Author Topic: I Hate Dragons  (Read 15355 times)

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I Hate Dragons
« on: May 06, 2011, 10:40:34 PM »
I Hate Dragons
Chapter One


   “Master Johnston?”
   “Yes, Skip?”
   “I was wondering if maybe we might review my employment situation.”
   “What? Now? Lad, this isn’t the time.”
   “Er, I’m sorry, sir. But I believe this is exactly the time. And, I apologize, but I don’t intend to move until I’ve had my say.”
   “Fine. Fine. Be on with it then.”
   “Well, Master Johnston, you know how we’re here to kill this dragon, sir?”
   “Yes. That’s our job. Dragon hunters. It says so on your bloomin’ jacket, lad!”
   “Well, sir, technically you and the other boys are the hunters.”
   “You’re an important part, Skip. Without you, the dragon won’t never come!”
   “I believe you mean ‘will never come,’ sir. And, well, this is about my part. I realize it’s important for you to have someone to draw the dragon.”
   “You can’t catch nothing without bait.”
   “‘Can’t catch anything,’ sir. And that is as you’ve said. However, I can’t help noticing one factor about my role in the hunt. I am, as you said, bait.”
   “Yes?”
   “And it seems to me that eventually, if you put bait out often enough . . .”
   “Yes?”
   “Well, sir, eventually that bait is going to end up getting eaten. Sir.”
   “Ah.”
   “You see my trouble.”
   “You’ve been doing this for a year now, and you ain’t ever gotten ate.”
   “That sentence was deplorable, sir.”
   “What’s math have to do wi’ this?”
   “You’re thinking ‘divisible,’ sir. Anyway, yes, I’ve survived a year. Only, I’ve started thinking.”
   “A dangerous habit, that.”
   “It’s chronic, I’m afraid. I’ve started thinking about the number of near misses we’ve had. I’ve started thinking that, eventually, you and the boys aren’t going to get to the dragon quickly enough. I’m thinking about how many reptilian bicuspids I’ve seen in recent months.”
   “I’ve cussed more than twice myself.”
   “So . . .”
   “All right, lad. I can see where you’re going. Two percent, and nothing more.”
   “A raise?”
   “Sure. Two percent’s good money, son. Why, when I was your age, I’d have died to get a two percent raise.”
   “I’d rather not die because of it, sir.”
   “Three percent, then.”
   “You pay me in food, sir. I don’t get paid any money.”
   “Ah. I forgot you was a smart one. All right. Four percent.”
   “Sir, you could double it, and it would be meaningless.”
   “Don’t get so uppity! Double? What, you think I’m maid of coins?”
   “The word is ‘made,’ sir.”
   “Huh? That’s what I said. How—”
   “Never mind. Sir, this isn’t about money, you see.”
   “You want more food?”
   “No. You see, er . . .”
   “Be on with it! That dragon ain’t going to kill himself!”
   “Technically, dragons—being sentient beings—likely have a suicide rate similar to other intelligent creatures. So perhaps this one will kill himself. It’s statistically possible, anyway. That’s beside the point. You see, sir, I think I’d rather change my participation in the hunts.”
   “In what way?”
   “I’d like to be a hunter, sir. You know. Hold a harpoon? Fire a crossbow? I wouldn’t mind just reloading for the other hunters until I get the hang of it.”
   “Don’t be silly. You couldn’t do that while out in the center of the field, being bait!”
   “I wasn’t talking about doing that while being bait. I’d rather do it instead of being bait. Sir.”
   The two of them continued to crouch behind a formation of rocks that looked uncomfortably toothlike to Skip. The dragon winged about in the air. He was, as Master Johnston would have said, a “large fellow.” That put him close to thirty feet long, with an enormous wingspan.
   During his months with Johnston’s Spears, Dragon Hunters, Skip had learned to identify many varieties of dragons. This was a Grummager, distinguished by the black shading of the scales that glowed radiant colors when struck by light, as well as the more webbed pattern on the skin of the wings.
   The dragon had a stout, thick neck, and looked like he could swallow Skip in a single gulp.
   Master Johnston was a large-waisted fellow with a bushy red mustache and a cap on his head from the military he’d served in years ago. He held his thick-bolted crossbow on his shoulder, and he studied Skip with a thoughtful expression. For him, that meant a lot of crossed eyes, scrunched up eyebrows, and one twitching eyelid. Forcing Master Johnston to think was like trying to start up a pump that hadn’t been worked in two decades. You could probably make it work, but it would spurt out a lot of slop first.
   “I see that yer a smart one, son,” Master Johnston said.
   “Thank you.”
   “Five percent.”
   Skip sighed. His clothing—coat, shirt, trousers, all sturdy but well-used—dripped with rose water. It had been dumped on him earlier to obscure his scent.
   “Lad,” Johnston said, leaning closer. “We’ll talk about this later. I promise. But right now, there be a lizard in the sky and a cocked crossbow on my shoulder. I can’t bother with distractions. Yer tired of bein’ bait? Well, we’ll see if we can find someone else later.
   “But lad, in all my years, I’ve never found anyone like you. Yer a superstar, and you have real talent. It’s what the Great Rock did give ye.”
   Master Johnston, like most Wingosians, worshipped Lusia, the moon goddess. Scientists had recently explained that, through use of magic and telescopes alike, they’d determined that the moon was really just a big rock held in the sky by gravity. Being pragmatic folk, the Wingosians had adapted their belief system to accommodate this.
   Master Johnston reached out, laying a meaty finger on Skip’s shoulder. “You’re special. It’d be a shame to waste that, son. Do what you were created to do. Reach for the stars.”
   “Stars are giant balls of gas, burning far away.”
   “They are?”
   “Yes. Reaching for them, even if it were possible, would likely burn your hand. Sir.”
   “Ain’t that something.”
   “Isn’t that something.”
   “That’s what I said. Either way, son, you need to explore your talents.”
   “My talent is getting eaten by dragons, sir. It seems that’s less something to explore, and more something to experience. Once. In a grisly, painful, and abruptly ending sort of way.”
   “That’s the spirit! On we go! The sorceress is waiting for us to gut this one, and it ain’t wise to keep a sorceress waiting.”
   Skip sighed as Master Johnston waved for the others to continue their preparations. Nearby, Rimbor—a wiry dragon hunter with long hair braided into a ponytail—crouched with a large bucket of water. Skip would take off his rose water-soaked jacket, get doused with water, and wander into the open ground before the rocks. That would draw the dragon.
   The mere scent of him would be enough. Most everyone on the Sixthface had special talents, as a function of living in such a magical land. Magic is like bad grammar; hang around it long enough, and it rubs off on you. The people called them knacks, and a person usually had a few. They were mostly simple things. Skip had three, but people only ever seemed to care about the first.
   Skip smelled great to dragons.
   He was irresistible, actually. He was like catnip to enormous, murderous reptiles. One whiff of him drove them into a frenzy, drawing their attention completely. People tended to be quite impressed by this knack. Or, at least, impressed that Skip had survived as long as he had while possessing it.
   “Right, then,” Rimbor said, raising his bucket. “Ready?”
   Skip sighed, taking off his coat. “Sure.”
   Rimbor doused him with water, washing off the lingering scent of roses. Then Skip dashed out onto the open stone ground, bounded by the rocks.
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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2011, 10:41:20 PM »
Chapter Two


   “I’m so very tired,” Skip proclaimed in a loud voice. He was quite proud of his acting, not that any group of players would have hired him. It wasn’t good for business to have your theater periodically swarmed by hungry dragons.
   “Also,” Skip said. “I hate sunlight. So I’m not going to look upward. I’m just going to stroll along across this . . . er . . . rocky place of rocks and find a place to lie down and take a nap.”
   There was a beating of enormous wings above as the dragon circled. The trick was to get it to land. Dragons were not particularly agile creatures, though Skip didn’t really blame them for that. Try weighing approximately as much as a small house and see how easy it is for you to fly. They needed a good running start to get off the ground, and preferably a cliff to launch themselves off.
   Dragons were dangerous in the sky. Of course, they were dangerous on the ground too. Just less dangerous. In the same way that a sword is less dangerous so long as it’s pointed at someone else. Anyway, if Skip could coax the dragon into landing, the hunters could strike. They’d never be able to take it out of the air, however, so they’d remain in hiding until it came down.
   Normally, the dragons would try snatching him off the ground while in flight. He was ready for this. As a large rush of air came at him from behind, something unnaturally large and reptilian reaching for him with clawed fingers, Skip tripped. It was an expert trip—something else he was getting quite good at doing—and ended with him hitting the ground in a small hollow in the rock.
   The dragon passed on just overhead, unable to get low enough to snatch him while remaining airborne. It would have to land. Midnight wings as wide as billboards thumped up and down, bearing the dragon back upward to wing around again.
   “Gosh,” Skip said loudly—dragons had excellent ears, but you still needed to project. “I’m sad that I tripped and got dust in my eyes, so I couldn’t see anything for a few moments when that breeze passed me by. Perhaps I will take my nap in this little dip in the ground. I hope no wild beasts are around to savage me.”
   Master Johnston stuck a bemustachioed head out from behind a rock. “Bite. The script says bite me.”
   “I’m extrapolating!”
   “What’s the dragon’s skin have to do with this?”
   “That’s exfoliate. Look, he’s coming back. Hush. Ahem. Yes, I’ll just be nodding off to sleep now!”
   Skip actually had to close his eyes here; it was the most dangerous part. He remained tense, ready to leap up and scramble away while the hunters flooded in to attack. There was a whoosh of wind, though it wasn’t nearly close enough.
   Silence.
   Hesitantly, Skip cracked an eye. The large dragon had landed, but not on the ground. It clung to the top of one of the spikelike rock formations, perched like a bird in a tree. If that bird were as agile as a bathtub.
   “You’re a terrible actor.” The dragon said in a low, rumbling voice.
   “Er. Really? I actually thought I was getting better. I’ve been practicing in front of the mirror, you see.”
   “Terrible. I’ve seen pieces of soap that were better actors than you. You have an entire fleet of dragon hunters waiting, I assume.”
   “Um. No?”
   “No, you don’t have them? Or no I don’t assume it? Because I really don’t think you’re capable of judging what I do and don’t assume. By the way, who wrote that script for you?”
   “Master Johnston.”
   “He needs an editor.”
   “I’ve tried to explain that! Do you know how difficult it is to work with such awful lines?”
   “That doesn’t excuse your bad acting.”
   “It at least gives some context, though, doesn’t it?”
   “Perhaps.”
   “So, um, if you saw through the ploy . . . why are you still here? Shouldn’t you have fled?”
   The dragon narrowed red, reptilian eyes at Skip while hanging from its perch. From up there, it could probably launch off and stay in the air—or, at the very least, hit the ground in the kind of skipping run while beating its wings that would let it take off quickly.
   The hunters could have attacked anyway. The creature wasn’t in the air, and they might be able to pull it down. They remained in hiding, however. They probably found it too dangerous.
   The dragon seemed . . . eager. He leaned forward on his perch, watching Skip intently. The monster wanted him, wanted to devour him and rip at his flesh. The scent was intoxicating. That was why it hadn’t flown away, despite recognizing the trap. The lure of Skip Dragon-nip was too great to turn down.
   “Why don’t you climb up here to me,” the dragon said in its rumbling voice.
   “Excuse me?”
   “Climb on up here.”
   “You’ll eat me.”
   “That’s the idea.”
   “Then I think I’ll decline.”
   “Oh, come now. It won’t be so bad as you think. They’re will he hardly any pain at all.”
   “I don’t care if there’s pain or not. I’ll still be dead. And you used the wrong version of ‘they’re.’ You wanted there instead.”
   “I did? How can you tell? They’res no difference in the sounds they make.”
   “Actually, I can hear apostrophes.”
   “What, really?”
   “Yes. I can hear spelling too, actually. It’s my other knack.”
   “That’s . . . interesting, child. Very interesting. Well, time to get this over with. No use in delaying. Come on up and be eaten.”
   “You don’t make a very compelling argument.”
   “I’m a very busy dragon.”
   “Funny. I have lots of time. I could sit here all day, so long as it involves not being eaten.”
   “Oh, come now. Don’t be difficult. This is what you were created to do.”
   “What gives you that terrible idea?”
   “It’s the circle of life, young human! The beauty of nature! Each creature in turn is consumed by a larger creature, round and around, until we reach the apex predators. Um . . . I’m one of those, by the way.”
   “I’d noticed.”
   “Well, the cows eat the grass, the wolves eat the cows, the men eat the wolves, the dragons eat the men. All very majestic in its simplicity.”
   “We don’t eat wolves, actually.”
   “You don’t?”
   “No. Not unless we’re very hungry. Even then, they don’t taste very good, so I’m told. Too stringy.”
   “Yes, well, you’re supposed to. Men never do as they’re told. Case in point, this moment, where you have the startling rudeness to refuse being consumed. How can I persuade you?”
   “Actually, you are persuading me.”
   “Really? This is working? Er, I mean . . . of course I am. I’m known as being very compelling conversationalist, among my peers.”
   “You didn’t need that comma,” Skip said, “but you should probably have put ‘among my peers’ after ‘I’m known.’ That’s beside the point. You see, I said you were persuading me because the definition of the word implies the act of trying to get someone to do something, whether or not you are successful. You persuade someone, then you either fail or succeed. Most people use it incorrectly. The word you wanted was convince. You need to convince me, not persuade me.”
   “You’re not very much fun at parties, are you, small human.”
   “I . . . uh . . . don’t get invited to parties very often.”
   “I can’t imagine why. So, are you going to stop whining and come get eaten like a man?”
   “No.”
   “You’re making mother nature cry.”
   “Good. We could use more rain. Why don’t you just go eat a cow?”
   “Why don’t you go eat some grass?”
   “Um . . . humans can’t digest grass.”
   “And dragons can’t digest cows.”
   “Really?”
   “Really. Humans were designed and built to be eaten by dragons. It’s the nature of things.”
   “I find that rather unfair. Who eats you?”
   “The worms, once we’re dead. It’s all very metaphysical.”
   “But you have to eat humans?”
   “If we don’t, we die.”
   “How are there any humans left?”
   “We don’t need to eat very often, little human. Once every few months. There’s more than large enough a population of you to sustain us. You don’t run out of . . . what is it you eat, again?”
   “Cows. Pigs. Carrots. Very few wolves.”
   “Yes, well, this is much like you eating those things.”
   “Except for the part about me dying.”
   “Think of the good you’ll be doing.”
   “Good? By keeping a dragon alive to continue terrorizing?”
   “No, by sacrificing yourself for someone else. If I don’t eat you, I’ll just end up going off and finding someone else. Probably a fair young virgin. Poor child. If you think about it, getting eaten right now would be a very brave thing of you. Noble, heroic.”
   “Well, when you put it that way . . .”
   Skip carefully pulled himself up off the ground and pretended to consider. Then, trying to look resigned, he shuffled over to the dragon’s rocky perch.
   The dragon leaned forward, red eyes widening in anticipation. The creature drew in a long breath that seemed to enchant him further, and his dry lips parted, revealing razorlike teeth.
   Skip got close. Closer than he’d have liked. He could smell the dragon’s putrid breath, see his reflection moving on the creature’s steely claws. He stepped into its shadow.
   “Wait,” Skip said, as if coming to a realization. “What am I doing?” He stopped.
   That was enough to taunt the dragon, who thought it was missing the chance for a meal. The creature’s eyes went wide, and even a little bit mad, intoxicated by Skip’s scent. It knew that there were hunters waiting. It knew it was in danger, that if it landed on the rocks, it would have a tough time getting back into the air with any sort of speed.
   It seemed to forget all of that, for the moment. Skip’s scent could have that effect. The dragon sprang, wings spreading as it dove into a half glide, half leap to attack him. Skip threw himself backward, hitting the rocks and rolling away.
   “Have at ’im, boys!” Master Johnston yelled, ducking out and launching his crossbow.
   There were two dozen hunters. Crossbows went first, firing thick bolts with wicked heads on them that were designed to puncture dragon scales. They only had enough force if fired close up, but they worked beautifully. A few other men ran out with blunderbusses—black powder weapons with wide barrels, packed with birdshot.
   As the dragon roared, rearing up in front of Skip, Puke and Took—the blunderbussmen—fired sprays of birdshot through its unfurled wings. That left a spray of punctures in the taut skin there, further decreasing the dragon’s chances of being able to fly away.
   The creature screeched in pain, and Skip took the chance to scramble away. Maddened, the dragon jumped forward to follow, brushing aside the blunderbussmen.
   Skip’s heart thundered inside of him as he ran. He wasn’t as fast as a dragon, but he had a little bit of a lead. If he could reach the rock walls. Just a few feet—
   He felt the dragon’s shadow fall on him.
   Skip tripped.
   A line of hunters leaped out of the rocks nearby and hopped over him, setting spears with the butts against the rock. The Dragon—now driven completely mad by pain and the scent of Skip—lunged downward, red eyes wide and almost sightless. Its momentum impaled it on the spears, snapping three of them free.
   Its head got only inches from Skip, lips parting, drool dripping down from the bottom lip. Then it fell to the side, legs jerking.
   The spearmen moved in to finish the butchery. Skip lay on the ground, breathing in and out, trembling.
   I really need to find a new line of work, he thought.
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"Technically, I don't even have a brain."--Fellfrosch

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2011, 10:41:47 PM »
Chapter Four


   Skip sat down on a large stone near where the dragon had been slain, and Paro—the hunters’ short, wide-smiled supply master—brought him a cup of warmed cider and a blanket to put around his shoulders. Paro always took care of him. Though it was early spring, and the weather hadn’t seemed too cold when Skip had begun this, he was now shivering, and not just from being doused with water.
   The hunters backed away from the dead dragon. Skip didn’t look at the corpse. He’d seen a lot of dead dragons by this point, and they always filled him with a sense of melancholy. They were majestic creatures. When they weren’t threatening you, eating you, or attacking your village.
   He’d always thought they should somehow be able to find a way to get along. They had a lot in common. They were both sentient, could both have conversations, and both races seemed to have trouble spelling things properly.
   He sipped the cider, holding the cup to keep his hands from shaking. He’d really thought, for a moment, that this time would be his last. That Master Johnston and the others would move too late. Most young men Skip’s age had an inflated sense of their own safety, presuming themselves immortal. Not Skip. Live through as many dragon attacks as he had, and you start to get a sense for the fragility of life.
   He looked up as someone walked past. The sorceress. She was tall and solid, with aged hair turning from black to silver like the leaves changing with the coming of fall. Her face bore a few lines, but they didn’t make her look old. Just . . . powerful, somehow. She passed eyes over him, her face expressionless, then walked past Master Johnston.
   “I must say,” Master Johnston said, “this was a big fellow! Most dangerous we’ve tackled for you, mistress. It might be worth a little bonus, don’t you think? For our efforts?”
   The sorceress ignored him other than to reach down to the huntmaster’s waist and grab the hilt of his sheathed longsword. She yanked it free with a snap, causing him to stumble back, pale-faced. She merely continued on, lifting up the sword to rest it on her shoulder.
   She’s a cold one, Skip thought. Rarely said a word. Never participated in hunts. He didn’t know much about Dawnfacers like her, other than that—instead of simple knacks—they were said to have very powerful magics.
   Not that she ever used hers to help the hunters.
   She strode over to the dragon, waving away the hunters gathered there. Then she rammed the sword into the beast’s belly to open up its stomach.
   Skip turned away. What was she searching for? Something in the bellies of the dragons, something she was willing to pay extraordinary amounts of money for, hiring a full band of hunters and running an expedition that had now lasted months. She didn’t seem to care for the everyday riches often found inside a dragon’s stomach. She tossed aside diamonds and gold as if they were worthless. She wanted something else.
   Whatever it was, she didn’t find it. She soon walked back past Master Johnston and handed him a bloody sword, though some sort of spell or magic on her part kept her hands and dress free of gore. Her expression had grown frustrated. She walked into the shadow of a nearby rock formation, then folded her arms in contemplation as the hunters gathered around to sift through the contents of the dragon’s stomach, looking for riches.
   Dragons actually had two stomachs, one that digested food and another that stored things. That made sense to Skip. Dragons didn’t wear clothing, which meant no pockets on the outside. So they kept one on the inside instead.
   “I presume,” Master Johnston said, walking up to her, “that this beast was not the one you were searching for.”
   The sorceress gave no comment.
   Master Johnston seemed pleased. He rubbed his hands together and glanced at the others, looking through the dragon’s swallowed possessions. Caliber, the hunter’s accountant, stood to the side, carefully keeping record of every item of value discovered. He had eyes like a rabbit—small and constantly flicking to the sides, watching everything, careful not to miss even the slightest detail.
   The hunters called themselves servants of the greater good, protecting men by slaying dragons. They were really just fortune hunters. Every man who got a stab in on the dragon got a share—again, Caliber kept watch and count. Anyone not lucky enough to strike a blow got nothing, unless they were Master Johnston. He always got a share.
   Of course, the ones who rushed in often ended up dead. There was a lot of turnover among the rank-and-file men of the hunters. The smart ones retired with some money. The lucky ones kept accumulating more and more cash.
   The rest ended up dead. Which is where I’m headed, Skip thought. Sure, it had been nice to first be discovered by the hunters—finding a place where a young man who attracted dragons was an asset, not someone to be run out of town with swords and torches. But how long could he last?
   “We will need to move farther into the mountains,” the sorceress said. She always spoke in a hissing whisper. It gave Skip chills.
   “Farther . . .” Master Johnston said. “Mistress, that’s where the great drakes live! This fellow, he was a large one by our standards. But he’s still small compared to the ancient beasts! We ain’t gonna survive if we try that.”
   Aren’t, Skip thought to himself, mostly for his own peace of mind.
   “Greater risk,” the sorceress whispered, “means greater reward.”
   That was the argument she’d used weeks ago to get them to come this far in to the highlands where the dragons lived. They ravaged all of Drakeface, of course, and many had even moved into Dawnface these days. Dragons could fly quickly, for all their awkwardness on ground.
   Going deeper into their lands, however . . . that did seem suicidal. The fact that her promises of greater wealth didn’t seem to tempt Master Johnston was a testament to just how dangerous it was. He moved off to see what the men had found, looking at his bloodied sword and seeming troubled.
   Skip watched him retreat, then turned back and was chilled to find the sorceress watching him.
   “I heard what you said earlier,” she said in her whispered voice, walking up to him. “About wanting to stop being the one who baits the dragons.” She wasn’t taller than he was, but she seemed so. Of course, he was sitting down. Maybe that was it.
   “I was thinking that avoiding being eaten would be a good career choice.”
   “I chose this group of hunters precisely because of you, young man. Your membership makes this group not only more successful, but more likely to encounter dragons. I don’t have time to spare; already this takes too long.”
   Skip suppressed a shiver. Everyone knew that sorcery was bad. Oh, they didn’t speak it, particularly when a sorcerer was around. But they knew it. Magic was meant to be used as knacks, things granted by the cube for the benefit of men. Sorcery, manipulating magical power and using it however you wanted, was like theft.
   He didn’t say that. Despite taunting dragons on a regular basis, Skip did have a small measure of self-preservation instinct.
   “Does not the lure of wealth tempt you?” the sorceress said. “Think of the riches you could obtain if you continued just a little longer.”
   “I suspect they’d tempt me more if I got to keep any of them.”
   “Oh, I’m certain you’ll survive long enough to use them.”
   “That’s debatable. But I’m not talking about that, mistress. I don’t get paid.”
   “What?”
   “You have to stab the dragon to get paid. I don’t do any stabbing.”
   “But you’re whom the dragons come to us to eat!”
   “I know. No pay for me, though.”
   “Whose behind this?”
   “Who’s behind this.”
   “I asked you.”
   “No, that was a correction. ‘Who’s’ is the form you wanted. It means ‘Who is.’ Whose is the possessive of who. It’s something not a lot of people understand.”
   “But . . .”
   “I can hear apostrophes.”
   “Really?”
   “It’s my knack. One of them, at last. The other is smelling tasty to dragons.”
   “But the words sound exactly the same.”
   “You had them mixed up in your mind.”
   “But I knew what I meant to say.”
   “Still came out wrong.”
   She looked at Skip, arms folded. She didn’t seem to think highly of knacks, but that was common for Dawnfacers. They had apparently not been pleased when the Border was finally breached and they’d found another Face full of magical people—but ones who knew nothing of harnessing the power in the way they did.
   “Master Johnston is quite firm on the point,” Skip said, changing the topic back to his pay. “It’s in the group’s charter. If you don’t stab, but are still valuable, you get to eat—but you don’t get paid. Except for Johnston himself.”
   “I will have words with him. This must change. You must continue doing what you have been doing.”
   “If what I’ve been doing is survive, I agree. But even with pay, mistress, I’m not sure. I don’t know that I have much luck left in me. I think it’s time to be done.”
   “But you can’t.”
   “Actually, my contract says—”
   “I don’t care what your contract says.”
   “Really? Because I rewrote it several times, and used some very fined punctuation and interesting words. It’s quite marvelous, I must say.”
   “You can’t, because I need you to find the right dragon for me. What will it take to make you stay here? What is it you want?”
   “You really want to know?”
   “Yes.”
   “I want to be a lexicographer.”
   “I didn’t figure you for the dancing type.”
   “That’s choreographer. A lexicographer is a person who gathers words. More accurately, I want to be a lexicographer, a grammarian, and a philologist. But I’ll settle for just the first.”
   “Words.”
   “Yes.”
   “You want to gather words.”
   “What about gold?”
   “That’s a word.”
   “No, I mean, don’t you want gold?”
   “Too heavy.”
   “Jewelry.”
   “I already have dragons chasing me. If I were rich, people would want to rob me. No, I’ll stick with words. They’re valuable, but they’re light, and nobody else seems to want them as badly as I do.”
   “But what will you do with them?”
   “That’s the exciting part! I’ll put them all into this big book, you see. A book that contains all the words in the world, and includes all of their proper spellings.”
   “What good would that do?”
   “Well, it would make my life a whole lot less annoying, for one thing. Have you heard the spelling of most of those hunters? It’s atrocious!”
   “Most of us can’t hear spelling.”
   “Yes, but you write it. Incorrectly. With this book, you see, everyone could look and see how every word is spelled. And then nobody would be confused. These days, everyone has to stare at a document for hours, trying to figure out what all the words are. Nobody uses the same spellings. Why, just today, I’ve heard the word dragon spelled ‘dragoon,’ ‘daragon,’ ‘dragen,’ ‘deragin,’ and ‘blarsnaf.’”
   “Er . . . ‘blarsnaf’?”
   “That was from Pug the cook. He speaks Lukarvian, but the word should actually be spelled ‘blarsnef’ in his language. You see what I have to put up with?”
   “No.”
   Skip sighed. It was the same story. The world seemed quite willing to accept misunderstood artists, misunderstood thieves, and even peasants who dreamed of royalty. But nobody knew what to do with a misunderstood philologist. Other than run him out of town for bringing the dragons down on them.
   He still hadn’t found a way to explain it to them. A book of all the words in the world. A . . . wordbook. He’d need a better name. Anyway, it was all about people understanding one another. Right now, they had trouble. He could solve that, could help them all get along.
   “Did you know,” he said to the sorceress, “that fourteen thousand people died last year because of a misspelling?”
   “For some reason, I find myself skeptical, young man.”
   “It was in a peace treaty. The scribe wrote the word ‘peace’ as ‘piece.’ ‘We, the people of Kalvonia, will continue to dwell in freedom, and you of Tarseldia will continue in piece.’ It started a war. They thought he meant ‘continue in pieces.’ Fourteen thousand died before they found the problem. The scribes then argued for three weeks about which word had been meant. Both spellings are used. It’s a problem.”
   “Look. If you’ll continue on as bait for a few more weeks, I’ll help you with your book thing.”
   “I don’t know. What help could you be?”
   “Lots. I know lots of words.”
   Something was different about the sorceress. He regarded her, thoughtful. It’s her voice, he thought. She’s gotten so involved in the conversation that she’s not whispering. She’s started to let her voice sound. It sounds . . . less frightening that way. Kind of melodic.
   “There,” the sorceress said. “It’s settled than. I’m glad we had this conversation.” She patted him on the shoulder, then walked away toward where their camp was.
   “Then,” he whispered. “You meant then. And I didn’t agree.”
   She wasn’t listening.
   So, that night while the hunters were sleeping off the beer from the celebration after having slain the dragon, Skip packed his things. He slipped out of camp unseen. This dragon-bait stint had been nice, in some ways. It had been good to find a place where he was wanted and needed.
   The next step was to find a place where he was wanted and needed for something other than being devoured. He had decided that he was done being bait for dragons.
   It was particularly ironic, then, that about two hours out of camp, he found himself cornered by one. This time without a single hunter around to kill the thing for him.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2011, 06:08:12 AM by EUOL »
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zas678

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2011, 11:20:41 PM »
Yumm. I love this story.
Is there a chance we're going to see more of it?

Also, What happened to Chapter 3? Did it get eaten by a dragon? Or a wolf? Was it given a raze? Or a raise?
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Saeyar

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2011, 02:51:28 AM »
Wow. Just WOW! Mr Sanderson you have the knack of creativity. Hearing apostrophes and spellings, really! And you somehow manage to make the creation of one of the most boring books in the world sound interesting. More than curious to find out what happens next!!

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dhalagirl

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2011, 03:24:39 AM »
I like the changes you made.  Although I miss the ridiculous "Oomph" "Ow" "Blargle" part of the fight with the dragon.  I'd also like to know what happened to chapter 3.  I hope it wasn't deleted by the Dragon Censorship Board.

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2011, 12:22:43 PM »
I'm curious what his third knack is. Er, was. Is it perhaps hinted at in the text, and I'm just too tired right now to have picked up on it?
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zas678

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2011, 03:01:33 PM »
I think they were
1. Smelling yummy to Dragons
2. Hearing spelling
3. Hearing apostrophes
“It’s a fun tradition.”
“So was witch-burning,” Melody said.  “Unless you were the witch.”

alicetheowl

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2011, 03:57:23 PM »
Also, What happened to Chapter 3? Did it get eaten by a dragon? Or a wolf? Was it given a raze? Or a raise?

I figured it was a Monty Python reference.

ryos

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2011, 04:44:32 PM »
Also, What happened to Chapter 3? Did it get eaten by a dragon? Or a wolf? Was it given a raze? Or a raise?

I figured it was a Monty Python reference.

...except the reference in question involves skipping from 2 to 5...
Eerongal made off with my Fluffy Puff confections.

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2011, 08:17:52 PM »
Brandon said chapter 3 wasn't ready for viewing. It's from a different POV. My guess is the sorceress.
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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2011, 04:30:42 PM »
Awesome! The original dialogue-only short story had me in stitches, and I'm really happy to see more of the same. I also think I need a t-shirt that says "misunderstood lexicographer."
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dhalagirl

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2011, 09:48:17 PM »
Oh my gosh!  That needs to be merch on the website!  I would buy it in a heartbeat!

Folia

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2011, 04:26:58 AM »
Oh my gosh!  That needs to be merch on the website!  I would buy it in a heartbeat!

I second that notion.

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Re: I Hate Dragons
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2011, 04:52:32 AM »
Is this... an old story getting reposted, or?
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