Chapter 1: I
Roil and tumble
And dragons grumble
Even when she was six, Tiffany Aching had known the rhyme was silly. So she forgot it.
This was, on later reflection, probably a mistake.
Chapter 2: II
All the Chalk was snug abed that April night. All of it. Honestly.
"Wee hag, awake! Awake! Ye maun dree your weird! The doooom is nigh!"
Tiffany Aching groped for her hat before the rest of her had admitted she was awake. She might face a clutch of Nac Mac Feegles in her nightie (she hadn't much choice about that), but if there was going to be haggling… er, witchcraft… she was going to look like a witch.
"Avaunt!" She thought that was Jock-that's-in-the-middle-if-you-line-them-up-by-height, but it was hard to be sure in the dark.
"Are you sure that's the word you're thinking of? It doesn't sound like a Feegle word. I think you use it for getting rid of demons." Tiffany started to get fractionally cross. "Because I'm not a demon. You know that."
"A feegle may misspeak, wee hag." That was a different, more identifiable, Feegle.
"Rob Anybody!" This must be serious. The kelda's man wasn't one to go out at night for any small thing. Sheep stealing or drinking perhaps. But not mere haggling.
"Jeannie sent me. Great wee bigbigbigjob on the hills, wee hag. Where he cam' frae we dinna ken."
All very well, but she'd had trouble with Feegle ideas of dimensions at times. “A giant,” Tiffany repeated, warily. “Do you mean a giant like me or a… bigger giant?”
"Dinna be sae foolish," said a Feegle with a poor sense of self-preservation. "Tis the biggest bigjob we hae e'er set eyes on. A-battlin' with yon great wirm."
“A wirm? Er, worm?”
“A gey biggun. Wi’wings.”
A worm with wings would be… Yes. A dragon. A dragon and a giant. Fighting on her land. Tiffany mentally rolled up her sleeves and placed her hands on her hips. Then did it in reality too. Why waste a good gesture?1
"In the hills. That place bigjobs call the Bumble."
Hmm. That called for some serious protection. A witch is her own protection, of course, but sometimes a little extra helps. So Tiffany slipped on Granny Aching's Bumblebee medallion, which was one of the few things that had been left to the family after Granny died. The Bumblebee wasn't actually a bee, just a flat round medal, with some half-erased figures on it. It was supposed to be protective if you went up on the Bumble. How, or from what, Tiffany didn't know. But she wasn't going to spurn Granny's protection, whatever it was.
1 If she'd been Nanny Ogg, she would have added, "I can't be having with this." But she was trying to keep her Oggisms down. Tiffany had seen what lay down that road, and having twenty children and terrorising the in-laws wasn't in her immediate life plans.
Chapter 3: III
So, on this spring night, long after the stars were out, Tiffany went up by the Bumble. Tiffany didn't know exactly how the Bumble had been made, but it didn't feel natural. There was a...squarishness to it that felt wrong. A mound in the Chalk that managed to tower even among the rolling hills, the Bumble was one of those places in the Chalk that had Meaning. It Boded.2
Not warm, these April nights. The Bumble continued to Bode at Tiffany as the wind got up and she climbed its oddly steep side by the single narrow path.
When she got to the top, there was a large, large man to be seen. Large far beyond the definition of Feegles. There was also a dragon, breathing intermittent fire as the giant jabbed at it with a lance. (A dragon. Large. Fire-breathing. Winged monster. Just as all the story books said.) This was not something Tiffany had truly expected, despite Rob Anybody being on the realistic side of reporting, for a Feegle.
There was also light. Unearthly light, as though the Chalk itself were shining. It shone on the houses below, where the people of the Chalk were snug abed. Very snug. Snug in a way that said, "Yes, there's an odd light flickering all over that huge mound we all know is weird. And yes, we can hear thumping and clanging all over the hills, rather suggesting a battle between two large unearthly beings. But we have a witch to take care of all that, so we are sleeping snug abed. Okay?"
So the witch coughed briskly, and tapped the giant on the back of the leg. "Excuse me. I'm the witch of the Chalk. Who are you?"
2Sometimes, Boding doesn't need to bode anything in particular. It just Bodes. Bodingly.
Chapter 4: IV
"I'm Gyrg. Gyrg-the-Gyant, m'm." He seemed quite polite. But he also loomed. He gave her at least half his attention, as the fight lapsed.
"Er," said Tiffany, which would never do. She pulled herself together. "Pleased to meet you, Mr Giant."
"Gyant, m'm." He coughed, dislodging a small rockfall as the echoes rolled over the Bumble. “We’re a variant, mam. Giants is uglier.”
Tiffany really didn't want to meet a Giant, in that case. But she smiled encouragingly all the same, with a slightly regal air. "And you're visiting the Chalk are you?" The mystical spill words Have you come far?, used by monarchs making small-talk throughout history, hovered in the air, graciously.
“I come down’ere for a bit’v’n’oliday-like.” It seemed as though his height had stretched him so much that Gyrg had to crush other thing together. Words, certainly, possibly people. Tiffany took a couple of steps back, in a prudent and not at all worried manner. A crushed witch would not help the situation.
"Wotcher, Feegles. How'r'ya'doin'?" Gyrg paused again in his joust to greet Tiffany's supporting cast, while the dragon cleared its throat politely, waiting for his opponent. It was a very ritual contest, she noted, absently.3 But there were more urgent questions afoot.
Tiffany caught the abashed eye of Rob Anybody. "Something you forgot to tell me about Gyrg, Mr Anybody?"
Rob shuffled, sheepishly. "Weeeeel, we didna mean to cause any contrafibularities, wee hag. Jist, yon bigbigbigjob came and asked us if we knew of any treisur trove to be had."
"And you just told him to come up here and make trouble?" Tiffany's foot was tapping. "I expect better, Mr Anybody. So does your wife."
Middle-Jock piped up, unhelpfully. "We havena bin diggin' for this treisur, wee hag. On accooount of yon wirm. Feegles and wirms dinnae mix."
"You knew about a dragon! In the Chalk! You didn't tell me!"
Tiffany had a tendency, she knew, to take ignorance as a personal insult. But a dragon! On her Chalk! She should have known. She really should. Big dragons were mythical, and non-mythical ones brought big trouble. People still talked about the dragon of Ankh Morpork, from when Tiffany was just a toddler. The almanacs were full of it. The idea of another human-eating dragon existing all this time under her land was unnerving.
Rob Anybody looked surprised by her surprise. "But wee hag, the land is filled with necker holes. The mark o' the wirm. We thocht you knew it. Everybody knows about necker holes."
Necker holes. They were all over the Chalk, mere dips in the landscape. A bit tricky to walk over in bad shoes, but nothing more exciting than that. Tiffany had never heard a sniff of a story about them; and this in a land where any blade of grass might accrue its own legends. Whoever would have known a necker was a dragon marker? Somebody should have made sure Tiffany knew about this.
If she'd been Granny Weatherwax, she'd have said some grumpy things. Such as What precisely is the point in having a witch if you don't tell her the important things? sprang to mind. But Tiffany was young, and adaptable, and expected to cope with things like this. So there was a dragon in the Chalk. Apparently, it was her dragon.
3Ritual, adj: term used to explain anything whose purpose is a) unclear and b) possibly unnecessary. Museums abound in 'ritual objects'. This is because curators are embarrassed to write labels that say, "Not sure, actually." Or "Thingy."
Chapter 5: V
Tiffany felt a warm breath on the back of her neck. Hot, even. As though – yes. As though a dragon had given up waiting politely for Gyrg to finish his conversation and come back to the fight to the death, and had wandered over to join the conversation.
This was probably not a good thing, as angry hot man-eating things are rarely a happy addition to human conversations. But it was much better than, for example, an angry, hot man-eating thing deciding to eat one of them. Or getting bored and vaporising them with rather hotter-than-hot breath.
More to the point, it was time Tiffany stopped using her Second Thoughts and focused on the job in hand.
"Um. Hello?" She found she didn't quite know how to address the dragon.
"Pleezed to meet thee," said the dragon. Its voice was old. And slithery.
"How do you do," said Tiffany, politely.
"I duz well enough, mizztrezz. Though I needz my rezt."And grumpy. Yes, definitely a grumpy dragon-voice. Oh dear.
"Zu- er Somebody woke you from your eternal sleep. Yes. I'm sorry." Tiffany didn’t specially enjoy getting up early, and that was usually a matter of lost minutes of dozing. This was another order of magnitude.
"Zzzeemz to me," said the dragon, "Zzzzat zum people zhouldn't go awakening otherz juzt out of avarize. Zeems to me, there zhould be zum dizzipline hereaboutz."
Why can’t people just talk clearly, thought Tiffany, as the dragon's voice buzzed at her. And then recognised the voice of Miss Tick and schoolteachers through the ages, ironing out differences in the interest of making things nice. Dragons weren’t nice, nor were giants, and it wasn’t Tiffany’s job to make them so.
Tiffany’s job, like any witch’s, was generally to smooth away trouble from her people and her land. Without falling for any foolish nonsense about fairy tales and perfection, of course. Stupidity happened, always and everywhere.
The dragon demonstrated this eternal truth just then, with a resentful huff of slightly heated gases. "Zztill, there be no help for it. Itz deztiny for them azzz zzeekz to zzteal my treazzzure. We muzt fight to the death."
Stupidity continued in the here and now, as Gyrg took this cue to smack the dragon with his shield. The fight, suddenly, was back on.
Chapter 6: VI
Tiffany tried a good tough scolding of both giant and dragon, using the special Witches' Voice, but it didn’t work well when you were running for cover surrounded by whooping Feegles. She muddled together a quick shamble, which told her nothing except that there was plenty of magic abroad tonight.
Think, Tiffany. It's up to you to be sensible at times like this. But she couldn't think. How, exactly, did one stop such a thing? What would happen if they kept on fighting? Could it threaten the Chalk itself? Just for a moment, she pictured smoking wastes of dragon-burned turf; sheep crushed under the giant's feet.
But panic never helped anyone. So Tiffany stopped panicking, with a few gulps and shudders to get it out of her system, and really listened to the night.
She stepped out of hiding, and shouted, "STOP!" This wasn't the Witches' Voice. It was the Land Under Wave speaking through her. The Chalk knew this wasn't right. The Chalk wanted this to stop.
The fight came to a shuddery pause. Gyrg's lance changed direction, missed the dragon, and jammed into the chalk of the Bumble instead.
"Aiiieeee," said Middle-Jock, gleefully. "He's givin' the wurrrld a fine relaxation technique."4
But the situation didn't feel relaxed. Rather the opposite. A storm was coming. Had it been coming before? Well, it was late April. Showers were practically compulsory. But still, Tiffany rather thought not. This felt like magic. Earth magic, and nothing she was controlling, thank you very much.
Lightning flared, sudden and sharp. Flared again, closer. Tiffany could smell the ozone. It's coming for us. There wasn't time to run, but she shrank back as far as she could back into her previous hiding place.
A third bolt of lightning. It struck Gyrg's lance, still stuck deep in the Chalk.
There was a Moment, both very loud and echoingly silent. Tiffany saw Gyrg and the dragon rimed in lightning-light.______________
4 This is really true. There are superstitions about metal spikes being set into the Earth as a form of acupuncture, to redirect energies. Which goes to prove some people will believe absolutely anything at all.
Chapter 7: VII
Could she have done anything to save them? She asked Granny Weatherwax once. But there hadn't been an answer that would satisfy.
Granny wasn't one to commit herself. So yes, she agreed, Tiffany could have called up all the spirit of the Chalk to quieten these anachronistic intruders.
But, equally, it was possible that messin' around with big metal spikes in a thunderstorm was askin' for trouble.
Tiffany knew, deep down, that both those things were true, and neither was.
When the flare died down, the figures were gone. Of course they were. Giants and dragons and mystical lightning; there's only one way that will ever go. And it's not to everyone having a bit of a rethink and settling down to a campfire with marshmallows and embarrassing songs.
Stories leak. Tiffany didn't quite know how, considering the folk of the Chalk had been so very firmly snug abed that night. Perhaps a Feegle let it slip someday in his cups (which, though smaller than some other people's cups, were very powerful cups indeed). Perhaps the story simply told itself.
This story leaked somehow, into the mythology of the Chalk. If you'd asked a local, six months later, you'd have got a story answer. There was a dragon on the Bumble, always had been, a figure carved into the Chalk. Nobody seemed to recut it, the way they did with other chalk figures. But it never faded. It also had a sharp-looking lance poking into its flank. It faced a great bulge of rock in the Bumble, Old George's Nob, which had always been there, everyone knew. Just like the dragon figure.
Though if they had stopped to think, as Tiffany did, 'always' might have started only on that April night. And George might not quite be the right name.
Chapter 8: VIII
A storyteller at the inn tried to tell a story one year, many moons after these events, of the Great Martyr Joris and his mighty combat agin the dragon, somewhere far away.5 But the inn's patrons were not a patient bunch, and he was shouted down. “Needn’t tell us about our George,” said the patrons, grumpily. They chased away his friend the pedlar too, on account of his trying to sell them Joris-medals in silver. Tiffany caught a glimpse of one, dropped by the panicking pedlar and nailed up in the inn as a warning to other copycat fablers.
It looked rather like her Granny's Bumblebee locket. Which, when she squinted at the half-worn engraved decoration, seemed to show a dragon, and a staff, and a great lumpy giant. Possibly. As though this had all happened before. 6
So that was the tale of George and the Dragon, back in the Chalk where it belonged. Sometimes stories will tell themselves, if nobody does it for them.*
Roil and tumble
And dragons grumble
Lightning strikes them into stone
Where were two, there now are none.
5 Possibly in Muntab. Somewhere nobody could quite place on the map, anyway.
6 Possibly in Muntab. Many things possibly happen in Muntab. It is very convenient that way.