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Prompt: A fierce dragon has taken residence in one of Aleria’s barns. This poses a risk to the livestock and buildings in the area. Do your best to ward off this dragon without harming livestock, precious food reserves, or getting injured.
McKenna Hansen stared at the cards in her hand, tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth. A pair of fives, a pair of twos, a three of hearts and a four of clubs. Ugh, decisions.
Across the table, Meriel Sarzorwyn cocked a blue eyebrow, subtly prompting her employer to get on with it and discard two cards. The half-elf’s own discarded pair sat at her right elbow, next to the cribbage board.
Gritting her teeth, Mac plucked the pair of fives from her hand and slid them face down across the table. Two points for Meriel already in the bag.
Meriel smiled and cut the deck, flipping the topmost card over: king of hearts.
Damn. Mac pursed her lips, cursing the thrown away pair of fives. Glancing at the run in her hand, she put down one of the twos. “Two,” she counted.
Meriel’s eyes flickered across the table, then down to the two. “Pair for two,” she declared, slapping another two atop of Mac’s. Mac snorted as the half-elf moved her peg two holes on the board.
“Three for four,” the red-head announced, putting the other two on top of the pile.
“Nice,” Meriel replied, moving Mac’s peg the requisite four spaces before consulting her hand. The half-elf pulled out a card and paused, her long, pointed ears twitching.
Mac followed the swing of Meriel’s head, looking out into the expanse of Eagle Creek from the half-elf’s porch.
A small figure on the back of a large grey Tokota thundered up to them, a girl on a wild-eyed spotted pony following in their wake. Mac turned her cards face down on the small table and rose, pushing her chair firmly back. Her right hand instinctively swung to her belt, fingers closing on air. Who brought their knife to a cribbage game, anyway?
The woman on the grey Tokota pulled up next to the porch railing. “We’ve got a problem, Mac,” she said, shoving wayward black tendrils away from her face.
Mac and Meriel exchanged a quick look. “What’s wrong, Amber? Who’s your friend?” Mac inquired, resting one hand on the porch railing.
Amber glanced over her shoulder. The girl had the thin, worn look of a poor farm child; her spotted pony was well-fed by comparison, plump and fit. Mac waited, but the girl didn’t speak, only stare at them in wide-eyed terror.
“A sky dragon’s taken up position on their barn,” Liefsyn, the grey female Tokota, explained. “Her father managed to send her out, but the others are trapped in the house.”
Mac’s fingers dug into the wooden railing. “Summon Corky, have him rally Hal and the others.” She glanced at Meriel. “Up for a little dragon-harrying?”
The half-elf blanched, then color blossomed on her sharp, pale cheeks. “Yes,” she agreed, after a slight pause. Mac understood her reticence, but she needed all the help she could get. Especially with Lily and Soraya out on their grand adventure in another universe.
She turned to Amber and Lief. “Take her to the main house and have the pony stabled. Tell the grooms to get out the hunting gear.”
The pair nodded. Amber reached out and touched the girl’s sleeve. She flinched ever-so-slightly, causing the pony to side-step. “Come,” Amber said softly, moving her hand to the pony’s reins. Lief pivoted, using her larger bulk to maneuver the pony into position. The smaller equine squealed, but Amber held firm to the reins as it started to buck. Lief rolled a large blue eye down to the pony and huffed. The sound had its desired effect—the pony quieted, but its eyes were still wide and rolling. Together, Amber and Lief led the girl and pony back to the main house.
Mac took a deep breath and rolled up her sleeves. “Let’s go,” she said, leaping over the banister and sprinting towards the house.
Mac and Meriel stood in the hunting stable amidst a bevy of breast plates, face masks, and other bits of brightly-colored, but enchanted, armor. Meriel sat on a tack box, stuffing wax-ringed potions into a variety of saddle bags. While she might not possess the powers of full-blooded elves, the blue-haired woman had a keen throwing arm. She could hit a wood dragon dead between the eyes over a hundred yards away.
As expected, Haldus and Kuma were the first ones to clatter into the stable. The bay roan stallion tossed his rack of elk horns into the air as he walked into the waiting hands of two grooms. “Sephiros and Archer are farther out,” he announced as the grooms began throwing on his armor. “I’ve had Corky send his sprites to recall them closer to home while we’re away. They should be here soon.” His sky blue gaze locked onto Meriel. “Who are you assigning her to?” he asked Mac, lowering his deep voice. “Tui or Rook?”
“Rook,” Mac replied, picking up Hal’s heavy battle mask and handing it to one of the grooms. “They have a better history.”
Hal nodded thoughtfully, closing his eyes briefly as the grooms slid the great purple enameled mask onto his face, buckling it to his blue leather bridle. When it was on, he lifted his head, looking wise and terrifying at the same time, with those huge antlers stabbing towards the sky.
“Careful …” Kuma warned, followed by a woman’s sharp intake of breath. Mac turned to see one of the newer female grooms clutch her hand; a bright spot of blood gleamed on the dark skin of her palm.
Mac spun and snatched up a pair of tough leather gloves from where they rested on Kuma’s tack box. “Always wear these when you’re around Kuma,” she told the woman, tucking them into the crook of her arm. “Those wings aren’t for show.” They both turned and looked at the Cemophora mare as she waggled the wing-like icicles that jutted from her shoulder blades. A light chime rang throughout the stable, soft and deadly.
Mac sent the woman to the infirmary to get her hand bandaged and went back to overseeing the Nordanners’ arming. In the meantime, Tui and Rook trotted into the stables. The Flametouched stallion was fitted with spiked back plates while Rook wore her traditional armor. Meriel finished packing and went to help the grooms, chatting amiably with the spotted mare.
Haldus snorted softly. Mac turned towards the stallion and smiled, battle plans running through her head.
The girl’s family lived on the edge of the village that abutted Eagle Creek. It was so far north of the main square, it might as well be in the next town over. Mac and Hal led the group, with Kuma, Rook and Meriel behind and to either side of the bay roan splash stallion; Tui took up the rear, his flames on full display.
As they approached the farm, Mac called them to a halt. The sky dragon was easily visible perched on top of the red-painted barn, a blood-colored splotch of color in an otherwise sea of green. A series of dark brown fences separated two empty pastures. Every now and then, the dragon tipped its head back and roared, rocking back and forth atop the barn.
Mac pursed her lips. What the hell was it doing? It was too late in the season for rut; what sort of strange display was this?
Suddenly, Kuma darted forward, leaping over one series of fences. Before anyone could react, the Cemophora mare had cleared the second line of fences.
“C’mon!” she called out, spinning around and rearing. “What are you waiting for?” Without waiting for an answer, she sprinted towards the barn, icicle wings fanning out in a deadly display.
Beneath her, Haldus sighed and shook his head. Time and age had not tempered Kuma’s more brash tendencies, nor provided her with any sort of patience. She saw a problem, analyzed it, and acted swiftly.
“Is she mad?” Meriel squeaked. Rook rolled her eyes and shook her head, sending the stiff feathers of her teal raven’s mask quivering.
“Jury’s out on that,” the spotted mare replied dryly. Mac’s lips quirked slightly at that observation. “What do we do, sir?”
“Fan out,” the stallion declared. “We push it back towards the woods and keep it away from the house and village.”
“Killing should be a last resort,” Mac added. “Ready the flash-bang potions,” she said to Meriel. “Fire at my command.”
The half-elf swallowed hard, but reached down blindly and grabbed an orange-tinted potion from a bag by her right leg.
At Hal’s cry, the Nordanners jumped forward, leaping over the fences with careless ease. The sky dragon had already noticed Kuma and was gripping the edge of the barn’s roof with its wingclaws. Light from the afternoon sun gleamed across its white hide and sparkled off of the small, nearly translucent blue gems embedded in its hide.
They fanned out, ringing the barn. Hal, Mac, Rook and Meriel stayed close to its head, where the half-elf had a good shot at its face. Suddenly, the beast reared up, screaming into the afternoon sky. It twisted around, giving Mac a perfect look at the thin icicle lodged in its buttocks.
Mac grinned humorlessly, moving with Haldus as he and Rook galloped around the barn to keep the dragon in their sights. Back and forth, back and forth atop the barn the dragon moved, not taking to the sky no matter what they did. Mac was sweating beneath her thick mane of red hair as Haldus darted out of the way of a long sweep of its tail. She wanted it in the air before Meriel tossed a flash-bang potion. But the damned beast refused to take to the sky.
Kuma spun around in the grass and shot another icicle into the dragon’s bleeding hindquarters. Mac was beginning to wonder if it could actually fly when the dragon roared and beat at the air with its huge, leathery wings. It rose slightly off the barn’s roof, just enough to justify her next action.
“Meriel! Fire!” she shouted.
Rook’s hooves pounded on the churned up grass and the spotted mare came racing around the other side of the barn. A small orange bottle arced through the air and splattered in a direct hit between the dragon’s eyes. Light, bright and blinding, exploded in the air, followed directly by a thunderous clap.
Screaming, the dragon shot high into the sky, twisting back and forth like an undulating wave. Bits of broken glass and tiny orange sparks rained down, far from where they stood.
Meriel heaved. The potion exploded against the dragon’s tail, sending more fireworks and thunderclaps into the air. Roaring in agony, the sky dragon beat its wings harder and pivoted, flying blindly towards the village.
“Turn it!” Mac shouted.
Rook galloped hard towards the first fence and leapt it, spinning around and sliding to a stop, just in time for Meriel to hit the beast again. Screaming, the dragon spun and flew in the opposite direction, towards the deep woods and the mountains beyond. Breathing deep and hard, Mac slid down from the saddle and clapped Haldus heartily on the neck, watching as the dragon’s form faded into the distance.
“Good job, old friend,” she murmured, resting her head against his damp hide.
Hal snorted softly and shook his antlers.
Rook and Meriel galloped back, the half-elf in the midst of tying back her thick mane of blue hair. “Why was it doing that?” Meriel asked.
Mac passed a hand over her face, then used her sleeve to wipe away the sweat. “I don’t know …”
“Hey, guys! Look at this!” Tui called from the barn’s open door.
Kuma trotted around from the other side, one eye locked onto the forest and mountains. She paused and peered into the depths of the barn. “Ah, great,” the ice-covered mare sighed.
Meriel dismounted and joined Mac as they looked inside. A large, pearlescent dragon’s egg rested within a nest of golden hay.
“Great,” Mac sighed, echoing Kuma. “All right, folks, we have an egg to move. Let’s get to it.”
Art, story (c) me
Word count: 2020
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© 2019 - 2021 shekeira
Big angry momma dragon! So many details in your story, and Kuma sounds like a handful! (Out of curiosity, what card game are they playing?) I love all the colors and styles in your tack (and the potions!)! ^^