Flossie had her legs wrapped around the dragon’s neck so tight I was surprised she wasn’t choking it.
“Where are we going?” Jenny shouted above the roar of the wind. We were really booking it, each flap of the dragon’s wing creating a blur around us.
“We’re going to die,” I replied.
“Do you have a plan?”
Jenny squeezed my arm with both of hers. “You’ll think of something.”
I have no idea why people think encouragement and positivity is a form of contribution. You aren’t helping. Here’s an example of real help:
“Bad guys are trying to kill us, do something.”
“Here, take this laser gun. It has two settings, ‘stun’ and ‘kill-every-fucker’.
“Oh, thank you very much.”
See? Much more useful than shouting, “You can do it!” when clearly you can’t.
I looked up at Hitokag who was still standing on the dragon’s back with us and hadn’t stopped staring at Flossie.
“Aren’t you going to stop her?” I shouted at him.
He glanced down at me like he hadn’t realised I was still here. “It is the prophecy.”
Well, we were in a world of magic and dragons, there was always going to be a prophecy, I guess. I never really understood why, though. If it’s all been foreseen, what’s the point? They always seem to come true.
“What is the prophecy, exactly?”
“First the Worm King will rid the land of the jabberwocky menace. Then the Dragonrider will own the sky. Last, the Bride will appear.”
Okay, standard prophecy bullshit. I looked out past the dragon’s head. In the distance, the wasps were a cloud of specks. We weren’t gaining on them much, but we weren’t losing ground either.
“Who made this prophecy?”
“It came with the first Visitors. It almost came true once, but it was prevented.”
“Prevented by who?”
“By the Seven Spires.”
So perhaps not all prophecies did come true, if you happened to have a weapon the size of a city.
Before I could ask any more questions, Hitokag flared out his wings and immediately blew off the dragon. He soared behind us for a moment and then shot forward until he was level with Flossie. They had what looked like a heated exchange.
Ahead of us a mountain range was quickly approaching. It went from squiggle on the horizon to dominating the skyline.
Hitokag flew away from the dragon’s head and towards his men. The dragon started to slow and descend. We came to a juddering stop in the middle of an open field at the foot of the copper-brown mountains. The wasps and their riders were no longer in view.
I staggered off the back of the dragon, my legs weak and unsteady. The others were in much the same condition.
A tremor ran up leg my like there was a mild earthquake, and then it was gone.
Flossie leaped to the ground and patted the dragon as it began eating.
She turned to us. “He needs to refuel. Hitokag says they’ve taken Dudley to the Temple Under the Mountain and the only way in is from the top.” She spoke very seriously, her eyes ablaze with determination.
“And then what?” I asked her.
“Then we get Dudley back.” Her voice was strained, probably because of the force she was using to keep her doubts buried.
“How, Flossie? Kill them all?”
“If I have to,” she screamed at me. “I’ll kill every last fookin’ one if they hurt him.” She burst into tears. Always a great sign when the person leading you into battle starts bawling with snot running out of their nose.
The other two girls out their arms around Flossie while Maurice looked uncomfortable. He sidled up to me. “So, Flossie’s a Dragonrider. I wonder if the rest of us have similar revelations ahead of us.”
He sounded a little jealous but he had a point. If we really had been brought here because of special abilities then perhaps we should have spent more time trying to figure out what they were.
The dragon was the only one that seemed relaxed about the situation. It ripped up large mouthfuls of grass, its tail swinging side to side as it merrily chewed away. I stepped away from it just in case it decided to spray me with acid.
We were outnumbered and they had giant wasps, so a straightforward fight didn’t seem like a good idea. The Mezzik didn’t give the impression they were very keen on a fight either, even though they were easily three times the size of the Intui.
The best course of action I could come up with was to use my balls of light to blind them—hopefully the wasps would be affected—grab Dudley and get the Hell out.
I produced a ball of light just to make sure I still could. It was about as big as a grapefruit and glowed softly. I didn’t know how big the Temple was or how many Intui there were—I hadn’t done a head count but I guessed around twenty. If the old ‘blind ’em and run for it’ routine didn’t work we were more or less stuffed.
The ball floated off my hand and the dragon’s head swung around and snapped its mouth shut over it. The ball disappeared down its neck.
I produced another ball and the same thing happened. Then a third. Snap. Gulp.
The thought racing around my mind was what if combining my magic with the dragon’s acid spray created some awesome OP weapon? Laser beam breath or even just plain old fire. We could at least wipe out some wasps like that.
The dragon reared its head up and a gurgle ran down the length of its body.
“Get back,” I said to everyone and waited for whatever was about to explode out of its mouth.
The head came down sharply and an acid spray covered the grass stems, followed by my three balls of light. They were covered in a green slime but otherwise they were exactly the same as when they had gone in.
The dragon ignored them and carried on with its routine of slurping up the acid-sludge. I drew the balls to me. Ever so gently, I touched one of them with a finger and immediately retracted it. A burning pain tore through me and I quickly healed myself before my whole hand dissolved.
Acid balls—perhaps they would come in useful. Hitokag had said the acid didn’t bother his people, so probably the Intui wouldn’t be affected either, but the wasps might not be immune. Better than nothing.
I made a few more balls thinking the more the merrier, but the dragon snapped them up and didn’t spit them out.
Everyone watched me do this with expressions suggesting they had no idea what I was doing. I probably had the same expression on my face.
The dragon suddenly looked to the sky and when I followed its gaze I saw what looked like a black cloud. On closer inspection it was a swarm of wasps, although I couldn’t tell if they had riders. They were flying away from the mountains—fortunately not towards us, though.
“Where are they going?” I asked Hitokag.
“I do not know, but their absence is a good thing for us. Now is the time to attack.”
“Are you going to fight with us?” I asked him.
“We will follow the Dragonrider.” You’ll have noticed he didn’t say, “Yes!”
“You’re a lot bigger than them, you know? With claws and teeth and muscles and everything.”
“You do not know the Intui. They do not fight fair. And they do not treat their prisoners… well.” He seemed nervous about the prospect. No, nervous is an understatement. He was scared.
“What metal are lizardmen vulnerable to?” I asked him as casually as I could. It would certainly make things easier if we could kill the Intui with one blow.
Hitokag’s eyes narrowed to yellow slits. “You do not have any on you.” He turned and stomped away. So much for that idea.
Flossie walked over to me. “Please help Dudley.” That was it. Big, wet eyes; nice short emotional blackmail. She turned and got on the dragon, which had eagerly lowered its neck for her.
We got on board the dragon and Flossie launched us into the air. She’d really taken to the whole Dragonrider thing—no doubts, no questions.
It didn’t take long to get up to the mountain peaks, although the ascent was fairly terrifying. If forty-five degrees had felt near-vertical, this was like being sat on the nose of a rocket. The Mezzik held onto the side of the dragon, their claws lodged in the dragon’s scales.
When we finally levelled off, and my stomach returned to the middle of my body, I saw what was beyond the mountains. More mountains. But in between there was a circular area with high mountainous walls on each side.
Hitokag led Flossie down to a landing spot between some jagged peaks and we disembarked. Keeping low, we made our way scrabbling and slipping to the rim.
Looking down, it was an almost vertical drop, deep in shadow. Lizardmen of the Intui tribe ran around arranging large stone slabs around a central stone table, on top of which lay a lanky, slightly podgy, posh bloke. His hands and feet were tied to each corner of the table.
Near his head was a large pillar with a troll tied to it. It looked like Kungen, although the distance and my inherent racism made it hard to be sure. Standing beside him, noticeably unfettered, was Keezy talking to an Intui. Possibly the one who had ordered Dudley’s abduction, possibly not.
Flossie looked about ready to dive head first down the side of the sheer walls. I pushed Jenny towards her. “Sit on her and make sure she doesn’t do anything brave.”
Both Claire and Jenny grabbed Flossie and began whispering in her ears.
“Is this something to do with the prophecy?” I asked Hitokag who was crouched beside me. “How exactly is the Worm King supposed to end the tyranny of the jabberwocky?”
“There are a number of interpretations.” Classic. “Some believe the Worm King will command the jabberwocky to do his will. Others that he will destroy them.”
“What about the Intui? What do they believe?”
“They hate jabberwocky the most. Their lands are in the heart of the jabberwocky killing grounds. They think we do nothing to stop them because we prefer the Intui population be kept in check.”
“And do you?”
I pointed down at the activity below. “And how does this help them?”
Hitokag creased his brow in thought. “It is possible, just possible, that they intend to disperse Kungen’s body throughout the land, making it impossible for the jabberwocky to live here.”
So the Temple could not only send you anywhere, it could send you everywhere. I wondered if it could send us home. Ticket price: one human life.
Keezy and the Intui seemed to be having an argument. I had thought he was in league with the Intui and had planned to use us all along, but I doubted if he would have chosen this particular method of crowning the Worm King. But then, what did I know? Perhaps he considered it a glorious death.
The Intui, less than half Keezy’s height, kicked him in the leg. Keezy fell to one knee. Now that his face was in range, the Intui slapped him. Then he pointed a stick with an orange tip at him. Brass.
Hitokag sucked in his breath. “Vile,” he whispered.
Keezy bowed his head, then slowly got to his feet. Possibly not as willing a participant as I first thought.
At least there were no wasps. We just had to figure a way of getting down there and grab our boy.
The ground trembled again, although this time my legs were feeling shaky. It felt familiar.
The lizardmen below us all stopped and looked around. The walls of the mountain burst apart as three jabberwocky thrust out, their open, gaping mouths weaving from side to side. Rock and debris fell into the Temple and the lizardmen ran for the centre to get away from the protruding jaws.
It appeared the jabberwocky had got wind of the plans to forcibly evict them and had decided to do something about it.
AN: If you have a moment, please vote for this story at Top Web Fiction. Voting refreshes weekly so old votes no longer count. No signup required, just push the button. [VOTE]. Cheers (it helps a lot).
If you like my sense of humour you might enjoy my other story on RRL, Grin the Cheat. Short stories with endings!