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Volume 18, Issue 2: Similitudes

The Earth Bites the Dragon

Douglas Wilson

When they got back to their camp, Andrew told Beow his plan. "It is a good thought, little one," Beow said. "But I cannot come with you then. I am too large."

"Yes, I know," Andrew replied. "But you can be a greater help to me here. If something goes wrong, you can do something to distract him. I hope you can do something to distract him."
Andrew slept fitfully that night, at least for the first few hours. But around midnight, he sank into a deep sleep, and none of his dreams had any dragons in them. Just before sunrise, he felt Beow nudging his shoulder and he opened his eyes, blinking. The soft predawn light was warm, and Andrew sat up. He had been nervous the night before, but now he was just full of excitement. He could feel that he was about to attempt what he had been born to attempt.
He visited for a few moments with Beow, then went to a near-by stream to wash his face, and came back to pick up his long spear. He hefted it in his hand, smiled broadly at Beow, and hugged him around his neck. "See you soon," he said. With that he turned and clambered quickly down the slope.
When he got to the bottom, he found the crevice they had jumped across the day before, and walked along it until he found the place where the dragon had crawled across it to get to his water. He looked at the castle walls, and nodded happily. There was no sign of anything stirring. The tower where Maggie had been the day before was dark and quiet. With a last glance, he then hopped down into the ditch, which came up to his shoulder. He walked back and forth in it a few feet until he found the widest place for him, a place that allowed for some range of movement.
His spear was about eight feet long, and Andrew spent a little bit of time practicing with the spear, figuring out how to thrust upward without hitting the walls of the ditch. Once he had that settled, he sat down in the ditch, his back to one of the walls and waited.
Andrew had come down early, and so it was several hours before he heard the approach of the dragon. During those several hours, he thought long and hard about how he had come there and was still unable to remember his parents. But he did remember squatting in a dug-out fort, very much like the hole he was in, preparing to throw dirt clods at a friend across the way. The dirt clods were red Carolina clay, but he couldn't remember the friend's name.
It was impossible to remain excited about fighting the dragon for that entire time, and he even dozed several times for a few moments. But when he first heard the scrabbling sounds of the dragon's claws on the hard earth, all the excitement came flooding back. He got on his knees and held the shaft of the spear loosely in his left hand, gripping the base of it in his right. He would only have one thrust, he knew. Waiting there on his knees, it occurred to him to pray, which he did briefly. He found that he was breathing quickly.
The light in the ditch grew dim, as though a thundercloud had passed over the sun, but Andrew knew it was the dragon. Looking up, he saw a long silver and gray foreleg stretch out over his head. The claws were extended, though he didn't know why. He didn't even know enough to know whether dragons could retract their claws. The dragon's foot came down on the other side of the ditch, and the dragon's body began to cross over him. Andrew could feel the heat from the dragon's fire radiating down into his hole. When the body had almost completely shut out the light, Andrew became suddenly afraid of attempting his blow in the pitch black. He took two deep breaths again, prayed quickly again, and rammed the spear upward, as hard as he could.
The underbelly of the dragon was scaled, but it was not as hard as Andrew had anticipated. The spear went almost all the way in, and several things happened almost all at once. The dragon roared and lurched upward into the sky. It was fortunate for Andrew that he did, because the spear had entered the great fire chamber inside the dragon, and flames burst out from the dragon's belly uncontrollably, The spear itself was incinerated, and Andrew would have been if the dragon had not leapt into the air. But just on the other side of the great fire chamber was the dragon's heart, and that is where the spear head, covered with runes, had finally lodged. The runes had been etched there by Aelfric, and they had a great deal to do with how the spear found its way into the dragon heart.
The dragon had taken to flight with three great flaps of its webbed wings, and then died while still traveling upward, and back toward its castle. Fifty yards in the air, Fafnir suddenly stopped and plummeted back down toward the castle doors, which he crashed into unceremoniously.
Andrew, still stunned but jubilant, clambered out of his hole, looked over his shoulder to see Beow galloping down the hillside. He slowly walked toward the smoking dragon, and after a few moments Beow caught up with him. They walked until they were twenty feet from the dragon, and stopped. "Well done, Andrew, Fafnir-bane," Beow said.
"What have you done?" a clear, light voice asked. They looked up and saw Maggie, standing on the castle walls.

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