Serializations of the Hitherby Dragons novels

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– 3 –

– 3 –

Lucy pounds on the door. Martin opens it. She lunges for him. Her eyes are white. Her teeth are sharp.

It is that fast. It is a sudden act of murder. He is staggering back, he is scattering potential timesheets, and she actually has her hand at his face, her claws catching on his goggles, when the ulfleiðarsteinn activates and jerks her hat-first back and into the wall.

She writhes to her feet. She struggles forward like a mime in a heavy wind.

Real or imaginary — it doesn’t really matter.

That’s a really exceptional mime!

Her umbrella opens. It begins charging. Martin waits for it to blow away in the wind but it doesn’t. There’s no wind. Just a magnet!

The umbrella chimes. It’s ready.

Martin looks down at its gleaming war-tip. That moment of distraction is enough.

Lucy dissolves into a furious pall. She lunges forward — and backwards, dragged by the magnet: she diffuses in both directions; she fills the room like smoke, tangles about him, drags him down to the ground, twists his arm and leans over his face, re-manifests and prepares to eat him eyes-first, but his goggles have gone skew; he is looking at her with one goggled eye and one real one —

No. He isn’t.

That didn’t happen.

She is a prophet. She doesn’t let that happen.

She is curled up, around the corner. She is shuddering. She is trembling. She is watching as the self she would have been, if she hadn’t adjusted her actions, burns into the never-has-been and the never-was.

The magnet surges. She rattles against the wall.

Jane is struggling, somewhere below them, in her chains.

Martin lowers the goggles back onto his face. He recovers himself. He attempts to be less awkward. He brushes back his hair.

“You’d better not eat me,” he says. “I taste dry and fibrous!”

After a while she says, “That is because you are not actually a goat.”

“Oh,” says Martin. “I — yes. I am not actually a goat.”

He brings her a cup of hot cider. He sprinkles tinsel in her hair, because he is a bad person. He says, “Do you need a goat? I know a pretty good service.”

“I need a really sharp goat,” she says.

“Those,” Martin says, “are the worst.”

“I want to find it,” says Lucy Souvante, “and defeat it at rock-paper-scissors. And then I’ll have the confidence to blow up this whole world.”

Martin gives her an evil prophecy. She thanks him. She blows her nose with it. She starts to hand it back.

“No,” he says. “Keep it.”

She unwads it. She looks at it glumly. She wads it back up again and sticks it in her assassin-bag.

“Sorry,” she says. “I didn’t really mean to try to kill you. I was just —”

Martin shrugs. “Hey,” he says.

She looks up. He pats her head.

“Maybe you shouldn’t worry so much about whether you can beat a goat at rock-paper-scissors,” Martin says, “and just, you know, be —”

He waves his hands vaguely.

“The evil prophet of space,” she says.

“Yeah,” he says. “That. Just be the evil prophet of space.”

She bites her lip.

She drinks her hot cider.

Then she stands up.

There is a wolf-magnet pulling her. It is dragging her. It drags the House of Hunger to it as it drags Fenris; she is only barely able to stand still there at all.

“I have to go,” she says.

Martin nods.

She steps up off the ground. She is seized by a magnet. She flies through the door, out the hall window, and is gone.

And maybe it seems a bit too neat — like, he’d read all the things that were coming in the evil prophecy. Like he knew exactly what to do, and when to do it, and what the final result would be. And maybe it seems like if you have the evil prophecy, and adequate time to speculate upon the future and make arrangements, then you can shape everything in the world to the details of your every intention. That we’re all just puppets in Martin’s — and now Lucy Souvante’s — little game.

But Martin says it’s not like that. Not really. Not even when he had the evil prophecy in his hands.

He was a prisoner of his choices, he says, just like everybody else.

Maybe he looked at what was going to happen and maybe he didn’t; but it’s been a long, long time since a little wooden boy stole it.

It wasn’t Martin’s prophecy, so he gave it back.



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