Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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Sid is in class. Sid is studying summoning. Sid’s teacher teaches him about HALF-THING.

“You can summon it,” enthuses the Lethal Magnet Professor of Summoning. He holds up his summoning magnet. “It’s half a thing!”

Max raises his hand. He’s a boy summoner.

“What about a whole thing?” Max asks.

. . . he doesn’t summon boys. For clarity. He’s a teenaged boy, who summons things. But not whole things! Right now, he is learning to summon half a thing.

“That’s ridiculous,” dismisses the Lethal Magnet Professor of Summoning. He waves a hand as if to brush the notion from the air, but since it’s the hand holding a magnet, it’s possible he only draws it closer. “Nobody’s ever gotten strong enough to summon a whole thing.”

He hesitates.

“Well, whole things,” he says. “I mean, um, people have summoned things. There are things that people summon wholes of. Or even two of, like HAND PUPPETS! But the thing is, you see, they’re not this thing. This is the thing you only summon half of. The other half is something else.”

Max ponders this.

“I’d rather learn a more useful magic,” he says.

“Bah,” says the Professor. “You can use a half-thing to do all kinds of things!”

Not, you know, in a —

“Not,” clarifies the Professor, given the titters from the back of the class, “in a juvenile sense. Rather, you can use a half-thing to clean wounds. Or to pull spiders off of someone’s hair. Or to help them to the infirmary!”

“Why wouldn’t SCRUBBING BUBBLE be better?” Max asks him.

“We’re learning,” says the Professor firmly, “about HALF-THING, today. . . . Sid. Sid. Sid!”

Sid startles and looks up. He was scraping away at the bottom side of his wrist with a dull blade. It’s not sharp enough to cut down to the artery, at least not the way he’s using it, but the tantalizing thought that he might makes the pain just a little bit more acute.

“Yes, Professor?”

“Sid, you’re not paying attention to this highly important information on the summoning techniques for HALF-THING.”

“I know!” enthuses Sid. “That’s why I’m punishing myself for not paying attention. But the punishment keeps distracting me.”

“Boy’s practically a half-thing himself,” mutters the Professor. Then, louder, “Go to the Principal, then.”

“Isn’t that double jeopardy?” asks Max.

“What’s half of double?” wonders one of the students, who isn’t quite keeping up. She’s runic track, and they don’t have fractions in their language. I mean, their magic language. Obviously she’s speaking English. Unless you’re reading one of the many masterful translations of this story into other languages that its unprecedented popularity has brought about. But even then!

“I can’t,” says Sid. He makes a face.

“Why not?”

“Well, he’s dead.”

“Pardon?” says the Lethal Magnet Professor.

“He’s dead, sir,” says Sid, assuming that was the desired clarification.

“What? Some kind of ghost? Zombie?”

“That’s deeply insensitive, sir,” says Sid. He rubs at his nose, accidentally cutting it. “Ow,” he adds.

“I don’t —”

“It was at the assembly,” Sid says. “Apparently someone whom the investigator dared not name ate most of him, frowned frustratedly, and said, ‘Wrong goat.’”

“That’s appalling,” says the Lethal Magnet Professor of Summoning. “I pray that justice is done. Do the police have any leads?”

Sid stares at him.

“Are you asking me, sir?”

The Professor shakes his head, embarrassedly. “Anyway. Go to your room, then.”

“It’s full of spiders,” protests Sid, but under the Professor’s glare he gets to his feet and he shuffles out.



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