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Another Group Participation Fairy Tale


malign

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Again, I would like to try an experiment in group authorship. Anyone is welcome to comment, adding another section (paragraph or more) to this story. It's a fairy tale based on my Fairy Godfather series, and I have provided the title and a beginning. Let's see where it goes!

{I started a new story, not because I've given up on the previous group participation fairy tale, which is still unfinished, but to give people the option to continue that one or to start another.}

Murphy and the Oboe of Doom

Another Group Participation Fairy Tale

Murphy was in a foul mood, even compared to his usual. He had limped all the way back to his home town. Yes, limped. He had spent some time imprisoned in a small box recently (see The Washer of Londry), and his gossamer wings had got wrinkled. Until he found someone helpful with a clothes iron, he was forced to walk. And when you're only a couple of inches high, walking takes a long time.

He had stomped bad-temperedly along the forest paths. Mice and butterflies scattered at the sight of his angry face, though they did laugh at him behind his back, once he was far enough away that he couldn't catch them at it. He spent the nights camped under large leaves, or one lucky night, under a big fresh toadstool. It was a little drafty, but at least the dew didn't drip off down the back of his neck.

Finally, one day, he walked into his home town. No, it's not on any maps. Fairies always know where they are, and prefer it if no one else does. So, in a fairy town, you never find any of those large signs that somehow know that "You are here". No one likes a smart-arrow.

He had been off traveling for quite some time, as he often did. He was frequently away long enough that he would find things had changed somewhat when he returned. Still, he was completely unprepared, when he finally arrived on the street where he lived, to find that his apartment building was missing, gone, absent. In his amazement, he even forgot to be angry.

But nothing good lasts forever; he eventually recovered enough to swear vigorously, which was something he was uncommonly skilled at. Then he asked passersby what had happened, until someone told him that the building had burned down. In fact, it had burned down the day he left, because he hadn't extinguished his mail properly (see A Group-Participation Fairy Tale).

Still, there are advantages to being a magical creature. Murphy just swished his wand, and a brand new apartment building appeared on the spot. He could have created himself any home he wanted, so one might think that he felt a tiny speck of guilt about what had happened to all the other tenants. The truth, however, was that he was a creature of habit, and simply preferred to live in the same old place.

Now, judging from how many of them there are, the Universe does not seem to have any problem with apartment buildings, as such. However, that's not the same as saying that It likes to create them from scratch in the middle of the afternoon. Nor does It particularly like Murphy, regarding him (quite correctly) as a necessary evil. So, given those attitudes, it is perhaps not surprising that the Universe took this occasion to, yet again, use Murphy's own law against him.

It took him quite a while to verify that his new building had no doors. Looking up, for lack of a better direction, he muttered, "Nice one."

Then he swished the wand a few times, correcting all the little details (besides missing doors, the building had windows only in the floors, and no plumbing.) He chose an apartment (the same one as before), and furnished it to his tastes (mixture of slum and hovel, as usual). He conjured himself an iron and rubbed up against it until his wings were back to their slightly crooked normal. Then he flopped down on his bed and went to sleep.

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... so as far as Murphy was concerned, his rent was now in the apartment above him, and he didn't pay it any attention (or plan to pay it at all, in fact). After all, fairies are hard creatures to evict.

He hovered around the little apartment, making himself some coffee, and looking up through his window at the apartment of the tenants above him, who did not yet know that they owed two rents.

At that same moment, in an isolated castle tower far away in the land of Hirsutia, a powerful wizard was putting the final touches on his life's masterpiece. It was a musical instrument which, when the proper tune was played upon it, would cause the destruction of the entire known world. Clearly, the wizard was a subtle and powerful one, and also a complete idiot. The latter trait was most obvious when he named his creation the "Oboe of Doom".

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Unfortunately, as seems to happen all too often these days, the newspaper had played up the "Doom" part, but had neglected to mention the location of Hirsutia, possibly to protect its innocent citizens, of which there were at most two, one of them an infant.

So, he was forced to search the countryside, listening for the distant sound of oboe-squeak, I mean music, and the more distant, the better.

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"Excuse me," the fairy godfather whispered, as he swam up alongside the frog. "Sorry to interrupt your afternoon swim, but do you hear that noise...err...I mean music?" He gulped down some nasty tasting pond sludge, awaiting the frog's response.

The frog moved closer, his eyes bulging. Suddenly, his webbed feet shot out of the water. He covered the place where frog ears would be...if they had ears that is... and looked very distressed. "The darned sound, mate, it's driving me crazy! Reminds me of the time Aunt Tilly swallowed a lily. How can we make it stop?"

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The Godfather stared at the frog in surprise, because a minute ago, it had been a turtle. He looked at his wand, then back at the frog. He put the wand away, feeling a tiny bit guilty, and muttered, "Sorry 'bout that. I was trying for prince."

The frog said, "Doesn't matter: I was getting tired of that shell, anyway. I don't suppose you'd kiss me? No, no, I wouldn't kiss me, either ..."

Together, the two listened to the whining wail (not whale). Then the Fairy Godfather asked, "Can you tell me where it's coming from?"

The frog thought for a moment and said, "Hirsutia, maybe?"

"Hirsutia is a direction?"

"No, no, Hirsutia is where you are right now. It's an ancient kingdom, but our king has not been seen for many years. A powerful wizard rules in his place."

"I see. And where can I find this wizard?"

"At the palace, I suppose. But he's the sort of man who comes to you, if you know what I mean ..."

There was a loud poof! {And I don't mean the wizard ...}

A bent old man in long black robes and a pointy hat appeared behind the Godfather, looking rather peeved from having had to leave his cozy castle.

"Who seeks me here in my own lands?" he cried.

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"That's all very well and good, but what makes you think I would relinquish my masterpiece to you?" the wizard asked, gazing up at the fairy godfather. "Tell me, what exactly is in this for me? Are you offering me a proposal?"

The fairy godfather squirmed, his mind momentarily blank. "What now?" he thought to himself.

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(Meanwhile, back at home, the landlord, not to be dismissed so easily, brought the exhorbitant rent back down through the ceiling and planted a large notice on the fairy godfather's door. He would have to face a different kind of music when he got back!)

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The fairy godfather would have to deal with his unreasonable landlord later, though, since his most immediate concern right now was saving the world. It was difficult getting the annoying landlord off his mind, but he thought it best to concentrate on the task at hand.

What does one offer to a wizard in such dire circumstances?

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The fairy godfather looked skywards for inspiration. He saw a speck in the sky, flying towards him! Was it a bird? Was it a plane? No - it was SUPERHAMSTER!

Glad of the interruption, which might give him more time to think, the fairy godfather was most surprised when SuperHamster hovered in the air and whispered into the wizard's ear.

Still thinking frantically, he was even more surprised when the Wizard looked at him and said. "Very well. Return here tomorrow when you have completed the task SuperHamster has told me and you shall have my Oboe." Fairy Godfather, bent on his mission to save the world (and pay the rent later) hastily agreed, wondering, with considerable anxiety, what SuperHamster had promised he would do.

The wizard disappeared as he had come and Superhamster beckoned to the fairy godfather and told him what he had to do ...

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Superhamster moved in closer to the fairy godfather. He removed a large sunflower seed from his cheek pouch and gnawed on it, never taking his beady little eyes off of the fairy godfather.

"You must slay the dragon," Superhamster whispered. "When you slay the dragon," he continued, "the oboe will be yours."

The fairy godfather gulped, taken aback. How could a small fairy like himself ever take on a ferocious dragon like the one that wandered the wizard's land?? He would have to use great skill and mastery, he thought. If there were ever a time for fearlessness, this was it. He felt a rush of confidence filling his fairy godfather soul. I can do this, he thought to himself. He straightened up and stared Superhamster in the eye.

"Very well then. I shall slay the dragon," the fairy godfather said. "Point me in the right direction and I'll be on my way."

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in Murphy's apartment!!!

"Drat that Murphy!, he keeps turning up. That's the problem with being a necessary evil. Not only have I been confused with him and charged his rent for this month--- a ridiculous amount I'll have you know--- it appears I'll ALSO have to contend with him for this map.

Hmmmmmmmm..............."

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Little did Murphy know his landlord was actually the dragon... who had no idea anyone wanted to slay him and felt very misunderstood... the map it turns out was actually the only way the postal fairies had of getting him the monthly rent since the maze was pretty complicated to navigate.. and since fairies are a little too cocky to use GPS.

That is why naturally the map would be in Murphy's apartment.

In fact the Superhamster was the renter upstairs that got charged double rent.

Had Murphy had known this he would have asked himself the if the Superhamster had some other motives for this "heroic" act that needed to be done of slaying the dragon.. raising the age old question is killing really the answer to saving the world?

However Murphy had no clue, as usual, and started on his way back to his apartment when the frog who was formerly a turtle ..who feeling very ignored up to this point.. jumped in front of him and said..

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"The person writing pronouns in this tale was confused before and assumed that I was a male frog when, in fact, I'm a girl..." the frog said, her voice trailing away.

Murphy looked surprised. "What a terrible mistake to make! First you morph into a frog and then this? What is wrong with amateur storytellers these days?"

The frog looked dejected. As Murphy gazed over at her, he couldn't understand how he hadn't noticed before just how pretty she was...for a frog after all, that is. Murphy took a step toward her, all fears of the world's destruction suddenly far from his mind. He placed both hands gently on her frog cheeks and stared deeply into her eyes. Before he knew what was happening, he found himself kissing her. It didn't matter to him that he was kissing a frog. He suddenly felt very content and whole.

As their lips parted, Murphy opened his eyes and he looked at the face before him. He couldn't believe his eyes! He saw that this face was no longer the face of an amphibian...

The frog had turned into a beautiful young woman.

Murphy shook his head in disbelief. Man, is this tale ever mixed up!

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“Oh come with me, fair maiden”, said Murphy, playing up to the part, “for I cannot leave thee, but I have a quick task I must complete before breakfast”. He held her hand, whirred his wings and rapidly flew them back to his apartment.

As they landed, he saw the note on the door. “Drat!” he exclaimed. He unlocked the door and pulled the maiden inside quickly, hoping no-one had seen them. Inside lay a note from the renter upstairs (SuperHamster had sneakily snuck home) with several expletives underlined in red.

Soon after, there was a knock on the door. Murphy’s heart sank through the floor. Retrieving his heart, he opened the door with trepidation … and came face to face with the landlord, who stood there, fuming. As Murphy looked at him closer, he saw smoke begin to billow from the landlord’s nostrils …

“Who is it, love? came the maiden’s voice from inside. Before Murphy could reply, the landlord pushed him back, stepped over the threshold, shut the door behind him and said “NOW!” He opened his mouth and Murphy saw a flame form in his throat …

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Just then, there was ANOTHER knock on the door!!! It was a loudish knock, because Murphy, being about 3 inches tall, had a smallish door. "Special Delivery!" announced the fairy Godfather, who was disguising himself as a UPS driver and tapping on the door with his wand that he threaded through the hall window...

It was enough of a distraction. Murphy grabbed the hand of his wee frog-eyed maiden and they fled out the back door and down the fire escape. The dragon, another miniature in this apartment for the magic and small, ran after them a few steps behind roaring expletives...

The fairy godfather, seizing his chance, magiced the map from inside Murphy's apartment with his wand and stuffed it under papers on his clipboard, counting himself very lucky that he had it and that his opponents were so small, and yet a dread began growing in him regarding Murphy's Law, that necessary evil he could never seem to completely escape...

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Meanwhile back at his apartment his landlord leaned against the tiny wall gasping for breath, steam billowing out each puff. He had gotten a little out of shape being in the real estate business when all of his relatives was out pillaging and generally causing trouble.

Man it is hard to make a living these days, he thought to himself. One renter slacking the other seems a bit crazy... now Murphy is bringing in another person when clearly in the contract it states that he has to tell me first my insurance is going to go nuts over this!

While complaining to himself over this new situation the dragon flipped his long tail over and over to rub his brow in stress. A strong gust from the aggressive tail flipping action blew the Super Hamsters note around and down the hall and happened to float down slowly right in front of the dragon's face just as he was trying to figure out what to do next..

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Realizing just in time that his gasp of astonishment would have left him with only ashes to read, the dragon held his breath as he tried to decipher the Hamster's paw-writing.

"You'd think superhero schools would put more emphasis on penmanship," he thought to himself, hypocritically ignoring his own underused writing skills. "Or should that be penrodentship?"

He was lost in thought for a few moments, but then, as he was turning an unpleasant shade of red for a scaly fire-breathing lizard, he decided to take the note outside and hope for better light.

He slipped the note into his satchel. {Dragons don't care for pants very much, and therefore are chronically short of pockets. This is less of a problem for them, though, because they don't have much use for car keys or handkerchiefs, either. If a dragon needs to blow his nose, he just does it. No one complains because no one's left alive.}

Retracing his steps, he made his way out of the building. He didn't wonder very much at the design of the corridors, which for most beings would have constituted an unchartable maze, yet another side-effect of Murphy's slovenly spell-casting abilities. The dragon had been raised in a labyrinth, after all. It made him feel more at home, in fact.

Once he reached the street corner, he turned into his favorite coffee shop, Barstucks. Maybe he could find someone there to read the note to him.

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As it turns out Barstucks was a favorite hang out for all magical beings even and especially Murphy. In fact just as the Dragon entered the door, Murphy was sitting down to look at the map with a steaming hot moca, choco, loto latte with whip cream a dash of cinnamon with a slice of pickle stuck in the middle to add character (his personal favorite).

Murphy heard a loud unimaginable noise a quickly peered up in astonishment... turns out it was his lady in waiting she happened to be lactose intolerant and all the past morphing made digestive problems 'unique' to hear.

Murphy rubbed his head and chuckled inside as he was afraid the dragon had somehow caught up to him.

As he asked himself "I wonder where he is?" the dragon was thinking the same exact thought at another one of the 1000's of Barstucks in fairyland. They were literally around every corner... and sometimes even up in the air. *

*footnote

{In fact one time years ago a giant troll (over 50 feet tall) happened to trip over a Barstucks during a leisurely stroll and fell right into another.. ended up with cream all over his face forming a white latte beard from all the special coffee spewing everywhere.. thus giving him the nickname because of his huge belly and loud laugh Santa Troll.}

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Sitting in a different Barstucks, sipping his OMG-It's-Huge® espresso, black, (dragons don't mess around when it comes to coffee, which they call "fuel"), the dragon considered what the girl behind the counter had told him, when he asked her to read the note. She had read the message as:

Murphy,

It's important that we meet. Renn-dezz-vooss at noon by the city gates.

S. Hamster, superhero

'Deeds for seeds'

No job too small, not many too large

Now, the dragon was not that bright (dragon schools tend to emphasize Flame Quotient, defined as the number of seconds of fire per twelve ounces of standard latté, instead of Intelligence Quotient.) He was proud to say, growing up, that his FQ was at least twice his IQ, but his math was as unreliable as his spelling, so no one had paid him much attention.

Nor was he what you would call "widely traveled". Dragons are highly territorial, and not nearly so highly mobile. However, he had once met a Frenchman, back when he was full-sized. He remembered the man to have been coated with the usual thin layer of crunchy steel, but with a large sweeping plume growing from his head. Sadly, when heated, the plume had wilted rather quickly, and the French knight soon after. What the dragon remembered best were the shrieks of fear, and the speed with which the man had fled.

Still, he doubted whether "renn-dezz-vooss" was really French. It seemed to him that the counter girl's accent was lacking a certain "je ne sais quoi".

"Ah, those were the days," he thought. "Full-sized, with my choice of fair maidens and a crunchy knight barbecue, on a good day. And treasure! A nice clanking bed of silver and gold to curl up on!

"Not like now. It's hard work browbeating fairies, who can put out your fires with a swish. There's pitifully little treasure in it. And for some reason, they all want their toilets to work!"

He sighed with a certain amount of heat, but his favorite table was already soot-blackened, so it didn't melt (much) more. He thought back to that fateful day, when he had been reduced to his current state ... literally.

He had been doing a bit of contract work for an upstart local wizard. It wasn't much, really: the wizard wanted the dragon to imprison the king and his beautiful daughter. The dragon thought that such a task was right up his alley, so he signed up. Not actually "signed", but when a dragon agrees to do something, most people, even wizards, don't ask for guarantees.

While working with the wizard, however, the dragon had made a most un-dragon-like mistake. He had let it slip that dragons had certain unrecognized musical talents. He had been whistling while he worked, because he really did enjoy a good hostage-taking. He hadn't stopped when the wizard came by to see how the work was going.

"What's that awful noise?" cried the wizard, covering his ears, and thereby missing the dragon's answer. However, eventually, the dragon had been forced to reveal that dragons know the secret of music so incredibly awful that if it could be played in pure form rather than just whistled by a dragon, it could destroy the entire known world.

"Can you teach me?" the wizard asked. "If so, I'll reward you with more treasure than you can possibly carry!" Ignoring that tiny voice that all incredibly stupid beings have in their heads that, basically, tells them that they're being incredibly stupid, the dragon agreed.

It did not take long for the dragon to teach the wizard all that he knew. However, when the lessons were finished, the wizard flipped him a single small coin.

Looking at it, the dragon still did not realize his danger. "What does this mean?" he asked stupidly. "I can carry this easily."

The wizard smiled nastily. "Then I'll just have to make you ... smaller!" he exclaimed, turning quickly and pointing his wand at the dragon.

The dragon did not understand, right away, why the world was moving and the coin seemed to be getting larger. Had he waited even a moment longer, he might have shrunk into nothingness, as the wizard clearly intended. But instead, he fled from the room just in time, leaving the coin behind, breaking the spell before he was completely gone.

Well, once he had got away and realized that his change was permanent, he had had to make certain arrangements. He sub-contracted the hostage job to his cousin Ernie, who wasn't bright even for a dragon, but was still full-sized. He tried his snout at various odd jobs, and had some success for a few years as a spot-welder. Eventually, he had enough treasure put aside (dragons are really good at saving) to go into real estate.

Emerging from his reminiscence, he decided to go to the city gates at noon that day, to see whether there might be anything interesting in it for him, by which he meant "treasure".

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As noon fast approached not knowing of the Super Hamster's note.. Murphy took Emily the charming princess who was formerly a frog, who was formerly a turtle, (who secretly always wanted to be a cat for some reason) through the winding mazes of the Dragon's caves. It was dark and moody with a slight cool breeze.. Murphy thought it was a bit romantic and the perfect place for a second date. As they moved deeper and deeper in he heard a low whipser of a gravelly voice...where is my precious... apparently he was the only one who heard this. He looked beside him.. surley she was very precious indeed.. maybe this voice was referring to her.. maybe an ex boyfriend? Murphy got a bit jealous.. never knowing this feeling before he stopped about to say something to her.. when she pointed out to him they made it they were in the Dragon's lair!

He peered slowly inside not knowing what to expect thinking this was crazy.. he was supposed to kill his landlord for an oboe?? Scratching his head he realized the room was empty minus several large empty cups of Barstuck's coffee and a small chest in the corner *the dragon was on his way to the gateto meet the Super Hamster.

Murphy slapped his forehead.. "what's wrong dear?" Emily seemed rightfully concerned. Murphy mumbled "Why did I go all this way.. the Dragon was right at my door..."

Murphy's famous law happened to be taking its rightful place once more.. as he said this the Dragon reached the gate right at noon.

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S. Hamster (the "S." had originally been for "Seamus") tapped his foot impatiently. Didn't Murphy know that he was a busy entrepreneur (and someone who was also fond of using French words in English)?

He had arrived early, because that was his style and because being a superhero meant he could outfly a speeding bullet. This was something he had never tried to do, though, because guns hadn't been invented yet.

Still, he was early, and Murphy was not. The dragon, however, was early too. He was trying to blend in with the crowd outside the city gate, which is not easy when you're six inches tall and scaly. He bought himself something unhealthy at a food stall, while watching SuperHamster surreptitiously. Of course, for humans, pretty much everything there was unhealthy, but he went out of his way to find something that was bad for dragons, too. He thought of it as stakeout food.

He wondered what the Hamster was waiting for. Neither of them knew that Murphy had not had a chance to read the note, and therefore would never show up. {We do, but no one's going to ask us.} But one thing (of many) that dragons can be is patient.

Eventually, SuperHamster gave up waiting. Casting one last furious glance over the crowd, he flew off away from the city. The dragon decided to follow.

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Ernie the dragon, the full-sized cousin of Roger the dragon landlord, made his way carefully through the dark cave. Ernie, of course, was only a nickname; his full dragon name was Ernestilliard. It was unusual for a dragon to shorten his name: to most dragons, a nickname is a deadly insult. They tend to believe that if something is worth saying, it's worth saying all of it. Besides, when you're a dragon, fewer people make fun of your name.

The trouble was, to be quite honest: Ernie was fairly stupid, even by dragon standards, and had trouble remembering more than a couple of syllables of the highly original name his parents had wasted on him. On the other hand, physically, Ernie was a prime specimen of dragonhood; much larger than average, with a Flame Quotient that had set records when he was in school. Like a human bodybuilder, he practiced every day. Everyone enjoys doing things they're good at.

So, each morning, he awoke before dawn, when the man from Barstucks drove up in his tanker truck. After taking on about fifty gallons of high grade espresso (and paying the man in gold), Ernie would lazily spread his enormous wings and flap up into the pre-dawn glow. In that neighborhood, people did not wake to the crowing of roosters, in part because the roosters had the sense to be hiding, at that time. Instead, they woke to the roar of flames in the air high above them, and the bursts of light, redder and brighter than lightning, that lit the skies.

In fact, Ernie had just come back from his morning practice, and now he was working his way through the network of caves where he lived, for the next of his daily chores. This usually took his entire concentration, because the caves had been hollowed out by his wizard employer, and were barely wider than he was. Moreover, he had to get through carrying a bucket of human food without spilling too much of it; otherwise his prisoners might starve. Because the logic of this operation stretched Ernie's capacity severely, he was muttering to himself, "Remember the bucket, don't spill, feed the king" over and over as he went.

At the far end of the tunnel, the king and his daughter heard him coming. After all, he was a very large dragon stomping through a cave barely larger than he was. Also, he didn't really understand the concept of muttering. At least they were reassured that he was not muttering something threatening.

Still, they had to move quickly to cover the signs of the tunnel they had been building, especially as it was now complete. Luckily, Ernie was stupid enough that concealment meant putting a rug over the hole and standing in front of the dirt pile.

When Ernie finally poked a claw through the bars with the food bucket, the king spoke up as a distraction.

"I say! Will you release Us?"

The king had learned to keep his questions simple. Still, it was some time before Ernie replied, "Um, no?"

The king forgot himself, in his frustration. "When will that dratted wizard realize that he cannot keep Us in prison like this?"

Ernie didn't even try to figure this one out. He fell back on what he knew: "The wizard pays me to keep you here."

"But We can pay you more!" the king exclaimed.

"You have no treasure left. I checked. Talk to the wizard," Ernie replied grumpily, annoyed at having been forced to think.

And he backed down the tunnel to the last intersection, turned around with difficulty, and began to stomp his way back to the cave mouth, where he spent the day slumbering, or guarding, or both.

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He burns it all off in his practice flights!

You can't expect metabolic parity between us and dragons.

In fact, I'd be afraid to tell you what a tiny serving of vegetables would do to their digestive tract ... Besides, telling you would hardly do it justice; you'd have to be able to smell it to get the full effect.

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