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Volume 18, Issue 3: Similitudes

Maggie Laughs

Douglas Wilson

Andrew looked back up at the castle walls, shielding his eyes from the rising sun. "I killed the dragon," he said.

"Why did you do that?" she asked, simply.
"To rescue you," he replied. "And because I was told," he added.
To this, she just looked down at the sprawled and smoking carcass of the dragon. Andrew couldn't tell if she was relieved or anxious or calm or anything. The silence was awkward.
"May we come in, little lady?" Beow asked.
She started, and then disappeared behind the wall. After about five minutes, they heard some scraping on the other side of the gates, and some bumping, and one of the doors started to swing back. The dead dragon was heaped in front of the other half of the gates. When the gate was completely open, Maggie came out and stood in the open space. "Thank you," she said. "Come in."
The inside of the castle was a stack of ruins—many different buildings in the courtyard were just piles of rocks. Andrew quickly saw that the only part of the castle still standing was the wall, and the one corner tower where he had seen Maggie earlier.
"You may come to my rooms," she said. When Beow bowed his head inquisitively, she said, "Oh, no, that's all right. The stairs are very wide. You shan't have any trouble."
"May we walk around the walls the long way to get to the tower?" Andrew asked. "I want to look out at the sea."
"Certainly," she said, but nothing more. Had she been enchanted? Andrew wondered. Do dragons enchant anybody?
They walked slowly up a large staircase that ran alongside the inside of the front castle wall, eventually reaching a six-foot walkway around the crennelated top. At the first corner they came to, Andrew leaned out through one of the arrow slits and looked out. He could see the ocean where the longboats had been following along and, squinting hard, he thought he could see the fleet. "Well, whether I can see them or not, Aelfric said they would come. They'll probably not be here until this afternoon." The ships' sails were little straining squares along the horizon.
The three of them turned and walked toward the far western wall, the wall facing the western ocean. Far out to sea, the black thunderhead still rose up, right where it always was. Andrew felt the palms of his hands get clammy looking at it. "I bet I have to go there," he thought. When they got to the far corner, Andrew looked out over the wall again. A rocky slope angled sharply down toward the water's edge. The waves were not large but still slapped against the rocky shore in an irritated way. Part way up the slope, resting on the rocks upside down, was a larger leather coracle, with two oars propped on the hull of the boat. "And I bet I will have to go there in that."
"Whose is that?" he asked Maggie. She looked down where he was pointing, but without seeming to have any real curiosity. "That must have belonged to the man who used to live here before the dragon." She stopped and said nothing more.
As they walked along the western wall, Andrew suddenly spoke. "Why aren't you talking?" he asked.
"I have nothing to say," she said.
"Aren't you grateful?" He was a little annoyed. "I killed the dragon for you."
"Andrew . . ." Beow started to say, but Andrew waved him quiet.
"I am grateful," she said. "Didn't I say `thank you' at the gate?"
"Yes, you did, but why are you so quiet?"
"I have nothing to say," she said.
They all walked further, turned left again, and approached the tower. As the walkway came up to the tower, Andrew could make out a few stone shapes in a large open doorway, and two worn statues, one on each side. As they came closer, he could see that they were statues of a very ancient knight—a man with the same honest but severe face.
"Who is that?" Andrew asked.
"That is Kale," Maggie and Beow said together. "He is the father of all the Kale today," Beow added. "He was the one who came here from the world behind the seven mountains—your world, Andrew."
They went through the doorway and walked slowly up the stairs, with Maggie leading the way. After just a few moments, they were all on a large landing, with three doors leading into different chambers. "These are my rooms," Maggie said. "The dragon let me be by myself here. He hardly ever spoke to me."
She opened the nearest door and went in. Beow followed her, and Andrew trailed behind. She walked over to the farthest window, stopped and looked out for a moment, and then turned around. Beow remained by the door, and Andrew, not knowing why or how he knew what he needed to do, walked across the room, and kissed Maggie on the forehead. Her eyes brightened, and she laughed out loud.

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