Dog And Dragon – Snippet 19

Then they broke from the woods into what was obviously the home farm of the knight. They’d cleared a bit of land since Fionn was last here. You could see the thatch of the walled manor house, low down along the shallow swale that ran from the standing stone against the ridge. There was a good reason for the house being low down and far from the standing stone, Fionn knew.

The magic fountain was at the base of the standing stone, some half a mile across the fields. The knight’s tenants were in the fields — or at least running from the fields. Someone had the ability and courage to flight an arrow so Fionn took to the ground, making it very obvious — with shouts and cooperation — that the dog and dragon were working with their overlord, dealing with — or at least taunting — the three-headed giant. It would seem to Fionn that the giant had no understanding of human speech, which was odd, as most other giants did. It was either that, or it was very stupid, because they kept it away from the mill and away from the barns and away from the cattle, leading it on — on towards the bleeding fountain. The bleeding fountain was once nothing more than iron in the rock the water oozed through — but superstition and magic often built on each other, and Fionn wouldn’t be surprised if it really was some kind of blood now, with all the belief in it being that.

It was a numinous spot, with the squat misshapen monolith and its altar stone above the old stone-carved basin into which the ruddy water seeped. It was surrounded by blackened and dead oaks. That, Fionn knew, had nothing to do with mysterious powers, but everything to do with the energies channeled here.

“It’s your fountain, Sir Bertran,” he yelled. “You’d better scatter the water.”

The knight leapt from the saddle of his steaming, tired horse as Díleas and Fionn teased and taunted the giant. It was, Fionn knew, a dangerous game. They were still faster than the giant, but they were both tiring.

The siliceous creature was not. He would pursue them relentlessly. Fionn was willing to bet he now had the scent of their essences, and would follow, no matter how fast or far they fled. Eventually it would catch them.

This smelled, and not just faintly of dead things.

Sir Bertran scooped a handful of the red water and poured it out on the altar rock, respectfully. He ignored the giant as he did this.

And then he mounted again and charged back towards the fray.

Above, already, the thunderheads built, as with a magical speed the sky darkened. The air seemed to thicken.

“We need that idiot in the iron suit off the horse and further away from the giant,” said Fionn, sotto voce, to Díleas. “Because any minute now…”

Then lightning, blue-white and so close there no pause between it and the terrible rattling boom of thunder, carved a ragged, jagged line to the tallest point.

The giant.

Sheeting rain began to fall.

But that was of no concern to Fionn because he was under a shivering dog, and he had to pick up a knight who had fallen from his horse, as more lightning hissed down, hitting the giant again and again.

Nothing, not even siliceous proteins, could survive the lightning bolts. Dragons had found out the hard way that lightning could be survived in the air…but not when they landed.

Now Fionn just had to deal with minor problems — an unconscious knight and a dog that really, really didn’t like thunderstorms. And he had torrential rain to cope with, of course.

That was still a better deal than the three-headed giant had got. Fionn was fairly sure it was now dead, the neural circuits fried. It was probably a large lump of glassy rock now, for people in later years to laugh at the superstitions of their ancestors.

The rain began to ease off, and Sir Bertran sat up. “What happened?” he asked muzzily.

“I think I’d tell your adherents that you struck it a thunderous blow. Some of the braver ones are approaching now, and I’d appreciate it if you told them that there is no need to pinprick this particular dragon with arrows and that the quivering sheepdog is no threat. It’s all right, Díleas, the storm is over.”

Sir Bertran stood up. “My mother,” he said resignedly, looking at the palanquin approaching. “Sir Fionn, you and your dog strove bravely with me today. I give you thanks. I am in your debt, as I am aware the giant could have caught me on several occasions had the two of you not drawn him off.” He patted Díleas. “Seldom has the world seen a braver, cleverer dog, Sir Fionn.”

“As long as there are no thunderstorms,” said Fionn. “Anyway. One of your grazing paddocks now has a new rock formation, I think. Let’s go and inspect it before they come and fuss about you. You took a quite a toss there. Got something of a shock, too, I shouldn’t wonder.” Fionn didn’t point out that he thought the knight had got off quite lightly, all things considered.

They walked across to the late three-headed giant, now a vast tor of blackened glass, with the evil tusky faces distorted and twisted into something even uglier. The giant glass statue was somewhat the worse for having suffered multiple lightning strikes, but that didn’t stop the peasants and men-at-arms approaching cheering their lord, or Díleas lifting his leg on its foot. He was still rather new to this lifting of a leg instead of squatting puppy- or girl-dog fashion, and nearly fell over in the process. That could have been awkward, as the foot was still cracking with internal heat.

Maybe the loyal retainers might have been approaching a little less fast than they might…if their lord was not being supported by a dragon. And even from here Fionn could hear the hero’s mother. He was a brave lad, this Bertran. Best to leave him to be brave alone, decided Fionn, but it appeared he was not going to be that lucky.