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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Zelazny Roger

«Here there be dragons», Roger Zelazny

Chapter 1

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a king who was king of a verysmall country. Indeed, his kingdom was so small that mostpeople were not even aware it existed.

The king thought that it was a fairly large kingdom,though, as kingdoms went. This was because there were manymountains around the place, mountains which were difficult to climb. Because of these mountains, travelers would just go onaround the kingdom, rather than go through it. And very fewpeople ever left the kingdom, to come back and tell of otherlands. People were pretty much afraid to do that.

They were afraid of the dragons.

They never saw any dragons, mind you, but they were afraid of them. This is because all the maps in the kingdom showedthat they were surrounded by dragons dragons here, dragonsthere, dragons all over the place, all because of MisterGibberling.

Mister Gibberling was the Royal Cartographer. (That meanshe was the official mapmaker.) Mister Gibberling was the RoyalCartographer because his father and his grandfather had been Royal Cartographers. Mister Gibberling had learned hisprofession from his father, who had learned it from his father.

Since people did not visit the kingdom very often, and theking's subjects seldom crossed over the mountains themselves,it was difficult for the Royal Cartographers to know exactlywhat to put down on their maps to show what was outside. So, as he had learned from his father (who had learned it from hisfather), whenever he did not know what to show as being in anycertain place, Mister Gibberling picked up his quill, and witha great flourish of the feather wrote (in fancy letters):


Then he would smile, because he had explained a new territory. Of course, since he did not really know what laybeyond the mountains in any direction, it soon came to appearthat the entire world was infested with dragons. (And he woulddraw little pictures of fire-breathing dragons, roaring andflapping their wings, beneath what he wrote which certainlydidn't help to promote tourism.)

This is why everyone was afraid of the dragons they hadnever seen. If your father were to drive into a gas station andask for a road map, and it said, "HERE THERE BE DRAGONS" and itshowed a little picture such as the ones Mister Gibberlingdrew, your father would take a dif- ferent route. So, since allthe maps in the kingdom showed dragons everywhere, breathing flames and being mean, all the people in the kingdom stayed athome, because there were no other routes.

Chapter 2

BUT THEN ONE DAY the king's daughter, the princess, wasgoing to have a birthday, and the king wanted to celebrate itin a special way.

"I want fireworks!" he said.

"Yes, sire. A good idea," said his first adviser.

"Yes indeed, sire. A very good idea," said his secondadviser.

"Oh yes, great sire! A very, very good idea," said histhird adviser.

"Uh, where will we get them, sire?" asked his fourthadviser, who was never too popular around the court (but hisdowager aunt was a good friend of the queen, so the king kept him about, despite his habit of asking uncomfortablequestions).

"The man who used to manufacture fireworks died some tenyears ago," he explained, "and he never trained anyone to takehis place. This is why there have been no fireworks displays inrecent years."

"We shall simply have to get them," said the king,"because I want them."

"Yes," said the first adviser.

"We shall simply have to get them," said the second.

"Because the king wants them," said the third.

"How?" asked the fourth.

"Well we could, ah import them," said the first.

"Yes, import them," said the second.

"Import them, yes," said the third.

"From where?" asked the fourth.

"Well, uh we could get them from ... Hmm.

"Yes, we could get them from Hmm," agreed the second.

"I was only hmming, not naming places," said the first.

"Oh, pardon me, I thought you meant the city of Hmm on theMm river. It is too far away, now that I think of it."

"Why don't we get a map and look?" asked the third.

"An excellent idea," said the second. "Get a map and look."

So they did. They gathered around the map and studied.

"There are dragons to the east," said the first.

"... And dragons to the west," said the second.

"... And dragons to the north," said the third.

". . . And dragons to the south," said the fourth. "They seem to be all around us. In fact, there is only our kingdomand dragons on the map. Consequently, we cannot import anyfireworks."

"It would seem to follow ..." said the first.

"But the king wants them!" said the second.

"But where can we get them?" asked the third.

Then the first adviser had an idea. "What is a dragon,anyway?" he asked.

"Oh, big!" said the second.

"... And mean," said the third.

". . . And ugly and scaly and strong and fire-breathing,"finished the fourth. "There is a picture on the map‹ manypictures, as a matter of fact."

"Well," said the first, "dragons spout flames, don't they?Like Roman Candles, Vesuvius Fountains, Cannon Crackers,

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