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THE DRAGON OF MITH Kate Walker
First print edition published in Australia in 1989 by Allen & Unwin Australia Pty Ltd. First ebook edition published by Kate Walker at Smashwords 2011.
Text copyright Kate Walker 1989 Cover Illustration copyright Laurie Sharpe
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the permission of the author. This book is priced to make it affordable. Please respect the author’s work and pay for the copy you are reading. www.katewalkerwriter4children.com
Contents 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Enter the Dragon Miss Krissy of Mith The Townspeople in the Dell The Extra-Special Meeting of the Society of the Hermits of the Dell Lunch Break The Trouble with Turkeys The Menu of Mith Return to Mith Turkey’s Delight Maid of Mith Sausages Supreme Breakfast Drags On Sausages and Whispers Rock-Tottering in the Dell Door-Knocking in the Dell Hermit’s Stew Jacob’s Plan Much at Stake An Itch in Time Knot-Knowing The Hermit Goes Mithing One Last Snag Or So the Slaying Goes Miths Crisps Turkey Talk and Trousers The Corresponding Slayers Morning in Mith Whosoever Wears This Crown … About the Author 2 5 9 14 17 21 24 30 34 38 43 46 51 55 61 68 73 76 80 84 90 95 102 107 110 114 119 124 128
1 Enter the Dragon No one heard him. No one saw him. He came in the night, in the middle of the night, when even the owls were dreaming. Krissy didn’t hear him. She was fast asleep in her comfy bed of straw at the far end of town. The hermit didn’t hear him. But the hermit lived several miles away, so a thunderbolt could have hit Mith and he wouldn’t have known about it. Or cared. Other people’s thunderbolts were their own problem. Lord Mayor of Mith, Shingles Pennyworth, heard nothing. But then he was used to the noise of his Chain of Office clanking up and down on his tummy all night. A coal train could have clattered past his bedroom and he wouldn’t have known. Jacob Jacobson saw nothing. He was sneaking home from a midnight timber-gathering raid at the time. Being a sly fellow, he slipped in the back way, so he missed the great event that had happened in the market square. Charlotta Chitterling, the local butcher, was wide awake but she was deep in her cellar doing those things that butchers do in their cellars at midnight. So not a single person in the town of Mith was prepared for what they found in their market square next morning. A dragon. A colossal dragon
with claws and wings and scales – the whole bit – wrapped around their maypole, eyes closed, head down and sleeping. But the instant they saw him, they all started to shriek, “It’s a dragon! It’s a dragon!” Which was pretty silly. He was as tall as a haystack and as long as three semi-trailers. Anyone with two eyes could see he was a dragon. Krissy sat up in bed at the far end of town, woken by their squeals. Mayor Pennyworth tumbled out of bed and yelled from his upstairs window, “What’s all this noise? Don’t you people know ...?” “It’s a dragon! It’s a dragon!” the townspeople cried. Mayor Pennyworth swallowed his teeth. turned white and nearly
“Run for your lives!” he ordered. For the first time since electing him Mayor, the townspeople did exactly as he suggested. They lifted their night-shirts and ran like racehorses, round and round the market square. That wasn’t what he’d meant for them to do. But people in crisis often do peculiar things, like run around in circles. Not Charlotta Chitterling though. In her billowing nightdress and butcher’s apron, she stood on the sidelines and asked the penetrating question: “I
wonder has he had any breakfast yet?” The townsfolk took up this new cry: “It’s a dragon and he hasn’t had his breakfast!” Madeline McBride, trotting round the square in an exquisite beetroot-colored nightdress with mayonnaise frills, invented a cry of her own: “Save us! Oh, somebody save us! We’ll all be devoured!” As she passed beneath Mayor Pennyworth’s window she gazed upward and he suddenly knew she expected him to do the saving. As a result he went wobbly from the kneecaps down. Mayor Pennyworth was a short fellow, shaped like a feather-pillow (with all the feathers at one end) and saving people wasn’t in his line. As Mayor, he concentrated solely on parks, pet registrations and garbage disposal. However, with everyone looking at him, he had to do something. So he raced from his house wearing only his night-shirt, yelling, “Follow me!” He tore out of town, heading for the hills, and everyone did the same. Well, almost everyone. Two or three people stayed behind, and the most sensible of these by far was Miss Krissy. ‘A dragon – in Mith?’ she thought, sitting up in bed. ‘Good heavens, what next?’
2 Miss Krissy of Mith Krissy climbed out of bed and pulled on a bright yellow shift. A visit by a dragon was no excuse for spending the day in one’s nightgown. She stepped into the kitchen of the house she shared with her Great Uncle Clem. “Good morning,” she said. Uncle Clem didn’t answer. He was too busy tearing around looking for something of value to save before fleeing from the dragon. “A souvenir footstool from the royal visit!” he decided, picked it up, and the stuffing fell out. “No good!” He tossed it away. “A mounted goat’s head?” He took it down from the wall, only to find it was jumping with fleas. So he tossed it after the footstool. “A piano accordion?” He pulled it from the shelf. It was beautiful, old, hand-painted – but it squeaked. “Nah!” Then he dived head first into his pots and pans cupboard. “A silver teapot! Now that’s worth saving.” He rattled around searching for one. Great Uncle Clem had never owned a silver teapot. But Krissy didn’t bother telling him that. In all his ninety-nine years, he’d never done anything particularly sensible, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect it of him now. Krissy left him to his treasure hunt and went off to feed her turkeys. Dragon or
no dragon, her turkeys had to have their breakfast. When that was done, she hurried to the market square to look into this dragon business for herself. And there he was, a huge scaly creature with his head on his forearm and his crinkly old eyelids closed over his eyes. Krissy stopped smartly at the corner of Mo’s Bakery, but unlike everyone else in Mith she didn’t run away. She asked herself calmly, “The first time you saw a turkey, did it frighten you?” “Indeed it did,” she answered. She remembered the incident well. She’d been three years old and her uncle had given her a big black hen bird. It had had legs like bed posts and eyes like door knobs and she’d felt sure it was some kind of prehistoric pterodactyl. “But are you afraid of turkeys now?” she asked herself and answered, “Good heavens, no.” She found turkeys to be quite pleasant birds, so long as they were looked after properly and had no reason to complain. “Think of this dragon as a turkey,” she told herself. “Give yourself time to get used to him.” So she sat on a barrel under the bakery awning, and allowed herself a full fifteen minutes for the task. At the end of the first five minutes Krissy realized
the dragon wasn’t as big as she’d first thought. He was not so much the size of a cathedral as a country church. And he wasn’t totally black either, more a darkish blue color with delicate inky rainbows round the edges of his scales. He’d probably been quite pretty in his younger days. Now he was old. She could tell that from the way his skin sagged, and his claws had yellowed, and his old wings didn’t fold properly and looked like tattered lace fans. And he gave off no heat whatsoever, and the only sound that came from him was a slight wheezing from the left nostril. The right nostril was sooty and seemed to be out-oforder. Krissy was at the ten-minute stage of her dragonstudying when Jacob Jacobson came along. He staggered under the weight of his prize possession – a nine foot long saw-blade which flexed up and down on his shoulder like a pair of misplaced wings. “You’d better start running, Missy,” he said. “Why?” Krissy asked. Jacob Jacobson squinted at her. He didn’t trust little girls. They asked trick questions to make you look stupid. But he was no fool, he knew the answer. “’Cos everyone else is, see!” he chuckled and staggered away, smiling to himself. That had told her! Krissy remained on her barrel and was at the
fourteen-and-a-half-minute mark of dragonstudying when two hands seized her from behind. It was great Uncle Clem. “Blow the silver teapot, I’ve come to rescue you instead,” he said and dragged her from her barrel. This was positively the first heroic act Uncle Clem had performed in ninety-nine years, and Krissy didn’t have the heart to tell him she didn’t need saving. She gave up her seat of study and went along with him, which turned out for the best. The climb into the hills of Mith proved long and hard. Without Krissy there at his side, being rescued, Uncle Clem would never have made it. He huffed and puffed and leaned on her shoulder most of the way. At the end of the journey she told him, “Thank you, Uncle Clem, I’m safe now. Here’s a nice looking rock. You’d better sit down.” He sat where he was told but immediately started grumbling. That rock may have looked nice but it was hard. Couldn’t she have chosen a softer one?
3 The Townspeople in the Dell High in the hills above the town of Mith lay a quiet valley full of tree stumps and stones. Along one side were fourteen small houses, each with a vegetable garden out the back and a chimney pot on top. This particular morning each chimney pot was puffing white smoke into a bright blue sky. This was the Dell of the Hermits, and when Mayor Pennyworth saw where he’d led his people, he stopped dead. “Back!” he cried. “Back to town!” “But there’s a dragon back there!” the townspeople answered. “And there are houses here, with people in them. We’re saved! We’re saved!” They ran to the doors and pounded on them. “Don’t!” Mayor Pennyworth begged. “You don’t know who’s in there!” “And you do?” Charlotta Chitterling asked, sidling up beside him. “Who, me? Heavens, no,” said Mayor Pennyworth. “I wouldn’t know, I mean, how would I know?” Charlotta folded her fleshy arms and fixed him with her gaze. And Mayor Pennyworth shivered and pulled his skimpy night-shirt down over his knees. Meanwhile the townspeople hammered and pleaded at each of the fourteen doors, “Help!
Shelter us! Save us from the dragon!” But not a single door opened, which caused Mayor Pennyworth to turn liquid with relief. “What a pity, there mustn’t be anyone home,” he said. “Let’s go somewhere else.” Charlotta sniffed the air. “There’s people in there, all right.” She had a ‘nose’ for anything meaty. And indeed there were people in the houses. Fourteen to be exact, one in each, all flat on their tummies, hiding under their beds. The Hermits of the Dell were real hermits. They hadn’t run away just so people would chase after them and beg them to come home. They sincerely wanted to be left alone. They’d formed an official Society and held regular meetings and made rules about things such as visiting and door-knocking. Door-knocking was strictly forbidden, and should the event occur the advice in the Society’s Handbook was crystal clear: HIDE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE UNDER YOUR BED. Which each and everyone of them did. But not even a Society Handbook could fool Charlotta’s nose. “They’re in there all right,” she said again. “Then make them come out!” the townspeople cried, looking to Mayor Pennyworth. They saw it as his job. The little Mayor’s face turned from lily white to
. “But why must we kill the dragon?” she asked. “… suggest we go to the other side of the Dell and hold a meeting on it. I.. “does anyone have any ideas?” He looked about hopefully. his saw-blade on his shoulder flexing up and down.. Everyone grab a rock and follow me!” The point of picking up a rock was so it could be used as a chair.. Krissy stood. And moving rocks turned out to be a marvellous suggestion. It didn’t work. “Because it’s big and ugly and a brute.dragon problem. Right down the middle. I. “Saw him in half. Right between the eyes!” “Excellent! Yes! Let’s do it. “Anyone?” “Yeah!” Jacob Jacobson rose.” 11 . and always the same one. That’s why. It gave each of the panicked citizens something to do. Jacob always had ideas. Everyone knew that holding a meeting without chairs was like holding ice-cream without a cone.. When everyone commenced.” he stammered.” Quite a few people agreed. Soon a tide of people was rolling rocks across the Dell and setting them up in a semicircle on the other side. “I..d.” Mayor Pennyworth began. was ready the meeting “About this d. Jacob Jacobson snapped back.mango yellow.
Charlotta Chitterling rose to her feet and when she spoke. ugly. smoothing her greasy apron over her knees.“But we have other big.” Krissy said. “Name one?” he demanded. seated beside him. “The dragon’s come for one thing.” She smiled and sat again. So the meeting dragged on. brutish things in Mith and we don’t kill them. Krissy didn’t get a chance.) “Sooner or later he’ll get around to it. He wants his belly filled. not even Jacob Jacobson. The people who had nothing important to say did most of the talking.” Krissy said. But no one volunteered to do the actual ridding.” she said. He’s hungry. Jacob’s chest hairs bristled over the neck of his shirt. while those with valuable comments to make whispered them aside to their neighbors. Great Uncle Clem was one of these whisperers and he said to his friend.” (It was her favorite.” 12 . “Food. “The dragon’s got to be got rid of!” the townspeople cried.” “He will.” “But he’s been in town all evening. “They should ask the dragon slayer to help. It’s one of the laws of nature.” said Charlotta. Mo the baker. “Everything’s got to eat. “and he hasn’t eaten anyone yet. people listened – even when she wasn’t in her butcher’s shop wielding a very large knife.
“Oh. everyday. “you watch.” Mo stared at the crowd. “You know. good idea.” said Clem. they won’t think of it. important things such as lunch. and themselves.” By lunchtime Mayor Pennyworth called a halt to the meeting. doesn’t look like they’re going to.” “But they won’t. In their rush to save silver teapots. “No.” Clem motioned across the Dell with his head. They were the worst sausages she’d ever made. but everyone bought one.“What dragon slayer?” said Mo. they’d forgotten to bring the ordinary. Charlotta Chitterling wheeled her sausage cart out from behind a boulder and started selling elm-and-offal sausages at twice their normal price. dressinggowns and a good book to read. royal souvenir footstools. 13 . that dragon slayer. “Yes. they should ask him.” said Mo. that dragon slayer.
several plates of string-bean sandwiches.30 sharp. the Chairperson of the Society of the Hermits had been busy organizing an extra-special meeting of her own.” the lady Chairperson began.) “Our Dell has been overrun by townies. Most of the hermits nodded. The Chairperson set up deckchairs in a semicircle overlooking her spinach patch. (No hermit ever missed a meeting. Hermits were not permitted inside one another’s houses. Having written the Handbook herself. the Chairperson could quote it by heart: REMAIN IN HIDING UNTIL THE NUISANCE PERSON GETS BORED AND GOES AWAY. It sounded like good 14 .30 a. She’d slipped notes under every hermit’s door. and opened the meeting at 10. but gatherings of any size could be held in the open air and often were. Especially in gardens at this time of year when the onions were in flower and the carrot tops in full plume.4 The Extra-Special Meeting of the Society of the Hermits of the Dell Meanwhile on the other side of the valley. sharp. All the hermits were there. She’d made a bowl of cucumber punch. “What are we going to do about it?” “What does the Handbook say?” someone asked. advising that the meeting was to be held in her back garden at 10.m.
advice. “Sneaking brute!” “Awful fellow!” 15 .” That proved a popular topic. So the Chairperson piped up. he screwed his mouth into a tight pucker and kept it that way. (There’d been talk of banning him from Society meetings because he didn’t make comments or add to the debate. “But what about this dragon?” one of the younger hermits spoke up. Didn’t join in at all!) And now. With the townies from Mith bellowing about the dragon at every door. with him refusing to speak. A bout of whispering rippled through the crowd and one by one all eyes turned toward the oldest hermit sitting in the farthest deckchair. but the old fellow kept silent – didn’t mutter. at the semicircle’s end. the meeting looked in danger of becoming boring and a flop. not even to himself. the hermits knew all about him now. With his thumbs in his belt and his nose pointed straight at the string-bean sandwiches. All the hermits started chattering again. All around him the other hermits whispered. “That terrible fellow Jacob Jacobson’s here too and we all know what he’s like.
while full-voiced talkers hotly debated issues of no importance. It was a marvellous meeting. Alas.“Got to do something about him!” “And that butcher. it ended up much the same as Mayor Pennyworth’s meeting. 16 . with no action being taken or decisions made. Charlotta Chitterling. the most successful the lady Chairperson had ever held. too!” “Have you seen what she’s selling out of that disgusting sausage cart?” The meeting was in full swing again and the lady Chairperson relaxed. But the hermits enjoyed it so very much they agreed unanimously to meet again directly after lunch. Whisperers whispered valuable comments aside.
Charlotta Chitterling was busy selling sausages and writing down what everyone owed her in a brown speckled book. Miss Krissy?” she asked. “Yes.. “You've got to eat. “I wonder … would it be possible … could you do me a favor … some t. “But there’s a d.d. but I have to see to my turkeys.!” “Dragon there?” said Krissy.” Krissy said again. “Thank you.d. but being Mayor without trousers on was 17 . Charlotta leaned forward.” “Back to town?” cried Mayor Pennyworth. If you don’t eat. do be careful!” cried Mayor Pennyworth. you starve and they tell me starving’s not pleasant. brave girl. “And how many sausages for you.d. Being Mayor of Mith was hard at the best of times. Then he slipped closer to whisper. thank you.. no. wheeling her cart slowly through the crowd.trousers? Could you possibly bring me back a pair?” He tugged his night-shirt down. “I'm going back to town and I’ll have lunch there.” “Oh.t..” Krissy said.5 Lunch Break Back on Mayor Pennyworth’s side of the Dell... “None for me..” She held up a sausage – a lank tube filled with pale yellow mush. I know.
“You don’t think he’ll eat her?” “Of course he will. Anything at all. She had a number of reasons for going back to Mith.” Jacob said. Shingles. You wouldn’t get more than twenty-six pounds of 18 . Help yourself. “and good riddance.” muttered Jacob. “Of course. Mayor Pennyworth flushed with gratitude. “And while you're there. “Safe journey!” Mayor Pennyworth called as she strode away.” he said. seated nearby.” “E..e. and an open invitation to Mayor Pennyworth’s food cupboard suited one of those reasons very well..” “That’s very kind.” said Krissy. “Good move. into the conversation. Smartest thing you ever did. He told her where to find them: in a! wooden trunk at the end of his bed.” said Krissy. She’ll give him a belly-ache and we’ll be rid of him. “Except there’s hardly enough meat on her for a dragon to work up a burp.” Charlotta leaned over her cart. “take anything you like from my larder for your lunch.more difficult than people supposed. “Let the dragon eat her.eat her!” Mayor Pennyworth turned from yellow to lily white again.
“I take it you don’t like dragons?” Charlotta asked. “You’d have to catch yourself another dragon and run him through the mincer.” she made the calculation.” “Oh?” said Mayor Pennyworth.. 19 .” Mayor Pennyworth said. his Chain of Office weighing him down. or a hundred and fifty-one snags.” “Big?” Charlotta asked. do you think? I mean. “Where would one get that much meat.. “To fill a dragon his size you’d have to come up with .” Charlotta could work out at a glance how many sausages any living creature could make. if one wanted to make sausages to fill the dragon and send him on his way?” “Only one place..sausages out of her. not another dragon. “It’s just that they're so very. “Yes.” “Meaty drumsticks?” she proposed..” “Oh no. “Oh. That wasn’t exactly what Mayor Pennyworth had had in mind.” said Charlotta.” said Mayor Pennyworth. I'm sure.. “and with such. “twenty-two and a half tons of meat or a hundred-and-fifty-seven thousand snags.. wonderful fellows. very. such.” Mayor Pennyworth sagged at the knees. but he nodded. And for some reason nodding made him reel.
“Very nice.“Here. When people praised her sausages too much.” he said. Without anyone noticing. For a big woman she was light on her feet and silent as the night. 20 .” Mayor Pennyworth lowered himself to a rock and nibbled one end of the pale. limp tube. you had to be. no charge.” Charlotta said. But her next batch would be different. have a sausage. “Very nice indeed.” ‘That bad?’ thought Charlotta. To be a good sausagemaker. And what better time to slip back into town and get started on those plans than when the dragon was busy nibbling on Miss Krissy. she knew they had to be terrible. Charlotta had big plans for her next batch of sausages. “It’ll take your mind off … things. and picking his teeth with her bones. Charlotta wheeled her cart away.
6 The Trouble with Turkeys Krissy’s turkeys had been locked in their pen all morning and she wasn’t quite sure how they’d feel about it. And watching them try and fail made him happy – 21 . But as she rounded the corner of her house and came in sight of their pen. She’d been a turkey herder for a long time and knew what upset them – just about everything. It was his specialty.” she said. but none could master his eye-popping caw. None of them succeeded. complaining tones. They stood drumstick to drumstick. The other younger cock birds tried to do the same. The Number One turkey thrust his bronze chest forward and crowed long and loud until his eyes nearly popped from his head. the flock fell silent. all staring at her through slits in the fence. Most of all they hated being left to wait for their meals. From two streets away she heard them gobbling to each other in loud. I’ll take you down to Leonie’s Lentil Yard. “there’s been an emergency. They could puff themselves up like him. ‘Oh dear!’ she thought. and swagger like him. That was their favorite scratching spot. wing-tip to wing-tip. “Come along.” she said.” She opened the gate but not a single turkey stepped through. “I'm sorry I'm late.
” “Bribery!” the Number One turkey called. but they love beanthis afternoon. They poked their heads amidst the haricot leaves and started looking for weevils to eat. and he was wise enough to understand they couldn’t match his elegance.happy enough to forgive Krissy for being so late this particular time. ripe for the picking. They did their best. The Lentil Yard came in sight. “Eat hearty. for that they could be bought. Yes. But we turkeys can’t be bought!” “Corn mash and oyster grit?” some of the hen birds muttered. “You may follow.” Krissy said as inside and she closed the (Turkeys hate haricot beans. weevils. “you’ll get warm corn mash with oyster grit. “Look at that.) “I’ll be back for you said. “She’s trying to buy us. She’s leaving us again! Everyone stop eating!” “And for dinner tonight. with its rows and rows of haricot beans.” he told the flock and strutted out the gate.” Krissy told them over the fence.” she “What!” the Number One turkey wheeled about. the turkeys stepped gate behind them. setting an example of how to prance with one’s head held high. 22 . The rest of the flock marched behind him like over-stuffed cushions. to make up for this shoddy herding.
but bean-weevils were sweeter..” he murmured to himself alone. “Yum!” The Number One turkey licked his beaky lips. for dessert. 23 .” the Number One turkey said. juicylooking bean-weevil caught his eye. “On the other hand..” Not eating for an afternoon was his version of a hunger strike. “Fools. It slid along the fence. Don’t you see the danger? We're being forsaken! Maltreated! We must protest!” With his beak poked high he said. “Or. “I could have bean-weevils now and revenge later .The Number One turkey ruffled his feathers and rattled his comb. humping its little body up and down.” The delicious looking weevil crawled closer. The plump young weevil crawled inside and straight down his throat. Just at that moment a particularly fat. Everyone knew that revenge was sweet. “we could show how noble and forgiving we are and overlook her shoddy herding one more time. “Not a single bean-weevil will pass my beak today.” He laid his pointed beak open on the fence rail.
She chose a white pair with silver buttons at the waist and lime green stripes down the sides. Krissy looked out at the dragon sleeping in the market square. Then she went down to the kitchen for the most important task of the day. pink leg of ham. Also a packet of crystallized angelica root!and a jar of cherries.7 The Menu of Mith From the upstairs window of Mayor Pennyworth’s house. he was showing charming table manners. She opened the pantry and took out a large. But first things first. Instead she placed the ham on the milkman’s trolley (a wooden. His great bony shoulders rose and fell as he 24 . They were new. She laid the strips of green angelica over the ham in a lattice pattern. then glazed the whole thing with a can of pineapple juice. box-like contraption with iron wheels) and pushed it directly across the market square toward the dragon’s jaws. nice looking trousers and she was sure he’d feel more mayor-like and dignified in them. but she didn’t take the merest sliver for herself. he was motionless. Apart from that. Krissy thought. and placed half a cherry in the center of each. She opened the trunk at the end of Mayor Pennyworth’s bed and chose a pair of trousers for him. The sun shimmered on his scales and a breeze fluttered the tips of his ragged wings. ‘Yum!’ she thought. If he’d come to eat people.
She place a stool beneath one of the windows and sat low. Krissy hurried back to the safety of the bakery and hid inside. watching out over the sill. Loose flour-dust rose in the air and Krissy squeezed 25 . His tongue was long and thick as a mattress and raspberry pink.breathed. Leaving the ham ten feet from his nose she dashed across to the bakery and borrowed a long wooden paddle (used for sliding loaves in and out of the oven). and Krissy found herself staring at possibly the largest tonsils in the world. The roof of the dragon’s mouth was corrugated like an old tin shed. and behind his eyelids his great eyes sometimes seem to roll. Stumps of old teeth marched back along his jaws. and secondly if he was hungry. She was not about to poke a sleeping dragon in the ribs and ask him: firstly if he was friendly. She used that to nudge the trolley the rest of the way forward. leather eyelid creaked at the corners. The smell of the ham did its job fast. until it rested directly beneath the dragon’s left nostril – the working one. From the dark recess of his throat came a noise so deep and rumbling its vibrations travelled through the ground and set the bakery shelves a’shudder. One old. His great mouth opened like a cavern in a mountainside. but not stupid. Slowly the dragon rippled his shoulders and yawned. Krissy was a brave young lady. his nostrils whistled. The nostril rim quivered.
He placed it on his tongue. Next he chose a cherry. First he chomped lightly on the cherry at the front of his mouth. then on the right. down his tummy and all the way to the end of his tail. and went through the whole long ‘tasting’ routine again. he opened his eyes and once more studied the ham. Then he tucked his claws beneath him. folded his claws away. closed his eyes and started munching. first at the front of his mouth. He lapped up the 26 . then on the left. then on the right.her nose shut so she wouldn’t be tempted to sneeze. stretched out one claw and pulled the milk trolley closer to him. a ripple of delight ran from the underside of his throat. Then with a tiny gulp he swallowed it down and muttered a second time. Slowly he munched the angelica. As he did. “Mmmmmm!” the dragon murmured and with the tips of just two claws picked up a sliver of angelica and placed it on his tongue. “Mmmmmm!” That done. The moment of testing had come. closed his mouth. Then he sucked on it for two minutes more before swallowing it down. then on the left side. For the next two hours and forty-five minutes Krissy gazed spellbound through the bakery window. Then the dragon brought his jaws together again. watching the dragon eat every cherry and strip of angelica off the ham.
a bulge appeared in his throat.” Krissy told the townspeople an hour later when she returned to the Dell.. licked his lips.... cleaned his claws then pushed the trolley away. “You're very welcome. “Excuse me!” . looked directly at the bakery window where Krissy crouched. “Oh dear!” He raised his claws to his mouth and said.” Krissy.. A faint rumble began in his tummy. You're perfectly safe. “Thank you.. a most enjoyable luncheon.. His big golden eyeballs.” They didn’t believe her. stood and showed herself openly. somewhat dazed. “Most enjoyable indeed.” she said. with their great green pupils.. The dragon smiled. and from between his lips exploded a little burp. “You can all come back to town.pineapple juice. Krissy didn’t let that worry her. He’s lost most of his teeth and I think he’s vegetarian. leaving the ham untouched. and for some reason he turned the color of green pickles... “The dragon’s not going to eat you. She gave Mayor Pennyworth his trousers.” he said and made a little bow. 27 .... Then a queer look appeared in his eye and he suddenly held himself quite stiff.
“I’ll see you later then. “I'm going back to town now.“They're not mine!” he cried. “I’ve never seen these trousers before in my life! I deny them!” He bundled them away beneath his arm. She walked over to Uncle Clem and said. And Krissy accepted that too. “Can’t you see I'm in the middle of something important?” He and his friend. Suddenly Clem cried. 28 . Uncle Clem. “Now I've got one. Mo. were on their hands and knees scratching about in the dirt.” Krissy said and set off for town. Then Mo spotted one exactly the same and pounced on it. “You’re sure it’s safe to go back?” she said. “Absolutely sure?” “Quite sure. too. Madeline McBride flurried up beside her. He beamed at it with pride. “Ah ha!” and threw himself on a stone. flat and brown and not unlike several million other stones scattered around the Dell. Would you like to come?” He waved his hands and shouted. A short way down the valley.” he shrieked. It was a little round pebble. “And what a beauty!” He cradled it as close to his chest as if it were a silver teapot.” said Krissy.
Krissy was naturally curious why but didn’t asked. Of all the things that had happened that day.” Krissy said. “You don’t mind if I come with you?” “Not at all.“Thank goodness for that. 29 . They started well enough on their own. Years of turkey-herding had taught her that you didn’t need to prod anyone with a stick to start them gobbling on about themselves.” Madeline McBride fell in beside her. this was the strangest: that Madeline McBride should prove the bravest of the citizens and dare to return. More often the problem was getting them to stop.
” said Krissy.” she said. Madeline McBride’s face. “the same age as me. Unless you keep them soft and 30 . “Then you've saved me. “Oh.” said Krissy. and it’s this.” Madeline cried. only her teeth and eyes were visible. Madeline continued to thank Krissy for bringing the good news. how old does this hand look to you?” Krissy’s hands were short. “have I started to wrinkle yet?” “No. and that was the truth. I can’t see a single one.” said Krissy.” “Exactly!” said Madeline. but there is! Left in that wild and windy place. “There’s no need.8 Return to Mith As they strode along. Tell me truthfully. “and in return I'm going to reveal to you my most precious. as usual. “there’s no telling what might have happened to me. was covered with such a thick smear of beauty lotion. “Your hands are giving away your age. “Tell me.” She picked up one of Krissy’s hands. “I simply must repay you.” Madeline declared. most guarded beauty secret.” she raised a quivering finger to her face. “They look eleven. hard-working little hands with a small amount of dirt under the fingernails.
“and give you horrible red blotches?” “Yes. Being beautiful had been a lonely occupation. everyone will know how old you are. Now.young-looking.” She gave Krissy’s hand a tender squeeze and gave it back to her. so much knowledge to impart. “but once you've soaked in them. “I really must see to my turkeys. dragging Krissy behind. But Madeline always wore protective rubber gloves. But Madeline was determined. “But don’t stinging nettles prickle. She surged up her garden path. Isn’t that marvellous?” Krissy took a peek at Madeline’s hands to see if the treatment had worked on them. through the beds of flowers and fruitbearing trees. come with me. And there’s no time to lose. She didn’t want everyone knowing the secret. heavy curtains smothered the 31 . mash them to a pulp. They’ll stay young and velvety for absolutely ever! There you are. my dear. “Pick a bunch of stinging nettles. Suddenly she had someone to share the endeavour with. Inside the house. and soak your hands in the mixture for two hours every day. all the blotches go away.” Krissy asked. “There’s so much I can do for you. this is what you do. “So many secrets.” Madeline said.” Krissy said.” She pulled Krissy in the direction of her house.” She lowered her voice. they do.” Madeline sighed as they entered the town.
It darkened the face and spotted the hands.) She opened the door to her kitchen and Krissy was almost knocked down by the smell. accepting the jars. and put into lotions to keep her forever young and wrinkle-free.” Krissy said.windows. All the flowers and fruits from Madeline’s garden ended up here. Her kitchen cupboards were crowded with bottles and jars. It was like a compost heap someone had left in a cauldron to stew. In her beetroot nightdress she flapped from pot to jar. 32 . “And Calendula Knee-Cap Cream! Almond Paste for keeping the face perfectly pale. “This is Frangipani Lotion for the feet. Stinging Nettles for the hands!” All of this she packaged up for Krissy. Rouge of Roses to paint a little color back on. filling small sample containers with dollops of everything for Krissy to try. having their oils squeezed out. Sunlight was never allowed inside Madeline McBride’s home.” Madeline said. “Thank you very much. (Sunlight was the enemy of beauty. On the table was a press with a bunch of full-blown roses beneath its screws. having their !essences extracted. “Welcome to my very own beauty factory!” Madeline declared. Her stove-top was covered in saucepans with concoctions fermenting inside. “but I really must see to my turkeys now.
Madeline dashed inside and mixed up an extra strong batch of Miracle Wrinkle-Banishing Mud Bath for herself and soaked in it for an hour. 33 . telling her. “But my dear.I'm very worried about them. “Run! Run to your turkeys!” As she watched Krissy out of sight Madeline clapped her hands to her cream-covered face. before it hardened and trapped her inside. I’ll never forgive myself. “If that child wrinkles up overnight. you should have said. And got out just in time.” Madeline gasped.” But then feeling guilty gave you more wrinkles than worrying did. Go quickly! Go at once! Nothing ages the face faster than worrying!” She pushed Krissy out the back door.
In other words. this sloppy turkey-herding would go too far. unregimented and sloppy – that’s 34 . and started bumping into gateposts and fence posts and each other. and all the other turkeys attempted to do the same. where’s that? Mark my words.!“We should have had our nice dinner by now. The shadows of their long necks stretched across the yard. “Clowns!” he uttered. The Number One turkey glanced back.9 Turkey’s Delight When Krissy arrived at the Lentil Yard. she’ll forget that too!” He turned his head away from Krissy as he stepped out through the gate. they turned their dignified protest march into a free-for-all. Krissy should have done a better job of breeding them. the turkeys were waiting at the gate in a black and silent group. “Have you had a nice day?” she asked. Except with their heads turned sideways they couldn’t see where they were going. His leadership qualities were wasted on this herd. And that corn mash she promised us. All their heads were turned to one side and there was a steely glint in their eyes. and generally falling down.” cackled the Number One turkey. And where was her herding stick? Why wasn’t she keeping them in line? Undisciplined. “I warned you. It was almost sundown – a bit late for asking if they’d had a ‘nice day'.
” the Number One turkey purred. one at a time you find yourself tied by the feet and hanging from the fence. 35 . This flock needed new management. And then when you least expect it – chop!” he barked.” “It might be a bit warm. “And this corn mash is scalding hot.” some of the cock birds mumbled. A couple of hen birds stopped eating and listened. The Number One turkey raised one claw to the edge of the food trough and began.what they were. and over the feed trough that evening the Number One turkey set about organizing it. “Tell us. “Clearly she doesn’t like us anymore. “and you know what happens when your herder starts to lose interest and stops liking you?” They had no idea. “That’s right. “Oh?” The flock didn’t think so.” he said. “When your herder begins to dislike you.” he said.” they said.” said the Number One turkey. especially over dinner. “She’s ground this oyster grit rough on purpose. “upside down on the fence. the rest thought it was just right. But they liked a good story.
” they said. Only this time he threw in a few more buckets. All the birds stopped eating. and play cowboys and Indians with them. 36 .Several young cock birds gave a start. “Off goes your head!” He had their attention now.” said another. and little boys with dirty fingernails pluck your feathers out. and told the whole grisly tale from start to finish. “Are you sure you want to know?” he asked. a bit more blood and a lot more Indians. “Chop!” he repeated.” “And this mash tastes funny to me. “All right.” One hen bird gulped.” they said. “Go on. As a group they’d lost their appetites. “Your blood gets drained into buckets. Hardly anyone was eating. “I think this oyster grit is grittier than usual. “Do you think you could run through it again?” The Number One turkey raised both claws to the rim of the trough. “Chop?” they asked. “If you insist.” he continued. making a sudden motion with his beak. “That was a very interesting story.” he said. They wanted to know. hinting that it only got worse from here.
“from your turkey herder? But that’s mutiny. what else can I say to you. Every comb quivered in his direction. “If you would force this honor upon me. “Something’s got to be done!” the hen birds cried.The oyster grit went uneaten and the steaming mash went cold. but ……… okay!” 37 . every eye was fixed on him. The young cocks looked to the Number One turkey: “You’re our leader! Save us! Free us from this tyranny! We’ll follow you!” “Free you. Do it! Do it!” they chanted.” he said. don’t you know?” “We don’t care. though at the same time swelled his chest very large. my fellow prisoners.” the Number One bird asked. The Number One turkey lowered his head in humility. “If it is your wish.
his great transparent wings half folded. “What are these evil humans up to this time?” the Number One turkey gobbled and the whole herd shuddered. also wondering what was making that ghastly noise. gurgles. with his rear end high in the air and his nose pressed against the door of Mo’s bakery. It was a chilling combination of gargles. Her first thought was. giggles and squeals. Inside. The turkeys were all standing there. The noise was coming from somewhere in the center of town. heads high and foreheads wrinkled. the terrible noise was making flour dust swirl in the air and yesterday’s stale buns dance on 38 . The dragon was still in the market square. He was awake. Still in her nightdress. woken by a terrible racket. ‘The turkeys!’ Still in her nightdress.10 Maid of Mith Krissy sat bolt upright in bed next morning. That’s where the shrieks and squeals were coming from. Krissy had never heard anything like it. Krissy rushed off to investigate. They blared out the windows louder than bugles. hurrying through the alley-ways to the bakery’s back door. rainbows flashing from his scales. she sped outside to the pen. She took off again.
lay on the floor with the dragon’s claw looped over her tummy. he was eating Madeline On all fours Krissy scurried across to the counter and peered around the edge. Madeline. I’ll pull you out!” Madeline’s eyes swum like goldfish in rum as she looked at Krissy. Krissy called. The dragon is a people-eater after all!' And for McBride. pinning her down. She could see the dragon’s big nostril pressed against the door. As the tongue rolled back out the door. The noise rose to a high. The roof beams rattled. The terrible raspberry tongue was still out the door. timber-splitting pitch. oh. and one claw poking through. The big black ovens boomed like someone was beating their iron sides. ‘I've made a terrible mistake. somebody save me or I am doomed!” Krissy suddenly thought.!Then the tip of his raspberry tongue wriggled inside as well and ran along the front of the counter. Off 39 . Krissy pressed her fingers to her ears and stepped bravely in. a quivering cry rose through the floury air:! “Save me. Krissy grabbed her hands and pulled. breakfast. She waved her arms in Krissy’s direction.their trays. “Give me your hands. dressed in a very nice floral housecoat with matching rubber gloves.
and the tongue scooped a dollop out of the pot and carried it outside. You’re perfectly safe. nearest the door. “Mm! Mm!” Krissy heard the dragon say. half-fainting sigh. as the long raspberry tongue rolled back in through the doorway. “Ravished! Eaten alive! Oh. as if deciding what it wanted next. It dipped its tip into the mixture.. 40 . it passed over the top of the open Passionfruit pot and came to a sudden halt. “I’m being devoured!” Madeline wailed. The tip of that tongue hovered serpent-like in front of Madeline’s face. and Madeline was left where she was. If you let me bring some from your house . When the big raspberry tongue came wriggling in again. Then it swooped and scooped a delicate lick of Strawberry Beauty Mask off the end of her nose and carried it back to the waiting mouth. “You're not being eaten. save me!” With relief Krissy said. The dragon’s only interested in your face cream.?” Madeline made a weak.came the rubber gloves. She came back with a pot of Passionfruit Fingernail Firming Lotion which she placed at the other end of the counter. Krissy took that to be a ‘yes’ and dashed away to Madeline’s kitchen.
” Krissy said.” “Don’t be silly. packed as many creams and lotions as she 41 ..” Madeline sat up straight. and she pulled her limp body from under the claw.. “Once crazed by my beauty. “Then my Strawberry Beauty Mask saved me!” “No. Ms McBride?” Krissy asked.” In a happy daze Madeline wobbled off to her house. your beauty mask is what caused the problem. the creature will certainly try again. “Has the shock given me wrinkles? Have I aged?” There was still so much Strawberry cream on Madeline’s face Krissy couldn’t tell. “He was trying to ravish me! Devour me! That’s what dragons do to beautiful maidens!” She struggled to her feet. There’s no safety for me here. “you've had an awful shock.“Give me your hands.” “Don’t be silly!” said Madeline. He was trying to lick it off. I must flee!” “You really should rest.” she said. do I look all right?” she asked.” Krissy said to Madeline. Madeline’s eyelids rose weakly. “Do . Madeline smiled.” Krissy said. “You look the same as usual. Then dragged her further still. “I'm not safe here. “Are you all right. “The dragon loves fruit. around to the back of the counter where she propped her up like a flour sack.
and fled for the hills once more.) Madeline and Krissy had not been the only people in Mith that morning. (Being calm and intelligent doesn’t always mean you get things right.could into a large vanity case. Charlotta Chitterling had witnessed the whole thing.’ This was a rare occasion when Krissy was wrong. not much bigger than a cake tin or a porridge bowl. 42 . ‘Oh. but the difference it would make to the citizens of Mith would be huge. ‘the villagers will never come back now. It was a small something else. not once Madeline tells them about her devouring. dear. smoky windows of the butcher shop just across the way. Through the small.’ thought Krissy. and something else besides. the ‘passionfruit’ rescue. She’d seen the ‘devouring' of Madeline McBride.
and as the fire took hold the mother-of43 . and her ankles were fat and rolled out over the tops of her shoes. They were steep and rickety stairs.” she’d whispered to herself. spices.!nothing would be left out. collecting peppers. molasses and cheeses – everything she had ever dreamed of cooking into a sausage! This time. SAUSAGES SUPREME! “If only once. solid contraption the size of a piano and stood in the middle of the floor. hams. my life will be fulfilled.11 Sausages Supreme Charlotta Chitterling had sneaked into town the previous afternoon with only one thought in mind – sausages! All the houses of Mith were open and the larders unguarded. she had swung her great offal basket onto her hip and skulked from house to house. She lit a tallow candle and approached her sausage-making machine. “I can make the sausage of my dreams. onions. It was a dark. she returned to her house. When sundown came. They’d be works of art. This time her creations would be more than just snags. She almost floated down the cellar steps. unlocked the cellar door and glided down the stairs. I’ll never have to make another snag again. She filled its small furnace with charcoals.” With her basket full. from larder to larder. But the urge to ‘create’ was upon her and it lightened her tread. Here was the chance of a lifetime.
raised her spyglass to her eye. They automatically twisted themselves into perfect strings of snags. its inner blades sliced the stuff into smaller and smaller bits. the ‘creating’ was over and Charlotta was counting up her ‘snag tally’ when the cries of Madeline McBride wafted across the market square. She shredded the fats. and at precisely midnight fed the first batch of ingredients into the purring machine. The furnace filled the room with a rusty glow and spices tanged the air. She stirred the mixture with big sweeps of her arms. she carried some upstairs and hung them over the backs of chairs in her dining room. and seen 44 . She draped these ropes of sausages along the rafters to cool and dry. And when there was no more room in the cellar. Leaving the machine to warm through. the patience. At thirteen minutes passed midnight. and from meat hook to meat hook in her butcher’s shop. The dedication. ground the peppers and chunked the hams. coddled the eggs. the first long tubes of sausage began to emerge from the other end. the art.pearl inlay in the grinding wheels began to gleam. as priceless to Charlotta as strings of pearls. At sun-up. Its wheels rumbled. Charlotta had rubbed the grime from her shop window. refining it to a perfect filling of sausage paste. Charlotta prepared her ingredients on a chopping!board. No one knew the hours of work that went into making sausages.
the urge to create overwhelmed her more powerfully than ever before. Lots more meat. At the sight of it. How could she go back to making ordinary sausages after having created SAUSAGES SUPREME? Now she wanted to make SAUSAGES ULTIMO! And for that she would need more ingredients: more spices. to serve up breakfast to the people of Mith. Earlier that evening she’d told herself: ‘If I can make the perfect sausage just once I’ll be content. and set in motion her ULTIMO sausage plan! 45 . my lovelies.” she crooned to her sausages as she loaded them into the cart.’ But now those perfect sausages had been made. And what she’d spied through her spyglass had shown her exactly how that lots more meat could be acquired. And that one small other thing – a band of gold on the dragon’s toenail. and more meat. “Come along. more molasses. It was time to return to the Dell. she desired more – she wanted better.everything: the ravishment and the rescue.
“I thought you might like some more breakfast. Krissy noticed a slight metallic smell about him. “I like them all.” Krissy brought him a whole pot.” Being very close to him now. and with the tip of his tongue taste-tested each of the jars. (She’d repay 46 . She opened the jars and placed them on the fountain rim. I’ll get you more.” said the dragon. hinting that somewhere deep inside a fire might still glow. fed her turkeys. “But.12 Breakfast Drags On The dragon had obviously not come to Mith thinking it was a fast-food restaurant specializing in people-burgers. (alas there wasn’t time to take them to the Lentil Yard) and approached the dragon carrying the free sample jars of beauty cream Madeline had given her. But he moved slowly. “How very nice. “If you tell me which of these you like. The dragon was wide awake now.” Krissy said. So what had he come for? Krissy thought she’d better find out. She changed out of her nightdress. “A little more of that would be especially nice. his scales rattled and his eyelids creaked.” he chuckled. and taking a drink from the fountain in the market square.” he dipped his tongue again into the Calendula Knee-Cap Cream.
” He rested his chin on the fountain rim and waited while Krissy returned home. then it wasn’t for him to say otherwise. “if you don’t mind waiting while I poach myself an egg. Funny looking egg. then between her back teeth. But if that’s what people chose to call an ‘egg’. Krissy hadn’t had her first breakfast yet. But in the turkeys’ nests there was not a single egg to be found.” she said. Madeline used eggs in vast quantities for egg-yolking her hair.” “I like waiting. then sucked the little shards of orange rind in the marmalade. “Yes. Knowing the dragon would take a long time to eat breakfast. She just made herself a piece of toast with marmalade.Madeline later in turkey eggs. She crunched the crusts between her front teeth. “It’s one of my favorite pastimes. brown and flat and smothered in jam. he thought.” said the dragon. And found 47 . He took a sip of the Calendula Knee-Cap Cream and gave himself up entirely to the enjoyment of it. Krissy didn’t bother worrying why.) “Would you care to join me?” the dragon asked. settling down to a second breakfast. Krissy also ate her ‘egg’ very slowly. The dragon looked at it oddly when she brought it back on a plate. and for some reason the Number One bird seemed thoroughly pleased about it.
“but if you were able to tell me why you've come to town. Toast eaten in this slow. like the ‘sun’ in the marmalade and the ‘wind’ in the wheat of the bread. tasting every flavor. She didn’t miss her egg at all. they began by introducing themselves.” Krissy said. She began tasting ‘tastes’ she’d never noticed before..” “It’s not my intention to pry. it wouldn’t have worried him. And even if she had been. Krissy realized you’d have to be fifteen feet long to pronounce it.” she said. Sir. ‘People carry on about the art of cooking.. concentrated way was a banquet – better than a banquet.herself likewise muttering. “What a nice name. “Do you mind if I call you ‘sir’?” “Sir?” the dragon said. 48 .’ When breakfast was finished and it was time for talking. “Mm! Mm!” This really was a lovely way to eat breakfast. ‘when the real art of food is the eating of it. “My name is Krissy.’ Krissy thought. “And I am . So she didn’t try.” The dragon didn’t think she was prying at all. I may be able to help you. crunching every!crumb. So light on the tongue and quick to say. She asked.” The dragon’s name was very long and came out in a flow of syllables that made such a deep rumbling and heartfelt sound.
and the fountain give a little spurt.” he said. I'm sorry to have to tell you this. “but there aren’t any dragon slayers in Mith. Of course. making the ground shake beneath him. He was waiting for her to ask. “Not to get yourself slain?” said Krissy. 49 . I could be mistaken. He told her what.” Krissy said. see.” ‘Oh dear!’ Krissy thought.” “Well.” he said at length.” said the dragon and a long silence followed. The dragon’s scales crackled and the ribs of his wings rattled like sticks. but it was a novel idea. and no one’s stopping me.“I've come to see the dragon slayer. the grass in the market square shiver. Except she arrived in the same instant that Jacob Jacobson leapt onto a rock and announced: “Now hear this. Eventually she did.” he chuckled. A puff of smoke even escaped his left nostril – the out-of-order one. “I've just come to give him something. “Come to get slain! Dear me. and Krissy returned to the hills intending to tell the villagers. I'm killing that dragon. no. “I'm sure this was the town.” “Really?” asked the dragon.” He didn’t think he was. “No. “May I ask what you wanted to give this dragon slayer?” “Of course you may.
50 . with his saw-blade on his shoulder and long teeth bared. looked as unstoppable as a train. But for the dragon’s sake someone had to try.Jacob Jacobson.
Jacob just grunted. still on his rock. purposely keeping him at the cart. “And when I kill him. otherwise none of it would sink deeper than the wax in his ears. “There’s something on one of his toenails that might interest you. She’d been doing a lot of whispering that morning. waiting. just stumps. lent down to Charlotta Chitterling so she could whisper more things in his ear. Moves like a!brick.” Charlotta hadn’t missed a single detail about him. So old he can barely keep his nostrils open to snore. a dirty great foot!” Jacob growled and 51 . He’d been sharpening his saw-blade all morning and was hungry. He wanted to eat. “Yeah. “And slow.” Jacob added. “everything about him belongs to me. and had to tell it slowly. “And that’s not the only thing I know about this dragon.” Charlotta served the people around Jacob. a bit at a time. She had a lot to tell him.” That morning. When he sleeps. you could drive a bullock cart over him and he wouldn’t wake. when Charlotta had first come back to the Dell.13 Sausages and Whispers Jacob Jacobson.” she said. Jacob had lined up at her cart and she’d told him: “That dragon’s pretty old.” she winked. And he’s vegetarian – got no teeth.
” “Wait!” The glint in Jacob’s eyes went out and his pupils became small and spidery again. “Gold?” he said.” and watched as a spark slowly appeared in Jacob’s dull eyes. “a band of gold.” she said.” Charlotta said. “You got it. “No. “How’d you get close enough to see fancy little stones and read inscriptions on crowns on!dragons’ toenails?” 52 . Charlotta handed him a sausage. His jaw dropped and his shining eyes bulged.” she said.. Jacob’s eyes suddenly flashed. “It’s a crown. “with points on top and gemstones round the bottom. “It’s a very tight fit on the dragon’s toenail. Suddenly he was seeing it.” But Jacob didn’t take the snag. “but for a man it’d fit quite snugly on top of his head. “There’s an inscription on it that says .” he breathed. “A band of gold.” Again she paused to let his brain piece the picture together.. Still Charlotta refused to serve him. He knew what a crown meant – power! More power than even a saw-blade could give him.” The hairs in Jacob’s beard curled into little piggy’s tails.banged the cart.” Charlotta beckoned him closer with a fleshy finger. “And one thing more about this crown.
Who else could deal with the dragon for her? Jacob Jacobson was a rare creature of ox strength and earth-worm stupidity.(Being a liar himself. With most people that’s all he had to do to frighten them.) Normally Charlotta would have stormed off in anger. “WHOSOEVER WEARS THIS CROWN SHALL BE THE RULER OF ALL THE LAND.” she whispered softly into his dirt-ringed ear hole. But she held him easily in her big padded arms. There was no one to replace him... If Charlotta hadn’t caught him he would have crumpled to the ground. Jacob Jacobson went weak at the knees. Then rounding her mouth. Charlotta was not most people. Held him until he’d recovered and could stand on his own again. “Tyrant of every53 .” The strangest thing happened. checking out other people’s pig pens and turkey coops. “Ruler of all!” he murmured. She served her remaining customers.” he sighed. But the moment was too delicate. Jacob expected everyone else was one too. spoke slowly giving the words their full potency – the words that would win him to her cause.” “Ah. She put her pride aside and told him coldly. “I saw it through my spyglass. “The inscription says . She had too much to lose. He’d seen her with her spyglass. “So what’s this inscription say?” He clenched his fist on the side of her cart.
Which was when Krissy arrived..” “Oh. 54 . He bounded onto the nearest rock: “Now hear this …” he declared. “That dragon’s old and sleepy.. just in time to hear his threat: “I'm killing that dragon. “I'm in charge and what I say goes!” He wasn’t in charge. not yet.” she told him. “A man like you’d have no trouble .” Jacob didn’t need to hear any more. We don’t have to kill him.thing!” Charlotta had her champion. yes there is!” Jacob growled. so why wait? Ruler of all! Tyrant of everything! It had been his life-long dream. There isn’t any need. But he figured he soon would be. And he didn’t need any more holding up either. see?” She leapt quickly onto a rock of her own and called out. And how easy it had been. “The dragon hasn’t come to hurt anyone. Three-quarters dead already.
” “I need to get home and water my petunias. hitching up her nightdress and climbing onto her rock. Suddenly rock-standing became very popular. that’s what I’d like to know?” asked a lady.. “Hear! Hear!” others agreed. The trousers Krissy had brought him had disappeared. Grandparents were given a leg up. “But killing the dragon’s a pretty good way of getting rid of him. to make his own announcement: “I d. who just that moment was climbing onto a rock of his own..” And lots of other statements that had nothing whatsoever to do with the problem. And because they felt so much taller and more important. “How’s he going to kill it.” he said.don’t think we should rush into this d. 55 . “It’s a very serious matter.14 Rock-Tottering in the Dell Krissy looked around for Mayor Pennyworth. Soon almost everyone was tottering on rock-tops.” He was still dressed in his night-shirt like everyone else. too. Small children were lifted onto small stones. “Who told this dragon he could come?” “Something’s got to be done about him. they all found lots more to say.” several townspeople cried.dragon killing business.
“I’ve spoken to the dragon!” Krissy called from her rock-top. People around her started whispering: 56 . I’m killing him and how I do it is my business!” Mo the Baker and Uncle Clem might have been the only people left with two feet on the ground. “Did you hear that? Straight from the dragon’s mouth.Through it all.” she went on. He’s not going to harm us.” She wished he would let her go on! “He’s come for one reason only…” she said. “One reason only!” Mayor Pennyworth interrupted yet again.” He motioned to her to speak again. tell us more. “He’s quite harmless. Jacob Jacobson barked: “He’s my dragon.. Miss Krissy. “In fact he said .” “Harmless.” Mayor Pennyworth cried. Go on. “To see the dragon slayer!” she said and suddenly Mayor Pennyworth fell off his rock. Miss Krissy. except both were down in the dirt on their knees. “She’s spoken to the dragon and is here to tell the tale.. They’d found twelve round stones each and were busy playing tiddlywinks. “and he assures me he hasn’t come to harm anyone!” Mayor Pennyworth took her side immediately.
“Noooo!” Madeline tottered giddily on a rock-top of her own. Her face was smothered in green and pink swirls of Rockmelon Beauty Blend. he’s going to kill the grass if he lies on it very much longer.” Mayor Pennyworth said. “The dragon tried to ravish me! Devour me!” She went into all the details about the claw over her tummy and the vicious raspberry tongue. Firstly. He tottered on a brand new stone.” 57 . with Charlotta still whispering hotly below him. making her look as if she’d had a head-on with an ice-cream truck. at Jacob Jacobson’s side. Jacob Jacobson would interject with: “Death to the dragon!” Krissy could see the crowd being swayed back to Jacob’s point of view. She searched for Mayor Pennyworth and saw him pop up in the last place she’d expected him to be. being held in place by Charlotta Chitterling. “On the other hand. And every time she paused for breath. Madeline McBride’ll tell you what he’s like. “there’s civic reasons for removing this dragon from our town. Madeline. did the dragon speak to you?” he called. “She’s made it all up.“Dragon slayer?” “What dragon slayer?” “I don’t know any dragon slayer!” “Do you know any dragon slayers?” “Lies! All lies!” Jacob Jacobson bellowed.
“are we going to let this dragon ruffian crumple our lawn?” “Nooooo!” the crowd responded.” Mayor Pennyworth added.“Too true!” A lot of citizens agreed with that. urging him on. the sanitation department won’t be able to cope. “We’ve only got that one small cart. decisive. asking his opinion. This was the kind of Mayor he’d always wanted to be – bold. “And so. But Charlotta’s strong hand on the seat of 58 . People were listening to him.” “And this dragon is an unregistered pet. “And if he starts making messes. and strong. The sweetness of the moment almost made him wilt. “Nooooo!” the townspeople responded without waiting for one. Shingles. “So. rallying to his side.” “That’s right!” the sanitary carters shouted out.” he continued. “roaming the streets without a collar or tag!” He spoke with such force and passion some of the townspeople actually cheered him. what’s your advice?” It was a very stirring moment for Mayor Pennyworth. “And do his business all over our tidy town?” “Nooooo!” “Or let him …” Mayor Pennyworth grappled to think of a third statement.
Mayor Pennyworth was carried from his rock and laid in the shade of a tree stump.” he said. Jacob screwed up his eyes. “You must want something.his night-shirt kept him upright. “This crown’s all mine.” Jacob Jacobson just grunted. “Congratulations.” he said to Jacob. and they all got the idea. have a sausage before you go.” “Hip! Hip! Horaaay!” Everyone applauded.” He wasn’t 59 . “Do with the dragon as you see fit. “Unfortunately.” said Charlotta. I won’t be able to help you. Jacob patted his saw blade and grinned.” “Don’t want no sausage either. “I propose. Everyone wants something. “Don’t want no help.” Jacob growled. “It’ll give you strength. “that Jacob Jacobson be elected Dragon Demolisher of Mith. The excitement of real leadership had drained him.” he called. see? No one helps me get it. “Here. No one shares it. Mr Jacobson!” Mayor Pennyworth shook him by the hand.” “I wouldn’t want it anyway.” Charlotta said. “How are you going to kill it?” the townspeople asked.
” she said. “Deal!” he said. “Just the twenty tons of meat left over from when you’ve finish the job. “You take the crown.” Jacob slapped his grimy paw into Charlotta’s fleshy one and they shook. 60 .as stupid as he looked. I take the carcass. and she watched him set off to do the deed.
” “What dragon slayer?” Krissy asked.” Mo cried.” she said. I thought you meant the dragon slayer. She didn’t usually tell fibs. Krissy leapt right into the middle of Uncle Clem’s game of tiddlywinks. His ace leap-frogging shot glanced off her big toe. “Sorry. “I win!” He scooped up all the pebbles from the ring.” said Krissy. waiting to see how long it would 61 . “Warn who?” asked Mo. “I've got to go and warn him at once. “The one over there. He and Clem had been mentioning the dragon slayer all morning.” said Mo. and Mo grabbed it. Uncle Clem mumbled. “Rats!” cried Uncle Clem. “Fifteen points to me. of course. She wasn’t sorry at all about the pebbles and the loss of the game. “And I win again!” he cheered. which was an odd thing for her to say. “Oh. usually upset the people around them. “She wouldn’t think of that.15 Door-Knocking in the Dell People who are upset.” said Krissy. pointing to the last house on the hermit’s row. “The dragon. rolled outside the circle. In this case.” said Mo. but she was very sorry for the dragon.
” said Mo.” he grumbled. We all played tiddlywinks together. before .” Krissy didn’t waste time listening to their argument.take for someone to ask the question: “What dragon slayer?” and “Where?” and “Which house?” They’d laid a bet on it. “How do you know there’s a dragon slayer over there?” Krissy asked. 62 . “Easy. “But I didn’t go blabbering on about it.” “You blabbed about it to me!” “But you already knew!” “You're just grumpy ’cos you lost at tiddlywinks. As the sound of knocking echoed into the room on the other side.. Door-knocking in the Dell was forbidden.” “Big mouth. Visitors were not allowed. least of all the old hermit who lived there. and now Clem had lost again. “You mentioned it before I did. None of the things in this house were used to being disturbed.” Uncle Clem glared at him.. She marched across the Dell and knocked on the door Mo had pointed to. you gave her too many clues. “Not fair. And a friend of old Pennyworth’s. an odd-shaped pot of parsnip stew burped and bubbled nervously on the stove.” said Mo. “He used to be a friend of ours.
and flipped its pages looking for the section on READING IN THE DARK. “I need to speak with you. “the place is empty. Its headings read: DAY VISITORS – NIGHT VISITORS – BACK DOOR – FRONT DOOR – WANTED – UNWANTED – EXPECTED – SURPRISE – RELATED 63 . He took one from his table.” he answered.” He poked his head out. lit it and crawled back under the bed. “They didn’t think of that when they wrote this book.“Anybody home?” Krissy called. and his Handbook. “Now. It’s very urgent. Except it was dark under the bed.” The old hermit had obeyed the first and most important rule of hermitting. At the first sound of knocking he’d grabbed his Hermit’s Society Handbook and dived under the bed with it. The section on visitors was the largest in the book.?” He thumbed the index. “How am I supposed to read in this gloom?” he grumbled. looking for the section on VISITORS. visitors … visitors . The advice was: LIGHT A CANDLE.. “That’s better!” he said. He was now flicking through its pages. go away!” She knocked again. so it could tell him what to do next. The little candle-flame flickered brightly. “No.
(It was getting warm under the bed. (What else did hermits have to worry about but visitors banging on their doors?) He wiped the back of his neck with his beard. he'd already done that. 64 . DRAG BED OUT FRONT OR BACK DOOR AND THROW BUCKET OF WATER OVER IT. but stopped suddenly. He looked up the advice and it said: DO NOT SPEAK TO THEM. Flip! Flip! Flip! “Burning beds! Burning beds!” he muttered. VISITORS – FRONT DOOR. Advice: SNEAK OUT THE BACK DOOR.ON THE MOTHER’S SIDE – RELATED ON THE FATHER’S SIDE – INFANT – AGED – SELLING RAFFLE TICKETS. Half the!book was devoted to visitors. What did the Handbook say about burning beds? The mattress above the candle-flame was glowing and smoke coiled thickly up from it. He found: BURNING BEDS and the advice read: REMOVE SELF FROM BED.) VISITORS – DAY. Advice: PRETEND YOU'RE NOT AT HOME. He’d muffed that one too. The hermit scrambled out from under the bed. Flip! Flip! Flip! He turned the pages of the Handbook hurriedly. He mopped the sweat from his forehead and looked up VISITORS – UNWANTED. He went to crawl out from under his bed. Too late. At last some advice he could follow.
exactly as the book had advised. who’d come to the rear of the house to try her luck there.” she said.gripped it by its hind legs and galloped with it out the back!door. You don’t know what you’re talking about. He hugged his Handbook and scowled.” Krissy said. “I'm glad to have made your acquaintance at last. She dipped the bucket into the water barrel and sloshed the water over the bed. Did hermits shake hands? He didn’t think so. “and there’s a dragon in our town who’s come especially to see you. He was a short fellow with a long beard that reached almost to the top of his gapping boots. and a bucket. smoke continued to pour from the bed that now stood in the carrot patch. There was a water barrel just outside. 65 . Meanwhile. “What d’you want?” “My name is Krissy. The mattress sizzled and steam drifted over the carrots like little personal clouds.” “But you're a dragon slayer. offering the hermit her hand. “Why would a dragon come to see me? I don’t know any dragons.” “Me!” the old fellow started. He looked at her hand with suspicion. took one look at the situation and acted smartly.” she said. Krissy. He filled the bucket to the brim and threw the!water full force over the back door.
they all had their ears to their keyholes or their eyes to their shutters. allowing private secrets to be discussed publicly. so long as the majority agreed the secrets were interesting. yes he is!” Though none of the other hermits could be seen. “Mind your own business! It’s in the rule book!” The Chairperson’s voice rang beautifully clear down the row of houses: “If you care to consult the Handbook at page one hundred and fifty-nine. He banged the door shut and flipped through his Handbook rapidly looking for page one hundred and fifty-nine. “Bah!” He threw his Handbook on the floor.” she said. But a loud chorus of voices from all the other houses called unanimously. “Oh. who can you trust?” 66 .“Of course I’m not!” he bellowed. “If you can’t trust a handbook. “you’ll find hermits are allowed to join in conversations regarding other people’s affairs. Sure enough. The old fellow ran to the edge of his garden and yelled. The old hermit seized Krissy by the arm and pulled her into his house. So long as these affairs are to the common good and interest. the amendment to the MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS CLAUSE of 1302.” “And we're certainly interested!” the rest of the voices called. there it was.
” she said. not at all surprised to hear it wasn’t written in any book. “I thought of it myself.” “Hmmph!” the old fellow huffed. “I didn’t read it.“Usually just yourself.” Krissy said. 67 . It sounded like pretty silly advice to him. “Where’d you read that?” he asked.
I'm seventyfour. I'm too old. he was eighty-three. His helmet was sitting on the stove full of parsnip stew.” “This one does. “If you've come to have me fight your dragon for you. And besides that.” said Krissy. began sliding toward the edge of the plate. “You want me to fight Jacob Jacobson? Are you out of your mind?” A large blob of parsnip stew. thick and white.” the old hermit growled. His sword was doubling as a can opener in the cupboard. “I want you to save him. His slayer’s suit was packed away in a pillowcase.” said Krissy.” “Uh?” The old fellow stared. “forget it.” Krissy said. “If you come quickly and 68 .” It was all lies. “The dragon has come to Mith to give you something. “Jacob Jacobson’s going to kill him. “But I don’t want you to fight him.” Krissy said.16 Hermit’s Stew “About the dragon. “Dragons don’t need saving. gave my sword away.” “Jacob Jacobson!” The old hermit grabbed a dinner plate off the table and held it up in front of his face. Sold my helmet. I gave up slaying seventeen years ago. And he wasn’t seventy-four. The moths have eaten my slayer’s suit.
All he was interested in was shielding himself from his visitor and her dragon talk.” Krissy said. “You don’t know what it is.” “The old crown-with-the-inscription trick!” said the hermit.” she said. “Makes no difference. it’s of no interest to me. hair to hair. “You spoke to him!” “Yes.” The parsnip stew reached the edge of the plate and rolled off into his beard. Whatever it is. “I'm not falling for that.collect it. weaving from side to side. “Face to face?” “Yes. He didn’t notice it.” The hermit peeked over the plate.” said Krissy. “and there’s an inscription on it that says: WHOSOEVER WEARS THIS CROWN SHALL BE THE RULER OF ALL THE LAND.” said Krissy. “It’s a crown. “I'm sure it’s no trick. “He’s a very genuine dragon.” said Krissy. he can go. That was the way most people spoke … except 69 . It’s a very nice crown. The dragon says he’s brought it specially for you.” “Don’t want it!” the old fellow said.” The parsnip stew began to roll slowly down his beard.
” The hermit leaned forward. “What’d he say?” “He told me his name.” she said.” said Krissy “And? What was it?” “I’m sorry. they make me sneeze. “I'm a hermit.” “No way!” The hermit hid his face again.” Krissy said.for hermits hiding behind plates. “But I'm sure when he sees you.” the hermit said. Krissy was desperate.” he gruffed. Just then the travelling stew reached the end of his beard and swung like a pendulum back and forth. “Is it a rude word? Whisper it to me. “It’s rude to refuse a gift. he’ll introduce himself. “Don’t you want the crown? It’s real gold and it sparkles. they make me squint. “It’s a very long name. You could stand a pot plant in it.” she said.” “Hate pot plants. I can’t repeat it. “You don’t have to wear it. I can’t remember all of it. 70 . I'm supposed to be rude!” The parsnip stew finally let go his beard and slopped into his boots.” “I hate things that sparkle.
” The dragon was in danger. “What was the message? What did the dragon say?” The old hermit. The hermit scowled and turned his back on her and kept flipping the pages.” “You read that in a book!” the old fellow said. too. “No. She had to get back to town as quickly as possible. He flipped through 71 . What’s a fellow supposed to do?” He snatched his Handbook from the floor.” he ordered. Krissy could see he wasn’t going to come with her. She let herself out the back door. came running after her. “I never discuss other people’s affairs. boots in hand.“Damn and blast!” he said. all the other hermits in all the other houses called out behind their shutters. And the old hermit darted away as quickly himself.” said Krissy. “I thought you’d lost faith in that book?” Krissy said.” said Krissy. Even a book you’d lost faith in was better than none. it’s another. “If it’s not one thing. I have to go. Now excuse me. “I wasn’t going to. “My messages are my messages and no one else’s! Don’t tell them. and as she stepped into the garden. “I thought of that myself. “Lunch in boots! Lunch in boots!” He thumbed its pages looking for advice on lunch in boots.
this time looking for a section on THINKING FOR YOURSELF. he filled another bucket of water and – just as the handbook said – took aim and sloshed it full force over his back door.his Handbook. They’d all come up with different ideas and what would happen then? It wouldn’t work. You couldn’t have everyone thinking for themselves. And because he noticed his bed was still smouldering out in the carrot patch. 72 . There wasn’t one to be found and he wasn’t surprised.
” she said and wheeled her sausage cart away. but a clumsy fellow who thought the hairs on his muscles and the smell of his armpits made him stronger than anyone else.17 Jacob’s Plan While Krissy had been trying to reason with the hermit. She wouldn’t ask again. Jacob waited till she was out of sight. Parked just within the gate was a cart loaded with hammers and ropes.” Charlotta said. “Don’t need any help. She didn’t trust him either. with a high wooden fence and towers at each corner. that’s why she’d asked. Charlotta Chitterling and Jacob Jacobson had returned to town and were already standing outside the gate of his lumber yard. It was like a cowboy fort. He didn’t trust her. iron stakes. “I'm happy to help you. Not a fearsome brute who could rip out veranda posts at a single grunt. Charlotta had often spied on Jacob Jacobson while he was out timber-gathering in the middle of the night.” Jacob told her gruffly. always ready so that at any time of the 73 . Through her spyglass she’d seen him for what he really was. chocks and pulleys. then unlocked the five locks on his lumber yard gate and slipped inside. “Suit yourself.
it was sturdy and strong. When all was ready. Still the dragon didn’t stir. forcing them to pull the lurching structure into the square. That was enough for Jacob. rather like a catamaran. The two old oxen pulled on their harnesses and groaned as Jacob flicked their tails with a whip. And very heavy. It was Jacob Jacobson who had whittled the forests away over many long and dark midnights. and continued to do so for about two hours. The huge beast lay curled like a cat.night or day he could dash off and lop a few limbs from peoples’ trees or reef out their veranda railings while they were away visiting. he trudged back to his lumber yard and harnessed his miserable-eyed oxen to a tall. wooden structure he called his Tower. it slept on. banging and heaving ropes around.) With his usual bull energy he now pushed the cart into the middle of town and set to work on his preparations for ‘felling’ the dragon. peaceful as a brick. (The hills around Mith had once been wooded and lush. Just as Charlotta had said. Made from splintery ironwood. “Boo!” Jacob shouted at it. Though he had many other failings. It was an ugly contraption with two upright arms resting on a divided base. leaving a landscape of tree stumps and stones. Jacob was not a lazy man. With the tower positioned exactly where he 74 . He started hammering.
In the quiet of the afternoon Jacob Jacobson stood alone. he paused a moment to look out over the town. At the top was a huge machine made of naked cogs and exposed iron wheels. High above. he would be. bared his teeth and whispered. 75 . all gritty and black with grease. “When I am king.. Then when all was ready. Charlotta was in her cellar. with its humble little rooftops and smokeless chimneys. Jacob climbed onto the platform base from which the tower rose. With this gigantic sawing device he could slice whatever he liked in two. He pushed his grimy hair back from his forehead. if he wanted. from the underside of this machine hung a sling into which Jacob had placed his beloved saw-blade. Adjusted the levers. A house.. in a matter of moments.” which. He set the gears.wanted it. Tested the pulleys. And sometimes did. No one moved in the streets.
His eyelids fluttered and his left nostril quivered only the tiniest bit. his head craned forward. it dropped a fraction further. The dragon himself was totally unaware of it. Their ends were fastened to trees and houses. sailing over the dragon’s head. alone. If he heard her. The top of his head. With a grunt he pulled a lever toward him and the great. suspended saw-blade began to swing. “Mr Jacobson!” Krissy rapped on the base of the tower with her knuckles. 76 . and to grim iron stakes driven deep into the ground. and over it stood Jacob Jacobson’s gigantic tower. missing it by about a foot. to hover a moment before plunging downward again. he didn’t let on. “Mr Jacobson!” She saw him on the platform above. It whistled downward through the air. was bare of ropes. He was tied down with hundreds and hundreds of ropes. in its sling.18 Much at Stake Krissy arrived back in town to find the dragon a prisoner in the market square. Krissy heard a CLICK! And saw the saw-blade drop. The saw-blade. The gears of the machine turned and the cogs jumped. hung directly above the sleeping dragon’s brows. his shoulders hunched. He was sound asleep. With every swing it made. while directly below it the dragon slept on. They crisscrossed him like a huge string bag. Then upward it soared on the other side.
which is a pretty startling thing for an oxen to do. another CLICK! Krissy dashed away across the square. The saw-blade continued to swing. bringing the long wooden paddle with her. “but . was within inches of the dragon’s head. “That’s it – move! Pick up your feet. clicking lower and lower each time. One sad-eyed beast actually took a lurching step forward. The hideous saw-blade. “Hurry!” Krissy told the oxen.Meanwhile Jacob’s hairy muscles twitched inside his shirt-sleeves and he gazed at his saw-blade. They pride themselves on being calm and self-controlled.” Whack! Whack! Whack! She began to beat their dusty old hides. And on the next swing downward. into the bakery and out again.” she said to the oxen who’d hauled the hideous tower into place. “I’m sorry to have to do this. “Get a move on!” she told them. with its sharpened teeth. 77 . crooning to himself: “Clean in half! Right between the eyes!” And softer still: “When I am king …” CLICK! The saw-blade dropped again..” Krissy cried. The oxen stretched their necks and strained at their harnesses.. “Mush!” The oxen pricked their ears and twitched their tails. “I mean your hooves!” She kept paddling their rears.
Missy!” Jacob called over the railing. but they were ‘happy-dreaming’ mutters and not ‘waking-up’ ones. wings folded. and he expected it to be a pretty messy affair. Jacob Jacobson leaned over the rail. She was running out of time. the dragon slept on.They groaned. She leapt onto his clawed foot 78 . But the saw-blade swung faster and lower. All the while the saw-blade continued to swing. “Come to save your little dragon. trying to fray them from their iron stakes. It was the brake locking the wheels of the tower firmly in place. She started banging at the ropes with the head of the hammer. hoping to release the dragon that way. Their hooves bit into the lawn. Any second now the blade would make contact. Their harnesses creaked. Small mutters escaped him now and then. “Stand back. “Your dragon’s about to wake up with more than a bee in his ear!” He gripped the rail of the Tower. Krissy dropped the hammer and took a running jump at the dragon. Krissy threw the bakery paddle away and grabbed one of the many hammers from Jacob Jacobson’s nearby cart. toes curled beneath him and one nostril faintly whistling. They were hurrying as fast as they could. Missy?” He pointed one finger to a long metal handle. But the tower stood fixed to the spot.
hook one foot in his ear and lean inside. “Wake up!” The saw-blade clicked and dropped lower. ready to take their first hideous bite. but by pulling herself hand-over-hand up the ropes that pinned him down. It was dark in there and smelt like old jam sandwiches. she was able reach his shoulder. She took a deep breath and yelled at the top of her lungs.and scrambled up his arm. 79 . and the razored points of the terrible teeth reached for the dragon. His scales were slippery.
he’d end up sawn in two.19 An Itch in Time “Hmmmmmmmmmm?” came a long. Jacob wasn’t beaten yet. The oncoming saw-blade sailed over the top of his eyebrows missing them by a whisker’s shave. Jacob grinned as the next CLICK echoed across the deserted square.. Miss Busy-body!” Jacob yelled over the rails. it would keep on dropping. sleepy drone from the dragon. “Just you wait. anchored to their iron stakes and tree trunks and veranda posts. Still perched on the rim of the dragon’s ear. He was waking up at last! Krissy yelled louder into his ear. His piggy eyes watched as his beloved saw-blade tottered to its high point. “Keep your head down! Down as far 80 . rippling his shoulders and stretching his neck. “When I am king . ready to plunge downward again. “Wake up! But keep your head down!” “Uhhhhhhh?” the dragon replied. One of the ropes holding the dragon’s jaw snapped with a twang. Krissy yelled. So what if the saw teeth got him in the back of the neck instead of the skull? Either way. and the dragon hadn’t moved that far out of its reach. but he was sure it would be nasty. While ever it kept moving. and he could see it..!” He wasn’t sure what he’d do. But all the others held firm.
and the big ear-cavity echoed her words straight back at her. raising one shoulder.” he said. leaving a long scratch across his scales. They skated over the back of the dragon’s neck. The saw-blade “Oh. Missy!” Jacob chuckled. making a sound like a cheese-grater meeting fingernails. His big golden eyes rolled upward. The dragon’s shoulder met the oncoming sawblade. He watched it sail to the high point. “Ummm?” he uttered.” he said. following the passage of the blade as it arced overhead. that’s the spot. and begin its downward journey again.” He held his shoulder in the same position to let the saw-blade swing across it another few times.as you can!” The dragon’s old eyes blinked. “He’s done for this time. “No!” Krissy shouted. His whole rasped. And in response the dragon leaned to one side. rear-end quivered. Its sharpened teeth rasped across his scales. The blade was returning. He closed his eyes and let the saw-teeth run back and forth 81 . And just as predicted. I've had an itch in that spot for three hundred years. “And now a little to the right. yes. hover an instant. the teeth made contact. “Oh.
“Are you the inventor of this marvellous machine? What a clever man. “And I've had an itch in that spot for several centuries. The ones holding his forearm frayed a little as he rolled pleasurably from side to side. This was the most exquisite back-scratch he’d had in centuries.across his shoulder on the other side. listing back and forth. The great mass of ropes fell slack around him as he relaxed inside their span. and haven’t found anything to ease it yet!” There was a loud metallic twang as one of the saw-teeth snapped off and whistled off into the afternoon. And Jacob on his platform cried out. “Oh. directing the sawteeth across another itch. But as it rose. Dropped his ropes. hello!” the dragon said. Twang! Another tooth snapped from the sawblade and went whistling off. winching his blade back upward. “My precious saw!” He began throwing levers and pulling on ropes. Krissy found herself growing seasick. and carefully lowered herself rope by rope to the ground. staggered backwards from the giant eyeball and 82 .” Jacob dropped his jaw. spotting Jacob Jacobson for the first time. the dragon rose with it. “Ahhhhhh!” the dragon sighed.
” said the dragon. what bliss. swam round and round blowing whalespurts and created so many tidal waves. Finally he tumbled out over the side and scuttled crab-like across the market square. “Hmm. He took people as he found them. he emptied the bowl and was left slithering about on the bottom in the slime. Clank! Clink! Clonk! – came the sound of him locking himself inside his lumber-yard. 83 .” And for the next half hour gave himself up to the joy of scratching every itch he’d ever had. He hit the ground and ran. In a panic he fell into the fountain. and when he didn’t find them. gazing along the empty platform.tumbled over the platform’s farthest side. “Mmmm!” and “Ah. He returned his attention to the scratching sawblade and went on uttering. he took them that way too.
He slid his nose in under its branches and with the tips of his claws began unpicking the knot Jacob Jacobson had tied about its middle. it was just that knot-untying was one of those things one had to concentrate on. loosened it a little. You're in danger while ever you stay.20 Knot-Knowing The dragon continued to enjoy the scratching until he noticed a fig tree in the market square leaning over as if to talk to him. He realized all his wriggling around was pulling out trees. She stood close to his nostril. “Yes?” he said. ducking beneath the branches to talk to him.” Krissy said. “Oh dear!” the dragon said.” “Oh?” the dragon said. The tree groaned and one of its roots came popping out of the ground. and poles and fence posts all over the square. “You really should think about leaving Mith. He tugged at the loop on one side of the knot. It wasn’t that he wasn’t listening. “Charlotta Chitterling and Jacob Jacobson will certainly try to harm you again. Immediately he went to the rescue of the tree. then rolled his head 84 . It was the tree to which his right arm was tied.
” Krissy “They’ll do anything to get what they want. Using his claws as rakes he eased the soil from the base of the tree. A particularly large soot-flake stuck to her forehead.” said. Then he set about replanting the fig tree’s roots. a frail young willow. The dragon rolled his head back to the other side and gave the rope another jiggle.” he said and puffed small breaths of air at her to blow the soot from her shoulders and hair. “That’s for your supper. then a little tug. He sprinkled a little leaf mould over them.” then almost grain by grain he returned the soil to the hole and firmed it down. Any earthworm in the vicinity would have been as safe as an armadillo. saying. and began unpicking the knot tied around it.” he said and picked it off with the tips of his claws. nudged its trunk upright again and pressed the roots back into the ground. “And here it comes!” he chuckled as the knot of rope fell undone on the ground. The dragon drew his nose out from under the fig and slid it along to the next tree.to the other side. “Hold still. He gave the rope over there three loosening pulls. 85 . He was so delighted he gave a snorting laugh. The loops of the knot parted slightly. which blew soot over Krissy standing in the way. “They're very ruthless people. “I am sorry.
in much the same way he’d studied the cherries and angelica on the ham. “Mm. He pulled his nose!out from under the willow and looked around for the next tree to untie. He raised the tree gently and studied the knot.” he said. then it sneaks under here. “He’s living in the hills with the hermits. “Where to start?” In the air he traced the pattern of the knot with the tip of one claw. and taking the other end in his claws jiggled both ends back and forth. “And here they come.” he said.” he said. “Or I could do this.” Delicately the dragon took one end of the rope between his teeth. then through here. “I found the dragon slayer for you. He chose a pretty little plum tree bent almost to the ground under the weight of rope tied round it. The many loops of the knot glided easily apart. there was sure to be others in other parts of the country. He even thought it was a trick. Perhaps there’s another dragon slayer somewhere you could give it to?” She figured that if there was a dragon slayer in Mith.” she said. I love this bit. and then a figure86 . “And I told him about your gift but he said he didn’t want it. “This one’s going to be interesting. so many lovely loops.” The dragon tugged at the ends of the knot.Krissy followed and stood beside his nostril again. “From here.
“you could try loosening it from the middle like this. “If I tug this way. they're such tricky fun. “If you could hold this end. I’ve done it again. “May I?” she asked. “Oh dear. I like them best.of-eight.” Krissy said. the dragon 87 .” “With pleasure.” “Or. “Bravo!” cried the dragon as the loops of the knot slid gracefully from one another and fell undone. and you tug that …” Krissy said.” said Krissy. “Be my guest.” said the dragon. “That’s perfectly all right. He’d blown flakes of soot all over her.” he said.” Without realizing it she’d become less concerned about Jacob and Charlotta and rather entranced with knot unknotting herself. The next knot they tackled was tied up high on a lamp post and to help Krissy reach it. They jiggled the rope gently between them. From his working nostril came another sooty puff. She ducked under his forearm and stood between his foreclaws and his snout to get at the heart of the knot.” said the dragon and took it between his teeth.
“Certainly.... So they were able to work at knot-untying for the rest of the afternoon. Then suddenly Krissy had to leave. They took one look at the dinner she poured in their trough for them and all turned their heads angrily aside. “Watch out for Jacob Jacobson and Charlotta Chitterling. . The time for eating was over! Their bronze feathers shone like plate armour as they stood in formation around their leader. and post to tree. so when she stood on his nose he could see either side of her. slowly making their way from tree to post. The Number One turkey had deliberately placed the 88 . His eyes were glued to a knot fastened around the maypole.” said the dragon.invited her to stand on the end of his snout.. “Will you be all right?” she asked.... but her turkeys had had nothing to eat all day. Once again she’d forgotten to feed her turkeys. Krissy was sorry to miss the undoing of this last lovely knot.. Fortunately his eyes were set wide apart. and being the last one left he intended to make the untying of it last a very long time..” “Hmmm?” the dragon said.
then took out a fishing line that had been neatly coiled away on its cork. she saw no point in standing around worrying about it. and secondly because Ancient History had not become ancient enough yet for anyone to have studied it.flock in a special grouping known as a FIGHTING PHALANX. Instead. She certainly sensed that something was wrong with the herd. She walked around the kitchen playing out the line. all facing outward presenting a united front. 89 . But because she had no idea what. protecting the leader in the middle. because her thoughts were still on knots and dragons. It was similar to the fighting formation used by the Ancient Roman army – shoulder to shoulder. letting it tangle and twirl itself however it liked. Then she drew up a chair in front of the fire. she went inside and made herself some dinner. pulled the mass of line into her lap and gave herself up to the pleasure of unravelling it. She wondered how it was possible to have reached the ripe age of eleven without discovering what delicious fun knot-unknotting was. Krissy didn’t notice this. Firstly.
He came in the night. no one saw him. He readied himself. That old problem. when even the turkeys weren’t scheming. he crept as far as the bakery corner and pressed his back to the wall.” All lies! His real reason for coming was so very secret he didn’t dare mutter it to himself. Counted slowly: One … Two . Just to check him out. took a quick look across the market square. muttering to himself. Tick! Tick! Tick! ‘That must be the dragon!’ he thought. Then leaned forward. and back to plague him yet again after thirty-seven years. Through the dark streets he shuffled. his helmet under his arm. With his heart pounding inside his old chest. It turned out to be his bootlaces flicking madly about his boots because his ankles shook so much. A dragon. and his slayer’s suit in a pillowcase over his shoulder. and threw himself back against the bakery wall again. out in the gloom of the market square. “Just come for a look. He had his sword in a brown paper bag. It was there all right. in the middle of the night..21 The Hermit Goes Mithing No one heard him.. Just to see if he’s one of my old foes. He recognized its shape 90 . Three.
“Ankles of steel!” (That was Lesson No. bubbling over with hope and confidence And why shouldn’t he? That dragon in the market square was the smallest he’d ever seen.immediately from DRAGON IDENTIFICATION LESSON No. 5. Possibly the smallest in the world. One dragon. crammed his helmet on his head despite the parsnip stew in it.) “Ankles of steel!” He gripped his sword as outlined in Lesson No. That was in his favor too. Clouds banked up against the moon. he couldn’t tell. and swap recipes. 25: LEFT THUMB OVER RIGHT THUMB. but that one quick glance filled him with astonishment. LITTLE FINGERS LACED BEHIND. OUTLINE Whether the beast was as old and as sleepy as everyone said. and make suggestions. Oh. and finally drew his sword from its paper bag. So much so his bootlaces stopped flickering. was all he had to slay to start living again – live a proper life like other hermits did. He could speak up at meetings. He could be a complete person and not a fake – not the only slayer in the land who’d never slain a dragon. of whatever size. and he dived into his pillowcase for his slayer’s suit. happy day! He stepped forward mumbling. Moonlight made the slayer’s suit 91 . 102: POSITIVE THINKING TO OVERCOME SPECIAL WEAKNESSES.
You didn’t lose points for that. Years of practise were about to be put to the test. only the ‘dignified’ form. “Ankles of steel!” He stepped into the open and began his approach. Virtually under its nose. he’d practised so much with his eyes closed he tended to miss with them open. so he had no choice. He’d bought the large bumper pack of cardboard cut-out dragons with Xs on their sides. The Dragon Slayer’s Lesson Book didn’t give instruction on any other kind of slaying. third rib down. Luckily he knew the spot well.verily glow. He could tell it was sleeping by the way it was curled and he didn’t mind killing it while it slept. He could do it with his eyes closed. Dragon slaying without the proper costume and mental attitude was without dignity. (Whose stupid idea had it been to make the suit white and put shiny silver buttons on it? Some idiot!) Of course. the suit had to be worn. Nor should you! The actual slaying had to be done at such close quarters. There was only one spot on a dragon where a blow could kill it – just below the armpit on the left-hand side. In fact. re-checked his mental attitude. He re-checked the grip on his sword. 92 . and practised for hours hitting the mark. The sleeping beast was ten paces away.
bumping into fence posts and gateposts. closed his eyes in concentration. so close he could have poked the great beast in the eye. YOU WILL FEEL ELATED. The blade went all the way in. He could get a proper can opener now. YOU 93 . he could smell it too – like curdled cream and axle grease. Without them he couldn’t have gotten this far. And rip up the suit and use it for dusters. it was only to be expected. And buy himself a decent pot and cook himself a decent meal. Overcome with emotion he staggered away. and so he left it there. The beast shuddered. Grateful for that ‘X’ spot. Grateful for the extra bonus length of his sword that he’d paid double for. It rocked once. And this close. the book had said. With his eyes still closed.Tick! Tick! Tick! His bootlaces started rattling. levelled his sword before him. He was thankful for all the Lessons he’d studied. A splintering gasp escaped it. He drew a breath. This close to a dragon. slumped sideways and didn’t move again. He was grateful for the lack of moonlight that kept him from seeing too much. the old fellow tugged at his sword. and rammed it home. He wouldn’t be needing it any more. He’d done it – killed a dragon – as he’d always wanted to. none of which bothered him. It was buried to the hilt in the dragon’s side. trying to free it.
He wasn’t sure what glee was.WILL FEEL FULFILLED. And after thirty-seven years of reading about it. THE GLORY OF DEFEATING THE MIGHTY BEAST WILL MAKE YOU FOREVER GLEEFUL. and waited for his promised glee to come. 94 . he sat down on a comfy seat in somebody’s garden. but it sounded pretty good.
no-reason waker. She wasn’t usually a middle-of-thenight. Krissy hurried through the streets. which was odd for her.22 One Last Snag Krissy woke in the middle of the night. They obviously hadn’t broken out in search of food. Her turkeys weren’t there. She even tried the bakery. She hurried onto Madeline McBride’s fruit garden. In fact. That’s because they weren’t there! The gate of their pen lay flat on the ground. No humming rose from the cellar. There was nothing wrong with the turkeys. Shafts of lamplight speared out through the cracks in the timber fence. There wasn’t a turkey in sight. They might have been stolen. She raced to Charlotta’s door and pressed her ear to the keyhole. not that she could see. He was more likely to have stolen the perches and left the turkeys.’ she thought. In her nightdress. 95 . ‘Perhaps something’s wrong with the turkeys. to Leonie’s Lentil Yard. So she hurried on to Jacob Jacobson’s lumber yard. there seemed to be nobody home. and with them drifted voices Krissy hadn’t heard before. slipped her toes into her slippers and hurried outside. but occasionally Charlotta Chitterling had been known to produce sausages with feathers in them. but it was worth checking. Krissy didn’t like to think bad thoughts about anyone.
Charlotta called Jacob ‘Your Majesty’ and ‘Sire’ and other pretty phrases till his old gravelliness returned and Krissy recognized his voice again. Krissy couldn’t dislike them altogether. it was Charlotta Chitterling. you can order your subjects to make you a new one. “What! Every stick of my timber?” she heard Jacob cry. and thereafter whispered low. It’ll never work again. The second voice was sweet and comforting: “There.” the first voice whined like a two-year-old’s.” Good heavens. Krissy pressed her ear to the palings. “Never! Not for a hundred crowns!” Charlotta called him ‘Your Majesty’ and ‘Sire’ a few more times. I do.” Even though these people were out to hurt the dragon. softer side to both of them. When you are King. there.” he cried. “But I still don’t know how to kill it. Especially now that she learnt there was another. “My precious saw.” Charlotta told him. “I want my saw-blade back. “That’s all right.“It’s ruined. crooning like a nursery maid: “I’ll make a special sausage for you and name it the Jacobson Snag. How would you like that?” The other voice belonged to Jacob Jacobson.” he grumbled. 96 .
shinnied up his forearm and whispered in his ear. Krissy realized she was the dragon’s only hope. Though not the sort to over-dramatize a situation. As she did. She kicked off her slippers. She gave a little whistle.“All right. Not a splinter more.” he said. that was plenty. “You’re in grave danger!” He didn’t stir. So she slid down his arm and hurried off to Mayor Pennyworth’s house. She found him lying on his side.” For what Charlotta had in mind. She didn’t want Charlotta or Jacob to hear. just two stacks of rotten fence posts. Krissy hurried away.” The smell of old jam sandwiches wafted over her. The dragon had to be warned. Alas. she couldn’t wake him. She had to be careful not to make too much noise. it “Waaahhhhhh!!!” let out a terrible scream: Krissy rolled head-over-heels and came to a halt 97 . no matter how shrilly she whistled. “but that’s all. She dashed through his front gate and leap-frogged a little garden gnome in the middle of the petunia patch. hoping his kitchen would still be open. “Wake!up! It’s very important. sleeping like a stone in the middle of the market square. Charlotta and Jacob are scheming schemes again.
” “But I only came to get my tr.” Krissy said.trousers. and he again stopped her.in the daisies.dragon!” he said.” Krissy jumped up. “M. “Wh... “You’ve come back to town!” she said. Mayor Pennyworth jumped up also..” 98 . Give him the sack.m. they band together!” “All right. “I’ll get them for you. “They're like that.” said Krissy.” said Krissy.. “But you have to tell Jacob Jacobson he’s not in charge of dragon demolishing any more.wh.who’s that?” a voice quivered..moths aren’t that big! It’s another d.. “It’s probably just moths. “Look!” Sure enough something large and fluttering moved behind them. come with me.” he stammered. “It’s your job. She recognized Mayor Pennyworth at once. but too swift to be identified.” Again she went to dart away.” Mayor Pennyworth shrank. You've got to help the dragon.d. “I can’t!” “You hired him. “I'm so glad. Quick. He couldn’t go on without them.tr. you can fire him.. “Don’t go in there! There’s something in there!” He pointed to his living room windows.. “I might have left the linen chest open.
“D.” “Dead?” said Krissy.” “You’re not going to wake him up with cherries.” Krissy said.... “I need a jar of cherries from your larder.” “It worked before.ch. Krissy smelt something familiar – parsnip stew. Clearly he wasn’t going to help her. “but was he dead before when you woke him up? I don’t reckon he was. “Maybe. I’ll get the cherries.d.“I don’t want the job anymore. “Ch. “and wake up the dragon.” she said.?” stammered Mayor Pennyworth.d. “and I haven’t got my glee for it yet. “or anything else.” the old fellow mumbled. “As dishwater...” Mayor Pennyworth tried to pull his Chain of Office over his head.” said the hermit.?” Mayor Pennyworth stammered. “Mr Hermit. It isn’t fair!” 99 .” she said.ch.” said the hermit. “Cherries?” Out of the darkness another voice asked. and go. thank goodness you've come.ch.. on the bench beneath the roses. She had to fall back on her first plan. “What for?” There was a third person in the garden.d. but it got hooked up on his ears. Then he can give you the crown. That’s all he came to do...
” the hermit growled. “Or is it second rib?” If he’d got the wrong rib.“Don’t believe him.. but mine isn’t. “Where did you kill the dragon?” Krissy asked. And he hasn’t moved since. I got him good. Miss Pennyworth said. I had to say something. “Everyone was watching.” Krissy.” said Mayor Pennyworth.dragons. the hermit could see the dragon’s rear end out beyond the gate. “Like the whole dragon-slaying business – it’s a fraud.” From where he sat. “Like I said. “Got him in his ‘X’ spot!” He made a thrust with an invisible sword. “The ‘X’ spot’s a myth. “You can’t kill d. “They’re im.” Mayor “It’s as true as I’m sitting here!” the hermit cried.mortal.” The old hermit rasped.d.. Mayor Pennyworth slumped in shame.m.” Then he paused.” “And you call me a fraud?” muttered the hermit. “it isn’t true. “Left armpit.” Mayor Pennyworth shook his head. third rib down. that might explain the 100 .” “But you told Jacob Jacobson he could kill it. Shingles.. and it hadn’t moved so much as a pimple’s width. right in his ‘X’ spot.m.” Krissy said. “Maybe your dragon slaying’s fraudy. I told him he could try...
“No!” Mayor Pennyworth shouted.failure of his glee. 101 . “Don’t go out there!” For him there were suddenly dangers and dragons everywhere. Krissy forgot the cherries. She forgot everything and dashed for the gate.
If the dragon was in real danger or had been wounded. It was hard to think clearly. what he needed above all else was a clear-thinking friend. If 102 . However she could make out the dense stack of timber Charlotta and Jacob had already piled around him. Krissy found herself sniffling. especially at times like these. The figures of Charlotta Chitterling and Jacob Jacobson moved in the darkness. barely able to be seen. Making decisions for yourself wasn’t always easy. Their wagon was all but unloaded and their plan complete. But Krissy knew where they were and what they were doing. Her mind seemed to blur with ideas flapping and flying like washing in the wind. as a rule. straining her eyes to see. which wasn’t like her. She’d overheard their plans. Krissy was having trouble staying steady and thinking logically. She was still too far from the dragon to tell if there was a sword sticking in his side. For the first time in her life. She now understood why people cherished handbooks and rule books that told them what to do. She crept from Mayor Pennyworth’s garden to the fountain. and from the fountain to the milk trolley and crouched behind it. The tiniest spark of a lantern twinkled on the far side of the market square. She was so very sensible and steady.23 Or So the Slaying Goes Clouds covered the moon.
’ And he needed more than sniffles and dithering. The dragon needs you now.” The hermit 103 . Again she scolded herself: ‘If you act as if he’s dead. She gave herself a scolding: ‘If you want to sniffle. I might have got the wrong rib. Krissy wondered what kind of distraction she could cause. And that too. she wondered? Did all the good sense and steadiness you’d once had. you had no one to blame but yourself. A hundred percent right every time. Is this what happened when you became an adult. “I know a dragon when I see one. but I got the right critter. Or if not.” he bragged. Krissy spotted the little fellow at the corner of Mo’s bakery. he will be. the other in his helmet. or didn’t know what to do. standing with Mayor Pennyworth and they looked a ridiculous pair – one in his night-shirt and Chain of Office. to draw Jacob and Charlotta away. what new thing she could do to wake the dragon … if waking him was possible. get muddled up with feelings and other complicated things? Krissy heard the old hermit whisper. do it later. “There! That’s where I killed him.’ Despite the great urgency of her thoughts.you made mistakes. waving a white-clad arm. DRAGON IDENTIFICATION was my best subject. was unlike her. nothing came to her.
dragon.. I could spot one in a fog..d. Stop Jacob. The dragon was still alive..d.” “B. She glanced down.there!” Mayor Pennyworth pointed beyond the milk trolley and high into the air where the hump of the dragon’s shoulders could be seen rising above the trees. “that’s not the d. Next minute his bootlaces were clattering: Tick! Tick! Tick! Tick! Tick! Tick! Tick! Krissy’s heart swelled.th. Krissy thought. whether he liked it or not. But not for much longer if she couldn’t think of something to do! She darted from the trolley to Mayor Pennyworth’s side. The hermit fell silent.” “Of course it’s the dragon. her thinking cleared..that’s the dragon! Th. dead as a doorstep!” The hermit waved again – more or less in Krissy’s direction. “Stop Charlotta. flinging his arm in an odd direction.” Shingles Pennyworth had to start being a real Mayor. Half an inch away from poking her in the tummy was the handle of a sword. the blade sunk deep into the trolley’s side! That’s what the hermit had slain.. You can do it.but.d... “There’s nothing you can tell me about dragons.. “Th.” Mayor Pennyworth whispered.th.b. right where I left him. The hermit stood gaping.. the wooden milk trolley.gestured wildly.. Now that the real 104 .
. Mayor Pennyworth!” Krissy cried. his white suit a streak disappearing into the night..r..r. The distant lantern suddenly flared bright.r. And until he had caught that breath.” Krissy Pennyworth. Charlotta had turned the wick all the way up and the tall flame now illuminated everything: the sleeping dragon and the timber piled high around his sides. “Stop them. like deep inside he wished they could.” told Mayor Charlotta Chitterling and Jacob Jacobson were a fearsome pair.. but that didn’t mean they should get away with villainy. and 105 .dragon had been pointed out to him.k. he was struggling to catch his breath.r... bootlaces flying. “R.!” Mayor Pennyworth tried to stammer the same thing: Run! Charlotta held the lantern high and Jacob Jacobson worked his way around the woodpile flinging gasoline over it.. that had been knocked out of him.. he couldn’t move.r..r. “But they can’t k. “I’ll come with you..” Mayor Pennyworth sighed. And plotting to harm a gentle dragon was the worse kind of villainy she knew.kill it.. “We’ll do it together.r.r. The hermit caught his breath at last and let out a shriek: “Run for your lives!” He took off.
d...d.d...” Charlotta called. “Thank goodness!” Then next moment: Whooooosh! The whole wood stack burst into flames and the dragon was ablaze from end to end. “Stand back..don’t.d. “Oh. It sailed over the dragon’s forearm and fell into the stack of wood and for an instant its shining flicker went out. “D. no?” cried Charlotta.d.. “The town will be r...f.r. She was barbequing a dragon. “Ready?” Charlotta shouted... Mayor Pennyworth gulped.d.ruined!” Mayor Pennyworth pleaded.. Charlotta swung the lantern and with one heave released it into the air..d.d. “D...!” Mayor Pennyworth stumbled on.” “You don’t know what you're d. Shingles.to her great surprise he actually started staggering forward.doing!” Mayor Pennyworth called.fire the dragon!” He staggered and lurched. “f.d. making for Charlotta and Jacob. “there’s about to be Frisbees and fireworks around here. 106 .” he called. ready to feed him into the grinders of her sausage machine... “Ready!” Jacob answered..f.
He pulled her as far as the bakery. He was awash with flame. He opened his jaws and roared. converged above his shoulders and licked his sides. hissing about his shoulders and running in jets along his tattered wings. Two immense columns of smoke curled from his nostrils. and the night around him. The grass singed. He opened his mouth. It was too late for fleeing anyway. and the whole town quaked like the earth was shuddering. caused by the sudden heat of the inferno. but could stumble no further on. including the out-of-order one. It was as if the fire had reached right inside him. The dragon writhed as the fire rippled round his belly. drawing them into the blaze.24 Miths Crisps Mayor Pennyworth reeled backwards. nor could they take their eyes off him. A great wind. sucked twigs and leaves across the square. red with cinders. his teeth flashed. The thatched rooves of several houses sizzled as cinders settled into their damp straw. Then shot them out again creating sparks that filled the night with a thousand stars. Neither Krissy nor Mayor Pennyworth could move. and this time 107 . But for the heavy dew that night. His great forearms pawed the air. The dragon reared out of the flames. hauling Krissy with him. with fire surging up his neck. the whole town might have gone up in flames.
Jacob Jacobson became a!grimy blur disappearing in the direction of his lumber yard.. 108 . He stamped his claws and the ground beneath him buckled. his old age and old weariness. And three times as f.th.f. Mayor Pennyworth whispered to Krissy.that’s what happens when you f. The look in his eyes was sharp as pins. It seared across the treetops. He gave a gigantic shudder and all the ash and burnt-out scales clinging to his body fell away.f.” For a fleeting moment Krissy believed it just might be true.fire a dragon. a crimson lightening barb.. blue and shimmering like furnaced steel.. The instant they fixed on Charlotta she let out a shriek and galloped away holding her nightgown up around her ears. huge and terrible.fierce. “Th. The pupils in his golden eyes were sharp as arrows. With a single sweep of his tail the dragon scattered the burning sticks of timber and loomed over the market square.. a gigantic streak of flame shot from the depths of his throat. It makes them young again. Beneath them glowed a new shield of scales. Clank! Clink! Clonk! came the sound of him locking himself inside … for all the good that would do him. Not the tiniest mite under the heaviest stone was hidden from him. The fire had burned away his old skin.when he roared. too terrified to look back...
. stammered Mayor Tied round the neck of each bird in flight was a pair of his trousers.Next moment all the upstairs windows of Mayor Pennyworth’s house burst open and a flock of huge. “My turkeys!” Krissy cried. One by one the birds launched themselves from the windowsills with great gobbling leaps. Lead by the Number One turkey – their fearless chief – the turkeys had assumed the seat of government and were taking over the town. But of course. too late they realized the dragon had done the same.tr.. winged creatures soared out into the smoky air. 109 .trousers!” Pennyworth. “And my tr.
As he glided nearer. she waved and called out his name – as much of it as she could remember. The townspeople came running from the Dell to see what all the commotion was about. and ran all the way back to the safety of their stumps and stones. helpless and adrift. The dragon.25 Turkey Talk and Trousers The turkeys. They took one look at the dragon gliding above their market square. Then their squawks became squeals that could be heard several miles away. With a powerful sweep of his wings. the turkeys began to squawk. But in her heart she couldn’t believe his humble nature and gentle manners would have changed. unable to fly. indeed looked fearsome. the dragon joined them. 110 . He let the crisp night air whistle under his armpits and between his toes. leaving them above the rooftops. stretching his nostrils forward and laying back his ears. then returned to the square where she stood on the milk trolley. were wearing the trousers as parachutes. Trusting that they hadn’t. powerful and renewed. Krissy helped Mayor Pennyworth back to his house. But the heat pouring off the dragon created a warm updraft that whistled up their trouser legs. They’d hoped to use them to drift to the ground like paratroopers and take the town by storm. It lifted them higher and higher into the air.
“Do you think you could get them down for me?” “I've never tried turkey herding before. were slippery. “But I’m concerned about my turkeys and Mayor Pennyworth’s trousers. “I’m not hurt. So he laid back his ears. being new. “You mean me?” “It would give me the greatest pleasure.” said Krissy. It had been a very short fall.” He helped her up with his claw.” Airborne sparks were settling on both of them. Krissy climbed onto his arm. and both were starting to smoulder as they flew. “If you’d care to climb aboard?” he said. forgive me.” He lowered one shoulder gracefully to the ground. And ten times more when it was shared. His scales. These new wings are so much stronger. “Oh.” the dragon said. then onto his shoulder and finally onto his neck where she sat astride.” said the dragon but he was sure he’d enjoy it. The wind created from the surge of his wings sent her tumbling from the trolley and onto the ground. it takes a while to get the hang of them. “It always happens this way. 111 . I’m terribly sorry. Krissy hadn’t expected that. He made a point of enjoying everything he did.He spotted her and came gliding down.
” said Krissy.” Krissy was able to understand some of what he said. light as a feather and yet with the power of a gale. Everything about him was new except his voice. “Which turkey will we herd first?” the dragon asked. It loaned the whole countryside a dazzling sheen. so Krissy found herself neither too warm nor too cold. The dragon glided alongside the green-clad bird and said something that sounded like: “Lovely night for a fly. The little hen bird gave a start and treddled the air like mad.” he said and next instant was streaking toward it. but the night air was cool. his body rippling like a fish in a stream. He seemed to be talking a kind of Pidgin-Turkey.“Hold onto these. For the first few moments she was aware of nothing but the surge of the dragon as he soared towards the stars. The dragon’s body still gave off warmth from its recent fire-bath. She gripped tightly and he rose into the air. so neat and tidy below.” he said. “Then let’s start with the one in the green trousers. Then she noticed the buildings of Mith. But the dragon chatted 112 . It had the same old chuckle and rumble to it. “I don’t really mind. and especially pretty bathed in the blue light that radiated from the dragon.
then hurried on to Mayor Pennyworth’s house. Where most people would have said. he deposited the hen bird in Leonie’s!Lentil Yard. Half an hour before sun-up the job was done and Krissy slid down the dragon’s shoulder onto solid earth again.” Krissy said. This time he let her do the talking. He thought it more fun to select a bird first. She left him in the market square. ‘I don’t know how to repay you.on. 113 . “Which one next?” he asked. and the hen finally stopped flapping. Then the dragon slipped a claw-tip through her trouser-belt and ferried her safely to the ground. just for variety. Up they soared again. dashed home quickly. then go after it. And took hold of the bird by its trouser cuffs. It took a few hours of soaring and chatting (gliding and swooping and generally having fun) to get all the turkeys down to earth again.’ Krissy knew exactly how to help the dragon in return. “The one in the red trousers. Because the gate on the turkey’s pen was still broken. and even purred a few words in reply.
26 The Corresponding Slayers Mayor Pennyworth was seated at his kitchen table.” She’d found them in one of his bottom drawers. of course?” “Including my. who’d been chewing a crust. that is.” She handed him a pair of white trousers with lime green stripes up the side and silver buttons at the waist. wide awake. “I'm afraid all your trousers need mending.my. They were the same as the ones she’d taken to Mayor Pennyworth in the Dell.” Krissy said.tr. Mayor Pennyworth. But it wasn’t the toast that had caused the problem. In the meantime I've brought this pair for you to borrow. “I deny them!” “No. wearing his dressing-gown and munching a piece of toast.. “Just how many dragon slayers are there in Mith?” Krissy asked.. “they're Uncle Clem’s.trousers!” he cried.. “I’ll see to them as soon as!possible. Krissy acted quickly and whacked him on the back. “They're not my tr. went into a fit of coughing. And the same as the ones the old hermit had been wearing on the night of the slaying – the slaying of the milk trolley. “Including yourself.” said Krissy..myself?” Mayor Pennyworth 114 .
Actually. AMAZE YOUR FRIENDS. Then he stopped and quietly sighed. and got about ninety per cent right every 115 . the helmet. I'm not sure. It included the old magazine in which he’d first spotted the advertisement for the Dragon Slayer’s Correspondence School. Myself. it read.stammered. In return he’d received the whole kit: the suit. but it was hard to admit something so personal straight away. “I don’t know. BE FAMOUS. and the Dragon Slayer’s Lesson Book. She could understand why. Never looked at the answers in the back. BE FASHIONABLE. Wanting to slay dragons seemed a pretty silly thing to do. It’s not something we usually talk about. “I never cheated on the question sheets. BECOME A DRAGON SLAYER TODAY. There might be others.” he said. APPLY NOW… The rest of the coupon was missing because he’d filled it in and posted it off. Mo the baker and the hermit but you know about him. He went upstairs and brought down all his slayer’s gear to show her. the sword. Clem. he did. that I know of. BE BRAVER THAN YOU EVER THOUGHT POSSIBLE.” Mayor Pennyworth said. “Why did you want to be slayers in the first place?” she asked. with a very large sum of money. “I studied very hard.” Krissy nodded. BE ADMIRED. “Four.
Dragon’s are immortal. and that’s when I learnt you can’t kill dragons. Well. Though in my case. But when it came to the actual slaying.” he said. with a blacksmith’s forge behind.” he finally 116 .. That’s when I found out the truth about this dragon slaying business..” Mayor Pennyworth went on. “No.. “He was my last. He threatened to cut me up and sell me as Dragon Bait.time. really?” Krissy asked. I was so keen to kill him I actually took myself off to the Slaying School for private! essons. He’d recognized it the instant he’d looked out his bedroom window. They didn’t die. I did some study on my own after that. “In fact. it wasn’t so much the slaying that interested me. No one ever has. Mayor Pennyworth nodded. It was as fraudy as everything else.. but it never really worked for me.” said Mayor Pennyworth.” “So there’s no such thing as dragon slaying. “I tried everything on him.” “Is the dragon in the market square one of the ones you tried to kill?” she asked. as the . “And we all tried so hard to do it. The school was nothing more than a tailor’s shop. That was going to be the next addition to their kit – Dragon Bait with a sleeping potion in it. I tried several times. There was no school. “the horrible little tailor chased me off with his scissors. It was just a ‘front’ for making money out of selling suits and swords. on several different dragons.
And there’s a very good chapter on BRAVERY. So much so that he asked Krissy if she wouldn’t mind leaving him alone. “and I.the part about being brave. I.. “Not long now. “See?” “Surely you don’t believe that book anymore?” she said.” he agreed. The book says so. always felt I had it in me. had written a very stirring manual on being brave. Like the bit about fire renewing dragons. I've always wanted to be brave. In fact.admitted it..” He showed her the page where it was written. He 117 . RISKS NAUGHT BUT GLORY. Dragons always seek revenge.” she whispered to the dragon as she passed him waiting in the market square. They never forget.” She understood perfectly. but .! Oh well.. “I have something important to do.. he’s come looking for me now and that’s that. “. HE WHO DARES ALL. The nasty little tailor. They're worse than elephants that way. that’s just what she’d hoped her visit would achieve. “but some of it’s true.” It was his favorite – the one part of the book he wanted to believe. “I know there’s a lot of lies in it.” he said. despite his evil schemes. Mayor Pennyworth had only to lay his hand on the words to feel their stirring message. He lay his hand on the page now and as always the words wove their wonderful effect.
118 . resting their eyes until you were close enough. The sun hadn’t quite risen.” It was a habit with dragon slayers to talk to themselves while approaching dragons. The distance was short but the journey was long and it was nice to have someone to talk to. He paused at his front gate to read one last passage: ONE DROP OF COURAGE DISSOLVES A THOUSAND FEARS. dressed in his complete slayer’s outfit – the little white suit with its silver buttons and lime green stripes down the side. Fifteen minutes later. anyway). The dragon was still curled around the maypole. He had his helmet on his head. I've got the thousand fears. but Shingles had crept up on enough dragons to know they didn’t really sleep (not the young ones. “Well. His eyelids were shut. his sword in its paper bag and the Lesson Book under his arm. A rhythmic whistle sounded from his nostrils and shimmering dewdrops hung like crystals from the tips of his wings. but at least he’d come. Mayor Pennyworth stepped out his front door.” he mumbled to himself. “so at least I've got that much right.nodded and Krissy went on as far as the bakery corner and waited there. He looked absolutely ridiculous. They just lay still. even if it was yourself.
good morning to you too. The sword in the bag didn’t rattle and his bootlaces were calm. not 119 . She said it would please her very much if you would deal with me as quickly as possible. Shingles had made it up. and gave him courage to reply.” In reality Krissy had said nothing of the sort. He said to the dragon.’ he congratulated himself. Slayer Pennyworth. “Sir. but he seemed to be keeping his shivering to a minimum. the turkey herder Miss Krissy. has asked me to ask you a favor. giving off smoke-signals. Shingles. Its golden eyes opened and its voice rumbled from its chest. Mayor Pennyworth quoted to himself: A STEP TOWARD GLORY IS THE GREATEST STEP ON EARTH! More silly rubbish from the lesson book. “Good morning.” the dragon said.. Mayor Pennyworth stepped around the slain milk trolley and the great dragon raised its head from its arm.” Mayor Pennyworth was honestly scared. but it kept him moving. ‘You're doing very well. It was only a little lie. “G.27 Morning in Mith White ash covered the town and charred logs lay about the market square. a friend of yours. Sir. But he did allow a small lie when he came within two paces of the great gleaming claw.
It was as if they’d always been there inside him.” Mayor Pennyworth forced his slayer’s boot to shuffle that last few inches. tucking it also under his arm. Kneeling was more comfortable.like the big one he’d been living up till now. in the last twenty-four hours he’d acquired a little more courage than he’d had before. he just hadn’t been able to raise them to the surface on his own. With so many things to hang onto – his helmet and sword and slayer’s book – he found the ordeal not so bad as he’d expected. Mayor Pennyworth did so. Mayor Pennyworth didn’t mind. And again. Now they were bobbing 120 . And he could put down his sword and hold his lesson book tight to his chest. Without knowing it. ALL OUTCOMES ARE VICTORIES. He was able to look the beast in the eye. glance in its direction once in a while. “And remove your helmet?” the dragon asked. “And if you wouldn’t mind kneeling?” the dragon asked. If you would be so kind as to take one step closer. TO THE TRULY BRAVE AT HEART. THERE ARE NO DEFEATS! the chapter on BRAVERY said. That is to say. “It would be my pleasure. Blue ribbons of smoke curled from the dragon’s nostrils as he answered. something in Shingle’s heart swelled to take in the nobility of those words.
‘Pity I won’t be here to clean it up. eyes opened. and nose not running anywhere. and that was almost his undoing.up like driftwood. in an upright position. and raised his head. Mayor Pennyworth clung to his book. He stared straight ahead at the huge scaly knuckles. one at a time. Mayor Pennyworth could feel its bulk looming. the great clawed foot of the dragon rose from the ground and slowly descended over him. The sun was almost up. higher and darker over him. The long sharp claws were painted crimson by the rays of the rising sun. ‘And I’m not going out with a drippy nose either!’ he determined. with charred logs and singed grass everywhere. clung to his selfcontrol. inhaled sharply to keep his nose from running. Shingles gazed around him. In that same instant. He might have wobbled through his entire life but he wasn’t going to wobble out of it. His town really was a mess. ‘Stop that!’ he commanded himself silently. And the dragon rose. He would see this through to the end. The smell of flint on the air effected his sinuses and his nose threaten to drip. He’d always wanted to be brave and this was his last chance and he wasn’t going to muck it up.’ he thought. A tear bubbled in his eye. Then something slipped over his head and he let 121 .
A heavy object clanged onto his shoulders and for a moment he was thrown off balance and swayed. The bright gemstones twinkled and the inscription. sooner or later.out a little cry. Miss Krissy. I’ll leave you to discover it for yourself. “It would give me pleasure to have you accept this gift from me. I’ve been wearing it for a hundred years.” he smiled. you deserve it the most. “Th.” Mayor Pennyworth looked down.th..” the dragon said. and he didn’t want to spoil the surprise. “Farewell. “I seem to have stretched it.. in curly handwriting. ran right around the rim.th.. The dragon stepped back and bowed. You see. He held out one claw to her and they shook hands. Of all the slayers I met.” Mayor Pennyworth stammered. “Oh dear. “I've left a gift for you also. and was poked in the chin by one of the spires of a golden crown. Then the great creature uncurled itself from the maypole and took a step toward the bakery. now dangling like a collar around his neck.” she said. I am sorry. “Goodbye. Slayer Pennyworth.” he said.!” He never managed to get out the entire word – thanks – but the dragon knew what he meant. He knew she would discover it. 122 .
he forgot everything else and just flew. But once the wind began to ripple over his shoulders and tickle his tummy and hum past his ears. intending to perform a fly-by with wings dipped – the customary dragon way of waving goodbye. 123 . He wheeled once over the fig trees. then he spread his wings and lifted into the air. Just gave himself up to the moment and the sheer joy of it.He made a long rumble that could have been ‘Goodbye’ or could have just been a long rumble.
He made such stirring speeches about ‘work being man’s noblest occupation’ people refused to accept any pay. just as the dragon had done. he didn’t want to rule people. make sure all pets were registered. they scrambled to do them. And it really worked – it made the wearer wiser. Mayor Pennyworth wore the crown for a week and was suddenly a calm and positive leader.28 Whosoever Wears This Crown . Mayor Pennyworth might well have ended up ruler of all the land. The result was amazing. The dragon knew this. And he was right. The full inscription read: WHOSOEVER WEARS THIS CROWN SHALL BE THE RULER OF ALL THE LAND AND GROW IN WISDOM EVERY DAY WHILE ALL OTHERS GROW SILLIER. All he really!wanted to do was his own small job – be Mayor of Mith. That’s why he’d given it to Mayor Pennyworth. When he asked people to do things. and brave enough to do what most people won’t do – to say exactly what he meant. Suddenly people wanted to be lead by him. and 124 . he thought Mayor Pennyworth the most deserving. He got the town cleaned up in no time flat and at very little cost.. all garbage disposed of properly. The crown had a great deal more inscribed on it than Charlotta Chitterling had seen through her spyglass. But in his new-found wisdom he realized. Of all the slayers who’d ever crept up on him..
and another until soon you couldn’t go for a stroll anywhere around Mith without having an apple or a fig or an acorn bop you on the head. Underneath all that muck she was quite ugly. entombing her sausage-making machine inside. Jacob Jacobson cleaned out his lumber yard and turned it into a plant nursery instead. He passed the crown on to Charlotta Chitterling who wore it for a month also. In other words. She turned her butcher shop into a vegetarian tea-house and loomed threateningly over anyone who didn’t eat their spinach tarts. But the day finally came when. planted a tree! Then he planted another. She accepted none of them. and as a result received three proposals of marriage in the first week. Shingles Pennyworth was the man she’d always 125 . She wore it just one week and the following day scrubbed the strawberry goo off her face and everyone got the shock of their lives. Next the crown went to Madeline McBride. Mayor Pennyworth next gave the crown to the person he thought needed it most. Jacob wore it for a month before any effect showed. But she stopped worrying about being beautiful and concentrated on being happy. he poked a hole in the ground. then quietly bricked up her cellar. instead of chopping down a tree. Jacob Jacobson.enjoy these simple tasks to the full. pushed a seed in and covered it up.
not even dragon magic. “And. All the hermits took a turn of the crown and as a result changed their Dell into a park where the people of Mith could come for holidays. Madeline understood this and they remained best friends for the rest of their lives. Mo. Now. Even though he liked her much better now than he had before – because she was always smiling now – he didn’t want to be a husband. reeking of roses and gushing in frills. The old fellow was by nature glum and silly and nothing. Uncle Clem chose not to wear the crown.” So Mo decided not to wear it either. we're having too much fun being silly. but his fellow hermits held it forcibly on his head for twenty-four hours. He left the Dell and went off to be a hermit on his own. 126 . He said he was too old to wise-up now. His fellow hermits gave him a send-off party. Everyone else was there and had such a wonderful time they didn’t notice he was missing. instead of flapping around him. which he chose not to attend.loved.” as he confided to his good friend. He said no. The old hermit refused to wear it. “let’s face it. He wanted to be Mayor. she simply invited him to lunch and asked him to marry her. was going to make him change. The result? No change.
But a month or so later. Cards were issued and stamped with a date of return. and never let a breakfast go by without providing her with a fresh egg. the dragon’s crown was given out to anyone who wanted it on a lending library basis. they would bring it back. No one ever stole the crown. But she did take out a borrowers’ card. regular as clock-work. They gave up gobbling altogether. ‘So that was the dragon’s gift. That simply wasn’t the sort of thing wise people did.’ she realized. Travellers to Mith always borrowed the crown and ran off with it. Krissy soon realized that the turkeys must have been ‘crowned’ at some time or other.After that. Being a sensible young lady she knew she didn’t need it and that it was best to let another have the benefit of it. Krissy herself chose not to wear the crown. and often ate her egg on the rim of the fountain in memory of him. THE END 127 . just in case she might need it one day to help her over the initial silliness that often comes with being an adult. most egglaying brood she’d ever had. chirpiest. Overnight they’d become the calmest.
Reduce.katewalkeraustralia. Reuse. Junior Section. 1990. This book – The Dragon of Mith – was awarded an Honor Book Prize in the Australian Children’s Book of the Year Awards.katewalkerwriter4children. Rethink Series: Recycling Series: Investigating Earth 128 .ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kate Walker is the author of many books for children and young adults.com For Kate’s Adult & Young Adult Writing see: http://www. For Kate’s Children’s Books see: http://www. Kate lives mainly in Australia.com PUBLISHED WORKS BY KATE WALKER PICTURE BOOKS Marty Moves to the Country ~ The Frog Who Would Be King King Joe of Bogpeat Castle ~ The First Easter Rabbit Our Excursion ~ The Flying Pieman ~ A Pride of Noses JUNIOR BOOKS The Alien Challenger ~ The Letters of Rosie O’Brien Suzie and the Pencil-case Genie ~ Tales from the Good Land Burying Aunt Renie ~ Dragon of Mith ~ I Hate Books Elephant’s Lunch ~ Sticky Stuff ~ Finicky Fish The Cranky Old Magician Lighthouse Lucy The Rascal Horse of Rumpsford YOUNG ADULT BOOKS Peter ~ Changes & other stories NON-FICTION Series: Spies & Spying Series: Recycle.
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