Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 6 –

– 6 –

Let’s step back a night or two.

Saul’s in bed. He is dreaming. He is sweating blood; it is rolling in rivulets from his fingertips and his face.

He’s dreaming of a rising river. He’s dreaming of the screaming of the river men: their clawed hands coming up from beneath him; them hooking him, pulling him down.

He dreams of his puppy.

His marvelous, wonderful three-headed puppy, so goofy and so wriggly and so sleek. His puppy that swam in and ate them — three, four, five, six of the folk of the river! — before “Barnface” drank the whole river down.

Then Barnface had gotten sick, and its sneezing had agitated Lake Pepsi, and it was the worst that could possibly happen —

But that isn’t the point.

The point is the soul-aching knowledge that is filling him when he wakes.

“Once I had a puppy,” he says, to St. Peter. “I was a svart-elf, and I had a puppy, but I left. I left it behind and Hans melted the puppy in his pot and turned it into gold.”

“That’s poor parenting,” Peter criticizes.

“They hit it with a nuke,” Saul says. “They fried it to ashes. And they shot it with death rays. And they tied it up. Oh, God.”

He can see it, suddenly, there in the Gulley basement.

The fetter rubs raw on the wolf’s four legs. It cuts it, makes sores rise up, and saws its way — over fourteen hundred years — into the bone. If the wolf were allowed the respite of dismemberment, it would have lost its four feet by now, and its muzzle too; but that, of course, was unacceptable, as this would have let it slip the cord.

Instead it heals, as has healed the titan Prometheus; it heals, like the Ouroboros in the sea.

It is its own vitality, of course, at least in part, that heals it — Edmund has shown echoes of that regeneration, that vitality, by virtue of his connection to the wolf — but also it’s the nature of the cord.

“It’s so cruel,” Saul says.

“I’m sorry,” says Peter. He tilts his head to the side. “Is gout a meaningful hazard here?”

Saul gives him an anguished look. Then he looks confused. Then he shrugs.

“I’m not a doctor,” Saul says. He just has a miraculous blessing that protects people against gout. “I just have a miraculous blessing,” he explains, “that protects people against gout.”

Sorry! That was a little redundant.

“Maybe?” says Saul. But he looks away.

If the wolf has gout it is not the wolf’s biggest problem. Its biggest problem would be that it’s been tied up for fourteen hundred years with an awful cord.

And that’s why St. Saul has hunted Edmund down.



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