Powerful gusts toppled the fences and flattened the grass. Each flap of the dragon’s massive wings sent tidal waves across the river behind the workshop. The front door creaked and trembled, yet it held firm to its frame. Nonetheless, the thatch roof had begun folding inward as if it could collapse upon the wretched souls within at any moment.
They could sense it, the shifting pressure to the back of the building, the shaking of the backdoor, the bone-chilling snarls, and the crashing waves against the riverside wall. The dragon was on them for sure but it only hovered near the workshop for a while before taking off.
“What just happened? Did it leave?” the knight mumbled under her breath, barely loud enough to catch the inventor’s attention.
“No”, the witch answered in a soft whisper, her eyes gazed through the roof and into the darkened sky, “He’s still watching us, only from a distance now. I don’t know why though…”
The inventor burst into laughter and slumped to the floor.
“O Lord such divine humor! It’s a law-abiding dragon! I can’t believe this!” he chuckled, almost in tears. “You can thank the diplomat for this miracle. Personally, I will remind him to be more thorough and include a provision concerning our skies,” the inventor said.
Long story short, the dragon could not attack them without just cause while they were still in Ironheart. If it had been a wild beast, then they would have been eaten alive already. But, Fazegaid was no wild beast. Fazegaid belonged to Azeth and, as there were restrictions against advancing armies into another sovereign’s borders, there were restrictions on what the dragon could legally do.
It would be deemed an unjust invasion when the dragon so much landed on his lawn.
Upon hearing the whole story, the knight was as ecstatic as she was impressed. She could not believe how mere words on parchments had just stopped a dragon from sending them all into Emedis’ greed. Much less elated was the witch who did not miss the part where he stressed: “without just cause”. A bead of sweat appeared on her cheek as she glanced at the man who answered her doubt with a grim face.
Katherine cautiously opened the front door, which was battered badly and stuck to its frame and had to be unstuck with a fist slam.
“Don’t go out yet,” the inventor warned.
She peeked outside. Tension built as she did.
“Yeah, it’s still here,” the knight announced to nobody’s surprise, “Any idea what it wants?” she asked, closing the door shut again.
Instead of answering, the inventor began rubbing his hand on his forehead and closed his eyes.
Not getting the response she wanted, the knight took long strides across the room toward the other woman beside him.
“It has something to do with her, doesn’t it? She did something in here while you were out there,” the knight shouted in an accusatory tone.
She attempted to grab the woman’s wrist and pin the woman to the wall with her forearm. The attempt failed miserably as the witch lowered her body, dodged the forearm rush and went for a leg pull, which the knight withstood even though the pull had been executed using both the witch’s hands and the weight of her body.
Neither had expected this outcome. They both halted and glared daggers at one another.
“You slippery twerp…”
“You overweighed royal dog…”
“Shut up! Good Lord, both of you! I need to think,” barked the inventor.
At length, he let out a sigh and lifted his chin in the witch’s direction. His stare shifted on the knight and then back on the witch.
“What does it take to shroom us out of here?” he asked.
“Somebody has to bring the spores to the destination and plant them at least two moons ahead of time. It’s too late now.”
“Can I poison the dragon?”
“You can’t. He’s Fazegaid, the eater of realms; he eats everything.”
“He eats everything? What about people?”
“Everything that goes into his belly becomes a part of him: fire, frost, lightning, poison, even other dragons. Anything or anyone that he does spit out is under his control. Safe to say, slithering downs his throat and attacking him from the inside is a stupid idea,” the witch elaborated.
The inventor’s eyes widened. His jaw dropped. His fleet of thoughts, in its blind rush for an answer, was swept away by a hidden current into uncharted waters. His stomach began to churn. His head felt as if a certain burly bartender was pressing it between two frying pans. He did not even notice when the knight jumped in and began questioning the witch’s identity again. All he could think was how much senses this all made and how sinister of a plot he had just uncovered.
His lips felt as dry as sand in a desert, he had to swallow his own saliva a few times to calm himself down. Yet, his voice was shaky and his teeth could not stop chattering when he asked the following:
“Hey, witch…is there…is there a way to…to…free someone from its control?”
“Witch?” the knight murmured before she stumbled backward and fell flat on her bottom. Her hand instinctively reached for her sword but soon realized it was not there.
In his fear, he had slipped his tongue but it no longer mattered to him. He was too frightened of the discovery to care for such minute details, too frightened to stop Katherine’s futile attempts at hitting the witch with something, anything.
Towering over the two dispirited humans, the witch frowned and brought her hands down on them.
The knight yelped and backed away from the hand.
Letting out a sigh, the witch called to her familiar:
“Stardust, deal with that one.”
A black cat jumped from the workbench into the knight’s face. At the same time, Leo felt all his muscles clamped up and then loosened at once. It only took a few seconds for him to feel relaxed and calmed as if he had just awoken from a long rest.
Soon after, an earth-shattering roar boomed. A torrent of air rushed over the workshop as the dragon once again closed in. A tremor indicating the landing of the creature shook the building and knocked the lodestone tool rack off the wall. Metal scraps tumbled on the floor, bumping into one another and causing a ruckus.
“Haha, dammit, so he can really smell my magic,” the witch laughed and whisked a ribbon out of her hair. The ribbon soon transformed into her signature wide-brim hat and a cauldron fell out of the hat. The cauldron enlarged as it fell.
“Leo! What have you done!?” Katherine cried.
“How do I free someone from Fazegaid’s control?” Leo continued asking.
“You two better get your acts together, he’s coming for real,” the witch growled.
It was hopeless; the three of them were not on the same page at all.
“Get the hell behind the cauldron!”
They had but a moment to execute the witch’s command. Bolts of lightning crashed into the workshop and leveled the whole building except for the conical area behind the giant cauldron.
“Hesitant, Major Repulsive, Minor Convergent, Major Hesitant, Grand Ponderous, Overflow, Grand Inflammable. Stardust, get them out of here!”
It was the first time Leo heard the witch chanting her magic aloud and, according to Katherine, that was an unbelievable number of six or seven spells the witch just weaved in one breath. As soon as the thunder attack subsided, both the knight and the inventor were shoved on the witch’s broomstick and sent off in the direction of Ironheart.
The dragon caught a glimpse of the broomstick and unleashed another thunder breath but the lightning was intercepted by the flying cauldron. The cauldron crashed into its maw and sent the head tumbling down, cracking the earth upon impact. It was then magically filled with an oily liquid, which immediately heated up and exploded in the dragon’s face.
In the final act, Leo saw the witch slipped into her hand a metal tube wrapped in linen and brushed some oil on its tips. She then threw the object at the dragon and took cover. The thing exploded in midair and released a single beam of concentrated lightning from both ends. It was a lightning pipe, a weapon powered by the egg of a lightning ray, developed on the strategist’s order to counter the threat of dragons from Azeth.
When the dust settled and the beam of lightning sputtered away, Fazegaid the eater of realms emerged unscathed and enraged. It bared its fangs as if mocking at the witch. A beam of lightning escaped the dragon’s maw and struck the witch’s location at full force. The inventor and the knight crashed into the river as the broomstick fell from the sky.
When the dust settled for the second time, Ashlora was shaken to its core. The archbishop of Azeth had snubbed out all resistances from the ancient ones. His conquest of the continent, no, the entire realm, had finally begun…