--Chapter Twenty-three: Random Happenings Down South

Deep within Mt. Bertrice, Crispo and Ferdy watched a videotape. It was the latest hit motion picture out of Burningwood, a high-action thriller called, A Flame for the Ages: Based on the True Story of Crispo and the Human Armies. It starred Shvorzenfire as Crispo; the humans were horribly CG’d, though.

“I don’t see why they didn’t let me do my own acting,” said Crispo. “Hey, my flame was ten times the size of that wimp’s.”

“Eh, I wouldn’t worry about it so much,” said Ferdy. “They did get the number of humans right, at least.”

“Yeah... I don’t know about adding in all this plot jazz, though... Makes it all seem kinda hokey.”

(On screen, Shvorzenfire strikes a regal pose atop what is supposed to be Mt. Bertrice. A swooning pink-scaled female lead dragon named Jheza stands just below him.)

Jheza: (melodramatic) But why? Why must you leave to fight those horrible, mean, and very dangerous dragon slayers?

Crispo: (very deep voice) Because... (close-up of his profile, pause for suspense, since this is the money shot of the movie) ...Whether I burn them, or whether I lose... I must face... my destiny...

(Diamo, played by himself, comes out from behind a rock.)

Diamo: (stumbling on his lines) Uh, Crispo... sir. It’s time... to fight and leave—uh, leave and fight! (looks at the camera and winks)

“See?” said Crispo. “Diamo got to play his own role. Why not me?”

“Oh, elves have all the inside connections in Burningwood,” Ferdy said. “Asking an elf where the right people are is like asking an imp where the fire pills are. You always get the right answer.”

(Shvorzenfire, with Diamo riding on his back, flies off into the distance as orchestra music plays in the background. On Mt. Bertrice, Jheza sheds some tears and waves a handkerchief.)

Jheza: Bye! (sniff) I’ll always love you, Crispo!

“No you won’t,” Crispo interjected. “You’ll meet me when mating season starts, tell me I have a nice flame, use me for a year, and then you’ll dump me for some young punk with a big inheritance, you sleazy, two-timing...”

“Relax, dude,” said Ferdy. “It’s just a movie.”

Crispo sighed, and a small amount of smoke escaped his nose. “Yeah. Just a movie. Right.”

The dragons had done very well for themselves after the end of the human war. Dragon slaying attempts were down to a third or less of what they used to be, the massive anti-fire pill campaign was finally showing some success among the imps, and thanks to new technology, doctors were saying they would have the cure for fire gland cancer within three years. All that really remained was for the dragons to make a real peace with the humans so as to make the number of slaying attempts go to zero. Various plans were in the works for this; some involved open diplomacy: flying straight into human territory and yelling, “We come in peace!” Other plans involved getting human or elven diplomats to do the job instead. The first attempt at contact, which would be made by a group favoring the former strategy, was to happen in a small Desdon-area town the next morning...

“Don’t worry, Billums. I swear there are no monsters in our back yard.”

“But Mommy, I saw four of them, and they were practicing barbershop singing, and they were big and scary and had huge teeth and wings...”

“Hahaha, you mean you saw four dragons?”

“Yes, Mommy! They’re right outside the window! I closed the shudders, but they’re really there!”

“Hahaha, no they’re not, dear. Here, I’ll prove it to you.” Three seconds later. “See? There’s absolutely nothing to—AAAH!”





“We are the beasts / We come in peace / To this great East / Oh yes indeed! (Two, three, four...)”

The shudders closed again.

“Billums, grab your coat and hat, and run to the horse outside. I’ll get your father. We’re leaving, and I don’t know if we’ll ever come back.”

“Yes, Mommy.”