Hunting Trip

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Dana and Jayden are back, this time hunting a wyvern. It's a threat big enough to hurt dragons, but they have unexpected help.

Dana woke the next morning in her hotel room, feeling like a dragon had sat on her.Last night’s battle had been followed by standing guard until massive reinforcements arrived, tending the wounded, comforting crying people and a spot of cleaning.She and Jayden hadn’t returned to their room until some ridiculously late hour, where both of them fell asleep still wearing their clothes for the ball.Daybreak woke them after only a few hours of sleep.

“Morning,” Jayden said from the floor.He’d gotten that far before falling asleep last night.“I’d be lying if I called it a good morning.”

Dana lifted her head off her pillow and saw dust swirling above her.“Tell Stanley thank you for keeping guard.Let him go home and get some sleep.”

Stanley hummed a cheerful tune, flew to the window and disappeared.Jayden sat up and said, “He shouldn’t be taking orders from both of us.Good to know he listens to you, though.”

“I had this incredible nightmare,” Dana said as she dropped her head back to her pillow.“We were at a party and everyone acted like jerks.Some tried to kill us.There was this cute guy I’ll probably never see again.”

“That’s a sadly accurate summary of the evening.”Jayden got up and stretched.

“It’s the third time in a week someone tried to kill us.That’s a new record.”

“Given our involvement in a war it’s likely to continue at this pace.”He opened the door and sniffed.“I believe the hotel kitchen is preparing chicken for breakfast.How would you like yours?”

“Dead.”

“I think they can manage that.How do you feel?”

Dana propped up her head on her hands.“Tired, a little sore, angry that the bad guys got away.I’m not used to that happening.Most of your enemies are kind of dead when you finish with them.”

“The dwarf Dunrhill Stronglock survived, wounded last we saw him, but not deceased.Take comfort that yesterday’s attack failed.Last night was either a kidnapping attempt on Princess Estell or a mass assassination attempt of Bascal’s leadership.Had it succeeded, Bascal would have been thrown into chaos that would have severely weakened its ability to wage war, or even forced its surrender.”

“Why did the third wizard stay back?”Dana sat up in bed and smoothed her dress.“He seemed pretty tough.They might have won if he’d helped the other two.”

“He was insurance in case their plan failed.The first two with their gladiators, gargoyles and undead could have massacred unarmed civilians and the princess’ guards, while the third was far enough away to evacuate them if they failed, which they did.”Jayden frowned.“He was taking notes during the battle, studying me, my magic.That worries me.An intelligent foe who learns and plans is far more dangerous than one who relies solely on overwhelming power.”

Jayden went through his baggage until he found his black and silver clothes.“I also feel you overestimate his power.The two wizards we defeated were using weak spells, beginners magic at best.Their third member was likely not that much more powerful than they were.Had they been stronger, they would have overwhelmed us both, or at least held us in check while their followers completed their gruesome task.”

“Dissolving a brick wall wasn’t weak magic,” Dana told him.She snapped her fingers and asked, “Could they have used a binding spell to make themselves strong enough to do that?”

“I believe they used a binding spell to enhance specific spells then ended it, not like the way the Zentrix court wizard tried to keep the binding spell continuously running.This may allow them to avoid the spell getting out of control and killing them all.Still, it’s a risk most wizards would never take.”

Dana sat up, reluctantly.“Risky like getting burned, or risky like dying?

“If the binding spell had failed, the Inspired wizards would have had seconds to regain control of it.Failure would mean all the magic they had being released instantly.Their remains would have been unrecognizable or totally vaporized.”

Worried what the answer would be, she asked, “Could a wizard do that deliberately?”

“Normally a dying wizard’s power is simply lost, harming no one, making such a terrible end impossible.Binding spells work by pooling all their power so it can all be drawn upon immediately.That pooled energy is what causes the catastrophic failures the spell is known for.You needn’t fear me making the ultimate sacrifice.”

“That’s good to hear, but not what I was worried about.If we fight Inspired wizards again and they think they’re not going to get away, could they use a binding spell and lose control on purpose, killing themselves and us?”

Jayden’s eyes snapped wide open.“That terrifying idea hadn’t occurred to me.Let’s hope it hasn’t occurred to them, either.”

Dana checked to make sure her dress was undamaged.“The gladiators didn’t go berserk when they were around the skeletons and barrow wight.”

“There are spells to protect the living from the enraging effect of the undead.Their necromancer no doubt shielded them prior to the attack.”

There was a knock at their door, and they heard the hotel manager say from the other side, “Sir, madam, a knight has arrived asking to speak with you.”

“Tell him we’ll meet him at the common room,” Jayden said.

Dana and Jayden went to the hotel’s common room to find Stillman in full armor.He’d taken a table in the back of the room and gestured for them to join him.Other guests stayed at least twenty feet away.He waited until they’d taken their seats before talking.

“You have my gratitude, and that of the king.Knights on duty during the ball told me the danger you placed yourselves in on behalf of the crown princess.For security reasons the king told his people there was an attack last night without detailing how dangerous it was, or how close it came to costing us everything.”

“Does this sanitized version of reality leave out our participation?” Jayden asked.

“It does, and I apologize for that.Public morale has already taken a heavy blow from an attack on the capital.Should it become common knowledge we were dependent on foreigners to contain the threat, it would cause a panic.King Rascan and many high ranking noblemen are aware of your bravery and will reward it.His majesty said your actions made a favorable impression on those who doubted hiring you.”

They fell silent when a waitress brought a hearty breakfast rich in meats and gravy.Dana dug into the food while Stillman and Jayden spoke.

“Security across the kingdom is going to be tightened,” Stillman told them.“We never imagined Meadowland would make such a bold attack, nor that they had so many wizards.That’s going to make your services especially valuable.”

“King Rascan gave us a mission prior to the attack,” Jayden said.

Stillman handed Jayden a scroll tube.“This contains a map of the enemy fort and surrounding area.There are no enemy troops nearby, which should prevent them from calling up reinforcements quickly.The biggest issue is the wyvern and rider may flee from you rather than do battle.”

“Meadowland forces are going to be on high alert after we fought our way into Bascal,” Jayden said.“How are we going to get back in?”

“Scald can carry you over the border and drop you off far from prying eyes.There is enough tree cover for you to approach the fort without being spied upon from above if the wyvern flies overhead.From there you can approach the camp and either kill the beast if it’s present or ambush it upon its return.Scald will cross the border every morning to check for you.King Rascan was very specific that he wants the monster’s head to mount on a pike for Bascal’s citizens to see.”

“Kind of gruesome,” Dana said.

“They need proof of victory after suffering last night’s attack,” Stillman told her.“The wyvern’s head provides it.”

“How soon do we leave?” Jayden asked Stillman.

“Scald will arrive at noon.You’ll be across the border one hour after that.We won’t be able to offer assistance once you’re on the ground.”

Jayden took a chicken leg off the plate of food and ate.“We’ll be ready.Give us until then to prepare.”

Stillman saluted and left the hotel.Jayden wolfed down his food and said, “We’ll need to change into more appropriate clothing and purchase food and drink for our task.I’ll see about our supplies.Keep an eye on our belongings until I return.”

“You’re really that concerned about us being robbed?”

Jayden finished his meal and stood up.“Dana, how did the Inspired wizards know about the ball?I can come up with only a few possibilities, including using a crystal ball, blind luck and having spies inside the city that informed them.Any king worth his crown will have potent magic on his castle to prevent scrying, and blind luck is too much to expect for an attack of that size.That leaves men or women inside Dragon Roost in the pay of King Tyros passing information to the enemy.”

“Prince Onus said goblins in Kaleoth caught Meadowland spies,” Dana said.

“If Tyros and Amvicta used them there, they certainly did so here.So be paranoid, because enemies are out to get us.I’ll be back shortly.”

Dana finished eating and went back to their room.She changed into her regular clothes and packed away her fancy dress.I would be a long time before she got to wear it again, but there was no way she’d part with it.After that there was nothing to do besides wait.

After an hour she heard a knock at the door and heard the hotel manager say, “A visitor wishes to see you in the common room.”

“I’m coming.”Dana didn’t think this was an ambush if they wanted to see her around witnesses, but Jayden’s warning worried her.This could be a distraction to get them away from his spell tablets.Now that she thought about it, the tablets would be a prize for ordinary thieves as much as for spies.She grabbed her bags and his before leaving.

She went to the common room, where the hotel manager pointed at a fashionably dressed man seated at a corner table.His clothes looked like they were Cassandra’s work, but the colors were wrong.People in Bascal favored red and yellow, while he wore dark blue.The man was in his forties and had jet black hair.Dana couldn’t help but stare.There was something familiar about him.

Dana hesitated before saying, “Have we met?”

“I don’t believe so.”The man offered her his hand.“Malcolm Redoubt.”

“Uh, hi.”Dana shook his hand and tried to place his face.“You’re sure?I mean, I know this sounds weird, but I feel I should know you.”

“I can’t see how.I understand you’re from Meadowland, as I was, but I haven’t lived there since before you were born.”

Curious she asked, “If you’re from Meadowland, why are you here?And shouldn’t people be worried you’ll side with King Tyros?”

Malcolm gave her a pained smile.“My family left Meadowland under a cloud of disgrace.Many families did.We’ve managed to make a home for ourselves here and contribute to our new homeland.Decades of work has earned us some shreds of respect, and they know we’ll never embrace those who spurned us.”

“I’m sorry.I shouldn’t have asked.I’ve been having a rough year.”

“I know the feeling.Forgive me approaching you unannounced, but I need to ask a favor.A friend of mine attended last night’s ball and spoke glowingly of you and the Sorcerer Lord.”Malcolm paused and said, “When he saw the Sorcerer Lord, he had much the same reaction you did just now, as if he knew him rather than was meeting him for the first time.”

This was getting suspicious.“That’s strange.”

Malcolm looked nervous, almost timid.“It’s probably nothing, but I would like very much to speak to the Sorcerer Lord.To see him, even for a minute.Could you arrange it?”

“We’re going to be busy for the next week, but I’ll see what I can do afterwards.”

Malcolm bowed.“My gratitude.”

Puzzled, Dana went back to her room.Maybe the guy wanted to hire Jayden, but why be so weird about it?Could he be one of the spies Jayden worried about?She doubted it.He’d have no reason to ask to see Jayden.It was a mystery that had to wait.

Jayden soon returned carrying a bag of food and full waterskins.“If you’ll excuse me, I’d appreciate privacy while changing.”

Dana left the room and waited by the door.“A weird guy showed up while you were gone and said he’d like to meet you.”

“Don’t care.”Jayden’s voice was muffled by the door.“Not even slightly.”

“He seemed familiar.I can’t put my finger on why.”

“In a few days it won’t matter.The wyvern will be dead, we’ll collect our pay and leave Bascal.From there we hunt down the Inspired and put an end to them before they destroy Meadowland.”The door opened and Jayden came out in his black and silver clothes.“Much better.”

“The wyvern sounds dangerous.Do you know anyone here we can ask for help, or someone we could hire?”

“Your suggestion is valid, but I haven’t spent enough time in Bascal to cultivate allies I could call upon for battle.In regards to hiring help, anyone who would be of assistance must have been hired by King Rascan long ago.Bascal’s smaller population means they need every man for defending the kingdom, especially after last night’s attack.There will be no one to spare to help us.”

They didn’t have to wait long before Stillman returned.The knight gave them an approving look when he met them in the common room.“Good, you’re ready.The girl is coming with you?”

“I value her abilities,” Jayden replied.

“From what I heard of the ball the lady acquits herself well in battle.”Stillman gestured for them to follow him.“Scald will pick you up at the city’s main courtyard.”

Jayden frowned.“That’s a very public place to begin a mission.I would prefer leaving the city and meeting the dragon elsewhere.”

“In this case security and publicity are in conflict,” Stillman told him.“The king has taken a very big and public blow.Morale across the city has dropped.People need to see him taking action, and Scald carrying you to battle does that.”

“What if enemies see us leave and attack you again?” Dana asked.

“We’ve enhanced security across the city,” Stillman replied.

Dana worried she would offend Stillman, but concern made her speak out.“If you’re pulling men back to defend the capital, it weakens your armies.Last night’s attack may have worked for King Tyros after all.”

Stillman was silent for a moment, and Dana feared she had crossed a line with him.When he finally spoke it was a relief.“The wizards’ attack means every part of Bascal is in danger.They could strike across the kingdom, destroying granaries, bridges, isolated garrisons and more.That won’t be a threat once Scald is in the air again, but for that to happen the wyvern must die.”

Once they left the hotel, Dana glanced at the castle.The hole in the side was huge, and it looked like the roof over it was sagging.To her amazement the hole began to seal closed as bricks floated into place. “What’s happening?”

“King Rascan has an earth wizard on staff,” Stillman explained.“He sent for him late last night, and he arrived an hour ago.He’ll have the castle repaired in a week.”

Dana figured fixing the castle was another way to convince people to keep backing their king.Rascan sure put a lot of time and effort into reassuring them.Was that normal for kings?She’d always assumed their subjects always obeyed them.Then again, Meadowland’s civil war was proof nobles could turn against their king.That would do lots of damage if it happened during a war.

“I wish to make it clear my services are for this task only,” Jayden told Stillman.“I haven’t signed an oath of loyalty to King Rascan, nor am I willing to be conscripted into his army.I can…oh come now, he can’t be serious.”

The sudden change in Jayden’s tone and topic made Dana study the streets for threats.People were hurrying out of the way, but they didn’t look scared.Then she saw who they were moving for, the young man Jayden had humiliated at the ball.

“Announcing Baronet Skythex Brass,” a man called out.Pedestrians gathered to watch the young man step in front of Jayden followed by five more men.Two looked like servants, including the one who’d made the announcement, but three were dressed in the rich clothes of noblemen, even if they were only a little older than Dana.

“Sir,” Skythex said, his tone making it clear Jayden didn’t deserve the word, “last night you gave offense to myself and the woman I love.I have come for satisfaction.”

Stillman stepped in front of Dana and Jayden.“Baronet, redress for your grievances must wait.This man is in the service of the king.”

Dana expected that to carry more weight, especially among such class conscious people, but Skythex was unmoved.He not only stood his ground but pushed his cape back to reveal a sheathed sword hanging from his belt.“Under the law I may seek redress when wronged.I am owed an apology and reparations for the offense.”

“In times of war military matters must come first,” Stillman said.“This issue can be negotiated at a later time with royal support.”

“Mind your place, knight,” Skythex said scornfully, and to Dana’s surprise Stillman backed down.The baronet turned his fury on Jayden.“I will not let a foreigner treat a noblewoman of Bascal like a tavern wench to be taken advantage of.”

Jayden waved his hand at the men behind Skythex.“Do these fine young men come to help you get your pound of flesh?”

“These are my witnesses, men of respected families who will report what occurs today across Bascal,” Skythex replied.“You have wronged me by laying your hands on the woman I love in front of countless people.I will not tolerate such barbaric behavior.”

Dana stared hard at Skythex, her heart beating like a drum.This clod was trying to pick a fight!Dana, Jayden and Prince Onus had all been passed those ridiculous notes, treating them like, like, well, Dana wasn’t even going to think the word!They’d come to help, they had helped, saving lives, and this idiot was threatening them, or maybe trying to rob them if he wanted reparations.

Dana marched up to Skythex.“No!You don’t get to act like you’re hurt because your girlfriend, who you left waiting, danced with someone else.You don’t get to act like we’re bad people when Jayden saved your princess’ life.”

She heard Stillman say to Jayden, “Get her back here.”

Skythex stared at her, his expression changing from anger to confusion.“What are you talking about?”

“You were in the room when it happened!”

Jayden called out, “I might be mistaken, but I don’t think he was there.Quite a few guests defended Princess Estell during the attack.I don’t recall seeing him help.”

“You ran off?”Dana poked Skythex in the chest.“You ran away when your princess was in danger!You think we wronged you, when we fought to save your princess and you didn’t?”

“Do something,” Stillman told Jayden.

Jayden chuckled.“I could point at Skythex and laugh.”

“I escorted my beloved from danger!” Skythex shouted at Dana.“Some of us don’t have magic swords or spells.”

Dana didn’t budge.“The guests who fought back didn’t have those, either!”

The men Skythex had brought as witnesses were suddenly looking very nervous.Dana hadn’t been in Bascal long enough to see nobles demand apologies.There must be a proper way to deal with this, to defend yourself or back down, but she didn’t know their rules.These men might be upset their friend was publicly being called a coward, an accusation Skythex wasn’t offering a good defense to.

“That woman is not your property and can dance with whoever she pleases,” Dana told Skythex.“As for you not having a magic sword, I didn’t used to own one, so I know how hard it is to stand against threats when you’ve got nothing.But I fought for months without one and did what I could to help, and so you can.If you want an apology, that’s not happening.If you want money, that is really not happening.If you want to use that sword you’re wearing—”

Dana drew Chain Cutter to the gasps of onlookers.She kept her sword pointed at the ground.“If you want a fight, here I am.You’re going to have to go through me to get to Jayden.Take your best shot.”

Skythex stared at her in horror.“You’re insane.”

When Skythex didn’t draw his sword, Dana sheathed Chain Cutter.“You know what?When I saw you last night asking Princess Estell for a favor or a job, I felt sorry for you when she turned you down.Now that I’ve met you, I have a lot more respect for her, because she could tell you’re not ready for it.”

Dana marched back to Jayden and Stillman.The knight stepped forward and said, “The lady wishes to contest your accusations, and has offered trial by combat.Baronet Skythex, do you accept?”

Skythex said nothing, his face pale and slick with sweat.Stillman asked, “Baronet, the offer was not formally issued according to the rules of etiquette.If you wish to refuse until it is correctly issued you may do so.Or you may accept.No dishonor will be associated with fighting a woman when she has proven herself in battle against an iron golem.”

“I…will not accept the offer,” Skythex replied.

“Very well, sir.As witnesses are present to your response the matter is officially closed at this time. You may renew your claim at a later date if you so choose.”Stillman saluted Skythex.“If you will excuse us, sir, military matters require our presence elsewhere.Sorcerer Lord, madam, if you will come with me?”

“Delighted to do so,” Jayden replied, and left with Dana and the knight.Skythex and his friends watched them go.

“You have made an enemy for life,” Stillman told them.

“I wouldn’t want him as a friend,” Jayden replied.“He may count himself lucky Dana acted before I did.She let him walk away unharmed.”

“The matter could have been settled peacefully,” Stillman protested.“Most challenges are settled with a formal apology and a token sum.You didn’t have to threaten him.”

“I’m sorry,” Dana told him.“It’s just, we’ve been through a lot, and him acting like we hurt him when we fought for your people was going too far.”

“Don’t be upset at standing up for yourself,” Jayden told her.“He should have handled the matter privately or hired a lawyer.Instead he acted rashly in front of dozens of witnesses.”

Dana froze.“Dozens? He brought five people with him.”

Jayden chuckled.“Skythex and you both did quite a bit of shouting, enough to draw the attention of the curious.You may not have noticed bystanders on the street watching, or men and women in nearby buildings.They’ll spread the word how the baronet acted like a preening peacock, and backed down from an angry girl.He’s done lasting damage to his reputation.”

They reached Dragon Roost’s central courtyard, a brick plaza two hundred feet across surrounded by businesses and homes.Residents gathered in large numbers to shop and gossip, but they parted when they saw Dana and Jayden approach.Dana heard a woman say to another, “My cousin saw her kill abominations at the ball like they were rats.”

Stillman heard it, too, and his jaw dropped.Jayden smirked and said, “Many servants witnessed the battle.Order them to silence if you wish, but they’ll speak when they’re away from you.By tomorrow every soul in Dragon’s Roost will know the details of the attack.”

“Then we need this victory more than ever,” Stillman told him.He gazed into the sky and announced, “Not a moment too soon.I would have preferred to do this quietly, but time is of the essence.”

People across the courtyard scattered, some crying out in joy.Dana saw why when a dragon swooped down from the sky and landed in the courtyard.She’d never seen one before, and it was awe inspiring.The dragon was thirty feet long with a wingspan twice that, and had four powerful legs.The scales were red with gold at the tips, there were two horns on its head, and teeth like daggers.

But Dana saw worrying signs once the dragon stopped moving.Many scales were cut, and she saw scar tissue underneath them.One horn was noticeably shorter than the other, like it had been broken off.The dragon approached them with a pronounced limp.

“Scald, I presume?” Jayden said.

The dragon fixed its eyes on him and spoke with a masculine voice, and a hint of angry teenager.“You’re the ones going after the wyvern?”

“We are.”

Scald lowered his head to the ground so they could climb onto him.Jayden helped Dana mount the dragon and sat her at the base of the monster’s neck before sitting behind her.“My wings are stiff, so hold on tight.”

Scald beat his massive wings, blowing dust at the crowd who cheered all the same.He took to the air gradually.Dana wrapped her arms around the dragon’s neck as it went higher and higher.She saw residents of Dragon Roost waving, and at the edge of the crowd Skythex and his friends watched in disbelief.

The dragon wasn’t exaggerating the effect his injuries were having on him.He flew slowly and his breathing was labored.He was also staying low, barely above treetops and rooftops as he headed for the border with Meadowland.

Beautiful as it was to see the kingdom from above, Dana found the trip almost unbearable.The wind was blowing so hard her hair and clothes were a mess.The dragon’s scales were hot, almost too much for her to touch.Then they flew through a cloud of gnats.Dana didn’t see them in time and a lot of them went in her mouth.She coughed and tried to spit, and ended up swallowing half of them.

“Sorry about the bugs,” Scald said.“It’s like this in summer.”

“We’ve endured worse,” Jayden told him.

Scald beat his huge wings twice before gliding for a time.“I heard you two fought off the attack last night.I should have taken those bums out of the sky before they were close enough to even see the castle.You could have lost your lives, and so could Rascan and his daughter.Once I’m healthy I’ll keep that from happening again.”

“Your courage does you credit,” Jayden said.

“Be careful with the wyvern,” Scald warned.“He’s fast and mean.Swooped down on my when the sun was in my eyes.”

“The king said there’s a fort near where this happened, and that it smelled funny,” Dana said.“Is there anything else you can tell us?”

“It’s deep in the forest, big enough for a hundred men and fenced in with barricades.You’ll smell it long before you see it, and funny doesn’t cover the stench.I don’t know what’s making the stink.It smells like animals, but it’s not livestock or any monster I’ve met.”

Scald flew over the fort Dana and Jayden had come to when they’d first entered Bascal.Soldiers waved and cheered at the sight of the dragon.Seconds later they entered Meadowland.Dana saw large army camps in the distance, far larger than Bascal’s.There were banners proclaiming the presence of mercenary companies, and beyond those were wagon trains heavy with supplies to keep so many men fed.Quite a few of those men were archers, and she wondered how much damage they could do to Scald if he came closer.Scald flew far from the nearest enemy camps and outposts before landing in a clearing around a river.

“This is the closest place that’s open enough for me to land,” Scald said.He lowered himself to the ground so they could get off, a move that made him grunt in pain.“You’re about a day’s march from the camp.The wyvern might not live there, so this could be a wild goose chase.”

Jayden climbed off the dragon and helped Dana down.“Wyverns are known for their great appetites and foul dispositions.If its rider wants to keep it from eating civilians and soldiers, then he has to keep it far away from them, making this fort a likely home base.”

Scald grunted again as he rose.“I’ll check here every regularly for the next week.Good luck.”

The dragon took to the air again, and Dana saw him wince with every wing beat.She’d had her share of bad experiences with monsters, but unlike them Scald was intelligent, and he was hurting.“I hope he’ll be all right.”

“As do I.Bascal needs him more than ever.He could be the reason why they survive this war.”Jayden checked his map of the region before pointing into the woods.“There’s a game trail that goes close to our destination.”

Dana and Jayden headed deep into the forest.These were huge trees, so large they shaded the ground even at noon.Few smaller trees grew between them, and the undergrowth was limited to ferns and strange whiplike plants.Below that was a thick layer of rotting leaves and branches, so deep Dana sank in up to her ankles.

“I,” Dana began nervously, “I know this isn’t the time, but I’m sorry.”

“If this is about Skythex, save your apologies for when you’ve done something wrong.It was a pleasure seeing you put him in his place.”

“No, it wasn’t right.I’d been having a bad week and was riled up after yesterday’s fight, and I took it out on him.I should have talked it out, listened to him, tried to find a way to calm him down.That’s what I usually do and it works.I let my temper get the best of me.”

Jayden peered into the dense woods.“That appears to be the trail we’re looking for.Dana, in my youth I learned the rules of etiquette used by nobles and kings.The rules in this situation would require me to make an undeserved apology, groveling by another name, and pay him off.His witnesses would have shared the tale how he humbled the world’s only Sorcerer Lord, which would encourage others to follow his example.I have no intention of spending the rest of my life dealing with idiots who think I’ll back down if pushed hard enough.”

Dana followed Jayden onto the trail and headed west.“He’s a jerk, but that makes it worse.King Rascan is worried his people won’t follow him, especially his nobles.He’s working hard to keep everyone upbeat and focused on winning the war.”

“A pity Skythex isn’t.”

Feeling sick to her stomach, Dana asked, “What if my challenging Skythex pushes him over the edge?What if he decides he’s not getting the respect or opportunities he deserves from Rascan, and maybe Tyros will be more generous?”

Jayden stopped and took her hands.“Don’t.”

“What if I just started a civil war in Bascal?”

“You did no such thing,” he said firmly.“Skythex is inexperienced and stupid.You gave him what he needed, whether he realizes it or not.You saw how he treated Stillman, a loyal knight.He’s gone on too long thinking he’s better than everyone by right of birth, and that his total lack of skill, intelligence and bravery doesn’t matter.Sooner or later he was going to meet someone who wasn’t impressed by his rank and title.

“In peacetime his attitude is insufferable, and in times of war it could destroy Bascal.His bravado in the capital got him humiliated.Imagine what it would do if he started a fight with the Inspired.He would die stupidly, and any man unlucky enough to be under his command would die tragically.Or worse, he’d freeze, or run away when others needed him to act.”

Jayden took a deep breath.“Skythex has three choices.The first is he can reflect on what happened and become a better man.More likely he will go home and sink into a foul mood, blaming everyone but himself for his problems.You might be right and he could do something foolish, but treason?As much as I loathe him, I don’t believe he’d do that.Give him some credit, if only a little.”

It took a lot of effort for her to meet his eyes.“You don’t think I screwed up?”

“No, but I’m not the best judge of such things.We’re going to find this wyvern, put an end to it and bring back its head.Imagine what Skythex will think when he sees it.”

* * * * *

They slept overnight in the forest, lighting no campfire to avoid light or smoke giving away their position.The next day they walked for many hours before Dana stopped and wrinkled her nose.She’d grown up on a farm, but this stench was a new low, like rotting meat with harsh acid.“Scald wasn’t kidding about the smell.What died?”

“Quite a few things, I imagine.”Jayden pushed ahead through the undergrowth.“Wyverns are strict carnivores, but their digestion is more akin to fermentation.When they relieve themselves, the smell is so awful it can be used to track them.It also kills plants.”

“It’s going to get worse as we get closer, isn’t it?”

“Yes.Wyverns are a magically engineered species produced by ancient elves.Elves once ruled nearly all of Other Place.They expected dragons to serve their empire, and not as equals.Dragons declined the offer of eternal servitude, so elves decided to make their own dragons.They used nature magic to twist serpents and crocodiles into the abomination we know as wyverns.As substitutes for dragons they are a definite failure, but they remain dangerous.”

Dana searched her belongings until she found a handkerchief and wrapped it over her mouth.“Gross.”

“The process produced barely tamable nightmares with venomous stingers on their tails and homicidal levels of aggression, but possessing the stamina, strength and speed the elves desired.When the ancient Elf Empire fell, some wyverns fled into the wilderness to reproduce and become a blight on creation.”

“How did this one get here?”

“Cimmox the necromancer claimed Tyros had hired beats tamers from Quoth, a nation infamous for training monsters for war.One of them must have raised the wyvern from an egg, brutalized it into obedience and now rents it out.I can only imagine how much they charge per month.”

Dana froze.“Brutalized?”

“Wyverns are too aggressive to be trained as most animals are.Instead they are treated with such violence by their master from hatching onwards that they fear those who raised them.They obey even commands that will result in their own deaths.”

“That’s horrible!Can we free it?”

“For any other creature I would make the effort, except wild wyverns are even worse than tame one.They kill far more than they can eat and let the meat rot, destroy houses, purposely foul drinkable water with their droppings and more.Releasing this wyvern from its bondage means it will inflict damage on innocent people.”

Dana’s eyes narrowed.“Fine, but the guy who ‘trained’ this monster is going to get it.”

“A lovely idea.Now if your eyes aren’t watering too badly from the stench, you’ll see our objective ahead.”

Dana squinted and saw a crude fort in the forest.It filled a large clearing, and consisted of wood barricades ten feet high with sharpened points built around a house, a large barn and a brick creamery.The noon sun shining overhead and lack of tree cover inside the fort made it easy to see every detail.What Dana didn’t see or hear were people.There were no soldiers patrolling the forest’s edge, nor guards stationed in watchtowers or standing on rooftops to keep an eye out for intruders.“Where is everyone?”

“The wyvern would have eaten any men stationed nearby.I believe that’s why this fort was built so far from nearby forces.They can benefit from the wyvern’s services without falling prey to its rapacious hunger. That will limit how many other enemies we have to deal with.”Jayden paused and frowned.“I don’t hear noises.Either the wyvern is gone or it’s asleep.”

“How do we stop it if it nearly killed a dragon?”

“A young dragon taken by surprise.”Jayden studied the fort.“Ideally we ambush it and hit the beast hard before it can retaliate.Failing that, we reduce its mobility by leading it into the forest where it can’t fly.We inflict as much damage as possible to its wings to keep it permanently grounded, which I’ll count as a victory even if we can’t kill it.I have sufficient defensive spells, such as shadow armor and the shield of blades, to make the wyvern’s attacks more damaging to it than me.Let it focus on me, then strike its flanks or back.”

Jayden pointed at two large dead trees with bark peeling off.“We’ll draw it in here.Either one of us can bring down these down on the wyvern and pin it in place.Finishing it off afterwards will be difficult but possible.”

Dana studied the fort as she crept in closer.It looked like an abandoned farm made in a forest clearing.Meadowland’s army must have found it like this or drove off the owners before moving in.The wood from the barricades were from freshly felled trees, some with green leaves sprouting from them.

Squish!Dana’s foot sunk deep into the ground, and when she pulled it free the most horrendous odor rose up from the soil.Her shoe was covered with bluish black steaming goo.She scrapped off as much as she could on a fallen tree.“Is that what I think it is?”

“Wyvern droppings, more liquid than solid,” Jayden confirmed.“Someone buried it to deal with the smell.It does confirm the wyvern is staying here.”

Disgusted, she said, “I liked these shoes.”

They snuck up to the fort, careful to stay behind trees.As they came closer, they heard men’s voices coming from the fort.Dana got down on her hands and knees and crept through a thick layer of ferns until she was close enough to see two men in the camp.Maybe they were men.Their skin was blackened and had streaks of blue, and their crude leather clothes were the same color.

Jayden slipped in beside her.“Interesting.”

Dana glanced at her shoe and back at the men.“Are they covered in wyvern poo?”

“The smell would be an effective way to keep the wyvern from eating them, and I can only imagine how badly they’d taste with it on their bodies.”

“That’s incredibly disgusting, and I am not doing it.”Dana studied the fort.“I’m surprised beast tamers don’t have guard dogs to sniff out intruders.”

“I doubt a dog could smell anything with the stench of wyvern droppings so heavy in the air,” he replied.“Those men seem to be the only staff on hand.Their fort is large enough they can’t hope to keep an eye on it all.I can’t cast my shadow fox spell to spy on them without a pool of water, so we’ll have to sneak in and investigate.With luck we’ll find the wyvern asleep and kill it.”

Dana studied the camp.“I don’t see it.Anything big enough to hurt Scald has to be huge.Could they be keeping it in the barn?”

“It’s certainly a convenient home, and would help hide it from inquisitive eyes.There’s a section of barricade blocked from view by the barn.We should be able to cut an opening and get inside without being noticed.”

Dana and Jayden slipped quietly through the woods until the barn was between them and the two men.As they approached the barricade, Dana saw that the twelve foot long, sharpened wood stakes were lashed together with tarred rope.Jayden grabbed a stake and nodded to her.She drew Chain Cutter and easily cut through the ropes.Jayden grunted as he carefully set down the heavy stake and grabbed another.They removed three stakes in total to make an opening in the barricade large enough to enter.

Once inside, they got behind the barn and looked for a way inside.They came across four windows, all boarded over with fresh timbers.The main entrance faced the interior of the fort, and when Dana peeked around the edge of the barn, she saw five men.That was too many witnesses for her liking when it would only take one to sound an alarm.

She did see something that made no sense.There were two large wagons filled to overflowing with apples, melons, summer squash, baskets of beans and more.It was enough to feed hundreds of people, but there were only a few men here.Jayden had said wyverns were made by blending crocodiles and snakes, predators that would have no interest in fruits and vegetables.Who was it for?

The fort’s small compliment of men was hard at work.Two men shoveled stinking piles of wyvern droppings into wheelbarrows while two more dug shallow pits outside the fort to bury it in.More men were resting and breathing hard.

“Tyros is late paying us again,” one of the dung covered men said.

“I don’t care if the gold is late as long as meat arrives on time,” said another.“One more day and we’ll have to take the wyvern hunting, and to blazes with our orders.”

“The wyvern gets meat delivered, we take him hunting or Meadowland loses cattle and peasants,” said the first.His tone made it clear how little that bothered him.

Jayden interrupted her spying by saying, “Cut an opening in the wall.If you work slowly you shouldn’t make much noise.”

Dana pressed Chain Cutter against the barn’s back wall and pressed her sword in.The wood was made of oak, but old and had suffered from long years of rain and snow.Her sword slid easily through the wall.She pulled it across the wall, slowly cutting through oak boards.She made a parallel cut much lower than the first, and Jayden caught the boards as they fell.Once she’d made a big enough hole to crawl through, she bent down and looked inside.

Worried, she got up.“We have a problem, about twenty feet high and thirty tons.”

Puzzled, Jayden bent down and looked inside the barn.“I did not see this coming.”

The barn’s sole occupant wasn’t the wyvern they’d come to slay, but a great, furry beast.The monster reminded Dana of an ogre but much larger, with bulging muscles, thick gray fur white at the tips, and long yellowed teeth, although he didn’t wear clothes.The great beast had long scars across the arms, back and legs, and a pungent body odor.He sat on the barn’s floor facing away from them, his shoulders slumped and eyes downcast.

“A giant,” Jayden said softly.“I’ve seen pictures, but never thought I’d meet one in the flesh.”

“He’s huge,” Dana whispered.This explained the wagons of food.The wyvern needed meat, but this giant must eat massive amounts of plants.

The giant turned his head to face the sound of their voices.Dana gasped when his eyes locked on hers.The giant made no other move toward them as he regarded them with sorrowful eyes.Now that his head was turned, Dana could see a steel collar a foot wide and covered in strange symbols wrapped tight around the giant’s thick neck.

“Nice giant,” Dana said weakly.“Friends?”

The giant stared at them, his face showing curiosity.

“The beast tamers must have brought him along with the wyvern,” Jayden said.“He’d have little trouble overwhelming Bascal’s defenders, and could cross all but the most difficult terrain.King Tyros must be paying a fortune to rent two powerful monsters.”

“At least they gave him somewhere dry and out of the sun to rest,” Dana said.

“Keeping it away from the wyvern is a bigger consideration.”Jayden studied the giant’s scars and pointed at one.“That healed recently, yet the giant hasn’t been sent against Bascal’s defenders.The wyvern likely inflicted those wounds.They don’t tolerate other monsters in their territory, and will attack rivals if given the slightest opportunity.Keeping the giant out of sight reduces the chance of further conflicts.”

Dana kept staring.“He’s intelligent.I can tell.”

“Stories say they are, but they don’t speak or write.No one knows exactly where giants come from.They are ancient and powerful, and incredibly hard to kill.This one could be centuries old and strong enough to tear down a castle.I think he’s the one who uprooted the trees to make the barricade around this fort.”

“He’s huge.How do they make him follow orders?”

Jayden pointed at the steel collar.“Giants hibernate for months at a time.Beast tamers must have found him asleep and placed that collar on him.It’s definitely magic.I recognize the symbols inscribed on it. One is the dwarven word for pain, and another means fire.I daresay the giant must do as ordered or suffers untold agonies.”

The giant looked down before he nodded.

Outraged, Dana demanded, “Do beast tamers use pain to make all their monsters work for them?”

“Beast tamers of Quoth do.”

Dana clenched his jaw in anger.This was no different than what had happened to Braston the Unbeaten.A good person was turned into a slave by magic and forced to do terrible things.Jayden was right, the giant was a threat to Bascal as great as the wyvern, but he didn’t have to be.He shouldn’t be.

Dana climbed inside the barn while the giant watched her.“You can understand me.Will you let us help you?”

The giant gave her a long suffering sigh and a look of resignation before he shrugged.He wasn’t going to stop her from trying, but he had no expectation of success.

Jayden followed her inside.“What are you planning?”

“Can you get me up to his shoulders with your magic hand spell?”

“Easily done.”Jayden cast a spell to form his black magic hand.It opened its clawed fingers so she could climb onto the palm before floating up to the giant.The giant watched them with more interest as Dana got off the magic hand and stood on his shoulder.

“I don’t see a keyhole or latch on the collar,” she told Jayden.“If I cut it off, will it hurt him?”

“Most likely it would kill him, otherwise he would have pulled it apart on his own.”Jayden brought his magic hand down and climbed onto it.He brought the hand up even with Dana and studied the collar.“These incantations are complex, but I see a pattern to them.They demand obedience and punish him for failing to comply.The fire and pain symbols connect to this symbol, which is powering them.They’re guarded by two magic wards, each defending the other in case someone tries to remove the collar, but they’re connected by a lesser incantation here.”

Jayden pointed at a spiraling symbol between two more strange marks.Dana raised her sword and asked, “If I cut that it breaks the collar?”

“No, but it’s a first step.”

Dana hesitated, wondering if this was the right thing to do.The giant was intelligent, but that didn’t mean he was good.There was a very real chance he was a monster in both body and soul, and releasing him would allow him to do awful things the same way releasing the wyvern would.She was taking chances with not only her life but the lives of everyone the giant would meet from this point on.

Her hesitation ended in seconds.The giant had suffered untold pain and indignities for who knows how long.If the giant was good, she had to save him from that.If he was evil, whatever harm he’d done had been paid for long ago.

“Hold very still,” she told the giant.He watched her, his expression still showing great sadness.She pressed Chain Cutter against the symbol and pushed.There was a pop and Dana felt a jolt run up her arm.The giant’s eyes opened wide.

Jayden pointed at another symbol.“Here.”

Dana drove in Chain Cutter again, careful not to go in too deeply.There was another pop, this time followed by purple sparks.Jayden pointed out two more symbols for her to destroy, each followed by more and larger sparks.

“That should separate the symbols so they can’t reinforce or protect one another,” Jayden said.“Cut through the collar here between the fire and pain symbols.”

The giant breathed harder and deeper.Dana inched Chain Cutter down the huge collar, producing a shower of sparks as it cut the metal.The collar was tough enough that Chain Cutter made slow progress, but inch by inch she destroyed the collar.When she finished cutting through there was a flash of purple light, the symbols on the collar flashed once and then fell silent.

“I’m going to cut through the other side of the collar,” she promised the giant.“Then you’ll be—”

The giant reached up with both hands and seized his collar.His fingers tightened around it, and with a great effort he pulled it open, the metal shrieking like a dying animal before he pulled it off.

“What’s going on in there?” a voice called out from outside the barn.

Dana jumped off the giant’s shoulder onto Jayden’s magic hand.He made it float away as the giant stretched his muscular arms up to the roof of the barn.He stood up, and with the barest off effort ripped the roof off and threw it aside like it weighed nothing at all.Dana blinked at the sudden return of daylight.The giant wasn’t finished, and he kicked down the walls around him until the barn was entirely destroyed.

Beast tamers screamed and ran away.The giant didn’t chase them, although Dana would have in his place.Instead he turned to face Dana and Jayden.He clenched his right hand into a fist, struck it against his chest and pointed at them.

“What does that mean?” Dana asked Jayden.

“No idea.”

The giant stomped away, ripping apart a thirty foot long section of the barricade around the fort before disappearing into the forest.Dana would have never imagined such a huge monster could vanish like that, but as big as he was the trees around him were far taller and masked his escape.The beast tamers ran off as well, a wise move given how angry Dana was with them.

Jayden make his magic hand slowly lower to the ground.“Delightful as that was, and beneficial to the war effort, it’s not what we came for.”

“We can’t kill the wyvern if it’s not here.”

There was a flash of light and a whistling sound to their right.Dana and Jayden turned to see a glowing ball of light shoot high into the sky and explode into a sparkling red ball.Two more shot up from the trees.

“What are those?” Dana asked.

Jayden got off the giant hand and cast a spell to form his magic whip.“Signal rockets!It’s a form of alchemy used by armies to communicate over long distances.The beast tamers that fled into the forest must have taken them with to warn their fellow tamer riding the wyvern that they’re in danger.”

“So it’s going to show up?”

“Yes, and we need to get ready.”Jayden pointed to the forest.“I don’t think the beast tamers saw us in the confusion, so we might be able to ambush it.The wyvern is strong enough to tear these buildings apart.The trees will offer better cover.”

They hurried out of the fort, and just in time.Dana heard a rumbling sound in the distance and saw a dark speck on the horizon.They reached the cover of a dense stand of large trees as the speck grew larger. She saw it more clearly as it neared, a serpentine monster forty feet long, half of which was its sinuous neck and tail.It had a powerful chest and a wingspan as wide as it was long.The wyvern had dark green ridged scales across its back and limbs, flatter and lighter green scales on the belly and throat, and yellow wing membranes.Unlike Scald, it had only one set of legs folded up underneath it.

The wyvern had an arrow shaped head, jaws filled with sharp teeth, and beady black eyes.Its arsenal of weapons included sharp claws on its wings and feet, and a black stinger as long as a short sword on the tip of its tail.The monster moved with such speed and flexibility it seemed to swim across the sky.Dana could only imagine what it was like in battle.

“We have to kill that?”

“A task best done from the shadows,” Jayden told her.His magic hand floated nearby, a welcome weapon in the coming fight.“If it lands, I’ll try to hit it with a fireball.Should that fail we must draw it among the trees, where its size will work against it.”

The wyvern flew to the fort and landed gracefully next to the destroyed barn.Now that it was at eye level, she could see a man riding it on a saddle.He had no weapons or armor, just a steel rod he struck the wyvern with when he issued orders.The wyvern outweighed him a hundred to one but obeyed without hesitation.Once it was on the ground, it walked with its back legs and arms with the membranes folded up.Dana had assumed it would be clumsy out of the air, but the wyvern seemed to flow across the ground.

Dana also saw wounds on the beast.The wyvern had bite marks on its right shoulder, and cuts that must have come from claws on both legs.It looked like Scald’s fight with the wyvern hadn’t been entirely one sided.The injuries were beginning to heal but far from finished.Dana would have left an injured animal time to recover, but the beast tamers were pushing it hard.

“It’s not wearing a collar like the giant,” Dana said.

“Magic collars are rare and expensive.Brutality works equally well in this case.Hold on, I’m going to get you ready for the fight.”Jayden cast a spell that twisted shadows into pieces of black spiky armor.The pieces flew through the air and assembled into a full suit of armor over Dana.“That will offer considerable protection, but it’s not invincible.Don’t take chances you don’t have to.”

Jayden began the now familiar chant of his fireball spell.Dana kept watch while the tiny spark formed between his hands.The wyvern stayed near where it had landed while beast tamers from the fort gathered around it.They pointed in the direction the giant had fled and shouted words Dana was too far away to understand.

Then the wyvern sniffed, whipped its head toward them and roared a deep, menacing bellow.

Jayden finished his spell, and the tiny spark drifted toward the wyvern.The wyvern unfolded its wings and leaped into the air.Two beats of its huge wings took it high above the spark.Jayden’s fireball detonated with a BOOM, swallowing up the remnants of the barn and nothing else.

“Back!” Jayden ordered, and led Dana deeper into the forest.The wyvern swooped down to land at the edge of the forest before following them on foot.It ran faster than they could, the rider shouting orders and striking the wyvern to guide it on.The wyvern didn’t hesitate to follow them between the trees, but it kept to open areas.

Jayden cast a spell while running and formed his shield of spinning blades.The wyvern had nearly caught up to them when Jayden swung his whip at its head.The wyvern pulled back impossibly fast, and the whip only cut through low branches.He swung again and the wyvern backed away at its rider’s commands.

The wyvern’s head went left then right, trying to get around Jayden’s shield.Each time he turned to face it, and the rider pulled the wyvern back before it touched the blades.The rider yelled at the wyvern in a language Dana didn’t understand, and the beast reached up into the canopy with its long neck.The wyvern bit onto a dead branch as thick as Dana’s waist, ripped it off the tree and swung it down.It hit the spinning blades and was cut to sawdust.That spared Jayden’s life, and ended the spell, leaving him at the monster’s nonexistent mercy.

Jayden brought his magic hand in and punched the wyvern across the face.The blow must have stung, but the wyvern was so large and heavily armored that it merely shook his head and snarled at him.It was enough of a delay for him to cast another spell.Dana saw shadows across the forest twist into pieces of armor and fly through the air to encase him.The wyvern looked momentarily confused before snarling and charging him.

Dana stopped running and got behind a huge dead tree on the wyvern’s right side.She drew Chain Cutter and slashed deep into the tree.She swung again and cut out a deep wedge of wood.The wyvern swung its head around the tree so fast she barely saw it coming.Dana raised her sword as the wyvern’s jaws snapped closed inches in front of her.The wyvern could see her, but not its rider who was behind the tree. She swung once, but it pulled away so quickly she only nicked its snout.Then she hit the tree again, bringing it down on the wyvern.

Which did surprisingly little to hurt it.The tree’s huge branches caught other trees on the way down, and instead of crushing the wyvern only forced it onto its belly.The rider was less fortunate, and was knocked off the wyvern onto the forest floor.The wyvern bellowed angry roars and scrambled to get free.

Jayden directed his magic hand to grab the wyvern by the neck, and he swung his whip at its wings.His aim was off, though, and the whip wrapped around a branch of the downed tree.Dana ran in to strike it.She got four feet closer when the wyvern’s tail came swinging at her face.She screamed and dropped to the ground, leaving the wyvern to bury its tail stinger into the fallen tree.It pulled the stinger free and swung again, forcing Dana back.

The wyvern slithered forward, slowly working its way out from under the tree.It got back to its feet and locked its black eyes on Jayden.He kept his magic hand on its neck and swung his whip again, this time scoring a stinging blow across the monster’s gaping maw.It bellowed and charged, pushing back the magic hand.Dana ran in alongside it and swung Chain Cutter at its legs.The wyvern saw her coming and tried to stomp on her.She avoided it, barely, and cut it across the leg.The wyvern swung its tail at her, but caught it in branches of the fallen tree.

Outraged, and uncontrolled with its rider dismounted, the wyvern howled and pushed forward to attack Jayden.It galloped across the forest floor and opened its jaws wide, biting down hard on his right arm.His shadowy armor protected him and hurt the wyvern with its sharp edges.The monster spit him out and stepped on him with its clawed foot.It opened its jaws for another attack when Jayden’s magic hand seized it by the neck and struggled to hold it back.Dana ran to his rescue and prayed she could reach him in time.

The wyvern shook itself free of the magic hand and lunged at Jayden.It stopped when a tree stump three feet across came flying through the air to hit the wyvern’s back.The wyvern buckled under the blow and staggered a few steps before stumbling into a tree.It whipped its head around to face the giant charging into battle.

The giant’s roar was no less impressive than the wyvern’s.It was deeper, and sounded almost like a word, a challenge to its foe.The giant’s lips pulled back to show massive yellowed teeth, and his eyes narrowed.He grabbed a dead tree, tore it from the ground and threw it a hundred feet.It was all the wyvern could do to dodge it.The wyvern turned to face this new and much greater threat, leaving its back to Jayden and Dana.

The two monsters rammed into one another with such force the wyvern was driven back twenty feet.It recovered fast and tried to tear into the giant with its clawed wings.The giant locked one powerful hand onto the wyvern’s neck to hold back those terrible jaws, and punched it in the chest with the other.The two struck one another with a savagery Dana had never seen before.

The wyvern’s tail whipped back and forth before it swung at the giant.Dana screamed as the venomous stinger went straight at the giant’s face.Jayden brought his magic hand charging in and grabbed the tail seconds before it hit.With tremendous effort pulled the wyvern’s tail to the ground.

Dana ran into the battle as the giant caught the wyvern in a bear hug.It couldn’t bite or scratch him when they were so close together, but the tail was still a lethal weapon if the wyvern could pull free, and it was pulling hard.Jayden could barely maintain his grip with his magic hand.Dana reached the two monsters, and with a swing of Chain Cutter sliced off the wyvern’s stinger.Black blood splashed onto her as the stinger landed at her feet.

The wyvern screamed in rage and pain as the giant pulled it off its feet and shoved it to the ground.He swung his huge fists again and again.Scales flew through the air.Bones broke.Jayden joined in and wrapped his black whip around the wyvern’s right wing, inflicting terrible damage.The wyvern screeched and struggled to break free.It tried to run away and failed when the giant seized it by the legs and swung it into an enormous tree.The giant swung the wyvern into the tree a second time, then a third, stopping only when the panicked screeching stopped.

With the battle over Jayden dispelled both their suits of magic armor.To Dana’s disgust, when her armor dissolved the wyvern blood splattered on it fell onto her clothes.She just knew it wouldn’t wash out.

The giant stood over his silenced foe.He studied the remains, then poked at the end of the tail.He looked around until he saw the stinger on the ground and Dana, her clothing stained in the wyvern’s black blood.The giant stared at her for a moment before grinning and pointing an open palm at her.She didn’t know what it meant and the giant couldn’t explain in terms she’d understand.With this strange sign of approval or possibly praise, the giant marched off into the forest, and freedom.

Exhausted as Dana was, she looked around the forest for one last enemy.“Where did the rider go?”

“He must have fled after being dismounted.”Jayden’s magic armor evaporated, leaving his disheveled and a bruised, but otherwise unharmed.“A wise move on his part.He and his fellow beast tamer will no doubt alert Meadowland forces of our presence, so we can’t stay long.Let us collect proof of our victory, along with other parts of the wyvern worth having, and return to Bascal.We paid for those spell tablets, and I aim to collect as soon as possible.”


Submitted: March 28, 2021

© Copyright 2021 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Deborah O'Carroll

This was all amazing as usual! Aftermath of the party, the almost-duel (oh my word. XD), Dana and Jayden being amazing, the DRAGONNN, and unexpected giant, the fight at the end... Also, I'm super curious about Malcolm. O_O Loved it! :D

Sun, March 28th, 2021 11:29pm

TheresaVan18

Enjoyable as always. I enjoyed Dana letting Skythex have it verbally. The battle was well done.

Sat, April 3rd, 2021 3:49am

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