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The tiny dragon, which had looked fierce and defiant before, twisted in rage as soon as the magical order to grow settled over him… or her, Malinda wasn’t sure if she’d plucked a male or female louse from her hair for the transformation. At any rate, the dragon lifted off the ground, contorting and spouting a tiny flame smaller than a candle’s, then far faster than Malinda would have guessed, shot out of sight. The only clue that it had gone in one direction rather than the other was the smouldering tip of Cholerella’s hat.
The judges of the spell writing competition and the onlooking crowd applauded vaguely, a little confused. Malinda realized that none of them had been able to see such a tiny dragon. Maybe she should have asked someone to volunteer their cat.
“The judges will retire while they make their decision,” the shrill, skinny witch standing up on the chair announced. “Thank you, ladies, we await your return.”
In a bit of a daze, Malinda watched the judges file off. They hadn’t seen her perfect little dragon. Hadn’t seen it at all. If they had, they would have surely been much more excited.
It had flown off before it had time to grow.
By now it would be bigger, Malinda thought. Maybe if she found it and brought it back, the judges might give her a more favorable consideration. As she began to edge her way through the crowd of waiting witches, she began to wonder exactly when the dragon might stop growing. How big was it going to get? She hadn’t specified.
Further down the corridor, the crowd thinned. Malinda searched the shadows, squinting in the smoky torch light, hunting for an angry dragon the size of a bean. This, she thought, was going to be impossible.
A distant crash sounded somewhere ahead.
Curious, Malinda walked, and then she ran, searching for what might have caused the sound. Up staircases and down long passages, until she was thinking she ought to give up and go back to see if the judges were ready to name the winners of the contest. But then she saw a scorch mark on a tapestry, and pushed on ahead.
And then, down at the end of another corridor, she saw the pale moon shining through the jagged opening in a broken window.
The opening was big. If her dragon had made it, he wasn’t the size of a bean anymore. More like the size of a potato. Malinda stood there with the cold midnight air blowing on her face and listened to the whistle of the wind, searching the empty black landscape for the least flicker of dragon flame.
She saw nothing.