Anna Tambour presents 

The virtuous medlar circle
thoroughly bletted


by Simon Petrie

Day the Third: Beginning have doubts about this assignment. Half his kingdom, all well & good; hand of daughter in marriage, yes alright maybe; but haven’t actually seen hand, or any other portion, and kingdom bit down-in-dumps, charred & decrepit. Peasants smelly, grimy, rude. Am wondering if get choose which half kingdom (expect not, and fair bet half without castle), and if half inclusive peasants.

Road still well marked. Bloody horse went under too-low overhanging branch, new armour now prominent dent on left side. Hurts when turn suddenly. When stopped for lunch (streamside v. reminiscent of yesterday’s spot), tried beating breastplate back into shape with rock, only managed make worse. Still, maybe gives impression actually having been combat before. If viewed poor light. By poorly-sighted person. From considerable distance.

Day the Fourth: Asked peasant directions. Think laughed behind hands at start but answered respectfully enough otherwise. Dragon basically ahead and to right, in distance, follow trail smoke, can’t miss, best luck. Proceed, make good time. Almost have another overhanging-branch incident, but avoid last second.

Should armour showing rust after only four days? Market dealer assured get several years before tarnish developed. Am wondering, though, if better shelled out extra for fully-welded, tailored model, not just off-rack soldered OSFA. Still, only need for one encounter, touch wood. Don’t see point all added expense just for one afternoon.

Day the Fifth: Finally, just curiosity, took sword out scabbard first time. Had not realised at time purchase ‘vorpal’ means small, round-tipped, best suited pâté. Explains unusual scabbard shape, but suddenly even more unsure whole dragon business.

Decide make camp streamside lunch spot. Nice place, like where stopped two days ago. Hope this bit included half kingdom. If ever get that point. Otherwise, might request ashes scattered here. If anyone able retrieve them.

Spend evening trying find horse. (Must remember tether properly this time. Knot.)

Day the Sixth: Didn’t sleep well again. Dreamed being chased by dragon, trying defend self with teaspoon. Awoke pools sweat throughout armour. Might see about sleeping out of suit tonight. Preparedness all very well, but there limits.

Try see about reshaping sword-tip, bashing with rocks. No bloody good. Least sword seems well-forged, sturdy. Made for many applications pâté, suppose. Maybe can try throw down dragon’s throat, might choke. (Yeah, right. Maybe squadron flying pigs turn up, just when arrive dragon’s lair, take out dragon for me.)

Might stay this spot another day, make sure well-rested. Need be in peak condition. (Horse, too. Must find horse again, remember tether properly this time. Double knot.) Dragon not going anywhere, after all, hoard to guard, plenty peasants pick off.

Might take up sketching, pass time, while getting peak condition. No point rushing things.

Day the Seventeenth: Sketching not going well, charcoal not my medium. Should probably move on. Smoke horizon looks darker today, maybe most recent peasant went down wrong way. Feeling bit guilty at delay. Wonder can retrace steps market, see about purchase better sword. Check purse. Not an option. Really should get going again. After lunch.

Difficulty getting armour on this afternoon, seems have shrunk.

Day the Eighteenth: Finally get horse untied. (Must remember tether properly next time. Slip knot.) Make good time, find nice streamside spot camp. Am feeling more positive than have for days, decide good be back on quest.

Dragons? Who’s afraid dragons?

Day the Nineteenth: Find track leading off ring road. Terrain now looking rockier, singed. Feeling apprehensive again. Would stop, but nothing worth sketching here. Best keep going.

Day the Twentieth: BLOODY HELL! Am expected take out that?!!?? With glorified butter knife?!!?? Size those teeth!! Length those claws!!! Lucky could find rock hide behind.

Shame about horse. Still, can’t have felt anything. Much.

Half kingdom nowhere near enough. Hand better be pretty bloody special.

Feeling slightest bit inadequate.

Day the Twenty-First: Have sighted lair, suppose dragon off marauding again. Now need develop plan attack.

Day the Twenty-Sixth: No bloody feasible plan attack possible. Like trying take on flying castle with spatula. Bloody futile. Suicidal. Delusional. Would retreat, but dragon knows here now, would pick off soon as crawled out hiding-spot. Getting tired earthworm and slug diet. Will just attack tomorrow, hope for best. No point putting off any longer.

Day the Twenty-Seventh: Will just attack tomorrow, hope for best. No point putting off any longer.

Day the Twenty-Eighth: Slept terribly, awoke nauseous. Not good idea vomit armour. Spend afternoon decontaminating as best could, but suspect still bit niffy. Can’t helped.


Happened like this. Dragon strafed hiding-spot on morning peasant run. Clambered out, unseen, after flown over, ran. Reached lair. Checked out hoard, not as fabulously wealthy as been led expect. Knew didn’t have much time, looked new spot hide in. Nowhere decent. Looked also better weapon, sword fallen hero maybe? Didn’t find, but did see quite striking gold coronet, encrusted many gems. Fits quite well. Admired self jewel-bordered mirror, rakish angle, could grow accustomed. Dragon returned while investigating large bejewelled pendant. Understandably pissed-off, to say least. Retreated corner and attempted bargain for life. Negotiations heated (shoulder still singed) but managed strike deal, take turns riddles. If answer wrong, dragon eats. If dragon not guess answer, dragon eats. Not mad keen, admittedly, but best manage circumstances.

Nearly tricked dragon: “what four legs, two wheels, flies”, but heard before. Dragon’s riddle tough, “Hero better served raw, or baked in armour?” Decide don’t know answer, put cunning plan into effect. Pull sword from scabbard, rush headlong at fiery brute shouting “Now die, worm!”. Dragon snorts derisively – think right word – and lifts paw ready strike. Then—

Don’t bloody believe. Stranger just walks up, just now, as writing last bit down. First think peasant, but bit better dressed average peasant, washed recently. Don’t know where appeared from. Minstrel, apparently, or so says. Supposed known far wide, but never heard of him. Anyway, offering three-quarters bigger kingdom across mountain range, option more attractive hand, if sign him exclusive rights dragon-slaying details, use in new ballad. Said need think about, give answer in week.

Day the Thirtieth: Where all come from? This morning, travelling merchant, trading for X Calibre swordsmiths, offering new sword, horse spare shoes, full set ox knives, all permission use likeness on tapestry, sword displayed prominently. Point out not actually use X Calibre sword slay dragon, but apparently doesn’t matter. Said think about.

Another minstrel, this time already written ballad my exploits, gave quick run-through. Sound reverberated helmet horribly. Same story, exclusive rights. This offer smaller kingdom, three-storey castle, permanent materials, ocean view. Again, said think about.

Monk, wishes to record story, fully illuminated, as inspirational tract on parchment.

Tax collector, asked have close look hoard, make assessment.

Adventurer, wants me sign up three-dragon deal, all transport, victuals, generous provision made rain delay and difficulty finding dragons. Own armour a must.

Sculptor, asks permission carve likeness with foot resting on head slain dragon, plan place in centre local town square, between tavern and stocks.

Young damsel, claims princess, wants know if interested matrimony. (Thought princesses washed more often, must say.)

Three children, said playing ball here last month, kicked into lair, wonder if come in poke around to find. Also friend Eowulf or pieces thereof, if still recognisable.

Day the Thirty-First: Thinking about.

Day the Thirty-Second: Not sure which smells worse, decomposing dragon or horde hangers-on.

Day the Thirty-Third: Scales fallen from eyes (suspect design flaw with helmet). Call meeting with assembled parties, announce have made decision. Not interested selling exclusive rights to slaying story. Will reveal all details to all assembled. Rushed dragon, drew sword (actually, drew sword before rushed dragon, otherwise not here now), rolled at crucial moment, struck fatal blow into dragon’s heart, dragon died, end story. Hand assuredly guided by fate, destiny, forces greater than ourselves, whatever. Very lucky still alive, obviously. Don’t feel heroic, but honoured on hand for beast’s demise. Humbled.

(In truth, some details omitted, don’t wish disillusion all & sundry. Crucial moment tripped, not rolled; nearly broke bloody neck. Looked up in time see dragon pounce headlong, closed eyes, whimpered, took final breath. Final breath unexpectedly long time. Looked up again, dragon impaled rusty lance left sticking up from middle hoard. Remember earlier thinking someone hurt self on that. Dragon brought down not bravery or swordsmanship but own poor housekeeping. Lesson us all?)

Those assembled allowed in lair, five minutes’ max, permitted carry out all can hold, as long take piece dragon meat. No returns, no refunds, no exchanges. No loitering, or show blade slew dragon, if get drift. Just want left peace after that. Can’t bothered half kingdom, daughter’s hand, all other nonsense. Ridiculous fuss.

Protests from throng, seem think some sort acclamation required. Seem want shower me with gifts. Unhappy this. Eventually concede small extent. Place request for:

New horse
Scrolls for sketching
Year’s supply pâté

Day the Thirty-Fifth: Back on ring road. Camp nice streamside spot, lose new horse. (Must remember tether properly. Reef knot.) Realise forgot request something spread pâté on, but too late now. Spend afternoon looking good spot sketch, stumble huge plant in clearing. Thick trunk, colossal leaves, bright green. Looks like massive beanstalk.

Wonder what’s at top?


"DragonBlog" was first published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, issue 33, 2008 and is one of the stories in Simon Petrie's first collection of short fiction,
Rare Unsigned Copy: tales of Rocketry, Ineptitude, and Giant Mutant Vegetables published in March 2010 by Peggy Bright Books
There are about a dozen new stories here, amounting to about 30% of the total text.
"It's quite a big collection with about 40 stories which will keep everyone entertained. Don't forget the Sudoku puzzles if you're psychic! The title suggests an element of comedy which is certainly in abundance but there is also a touch of the serious side of Science Fiction, chilling in nature and deadly . . . lots to laugh about and let's face it, with the economy suffering severe cutbacks in every direction we need something to cheer us up."
Read the review by Rod MacDonald, SF Crowsnest
Buy now from Infinitas Books
Simon Petrie was born on the South Island of New Zealand. Now living on the North Island of Australia, he is a Canberra-based research scientist (whose track record encompasses gas-phase ion chemistry, astrochemistry, and most recently computational inorganic biochemistry) and writer of speculative fiction. Since 2007, his stories have appeared in magazines such as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Aurealis, Borderlands, Kaleidotrope, Sybil's Garage and Yog's Notebook, webzines such as AntipodeanSF, Ticon4 and Semaphore, and anthologies such as Masques (ed. Polack & Hopkins, CSFG), Destination: Future (ed. Adani & Reynolds, Hadley Rille Books), and Belong (ed. Farr, Ticonderoga Publications).

Simon is an active member of the Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-operative, the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, and the SpecFicNZ core collective. He has twice served on the judging panels for the Aurealis Awards, in the SF Novel and Anthology & Collection categories, and, glutton for punishment, has recently reported for duty on this year's Fantasy Short Story panel.

The virtuous medlar circle

is part of
Anna Tambour and Others

"DragonBlog" copyright © 2008 by Simon Petrie
This short story appears here with thanks to Simon Petrie, whose payment was less than a brass razoo.
This story is part of a series of invited pieces by people I find deliciously inspiring, always a hoot, and who write like a bletted medlar tastes. A.T.
The Virtuous Medlar Circle © 2004 – 2010