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Thursday, May 09, 2013

Stonebelly the Dragon (#FridayFlash)

To celebrate the release of my new book, Pickups and Pestilence, I’m running a giveaway for my anthology Oddities through Saturday (May 11). If everyone who reads this #FridayFlash downloads a copy, I’ll be a happy writer!

Oh, and check out the Release Day post—there’s other goodies, links to interviews and reviews, and a Kindle 4 up for grabs!

The Unlikely Tale of Stonebelly the Dragon

Image source: openclipart.org
Once upon a time, in the Strange Lands north of Aht-Lann-Tah, in a cave dug into the side of a mountain, lived Stonebelly the Dragon. Stonebelly mostly dwelt in peace, having roasted and eaten all the brave (but stupid) knights that thought to spit him on their lances. Mostly.

One summer morning, Stonebelly awoke to the scent of a human, walking up the steep path to his cave. He raised his head and peered over the edge. He saw: one old man, wearing a uniform but no armor, leading a cow by a halter. The cow wore a bell, and the clunking noise preceded them up the mountainside. Being an old dragon, Stonebelly was patient. He laid down to wait.

“Good dragon?” he heard at last. He lifted his head to see the old man, standing at the edge of the cave mouth. The cow looked resigned. Stonebelly understood the languages of most animals, and this one told him, Just eat me. Better that than walking back down the mountain.

The dragon snatched up the cow and swallowed it in two gulps. It didn’t suffer much. The old man, however, looked ill. “Please don’t eat me, too,” he begged.

“I had to quit,” Stonebelly assured him. “You’d give me indigestion these days. I presume that you want something from me? Humans don’t exactly bring free gifts.”

“Aye,” said the old man. “Crown Prince Chowming is held captive by the Rival Kingdom. We need him returned, by any means necessary.” He wrung his hands. “Just bring him home safely. Does that sound alright?”

The dragon put a huge claw to his flinty face, and scratched himself behind the ears. Humans still didn’t realize that was a secondary erogenous zone. “Needs more cowbell,” said Stonebelly, lowering his claw. He jiggled his head; the cowbell, dangling from a lower tooth, clunked again. He gave the human a significant look.

“Oh, aye, there’s plenty more where that came from!” the old man beamed.

Stonebelly flew among the clouds, contemplating the habits of humans. Not for nothing are these the Strange Lands, he thought, not for the first time. But he thought he might enjoy this little task—the Rival Kingdom had shortchanged him a (human) generation ago, when he had done a little service for them. They’d likely forgotten, but a dragon’s memory is long. Wreak a little havoc, rescue the prince, wreak a little more havoc, take the prince home, gorge himself on cattle. Not a bad plan, he thought.

Reaching Rival Castle, he loosed a resounding, roaring belch of flame. I need to slow down when I eat, he thought, but the effect was most entertaining. Guards on the castle wall ran for their lives, or fainted on the spot. He swept over the wall…

Oh, no. In the great courtyard, he saw Prince Chowming, bound hand and foot, propped up next to a stern young woman in a flowing white gown. Humans get so irrational when you interrupt their mating rituals, he thought. The guests—and the bishop—scattered to the winds. Prince Chowming stood his ground, only because he couldn’t move, and the bride-to-be-bereft slipped behind him.

“Begone, foul dragon!” the woman snarled.

“Glad to,” said Stonebelly. “But the prince comes with me.” The prince raised one eyebrow, and Stonebelly winked. Chowming gave a sigh of relief.

“Never! He’s mine! I stole him fair and square!”

“Look,” said the dragon, growing annoyed. “I’m taking him home. If you don’t give me any grief about it, I’ll forget the little matter of your mother cheating me, back in the day.”

The young woman’s eyes grew wide. “You remember—” She stretched out her hand, and a swarm of wasps leaped for Stonebelly’s eyes.

The dragon recoiled, and loosed a tiny puff of fire—just enough to turn the swarm into a constellation of sparks, fluttering to the ground. He stomped, making the ground shake. “Enough, puny human!” he roared, and the woman fled, letting Chowming fall over.

“Climb on,” he told the prince, offering a claw. Chowming hopped to him, and Stonebelly sliced through the ropes with a talon.

“I’m so glad to be out of that!” the prince sighed. “She was going to make me…” he shuddered. “Princess Hatchet is not subtle. Or kind.”

“Aye,” said the dragon. “I have the urge to wreak a little havoc. Payback, you know. Would you rather I leave you somewhere safe while I attend to it?”

After gorging himself on the cattle of the royals and rich families, Stonebelly flew Chowming home before returning to his cave. There, he curled up and slept for four months. Princess Hatchet tricked a traveling merchant into marrying her, and Prince Chowming played golf and drank beer whenever he pleased. And they all (except the merchant) lived happily ever after.


  1. It's good to wreck a little havoc now and then after completing a rescue mission. Especially with the promise of plenty of cows to chomp on. Good story!

  2. And they say an elephant never forgets, well, it seems dragons are just as bad! Fun story.

  3. More cowbell?! Really?!
    All's well that ends well (except for the merchant).
    Glad I stopped by.

  4. I liked the way you moved through the foodchain on this. And glad to see that the wasps (not N.American socioeconomic class but the insects) got zapped. Hate those critters

    marc nash

  5. Morning Larry,

    When I got to the end, I was wishing it had kept going on.

  6. You had me a "more cowbell".

    Hilarious, Larry!

  7. Thanks, Eric! I agree, wreaking havoc is often fun. Especially when the wreak-ees deserve it. ;-)

    Helen, yup. It might be that dragons are so cranky because they *can't* forget things.

    Peg, good to see you! I haven't exactly been looking for a chance to fit "more cowbell" into a story, but when the opportunity arose, I seized it! Yeah, poor merchant.

    Marc, I hate wasps too. We have them this time of year, but they're usually too busy helping out with pollination to be a problem. They'll start nesting later, and that's when the chemical warfare begins.

    Awww, thanks, FM! Maybe Stonebelly will return with another unlikely adventure.

  8. SImul-post! Sorry I missed you, Tony—like I told Peg, once the opportunity was there, I was NOT going to pass it up.

  9. Oh, that was brilliant! I loved the dragon, and the role reversal of the prince being the one needing rescuing from the princess. Love it!

  10. I can see Stonebelly as the star of his own TV series!

  11. I liked the Prince needing rescue as well. And the dragon taking on the role of hero. It's never good to be a cow though, is it!

  12. Delightful! Dragons are always a crowd pleaser!

  13. I love the line about more cowbell. One of my favorite SNL sketchs of all time!


    Congrats on the new release!

  14. Sometimes we could all do with a dragon in shining ..scales.. Now then Larry.. are we talking about a Scottish Dragon and Prince perchance? "Aye"
    If so, dragons are the fabric of life up there so well done for spotting that.. brilliant!

  15. That was a cute tale. Love the happy ending.

  16. I read it wondering if the dragon would turn out to be a former mascot from one of Aht-Lann-Tah's old sporting tribes.

  17. Thanks, Catherine! A few of us on G+ were batting around some twists on the worn-out "rescue the princess" trope one day, and yesterday this story just jelled all at once.

    Icy, that's a funny thought… I wonder what the next episode would be.

    Peter, cows tend to get either milked or eaten! :-D

    Beverly, that and zombies. Now who's going to put the two together? Maybe Stonebelly can deal with a zombie infestation…

    Danielle, I was happy to include it! And thanks much!

    Tom, I really wasn't aware of that. It's definitely something to think about…

    Thanks, Patricia!

    JohnW, that's an interesting thought. These are the Strange Lands, and the next county over has a dragon mascot. And they're more mountainous than this realm…

  18. I get the feeling I missed at least half of the references in this. But it was fun anyhow. I did get the cowbell joke, even though I've never seen that skit, which says something.

  19. Charming story, Larry! Good punches in there and an always lovely presence from a heroic dragon! Reminded me of Dragon Heart with the humor doubled.

  20. I love a good dragon story, espcecially one with a 'more cowbell' reference. Prince Chowming - great name.

  21. Very entertaining, Larry! I loved the cowbell reference as well. I fly through Aht-Lann-Tah from time to time; next time I'll be watching the skies to see if I spot any creatures in the air. :)

  22. LOL! Love this, especially the dragon!


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