Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 4 –

– 4 –

A different occasion.

Cheryl sets a small fleet of paper boats on the water. They float out into the ocean as the sea serpent eddies towards her.

“ ‘Too attached to it,’ ” she mutters disdainfully.

Her boats become waterlogged.

They sink.

Waterlogged, they fold themselves into mines. They land against the rocks. They belly themselves down.

The paper serpent comes closer. A basking shark thrashes its way down its throat.

“I’ll show you attachment,” Cheryl says.

Cheryl raises a hand.

She clenches her fist.

She is extremely good at origami. It is worth noting that most origami masters wouldn’t be able to make boats like these if they’d folded them for a thousand years. Oh, boats that get bogged down and become sea mines, that’s not so difficult — but the real trick is in the paper she’s made herself.

The flows of the serpent’s movements tug free tiny paper connections. This puts pressure elsewhere on the origami folds she’s made. Leaves of paper bend down; they pull on threads woven into the fabric; this loosens smaller folds in turn, down and down, fractally, microscopically, molecularly, until the delicate patterns of connections that hold the atoms of the sodden paper together rip apart.

The origami mines are nuclear. The waters off of Little Ganilly become a single searing sheet of light.

A fiery wind washes across her. It slams into her. A portable shield protects her, though her hair blows back and her eyes water and she must cast up an arm against the light.

The origami serpent, the awful Ouroboros, wound all through and around the local seas —

Its head is nothing but black wisps of paper and fire floating in the air.

She has timed it correctly. She has gotten its head and not its tail. It cannot breathe. If it cannot breathe, it cannot draw its head through its tail, its lungs through its stomach, reverse itself. If it cannot reverse itself, it cannot heal.

Only —

As she watches in horror — the paper winds and weaves around itself anyway. It is blackened, blinded, it is hollowed out, but remnants of it somehow maintain their structure as they flutter down, as the waters pour themselves thunderously back into the emptied ocean bed, as strength and folding surge back towards them from the orphaned spine of the serpent’s back.

The wind, she realizes; the wind, the currents, the flow of energy from the bombs themselves: all of it has contrived to maintain some of the pattern of the original folding. She cannot escape it: it has infiltrated her own design, and she herself —

She understands with a sickening, stomach-plummeting dizziness —

She herself has woven the snake-wroth, the folding-wroth, the original origami-wroth, into the fabric of her attack.



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