“Grandfather, can I have another dragon story?  Just not a gross one this time?”

“Certainly.  Do you know about Bob?”

“Who?”

“Ravanculus the Destroyer?”

“Not him either.”

“No, we just call Ravanculus “Bob”, now.”

“Why?”

“Well, you know how faeries are stories?”

“Yes, of course.”

“And how even if you kill them, another faerie can take up the story and seem identical?”

“Yes, so you need to convince people to stop telling the story.  You need to deal with the faerie publicly, so people tell the story of how a hero killed the dragon.  Even then, it doesn’t stop them coming back as the dragon’s brother.”

“Yes. So, there was a terrible dragon, causing storms and blighting the land with terrible presence…”

“As they do…”

“Yes, and his name was Ravanculus.”

“Yes. So I needed to put a stop to his depredations. Particularly because he was asking for offerings of maidens…”

“Twelve.”

“Oh, no, it was nothing like that. I’m not he knew himself why he wanted them. He didn’t eat them, or anything. They mostly sat around gossiping with each other and complaining that the accommodation wasn’t up to standard.”

“I find that very hard to believe.”

“Ah, well, there you’d be wrong: ask your grandmother. That’s how she and I met.  She was one of his prisoners.”

“No, wait a minute, you met when she was running through the snow and stole your shoes.”

“No, that’s how I first saw her. Later I went looking for my shoes…have you seen them by the way?”

“No. So…”

“I am really starting to worry about my shoes. Perhaps we should not tell stories tonight and you can help me look for them?”\

“You owe me a story!  I’m sure your shoes will turn up…”

“Like they always do…”

“Like they always do.”

“I’m sure you are right.  Where was I up to?”

“Meeting grandmother.  She’d stolen your shoes to flee a mob.”

“And the village she ran into needed a maiden to send to the dragon…”

“Oh. So, since she wasn’t a local…”

“She was having quite a week, really. She was very pleased to see me.”

“You are skipping ahead!”

“Oh, yes, anyhow, he had the usual cave and treasure business going on, as dragons do.  So, I went and bet him some of my amber against some of his treasure that he couldn’t beat me at quoits.”

“That’s a ridiculous thing to do.”

“No, he was bored, you see?  Some faeries get bored. They known their role and only their role, but there’s something itching in them which says “When the right human comes along, just blow this role and do something better.”

“So, he was going to lose regardless? His inner nature compelled him to lose?  Just like some are compelled to die and then come back as their own kin seeking revenge?  They throw themselves onto the swords of knights over and over?”

“Yes, I knew his inner nature would force him to lose, so I won a treasure from him. He asked me which of his treasures I wanted. Now, he knew I had my eye on your grandma, and rescuing a damosel is quite a story, so his inner nature…”

“Made him lose and offer it to you, so that for generations you’d do what you are doing now…telling your kin how they exist because of the effect this dragon had on you?”

“Yes, but I’d suckered him.  I told him his greatest treasure was his size!”

“You stole his size!”

“Yes: I still have it. I wear a special locket to make me human sized.”

“What did he do?”

“He attacked me, but as he was coming I trapped him in the young amber, and carried him off, to show him to the villagers!”

“Ah, ha!  And so why do you now call him Bob?”

“Ah, do you know what happens to faerie gods when their worship dwindles?”

“They…remain as a sort of myth, and dwindle in size, and become more childlike?  Oe century you’re a firbolg god, and the next you are a mound faerie, and the next you have a little pot of gold and are sitting at the end of the rainbow.  And you don’t even notice.”

“True. So, Bob is this tiny dragon in amber. He’s the size of a wasp. I sell him to a magus who wants to make him a familiar. That doesn’t work, because mystically he’s as mighty as he ever was: he’s just really small, physically.”

“…but, the strength of a faerie isn’t based on their muscles: the muscles are really just there to give humans something to pay attention to.”

“So, like an ant which can carry many times its own weight, Bob is as strong as he ever was, and as resistant to magic.”

“So, he’s no use as a familiar, because his magic resistance is too great?  What did the magus do with his new pet, grandfather?”

“Oh, he guards the key to the vis vault at Durenmar. It is kept in a little box in the council chamber, and he sleeps inside the keyhole, on the golden key. He calls the barrel of the keyhole his cave. Sometimes he roars and you can see flames come out of the keyhole, and sometimes his ill-breath destroys any meal placed on the council chamber’s table. Occasionally he goes on adventures, sitting on the hat of a travelling magus, the size of a wasp, but with all of the magical force he ever had.”

“Why “Bob”?”

“So he doesn’t get ideas about becoming his old self again. Can you see how giving something a smaller, simpler name can make it less dangerous?”

“Particularly a faerie, yes.  Oh, that was the moral!”

“What was the moral?”

“That you can give things power by giving them the wrong names, and you can take their power by giving them names you want them to have!”

“Clever girl.  Supper for you, now.  I may skip my nap and…”

“No, You need your nap Grandpa. I’ll look for your shoes and bring them to you when I find them.”

* * *

“I would like all of it to be true, but it wasn’t was it?”

“No, dear.”

“The snobby young women gossiping and complaining.  That was the false bit, right?”

“Yes.”

“How did you survive?”

“I was never a captive.”

“But he said you were!”

“Oh, he thinks I was. I told him he’d saved me.”

“Why?”

“I’ll tell you when you are older.”

“Oh!  But then why did the dragon let him win?”

“It needed to be vanquished, I suppose. Anyway, being the smallest ever dragon in Mythic Europe makes him the talk of the whole Order. He gets to travel, meet people, getting examined and preened over. Perhaps he understood your grandfather’s plan, all along.”

“Wait a minute. My grandfather’s friends with the dragon tha guards the key to the vis vault…”

“…at Durenmar.  Yes.”

“And that doesn’t seem like the first half of a heist story to anyone else?”

“What’s a heist story my dear?”

“It’s a thing Grandfather told me about where…Oh. Did he invent the idea of a heist story?”

“Yes, my dear. Yes, he did. Now, eat your supper.”

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