No more than three feet away from Julius (but certainly more than two feet away; perhaps thirty inches – or, in the system preferred by Helen, Julian’s wife, of whom more later, seventy-six point two centimetres – although needless to say, it seemed less) a dog which seemed to be a cross between a doberman and some kind of beagle – its appearance certainly seemed to fit the original meaning of the Old French word “beegueule” (literally, open-mouthed) from which “beagle” is derived – was barking in the key of E-flat and pawing the air in a way which, had there been an invisible miniature piano beneath its claws, might have produced a melody not dissimilar to a free jazz composition of the early sixties or, more likely, a discordant jumble of sharps and flats which, had this been the case rather than being merely a fanciful possibility (which is what it was), would have put Julius’ teeth on edge in a way which the dog’s barking, in the absence of the more musical set of noises just touched upon, was already managing to do.
At this point, the dragon, which was larger than a single-decker bus but smaller than an articulated lorry, breathed some fire out of its mouth (or, more properly, exhaled a mixture of flammable gas and liquid which was ignited by a spark from a gland in its throat). This burned several people quite badly, although the knight who is the subject of our story remained largely unharmed.
Naturally, this incident caused a reaction of fear and surprise amongst the local population. It also caused a not insignificant amount of damage to property, which would take local residents many weeks to repair. Aside from this immediate inconvenience, the subsequent disruption caused by reconstruction efforts would also have an adverse effect on the local economy in the medium term. The knight then hit the dragon with his sword, killing it, which was probably for the best.
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