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Rum couldn't believe it. He staggered out onto the beach, goggling at the smoking crater, marvelling at how the sun was still shining in a Molotov-free world. The wizard was toast, he had to be. Very burnt toast. As he waved away the smoke, Rum's jaw dropped. The once sandy beach had a massive hole in it, the sand turned to glass from the fireball... right where Molotov had been.

 

You could say a lot of bad things about dragons, but they were very thorough creatures.

 

Rum didn't know what to feel. He'd once prayed before going to bed, praying desperately for Molotov to fall off the side of the boat into the bubbling waters of the Foggy Ocean. This exact prayer had actually turned into something of a nightly ritual for him. But every day he'd awake to Molotov bellowing sea shanties at the top of his lungs, or taking the term "poop-deck" far too literally. The idea of blissful, sweet silence was... rather unnerving, now that he actually had it.

 

Behind him there was a sound, like rocks grating against each other, like the beginning of an earthquake. It took a moment but Rum realized the dragon was... laughing.

 

It's laughing. It killed Molotov, and now it's laughing. He'd been running over here, shouting my name... he thought I was in danger. He was trying to rescue me.

 

Zayldrieranth's callous laughter echoed across the destroyed beach, crueller and crueller with each passing moment. Rum balled up his fists, gritting his teeth and staring up at the dragon.

 

"I- I didn't tell you to do that!"

 

Zayldrieranth grinned down at him. "Oh, was he one of your companions? You'll have to chose more wisely in the future, Master. He died too easy."

 

The world seemed to melt and sway around Rum. The laughter poked at him, jabbed him in every uncomfortable spot, burrow into his head to get at his thoughts, his memories. How was it he couldn't remember Molotov ever laughing at him? How had he never noticed that? He was a writer. Writer's were supposed to be observational. They were very good at describing rooms, smells, clothing, the quirk of a smile, the colour of an eye. But he'd never noticed until now- Molotov had never laughed at him. Molotov had in fact, seemed to believe in him.

 

Rum was used to anger. He was used to bullies bouncing him around like a rubber ball, not just with their fists but with their words, their glances, their smiles. He was used to being talked down to, to being disregarded, to having his dreams torn apart. Or worse. They pretend they believe in you, they mock you by pretending to respect you. Isn't that what it is? Calling me Master? Killing my friend?

 

"That's it. I've had it. I've had it, you hear me?!" Rum began. He gritted his teeth, one hand instinctively gripping the hilt of his cutlass. Zayldrieranth stopped laughing. Somehow, that only made Rum even more furious. His face boiled, contorting with blinding, red rage.

 

"What, so now you're going to shut up and listen to me?! Mr. Grand Fancy Long-Name Dragon's scared of my sword? Well good! You should be! Because I'm going to start swinging it in a minute, because I've had it up to HERE with you and everything else happening today!" Rum tried to stop, but the words were coming faster and faster, all the checks and balances in his brain deciding to take a last-minute holiday at the same time. How had he gotten here? He just wanted to write a story, and now he was screaming at a dragon.

 

"You think it's funny!? You think I'M funny?!" Rum screamed. The dragon didn't immediately respond.

 

"Well maybe I am funny! Maybe I'm just a gangly-limbed poet in over his head! But you know what? I'm also a gangly-limbed poet dedicated to narratives! To STORY! And I've come to the conclusion that this story stinks! I just randomly FOUND this sword, I didn't earn it! I didn't even know it was there! It certainly didn't PICK me, I was just the idiot who happened to be closest to it! And you know what else? If any of those stupid pirates just stopped and had politely ASKED ME, I'd have given it to them! How low stakes can you get!? But no! They had to sic a Were-Beaver on me! And don't get me started on YOU!"

 

Zayldrieranth gulped and pointed a clawed finger up at himself. Rum gulped air, and continued, "Yeah I'm talking about YOU, lizard-brain! You've been here guarding your old master's sword, sleeping on the island? SLEEPING? Not one image of you on a temple wall, not one ancient myth or rumor about you, NOTHING alluding to your existence! You just show up out of the blue and start roasting people! How is anyone supposed to anticipate you!? You walking Deus! Ex! Machina!"

 

Rum was frothing at the mouth and stamping his feet wildly in the sand. Zayldrieranth took a hesitant half-step backwards, mighty head cowering below the verbal barrage. "I think... perhaps, Master, you are emotional from the attack-"

 

"Emotional?! You just killed literally the only person who's ever expressed interest in my craft! I'll show you emotional!" Before he could stop himself, Rum had both hands on his sword, sliding it clean from the sheathe with one single, fluid motion. With a roar that beggared belief and the sand shifting beneath his feet, the ocean rose up in answer.

 

Rum swung the blade toward the dragon, putting all his wild frustration into the blow. Wandering around in the forest without a clue. Pirates who wanted him dead over a sword he didn't want, a dragon killing his friend, pages upon pages of blank manuscript paper, a story stuck in his head, a hero he wanted to be but was too scared to become, five words to describe a sunset that he didn't know, just a kid, a dumb kid, a stupid kid who wanted to be something and was blundering around in the dark until-

 

Rum was too far away to hit the dragon- but that wasn't an issue for the sea. Previously lapping gently against the beach, it rose up now in attack. The tsunami wave slashed into the side of Zayldrieranth, mimicking the motion of Rum's swing. Screaming at the top of his lungs Rum followed through like a batter, twisting himself around in the sand. The wave rocketed into the dragon and sent it careening into the treeline. For one glorious moment the island seemed to explode in sound and fury, water and trees washing away, the great beast howling in rage as it drowned in the debris.

 

Rum was frozen in shock, sweat beading on his brow. Somehow, he'd just commanded an ocean wave. How'd I do that?

 

"Great job, Rum ol' chum!"

 

Rum screamed and jumped out of his skin. Spinning around, a naked and smoking figure was clambering out of the hole in the beach. The figure shook his red hair, sending clumps of sand flying into Rum's open mouth. Rum spat them out, rubbed his eyes. But it wasn't a vision.

 

"Molotov!"

 

The wild-eyed wizard gave a lopsided grin, waving his arms wide in a flourish. "Ta-da!"

 

Rum kicked him in the crotch.

 

"You idiot! I thought you were dead!" he shouted. "How aren't you dead!?"

 

Rolling around on the beach and clutching his groin, Molotov wasn't in an "answering-questions" state. But after a moment he managed to pull it together, clambering to his knees. "Gh-gee Rum! I'm fire-proof! They don't call me Molotov for nothing!"

 

"But I've SEEN fire burn you!"

 

"Yes," Molotov admitted. "But only for comedic effect!"

 

"WHAT DOES-"

 

A sudden snapping of trees caused Rum to spin around. Clambering out of the jungle, battered but not down for the count, came Zayldrieranth. The dragon snarled, head low, flames sputtering and flaring in its nostrils. The air was rank with the scent of brimstone, the heat burning Rum's giant nose.

 

Molotov, for once, had taken position behind Rum. "Uh, Rum ol' Chum?" he whispered. "I think you better hit him with something else!"

 

Rum held the trembling sword out in front of him, his teeth chattering in fear. "I was REALLY sort of fueled by your death a moment ago! So you being alive is a massive tactical inconvenience!"

 

"That means you don't know how to use the sword again, right?"

 

Rum shushed the wizard as Zayldrieranth loomed closer, the dragon's massive head coming down inches from the tip of Foam-Cutter. Rum locked eyes with the beast and prayed it didn't look down at his pants. For some reason, despite his tsunami-wave not hitting the rest of him, the wave had soaked his shorts. Yes... That must be from the attack I just did.

 

"I swore an oath..." the dragon growled.

 

"W-well no one ever told me about it!" Rum said hastily. "Did anyone tell you, Molotov?"

 

The wizard poked his head out from over Rum's shoulder, and smiled meekly at the dragon. "Uhm... hello."

 

Something happened. Rum wasn't sure what- although there was a great deal people were forgetting to tell him lately. But Zayldrieranth's eyes flickered to Molotov then back to him. The dragon scowled and pulled back, seeming to re-evaluate the situation.

 

"So. The last alliance with the realm of men has been broken, and old foes have become friends," Zayldrieranth snarled. "You strike at me, Master? Thus releasing me from my oath?"

 

"If that means you'll leave, then yes! Sure!" Rum managed to squeak out. The dragon almost smiled. Abruptly its wings struck outward, and with one great flap the creature was airborne.

 

"The Council of the Beasts shall hear of this!" Zayldrieranth shouted downward.

 

"I don't know what that is!" Rum shouted upward. The dragon didn't respond. Wheeling in the air and kicking up a cloud of sand and mud, it spun in the air and took off, flying away.

 

Rum watched it, rooted in place like a statue, until it was a speck on the horizon. Then, he decided to collapse.

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