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Georgina and the Dragon

Stephen has allegedly retired although his wife appears not to have noticed this fact. He is old enough to remember Asimov, Clarke, and Morcock but young enough to enjoy Melville, Aaronovitvh, and Beukes. He has an ongoing series of short stories set upon a post-apocalyptic space ark running in Schlock Magazine and this is his second appearance in Daily Science Fiction. He also has three issues of a comic set within the internet a million years in the future, Humanization.com, and would love to write more if only his son--the artist--could find time. Comments: Most of my ideas come from 'but what happened next?' and I have always been fascinated by what is left out of a story. This one actually came as a way of retelling the old George and the Dragon story for a story line in a series of tales involving science as magic and a six foot barbarian woman. In the end it was not a good fit but the idea appealed and so I rewrote it for Georgina who greatly appreciated it.

The dragon had arrived unexpectedly. None had suspected until two rather dilapidated abandoned cottages went up in flames. Even then no one would have immediately thought "Dragon" if the neatly written note had not arrived at the small brick built town hall later that afternoon. The Aldermen were called and much was made of the script and the delicateness of the writing. How fine it was; and certainly well written. Much was also made of the contents. The dragon asked for one young virgin and a leather bag filled to overflowing with gold coin.
He--the Aldermen naturally assumed the dragon was male--asked for the girl and the gold to be left outside the large village in four nights time. In regretful tones it announced that it would reign fire down upon the cottages of the fine folk if its request was not met. The Aldermen debated and considered. They talked and wondered. They discussed and pondered; and in the end decided to do nothing. In the days that followed the Aldermen kept to themselves not even seeing Pietro who had come to complain about the loss of his prize pig.
On the morning after that fourth night the whole village was tremulous. Each man looked upwards at the sky in fear even though nothing had actually occurred; as yet. The women, in their large shrouds and peaked head coverings could only walk meekly behind their menfolk gazing at the pebbled sidewalks and dirt roads. By mid-morning the Aldermen were congratulating themselves on everting a disaster when a small abandoned cottage burst into flames on the outskirts of the village. The men rushed to the site and managed to quell the flames but the stink of burnt wood filled the air, drifting into the marketplace on the slight breeze.
A second note arrived, equally well written, demanding a girl and the gold that very night. The Aldermen in fear called all the village together into the great Feasting Hall and asked the people to bring forth a virgin. The hall grew quiet. Eventually Georgina stepped forward.
"I will go." She said.
The Aldermen looked at one another and then at Daniel her father; for of course it was unseemly for the girl to offer herself. She was her father's property after all.
Daniel looked at his daughter. She was willful and ill-tempered, unwilling to stay on any task he set her. She had even flaunted her hair no less than a year previous; and she almost fifteen! He'd had offers of marriage but the dowry asked was three, even four times more than normal. Daniel looked over at Alderman Friar's daughter who was fair of skin and skilled in weaving and sowing. She was light on her feet and her voice a delight to hear. It was rumored that the Alderman had actually been offered money for his daughter's hand!
"Th' beast can 'ave 'er, far as I'm concerned. Save me th' dowry," he muttered a little too eagerly.
A sense of relief flooded the people and the Aldermen went away to scrape together the gold needed. Most even raided their own private accounts in the hope that enough coin would keep the dragon away for good. That night the girl was taken to a small cave entrance outside the village and tied to a stake with the large bag of gold at her feet. In the morning the bag was gone and a handful of burnt bones remained. The villagers felt a little upset for the girl but relieved to have been spared.
And the tale may have ended there but for the fact that ten miles north at that exact time Georgina was wondering through the forest happily carrying a large bag of gold. For indeed Georgina was willful and stubborn, but she was also clever and shrewd. Years before Meister Hanson, the school master, had recognized a hunger in the girl and allowed her to learn how to read and write. Over the years he had given her access to all of his books and she had read each many times. As she grew older she saw the ways her brothers could laze about whilst she had to cook and clean and sow and even dance. In Georgina's mind there was no greater evil than forcing a girl to learn to dance! She understood what her future was to be. And then she recalled the tale of a knight and a dragon. Of course there were no such things as dragons, but she knew how to create fire; and how to write a neat note. Also the Aldermen were men not given to imagination--as far as Georgina could tell few men in the village were--and so she walked into her freedom with a heavy pocket full of gold.
She did feel sorry for Pietro's pig.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Author Comments

Most of my ideas come from "but what happened next?" and I have always been fascinated by what is left out of a story. This one actually came as a way of retelling the old George and the Dragon story for a story line in a series of tales involving science as magic and a six-foot tall barbarian woman. In the end it was not a good fit but the idea appealed, and so I rewrote it for Georgina who greatly appreciated it.

- S W Whitehouse
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