lightning through him, ushers it along a void-spirit path, and lets an arm of the nithrid pour out into un-space. He shivers once, all over; he snaps it off.

There are a hundred tendrils of lightning over Ipswich; they writhe, they contort, they begin to close in on Peter. He has hurt the nithrid.

There is a moment’s eddying. His mind goes blank with unnamable emotions but he conceals them.

He stares like he were unfazed, guiltless, and unfrightened into the eye of the storm.

Then, with an irritated ripple, the lightning wraps itself in wire and metal to be its fingers; builds up tendrils and spider-mechs from the various utilities that it has blasted; and seizes a surprised burning bearded man from his apartment, as well as numerous others throughout Ipswich, to drag them scattered and screaming off to where they can receive proper medical care.

“Well, good,” says Peter, eventually.

Arguably this is good.

“. . . I think,” Peter finally concludes.

There is a fire on the ground in front of him. It writes. The letters stretch and wobble; they are unreadable; but he is Peter, of the House of Saints, and he parses them even so.


He shrugs.

YOU ARE A BAD DANCER, writes the nithrid.

It hasn’t ever actually seen him dance. It’s just its go-to insult when it wants to be dismissive towards someone. It emphasizes this with BAD, AT DANCING

He trudges onwards.



“You know,” he says, stopping for a moment to lean awkwardly against a car because carrying two people at once is difficult. “You wouldn’t have to write like that if you’d just bought a pen.”

There is a long pause.

I AM A NITHRID, it writes; and it is gone.



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