'I don't know.'
'Then let me ask you something else. Why do you suppose you are here at all?'
I thought the question a bit obvious but answered nonetheless.
'To slay any Dragons guilty of violating the Dragonpact?'
'But in four centuries none of us has ever ever violated the pact. Have you any idea why?' violated the pact. Have you any idea why?'
'Because you respect the Dragonpact?'
'No. I'll tell you. Shandar suggested the use of a force-field surrounding the marker stones to keep humans out. Such an act of magic is vast; he requested that we help him and we readily agreed, binding the magic of the marker stones so tightly it could never be undone except by the death of the Dragon it was there to protect.'
'He tricked us. The weave of the magic was tighter than we imagined. The marker stones don't just keep humans out, but us in but us in. These Dragonlands are not a safe haven but a prison!'
I digested this new information.
'Then the Dragonpact wasn't a pact at all!'
'Exactly. Shandar earned his twenty dray-weights of gold, believe me. The first Dragon who tried to get out of his lands was vaporised instantly. We sent around a message warning of the danger, and here we have sat, dwindling in numbers, communicating rarely and watching our magic slowly siphoned out of us by the energy of the very force-field that was meant to protect us!'
'So why have Dragonslayers at all?'
'Window dressing,' replied the Dragon. 'The Dragonslayers, far from being a most n.o.ble profession, are really nothing more than a contractual obligation. In Shandar's plan you would never have come up here at all.'
'Then... I don't have to kill you.'
The Dragon raised a claw in the air and wagged it at me.
'Well, that's the wrong wrong answer, I'm afraid,' he said reproachfully. 'We've planned this for a long time. You were chosen by us to do this deed; at midday you answer, I'm afraid,' he said reproachfully. 'We've planned this for a long time. You were chosen by us to do this deed; at midday you have have to kill me!' to kill me!'
I could feel large salty tears well up in my eyes. It all seemed so unfair.
'But I've never killed anything in my life!'
'Big Magic is by definition highly specific. Someone like you must must do it.' do it.'
'What's special about me? Why can't Sir Matt Grifflon do it?'
'You are more special than you realise, Jennifer.'
'Tell me why it has to be me!'
'I am only the last in a long line of greater minds. Not even I have all the answers. All I know is that you have to discharge your duty using your own free will and judgement. It is your destiny, Jennifer. You will will do it.' do it.'
I picked up Exhorbitus as a clock started to strike twelve somewhere in the distance, and Maltca.s.sion lifted his chin to reveal the soft flesh beneath his throat. I starte
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