A/N: Wow, this has been sitting on my hard drive for more than six months now... I guess I should publish it. This is my first try at doing Eustace. I'm not particularly fond of the ending, though I did start liking Eustace a good deal more after I wrote this. (And for those who care, I am still going to complete Balance Point, though it may have to wait at least 2 weeks to a month to start getting regularly updated again.)
There Be Dragons
Truly, if there were any creature on earth to be pitied, it would be me. Well, if this is earth to begin with. I suppose Narnia might be on another planet, after all. The chaps at the Royal Academy haven't ruled out the possibility of other life in our Solar System, perhaps on Mars, and Harold talks of it sometimes, though Alberta thinks it's rot that Sensible People ought not to care about.
I suppose if I wasn't a dragon I shouldn't care about it either. But I must say that now I feel rather differently about all of Alberta's speeches on What Civilized People Ought to Believe. Because here I am, having an out-of-body experience – and not from some strange Eastern meditation technique either, but an old-fashioned enchantment of all things! How very twelfth century and utterly outdated, as Alberta would say. I do wish it really were, because then I shouldn't have to deal with it all, especially the bother that comes with not being able to talk. All I have to do now is think, and I have never made a habit of thinking so much about all this emotional whatnot and soul-searching what-have-you that comes with being turned into a dragon.
But that's a good lot of what I've been doing these past days, besides flying about and fetching things like an overgrown spaniel with wings. And generally avoiding people as much as possible – especially Edmund and Lucy. It's not so bad with Caspian and Drinian and the others (barring That Mouse, of course, though of late he has improved towards me) because they're more used to this sort of thing. And they don't know how Harold and Alberta feel about Myths. It would have been much better if I had turned into something ordinary, if I had to be turned into anything at all. But of all things – why a dragon? I never even believed in dragons before! Talking Mice are one thing... perhaps they're simply the next Evolution of rodentkind... but dragons? I must make sure Alberta never hears of this nonsense or I shall be locked away for the rest of my life in some sort of Social Correctional Facility for the Mentally Unstable. Come to think of it, now I wonder what my aunt and uncle thought when Edmund and Lucy told them about Narnia. If that's something my cousins ever did, of course. Funny, somehow I think that Aunt Maura and Uncle Bill might actually believe them, even though they're not so Forward Thinking as we are. Although if Harold and Alberta were truly open-minded, they ought to admit the possibility of magic and then, upon my presentation of the empirical evidence, conclude that it can happen after all. Though somehow I really can't imagine that happening.
Clearly, you can see what a fat lot of good this thinking stuff is doing me. Thinking won't get rid of these claws or horrid scales. I even hate these leathery wings, though Caspian said he almost envied me because it meant I could fly. My expression told him I would trade places with him in a heartbeat, if possible, and that (or possibly my fangs) made him lose that naively enthusiastic sparkle his eyes carry so often, and he told me that he really was very sorry for me.
I hated not being able to reply. I wanted to tell him, to tell everyone, that I didn't want their pity. I want someone to disenchant me; I want to be Eustace Clarence Scrubb again, not some hideous fiery reptile. This is all perfectly beastly. I don't even like reptiles – and I'm a vegetarian! And now I have the body of a snake and the tastes of a wolf! Whoever did this to me was playing a very sick joke – I can't stand the sight of blood, and now I eat it every day.
I swear that as soon as I shed this leather skin, I won't touch meat ever again. Even that dried and salted stuff they eat on the ship which isn't half bad, compared to the biscuit. And I'll never dissect a lizard again; I'll even pass up the headmaster's offer to let me into fourth form biology. And I may even spend more time with the Narnians; the worst part of being a dragon is being so blasted territorial. I can't even be within five feet of a person without wanting to snap their heads off for setting foot in my space. All I want is some sort of companionship, but it's so un-dragonlike that I can hardly bear company. What I wouldn't give for the day when I can sit and talk to people again. Or even to a Mouse. They've all been talking to me, of course, mostly a lot of chatter about how repairs are going and what the bay looks like and why don't you bring us some more timber for the sidings, there's a good chap, but I haven't been able to answer with more than a nod. I know it's their way of trying to include me and pretend like nothing has changed, and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't appreciate that, no matter how Sentimental it sounds.
I do hope all the work I'm doing for them shows that, because it would be an utter waste of energy if it doesn't. I go and pull down trees and hunt goats, even when I'd rather not work at all. Well, it does keep my mind occupied, but I don't particularly like these jobs. There's something frightening the way I feel invincible when the tree falls or the animal dies. Perhaps it's because I'm a dragon and pretty nearly invincible anyway, but it feels quite the same as being near Them, only bigger. Like when I volunteered to spill ink on some girl's Latin book last term, and she flew into an absolute rage when she discovered it. I reported it to Frederick and the rest, and we all had a great laugh about it. Knowing that I had made her do that – well, it was terribly addictive, being able to control what other people did and felt. It's what great men feel, Frederick had solemnly explained, Napoleon and Alexander and Caesar; and they were brave enough to enjoy it and take more of it.
For a fifth-former, he is incredibly daft. Now I have more power than he or I ever dreamed of, and I don't want a bit of it. I could bite off Frederick's head in an instant, or even Caspian's – my word, did I even think that? What is this dragon's heart doing to me? I don't want it, don't want one bit of it. I need someone to strip the scales from my hide and give me a heart again, the heart of a human and not a monster. I don't care about being deadly or powerful or having a Superior Intellect. It's absolutely beastly of me to even want those things... just greedy and awful and wicked, like a dragon. I'll give up all those things – I can't imagine why I ever wanted them anyway – I'll even give up me if I have to. I want a new skin, even if it looks exactly like the old one.
Oh, bother. Who am I trying to fool? That's not what I really want. I might as well say it. What I need is a new heart, a new mind. I want to think like Edmund, always about what's fair and what's right. I want a heart like Lucy's, able to believe the best about the worst. And I want a mind like Caspian's, one that thinks about his people first, and himself last. I want Old Fashioned Values, and I don't care what Harold and Alberta say to that.
But I can't get that, no more than I can peel off this skin. I know what I want, but I don't know how to change me. And I'm afraid because there's a part of me that tells me that there is nothing in the world I can do to change myself.
I lie here in the dark, away from the circle of light where they're laughing, tired but happy. Steaming tears drip off my scaly cheeks. I can't think anymore. And I wouldn't have anything left to say even if I could talk.
After a long while, when the fire is only embers and the tears have finally stopped, I shuffle slowly towards the sleepy crowd, head down and long tail dragging. Lucy is the first to notice me; perhaps she is less tired than the others, being so much smaller and less able to help, though no one could possibly accuse her of not doing her share.
"Oh, poor Eustace!" she exclaims, and for once I find her manner comforting instead of cloying and childish. It seems silly to think that now; she is so much older and braver than I, to be unafraid to show how much she cares. She has to stand on her toes to reach my face while I'm standing, but she reaches up to stroke the scales there anyway. "I know it must be frightfully horrid, to have to be a dragon for so very long. But you really have been so good about it; I think I should have been stamping about tearing up the forests if it had been me. You shan't have to be one forever, you know. You'll see, Aslan will make something turn up, and we'll find a way to get you back."
She falls silent, and there is a look of utter confidence on her face. I'm too tired to think up my usual sharp replies for anything to do with the Narnian Lion, and at the moment I don't even want to; a small part of me wants to believe that, too. I just nod my great head and lie down in the sand. Lucy sits beside me, and Edmund comes over, too, to lean against me and mutter an indistinct comment about me being a good chap or something of the sort.
I'm exhausted and empty, but the numbness that replaced my aching sorrow is slowly beginning to fade. When I finally fall asleep, I am content. And for the first time since I found these scales, I feel a flickering of hope.
Perhaps an old dragon can't learn new habits. But I think that a new one can.