The Naïveté of Youth

Dragonsbane - Barbara Hambly

 Jenny is a Mage, whose powers are weaker than she desires them to be.  Her mentor is dead so she continues to strive on her own.  


She lives in the Winterlands, a declining country cut loose by its King,  because there are too many troubles for him to manage all of them.  Lord John and his people have struggled ever since to keep some semblance of civilization going.


now the king has more problems; a dragon has come to terrorize his people.  Lord John is the only man in all the land who has been able to slay a dragon.  After many unsuccessful attempts by the King's Knights, an emissary has been sent to Lord John to negotiate for his help.


Gareth meets up with Jenny on the road and she agrees to take Gareth to Lord John.  Gareth is full of bubbling enthusiasm and begins a romantic ballad of the epic slaying of the dragon by Lord John,  (Averson and the Golden Wyrm of Wehr -- he wrote it himself) which is, of course, inaccurate.  Jenny tells the more realistic version.


"He slashed its wings first, so that it couldn’t take to the air and fall on him from above. He used poisoned harpoons to slow it down, but he finished it off with an ax.”


“An ax?!” Gareth cried, utterly aghast. “That’s—that’s the most horrible thing I’ve ever heard! Where is the glory in that? Where is the honor? It’s like hamstringing your opponent in a duel! It’s cheating!”


“He wasn’t fighting a duel,” Jenny pointed out. “If a dragon gets into the air, the man fighting it is lost.”


“But it’s dishonorable!” the boy insisted passionately, as if that were some kind of clinching argument.


“. . . . A dragon is upward of twenty feet long and can kill a man with a single blow of its tail. You said yourself,” she added with a smile, “that there are situations in which honor does not apply.”


“But that’s different!” the boy said miserably and lapsed into disillusioned silence.


"He fought the dragon as he would have fought a wolf, as a vermin which was harming his people. He had no choice.”


“But a dragon isn’t vermin!” Gareth protested. “It is the most honorable and greatest of challenges to the manhood of a true knight. You must be wrong! He couldn’t have fought it simply—simply out of duty. He can’t have!”


 Jenny and Gareth arrive at the holding, and Jenny introduces Lord John to Gareth.


For one instant, Gareth was shocked absolutely speechless. He sat for a moment, staring, stunned as if struck over the head; then he dismounted so hastily that he clutched his hurt arm with a gasp. It was as if, Jenny thought, in all his ballad-fed fantasies of meeting the Dragonsbane, it had never occurred to him that his hero would be afoot, not to say ankle-deep in mud beside the local pigsty. . . .


Gareth, still gazing around him in mystification at the cluttered room, said nothing, but his narrow face was a study of mental gymnastics as he strove to adjust the ballads’ conventionalized catalog of perfections with the reality of a bespectacled amateur engineer who collected lore about pigs. . . .


With the promise of the King's renewed protection, Lord John agrees to travel south with Gareth, and Jenny accompanies them.  Gareth, disillusioned and disenchanted, is a less than congenial companion.


“He feels cheated, is all,” he said easily. “And since God forbid he should have cheated himself with his expectations, it must have been one of us that did it, mustn’t it?”


20% finished.  Really like it so far.