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Stories from the Verse
Garden of Versers
Chapter 84: Beam 22
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They had been four days on the road in the direction from which the traveler had come before they saw any sign of the dragon itself--although they passed a lot of travelers headed toward them with cartloads of personal belongings who were fleeing from its approach. As they looked at the first burnt field with charred mutton scattered across it, Beam realized that a four day walk was not that far for a giant flying reptile, and assuming they found something Bron could use it would be a race to get it to him before the dragon came to the village.
He began rummaging around the field, looking for something that might have come from the dragon. He figured there wasn’t much point in having his companions search; probably they would not recognize what he needed, and he couldn’t really describe it to them. He thus had them watch, mostly the sky, as he had his eyes toward the ground.
He remembered reading a theory once--one of these fantasy writers who wanted to create the notion that dragons might actually have existed but were hunted to extinction and left no fossil remains--that dragon fire was produced by hydrogen gas, metabolized from water. Of course, there was no reason to think that the way dragons produced fire made sense in a world in which a magic gate connected to a realm in which efriit princes had gold and silver growing on trees. However, whatever the source of the fire, there probably wouldn’t be any residual dragon oil. Nor were sheep likely to have wounded the beast sufficiently to leave any blood drops or broken teeth or scales. He wasn’t at all certain what he might find.
“Dugh!” came the cry, and Beam hit the ground and rolled over, drawing his pistol as he aimed for the sky. Something like a large van with teeth and wings swooped perilously close to him, but already he heard the report of Dawn’s gun, and saw chips scattering as bullets deflected off scales. He fired several times himself, but was not certain whether he had connected, or indeed if having hit the beast he had managed to penetrate its hide. Still, between them they apparently caused it to rethink its attack, as it was ascending rapidly and moving away from the field. Dawn took aim, but Beam said, “Let it go. Let’s just see whether we can find any of the fragments we just knocked off its shell.”
There were some fibrous chunks lying atop the charred grass, and Beam gathered a couple handfuls before deciding it was time to exercise the better part of valor, and retreat to the Bucket as quickly as they could manage. It had taken four days to get here; he hoped they could get back in three, and maybe if he could push himself for an all-nighter they could do two.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with twelve other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #300: Versers Challenged. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: