The Story of Owen

The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston

Book: The Story of Owen by E. K. Johnston Read Free Book Online
Authors: E. K. Johnston
There was plenty of footage of Aodhan, though, and each replay of the report ended with the newscaster reminding us that the dragon slayer’s own house had been attacked as well, though no damage was done.
    I handed my note to Mr. Cooper with a reluctant smile on my face. The outline was about half completed in my brand new backpack if he chose to make an issue of it. It wouldn’t exactly be my best work if I had to hand it in right on the spot, but it would be better than a zero. He read the note and looked at where Owen was sitting. Then he sighed.
    â€œCan you have it done by Wednesday?” he asked.
    â€œYes,” I said. “Not a problem.”
    â€œGood,” he said. “Try not to get your homework lit on fire again unless you can’t possibly avoid it.”
    â€œIt’s on my list,” I said, because I was usually wearing my backpack, and death in a fire was not my idea of a good way to go.
    I went to the back of the room and sat next to Owen while my classmates filed in. The stack of essays on Mr. Cooper’s desk got higher.
    â€œHow many times do you think the ‘a dragon ate my homework’ excuse is good for?” Owen whispered to me.
    I rolled my eyes. “Let’s not try to find out.”
    I did my very best not to think of dragons again until lunch. This was easier said than done, because while Mr. Cooper insisted on telling us the life story of Joseph Conrad, which did not involve dragons, all Mr. Huffman talked about when we got to history was road building in Roman Britain, which brought up dragons as a matter of course.
    A Roman emperor called Hadrian had wanted to build roads as far north as Scotland, but the presence of a hatching belt that stretched from what is now Nottingham to Newcastle had impeded his progress. I’m sure the Scots were thrilled, though. They got to carry on without interference from outsidecountries until Queen Victoria, who mustn’t have been afraid of anything at all given what she’d done with Ottawa, decided that the hatching ground was inconvenient to her vacation plans. An entire Commonwealth’s worth of dragon slayers was employed to push the dragons back until they were confined mostly to West Yorkshire. It wasn’t the safest train ride, from London to Edinburgh, but with careful rail maintenance and a slight detour to Hull, it was workable.
    Mr. Huffman turned the discussion to our own hatching belt, and what we did to traverse it to get to Northern Ontario. He argued that if it weren’t for all the nickel and other metals north of the hatching belt, we wouldn’t ever risk going there. Instead, we’d go down into the US through Buffalo, and go all the way around to Saskatchewan by way of Montana. Canada would be cut in half. The presence of metal north of Sudbury, he suggested, was the only reason that Manitoba even existed.
    â€œThough, ironically,” he concluded, the meter stick waving around his head so quickly that the front row flinched in unison, “we’d all be a lot safer if we lived in Manitoba, given the fact that dragons have very sensitive hearing, and therefore a great dislike of the constant whine produced by mosquitoes.”
    Manitoba: You’ll be itchy, but you probably won’t catch on fire. I’m surprised it wasn’t on their license plates.
    â€œIn any case,” Mr. Huffman went on. “No one has tried to move a hatching ground since Queen Victoria ordered it done in the mid-1800s. It’s entirely possible that without the strength of the British Empire, there is simply no nation that can execute such an enormous task.”
    â€œBut, Mr. Huffman,” said Sadie. It was usually pretty pointless to wait for Mr. Huffman to call on you. If you sat there withyour hand up, you’d lose all feeling in your arm before he saw you. “Dragon slayers aren’t supposed to be loyal to countries first. They’re supposed to be loyal

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