"Right," Orum said, "so with the right kindling we-"
The dragon snorted again. "I am far too old for such hope, smithling."
17/25

"You are but a spark," the dragon said, "you are no threat."
Orum bit back his objections. "And you?"
"Me? I am an ember."
16/25

Orum leaned the spear against the wall. "I'm sorry."
"For what?"
"For being impolite, and threatening."
The dragon snorted.
15/25

"This is a costume party," the sheep said.
"I know," said the wolf and took off its mask.
"That's a wolf mask."
"Yes?"
"You are dressed up as a wolf."
"Yes?"
"But you are a wolf."
"Yes? Look at this mask, it's not me, is it?"
"Um..."
"Really, Clarence? Do we all look the same?"

"I am a smith," said Orum.
"Fire magic. A smith is almost as good as a baker."
"Thanks. Um. Will you help? Please?"
"No."
14/25

The dragon laid down and closed its eyes. Behind it was a crack from which light and heat came. "You smell of fire magic."
13/25

A word appeared on my screen: "Damn!"
My heart fell. More words appeared: "order right the in time in back travel should These"
I sighed, and typed "Damn!"

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."
12/25

"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."
11/25

"Anyway," the dragon continued, "the gold is all gone."
It looked at Orum's spear. "Or have you come for fame, not riches?"
10/25

"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."
9/25

There was a faint light ahead, around a corner. Orum moved up and peeked around.
"Oh," he said, "I thought you'd be bigger."
8/25

Spear in one hand, tongs in the other, Orum entered the darkness of the cave. He walked far, then heard:
"You are too late."
7/25

"Welcome to Magic School. Here is your schedule."
"Thanks! But..."
"Yes?"
"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.
6/25

"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

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