What may look like an innocent flight of birds from afar spells fear and panic in the dragon extermination camp. Funnily enough due to the darkness, some of the men find time to argue if the creatures of flight really are the dreaded nemeses they wish to eradicate. Nevertheless, the entire camp is on full alert as men of valor run and crowd their designated arming stations, equipping themselves with their new weapon, the fire javelins.
Hovering in the starlit skies, the dreaded flying beasts close in and encircle the camp, flapping their webbed wings about, stalking the men with their sharp eyes, and perhaps making an observation. The creatures in question number to a three, a red scaled dragon followed by two gray scaled dragons. Their hardened armor of roughly colored scales covers their entirety with the exception of the underside parts of their neck, chest, belly, and tail – these parts are covered by larger white segmented scales. A comb of sharp webbed spikes as well span from their necks down to their tail. Black curved horns crown their foreheads, with the red dragon having a pair protruding left and right whilst the gray ones having only one growing in the middle. And the enormity for a living creature, the red dragon compares in size to a fighter jet while its gray scaled lackeys are only about ten feet or less shy of that. The sheer size of their fangs and sharp jagged brownish teeth put the knights’ sword and daggers to shame, and their darkened claws, just a little less than a lance’s length, can probably carve even through hardened steel plate armor due to their sheer mass and hardness alone.
Even before the knights can fully prepare, the flying beasts promptly dive down from the sky in a ‘V’ formation lead by a red scaled dragon, aiming for the crowd of men by the arming stations. A few dozens of yards from their target, the red dragon and its dull gray scaled lackeys flap their massive wings that conjure a whirlwind that throws the men away rolling in the dirt and topples the wagons filled of the weapons needed for the fight. The beasts glide their wings and fly at a speed as they circle around the camp, splitting into individuals as they hover close to ground just above the roofs of houses abandoned.
A few of the knights blown by the wind rise up, easily recovering from the minor injury, and give the flying creatures a chase, clutching their newly equipped fire javelins as they run parallel to the houses, using the obstacles as a cover. Moments later, a few dozen men join in the great hunt, dragging massive nets and barrels of fire javelins, the tools needed to ensnare the flying beasts. They hide themselves in the vacant dwellings, bind the snares to their foundations, and stalk the beasts by the windows, waiting for the opportunity to spring the trap.
“TAKE THIS, YOU MONSTER!” One of the knights on foot and on the run outside the dwellings confronts one of an incoming beast, throwing his javelin at it. Undaunted, the dull gray scaled beast continues its flight to the opposite direction, receiving the javelin to its chest obliviously – being just a prickle of a toothpick for the giant beast, the projectile has not buried itself deep enough on its skin to upset it. The knight might have already drawn first blood; however, even after several moments of wait, the explosive has yet to set off.
“What’s wrong, isn’t that supposed to go off like that?” asks the knight. A dud it may seem, but upon closer inspection of the beast, the javelin that hangs off its chest still has the string fuse attached – had the knight pulled the string off upon launching the javelin, the explosive would have gone off a few moments after it hits the target.
The dragon comes flying back and arrests the negligent knight by the shoulders using its massive claws. It continues its flight in preparation to take the man in the skies and away from the scene, but not too quick, the company of a few dozen trigger the snare bound to the dwellings, raising a massive net made of the thickest rope. Upon impact, the beast’s rough protruding parts and scales get caught in the net, which effectively wraps itself around it, preventing it from flying farther. Clay roof tiles and bricks fall down to the ground – the sheer amount of force the dragon exerts on the net shakes the structures, causing them to nearly collapse.
Enraged, the dragon bites off the net and struggles wildly against in an effort to escape, releasing the poor knight from its clutches. However, the men by the structures just stand by and watch the ensnared beast, stunned, not executing the trap as planned. There, too, is the possibility that they do not know how to use their weapons, thus, by virtue of exigency, our lad, Linus, rushes off to the scene, bringing the old spearmaster, Ricardo, and a few men with him, fearing that the negligence by the untrained men will allow the dragon to escape.
“LISTEN! PULL THE STRING OUT AND THROW YOUR JAVELINS AT THE TARGET!” Leading the men, the lad pulls out the string fuse off a stick grenade, throwing it at the struggling beast, yelling “TAKE COVER! FIRE IN THE HOLE!” The detonation results in a ball of fire, smoke, and a shockwave that sends lead shrapnel flying at deadly speeds, causing a pool of blue sticky fluids to erupt from the part hit, the beast’s right wing, which is torn by the explosion. The weakened creature persists in its struggle, breathing flames on the net, trying to escape. The knights respond following the lad’s example, throwing their fire javelins at the creature from all sides, triggering a chain explosion, a storm of fire and smoke. Covered in blue gooey fluids, the knights watch the dragon cease struggle. The chain explosion blows its skin away and its innards out and even carves flesh off its bodily members, severing its wings and forelegs, causing them to fall and roll off the ground to be covered with mud and blue goo.
Due to inexperience with the weapon, some of the knights themselves get caught by the flight of shrapnel from the explosion, wounding them. Thus our lass, Aria, rushes off to heal them using her powers. A mysterious glow of ghostly green covers her hands as she busily uses them to treat each of the injured knights.
“Your HIGHNESS! What in god’s name!” The senior knight, Elliot, scolds the princess.
“LOOK OUT!” Ricardo screams. Another one of the gray scaled beast flies towards them, puffing its neck with much air. “YOUR HIGHNESS!” Elliot jumps in to the scene, embracing the princess, enveloping her in his arms as they roll together in the mud and out of harm’s way. The dragon dives from the air and breathes a river of flame on the street that scorches the injured knights alive in their suits of armor. It flaps its wings and goes back up in the sky, blowing a gust of wind that enrages the trail of fire to burn more intensely.
Up in the dark clouds, the gray dragon meets the dominant red dragon. They look down at the chaos, making a little observation. Like in the tale of the dragon slayer, both the remaining red scaled and gray scaled dragons take great interest at the scattering of the knights’ formation. They, too, are curious to find out what caused their companion to cease its onslaught – even though beast, they value their numbers much for that’s what gives them much power. Nevertheless, their instincts overpower their wits, calling them to snack on their victims – after all, food is the reason for their coming, and it only suffices that they earn their reward to compensate for the energy that they have spent on their flight and fight with the creatures of their interest.
The dragons dive down the scene of destruction to feed on the men that they have disabled with their flames. They plunge their hardened claws on the dying knights’ armor, holding them on the ground. Then, they take a bite, dismembering their victims with their sharp jagged teeth. The knights hiding on the dwellings could only watch the horror, seeing their companions torn into pieces by the massive beast.
Elliot sneaks up to the dwelling, bringing the princess in. He meets his companions inside, frozen – he understands the expression of horror painted on their faces, but having much experience in battles, he also understands the pain of responsibility. As much as it stings his heart to see the deaths of his younger and inexperienced companions, regretting their loss while thinking also of the blame that their noble relatives will pin at him after the mission, he cannot bear just to watch. He removes his helmet and throws it at the younger and inexperienced knights, scolding them “Get a grip, hunters! Look! They just stand there like sitting ducks, ready to be shot! Pick up your fire javelins and fight!” He then picks up another fire javelin and waves it by the window, calling the attention of the men across the aisle.
Our lad responds, waving a stick of grenade. Quietly, the groups sneak out of the dwelling, arming themselves with the fire javelins. Behind the cover of darkness and rubble blown by the attack of dragons, they surround and stalk the beasts, who currently are busily feeding on the remains of their fallen comrades. “FIRE AT WILL!” The two groups throw their javelins at their respected targets, channeling all their anger and frustration.
The charges explode even before the dragons notice what hit them, knocking them giants to the ground, screeching. As the smoke clears, it becomes evident that targets are still alive, barely breathing and leaking of much blue blood. The blackened slits on their big yellow eyes narrow, scanning the surroundings, looking for the threats.
“MEN! PREPARE FOR ANOTHER ROUND!” Our lad throws his grenade stick at their target, the red scaled dragon. The projectile however is intercepted, blown away by a single flick of the red dragon’s wing, causing the charge to detonate in the air. The red dragon’s eyes glow green, letting out a deafening screech. Strings of its flesh glow green, twist, turn, and connect together, regenerating its wings, its hind legs, but not its broken right horn. It rises up from the ground and swings its massive tail around, whipping away the rubble surrounding it, throwing the knights off. It stands up on its hind legs, puffing its neck with air, preparing to breath fire.
Knowing better what will come next, our lad, the old spearmaster, and the knights run away, scatter, and hide behind walls. Elliot, being devoted the strongest to his duty as the princess’ guardian, rushes off the dwelling that houses her. Unknown to him, his swiftly moving shadow falls target to the eyes of the beast – it unleashes the firestorm at the man, engulfing him in flames. “YOUR HIGH…” He commits even his last struggle to duty, reaching the burning dwelling with his weakened and burning hand.
Our lad peeks from the wall, witnessing the senior knight’s last moment burning to death – his hands point to the burning dwelling across. He reckons that the princess must be inside, but also fears the beast. The knights themselves as well nervously look at each other, fearing the beast, wondering what will be left of them with their commander taken out.
Linus whispers to Ricardo next to him, tapping him by the shoulder. “PSST! Goldilocks must be in that dwelling, take these sticks of grenade. Get the knights to cover for me.”
“Aight kid, take care.” He gives the lad a pat in the back, showing him his usual bright smile.
The lad clutches a couple of smoke grenades on his hand as he runs off, dashing towards the dwelling. Spotted by the giant beast, he pulls the pin out of the grenades and throws the explosives on its face. It detonates mid-air, providing a generous cover of thick black smoke. He then rushes and busts inside the dwelling, missed by the dragon’s rampaging swing of the tail.
“TAKE THIS, YOU BASTARD!” Ricardo throws a grenade stick at the monster, inspiring the rest of the demoralized knights to join the fight – they provide ample distraction by hailing at the beast what little remaining javelins and weapons they have, rocks including, drawing its attention to them.
Inside the dwelling, the lad runs around the ground, looking for the princess. Swinging his rather cumbersome weapon, he busts obstacles out of the way, room after room, but fails to find her. He dashes to the stairs, figuring she must be on the second floor. By the window, he finds the princess lying down unconscious under thick escaping smoke. He drags her off an area safe several yards away from the smoke.
After inspection, the princess seems to have lost breath. Chills haunt the lad, feeling its icy touch on his nape. His eyes widen, remembering the recent loss of a friend. Inspired by fear, a sudden brainwave strikes him. He puts his palms over the princess’ chest and applies pressure on it, pumping it. He breathes in and shoves his lips unto the lass’, passing the breath of life to her, but no go. Sweating nervously, the lad gains pace, pumping frantically, cursing his demons and all the devils in hell. After passing another breath mouth to mouth, the lass coughs and wakes up. The lad gives her a tight, tight hug, shedding tears of relief, smiling.
“thank you…” The lass mutters dryly, but suddenly, a thick burning beam of wood falls off by the window, the site where she was found. Sense comes back to the lad, who is still haunted by emotions due to the incident. He straps the lass on his back and exits the dwelling at speed.
Outside, he runs to Ricardo accompanied by the same knights who were cowering a little earlier – he figures that the old spearmaster has done a good job of motivating them to fight on. One of the senior knights smiles widely, showing his teeth as he sees the princess is safe. He bows down and reports to the princess, “Your highness, the red dragon has flown away, sparing us.”
“Put me down.” The lad lets go of the lass. “Where’s Elliot?”
The knight kneels down, taking off his helmet and lowering his head. “your highness… I regret to inform you… Sir Elliot… he has fought valiantly and fell bravely in the field of battle!”
Aria falls to her knees, crying, covering her face. “NOOOOOO!”
Part 2 – Linus’ perspective
The crew of knights work in the morning sun, not speaking a word as they stow away in the carts the mutilated remains of their comrades in arms. True to tradition, the men don’t shed tears, but their sadness can be felt rippling in the calm – not even the fool, Ricardo, acts in his usual jolly nature in respect of the men who fought and died to protect the rest of us during that dreadful night.
From an outsider’s perspective, we have won the raid last night, repelling a foe far superior to us; but in my viewpoint, we have lost – the dragons have taken the lives of forty men including Aria’s loyal servant, Sir Elliot. Not to mention, the gigantic red dragon flies away only with a broken horn. I did not take into account its freakish power of regeneration. I overestimated myself. Not even our small elite party of knights and our newly developed weapons stand a sliver of chance against the monsters have we not taken them by surprise. I feel responsible for the failure.
“Sir Daedalus, her highness requests your presence in her quarters.” A senior knight informs me and dismisses himself shortly, saluting me. It looks like Aria has recovered enough to talk about the matters. For the entire night, she shuts herself alone inside her quarters, sobbing. Should she call the mission off, I’m screwed, but that’s to be expected, isn’t? After seeing what happened last night, I myself do not have any motivation to pursue this crazy dragon quest. I’d rather face my debtors in Mercantium and settle my accounts with them than to deal with the ferocious monsters again.
After three knocks, a slouching Goldilocks opens the door, letting me in. Her eyes, all red and half-open, have big dark circles under them, indicating lack of sleep. Crusting secretions have also found their way in the corner of her drying eyes. She puts an arm to her waist, curls her lips up, and looks down on me with contempt. “Is there anything wrong with my face?”
“Nothing, I’m just concerned about your health.”
She grabs me by the chin and shoves her face just an inch to mine, looking at my eyes intently. “You don’t seem to lie. Hah!” She lets go of my chin and lets out a big sigh, putting her arms by the waist.
“Come here, let’s talk.” She offers her bed as seat to which I oblige, while she seats herself across me on a stool made of crude wood. After taking a big breath, she continues, giving me a strong look with her fierce dark green eyes, “The mission continues.”
“Aria, you must be mad! I’ll take you home.” Touching her hand, I utter out those words out of genuine concern.
She grabs my hand and crushes it in her clutches, trembling as she grits her teeth hard. “I’M NOT LETTING THOSE DRAGONS GO AFTER THIS!” Draconian tears flow down her cheeks, wishing revenge – a ghostly shadow envelops the princess.
However, mere courage or madness does not make us equals to the dragons; thus, I am compelled to instill sense in her enraged heart. Trembling, I match her countenance as I look in her eyes of deep green. “Look princess, the reality is that we have already lost nearly half of our men. The fight yesterday also proves that we need more men, they be elite warriors or not. A mere regimen of a hundred horsemen proves insufficient.”
Her hands glow red, applying more crushing pressure on mine’s, “I don’t expect you to look down on me. Won’t you help me out? It’s just a small request.”
I look back at her. “If it’s to continue this suicide mission, I won’t.”
“IT’S NOT A SUICIDE MISSION!” She sniffs and continues, “Anthony, come in!”
A young knight enters and bows to her. “Your highness, how could I be of service?”
“Severe the dragons’ heads and send them to the capital. Bring a barrel of fire javelins with you and have Master Kong escort you to my father.”
“As you wish.” The youth walks away.
“Fire javelins? What do you mean? I am in no agreement in letting more people find out about the weapons. Aria, just what madness are you up to?”
“You’ll see soon enough for yourself. Won’t you help me?” Her eyes glow brightly.
However, I cannot let myself be defeated. “My answer is clear, a clear no. I won’t help you by these means.”
“Isn’t this what you wanted to happen all along? Haven’t you gone far enough by showing us these other-worldly wonders? Don’t you trust me to keep your secret safe?” Admittedly, by accepting to pursue the quest, no, even just by sharing to Master Kong in Mercantium the knowledge of gunpowder, I was already stepping into a slippery slope. What worse could possibly happen, to have other people develop a more advance version of it? I’d rather take responsibility and see its development to the end. This is an opportunity in itself.
“Alright, but for proposing this evil, you have to partake in its curse. Aria, will you swear on your life to support my agendas for as long as you live?”
“Wait… isn’t this a little too sudden!” Her face flushed red, she pushes me away. Ah… I think I phrased the question in such a weird way. “Explain, what on earth are those agendas?” She crosses her arms.
“Yeah right, you complain much about not knowing my agendas when you yourself don’t say about yours either.” Although I don’t really intend to say, the words come out naturally from my mouth.
“YOU CHEEKY BRAT!” Goldilocks narrows her eyes, emitting bloodlust as she pinches my cheeks, stretching them.
“Hahahaha! You speak for yourself!" I pinch her cheeks, returning the favor. Exhausted, we land on the bed, flat on our backs.
“Linus, my plan really is to have Master Kong manufacture the new weapons and use it as a bargaining tool to get us more men from grandpa to hunt down the dragons.” I figured as much, the reason I fear her scheming so much, but in Master Kong’s hands the secret may be safe, for now.
But… but… “Who is grandpa?” My thoughts leak out.
“You’re really clueless, aren’t you? Grandpa is the king, Fluminus IV of the River. I was planning to do this from the start. I never thought that a hundred men would suffice.” Looking at my eyes, she places her palm on my cheek, smiling. “Have you thrown yourself to me earlier, I would have convinced him to help us with a mere shipment of fire javelins. I know it’ll be useful for his war. It’ll reduce the number of people that he needs. But now that I think about it, he would have not listened to my suggestion. Having the severed dragon heads will persuade him without doubt. The quest will further solidify Papa’s position in the hierarchy, and I’ll get him to give me whatever I wish. Hmm… and having slain dragons, your championship is secure. We’ll make a free and happy family! A good strong and smart Papa and Mama… Kyyaaa!” Witch! To possess much cunning at such a young age, she must surely belong in this age of conspiracy. Like a spider, she has already woven an intricate ploy to get what she wants. Women are scary.
“Wait, don’t include me in your delusions! You failed initially because of one flaw. Your charm doesn’t work on me, dope. As much as I like you for myself, I don’t feel anything down there, yet. Poor Elliot!” I clasp my hands, making a pitying facial expression.
“OUCH!” She pinches my cheeks, fuming. “There are limits to being cheeky, you brat! How do you know such things?”
“I’m just a kid! Hahahahaha! ENOUGH!” Like an older sister, she gives me tickles, smiling, giving me much relief seeing how much she recovered from having the small talk.
“I told you my secret. How about you tell me these agendas of yours?”
I told her about the oil business, Scientia, plans of advancing technology, and my dream of propagating literacy by means of the mass production of print media.
“With these agendas, we’ll achieve prosperity and ease of living at a height that none of the kingdoms of this world has ever seen. There will be so much food and goods for everyone that atrocious wars, slavery, and even the monster infestation of these lands will be history. I’ve seen the vision with my own eyes. Do you believe me?”
She bites her fingernails, looking down at them, not paying attention. She replies monotonously. “boring... 3 points. whatever, I’ll get my end of the bargain anyway. yeah, yeah, we’ll get there, promise.”
I sigh. This spoiled brat, seriously. My troubles are great indeed.
Having reached a compromise, Aria dispatches Anthony and his small company of knights to Nexus, carrying a barrel of fire javelins and the severed heads of dragons with them. The remaining knights carry out the funeral rites for their deceased comrades later in the evening. The princess holds tightly to the box of Elliot’s remains, shedding tears.
Three days later, Anthony leads a legion of three thousand fighting men, pleased to report the success of his mission. He hands to Aria a message scroll, sealed in red wax marked with an emblem of a trident.
She reads the message,
“My greetings to you my dearest granddaughter, Aria, daughter of Alexander II of Epsilon.
“I am pleased to see your contribution, your discovery of these wonder weapons, the fire javelins that Linus, the son of my favored champion, Julius of Solus, has invented. We are hoping that these wonder weapons will sink our enemies’ ships to the bottom of the sea. For such, no word suffices to describe my gratitude to you and your father’s never ending support. I am delighted to have made him the heir to my throne. Never have I regretted to have made that decision. My mind is sound and can no longer be moved.
“I extend my gratitude as well to Linus, the son of Julius of Solus, for inventing these weapons and for his valor in the act of putting an end to the threat of these two enormous and monstrous dragons. I heard of how he courageously defended you from these beasts and how he pulled you out of the woods. I learned also of his heroic exploits in Mercantium from my good friend and retired scholar, Master Kong. Thus, I give my blessing to your wondrous relationship with him and award him a champion’s title of ‘Linus of Exteris’ by virtue of law decreed by my ancestors’ promise to citizens who has defeated the dragons.
“I pray for the success of your expedition in the north.
“Fluminus IV of the River
“His Excellency, River Kingdom”