Excerpt: Modern Serpents Talk Things Through

“You’re wearing too much armour,” said the voice. “I thought we agreed that this was a place where we left our armour at the door.”

Silence. She licked her lips. She felt a stab of resentment, anger even. But she knew it was born out of fear. She let her eyelids slide shut and relaxed.

Just let that negative energy burn away, she told herself. It’s doing no good here, so why hold onto it? Let it go.

She breathed out gently, and an unintentional wisp of flame curled out from between her teeth.

“Sorry,” she muttered, any fleeting sensations of peace vanishing to be replaced by embarrassment.

“Tina, you don’t need to apologise for your body,” came the gentle, female voice, reproaching her gently. “I’m not here to judge you. I’m here to help you. You can fart or belch or scratch yourself for all I care. I want you to feel totally relaxed. I want you to imagine … to imagine that you are talking to a part of yourself. Can you do that for me?”

Tina shuffled, trying to get comfortable. In fact, the couch was made out of really good quality plunder, a large quantity of gold and more of silver, not to mention a generous scattering of twinkling gemstones. It should have been the most comfortable bed Tina had ever sprawled on, but she still found it difficult to feel at home during these sessions.

“Sorry,” muttered Tina again. “It’s my lunch. I’ve been trying this new diet, like I said. The first few days I thought I had it cracked, but today I just … I didn’t have the willpower, and … I splurged a bit.”

A wave of shame rolled over her as she thought about the livestock she had gobbled down earlier. She had promised herself that she would stop at one, she wouldn’t even go for the calf … but that was the way her binges always started, and she knew her diet was ruined now.

She sensed the figure behind her shift slightly.

“Do you want to talk about your diet?” it asked her. “I thought we made some real progress in that direction during our last session.”

Tina raised one wing and flapped it vaguely in dissent.

“No, no,” she sighed. “I want to talk about … about the other thing.”

Silence from behind her.

It was an expectant silence, an expert silence. There was just the right amount of it to make people want to fill it up.

But Tina didn’t know where to begin. It was such a big deal, such a taboo … how did you begin talking about such a huge darkness?

“Just start again, like you did before,” said the voice, as if it could read her thoughts. “Only this time, try and take some of your armour off. There’s nothing to be afraid of. This is a safe place.”

Tina hesitated, licked her lips, forced herself to plunge forward.

“I had a break-in yesterday,” she said, and stopped.

Behind her, there was a small movement in the air, which Tina knew was the figure nodding her head, encouraging her to go on.

“Nothing serious, no one was hurt,” she continued. “The other girls were out, I was home alone. I heard something echoing off towards the front gate. At first, I thought it was nothing, but then …”

She closed her eyes. You can do this, she told herself. You’re a big girl now. You can talk about these things.

“There were five of them. They were young, I think. They can’t have imagined anyone would be in, otherwise I’m sure they wouldn’t have risked it. I don’t think they had given much thought about what they’d do if they actually came across someone.”

Tina paused. Well, she was doing better than she had thought. So far, so good …

“That must have been so scary,” said the voice. “Were they humans?”

“Three humans and two dwarves, I think,” replied Tina, who had thought about this a lot. “At least, I think so. It’s so difficult to tell. Afterwards, you know, I wondered … that is to say, I worried, what if they were all humans? I mean, what if they were human children? It’s so difficult to tell,” she repeated, her voice sounding thin and earnest.

“Tina,” said the voice sternly, “I want you to stop being so hard on yourself. I am telling you as someone outside of the situation, I think you are being neurotic. I’m sure they were dwarves. Human children wouldn’t have been out terrorising ordinary, innocent dragons like you. And even if they were, even if it was some strange tribe that sends their children out as robbers and thieves—well, is that your fault?”

“No,” muttered Tina.

“No, of course it isn’t! And anyway, did they smell like dwarves?”


“Well then, there you go.”

There was silence again. Tina shifted slightly, and a small shower of gold coins made a pleasant tinkling noise as they cascaded down the sparkling couch.

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