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A Problem of Etiquette

by on May 12, 2015

Lady Eulalie was sitting on the beach when the dragon came. It was a blazing sunny day, perfect for beach-sitting. Isle Turtledove had a fair number of beaches; Eulalie, being who she was, had her own private one on the north coast. The pathway to it was guarded by castle soldiers, so she thought she was safe in going there alone. She had been gazing happily out at the blue-green waters rolling by for some time when a shadow passed over her head. At first, she thought it was a cloud. Then the cloud dived.

She didn’t have time to run or call for help. The dragon, scales gleaming, massive bat-like wings tearing at the air, thundered down and slammed to the beach in a spray of sand and smoke. Eulalie screamed, expecting to burn in seconds.

Then the dragon paused. “Oh, blast,” it rumbled. “This isn’t right. This isn’t right at all.”

“I beg your pardon?” Eulalie said shakily.

“You’re alone,” the dragon said. “I can’t flame you if you’re alone. It’s not fair.”

“It’s not… fair,” she repeated.

“No. You’re supposed to be protected by a knight. I flame him, and then I flame you. Gives you a sporting chance, you see.”

Eulalie considered herself an expert on matters of etiquette. This one was completely new to her. “I didn’t realize there were rules for this sort of thing.”

The dragon drew itself up, looking offended. “This isn’t the 10th century, you know. We don’t just fly about where we please, burn people, and steal their treasure. We’re organized. We have standards. We do honest work for honest treasure.”

“You mean you’re paid for this?” Eulalie said.

“Of course,” the dragon said, a little condescendingly. Eulalie had never before been condescended to by a dragon. “Those big mountain caves don’t pay for themselves, you know. There’s property taxes to consider, and enchantment fees, and scale repair costs.”

“Oh,” said Eulalie. “So… someone paid you to come and attack me.”

“Exactly,” the dragon said. “But there are expectations. The client was clearly informed. I can’t attack you if you’re undefended.” It glared at her, as if it was her fault for messing up what should have been a neat and tidy job.

“I’m so sorry,” Eulalie said. “If you like, I’ll go and fetch help. My castle is just down the road.”

“Well, that’s the thing of it…” the dragon rumbled. “I can’t just let you leave now. You’ll summon a whole army and have them drive me off with arrows, or magic, or something else nasty. No, I’m afraid I’ll have to make an exception and flame you now. The client will understand. Circumstances.”

“But….” Eulalie tried desperately. “I promise, I won’t call a whole army, just one or two knights. One, even. I’ve got the perfect one in mind, his name’s Smith, he’s got a wooden leg, you won’t have any trouble at all…”

“Sorry,” said the dragon, “but there’s no help for it. I do feel badly about all this.”

“Oh, stuff it,” Eulalie snapped. Then she saw the dragon opening its jaws. She gasped. She wasn’t ready. She wanted something more appropriate for her last words, at least. Then she realized that no one would ever know the difference anyway. She shrugged, and unleashed a torrent of the most dreadful language she knew, things sailors shouted in the docks. Everyone at court would have been scandalized. She was still screaming invective as the dragon flamed.

This story is a companion to Charming, and So This is Love. Also, I owe a bit of inspiration to a story from 1921 by Heywood Broun, entitled The Fifty-First Dragon. Dragon-slaying is more complicated than one might think. 

  1. … what’s the name of his other leg?

  2. Ramya permalink

    yup… whats the name?

  3. I love how he made her feel bad for inconveniencing him. He’s obviously very good at his job.

    • You have to appreciate a dragon who loves his job and is good at it, right? American Dream, and all that. (So to speak).

  4. This reminds me just a bit of the Paper Bag Princess. Which makes me so happy. 🙂

  5. Jennifer G. Knoblock permalink

    “Those big mountain caves don’t pay for themselves, you know.” I’m a sucker for a dragon story and loved this from start to finish.

    • I’m keen on dragon stories as well, like Smaug in the Hobbit, or those three fellas in Game of Thrones. You can’t go wrong with a good dragon tail.

  6. Congratulation on your editor pick! This was a delightful story and really stuck out from the crowd this week.

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