Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 4 –

– 4 –

It is bad to sharpen a goat. I’ve said this on other occasions — much like I have observed that it is bad to nuke picturesque British communities — but people keep doing it anyway. Even Hans did it; or at least, he kept one. He held it captive —

A thoroughly sharpened goat.

He kept it on his farm beneath the surfaces of things — past the centipede that writhes under the Earth; past the Great Gate, with its soap-film surface; past the bridge where march the soldiers of the dead — not all that terribly far, as no crow flies, from Hell.

He kept it, but it escaped him; and it does not fear him, for now Hans is dead.

It has tossed its sharpened head and bleated its goat-wroth out. It has glinted under the light of the sun-birds and it has cut that light. It was a shining and terrible creature, on the hills of the underworld, not all that terribly far from Hell.

Then it gave forth a great cry.

It called them — all those who had been immured. All they still held captive on Hans’ farm; and all the various creatures that were at that time held prisoners in Hell.

It then began to run.

Well, to clippity-clop, anyway. In an ominous fashion.

It has cut its way upwards through all the layers of the underworld. It has mauled past both the army and the bridge. It has pierced the Great Gate, though the Great Gate soaped it; it has clippity-clopped under where the centipede skirls.

The centipede dropped; the bug was cut; and the goat just kept traipsing on.

It is followed now by the spirits of the dead; and the demons; and a few of Hans’ leftover captives; but most of all, it has a retinue of the ants.

You shouldn’t try to use soldier ants to seal the gates of Hell. That was Hans’ idea, and it was bad. When the gates tore open, the ants just died; most of them died; but there were a few —

They didn’t die.

They bred, and grew, instead, suffused with all of the malignity of Hell.

The goat cuts and hacks its way up towards the surface, and behind it is the endless swarming of the soldier ants.



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