A spaceship landed, and an alien emerged.
"Thank you, Earthlings," it said, "we can now reveal that when you played a computer game, it actually controlled our robots."
"Which game?"
"Mine sweeper."

This encounter did not unfold like Orum had imagined it. "Look," he said, "I just need a magic fire."
"Don't we all."

"Do as I say, and I'll let you live!" Orum shouted.
"A generous offer," the dragon said. "I'll make the same. Just leave."

"Anyway," the dragon continued, "the gold is all gone."
It looked at Orum's spear. "Or have you come for fame, not riches?"

"If you believe hard enough," he said, "your belief will imbue your skull, and when your enemies drink from it they will be converted."
The plan would have worked, had not his enemies long rejected drinking from defeated foes' skulls as a barbaric practice.

"I hear many things about the Devil, but I've never heard he is a great kisser."
The Devil gave me a blank look. "What."
"I guess we'll never know," I said.
He kissed me. He wasn't very good.
But if you ever hear I am a great kisser (and I am), I'll know who you heard it from.

The dragon glared at him. It was the size of a goat.
"Well, I thought you'd be impolite," it said, "so one of us was right."

There was a faint light ahead, around a corner. Orum moved up and peeked around.
"Oh," he said, "I thought you'd be bigger."

Spear in one hand, tongs in the other, Orum entered the darkness of the cave. He walked far, then heard:
"You are too late."

"Welcome to Magic School. Here is your schedule."
"Thanks! But..."
"This is just 'Ethics' and 'Human rights' and things like that."
"Correct, that's the first year curriculum."
"Do we have to learn all this?"
"Of course! What do you think this is, software engineering?"

Warm air wafted from a cave. Orum set skis and sled aside, put the star metal in a crucible, and held that with long tongs.

"The Cybercouncil says only active, fitted augmentations qualify."
"What does that mean?"
"You're no cyborg."
"I wear glasses!"
"Sorry. Hearing aid, jointed prosthetic, pacemaker-"
"So I'm just a normal human?"
"Hardly anyone is normal. You'll be different some way."
"I hope so."

We sing the songs of distant Earth
In thousands diff'rent tongues
For all the lands that gave us birth
For them, their songs are sung

We tell the tales of distant Earth
Of heroes, gods, and fools
To teach us values, and our worth
And how to break the rules

Orum searched for the dragon's lair until his food was gone. He was ready to give up, when he saw a bird circling, rising.

A spaceship landed in the park. An alien emerged, looked around, and walked up to the nearest person. Me.
It held my hand gently, patted me on the shoulder, and said "There, there, it'll work out".
Then it left.
It's silly, but I do feel better now.

Years ago, men came through the village, showing gold taken from a dragon. They had snuck in and out, as the dragon slept.

The next day, Orum packed tools and supplies in a sled, picked a spear, strapped on his skis, and headed for the mountains.

"We have tried to sacrifice people to the gods."
"That didn't help."
"And we have tried to sacrifice gods to the people."
"That didn't help either."
"I don't know what else we could do."
"May be sacrifices aren't the answer?"

"When my dad gave that to me, he said it should remind me any skill has limits," the old smith said.
"We'll see," said Orum.

Orum weighed the lump of star metal in his hand.
"It can't be smelted," his father said. "The forge isn't hot enough."

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