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Draco Explausis

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“Today’s guest speaker is Lady Sybil Vimes, Duchess of Ankh, and founder of the Sunshine Sanctuary for Sick Dragons,” Susan announced to her eager class. “She will be teaching us about different kinds of dragons, and how to treat some of their common ailments.”

Sybil waved her thanks at the resulting polite applause, and began to open the cages currently lining the front of the classroom.

“There are two species of dragons found on the Disc,” she explained as she worked. “One is the very rare draco nobilis — some of you may remember the large dragon that appeared a few years back.” The children shuddered.

“These little fellows, on the other hand, are members of a species we call draco vulgaris, or swamp dragon.” She opened the last of the cages, and took a seat on a stool in front of the room, followed by her pack of dragons. Most crowded around rubbing against her legs, but a few wandered into the rows of desks, much to the students’ delight.

Sybil gently detangled a small green one, which had been attempting to eat her scarf, and set it on her lap. It snorted a puff of smoke, and she scratched it under the chin while feeding it a piece of charcoal.

“This is Julie the Big-nosed Jolly,” Sybil said. Julie gazed up at her adoringly, to a chorus of “aw”s from the children.

“Take a look at her nose,” Sybil said, turning the dragon’s snout towards them. It was indeed quite a large nose, darkened a bit from soot.

“It’s easy to tell her apart from the Spike-nosed Jolly—“ she pointed to another dragon across the room, then scooped up a plump red one that had been hiding under her seat “—but who can tell me what the difference is between Julie and Gertie here?”

Several students raised their hands. Sybil looked to Susan for permission before calling on the one who looked ready to wiggle out of his seat with excitement.

“Gertie’s legs are bigger and her wings are smaller,” the child said.

“That’s right,” Sybil answered. “Gertie is a Guttley’s Leaper, which means that she’s not so good at flying, but she can easily jump from the floor to the top of the tallest shelf. Any other differences that you can see?”

More hands. “Yes,” Sybil nodded to a young girl in the front row.

“Gertie’s gonna ‘splode.”

Sure enough, there was a rumbling coming from Gertie’s belly, and her ears were beginning to glow.

“Ah. Right.” Sybil gingerly placed Gertie on the floor and backed away, still holding Julie. The children scrambled backwards as well.

Gertie let out a sulfurous burp accompanied by a spark, which ignited the flammable gasses in her intestines. There was a loud bang, and suddenly the entire class was covered in various internal organs.

While they froze in shock, a skeletal dragon with a small scythe appeared, visible to only one of the room’s occupants. It gathered up Gertie’s spirit, nodded to Susan, and vanished once more.

And then the spell broke, and pandemonium erupted.

Susan restored order with a sharp whistle which caused even the surviving dragons to pause. Sybil watched, impressed, as Susan calmly and efficiently directed her students to the washroom, while quieting down several of the more sensitive ones who were upset over Gertie’s death.

Sybil figured her presentation was probably over. “Sorry,” she said after Susan dispatched the last of the crying children to get cleaned up.

Susan just shook her head. “That’s hardly the most excitement they’ve had this week,” she assured her.

Sybil smiled. “My Young Sam is still a few years away from starting school,” she said, “but I’ll have to remember to keep this place in mind.”

Susan picked a bit of intestine out of her hair and regarded it thoughtfully. “If he’s anything like his parents, he will certainly make an interesting student.”

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