Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 6 –

– 6 –

Sid and Max are facing off.

It’s old. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s new.

Sid scuffs the floor. It’s just a scuff, but he’s bought himself a pair of brand-new Nike Summoning Boots. They’re the best shoes in the world, if you want to scuff summoning circles with them.

One stroke across the floor, and his summoning circle is there, complete with a pentagram inside.

“Nice,” says Max.

Sid’s pentagram is glowing now. It’s shining with white lines springing up from the earth. There are all kinds of cool little details, including a little Sid logo. It’s the only logo that markets 100% Sid!

“Isn’t it?” Sid says. “I got a sponsorship.”

Max looks a little smug.

Max spreads his hands wide. Pillars of silver fire burst up from the ground and surround him. There’s a little angelic chorus, like there’s been a little angelic chorus, on their last few duels. It’s the joy of the substrate, resonating through the world, that it gets to see Max doing his stuff.

The world shivers all around him.

It pulses with light.

The song reaches its crescendo. It falls to silence. The other battles around them have gone still.

“Well played,” Sid admits. “Well played. But —”

Here he snidely uses psychological warfare:

“Not quite as loud as I’d expected, Max.”

Max laughs.

“Can’t bribe too many angels,” he says. “It’s a school night!”

He sweeps his longcoat dramatically. He spreads his arms: SNOWSTORM!

Clouds gather over his head. The snow fairy manifests. Snowflakes begin to fall all around Max. Max pushes at the air and the snowstorm flows over and dumps snow on Sid.

Sid shakes snow out of his hair.

Max intones, in the voice of a great summoner at work: “Snow — harder!”

But Sid is ready. He’s not going to be snowed out — tonight!

He draws a sword.

It’s a 21st century sword, and it’s made in Ipswich, so it isn’t really very good — but it is a sword. It’s sharp enough for this. He pokes it right into the cloud.

“Ow!” says the snow fairy.

The clouds swirl around. They’re just a little bit red.

Sid says: DON’T SNOW ON ME.

The snow fairy is now uncertain which magician to listen to. It attempts to hedge its bets.

“Perhaps you’re not familiar with the benefits of snow,” it says. “There are many! It’s cold and white and Christmasy!”

You can taste that Christmas spirit in the air!

“You might like snow,” the snow fairy proposes.

But Sid ignores this. He scuffs the floor again. There’s a dual summoning circle now.

He invokes Double Thing. DOUBLE THING!

It’s like a thing, but twice as much!

Half the double thing scrunges upwards from the earth. Half the double thing scrunges upwards from a different part of the earth. The double thing rumbles and shakes its double hands!

“That’s an . . . earth thing,” says Max, after staring at it for a bit.

“It’s four times the thing,” says Sid, proudly.

“I don’t want to fight,” protests the double thing.

“Ha ha!” laughs Sid. “But I want you to fight! You’re an ancillary in a magical duel. Now, stop that fairy from snowing on me harder, or we’ll both get chilly!”

The double thing doesn’t —

It doesn’t want to get chilly. So it oscillates until the fairy becomes confused.

“Is it one thing?” asks the fairy. “Is it two things?”

It becomes progressively dizzier as it tries to evaluate the situation. “No! One! Five! Seventeen! Eight!”

The fairy faints.

“That isn’t snowing harder,” says Max. After a moment, he adds, “That’s not even snowing smarter.

“It’s snowing lower,” the double thing points out.

Sod-all Steve, who’s notionally the highest-ranked summoner (ever since Eugenie went to have a second word with Lucy about her ape), attempts to launch a surprise attack on the pair. He steps into the circle. He summons two SOD SPEARS to spear through Sid and Max. They pass through the domain of the oscillation.

So much for Sod-all Steve and his participation! He’ll be vibrating and rattling for quite some time.

Sid glances at him. He smirks. Then he turns back Maxwards.

“Now, double thing!” says Sid.



It looks at Sid. It hesitates. Then it looks speculatively at Max.

“But, I don’t really want to fight him,” says the double thing. “Look at him! Maybe you two should resolve this peacefully.”

Max sneers.

“I don’t want a double thing’s pity,” he says. He draws back. He readies himself to invoke SCRUBBING BUBBLE. It’s the battle magic that doesn’t actually help!

“It’s not pity,” says the double thing in frustration. It spits out bits of sod spear. “It’s not having an actual stake in the conflict —”

But Max ignores the double thing. He even interrupts its sentence!


The wind screams down from the sky. The world flares up with red and purple light. Scrubbing bubbles bubble up from the earth, scrubbing ominous contrails through the air. Max shoves the magic with his hands. The bubbles scrub closer to Sid and the double thing.

It makes the floor so clean they can see their own reflections in it. It washes away Sod-All Steve and all his dreams. It removes the blood and dirt of ten thousand battles —

But it doesn’t help.

In fact, the double thing thinks, as it swarms towards Max and his summons, it’s probably the opposite of helping.

Sid is bloodied and tired when he wins at last. He is panting. He is gasping.

But he is, at last, the foremost of the summoners at the Lethal Magnet School for Wayward Youth. He has walked through fire and it has strengthened him. He has hardened his will in the gaol of the House of Torment and he has become something incredible.

He is laughing. He is hugging the tottering Max. His heart is dancing.

He alone will claim the Christmas Cup.



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