Dog And Dragon – Snippet 18


“I had not,” said the knight, Sir Bertran, “been aware of the usefulness of dragon fire in kindling a fire in these wet woods.” He was eyeing the dragon with a little more respect.

That was a good thing, probably, Fionn thought. He was a nice enough lad in a society where the nobility had to prove themselves with deeds of courage. Ignorance of dragons — and some might leave Tasmarin now — could be rapidly fatal. It was small repayment for the fact that Bertran was sharing a hind he’d shot earlier with them. Besides, the dog approved of him. Of course, Fionn admitted to himself, Díleas was a shameless beggar from anyone who had food, but he had gone trotting over to the knight before he’d known about the knight’s nearby camp and the deer carcass strung in the tree next to it.

“I had hoped,” said Sir Bertran, “that it might serve as bait and bring the fearsome beasts to me. They are more numerous in the woods than in my father’s time, but still, they are wary of an armored knight. But if not bait, then food, if I can get a fire to kindle.” Fionn had been happy to oblige. Díleas had been perfectly content to eat it raw, and had been provided with a few slices of meat to keep him going while it cooked. If Fionn understood soulful doggy looks, a little drool, and the occasional hrrm noises, it had been wholly insufficient, at least in Díleas’s opinion, and “cooked” should be a relative term.

And then, of course, something scented the bait. The knight’s horse gave first warning, before the distracted dog. But even without that whicker of fear, they would have known, soon enough.

The giant broke trees and shook the earth with his tread. The forest life fled before him — birds, deer, a unicorn, foxes, a cockatrice, squirrels and an ogre.

The giant wasn’t interested in them. It was hunting, in Fionn’s opinion, a dog and a dragon.

In Sir Bertran’s opinion, it was hunting him, and thus the company he was in.

There was nothing wrong with the young knight’s courage, or the agility of his horse. He did manage to place his lance tip in the bellowing giant’s eye, and the horse danced aside from the giant’s club — a ripped-up tree — as the lance tip snapped. Unfortunately it had five other eyes — as it had three tusky heads.

Fionn had yelled at Díleas “Run!” before taking to the wing himself. Dragon fire singed the giant — as he kicked over their fire and sent the partly cooked hind flying.

Dragon fire carbonized the club, but the giant itself merely bellowed in anger and lunged at him. It didn’t burn. It was a siliceous giant…A rock giant, as opposed to the frost and fire ones Fionn knew for their bad temper. Normally the rock giants were slow to anger, and slow of reactions. This one was neither. In fact, thought Fionn, as his wings bit air and pushed him higher, this one was a rock giant in its resistance to dragon fire, but looked fire-giantish, with its three heads and brutish nature. And it smelled…odd. Like something had died and it had stood in it. That was always possible.

The fool dog, however, was not running. He was standing and barking. And the fool knight wasn’t running either. He’d drawn his sword — which was not going to be a lot of use against the giant. Fionn swooped down and slapped the left outer head with his tail. It might be a rock creature but a blow from a dragon tail was enough to make it stagger. And bellow again, and plunge towards him.

The dog and the knight, instead of running, followed.

So Fionn had to taunt the giant again, because it narrowly missed seizing the teasing dog. Spiraling up again, Fionn looked for answers. He could lead it off and lose it — if the knight and dog would back off. The dog might…possibly. The knight wasn’t going to. Which meant that he had to deal somewhat more permanently with the giant. One could poison them — the silicate organic chemistry was quite susceptible to arsenates, and to some of the powerful acids. Heat would not work. One could bog them down, sink them in a lake, but they’d just keep walking, or toss them over a cliff. Or he could smash the giant apart with a hammer bigger and heavier than itself. Or bespell them. Looking at the energy flows, Fionn thought he saw another answer. This was Brocéliande, and this young knight was, after all, the son of the guardian of the fountain of Escalados. Escalados, the red fountain that drew the storms…and the stone giant dragged his feet as he blundered through the trees.

Fionn swooped down. “We must lead him to Escalados. To the fountain.”

“I must defend that! And my mother, the Lady Laudine, is within the manor there. There are no tall walls…”

“He’s a stone giant. It is the only way to kill him. He wants us, not the manor or anything else.” The giant proved that by ignoring a small herd of deer that bolted from in front of it, and by plunging after the three of them.

The knight nodded. “It is the better part of half a league!”

Brocéliande’s ancient ferny, mossy forests, full of vast trees and twisted branches were no place to play catch-as-catch-can with an angry, hunting giant. The giant was capable of going straight, rather than around. Still, the trees slowed him, as they might a man pushing through thick brush.

The giant had by now decided that the knight, sheepdog, and the dragon were all part of its target. And it had three tusky-mouthed heads to feed. It must want one each, Fionn decided. The knight was at most risk, as Fionn had the open sky and Díleas could dart through gaps that were too narrow for a horseman. Perhaps it was the color, but the giant was fixated on the dog…who in turn was determined to prove that he was as capable of herding giants as he should be of herding sheep, darting behind it — even between the tree-trunk legs, to snap at the giant’s heels. Of course his teeth could not make any impression on the giant flesh, but the giant itself seemed far more interested in trying to reach the dog. On several occasions when the knight was trapped, the dog drew off the giant before Fionn could flame its eyes or bat its heads.