Cliven dove head first into a bush.
He heard snuffling nearby, the sound of a predator searching out its prey.
“Dear Lord,” Cliven prayed, “I know my pet dragon started this whole thing, but… Could you stop the zombies from eating my brain? Please?”
The snuffling stopped.
The zombocalypse didn’t.
Cliven followed the zombie dragon and the pudgy princess until they finally alighted on a rooftop.
“Nogard!” cried Cliven. “Come down! Please don’t hurt her!”
Nogard shook his head playfully, turned, and very gently nipped Emeldatine on the shoulder.
The princess started to cry.
Then she turned very, very pale.
Cliven ran frantically through the streets. Where had Nogard gone?
If I were a baby zombie dragon, he asked himself, where would I go?
Before he could answer, he heard a whoosh, a shriek, and a giggle.
Nogard flew by overhead, trailing flames, carrying a pudgy six-year-old in a tiara.
Young Princess Emeldatine sat in her tower, surveying the kingdom she would one day inherit. “When I’m Queen, I’ll make every day my birthday!” she declared.
Nurse chuckled. “You’d get old pretty quickly!”
“I’ll also have a pet dragon,” said Emeldatine. “Like the moldy one at the window!”
“Bad Nogard!” cried Cliven. “Bad!”
The Veterinary Cleric writhed on the ground, clutching his charred intestines.
Perching in the shattered window frame, the little dragon licked its lips with a serpentine tongue, flames hissing through its dilated nostrils.
Cliven wagged his finger. “Do you want me to get the muzzle?”
“I won’t let you kill my dragon!” cried Cliven.
“He’ll become a zombie!” insisted the Veterinary Cleric. “Hundreds could die!”
“I don’t care!”
Nogard shuddered in Cliven’s arms. His eyes rolled backwards, and all his muscles went slack.
“No!” Cliven screamed. “Is he dead!?”
“Well,” said the Cleric, “kind of.”
“What’s Necromantic Fasciitism?” asked Cliven. “And how did Nogard get it?”
“It’s a terrible curse!” said the Veterinary Cleric. “It can’t be stopped! Over the next few days, this little guy will turn into…”
“Into… a zombie dragon,” said the Cleric, shuddering. “We have to kill him now!”
The veterinary Cleric plopped Nogard down on a padded examination table. He poked and prodded at the dragon for a few minutes.
“Hmm,” he said. “Oh my,” he said. “This is not good,” he said.
“What is it?” asked Cliven.
“This isn’t mange; it’s an advanced case of Necromantic Fasciitism!”
“Put a catheter in that!” the veterinary Cleric called as he emerged from the Operating Room.
A woman and her son stood at the counter, holding a small, whimpering dragon.
“Looks like he’s got the mange,” said the Cleric.
“Can you fix him?” asked the boy.
“Maybe,” said the Cleric.
“See, Ma? Nogard’s got the mange!”
“You’re right, Cliven. Why didn’t I notice before? Dear, poor Nogard. You must itch something fierce!”
“What should we do, Ma?”
“We could treat it ourselves, but it looks pretty advanced. We should probably call the Veterinary Cleric. I’m pretty sure he treats dragons.”