The dragon hadn’t quite noticed us yet, which gave us a quick moment to arrange ourselves strategically. We couldn’t speak, as it could alert the beast, but we’d been working together long enough that we didn’t need to. I spotted a great sniping location on a large pipe against the opposite wall. I pointed it out to Traci, and she silently teleported onto it. The Scourge had already slipped off, inevitably finding a hiding spot in the shadows. That only left me. I always started our fights because I was the best at getting creatures’ attention. That basically meant I was the loudest. I drew my sword and took a deep breath.
“Hey ugly, come here often?” I yelled in the dragon’s general direction.
It’s head snapped in my direction faster than I would have thought possible, and it began growling at me, but in a tone and canter that sounded suspiciously like a language. Hell, if I knew what it was saying so, I charged it, raising my sword. The dragon opened its mouth, exposing its toothy maw, and a blue glow sprang in my direction. I threw my shoulder in the opposite direction and rolled away, narrowly dodging the breath attack. The wet excrement immediately froze onto my white leather armor. I grimaced, thinking about what it would take to clean it after this fight. Stains on armor indeed give it more character, but I tend to prefer blotches from the blood of my enemies as opposed to sewer water.
The dragon closed its mouth and readjusted its massive body to face me. Before it could determine its next move, Traci and The Scourge fired shots into the dragon. At least they tried to. Traci’s crossbow bolt scratched across the dragon’s blue scales and splashed into the water below. The Scourge, however, managed to fire a bolt into the corner of the dragon’s left eye. It raised its front claw to paw at its fresh injury, which was just the opportunity I was waiting for. I raced under it and quickly scanned for weaknesses. The majority of its scales were pretty airtight, but I did notice that at the joint connecting its claw to its torso, there was a slight gap as it had it raised. I ran towards the opposite claw and vertically scaled it, flipping in the direction of the exposed flesh. I stabbed upward before I began my descent, and I could feel my blade sinking into something meaty. I held tightly to my sword to ensure my body weight would be enough to pull it free from the now-tensed dragon muscle. I landed in a crouching position and rolled backward to firmly position myself under the center of its torso.
While I was doing this, Traci realized that snipping it wasn’t working. She instead changed strategies and worked to guarantee The Scourge’s shots did the most damage possible. She accomplished this by teleporting to an area on the top of the dragon and using her spatial magic to remove individual scales from the dragon. It was still challenging for The Scourge to hit the openings, but he was doing a pretty good job.
For all of our efforts, the dragon certainly seemed annoyed with us. However, it didn’t seem to be all that hurt. The was the slightest trickle of blood coming from the wound I had caused, but like after someone gets a shot. We were fighting like hell against this dragon, and it felt like we were poking at it. I was starting to feel like we were a little out of our depth.
The dragon began shaking like a dog after a bath, and I saw Traci fly across the room, heading towards shallow water. I sped in her direction in hopes of breaking her fall. The Scourge caught onto what I was doing and attempted to pull the dragon’s attention away from me. He pulled a black powder explosive from his belt and chucked it at the dragon. He aimed his crossbow and shot a bolt at the bomb. It ignited and exploded near the dragon’s flank. His focus shifted to The Scourge.
Meanwhile, I wasn’t going to be able to reach Traci in time to catch her, but I could throw my body under her to break her fall. I dove, face up, into the water, and Traci smashed into me hard. I was sore all over, but we both were alive.
As we both crawled to our feet, we saw The Scourge was not so lucky. The dragon had managed to spot him and held him in its teeth. It slung The Scourge around and threw him in our general direction. I raced to break his fall the same was I had Traci’s, but I could see that I was already too late. His body bounced through the muck and settled against the wall of the chamber. The wounds from the dragon’s fangs went straight through him. There was no surviving that. I uselessly ran to his side and cradled him in my arms.
“Scourge,” I screamed. “ You’re o.k., right? We can make it out.”
Tears began streaming down my cheeks.
“We have to get out of here,” Traci cried, kneeling at my side. I barely registered that she had said anything at all.
I felt her hand on my shoulder, and the lifeless form of my friend faded before my eyes. I was in Kyle Stringer’s basement, staring at the ground while my arms cradled nothing.
I bolted to my feet and rounded on Traci.
“What did you do?” I screamed. “You left him behind!”
My voice quivered, and I was shaking all over.
“I can only teleport two people. You know that,” she said apologetically.
“But we could have helped him,” I argued. “We could have brought him out and healed him.”
“He was gone, Ash,” Traci said, explaining something I already knew to be true. “There was nothing we could have done.”
“But adventuring was supposed to be fun,” I said blankly. “This was supposed to be fun.”
These stories serve as inspiration for the upcoming short story collection, Tyranny of the Fey. The collection will be released on August 15th, 2023. You can pre-order it now!