Chapter 36

“Crap” was all Riley was able to get out before the fire blasted from the dragon. To her surprise, though, it hadn’t been directly aimed at them. Something inside the lair drew most the dragon’s fiery breath, so only the overflow shot toward them.

She didn’t move, still stunned at the sight of the large head. It wasn’t the same dragon as the previous dream she’d been in, but this one already seemed more vicious. It had caught her off guard, so like an idiot, she stood there just watching as the fire came at her.

Then there was a flash of green before she was knocked to the side. As she fell, the world seemed to slow. She watched as the large frog, which had knocked her out of the way, grew larger, becoming a shield.

The monstrous frog didn’t last long. The fire quickly burned it away until there was nothing but ash left, but it had been enough. Riley was out of the way of the flame. She hurriedly glanced around, seeing Saber peeking out from around the door.

As the flame dwindled, Riley pulled herself up. The area was warm, but as the fire died away, the heat was quick to dissipate.

“You okay?” Saber asked, looking in Riley’s direction. Riley didn’t look at her, though. She watched the dragon move away, its large body swaying, its legs seeming to propel it, albeit awkwardly.

“Riley?” Saber hissed, moving toward her, but Riley started walking to the open door. “Are you okay?”

Riley reached the spot where what was left of the frog lay, its remains only red-hot ash. She looked at it, then back up to meet Saber’s gaze.

“I think it saved me.”

“What?”

“The frog. Did you see?”

“What are you talking about? All I saw was a lot of teeth and then a lot of fire.”

“That large frog. It knocked me out of the way and shielded me.”

“Really? Hmm. Well, I don’t…,” Saber said, looking into the lair. She kept readjusting her grip on the handle of her electric sword as she glanced around.

“Don’t what?” Riley asked, her friend having just drifted off mid-sentence.

“What?” Saber asked, seemingly confused as she looked at Riley.

“You said ‘I don’t’, then drifted off. You don’t what?”

“I don’t know,” Saber said as she looked back into the room. “Like, I don’t know where the dragon currently is. Listen. Do you hear it?”

They both stood there, listening. Riley didn’t hear anything. The other room had gone quiet.

“I don’t hear it,” she said.

“Yeah. It was just here. Where did it go?”

“Could it be waiting for us? Is it a trap?”

Saber looked back at her, her glare almost suggesting that she thought the same thing and didn’t like it. Riley looked into the other room. She saw small flames dancing throughout, some on piles of gold, others on the floor. It wasn’t hard for Riley to figure out those were what was left of the frogs that had gone into the room, but as she inched closer to the room, something about that didn’t seem right. Some of the fires were too big to be the little frogs she had seen.

“Well, come on. You going to come in here so I can kill you, or just wait in your little hole like mice?”

A deep, rumbling voice Riley thought she recognized vibrated the walls around her and shook the floor so much, she thought she was going to fall.

Saber had started moving toward the door with small, quiet steps, suddenly stopping at the sound of the voice. Riley held her breath as they glanced at each other. Neither of them wanted to make any sound.

“I know you are there. It seems the king sent more of you to die. Why do you take your time? He has sent countless knights, but most of those fools rush in, fodder for the flame. Come on now. Rush in and die so I can move on to the next.”

Riley looked at the large flames burning in the lair. She could barely make out the shapes, but she now saw trails of melted silver running down among the piles of gold, along with the remnants of armor that had not yet liquified.

The dragon had burned the other knights the king had sent and now waited for them. The moment they set foot into its lair, they were toast.

“What are we going to do?” Saber whispered, slowly backing away from the door.

“I don’t know.”

“It’s going to shoot its fire breath at us the moment we go in there.”

“It’s fire breath?” Riley asked, taking a moment to mock Saber’s continued ignorance of this fantasy world they found themselves in.

“Yes, its fire breath. What would you call it?”

Riley opened her mouth to answer, but stopped. The more she thought about it, the more she realized she couldn’t think of a better term. Wasn’t there something else Tolkien had called it? The man was a genius at coming up with his own creatures, but was there some other term? Riley racked her brain, coming up empty.

Saber watched the door. Finally, she turned to look back at Riley, who wasn’t paying attention.

“Riley?” she hissed.

Jumping, she looked at her. “What?”

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to come up with a better name than fire breath.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Really?”

“Yes, really. Why?”

There was a loud snort before a warm gust of air hit them. Riley’s mouth dropped open as her eyes went wide. Saber slowly turned to look at the door, already knowing what she would see.

“Hello, morsels,” the dragon almost purred.

It stood there, its large snout near the threshold of the door. They saw the large teeth overlapping both jaws, each row interlocking with the other. The razor-sharp daggers of malice were each nearly a foot long in front, the side teeth only slightly shorter, and stained red.

As Saber and Riley stood there, the dragon watching them, it felt like they were its next meal.

“Y-You talk,” Riley stuttered.

“So do you. Now, get in here. I don’t like wasting food, but I will burn you where you stand if you don’t.”

“Why should we come in there if you’re just going to kill us anyway?”

“Because… I’m getting bored of killing people today. Let’s just get this over with.”

“Lots of knights attacking, huh?” Riley asked, trying to figure out how to escape as she kept the dragon talking. Saber didn’t say anything. She hadn’t taken her eyes off the beast since it started talking.

“Hundreds. Then they just stopped, and I found you two sneaking up behind me. Thought you could get at me while I was distracted, did you? Too bad for the frogs. Disgusting things. Had they not come through, I wouldn’t have even noticed you slipping out from this passage. I never even knew this was here.”

“Told you the frogs weren’t here to help us,” Saber hissed out of the side of her mouth, still not taking her eyes off the dragon.

Riley rolled her eyes. “So the frogs didn’t help us. Shut up.”

“Yes, shut up, Patty. Come on, you two. I’m getting hungry.”

Saber took a few steps back. Riley, on the other hand, kept her focus.

“Hungry? A hundred knights weren’t filling enough for ya? How much do you eat on a daily basis? Two hundred? That can’t be good for your complexion.”

It looked confused for a moment. “I’m a dragon. I don’t have a complexion.”

“You’re a very talkative one.”

“I don’t get to talk much.”

Riley shook her head. “I’d say not. Not with your attitude.”

It growled. “Fine. Be that way.”

The dragon backed away from the door, but before Riley could think about making a break for it, it opened its large mouth. The glowing light from deep within its throat quickly became a raging ball of orange. They only had seconds to react.

“Riley, get d-” Saber yelled, but everything else was lost in the deafening sound of the oncoming inferno.

Published by JasonRDavis

Author of the #zombie apocalypse trilogy Invisible Spiders and the Edge of Darkness series.

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