Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 2 –

– 2 –

Sid is dead by then.

It goes like this.

There’s a cat curled up on old Mrs. McGinty’s porch. There’s an audience gathered around to listen to the words of the evil prophet.

There’re some crows, croaking raucously, on a nearby power line.

Sid walks up from the south. He doesn’t look around. He stares straight square on into the evil prophet’s face.

“Hey,” he says.

Lucy studies him for a bit.

“You,” she says. She brightens. “Where’s Max?”

There’s a long silence. Sid looks away.

“Oh,” says Lucy flatly.

She looks away.

Then she wonders, softly, “It wasn’t me, was it? I didn’t want to kill him until last. But I am not being very discriminate of late.”

“No,” says Sid.

His head bobs side to side.

“No,” he says. “It wasn’t you.”

“You’re here to fight me?” says Lucy.

“Yeah,” he says.

“That’s ridiculous,” says Lucy. “Why wouldn’t you just try to get on my good side, instead, or wait for that Jeremiah Clean savior guy to come?”

Sid is blushing.

After a moment, so is she.

“How did he die?” she says.

Sid shrugs.

“OK,” she says. She looks at him. She makes a face. “Rock-paper-scissors, or summoning?”

“Summoning,” says Sid.

“I’m ever so much better at rock-paper-scissors,” says Lucy. “Or at shooting people with an umbrella-gun. Or at evil prophesy. Heck, I’m better at the Konami Thunder Dance. Are you sure you wouldn’t rather fight me in a way that’s less exploitative and embarrassing?”

He doesn’t know the Konami Thunder Dance. He could try it. He could press the button with his toe, and the world would warn him:

There’s no turning back now!

And there wouldn’t be. The crows would go silent as death. The cat would uncurl itself and stretch and lope away. The wind of the Thunder Dance would fall down upon him, in time with the Symbols that she danced, and it would tear him and all his dreams apart.

Realistically, he’s made the proper choice.

“Summoning,” Sid repeats.


The evil prophet of space waves away their audience. Their audience disassembles into its component atoms, blows away, and is gone. The crows dissolve. Mrs. McGinty’s cat uncurls itself, stretches, and turns to dust.

That poor kitty!

“Always kill people who gather around to listen to you,” says Lucy. “Otherwise, they could be a vector for avian kissing sickness to spread.”

“I don’t think,” says Sid, “that they were going to —”

“Always!” says Lucy.

Sid accepts the rebuke. He looks away. He draws a summoning circle on the ground.

“Max just wouldn’t have wanted you to be —” killing all these people, Sid says, but he doesn’t get the whole line out. Lucy Souvante waves all that away.

“I get it,” she says.

He nods. He turns. He stares at her. Angels are singing. Light is rising from the ground all around him. He scuffs the ground with his shoe. He invokes his summons.


There are magical jaguars in decaying orbit around the Earth, you know. They were thrown up there by Mayan sages. They are guardians of life and they are beautiful; and they have fallen so very many times around the Earth already; but eventually, even a falling jaguar must come down.

Sid looks at his watch.

“Eventually,” he explains.

He waits.

“They’ve got to get here eventually,” stresses Sid.

Lucy steps forward. Sid, panicking, free-summons HAND PUPPETS. A pair of sea serpent hand puppets appear on his hands and begin gathering energy for a puppet beam.

Lucy steps forward again.

The beam gathers. He blasts!

She weaves out of the way, left, right, around, her hand coming up flat under his chin with her scroll of evil prophecy pressed between them, the golden letters rubbing against his mostly hairless jaw.

“I’m sorry,” says Lucy Souvante. She doesn’t actually know how to summon anything. She just knows how to play rock-paper-scissors and how to brandish her evil prophecy at things, such as Sid’s head, to the effect that they are unraveled, unmade, and destroyed.

Sid free-summons —

His throat is bleeding. His head is bleeding and fluttering red fabric. It isn’t attached to anything else. It flies away.

Lucy Souvante finishes: “But you’re dead.”

She parses the echoes.

The last thing he’d said was: HEAD PUPPET.

He is behind her. He is slamming a summoning stick into her back. It leaves an imprint of a summoning circle on the flesh behind her kidney. He summons FOUR-ARMED APE inside her body, in direct violation of the tournament rules for competitive summoning. This would kill almost anybody, and disqualify him utterly if she hadn’t fouled him first, but it does not kill her. She is the evil prophet of space; she diffuses into a pall of evil black smoke instead, with bits of four-armed ape scattering inside.

(She’d killed it long ago.)

Sid, undaunted, summons:


Lucy frays amidst a howling wind. The pall of her tries to dissipate and scatter. She recoalesces, panicking, and she elbows him in the throat. He gags and the wind ceases. He does not summon anything. She stands there for a moment, panting, and then she circles her foot, starts forward —

A jaguar falling out of the sky uses her mass to decelerate. It has come screaming down through the atmosphere.

It is, of course, on fire.

And for a moment she tastes the dirt.

For a moment everything is confusion and she thinks that somehow, even though this was never written in her prophecy, that he has beaten her. That somehow that kid, that freakish stupid Sid, has beaten her, because there is a rock against her eye and her face is in the dust and her back hurts, so very much it hurts, all scraped up and down by a jaguar’s claws, and her shirt and hat, they are on fire.

For a moment even he thinks he has beaten her; for a moment, he stands straighter. He thinks that all the suffering has been worthwhile; that all the training has been worthwhile; that here he has reached the apex of his hero’s journey, and cast down evil with his own two puppet-covered hands. Here at last is the reason he was born:

But she is Lucy Souvante.

ICESTORM, says Sid. It is killing him. He is bleeding from the eyes.

Her flesh dissolves into mist. It re-congeals. He throws out: FIRESTORM.





WIND . . .

But it is pointless.

He was born to love some girl he never met; and to have two children that he never saw; and to one day inspire somebody with a scrap of remembered poetry so that they’d know that the world is kind — and not for this.

Or maybe he was born to fight a centipede or a tiger — and not for this.

To study summoning with Max, and one day become a team — and not for this.

To fly a plane. To hug a frightened child. To discover a new bit of cake-making one day — not for the first time in the history of the world, or anything, just, you know, for the first time in the history of his little circle of friends; and how his face lights up with it! — and not for this.

Or, if Lucy Souvante is to be believed, he wasn’t born for anything at all.

Lucy braces herself with her umbrella and levers herself up to her feet. She sways, and she looks at the jaguar, and then she looks at Sid, and she shakes out the fire from her hair, and she rolls her neck, and she swallows, hard, and she cracks an awful smile.

And it’s over; he understands in that moment that it is over; but he can’t help smiling back.

It is pure and bright and clean, that smile; and if you were to ask him why, he would not know, only, somehow he has understood in that moment that it is OK; that it is OK that he has lived and breathed and suffered and struggled and fought and that now, most probably, he will die; screaming, most likely, or, no, wait, not screaming, because Lucy Souvante has just ripped out his lungs.

It is OK.

He doesn’t understand how it can be OK, how it can possibly be all right, how such terrible and burdensome and awful things can be all right, only —

It is something he sees in the jaguar, I think. It’s the same thing Emily sees in them, that I won’t let myself see in them, because they’re her enemy and thus are mine.

He looks at it. It looks at him.

Its eyes are worlds to him. O See Them Move!

And she does, perhaps; does see, perhaps; or she does not; Lucy stares at the jaguar a long moment, in any case. It strops the ground. It squints back at her.

Then it turns its back on her, very deliberately, and the jaguar lopes away.



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