Part Thirteen: Fire And Flame
FIRE AND FLAME
A hundred reptilian cries rose out of the winged cloud, as a hundred scaled beasts circled down out of the sky towards the great, yellow egg-like dome that had risen out of the ground, sand and loose dirt cascading off its sides, nestled in a nest of intertwining passageways, all different colours, shapes, sizes and textures. The wheeling wyrms flew in circular motions all around the dome, like electrons around a nucleus. One by one, they slowly halted, hovering in place, a coruscating dome of leather and scale encasing the smaller eggshell. They hovered there, in one long moment that seemed to last a thousand years to those who took part in it.
Then, at the command delivered by a boy riding a ruby-red creature, a hundred searing jets of dragon-fire erupted from the throats of the airborne soldiers. A wall of flame descended like lightning onto the sickly yellow dome, melting it in some parts, denting it in others, and in others still collapsing fragments of it.
After half a minute of searing heat, the dragons ceased fire, and all but one dove down at the now frail and blackened hull. Those who were smallest and weakest of the terrible creatures clawed and tore off chunks of stiff and ruined yellow, while the strongest and mightiest of the beasts flew straight at the dome and came crashing out the other side, without so much as a pause to shake off the rubble, puncturing the supposed stronghold with dragon-sized holes.
The little resistance from the Orcs was met with rains of flame and debris. Those who had any sense left in them fled through tunnels that had remained subterranean; those who tried to escape through the front door briefly realized their mistake before being reduced to small purple stains on the ground. Try as he might, not even Drake’s sharp eyes could spot Certrain amidst the carnage.
Krish sprinted down the mossy corridor, tripping over fallen rubble, stumbling whenever the tunnel shook, coughing at the dust shaken from the walls and ceiling which filled his lungs and threatened to choke him. A fragment of scorched yellow shell came crashing through the roof ahead of him; he stared at it unthinking, for a moment, before scrambling onto it and out the hole it had put in the ceiling.
Almost immediately after he had staggered into the sunlight, standing blinking in the dust that engulfed the battlefield, a winged silhouette faded swiftly into view as it approached him through the brownish cloud; its features gradually asserted themselves within a matter of seconds: snub-nosed and faded blue of scale, it swooped down and snatched Krish up with blunted talons. The dragon carried him some way away from the battlefield until they were at a safe distance from the action, at which point it slowed and began gently circling the area in wide, lazy loops, allowing Krish enough stability to climb the rope that had been dropped down the dragon’s left flank while the boy had been too stunned to look up.
Jereah helped him onto the creature’s back, giving him a reassuring smile. Krish coughed; he had not quite shaken the layers of dust that had coated the inside of his throat. He coughed again, then looked up blearily, panting. ‘The Elves?’ he managed, in a hoarse and wheezing voice. Jereah nodded in the direction of a slender, elegant beast of a vivid emerald green, which was also drifting far above the plains. Krishten could just make out two figures riding its back: one to be all in dark green hues, the other to be a small child. ‘And of course they get the cooler dragon’, he muttered under his breath.
Drake surveyed his handiwork minutely, trying not to omit one single detail from his full attention. He needed his victory to be complete – if even the smallest rabble of the most incompetent Orcs escaped fiery doom, then that would be enough of a threat to, say, burn and pillage a few farms before his father’s warriors caught up with them.
Most importantly, though, he had read enough books to know that unless you had actually seen the villain die, he was most probably still alive – no matter how well the odds were against him. And even then, sometimes his minions would find some obscure method of reanimating the dead or something, and that would make an easy excuse for a sequel. Drake had found that life occasionally followed the patterns found in tales, and was fully expecting Certrain to still be alive, even though his secret lair had pretty much collapsed on top of him.
Once he was certain that no Orcs had survived, he landed the scarlet dragon some hundred feet from the wreck and dismounted. He slowly, cautiously approached the remains of the dome, now shattered and laying in blackened ochre shards the size of a horse’s flank. The small hill of rubble lay still, partially obscured by a thick cloud of dust, gently settling. Drake stood a few feet from the collapsed dome, his eyes and ears straining to pick up any signs of movement, as his nose was blocked with the dust that still filled the air. He stood and searched, but could find nothing.
Just as he was about to approach the wreckage, a great blast of wind burst forth from where the centre of the dome used to be. Shards of debris were sent flying as Drake was knocked back by the sheer force of the blast. However, he evened his balance between his feet and shielded his face with his forearms, and managed to remain upright. The wind had died, and with it the dust cloud had been blown away. Drake looked up, bewildered, at the now-clear space before him.
Certrain hovered some hundred feet off the ground, at the centre of a small whirlwind of his own that was whipping his wispy hair and grey-black suit about him and holding him in place. His dead, glossy eyes were fierce; the pupils tiny pinpricks piercing grey and foggy marbles. His pointed teeth were bared in a hideous grin, drawn wider than Drake had ever seen it. High-pitched, choking, gleeful shrieks battered against the boy’s eardrums, and he realized it was laughter. He stared up at the one who called himself Certrain, and found that the…person…was staring straight at him.
‘Oh, this is going to be so much fun!’