Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 3 –

– 3 –

Max is dueling Eugenie. She used to be better than him, but he’s gotten stronger; it’s rough on him, but winning is possible; and something’s happened to her summon, the lurching, bloody remnants of a gigantic four-armed ape. He drives her to a draw this time; and they’re panting, there, when Sid walks in.

Eugenie thinks about this for a while. Then she steps aside.

She gestures broadly towards Max.

“Sid,” says Max. “Sid, you shouldn’t be —”

Sid free-summons INTIMATION.

Max gulps. Then Max frowns.

“Wait,” he says. “Is that a free-summoning of an intimation that one day you’ll be able to summon really bad-assed things, or an intimation that one day you will be good enough to bad-assedly manage a free summoning?”

“You shouldn’t fight a summoner,” says Sid, in what he probably thinks is a bad-assed fashion, “if you’re not prepared for some linguistic ambiguity!”

He’s reached the summoners’ circle. He scrawls a summoning circle in the dirt inside it with his toe.

He calls out, PUZZLING ENIGMA!

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” yells Max. He skips back. He averts his eyes from the enigma. He seizes up his stick and stomps it to call up SNOWSTORM.

“I think you’ll find I’m not so easy any longer,” smirks Sid.

“You’ve never been easy,” says Max.

“You hugged me.”

“You were hurting!”

“You pushed me away with hand puppets!”

“I was good at hand puppets!”

“You’re arguing with me instead of fighting!

“It’s a distraction!

Snow covers the puzzling enigma. It drives Sid staggering back. Max’s hand comes forward, articulated into a claw, pulling BAD JUDGE’S CALL out of the air. It bumps Sid lightly.

Eugenie holds up a card in the air. She calls the match for Max!

After a while, they’re sitting there, at the edge of the arena, and Max says, “I was scared for you, you know.”

“That was a really bad call by Eugenie,” Sid says. “I had you on the ropes, man.”

“Yeah, well,” says Max. He grins a summoner’s smile. “That’s how it goes.”

He rises. He walks to the door.

He’s got to go. He’s got a hot date! With a prophet! But he hangs out by the door for a moment, looking back at Sid.

“I’m so glad,” he says, “that you’re finally well.”



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