10. Fixing the Little Red Dragon

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"Is being many sun-moons ago," Moribus began. "Third is long searching to find treasure-home of Little Red Dragon in earth-teeth beyond great waters. Many tree-herds, many grass-lakes, many water-snakes is Third crossing. Betides, Third is finding Little Red Dragon at last and learning secrets of dragon-ways."

Morg was revolted. How could any dragon debase himself so low as to instruct a manling in the ways of their kind? Such a dragon would instantly become hreek-slin, a stench in the nares of the Great Serpent. "Wherefore is Little Red Dragon showing Thrrdh such things? Wherefore is not killing?"

"Third is making Little Red Dragon much cloud-happy by showing where treasure-things are found. Little Red Dragon is keeping Third close as scales on head. Third is much listening, is much learning. Soon Third is speaking in manner of dragons and making secret treasure-home. One sun-moon, Third is telling Little Red Dragon that no more treasure-things can be—what is word?—harvested. Little Red Dragon is growing much angry and is wont to kill us."

"But Thrrdh yet livest," Morg noted.

"Third is killing Little Red Dragon first."

Morg snorted in disbelief. Though it wasn't inconceivable that a full-grown manling soldier could mortally wound a hapless young dragon, this manling, for all its talk of mind-danger, hardly appeared capable of harming a bat. "Surely, Thrrdh utterest shadow-lie."

"Third is killing," Moribus repeated.

"Thou wilt tell Mrrgkhtchkllk how Thrrdh is killing Little Red Dragon."

"Is difficult for telling. Is simple for showing."

"Then thou wilt show us."

"Third is being much honored to show Great Dragon way of killing," Moribus said. "Firstly, Third is sneaking into treasure-home of Little Red Dragon where we are having many places for hiding. Then Third is making big smell." Moribus squeezed out a generous handful of guano and slung it in the dragon's direction.

Morg leaped back as a whitish glob splatted dangerously close to a hind claw. "Thou art stopping now!" he roared.

"We are being very much sorry," Moribus said. "Third is but showing Great Dragon how we are killing Little Red Dragon. Little Red Dragon is having much good smell-sense. Must not be allowed to smell Third."

"Mrrgkhtchkllk has heard enough! We wilt slay thee now!" He advanced on the impetuous manling.

"But Third is not finished telling story." Moribus reached into a pocket of his cloak for a handful of fire-blossoms. In one smooth motion, he seated them into the leather cradle of his slingshot and sent them arcing high into the air. Wherever they struck a stalactite or the ground, they exploded in chrysanthemum-colored flashes. "Little Red Dragon is having much good eye-sense. Must not be allowed to see Third."

The flashes wreaked havoc on Morg's night vision, filling it with blue after-images. A herd of oliphaunts could have stampeded under his snout and he wouldn't have seen a thing. I can still hear you, he thought, moving in the direction of the manling's voice. But the hermit was prepared for this too. Morg had barely taken two strides when a shrill noise rang out, high as the hunting call of an eagle in the eyries, brittle as the creaking of glaciers in the spring. The pain in his ears was exquisite. Just as suddenly as it had begun, the shrieking stopped.

"Little Red Dragon is having much good ear-sense," the manling's voice sounded out from a different spot. "Must not be allowed to hear Third. Whenever Little Red Dragon is drawing near, we are making big noise and running away."

Just as Morg's head was beginning to clear, the manling let loose with a fresh barrage of explosions, stinks and shrieks. Robbed of his senses, he could only rampage blindly in the hope of catching his adversary in the onslaught. He whipped and scythed his way across the chamber, spraying coins and gemstones in all directions. By the time he stopped, his breast heaving from the exertion, the floor was covered in a lumpy blanket of treasure that crunched underfoot. Damn that creature! A whole sun cycle's worth of cleaning and organizing had just been undone in a moment's fury. If only he could have caught it alive. He would have enjoyed hearing it sing as he pulled it apart limb by limb.

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