TOOTH and CLAW
A short dragon tale
by Michael Wombat
Copyright © 2015 Michael Wombat
Cover photograph and design by Michael Wombat
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express permission of Michael Wombat (contact via Twitter ). You can lend it to your Mum, though.
Michael Wombat has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, is purely accidental.
“Open a little wider, please,” Jena said. Her patient complied willingly, allowing her to reach the rearmost molar. She tapped the enamel with the sickle probe, then tilted the mirror slightly, the better to see behind the tooth. It was fine, although fully as much in need of a clean as the others. She counted the lower teeth out clearly as she checked them, so that her assistant Susi could make proper notes.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five missing, four-three-two-one,” she enumerated the right lower jaw. She moved on to the left side, beginning with the front teeth. “One-two-three, four slight occlusion, five, six, seven, eight missing, nine, ten,” she reported.
“OK, I’ve got all that,” called Susi.
“Then by the Ancestors help me to get out of here. It stinks to high heaven.”
She handed out the probe and mirror first, which Susi leaned against the wall of the cavern before stretching out a hand. Jena took it, grateful for the support as she swung her legs over the double-row of huge teeth. As her feet gratefully settled on solid ground, there was a guttural rumble from above and the immense creature behind her let out a gust of breath that stank of ordure, decay and rot. Jena and Susi tensed for a moment, but thankfully there was no heat in that fetid wind.
“Well?” an acid voice resonated from above their heads. The Dark Queen tilted her head to peer down at them from a massive, multi-faceted eye. She adjusted her mighty wings with a rustle like a shower of acorns on a windy day. In the dim light of the cavern her bark-like, brown-green skin looked almost black. The wings that were attached to her forelimbs were fringed with dark green needles that she could use to inflict deep cuts on those who displeased her. She was covered with imbricate woody scales that overlapped each other like those of a fish, and were spirally arranged about her body. As the Dark Queen heaved her bulk around, the individual scales rippled and rasped against each other.
“Did you not hear your queen, hominid?” demanded the dragon. Susi nudged Jena urgently.
“Yes,” Jena said, hastily. “My apologies, Queen Daf’q. I was merely catching my breath. There’s a slight malocclusion – erm, your bite does not quite meet correctly – on the left in the back row, but you don’t need to worry about it unless it worsens. All in all, there’s nothing amiss with your teeth that a good clean won’t fix. Your majesty might consider getting a hygienist in there to give everything a good clean.”
“Your hygienist, it will do it now,” ordered the Dark Queen.
“Majesty, Susi here is no hygenist. She is my assistant, here to take notes and to help me safely in and out of your impressive mouth. Neither she nor I have the skill to undertake a proper cleaning task. You may… you may remember eating my usual hygienist at our last appointment?”
“Ah yes,” the dragon nodded. “It was crunchy, with a tang of peppermint. Very well. You will do it yourself.”
“I do not have the necessary equipment with me. I—”
“Do not test my patience, hominid!” bellowed the magnificent dragon, bathing them once again in the rich odour of rotting meat. “You will bring your equipment on the morrow, and you will clean my teeth.”
“Yes, majesty,” Jena agreed quickly. Susi hid as best she could behind Jena.
“Now you may leave me. Return to the wall, where a Bryo awaits to take you to your village. Warn it that you will return on the morrow.”
“Yes, majesty.” Jena waited for a moment, but the dragon queen already seemed to have forgotten them, resting her massive head on her mighty-clawed feet before closing her eyes. Jena and Susi tiptoed out of the vast cavern into watery sunlight.
They stood on a high ledge overlooking a flat plain. The rock face from which they had emerged stretched to left, right, and above as far as they could see. Scores of openings, of various sizes, spattered the cliff face, though none were as large as the one that they had just left. Dragons of various sizes left or entered these apertures, cleaving the air above their heads. Dark green Pteros and yellow Bryo dragons swept to and fro, while amongst them darted the small, bright poppy-red Mags. To either side of the entrance to the Dark Queen’s cavern sat a stern guard dragon. Roughly four times the height of a human, these were nevertheless about half the size of their queen. They were a sickly yellow colour; their hides waxy, shaggy carpets of tiny leaf-like scales, matted like unkempt hair. Rags of this material trailed from their wings, looking like yellow cobweb curtains.
For a moment Jena considered asking one of the Bryos to give them a lift to the wall, but decided against it. They would only sneer at Jena’s request, their slavish obedience to the will of the Dark Queen obliterating any trace of consideration that might once have nestled inside their heartless chests.
From the cavern entrance a narrow, precariously winding path meandered down to the foot of the mountain. From there they had perhaps a thirty-minute walk through the dragon fields to the wall. As they descended the slope a Ptero descended onto the ledge behind them, the wind from its wings cooling the back of Jena’s neck. The dragon clutched a squirming calf in its taloned grasp. Food for the Dark Queen. She preferred her food to be alive when she ate it.
“I can’t wait to get out of these damned coveralls,” Jena cursed.
“You do smell a bit funky.”
“Of course I do! Do you realise how hot it gets inside a dragon’s mouth?”
“No. You don’t. You weren’t the one chosen for the signal honour of bathing in wyrm spit.”
“Oh no, it was decreed that you were lacking any skill other than standing about writing stuff down, so I suggest that you shut your damned mouth instead of flapping it about spouting things of which you know nothing.”
The two walked in silence for a while.
“When does Lizzie leave for the Fringe?” asked Susi, softly, inferring the true reason for her friend’s anger.
“She was fifteen yesterday. They’re coming to get her in three days,” Jena told her, looking downcast. “It’s not right. She’s so young. By the Ancestors, I’d go with her myself but for James. He’s only four, and I won’t leave him an orphan. Look, I’m sorry I snapped at you. It’s not your fault. This is not an easy time for me.”
“I understand that. You’re a good mother. I’d offer to have James, you know, but if…” Susi trailed off.
“If I never returned you wouldn’t want to be stuck with him permanently? It’s true, he can be a handful.”
“Look on the bright side. Maybe Lizzie’ll come back after her tour of duty. I heard of a boy—”
“No-one comes back,” said Jena, sourly. “Have you ever seen anyone return from the Fringe, personally? With your own eyes? No, I thought not. It’s always a friend of a friend. No one really ever returns. People invent such things to comfort themselves that they are not sending their children away to die fighting the Euks. The dragons are the cruel masters of humanity. Life should not be this way.”
“Be careful, Jena,” Susi warned, glancing nervously to the fields through which they walked. The field to their left was empty but for tiny fern-like plants just poking through the rich soil. To their right the plants were more advanced, small dragon shapes depending from sturdy moss-covered stems. A red Mag tending the infant Bryos was fortunately too far away to hear Jena’s rebellious words.
“Careful, my arse. They enslave us to serve their needs, to provide them with food – sometimes to be food – and to die in huge numbers on the Fringe battling savage Euks to keep themselves safe from harm, and from having to get their precious wyrm-hands dirty. If only I had the courage to fight against this tyranny, I—”
“Your husband tried fighting. Your husband died fighting. The dragons are too powerful, and too well protected behind the wall for us ever to hold any hope of victory.”
“And I am too frightened, like most,” Jena admitted. The walk to the wall was helping her to regain her composure. “I am not a brave person, Susi. I could never actually be a hero.”
They were nearing the wall now. The fields here were more mature. Mags flitted about, helping green Pteros, yellow Bryos and red Mags to free themselves from their stems. Once free, the new-grown dragons stumbled about for a short time, flapping their wings madly, getting used to their independent movement. Then they flew, still somewhat erratically, towards the mountain caves to find one in which to shelter and await their first orders. The two women approached the pale yellow Bryo that had been tasked with taking them home. It waited by the wall, tapping its claws impatiently against the rock on which it squatted. Jena looked back at the enormous bulk of the mountain that the dragons called home. From this distance she could see the vast number of caves that pocked its vast rocky side, from the foot all the way up to the snowy mists that shrouded its peak. Most of those caves housed several dragons. There must be thousands of the creatures all told. Even if all of the villagers rebelled and banded together, even if they were able to reach this eyrie, they would be hopelessly outnumbered and helplessly weak.
She sighed and joined Susi sitting astride the Bryo’s soft mossy back. It flapped its great wings once, twice, then heaved into the air.
As they plunged over the rim of the plateau that the dragons called home Jena clung tightly to the mossy hide of the Bryo. Behind her Susi gasped. Jena’s breath caught in her throat as she saw how impossibly high they were. She knew from growing up in the shadow of Dragonhome that it was a massive, towering rock, impossible to climb, but at this dizzying height the wall seemed absurdly high. The mountain at the centre of that plateau, riddled with the caves in which the dragons roosted, added yet more height to this massive upheaval of rock which jutted out of a seemingly endless plain.
Jena risked opening her eyes. She could barely make out where her village lay amongst the forest of ginkgo trees that covered the land below the immense table of granite. The Bryo arrowed headlong down the sheer drop. The ground below rose to meet them with alarming speed. This morning they had been carried up to the top by an elderly Ptero which had been content to take its time, rising in gentle circles. The Ptero had been almost chatty, enquiring about their visit to the world above. Jena had been fascinated by its skin, which was covered with feathery green fronds, delicately divided, and rolled into tight spirals here and there. She had toyed with small green curls and had thoroughly enjoyed the flight. She had even thanked the dragon when it had left them at the top of the wall.
This creature was entirely different, and seemed to take vicious pleasure in manoeuvring at speeds that caused its passengers no little discomfort. Jena felt her stomach flip, and struggled to keep her breakfast down. She heard Susi whimper as the dragon bottomed out of the vertical dive in a tight arc, and with furious backthrusts of its powerful ribboned wings landed in the centre of The Scorching, a roughly circular area of ground perhaps a hundred yards or so across.
In stark contrast to the rest of the plain, which was densely coated with gingkos as far as the horizon, the clearing was entirely devoid of trees. The packed earth was black and fused into a glass-like surface. Here and there a charred stump showed that once, a long time ago, trees had grown here. Myth told that in the time of the Ancestors people had risen up against their dragon overlords in a brief bid for freedom. The revolution had been short-lived. The dragons had summoned a mighty storm to dampen the passions of the rebels and then used their fearsome ability to spit streams of fire, creating a whirling inferno that had destroyed everything here; people, trees, houses – even the ability of the earth to sustain new life. The Scorching was a permanent reminder of the terrible power of the dragons, and served to quell all thoughts of rebellion.
Jena slid from the Bryo’s back and stood gingerly, her legs trembling. Susi fell to the ground and sat down, panting heavily, knuckles white and face drained of blood. The dragon curled its lip and raised its mossy wings to leave.
“Wait!” called Jena. “We are ordered to return tomorrow. Will you send a Ptero to carry us up the wall?”
The dragon snorted derision, and thrust upwards with its mighty back legs. The outstretched wings pulled at the air and the creature rose away from them leaving a warm rush of air.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Jena said.
She pulled Susi to her feet and the two walked home. Jena relaxed once they entered the trees. The Scorching was a bad place, full of bad feelings. They followed the path that wound its way between enormous tree-trunks, up to twenty-five feet in diameter. The trees soared high above their heads, some reaching to almost a hundred and fifty feet. Many were a thousand years old, it was said, and had been here long before the coming of the dragons. Even on the brightest of days the forest floor would have been depressingly gloomy but for the occasional light-windows that the forester Shambrook and her team of expert climbers made and maintained in the thick canopy high overhead.
As they reached edge of the village they were greeted with a loud bark as Bryan scampered to meet them, leaping up to express his joy on their return. Quite how the big yellow dog always knew that they were coming home was a mystery. Maybe he sensed the dragon landing half a mile away. Jena threw out her arms and hugged his wriggly fur. After Jena had made a fuss of him he gently took her hand and tugged her towards her house.
“It looks like he wants you back home,” smiled Susi. “I’ll be off, too. See you tomorrow, eh?” She angled off towards her own home as Bryan fell into step with Jena. Woman and dog walked the short distance to Jena’s house. Home, like all of the other dwellings in the village, was three small rooms hollowed out of the trunk of a living gingko. Shambrook was an expert at carving living spaces into the immense trees without killing them. Once she had hollowed out the desired shape, she coated the new walls with a potion of her own devising that not only healed the tree’s wounds but also created a pleasant aroma and repelled insects. She had added Jena’s third room shortly after James had been born.
As Jena approached the leather hanging that served as her front door it was flung wide and a breathless, wide-eyed Lizzie burst out.
“Mam!” she cried, obviously distressed, “Mam, James has… I was just playing tug with Bryan. And then James… I don’t know! There’s a man!”
“Whoa, take it easy,” Jena tried to calm her daughter, taking her in her arms and giving her a reassuring hug. “Now start at the beginning. And tell me clearly what’s wrong.”
Lizzie took a deep breath and launched into rapid speech. “I was out here playing with Bryan and his tug-rope. James was asleep on the bed. When I got tired I went in to see if he was OK only he wasn’t there. A man was, though, and he was sitting by the bed. I thought at first that he’d come to take me off to the Fringe a bit early, but he wanted you. He said James is safe, but I couldn’t see him anywhere. And then I saw you and I ran out and, Mam, what’s happening?”
“I don’t know, but I’m damned well going to find out.” She stormed inside, her mind wheeling with a combination of panic, anger and indignation.
As Lizzie had said, a man sat on the chair by the bed in the far corner of the room. He was perhaps forty years old, shaven-headed, and wore a long coat. His rangy legs stretched before him, high leather boots covering his feet which were crossed at the ankles.
“Ah, the dentist!” he said, in a low mocking tone.
“Where’s my son?” Jena demanded.
“My name is Johnson Miller,” the man said, ignoring her. Jena grabbed a knife from the shelf by the door and crossed to the man. She pointed the knife directly at his eye.
“Where is my son?” she spat. In one swift, fluid movement the man swept his legs against hers, knocking her off balance. He stood, grabbed her arm and wrenched it so that the knife clattered to the floor. Jena gasped as he twisted further causing flashes of pain to slice through her elbow.
“Leave my Mam alone!” Lizze yelled. Bryan launched himself at the man with a fearsome snarl, but was kicked backwards before he could do any damage. He stood warily not far away, alternately growling and whimpering. The man towered over Jena, scowling down at her.
“What a violent family you do have, dentist,” he growled. “I suggest that you keep them quiet while I tell you what I want. Otherwise, I might just take it into my head to kill your cur and defile your daughter. Now sit, and be silent!” He threw Jena down into a chair and moved nearer the door, cutting off Lizzie’s escape. Jena rubbed at her arm and eyed the man. Bryan rested his heavy head on her knee, trying to comfort her. Her mind was a vortex of twisting emotion.
“Your son is alive,” growled the interloper, “at least for now. He will remain safe until you have completed a little job for us, at which point we will return him to you unharmed. If you fail us in this enterprise, then you will never see him again. At least, not all of him. Now, have I impressed upon you how serious your situation is?”
Jena nodded, tight-lipped.
“Good. I think that once you hear them, you will agree with our aims, if not our methods. Now, you are one of the privileged few who been granted access to Dragonhome on a regular basis. On your next visit, I want you to take this with you.” He hoisted a leather satchel from the floor and slung the strap over his shoulder. “It contains a number of these,” he continued, reaching into the bag and taking out a stoppered glass flask with a curiously shaped neck that resembled the sinuous throat of a dragon. He handed the flask to Jena. It contained a black, oily liquid. As she turned the glass, the viscous contents clung to the sides as if reluctant to obey the demands of gravity. She checked the cork stopper. It held secure but could easily be released with a twist. She briefly considered throwing the contents in the man’s face and while he was blinded thrusting the knife from the floor into his black heart, but the thought of what might happen to James stayed her hand.
“What do you actually want?” she asked.
“When you are next up there, on the plateau, you are to take a pleasant walk among the dragon fields. At each field you pass, you will pour a measure of this liquid into the soil. The neck of the flask is so designed as to dispense the required amount.”
“And this will do what?”
“It will poison the fields. It will blacken the stems and destroy the roots of the dragonyoung plants. It will prevent the wyrms from reproducing. Then as they all age and eventually die, their dominion over us will finally end. It will herald the beginning of freedom for humankind. Tell me that’s not a laudable aim.”
“I’m all for freedom, but at what expense? Slaughtering the dragon’s babies?”
“They aren’t babies. They’re plants, weeds, a blight on us all. We’ve finally managed to produce an effective weedkiller, and you’re going to be our deliverer, in more ways than one.”
“And if I’m caught?”
“The wyrms will likely kill and eat you. Hell, they’ll probably do that anyway once they find out that you’re the one who poisoned them. It won’t take them long. Frankly, we don’t care if you die, as long as you get the job done. Neither should you, for that matter. Consider yourself already dead; what you have to think about now is the life of your son.”
“So I’ve been told. When do you next visit Dragonhome?”
Jena briefly considered lying, but realised that it would do little good. Johnson Miller no doubt had spies watching her movements. “Tomorrow,” she said.
“So soon? Excellent. Then I shall return in two days for your report. If everything goes according to plan then your son will be returned to you. Entertain no thoughts of going against me. I will not hesitate to kill your boy.”
He strode out of the house, leaving the shoulder-bag on the floor. Jena considered her options. She could simply pretend that she had poisoned the dragons, but eventually it would become obvious that she hadn’t and Johnson Miller seemed to be a man who would exact vicious revenge. She could warn the dragons, but that would not help her to get James back. She could only see one course of action.
Bryan licked her hand with his smooth, wet tongue and Lizzie hugged her neck.
“Mam?” she asked, “What will you do?”
“I think I have to poison the dragon fields.”
– o0O0o –
The next morning she and Susi waited at The Scorching for a dragon to come and lift them to Dragonhome. Jena had told Susi all about her visitor of the previous evening, the kidnapping of James, and what she had to do. She had urged Susi not to come, but her friend had insisted on accompanying her. It would look odd for her to go alone, Susi argued, and might raise the dragons’ suspicions.
A sound from above announced the arrival of a dragon, which fell to earth gently in the centre of the charred clearing. Jena was relieved when she recognised the old Ptero that had taken them up the day before. The dragon nodded in acknowledgement as Jena and Susi crossed over to it.
“Good day,” it breathed, its voice almost a purr.
“Hello again,” said Jena. The flasks in her shoulder bag clinked as she climbed onto the dragon’s broad back and she spoke quickly in an attempt to cover the sound. “I’m pleased that you will be taking us up. The Bryo that carried us down yesterday seemed determined to break our necks.”
“I apologise. The Bryos do tend to be a little careless, I am afraid. In addition, I imagine that it resented being forced to interact with hominids and took its frustration out on you.”
“Don’t you resent us?”
“On the contrary, I have always rather liked your species, what few I have met. I maintain, and long have, that we dragons need not treat you as if you were ours to do with as we pleased, as mere minions. There should be more give and take between our species, more consideration. I am not alone in this opinion. My friends and I believe that we all could live in harmony, to the betterment of all, but we must obey the Dark Queen. She has the strength to bend us all to her will.”
“That’s very interesting. Do you mind if I know your name? I am Jena, and this woman frowning furiously at me is Susi.”
“What are you doing?” hissed Susi. “Don’t talk to it. It might take it into its head to eat us or burn us to cinders.”
There was an odd huffing grating sound, which Jena realised was coming from the Ptero. The dragon was laughing.
“We are not all martinets,” it said gruffly. “I, for instance, make it a rule never to eat anything with which I can hold a conversation. And my name is Luedtke. I will be your pilot today. Please prepare for take-off.” He arced his wings and they rose gently from the ground.
“Luedtke, would you mind answering a question?”
“Not at all, hominid Jena. The more we learn about each other the more pleasant will our lives be.”
“OK. You have no gender, right? No male-female divide?”
“That is correct. This is much simpler than your own arrangements, which seem to me to be unnecessarily complicated. For one thing, it takes two of you to make a new hominid. Inefficient. In addition you appear to choose your clothing and face-paint based entirely upon the shape of your genitals. This strikes me as hilariously pointless.”
“Actually, I agree with you there. But here’s my question: how come, if you are truly androgynous, you have a Queen? Why not a Monarch, or simply Leader – a title with no gender implication?”
“Ah, that is pure affectation on Daf’q’s part. She romances that it sounds impressive. Typical Pino behaviour.”
“How did Daf’q get to be in charge?”
“Well, she’s the Pino.”
“Sorry, I don’t understand.”
“Very well. How much do you know of dragon society?”
“Just what I’ve seen. You are grown in fields, there are different kinds of dragon, you sometimes eat people—”
“Or burn us alive with incandescent flame from your mouths,” added Susi, uncomfortable with her friend’s conversation with the dragon. Jena, on the other hand, was fascinated. Not only was she learning new things, the talk was helping to distract her from worry about James, and from what she must do once they were up on the plateau.
“Shall I let you in on a secret?” asked Luedtke, and continued without waiting for a response. “We cannot actually breathe fire. That is just a story, one of many, put about by the Bryos to keep you hominids in check. We do not excrete coal from our rear ends, either.”
“I hadn’t heard that one,” admitted Jena.
“Oh. Then perhaps the propaganda begins to lose its hold. But rest assured, hominid Susi, we cannot burn you.”
“I thought that The Scorching was created by an angry dragon’s fire?”
“The burned, flattened area where we met? Happenstance, only. Certainly the fabled battle took place as stated, in a storm, but dragon breath did not cause the devastation. Sheet lightning struck and devastated the area just as the dragons attacked. We claimed that it was our doing, of course, to frighten the hominids into submission. It has become a useful threat to hold over your heads, but an empty one in reality. We can no more breathe fire than you can. What we can do, however, is to rip out your insides with our claws, or hold you down while we pluck off your limbs. I would rather not, to be honest, but we do have that strength.”
“Don’t trust it,” said Susi. “It’s a trap of some sort.”
“If this were true we would have known years ago,” said Jena. “Why are you telling us this now?”
“No hominid has ever taken the trouble to speak to me before. Mostly they just quiver at the sight of us. One man cried, I remember.”
“The reputation of dragons is fearsome, true. Most people are terrified, but those few of us who are given access to Dragonhome must become more comfortable and converse with you.”
“Not really. You are the first to talk to me for, well, ever. It is quite refreshing.”
“I agree. But please carry on. You were telling us about Daf’q?”
“Was I? Ah yes, my apologies. I tend to drift off the point these days. It comes to us all with age, I am afraid. So, the reason Daf’q is our ruler… well, you know that we dragons are of five families?”
“You are? I hadn’t counted.”
“Yes. For instance, I am of the Pterodophyta. Now let me see. A little history, perhaps. An unimaginably long time ago, hominids found a way to grow winged creatures from five separate fauna divisions. In my family’s case, the ferns. We are Fern Dragons.”
“Wait. People created dragons?”
“Indeed. You did not know this? I imagine the idea was to create a new beast of burden that would perform a lot of fetching and carrying, or perhaps to make steeds swifter than any you had. Whatever the reason, we dragons didn’t take to being created slaves and turned the tables, instead making you serve us, tend to our needs, keep animals to provide us with food.” Luedtke snorted. “Look after our teeth. You know, it has always seemed odd to me that a race that has been subject to persecution and slavery as we were should want to inflict those very things on others.”
“People created dragons?” Jena repeated, trying to take the thought in.
“Yes, and they lived to regret it. However, to continue, in addition to we Pteros, there are the Bryophyta – the Moss Dragons, the Magnoliophyta – Flower Dragons, and the Pinophyta – Pine Dragons.”
“Pteros, Bryos, Mags and Pines, got it.”
“Yes. Ferns, mosses and flowers are grown in the fields, but the pines are different. There exists but one of these, far larger than any other, and she rules all. When her death approaches, or when she reaches a certain age, she shakes scores of seeds from beneath her wings, which begin to grow. Eventually she devours all of her children but the strongest, which she raises to adulthood. When the younger is ready, she kills her mother and assumes the throne. Daf’q slaughtered her parent five years ago.”
“Charming. Wait – that’s only four. You said there were five families.”
“Ah yes, the Eukaryota – grey, slimy Fungus Dragons. They are wild & unpredictable creatures, violent and cruel, controlled by no-one. They exist beyond the fringes of the kingdom. Sadly, as you know only too well, Daf’q sees fit to send hordes of your kin to fight them out there and lose their lives. She fears that without such cannon-fodder to keep them busy the Euks will come and attack us here.”
“My daughter goes to that fight shortly.”
“Then you have my sympathy. I regret that I am unable to offer any comfort that your daughter’s death will have any meaning. My belief is that the Euks are quite happy where they are, and not in the least bothered about us here. It is nothing more than senseless slaughter to send hominids to die under their claws. Ah, we are here.”
Luedtke set them down at the top of the precipice and bid them a cheery farewell. It fell to exercising its wings as they walked away, easing its old joints. After her conversation with the old Fern Dragon, Jena had even more doubts what she had to do. Plainly, all dragonkind were not evil. There existed at least one, and likely more, that had kind hearts and a more accepting view of humanity than they had been led to believe. If she poisoned them all, she would be killing innocents as well as evil tyrants. Now that she thought about it, perhaps all of the dragon young were innocents. Perhaps their enslavement of humankind was learned behaviour; learned from the evil Pine Dragon that ruled them. If only there existed some way of pruning the Pines from the dragon family tree then both races might live in harmony.
It was a pipedream, but a lovely thought. In reality she had no choice. Yes, Jena hated what she had to do, but she would do it. For James’ sake.
“Come on,” she intoned, “Let’s get on with this.”
Jena took one of the swan-necked flasks from her bag as they walked the path between two fields. To their right grew ranks of almost ripe Bryos, while on their left a swathe of young plants carried buds that had not yet formed enough for Jena to make out what kind of dragon they might be. From the pinkish tint of the stems she might hazard a guess that they were Mags. She unstoppered the flask and hesitated, sighing.
“Hurry up,” Susi urged, “None can see. Let’s just kill the evil sods, clean the queen’s teeth, and get out of here as soon as we can.”
“It’s not that simple. They’re not all evil. Luedtke was friendly, even sympathetic.”
“They are all evil because even if they disagree with treating people as slaves they do nothing to stop it. And I can’t believe you’re hesitating when your son’s life is at stake. Let me do it, if you won’t.”
“You’re right, of course. I have to do this for James.” She tipped the flask and a gobbet of oily fluid fell from the flask. It soaked remarkably quickly into the soil. She repeated the action on the other side of the path and they quickly walked on.
“What about those fields over there?” Susi pointed out other fields beyond those adjacent to the path. There were no paths to these further fields. Dragons had no use for paths since they could fly. The trail of hard, packed earth that they walked on was maintained purely for the use of humans that were summoned to Dragonhome, although why they couldn’t simply be flown directly to the mountain rather than having to traipse from the cliff-edge was beyond Jena. The women edged their way between the already spoiled Bryo field on their right and a field of young Pteros that adjoined it. Jena poured a measure of the poison into the rich earth of this field also, emptying her first flask. Three fields down, perhaps a dozen to go.
“Hominid! What is it you do there?” Jena whipped about, momentarily surprised to see nothing before realising that she was thinking in two dimensions. She looked up to see a small Mag, perhaps eight feet from head to tail, hovering close enough that she could make out the individual petals that covered its skin. It wore an expression of such concern, apprehension and hurt that Jena immediately felt remorse for her actions.
Susi took a step forward. “Just exploring,” she said. “Nothing to worry about.”
“Oh, but I do worry, hominid. You poured blackness into the soil of my young. What is your purpose?”
“That was merely—”
“Poison. It was poison,” Jena interrupted her friend. “I’m sorry, Susi, I can’t do this. There must be another way, other than lying and destroying innocents. Will you listen to my explanation, dragon, before taking action? Please?”
“You are Jena, the dentist?”
“I am. You know my name?”
“Luedtke sent me to speak with you. He said that you might be the one for whom we have been waiting.”
“I don’t understand.”
“And nor will you, unless you can justify to me your actions here in slaughtering the innocent young. Then I shall decide whether to explain further, or whether to simply eviscerate you where you stand. Choose your words carefully.” The Mag settled to the ground on its powerful hind legs and sat back using its tail as support. It was easily within striking distance, which made Jena’s voice tremble slightly as she began her story. Her voice steadied as her tale went on, and the Mag began to show interest. She told it of their nerve-wracking descent the previous day, and of arriving home to find her son gone. She told of Johnson Miller and his threat to kill her son if she did not do as he asked. She made clear her strong belief that he meant every word that he had said. She showed the Mag the flasks of the dark Weedkiller, and explained its foul purpose; that it was designed to wipe out the dragon species, at her hand.
“Then you were doing this to save your offspring?” the Mag asked. Jena nodded. “You must understand then, that if I end your life now it is for the same reason?” Again Jena indicated her understanding, and tensed in preparation for the killing blow.
“I believe, however, that there is a better solution for both of us,” the Mag said. “I think that we can help each other. You may call me Thibodeau. Luedtke tells me that you believe—”
“How? We’ve only just left him. There’s been no time.”
“We do not only speak with words.”
“No we are not. We have developed a way of speaking at a distance by use of many subtle wing positions. As you left Luedtke, it told me that you believe as we do, that our two species should live in harmony and mutual respect.”
“Who is ‘we’?”
“Certainly almost all of my family, and most of Luedtke’s. Perhaps not the Bryos, but they are followers in nature and will ride with the prevailing wind. If we can remove the Pinophyte line and its control over the Bryos, then we will all be able to work together to make this a fairer world for everyone, whether dragon or hominid.”
“Then overpower Daf’q and get rid of her. There must easily be enough of you.”
“She would see us coming, or her guards would, and she would order all of the Bryos to defend the entrance to her cavern. There would result a huge battle with much loss of life, even before we could reach her. A better, less bloody way would be to approach her from behind, unseen, for a surprise attack. Luckily, there exists a rear entrance to her cavern. It is small, but a Mag, or several, might squeeze through unseen and kill Daf’q while she sleeps. There is just one problem, which is where you come in.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to like this.”
“The rear entrance was created by hominids at some forgotten time, which is presumably why it is so small. It was also barred by them and locked from the inside. We once attempted to break through the barrier, an action for which a dozen Mags were slaughtered. You, hominid, have access to Daf’q’s cavern. You are also a hominid, and therefore it is likely that you would know how to open the barrier. After you next treat Daf’q, we want you sneak to the rear of her cavern and let us in. We will do the rest. Will you do this thing for us? For us all?”
“No. I will not risk my son’s life.”
“Then we shall make sure that he is safe first. We will rescue your offspring and then you will help us. Do we have an accord?”
“I don’t even know where James is.”
“We can find him. We have had a friend watching you for some weeks, since you first came to our attention as one who might be sympathetic to our aims. This friend saw the tall hominid and his cohorts remove your offspring, and, I believe, has the ability to discover his whereabouts. We can go and fetch him now, if you wish?”
“Dragon, if you rescue my son, then I will lend what little aid I can to your cause.”
“Very well. I have to say, this has been a good conversation. Climb upon my back. I am unable to bear two of you, so you must stay here, friend of Jena.”
“Jena, are you sure about this?” Susi asked her friend.
“I’m not sure of anything,” Jena replied, settling herself onto Thibodeau’s back. The scales that covered its torso were shaped like butterfly wings, like the leaves of the ginkgo. She tucked her legs in behind the dragon’s wings. “I’m just riding the wind, Susi, and this particular wind promises to bring my son safely home.” Susi shrugged and sat cross-legged on the ground and leaned against the backpack containing the dental equipment.
“We shall return once the young hominid is safe, Jena-friend, and you will both continue to your appointment with the Dark Queen and change the world’s axis.” The Flower Dragon took off, angling back towards the edge of the plateau.
They swung down the precipice, in rather less frenetic a manner than the Bryo had descended the previous day. Jena’s mind was surprisingly calm, in view of the myriad things it had to process. Could she trust these dragons? Who was the dragons’ friend, their spy? Would attempting to rescue James actually put her son in danger? Perhaps he was already in constant danger, wherever he was. She briefly considered all these things, only to dismiss them without trying to answer. It was easier to act that way. She was indeed riding the wind wherever it took her, and for some unknown reason she found herself trusting this creature that rode the wind with her.
As they landed close to the edge of The Scorching, Bryan scampered up to them as usual. Jena slid from Thibodeau’s back and threw out her arms to greet the dog. This time, however, he ignored her and sat before the red dragon. The dragon yipped, then barked. Bryan emitted a curious rising whine, and the dragon barked once more. The dog huffed, then stood and came to greet Jena, wagging his big tail.
Jena eyed Thibodeau curiously. “What was that? Were you talking to my dog?”
“I was indeed communicating with your canine. Such communication is comprised of both vocal elements and body language. You do not do this?”
“Well, I say ‘Who’s a good boy?’ occasionally.”
“Then you miss much. The canine does certainly believe that he may find your son, were you only to allow him to bury his nose in one of your offspring’s garments for a moment, as a reminder of his scent.”
“Bryan? Bryan’s your spy?” The dog barked. Jena took a moment, then spoke again. “Let’s go to my house. Will you fit through the trees?”
“I am sufficiently flexible,” Thibodeau nodded, and folded its wings tightly against its body, like a flower closing up for the night.
“Heel, Bryan,” commanded Jena, and the ragtag trio made their way through the forest towards Jena’s tree. Most villagers that saw them simply stood and stared at the unique sight of a dragon walking through the forest. None spoke. This may have been from fear, or possibly amazement that a dragon could be small enough to walk beneath the trees. Mags rarely descended from the plateau. The path was occasionally a tight squeeze for Thibodeau, but the dragon was lithe and flexible enough to find a way through.
When they reached home Jena greeted a worried Lizzie warmly, and reassured her that her early return was nothing to worry about. When she stepped outside to be introduced to the dragon she simply gaped.
“It is a friend,” Jena told her daughter, “Thibodeau is going to help us find James, and then maybe begin a series of events that would lead to your not having to go to the Fringe.”
“Is it a ‘he’ or a ‘she’?” Lizzie asked, standing close to her mother.
“I am neither, offspring of Jena,” Thibodeau said, “I am simply me. I believe that it is customary for hominids to greet a new friend by the shaking of hands?” The dragon extended a foreleg, the attached wing unfurling gracefully. Lizzie hesitantly took one of the large claws and shook gently. Her eyes gleamed. “Now, if you could please provide canine Bryan with an article of the clothing of your brother, then we shall quickly rescue him.”
Lizzie ran to into the house for a moment before emerging clutching a large cloth, which she held out to the dragon. Thibodeau inclined his head, indicating the patient dog. Lizzie took the cloth to Bryan, who buried his nose in the material, snuffling loudly. He circled the area in front of the house for a moment, sniffing the ground, then circled Jena’s tree. Three-quarters of the way round he gave a satisfied bark, and headed off down a rarely-used path.
“Follow the canine,” Thibodeau told Jena, “I am unable to move as swiftly between the trees as you, but I will be close behind.”
“Lizzie, wait here!” Jena told her daughter, then hastened after Bryan. Lizzie watched the red dragon stoop beneath a low branch as it followed more slowly, disappearing into the trees. Lizzie looked about the now empty space doubtfully.
“The hell with it,” she said, and sprinted after them.
Bryan led Jena out of the village along a meandering path to a part of the forest that she did not know. The path twisted, forked and turned, but generally led them east. After some fifteen minutes Bryan stopped, sat, and look back as Jena caught up.
“What’s wrong, boy?” She peered through the undergrowth and saw a most unusual structure. It was built, rather than carved from the trees, and it was made of metal. Huge sheets of the stuff, far more than Jena had ever seen in her life before. The few metal items in the village, pots and pans mostly, and a few knives, were brought to them by the trade caravan that made the hazardous journey from the south once a year to trade for medicines that the villagers made from the ginkgo. Jena’s dental instruments had come to her father that way, and they had passed to her when he died.
Stained metal walls supported a corrugated roof which was covered with moss and debris that had fallen from nearby trees. There were no visible windows, but a path had been worn to a door set in the centre of the facing wall. A faded sign above the door could just be read through decades of accumulated grime. It said ‘PROJECT 217 – NURSERY 3’.
Bryan whined, and took a step forward.
“Wait,” Jena commanded. Without the backup of a dragon ally she was not at all confident about a confrontation with the imposing Johnson Miller and an unknown number of cohorts. She laid a reassuring hand on Bryan’s warm head and looked into his eyes. “Good boy,” she whispered. “Let’s wait for your dragon friend.” He licked her hand, wet and warm.
She looked back up and her heart skipped a beat. Lizzie! What was she doing there? Her daughter was by the right corner of the building. Jena frantically waved to draw Lizzie’s attention, but the girl’s attention was fixed on the weird metal building and she crossed towards the door. Jena stood, but the door opened before she could move to warn her daughter. Johnson Miller stepped out right in front of Lizzie, who jumped with a small squeal. For a tall man he was exceptionally quick, both of wit and limb. He grabbed Lizzie’s shoulders and spun her round in front of him so that both captor and captive faced the trees. His left arm held her tight against him, while his right held a dagger pointed at Lizzie’s neck.
“Well now,” he said loudly. “I never thought you’d have it in you, dentist. I assume you are out there, watching? I doubt that your daughter would have wandered out here of her own accord.”
Jena remained silent. Bryan shifted impatiently, but continued to obey the command to wait.
“Ah well, it’s up to you. Skulk there and watch me slaughter your daughter if you must. Or perhaps I shall have a little fun first.” He moved his left hand slowly across Lizzie’s chest, lifting and pinching. She gasped and tears rimmed her eyes. This was too much.
“Let her go!” said Jena, stepping out of the bushes. “She’s innocent, leave her and my son out of this.”
“I’m very disappointed in you. You should just have done what I asked. Now you’ll all die, as an example to our next unwilling volunteer.”
“Listen, believe it or not,” Jena tried, “We’re on the same side. We both want an end to the dragons’ dominance over us.”
“Then why did you not kill them all as I asked?”
“Because they are not all evil. Many are good, and want the same as us.”
“What the hell gave you that idea?”
“I have friends, dragon friends. They are ready to overthrow their ruler, with my help. We can trust them, help them, and win our freedom without slaughtering scores of innocents.”
“You idiot. You think you can trust them? You can never trust a wyrm. The people who grew them here knew that, right from the start! Where do you think I got the Weedkiller? Wyrms are slimy, black-hearted evil. There’s not a one of them that isn’t a blight on this land. The only good dragon is a d—”
Lizzie stamped her heel down hard on Johnson Miller’s instep, at the same time elbowing him in the belly and wrenching herself away. He grimaced in agony, doubling over and dropping the knife.
“Purple!” he yelled, presumably to people inside the building. “Fuller! Kill the—” A large red object blurred above Jena’s head as she hugged Lizzie safely to her. The arc of Thibodeau’s leap brought it crashing down on Johnson Miller before he could finish his command. The dragon’s talons ended his life before he even knew what was happening. Bryan could restrain himself no longer and, barking loudly, ran to the dragon’s side. He grabbed the dead man’s foot and shook it savagely, then sat by Thibodeau with a satisfied expression on his furry face.
“Lizzie, are you alright?” Jena looked her daughter in the eyes and knew at once that she was. “Well done, daughter.”
“Don’t sound so surprised, Mam. I am going off to fight in a few days.” She glanced at Johnson’s Miller’s body with a look of satisfaction. “Serve him right, the creepy groper.”
“Hominids inside!” called Thibodeau, in a deep portentous tone that Jena had not heard before. “Your leader is dead. Bring out the boy unharmed, and we will allow you your pathetic lives!”
“What’s with the voice?” asked Jena as she moved to stand by the dragon.
“If used sparingly, on such occasions as this, fear can be a useful tool. I intended my tone to make those inside nervous. Did my voice not inspire fear, hominid Jena?”
“I guess. Did you have to kill him?” she asked, looking down at the corpse.
“I believe that I did. He was about to give the order to have your son killed.”
“Well, thank you,” she said, resting her hand on Thibodeau’s haunch.
The door opened, and two women emerged, blinking in the light. Between them was James, tear-tracks running down his filthy face. He ran to Jena with a cry of “Mam!” and she swung him around into a loving hug. He clung to her neck, sniffing.
“Hominids!” Thibodeau commanded the two women, using its ‘scary’ voice once more. “Do you have anything to say?”
“It was all him!” the one dressed in purple jabbered. The other nodded, and added “He made us do it!”
“Then think on this, puny hominids.” Jena raised an eyebrow, but Thibodeau was obviously enjoying itself. “You may go, but always remember that we know where you live. I know your appearance, and I know your stink. Should either of you ever come to my attention again I will find you and I will burn you. I will turn you to ash from the inside out with my dragonfire!”
“I thought you said—” whispered Jena. Thibodeau nudged her hard with its wing, and she took the hint to remain silent.
“Open a little wider please,” Jena said, moistening the brush once more. Dark Queen Daf’q complied, allowing Jena to scrub the far side of the rearmost molar. In the mirror she saw the tartar fall away under the stiff bristles to leave the tooth free of gunk.
“There,” she said, “All done!” Susi took the brush and the mirror first, followed by a bucket full of pieces of rotting flesh. then helped Jena to climb out over the sharp teeth. “You should drink, your majesty, to thoroughly clean the mouth of particles, but your teeth are now as clean as I can make them.”
“Finally,” Daf’q declaimed. “You took far too long. Leave now.” The enormous Pinophyte settled her head upon her folded front legs and closed her eyes. She began to snore, a surprisingly small sound from so huge a creature.
“Right, come on,” hissed Jena.
“Are you sure?” asked Susi, “I still don’t trust them.”
“I made a deal. Let’s find this back door and get it open. Thibodeau and its friends will be waiting.” She walked around the edge of the enormous cavern, skirting the sleeping bulk of the dragon queen. The light grew dim; any illumination that might have reached this far back into the cavern was blocked by its inhabitant. Jena did manage to find a small entrance, however, by dint of noticing an area of wall that was slightly darker than the rest. Both man and Mag sized, it gave onto a short passage. They entered, and Jena pushed a sharp stick into the translucent flask that she had brought with her. This pierced a seal within the container that separated two liquids which when combined reacted to produce light. Shambrook, who had provided the flask, called this process chemiluminescence, but Jena failed to understand why she might ever need to know this. It was enough for her that it worked.
The flask cast an eerie green glow, enough to light their way. Their way proved no more than a few yards, however, before they reached a metal doorway set into the wall. It was, as expected, locked. On the wall next to the door was a small panel holding a grid of buttons which bore different numbers. Pushing the buttons achieved nothing – the panel was dusty, dirty and dead.
“Here,” said Susi from behind her, and pulled a lever that Jena had not spotted. The panel of numbers lit up. Presumably, she had to press the correct sequence of numbers to open the door, but what sequence? She tried 1-2-3-4, to no avail.
“Try it backwards,” Susi suggested. 4-3-2-1 failed too. This could take forever. Perhaps if she cleaned a little more dirt off… yes. There were letters, too, three or four per button. She tried D-F-Q. No.
D-R-A-G-O-N also failed, as did P-I-N-O, B-R-Y-O, P-T-E-R-O and M-A-G. She mashed her fist against all the buttons at once in frustration, but again, there was no response. What could the code be? The door had obviously been put in here long ago, perhaps when the dragons were first moved onto the plateau.
“Project 217,” Jena muttered. She held her breath and pushed the three numbers. There was a click, and the door swung inward allowing in a flood of light. Thibodeau stood outside on a narrow ledge. Beyond and below the dragon Jena saw water, a glittering ocean that stretched as far as the eye could see. She was amazed. How come none of the villagers knew that this vast sea was so close, on the opposite side of the plateau?
That was a question for later. She stood aside to allow Thibodeau access, and the dragon stooped to enter. “You have my admiration, Jena,” it said. “Now leave us to our task. Wait in this spot. It will be very dangerous to be in the Dark Queen’s cavern.” Three other Mags filed behind Thibodeau into the passageway.
“Is that all of you?” Jena asked. “She’s awfully big for just four of you to handle.”
“We know her weak spots,” Thibodeau answered, “and the Pteros will mount an assault from the front shortly. Luedtke witnessed your opening of this door and has just flown over the mountain to co-ordinate the Ptero attack. Idris,” Thibodeau spoke to the Mag immediately behind it, “you will attack her belly. I shall attack her eyes. Becca-ree, you back me up. If I fall, keep attacking her eyes. They are her weakest spot. Chorlton, you attack wherever you spot a weakness. Keep her busy until the Pteros break through. Courage, my friends. We shall prevail.”
The four Mags squeezed through the dark passageway. Despite Thibodeau’s warning, and Susi’s frantic hissing of her name, Jena went after them. As she followed Chorlton’s tail down the passage it occurred to her that she was doing exactly the same thing that Lizzie had done earlier. Was she putting herself in danger in the same way? If so, it could not be helped. She simply had to witness what was about to happen. The next few minutes could change the world. She stood just inside the passage entrance as the four Mags positioned themselves around the dozing Pinophyte. After a few moments Susi joined her.
Thibodeau glanced at its companions. Receiving three nods, it leaped high into the air, extended its claws and crashed down onto Daf’q’s head, sinking those thorny claws deep beneath her woody skin. At the same time Idris raked its rear feet down Daf’q’s belly, close to the rear leg, dislodging wooded scales that scattered across the floor. Becca-ree and Chorlton tore at the Queen’s wings.
The Dark Queen roared her pain as she leaped to her feet and stretched her mighty wings high. Chorlton was caught between wing and cavern roof and died immediately, crushed against the hard rock. Becca-ree rolled sideways out of the way, then took to the air, looking for a new place to attack the writhing body beneath. Thibodeau added its teeth to its claw attack, ripping a hole close by Daf’q’s eye. The Dark Queen shook her head violently, dislodging Thibodeau and throwing it against the cavern wall. She twisted her neck and gabbed Idris in her mighty jaws, taking off the Mag’s head with one clean bite. Daf’q roared her fury, dark gore dripping from her jaws.
Things were going badly. Outside the cavern mouth Jena could see only rapidly moving shadows as Luedtke’s Pteros fought with the Bryo guards. She fervently hoped that the battle outside was going better than this one, and that soon the aged Fern Dragon would be able to reinforce the two small Mags that remained inside. Thibodeau staggered to its feet, swaying woozily.
“You dare!” hissed the huge Pine Dragon. “You pathetic fools. I will slaughter all of your kin for this. But first, you die slowly.”
Becca-ree swooped towards Daf’q’s glittering multi-faceted eyes, claws extended, but the Dark Queen batted the Mag aside easily. Becca-ree fell motionless to the floor. This whole plan had been a serious mistake. The Mags were no match for the awesome power of the Pine Dragon. She was every inch a queen, dark and mighty. She glowered down now at Thibodeau, sneering her contempt.
“You, it was,” she snarled. “You led this revolt!”
“Indeed,” Thibodeau growled, inching sideways, still looking for an opportunity to attack. Daf’q shot out a limb, her leathery wing sending a gust of air that lifted Jena’s hair as it passed. She grabbed Thibodeau around the middle and flung the Mag down on its back, helpless.
“Know then,” she taunted, “That you will die slowly, in agony, as I tear off your limbs one by one. Perhaps then you might appreciate the glory of your Queen!” She tightened her grip, and the tips of her claws pierced Thibodeau’s skin, causing the Mag to cry out in pain.
“Now, where shall I start?” said Daf’q, and with her other forefoot pointed to each of Thoibodeau’s limbs in turn. She coughed, then recited “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. Ah, say good bye to your left leg, you…” She coughed again, and frowned.
“Just kill me and finish it,” Thibodeau gasped. Daf’q swayed, and shook her head.
“What… what have you done?” she breathed, releasing the Mag and staggering sideways. A few scales fell from her neck. Thibodeau rolled onto its side and stared at the Dark Queen. At the far side of the cavern Becca-ree lifted its head. Dark Queen Daf’q’s legs gave way and she crashed to the ground.
“It hurts!” she wailed. “What have you done, Mag?”
“This was not my doing, Daf’q,” Thibodeau frowned.
“No, it was mine!” Jena strode into the cavern to stand by Thibodeau.
“What could… what could a pathetic hominid do?” hissed Daf’q, her face twisted with pain. Scales fell in scores from her heaving torso.
“Me? Not much,” said Jena, “Except to coat your teeth with Weedkiller.” Jena held up a flask of the dark liquid. The Dark Queen gasped and collapsed heavily to the ground as the life finally left her body. Luedtke rushed into the cavern entrance, saw the body of the Pinophyte, and relaxed with a dragon smile.
“Well done, my friend Jena,” said Thibodeau, rising to its feet. “Well done indeed.”
“I thought it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup plan, just in case. So what now?”
“Well, for starters,” said Thibodeau, curling a lip, “I think I broke a tooth. Do you think you could take a look?”
– a rabbit tale.
– an award-winning thriller.
[+ Cubic Scats+] – a compendium of Northcentric nonsense.
[+ Moth Girl versus The Bats+] – a steampunky adventure.
[+ Soul of the Universe+] – a music-inspired anthology.
[+ Cutthroats and Curses+] – a pirate anthology.
[+ Blood on the Ground+] – a collection of short stories.
– a pilot’s last moments. FREE ebook.
A Yorkshireman living in the rural green hills of Lancashire, Michael Wombat is a man of huge beard. He has a penchant for good single-malts, inept football teams, big daft dogs and the diary of Mr. Samuel Pepys. Abducted by pirates at the age of twelve he quickly rose to captain the feared privateer ‘The Mrs. Nesbitt’ and terrorised the Skull Coast throughout his early twenties. Narrowly escaping the Revenue men by dressing as a burlesque dancer, he went on to work successively and successfully as a burlesque dancer, a forester, a busker, and a magic carpet salesman. The fact that he was once one of that forgotten company, the bus conductors, will immediately tell you that he is as old as the hills in which he lives.
Nowadays he spends his time writing and pretending to take good photographs. You can have a good laugh at his or , but most of all please go and mock him mercilessly on or . Michael Wombat has published . Other authors are available.
Have you ever wondered how a dragon cleans its teeth? Now you can find out in this thrilling and imaginative short fantasy from the award-winning author of 'Moth Girl versus The Bats' and 'Blood on the Ground'.