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Author Topic: PC285: Dragonslayer  (Read 5397 times)
Talia
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« on: November 10, 2013, 11:30:07 AM »

PodCastle 285: Dragonslayer   

by Nathaniel Lee

Read by Elie Hirschman

Originally published in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

Handel, the barman, tucked a pair of half-pennies into the pouch at his waist and turned to regard the boy as he approached.  The young man had the look of a servant of some kind, though he wore no livery or sigil.  Clean and healthy, at least, if a bit old for squiring or apprenticeship.

“Yuh?” Handel said by way of greeting.

The boy blinked pale green eyes at him, the color of mown grass.  “My master, Sir Timor, requires lodging for the night.  He begs a small room and four stalls in the barn.”  With a clink, the boy set down a golden sovereign on the bar.  Handel tried not to choke; the coin was enough to rent every room in the ramshackle two-story building.

“He has a fair… a fair few horses, eh?”  Handel’s voice was unsteady, but his hands made the coin disappear with barely a whisper of motion.

The boy shrugged.  “Don’t get too excited.  You’ll probably need the extra coin for the repairs.”  He headed for the door again.  “I’ll get him settled, and then I’ll come back for his meal.  Get some vegetables in it; I’m sick to death of meat.”

“Wait!” Handel had accommodated a fair few Knights and would-be Lords in his day, and this was not going according to the pattern.  “He’s staying in the barn?”

“It’s an oath.  Very important.”


Rated PG. Kind of a Temple of Doom PG.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: November 12, 2013, 11:55:33 PM by DKT » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2013, 12:50:37 PM »

Loved this. As much as I hate to admit it (because in retrospect, it was obvious), I didn't see the 'twist' coming when the fell beast was revealed. But it made absolute sense. And I loved the ending, even though it wasn't what I was expecting at all.

Nicely done!
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2013, 08:51:24 PM »

I liked the story, and the reading. If I have a criticism, it's that I would have liked to have heard more about and from the knightly dragon. He's a very interesting character and I would like to know more about him.
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Hilary Moon Murphy
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2013, 10:29:38 PM »

I loved this one too!  It had a great narration -- so many distinct voices, all wonderful!  Hirschman did a marvelous job with this. 

Also, the writing was delightful.  There were so many fun details, especially about Sir Timor knocking over buildings and damaging farm fields as he traveled.   At one point, I was clear how the plot was going to go, thinking that it was going to be predictable.   Then... it veered off in a direction that I did not expect at all, but from hindsight, seemed perfect.

Thanks for this one!

Hmm

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« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2013, 11:47:04 PM »

I have to say I was moved more than I thought I would be by the ending. Despite the drearyness of a setting ravaged by dragonfire, the tone and the dialogue between Sir Timor and Draco were all pretty light-hearted. The knighthood aspiring dragon reminded me a little of Don Quixote in his high-minded ideals and general buffoonishness. But the ending was grave: it reminded me of two things.  One, that even if this dragon seems silly, he has been redeemed from evil. Two, that redemption is a great good, but its opposite, the fall, is equally possible. The conclusion was poignant and, in spite of my initial expectations, appropriate and touching.  Very nice story.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2013, 06:19:15 PM by Procyon » Logged
albionmoonlight
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« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2013, 02:14:16 PM »

Good story.  I really liked how it took the conventions of fantasy and used them to make a point about our own lives and paths.  "Dragons" in stories are supposed to be and act a certain way.  "Knights" are supposed to be an act a certain way.  And this story, of course, turned that on its head.  But I also got the sense that the story wants us to ask ourselves, "Who am I?"  "What am I doing?"  And, most importantly, "Why do I do it?"

I have a five-year-old kid, and he asks very fundamental questions that cause me to think about things that I had taken for granted for decades.  "Why do we love our families?"  "Why does good food taste good?"  "Why do people need jobs for money?"  This story reminded me of those questions:  "Why are dragons always bad guys?"  "Are dragons happy?"  "Why do dragons have so much gold if they don't spend it?"

A good story makes you think.  This story makes me think at a pretty fundamental level.
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dragonman
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« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2013, 08:24:29 PM »

(I can't believe I'm the first one to notice..)
He was a Dragon.... He was a man, I mean he was a dragon man...., He was just a dragon....... he was.... TROGDOR!
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Moon_Goddess
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« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2013, 09:34:59 AM »

This was a great story.    It reminded me so much of a story my grandmother used to read me as a kid. (have no idea who wrote it or where to find it)

The story was a bedtimes story a mother dragon was telling to where children all about the last time she saw a knight many years ago, and what knights tasted like after you got them out of their crunchy shell.


I should have seen the twist but I really didn't I was pleasantly surprised.   The only complaint I have about this story, is they killed Sir Timor, I wanted a sequel.
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« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2013, 04:56:25 AM »

I don't want to be that kind of person who only has what to complain about on the forum.
Having said that, I really don't have anything to say about this story.
It was, amusing, interesting. I liked the reverse tropes and the underlying concept (you get to define who you are, despite what the world sees).
Hey look, I did have what to say after all.

Also, Nathaniel Lee is EP's friendly pun-filled assistant editor and forum moderator, right? Because that definitely added to the enjoyment of the story, it having been written by someone whom I know not just as an author.
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« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2013, 06:34:25 AM »

Puns!?  How dare you, sir?  PISTOLS AT DAWN.
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Varda
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« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2013, 09:20:40 AM »

I found this story very moving on several levels. First, you have the implications surrounding the dragon's identity swap with the knight. On one level, it was about the way people overlook blindingly obvious (and often dangerous) traits in people who are "shiny" enough because of their social standing and/or wealth. This came across strongly at the beginning when everyone rushes to accommodate the alleged knight's rather outlandish demands because money and nobleman. Who cares if he's a dragon and might eat your sheep and children? He's loaded! But that's just how people operate sometimes: the illusion of respectability will take you far. Social standing is dazzling, as is wealth.

While it didn't surprise me (I saw it coming pretty early on), I was also very moved by the ending, especially the image of the dead knight and dragon together, and how Draco realizes that while people who see the two graves will be able to guess the story of what happened (a knight slew a dragon), they will be completely wrong.

It made me think of The Last Unicorn, and in particular the circus scene where the witch has to put a fake horn on a real unicorn for people to recognize what's right in front of them. You've got intertwined themes of the nature of illusion, reputation, and identity and how we can change or take control of these. This episode will probably warrant another listen for me this week.
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« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2013, 12:29:25 PM »

I don't really have anything to add to this one. Great concept, great reading, overall well done. I love the dichotomy of a dragon that wants to be a knight and the exploration of what it means to be either one. I also loved the narrator's various voices. Even though he stumbled a few times in the reading, it was still an excellent narration.

He was a Dragon.... He was a man, I mean he was a dragon man...., He was just a dragon....... he was.... TROGDOR!

Burninating the countryside... Burninating the peasants... Burninating all the people... and their THATCHED ROOF COTTAGES!!! THATCHED ROOF COTTAGES!!!

 Grin
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« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2013, 10:41:35 PM »

I really, really, REALLY loved this absurd, lovely story. Well done, Mr. Lee. It simultaneously conjured the flavor of Howard Pyle, Terry Pratchett and Peter Beagle. (What would a Pyle-Pratchett-Beagle pie taste like? Wistful autumn mornings, snozberries and elaborately sculpted piecrust, probably.)

I think what I enjoyed best was the way Mr. Lee literalized the tropes of "knight" and "dragon," allowing the characters to explore them consciously. I do love me some meta. Favorite moment? [Paraphrasing] "You can't kill a legend, but you can kill a monster." Brilliant.
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Moritz
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« Reply #13 on: November 15, 2013, 11:58:47 AM »

I usually don't like stories which make fun of tropes, because that's sometimes too meta for me, but this one was quite good.
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2013, 01:05:13 PM »

I liked this story for all the reasons others have mentioned, and Varda's comments added another layer to my understanding of the story.  But this story didn't sit right with me. As I read it, the dragon didn't escape his fundamental nature - the dragon could only acquire the knight's ideals because the knight took on the dragon's evil.  The capacity for personal development is central to my understanding of the world - well, at least my acceptance of the world - and instead I read this as a story set in a world of zero-sum goodness - dragons are evil, knights are good, and the only way a dragon can become good is if a knight falls as well.  Perhaps that was not the author's intent, but that's the only way I can parse the sudden inversion of these two characters' natures.

For those of you who have watched the entirety of the Dexter series -
Spoiler (click to show/hide)
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« Reply #15 on: November 15, 2013, 04:10:02 PM »

Cheers! Scattercat!
Well done again.
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« Reply #16 on: November 16, 2013, 06:38:19 AM »

I had a feeling I'd like this as Mr. Scatterlee has never disappointed yet.  I didn't know if I'd love it.  But I did.  I was very moved by Sir Timor and Draco and their relationship...I loved the twist.

The reading was also incredible Smiley
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LadiesAndGentleman
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« Reply #17 on: November 20, 2013, 03:23:40 PM »

This was just a really great reversal.  Honestly, though, I loved the valiant dragon so much, the ending really depressed me.  I've heard it's hard to do believable happy endings, but I just wish he had been able to actually become the knight he wanted to be.

It a good sign that I cared for him so much, but I think this story was also about agency and the control one has over their own life.  How far can we change ourselves in pursuit of our goals?  Can we become different people if we work hard enough?  Or are we stuck in the identity's we're born to have? 

The fact the dragon dies at the end and people perceive him as a dragon once more sort of hurt.  It felt pessimistic, as if to say, "You can work as hard as you can to be something you're not, but in the end, what were will reassert itself."  I sincerely hope the reading I took from this is based on my own mood while listening to it and not the story's true message.

Do folks think I'm reading a bit too much into it?
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Moon_Goddess
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« Reply #18 on: November 21, 2013, 05:00:08 PM »

  It felt pessimistic, as if to say, "You can work as hard as you can to be something you're not, but in the end, what were will reassert itself." 

Wow, the story was sad,  that drags it into truly depressing.
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« Reply #19 on: November 22, 2013, 10:30:44 AM »

A'ight.  It looks like this thread is winding down, so hi!  Author here.

Trufax: I hadn't decided until I actually wrote the scene whether the sword would kill the dragon that the knight had become or the knight that was inside the dragon.  I even had to leave it overnight while I pondered.  In the end, I decided that the thematic resonance was stronger if it was clear that the knight really was a dragon (which in turn underlined that Timor was, in fact, a knight.)  Also, someone quoted Draco's action-hero quip, with which I was unduly pleased and which may have helped push me a particular direction.

If anyone makes a focused reading of what I will laughably call my body of work, choices and essential natures are themes that crop up a lot.  (Also things with wings and flying in general.)  I am both attracted to the idea of essential character, of a primary and "true" nature, and yet unable (and unwilling) to accept it as true and immutable.  I also read a lot of pop-sci neuropsychology, which is part of what went into this story.  The brain is mutable; what you think is what you do and what you do shapes what you think.  You are what you think you are, if you think it regularly enough, but you can also deliberately think other things if you want to, so in a way, you are what you want to be.  You have inclinations, but you can either repress them or enhance (or exacerbate) them.  Perception also skews things; what other people expect of you influences what you do, which in turn changes what you are (as above). 

I don't think Timor could have made it as a knight without Draco (and Lessa.)

It pleases me that people were mostly okay with Timor's dual nature.  The official reviews of this story complained about inconsistency within the narrative because of the way both versions of reality are true at different times to different people (or even the same people), but this, to me, was kind of the point.  Timor is a knight (because he chose to be).  He is also a dragon (because you can't ever get away from what you used to be. Not completely, at least, and not without a lot of pain and struggle).

Some random reactions:

- I'm desperately curious now.  What did people expect to happen?  There was never any question for me; a dragon who is a knight obviously must fight a knight who is a dragon.  (And Sir Timor died in part because I wanted him to end on a high note; I don't know how much longer he could have maintained his dedication in the face of the world insisting what he was and ought to be.  This way he was as fully a knight as he could ever be; knights, fantasy knights, nobly sacrifice themselves in defense of their ideals.)

- Jeez, two people compared me to Peter Beagle.  I think Mr. Beagle should feel very insulted.  ("The Last Unicorn" is one of my favorite, favorite books, and I reread it at least once a year.)

- Tropes, archetypes, and platonic ideals fascinate me (part of that essential nature thing above), so if you like seeing them made concrete and forced to dance, you will probably enjoy my other stories as well.  In particular, I would recommend checking out The Cowboy, the Horse, and the Scorpion which also explores the idea of changing who you are, reasons why you might, and whether you succeed.  (It has a happier ending.)
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