Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 3 –

– 3 –

Lucy stares down a goat.

She shakes her fist at it, one, two, three.

This goat is better than the other goats she has played rock-paper-scissors against. It has dissipated itself into a cloud of roses and mist.

This goat has known better than to stand there and face the evil prophet of space’s rock-paper-scissors game head-on.

It has not trained for nine hundred years in the martial arts, becoming gradually more human and more powerful, for nothing.

Lucy throws paper. There is nothing there.

There is no goat. There is no goat, rock, scissors, or rival paper. She looks around.

An evil feeling!

It is behind her. It is charging her.

She skates away from it, even though there’s no ice on the ground to skate on. She hurls out her palm. An aegis of evil prophecy crawls along her hand. It stuns the goat. It paralyzes its thought processes. The goat hurtles past her and crashes into a nearby bridge.

She shakes her fist. One, two, —

The bridge troll has ravened upwards. It has seized the goat in its awful maw. It is biting down on the goat with an terrible crunching. It snaps the goat’s spine in two.

Lucy’s face falls.

She is stricken.

The troll gulps down the goat. It looks around for human witnesses. Then — as all trolls do, when at last they have defeated their enemies — it begins to shift and shimmer down into the shape of a goat itself.

Lucy brushes back her hair. She twitches her mouth in horror.

Then she says, with venom in her voice, “That was my opponent.”

Three, paper, she counts, which is totally cheating.

There is a searing moment of space-wroth. There is a hollow, despairing roil of chaos and the void. The ex-troll, the new-goat, is drawn inwards by a void that ripples into being in its center. Its skin flutters with it. It stares at her for a moment in utmost dismay. Then the polarity of the rippling reverses; it gasps, bleats a desperate warning to all goat-kind, which shall go —

I strongly suspect —

Unheeded, and it explodes into a rain of meat and blood and goat-bits that tumbles down over a good deal of Essex and of Kent.



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