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The entire town was in fear. Women snatched their children from the streets and dragged them indoors; they closed the shutters tight and hid behind closed doors. The menfolk armed themselves nervously with whatever came to hand – pitchforks, clubs, and shovels – and stood anxiously staring at the horizon. None had the courage to venture out towards the beast that threatened them, but they couldn’t show their fear to their families. They had to make a show of defending their homes.

A delegation was sent to the tavern.

One stopped outside the door. “What good is it even asking? He didn’t help us last winter.”

The man beside him took off his hat and tried to smooth his hair. “That was frost trolls. He’s not interested in frost trolls.”

A third nodded. “Not been interested in frost trolls since my Ava was a bairn.”

The first was still hesitant. “And what about the new year? Your brother lost his barn, did he do anything then?”

“That was just a giant,” the third man said. “Giants are old news, he must have fought hundreds of them.”

“Look,” the second man said, pushing the door open, “We don’t know until we ask him. Let’s go.”

They pushed their way into the dark confines of the tavern. The innkeeper was busy fortifying his cellar door; a single customer sat near the fire with a large tankard in his hand.

“What is it now, then?”

The three men stood before him.

“We think it might be a dragon,” the second man said hopefully. “Have you… um…?”

The man drained his tankard with a slight smile and stood up.

“No,” he said, “I’ve never fought a dragon. This should be interesting.”

© Kari Fay

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