The dw_straybunnies spring challenge had prompts containing the words
'Maxil' and 'School'. It all seemed to flow from there.
Of the twelve prompts, I ended up incorporating elements from ten,
which are listed at the end.
TDTO: Sudden Flame
This, Deputy Headmaster Maxil decided, looking at the blackened, smoking
walls of the corridor, was obviously not going to be a good day. It wasn't
that such devastation wasn't already a familiar sight around H G Wells High
School, but for once the usual culprit had a cast-iron alibi. To his certain
knowledge young Dorothy was currently engaged in healthy outdoor pursuits in
the South Riding of Yorkshire, along with half of the second form. Moreover,
there were the footprints: large, slimy, and very definitely reptilian. They
were visible for a few paces on either side of the charred area, and then
He turned to the knot of blazer-clad sixth formers, who were making their
own inspections of the damage from a cautious distance.
"Did anyone see what happened?" he asked.
There was a certain amount of foot-shuffling and muttering. By some
elaborate non-verbal process, a small, tidy, blonde figure emerged from the
group as their elected spokesgirl: Vicki Pallister.
"No, sir," she said. "It was like this when we got here."
Maxil sighed. "Then get along, all of you, or you'll be late for assembly."
"Sir, do you think it was a dragon? Because where the footprints stop --
doesn't that mean it started flying?"
"I'm sure Sherlock Holmes would be proud of you. If only you could spare
a quarter as much thought on your homework. Now go. To. Assembly."
He waited until the crowd had dispersed, then made another inspection of the
damaged area. The evidence was clear, almost extravagantly so. Either a large
flying reptile had indeed arrived in the corridor, torched its surroundings,
and departed the same way that it came... or this was one of the most
carefully-perpetrated practical jokes the school had yet seen.
Having given the damage one final withering look, he made his way to his
office, and put a call through to the caretaker to make the necessary repairs.
- * -
By the end of the mid-morning break, no further evidence of the dragon's
presence had surfaced, but from the highest to the lowest years the school
was alive with gossip -- and more or less misdirected efforts to discover
where the creature might be.
Tom Doctor looked up as his study partner, dishevelled and out of breath,
burst into the classroom.
"And where have you been, Leela?" he asked.
Leela took her seat beside him. "Searching for the dragon, of course."
"You look like you've been dragged through a hedge backward."
"Then you are wrong." Leela pushed her hair back, dislodging perhaps half
of the leaves that were lodged in it. "Nobody dragged me, and it was
"Did you find anything?"
Leela scowled. "Nothing. Except for Yartek and Tlotoxl smoking cigarettes."
"And what would you have done if you had scared up a fire-breathing
monster twice your size?"
"I had this." She flourished her fountain pen. "We would have seen if it is
indeed mightier than the sword."
"Bulwer-Lytton didn't mean you should use a pen as a weapon, you know."
"I know what he meant." She began to unscrew the barrel of the pen. "And I
know what I am about."
Further conversation was precluded by the arrival of the English Literature
master. Mr Dickens surveyed the room, then cleared his throat.
"We shall continue with /Lord of the Flies/," he said. "Turn to page 62...
Leela, what are you doing?"
"Changing the ink in my pen," Leela replied. She held up the pen, indicating
its exposed ink cartridge. "This is the venom of the banded swamp viper. It
will kill a treecat in eight seconds. It is too valuable to use for writing
"That cannot be disputed, though I would not have used the word 'valuable'.
But your answer leaves unanswered the question of why you filled your pen with
deadly poison in the first place." Mr Dickens looked her up and down. "And in
future I would appreciate it if you could pay a little more attention to your
appearance. Now, if you will turn to page 62, we can begin."
"Another black mark for you," Tom whispered, as Leela replaced the poison
cartridge with conventional ink and reassembled her pen.
"He does not like me," Leela replied.
Mr Dickens cleared his throat pointedly. With reluctance, Leela took up
her book, and fell to reflecting how much better /she/ would cope, if
circumstances happened to leave her marooned on a desert island.
- * -
As usual, Zoe Heriot had barely been sitting at the library desk for two
minutes before what felt like half her year had gathered around it to gossip.
"Is it really true?" Gwendoline Lacey asked, her eyes wide. "There's a
dragon somewhere in the school?"
"Sounds like it," Jamie McCrimmon said. As was his invariable habit, he
was sitting on Zoe's desk, disrupting her careful arrangement of stacked
books and rendering her filing duties almost impossible.
"But surely they should send us all home, in case we get eaten!"
"Och, we've had worse. Remember that time wi' wee Thea and all those snakey
"Fendahleen, Jamie," Patrick Doctor said, seating himself beside Jamie and
causing further havoc among Zoe's stacks. "And Gwendoline won't remember, will
she? She wasn't here then."
"No." Gwendoline shuddered and looked around, as if to reassure herself
that no snakes were creeping around her feet.
"But once your brother found out about the salt, the Fendahleen were easy to
get rid of," Gia Kelly said. "How do you kill a dragon?"
"Cut its head off," Jamie suggested.
Victoria Waterfield shook her head. "I was always told that one must shoot
it in a vulnerable spot."
"You've got a gun, then?" Samantha Briggs asked her. "Or a crossbow or
"What we need," Patrick said firmly, "is an expert on the subject. Don't you
think it suspicious that this dragon shows up just when the second form are
away on a trip?"
Gwendoline's expression was disdainful. "But what possible use could a
/second former/ be?"
"When he's Ancelyn ap Gwalchmai, quite a bit." Patrick shrugged. "We'll just
have to wait until he comes back."
"/If/ he comes back," Samantha said darkly. "You remember what happened when
we went on that Geography field trip."
Gwendoline gave her a blank look. "No. I wasn't here."
"Oh, you'd have loved it. What's the worst thing you can think would
"I don't know." Gwendoline seemed to be struggling for inspiration. "Did
it rain all the time?"
"Did it not!" Victoria replied. "Our tents kept collapsing. And the mud!"
"Gia got stuck in a puddle," Jamie added, with a grin. "Right up to here.
If we hadn't dug her out she'd still be there now."
"You're exaggerating," Gia retorted. "And you were the one who fell in the
river that same afternoon. You never know when to stop clowning around, that's
"But the thing is," Samantha continued, "that's the sort of thing that might
happen on a field trip. It's like what you said, it's the worst thing you can
think of. You'd never think of stuff like Victoria getting possessed by a
"I was not possessed by a demon!" Victoria protested.
"That'd be worse, 'cos it means it was you saying all those words. I've
never heard such language!"
"I have no recollection of the event."
As usual, Zoe gave up the doomed attempt to concentrate on her filing, and
joined the discussion.
"Well, I do," she said. "It all started when you dropped your map..."
- * -
Blissfully unaware of events back at their school, Ancelyn ap Gwalchmai and
Winifred Bambera concentrated on the fire they had contrived to light. Between
the trees, it was still possible to make out the moorland they had crossed
that morning, but the mist was rapidly thickening.
"There." Ancelyn pulled a packet of sausages from his backpack, speared one
onto a stick, and held it in the flames. "We shall not go hungry, at least."
"What d'you mean, 'at least'?"
"Nobody else is here," Ancelyn pointed out. "We were supposed to meet up
with the others."
"Then they've got lost."
"Captain Cook knows the moors like the back of his hand, does he not?"
Winifred's expression did not suggest confidence in their instructor.
"Perhaps he shouldn't have worn gloves this morning, then."
"But he cannot have gone so far astray."
"Are you saying /we're/ lost?"
Ancelyn looked at her, as if assessing the state of her temper. "...Maybe."
"Look." Winifred thrust her map in front of him. "This is the only woodland
for ten miles. That's where we're supposed to be, and--" she gestured at the
trees "--it's got to be where we are."
"Then where is everybody else?"
Before Winifred could answer, the sound of a helicopter could be heard, and
something passed over them, invisible in the gathering murk.
"What do you reckon?" she said. "Wherever that helicopter's going. We ought
to get after it and--"
Ancelyn shook his head. "We would lose our way in the fog." He pulled the
sausage out of the fire and held it out to her. "It's safer if we stay here."
"We'll miss all the fun, but-- I suppose so." Winifred took a bite of the
sausage. "Mmm. You're a good cook."
"Maybe when we are grown up I shall marry you and cook for you all the
time," Ancelyn suggested.
"Say that again and I'll beat you up." Winifred took another bite. "But
I'll wait until after you've cooked the rest of these."
- * -
"Hey," Mickey Smith said. "What's up?"
Craig Owens, who had the worried look of a ten-year old with too much on
his mind, eagerly grasped at the opportunity to pass the problem on. Mickey,
at the advanced age of eleven, must self-evidently be a better person to deal
"We think we know where the dragon's hiding," he said. "It's in the boiler
"Don't tell me, it's because you've seen smoke coming out of the chimney,"
Craig stood his ground. "It's got to be somewhere warm and dry where people
won't look for it. And no-one's allowed in there."
"Could be, I suppose," Mickey admitted. "So what if it is down in the boiler
room? We can't go down there, can we?"
"We could wait outside the door until it comes out."
"Or you could forget the whole thing."
"Forget what?" Martha Jones asked. "Can't you two find somewhere else to
talk, anyway? You're blocking the stairs."
"I think the dragon's hiding in the boiler room," Craig said.
"What, because you've seen smoke coming out of the chimney?"
"That's what I said," Mickey said.
"And I reckon," Craig said, standing his ground, "if we waited outside the
door we could catch it."
Martha considered the plan. "There's the window. And the coal chute. We'd
have to stake them out, too."
"Whoa!" Mickey held up his hands. "'We?'"
"The door. The window. The chute. That makes three, so we need three
"You leave me out of this. Just 'cos I've got the best score on /Dragon's
Lair/ that doesn't mean I'm gonna try looking for a real dragon, does it?"
"Fine. That just means when we find its hoard you we won't give you any
of the gold and silver. Craig, are any of your friends interested in helping?"
"I'll ask around," Craig said.
The bell rang for the end of break.
"OK. Meet you here, afternoon break. And make sure you bring a friend, OK?"
- * -
Zoe knew history was her weak subject, so she always resolved to pay
full attention in Miss Wright's lessons. In this, she was usually thwarted
by Pat and Jamie, who, sitting on either side of her, could often reduce her
to a state of hopeless giggles within the first five minutes.
"Pay attention, class." Miss Wright held up an earthenware pot. From it, a
green stem rose about a foot to a brilliant, bulbous flower. "What is this?"
Across the room, Isobel Watkins raised a hand. "A tulip, miss."
"And how much would you expect to pay for it?"
Isobel shrugged. "Two pounds?"
"Now imagine that this is the first tulip you've ever seen." Miss Wright
handed her the pot. "Pass it around and take a good look. Back in Holland in
the 1630s, nobody had seen anything like this."
She took up the tale, while the flower pot was passed from person to
person. Zoe listened, trying to pay attention while simultaneously keeping a
watchful eye on Jamie, who'd dropped his pen. On one memorable previous
occasion, he'd contrived to tie her shoelaces to the chair legs while
ostensibly retrieving a lost pencil.
Pat handed her the flower pot. Zoe gave the tulip a brief look, then a
closer one, and finally a baffled stare. She raised her hand.
Miss Wright interrupted her lecture. "Yes, Zoe?"
"Miss, this isn't a tulip."
"What makes you say that?"
"It's got thirteen petals. Tulips have six -- well, three petals and
three--" Zoe looked around at her laughing classmates, and felt herself
blushing. "I work in the flower shop on Saturdays. I *know* about tulips."
"For the purposes of this lesson, can you bring yourself to pretend it's a
tulip? Thank you. And there's no call for the rest of you to make such a
ruckus. Let us resume."
Still feeling hot and embarrassed, Zoe turned back to her work. Her remarks
seemed to have struck a chord with Patrick, though; for the rest of the lesson
he was silent and thoughtful, at least by his standards.
Jamie still somehow managed to steal her belt without her noticing, though.
- * -
"Look after this," Martha said, handing her satchel to Mickey. "If there is
a dragon around I don't want it eating my textbooks."
"You're seriously going off dragon-hunting with a couple of kids from the
Lower First?" Mickey asked.
"Yeah. Why not?"
"You'll get in all sorts of trouble," Mickey said. "And you're black, so
if you do find the dragon it'll eat you first."
"Happens all the time in films. The monster always goes for the black guy
first. It's like a rule."
Martha stuck out her tongue at him. "I'm not a guy. And, actually-- look."
Mickey turned, to see Craig approaching, another boy in tow.
"Is that..." he asked, looking at the other boy's mop of blond hair.
"That's Rory Williams," Martha said. "So if the dragon eats anyone, it'll be
him. That happens all the time in real life. You ready, kids?"
Craig swallowed. "I suppose so."
"Then let's go."
Mickey slung the satchel over his shoulder. "See you later. But don't say I
didn't /warn/ you."
- * -
Jo Grant perched herself cautiously on one of the green room's less
substantial chairs, and sighed.
"I never knew acting involved so much waiting about," she said.
"Tell me about it," Sarah Jane Smith replied, looking up from her copy of
the libretto. "That dragon could be out there burning down half the school for
all I know. If there's nothing about it in the /Gazette/ this'll be why."
The door to the stage swung open, and the familiar figure of Alistair
"Don't bother to get up," he said. "We won't be needed for a while. Jon
wants to practise the Major-General's song again."
Sarah, who'd been on the point of getting up, relaxed. "Typical."
"I thought this wasn't a dress rehearsal?" Jo said. "Why are you wearing
"Liz thought it might be a good idea if I got used to it. Otherwise she
said I'd be bumping into things all the time." The erstwhile Pirate King
looked around the room. "Where is she, by the way?"
"She was here just now." Jo looked around, as if she might somehow have
overlooked a full-sized Liz Shaw. "Wasn't she, Sarah?"
Sarah shook her head. "Don't ask me. I've been trying to learn my lines. How
do you manage with yours? I mean, you're playing Mabel, and she's got far more
lines than anyone else."
"I just let my mind go blank and the words come," Jo said.
"That explains so much about... well, everything."
"Don't worry." Jo gave her a reassuring smile. "If Liz doesn't show up in
time Roger can fill in. He knows everyone's lines."
"It's bad enough him playing Ruth," Alistair protested. "He can't play the
Major-General's daughter as well. I'm jolly well not going to stand for it."
- * -
In fact, Liz had been on her way to the rehearsal, when she'd been
distracted by the sound of a scream. Apparently without any conscious
thought, she'd headed for it at a run, and found herself outside the
boiler room. A roughly circular area of the flower bed had been blasted to
smoking ruin; as Liz came closer, she felt her heart jump into her mouth. A
little girl was lying at the edge of the circle, not moving, with smoke
rising from her smouldering uniform.
She bent over the girl, and sighed with relief as she found a pulse.
"Are you OK?" she asked. There was no answer.
Behind Liz, there was a gasp. She looked up, to see a blond-headed boy, his
face almost white.
"Is she--" he began.
"She'll be fine," Liz said firmly, hoping that she'd turn out to be right.
"What happened? Did you see?"
"We were watching for the dragon," the boy replied, fighting back tears.
"Craig's inside and I was guarding the coal chute and Martha--" He looked down
at the girl, and broke off with a choked sob.
"What's your name?" Liz asked.
"Rory. Rory Williams."
"Well, Rory, I want you to go and get hold of Matron. Quick as you can. I'll
stay here and look after-- Martha, is it?"
Rory nodded, then turned and dashed off.
"Crazy kids." Liz said, to the world at large. "Watching for a dragon.
The girl lying at her feet groaned.
"Don't try to get up," Liz said, feeling relief surge through her.
"Did you see it?" Martha murmured. "The dragon?"
"No, it wasn't here when I found you."
"I didn't see it either. It didn't come out of the window. Something hit me,
I think. It must have crept up behind me."
Liz, unable to think of anything to say, patted the girl's hand, and hoped
that Rory wouldn't take too long to get help.
- * -
"Leela," Tom Doctor said. "Do you notice anything unusual?"
"Apart from all the burning where the dragon has been?" Leela asked. They
were standing in the corridor, at the point where the creature's presence
had first become known to the school. Pending repairs, the scorched area had
been blocked off with spare tables, but Tom and Leela had treated the
furniture less as an order, and more as a hint that they were free to
"Exactly. Apart from that."
"What are you thinking?"
Tom put his hands on Leela's shoulders and lowered his voice. "I'm thinking
all this might be a distraction. Something to divert our attention from what's
*really* going on."
"And you wish to know what is really going on?"
Leela closed her eyes and let her other senses fill her mind.
"There is something close at hand," she said. "It is waiting. A slow,
patient mind, like a spider weaving its web. It is all around the sch-- unk."
"Leela?" Tom caught her in his arms as she collapsed forward. "Leela, can
you hear me?"
There was no answer. The air suddenly felt dry, and his hair seemed to
be curling of its own volition.
"Leela, we've got to get out of here!"
He looked this way and that, weighing up his chances of negotiating the
tables carrying Leela in his arms, and made his decision. In seconds he
was at the window; a few seconds more, and Leela had been thrust through it
into the flower bed beyond. As he turned, and likewise climbed out, he saw
the air in the centre of the corridor shimmering, as if on a hot summer's
"Bye bye," he said, slammed the window, and jumped down among the flowers.
Orange light flared briefly behind the glass.
"What happened?" Leela asked, climbing groggily to her hands and knees.
"You fainted." Tom looked around, to see that they had managed to climb
out of the window in full view of Deputy Headmaster Maxil. "And I think we
may just have acquired a sought-after place in detention."
- * -
Liz watched as Martha was led away to the infirmary, there to receive
treatment for superficial burns and suspected concussion. She remained where
she was, kneeling in the flower bed. Her thoughts felt tangled, and she needed
to straighten them out. The dragon hadn't taken exception to Craig or Rory,
but something about Martha had caused it to unleash the full force of its
displeasure on her.
"There she is!" a distant voice called. She managed to turn her head, and
saw the rest of the cast of /The Pirates of Penzance/ hurrying in her
direction. And despite it supposedly not having been a dress rehearsal,
Alistair was wearing his eyepatch, and Jon was in full Major-General's
"Are you OK?" Jo asked, as soon as she was in speaking distance.
"Fine. Fine." Liz shook her head. "The dragon's been here."
"I guessed as much," Alistair said. "Listen, what we need to do is wait for
the thing to show up, and then shoot it in a vulnerable spot."
"Typical," Jon said. "Something new and unusual turns up, and all you want
to do is shoot it."
"He's right!" Liz snapped. "It's put one little girl in the infirmary
already. It needs to be stopped!"
She gestured in exaggeration, hitting a tulip that stood on the edge of the
Jon knelt beside her. "Liz, it may not be responsible for its actions. What
if it's only a predator following its instincts? Or what if it's being guided
by some external force?"
"If it's following its instincts, why can't I follow mine?" Liz climbed to
her feet and brushed the dirt off her knees. "I say it's dangerous and it
needs to be stopped."
Though the sky was clear, there was a rumble of thunder, and Liz felt her
"Liz, we shouldn't talk here. Alistair, can you walk her back to the common
"I don't need anyone's help," Liz complained, and stalked off.
"Now look what you've done," Alistair said.
"At least she's out of here. And unless you've actually got a gun, I suggest
we do likewise." There was another rumble of thunder, and the air over the
flower bed rippled. "There's an intelligence behind this, and I think it may
know we're here."
"I say!" Harry Sullivan remarked suddenly.
"What?" Jo asked.
"That tulip's turned red." He pointed at the flower that Liz had touched.
Sure enough, though all the surrounding blooms were yellow, this one was a
"You're sure it wasn't red before?" Jo asked, doubt clear in her voice.
"Positive. I remember thinking when we got here that there weren't any red
Jon knelt by the flower. "It's a very tulipy tulip. As if it's trying to be
the perfect flower..." He looked up. "Get ready to run."
He took hold of the stem, and tugged gently. The bloom came away in his
hands, its petals flickering with different colours. A sharp wail filled the
minds of the watchers, though no sound could be heard by mundane senses.
Almost at once, thunder boomed overhead. The air swirled once more, taking
on the shape of something large, winged, wreathed with flame.
"Run!" Jon shouted.
- * -
Behind the cricket pavilion, the four oldest members of the Doctor family
were in conference. As a rule, the brothers found each other sufficiently
annoying that they would have gone out of their way to avoid each other, but
the gravity of the situation had forced their hands.
"Now, then," Bill said. "I suppose it's too much to hope that any of you
have found out what's going on, hmm?"
There was a momentary babble as the remaining three all tried to speak at
once. In the event, Patrick won the point.
"The only thing I've seen out of place was a flower," he said. "Miss Wright
had it in the history lesson. It looked like a tulip, but Zoe says it isn't."
"Something like this?" With perhaps justifiable smugness, Jon produced the
flower he'd picked. "I'd need to use a microscope to be sure, but it's quite
possibly an alien lifeform which--"
"--can read minds," Tom broke in. "Leela made contact with it earlier. I
don't think it's friendly."
"And you believe it's connected with the dragon?" Bill asked.
"Definitely," Jon said. "If it regards an action as hostile--"
"--such as picking a flower?" Pat suggested.
"Exactly. That's when the dragon puts in an appearance."
"Hmm." Bill drummed his fingers on his knees. "Of course, there may be more
than one dragon."
"One way to find out," Tom said. "Pick two flowers at once in different
places, and see if you get two dragons."
"Go on, then," Pat said. "Do it."
"Alas, Leela and I must spend the afternoon in detention."
"And I've got to get back to our rehearsal," Jon said.
Pat exchanged a glance with his elder brother. "I suppose that means it's
down to us. I'll get Jamie and the girls to help."
"I suppose that'll have to do," Bill replied, in resigned tones.
- * -
"Are you doing anything, child?" Bill asked.
Vicki looked round from her locker. "I wish you wouldn't call me that," she
grumbled. "Just because you're one day older than me. What do you want,
"A few moments of your time."
Vicki's face lit up. "Is it to do with the dragon?"
"Got it in one."
"I suppose we have to shoot it in a vulnerable spot? Only I haven't got my
flare gun with me."
"No, no. There won't be anything more strenuous than a little gardening
expedition. Oh, and do you have your swimsuit with you today?"
"No, not today." She gave him a half-smile. "Don't tell me you're going to
chain me to a rock down by the beach and use me as bait."
"That's good, because I think that only works on sea monsters." Vicki
shoved her books into her locker, closed it, and snapped the padlock on.
"Ready when you are."
- * -
"This is getting beyond a joke," Gia gasped, as, once more, she dived for
cover in a low-lying area of the playing field.
"What's the matter?" Samantha asked, equally breathlessly. "Can't take the
"I don't see what it's supposed to establish." She cautiously raised her
head. "I've been satisfied for the last ten minutes that however many flowers
we pick, only one dragon shows up."
"And we need to keep that one and only dragon's attention firmly on us,"
Patrick said, with his most infuriating smile. "So when I give the count of
three, we provoke it again. Where's Victoria got to?"
"Over here." Victoria emerged from another dip in the ground, accompanied
by Jamie. "Jamie, I know you mean well, but there really isn't any need to
throw yourself on top of me each time."
"I'm protecting you," Jamie said firmly.
"If she doesn't like it, you can protect me instead, chuck," Samantha said,
with a wink. "I don't mind."
"Is everybody ready?" Patrick asked.
"I can't see Gwendoline anywhere," Victoria said.
"That's 'cos she ran off screaming last time but two," Samantha said.
"Surprised you didn't notice. Or maybe Jamie was being /really/ protective
Victoria blushed. "Sam, really!"
"Never mind that now." Patrick knelt by the flowerbed and took hold of one
of the non-tulips. "On a count of three. One. Two. Three!"
- * -
On the far side of the building, Maxil was examining what had, earlier that
day, been a newly-planted flowerbed. Now, it seemed that some young hooligan
or hooligans had wantonly dug up and abstracted some dozen or more bulbs. He
gave the damage another glare, then turned to the group of ten-year-olds.
"Somebody saw who did this," he said. "Let that person come forward and tell
Once again, the crowd parted like the Red Sea, this time leaving Kate
Lethbridge-Stewart as the centre of attention.
"Do you know who did this?" Maxil demanded, glaring down at her.
Kate shook her head. "No, sir."
"Then why does everyone think she did?"
"It's her brother--" Celia Kizlet began, before being drowned out by cries
of 'sneak!' from the children standing around her.
Maxil gave Kate another look. "Is your brother involved in this act of
"I don't know, sir."
"Then what do you know?"
Kate considered the question, and looked defiantly up at him. "Nothing,
"Then you, and Celia, are going to come to my office, and we are going to
determine precisely who knows what." He made a sweeping gesture to the other
children. "The rest of you, get back to wherever you should be."
- * -
It was obvious from their furtive behaviour that the two figures creeping
into the environs of the school swimming pool had not the slightest right to
be there. Bill Doctor and Vicki, barefoot but otherwise fully dressed, arrived
at the poolside, walking with the sort of deliberately casual gait that could
not fail to arouse the worst suspicions of mischief.
"Here," Bill said, handing a Tupperware container to Vicki. "Now, you
remember what to do?"
"Of course I do," Vicki said. She stepped reluctantly onto the lowest
diving board. "And I still think this is the most ridiculous plan I've ever
heard. You don't seriously think this dragon's going to fall for it, do you?
If there even is a dragon in the first place."
"It's a creature of instinct." Bill waved a dismissive hand. "It can't help
"You couldn't trick Fafnir like this. Or Ancalagon the Black."
"Trust me, child."
"I wish you wouldn't call me that," Vicki muttered. Reluctantly, she
shuffled along the diving board, until there was nowhere for her to go but
down. Raising her voice, she tried to sound confident. "OK, I'm here."
"Now you open the box and throw the bulbs into the water."
"They'll sense the chlorine as an attack. I'll be very surprised if we
don't see a reaction."
"You'll get a reaction all right if I fall in," Vicki said.
Bill considered the possibility. "Yes, it's a pity you didn't bring your
swimming costume today."
Vicki gave him the best scowl she could manage. "Then you should have told
me this plan yesterday, shouldn't you?" She took a deep breath. "OK, let's
get it over with."
She opened the box, and began to toss the bulbs into the pool.
"You'll need to throw them a bit further than that," Bill said. By now he
was standing at the shallow end, throwing more bulbs in. "We need them all
round the edges."
"Don't tell me, I throw like a girl." Vicki hurled a bulb in his general
direction. "You realise if this doesn't work we'll have to fish them all
She broke off. Her skin was tingling, and the hair on the back of her neck
was rising of its own volition. As she shifted her position, static
electricity crackled across her uniform. The air above the centre of the pool
began to ripple, as if in midsummer heat.
Vicki froze, another bulb still in her hand, as a winged shape burst from
the patch of disturbed air, heading directly for her. She barely had time for
a vague impression of something large, covered in bright pink scales, wreathed
in flame, before she had to hurl herself to one side in a desperate attempt to
dodge it. Since she was still standing on the diving board, the consequences
were predictable; she hit the water awkwardly and disappeared from view, her
clothes dragging her down.
A moment later, the dragon, apparently in hot pursuit, plunged into the
pool. The splash, and the ensuing detonation, could be heard throughout the
school; if anybody had been left in any doubt of the source, the column of
steam rising over the swimming pool served as an additional clue.
- * -
Leaving the two girls in his office, Maxil had set off for the swimming
pool at the nearest approach to a run compatible with dignity. By the time
he arrived, the pool was wreathed in dense mist, under cover of which the
perpetrators of this latest outrage against discipline had no doubt slipped
away. Nevertheless, he made his way forward through the murk; as he
approached the poolside, he became aware of the sounds of splashing and
gasping. Drenched and exhausted, Vicki dragged herself out of the water and
collapsed more or less at his feet.
Maxil looked down at her.
"I suppose it's too much to hope that you've got a good explanation for
this?" he said.
Vicki looked up at him, and unexpectedly flashed him a grin.
"You won't have any more trouble from that dragon, sir," she said. "Just
call us-- call me St George."
From the way Vicki's face fell, she obviously realised she'd given the game
"Vicki Pallister," Maxil said. "Who else is involved in this?"
Vicki closed her mouth firmly and said nothing.
"As if I couldn't guess." Maxil reached into the mist and caught hold of
Bill as he tried to creep away. "Now, are the two of you the only ones
"Yes, sir," Vicki said wearily.
"Good. Now come with me, both of you."
- * -
Standing beside the flowerbed, Patrick clasped his hands in pleasure as,
one after the other, the tulips exploded in gouts of flame.
"Well, now," he said. "I think that's dealt with the problem quite
"Should we be hanging around here?" Jamie asked. "Supposing someone comes
to see what all the exploding and stuff is?"
"Yeah," Samantha added. "This isn't something I ever thought I'd say, but
maybe Gwendoline had the right idea? We should make a run for it."
Victoria shook her head. "It's too late. Look."
Sure enough, Maxil was advancing on them, his two existing captives in tow.
"Right," he said. "Detention's pretty full already, but I think I can find
room for you horticultural vandals."
"Would it help if I said I can explain everything?" Patrick asked.
Maxil shook his head. "No."
"Well, I suppose that saves us some time, at least."
The newly enlarged group set off, trailing in Maxil's wake.
"What happened to you?" Jamie asked, falling into line beside Vicki.
"I fell in the swimming pool," Vicki said briefly. Unexpectedly, she
grinned. "Tell you what, it's the first time I've been in there and the water
was actually warm."
Walking behind the two, Samantha nudged Victoria.
"She reminds me of how you looked after that field trip," she said. "What
did we call you? Victoria Waterlogged, wasn't it?"
Victoria put her nose in the air. "I do not recollect," she said.
- * -
The room Maxil used for his detentions had a noticeably more old-fashioned
look than the rest of the school, deriving a faintly gothic atmosphere from
its bare, whitewashed walls and rows of ancient desks. From a daïs in one
corner of the room, Maxil surveyed his charges. As scruffy a lot of vagabonds
as any schoolmaster might encounter, he decided -- particularly Vicki, who
was now dressed in a mismatched collection of cricketing whites while her
uniform dried. There was no sound save for the scratching of pens, and the
tick of the clock over his head.
The minute hand of the clock juddered to the vertical position, and its
ancient bell chimed a desultory clang. Maxil rose to his feet.
"Detention is over," he said. "Hand in your statements to me; then you may
One by one, the teenagers departed, leaving their varying accounts of the
afternoon's events on his desk. He waited until the last had left before
glancing through the stack of papers.
/We have saved the school from a creature of fire and destruction,/ one
began. Maxil sighed as he recognised Leela's handwriting; moreover, whatever
she was using for ink appeared to have had a corrosive effect on the paper.
/And for this, we receive only punishment. If the dragon returns would you
have us let it roam unchecked?/
Maxil set Leela's handiwork aside, and glanced through the others, noting
the remarkable degree of agreement about the main events of the day. That was,
of course, to be expected if the entire story had been planned out in advance.
Possibly there was some kernel of truth in these fantastic tales of dragons
and invading plants, but overall, he still favoured his original theory: the
chaos into which the school had been thrown had been nothing more nor less
than an elaborately-planned practical joke.
He scooped up the papers. Whatever the truth, it was too late to go into it
in any more detail now. And he couldn't let it distract him from whatever
fresh outbreak of chaos would no doubt face him tomorrow.
/The place wouldn't last a day without me,/ he reflected, as he closed the
door behind him.
- *** -
Those ten prompts in full:
1. From primsong: historical adventure with tulip speculators in the 1600s
2. From taiyou_to_tsuki: road trip in Bessie (post Battlefield
3. From ravenskyewalker: (Three-era) pirate AU.
4. From persiflage_1: more Kate (Lethbridge-)Stewart
6. From tenthrose: Mickey Smith / Craig Owens / school.
7. From tenthrose: The adventures of Maxil!
8. From dbskyler: Fourth Doctor and Leela.
10. From tenthrose: story set on a planet with only telepathic plants as a
11. From persiflage_1: Liz Shaw, Martha Jones, and Rory Williams (three
12. From lost_spook: (First Doctor and) the St George and the Dragon legend.
Then Do That Over was created by Paul Gadzikowski.
"Doctor Who" characters belong to the BBC, Gwendoline to the Enid Blyton
Thinks: This is what a nice clean life leads to. Hmm, why did I ever lead one?
-- Bluebottle, in the Goon Show