Imagine that you were in a battle on a ruined platform. Around you, like a swarm of bees, shadowy figures move from man to man, striking each down. They are each a flurry, a blur of death. Consider the whirling kicks and punches of the insane demons, dressed in simple monk robes as if in some foul jest, as they annihilate your enemies and work their way towards you and your staggering, bleeding friends. Imagine the scene, the worn stone under your feet, from an ancient time long past, up on a hill. Below, when through the haze of fighting, you can see a bay in which a much more recent and truly catastrophic battle was held–the once mighty ships of two vast armies lay strewn about the sea now like toys, broken. Smoke columns rise up into the air still, and on the red sea of the bay, in a great blanket, lay the bodies of the dead moving with the tide to and fro.
Now imagine that through the early morning clouds, break two forms, like small metallic birds on the horizon. They are approaching quickly and something you know, even as you fight for your life from these abherrant monks, is that they are not birds. Their flight is not like that of birds–it’s too reptilian to be birds. It’s too strong to be birds. And they grow larger, and larger.
Now imagine that as you are about to be surrounded by the shadowy figures, the two beasts, growing larger and larger with winds at their back, swoop out of the clouds. The sun shines off their scales throwing light like a gemstone held under a flame. Their broad leathery wings pump so hard that they blow the sea into a spray to either side.
They have come, from nowhere, for no purpose. Two immense dragons, like twin cyclones over the temperate sea and soon they are upon the battle at the ruin.
Andril too could not have imagined such a thing, but then again he didn’t have to. He at first did not see them until he heard their roars, and he wasn’t alone in the grand surprise they would bring. For Andril’s part, he had learned not to underestimate the approach of a dragon, whether for good, which was never, or for ill, which was always.
As luck would have it, not Andril’s luck, of course, must have been someone else’s, not a single one of their enemy had seen them either. These fighting monks, like their red and black-robed leader, had surrounded Andril, Haryk and the young druid named Tahg and one other. The last of whom was hurt the most and would be the first to die the mage figured. Not that Andril would last much longer without the ability to produce more than a magical spray of sparks. Andril did have one thing going for him left and that gave him the weakest of satisfaction in the present moment. For he had been able to cast a protective sphere around themselves. And so he gathered his reasons and figured he’d get a nice scene to watch the monks fry from the dragons’ breath weapon, sure to come any moment. He’d be next of course, but as he had learned numerous times in the pubs in Far Realm, sometimes it just didn’t pay to go first.
That last person, injured far worse than the rest of his colleagues, was the prince, and the lordly man was now on his feet, thanks to Andril’s protective spells. Genoran looked up into the sky and was therefore the second to see the incoming dragons.
The prince stood, holding the Sword of Cellinor out like he was saluting an arena. It was an odd thing to do, while all around him waited death. Genoran was often odd himself, given to bouts of optimism that gave Haryk and Andril the worst of all emotions they deemed unsuitable–annoyance. Next to him, only a few of the remaining Celn soldiers lay alive. They watched his last act of defiance, but none had the strength to raise a weapon.
Andril was out of his spells, and the few remaining soldiers around him were out of strength.
Andril asked Haryk once what he saw in that moment. It wasn’t curiosity, as Andril had little use for curiosity for it’s own sake. But Andril was conducting research on dragons, and so thought to ask Haryk in his analytical manner. Haryk, only too willing to describe the scene, had described it as only he could. “Well Bookworm, one minute, I’m standing there, three rounds left in the chamber, won’t be time to reload, won’t be able to outrun the skinny skirt wearers either. I’m under your magical charm like some mouse under a glass in a little noble girl’s domicile. Blast it, but those demons were ugly. I hear a swoosh, no not a swoosh. Like a ship breaking, as if it were coming apart by the iron supports. Above me, two shadows, big as houses, block out the sun. I spin in a circle watching the damned demons frying like eggs in a pan. Only I’m unharmed, right? Must be in the afterlife I think. Where’s the beer? Where’re the damsels? I see neither, but there’s the prince, as some fool idiot, holding his sword above him like he called in some kind of dragon airstrike to smote his enemies. For the first time since I was arrested by Humbolt for bedding his daughter, I’m speechless. Now I’m looking down at the Celns at my feet. There are weak, feeble yells around me from the few men barely clinging to life under your magical bubble. Then it goes away, the bubble that is. Dust flies all around me as the dragons land. Crash! The stones under my feet shake as one of the bastards lands before us. Big enough to swallow us all up if he wanted to. Crash lands the other. Double trouble. And blast it if the first thing I don’t see after that is the idiot Pest Control expert run out to the both of them as if he was reunited with his teenage love after being called to war for a year or more!”
Andril had smirked because he had remembered that part of the story then, and as it turned out, it was genuinely ridiculous.
“Remember, Bookworm?” said Haryk before downing the rest of his ale. “There we are and a few Celns left, the prince barely able to stand. There are all the fried nasties lying there, and that idiot boy walks over to the dragons.”
“How could I forget?” replied Andril with a sardonic grin. “Their necks were as big as century-old oak trunks yet they were snaking in and out, their jaws snapping. Boy walks right up to them to present himself as a meal. Clearly, I was still inconvenienced by the battle, for it was only then I realized their posture. Like hunting dogs sitting on their haunches!”
“They twist their snouts out over to them and he fucking pets them on their heads!!!” Roared Haryk. Haryk had screwed up his face and opened his eyes wide to imitate the boy. In a child’s voice, he cried, “Hey fellas. How’s my boys. Huh? How’re my boys!”
The two of them had laughed and laughed and laughed.
“For the third time in my life, I’m speechless. Suddenly, I’m talking like a great fool and asking him, You know them? The boy looks over at me Andril, and you know what that little bastard says?”
“No,” said Andril genuinely interested.
“Kid says, ‘Know them? I grew up with them!” Haryk roared aloud again. “Drongo! Tongo! Come and give me a kiss!” Haryk had nearly fallen off his chair that night retelling the story. “You can’t make this stuff up, Andril Tainer!”
“No, you can’t” sighed Andril.
“Remember what he told us next?”
“Of course,” replied the mage. “He told us, ‘You do not say no to a dragon!’ Like some tutor to a child! As I recall, it was something we wouldn’t learn until much later.”
“Well saying ‘yes’ hadn’t worked out very well up until then either,” grunted Haryk.
“Aye,” said Andril. He found himself that eve much later enjoying the tale again in his mind. By that point, Andril and Haryk saw far less of each other. There were other things to do.
But later that dark night, while he broke from his studies, high in his wizarding tower, he allowed himself to return to their decision–the last time they would say yes to a dragon.
He closed his eyes and felt the wind through his hair once more. Below him, the platform and the bay fell away. Andril had by then learned the magical incantations to fly, but this was an altogether more incredible thing.
From his perch atop one of the dragon’s spiny backs, he looked over to see Haryk and Tahg riding atop the other. He could hear Haryk shouting to Tahg behind him.”It’s not my first time flying on a dragon you know!”
Andril, frustrated by the annoyance of the false fact, corrected him. “You didn’t fly on a dragon last time, you were carried away for dead! So it is!”
He remembered looking down and seeing the isles floating by beneath them as though the sea were simply carrying them away to some far off place. Andril had never seen the islands like this. He had never seen anything like this really. He thought of maps he had seen and studied over the years, and he tried to place each island in his zone of understanding. It was hard to do. He thought he recognized a set of islands known as the Sinister Seven. But he wasn’t sure.
He recalled everything he saw and felt in that moment–the smells of the beasts, their metallic scent mixed with the smell of the salty sea below. He could feel the misty wind rushing by, the sound of the leathery wings rustling through the air. There was a sulfuric odor clinging to the massive beasts, the residue after discharging their breath weapons. He could still feel the dragons upon the wind, their power, and majesty, while behind them the prince’s wing of griffons flew in their wake, chasing the sunset back to Far Realm.
There was only the noise of the wind passing them by until he heard Haryk’s voice say what he himself had been thinking for some time.
“I think it’s time to hear the story about you getting carried off by that big fucking dragon all those years ago in Black Lake, boy.”
Andril nearly fell off his winged steed listening to the boy’s far too honest reply, “Oh yeah, about that.”