Cut and Run Chapter 24
Ever since the first Mamono crawled, slithered, or oozed her way into the beds of the men of this world, the number of wars has dropped significantly. Of late, it seems that the only wars you read about, are in history books.
Thanks, Great Maou!
Unfortunately, we still have the occasional ‘inconvenient inhumation’. Which is MBI-speak for the death of either a human or Mamono. More often than not, it’s a phrase used in reference to a human and its usually paired with the term: ‘sexual-overload’. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise when you think about it.
So, what’s the MBI, you ask?
It’s the Mamono Bureau of Investigation; a sort of modern-day descendant of the FBI. Unlike their predecessor, the MBI is dedicated to actually finding out the truth of every incident reported to them. This as opposed to sweeping under the rug politically inconvenient incidents, like their forebears did.
Now, you’re probably wondering how is it that I, the only adult male-Dragon in existence, would happen to know so much about the MBI? That’s because I’ve recently received a crash course on the subject.
It was delivered to me by a pair of MBI special agents who came to pay me a visit. Hopefully, they won’t be making me take a pop quiz on their lesson. As I hadn’t had the presence of mind to be taking notes.
Now, you’re probably wondering why the MBI decided to pay me a visit? That’s because me and my family just had a ‘serious-incident’ in our lives.
So, I apologize to you dear reader, if what I have to say in this episode sounds like I’m distracted. You’d be distracted too if you were in my shoes. Not that I wear shoes. That’s because I’ve got a pair of big stompy Dragon Feet now, complete with claws that are far too big,…
Sorry. I digress.
It was early in the morning while I was making some post battle repairs to my Cave’s walls and floors, that I noticed someone was using my Cave’s Scratcher (the Dragon equivalent of a door-knocker).
As I already was in a foul mood that morning, I went and investigated, all the while growling and snarling something fierce! Right then I was determined to rip those assholes apart, whoever they were.
The reason for my anger being, that I had known for sure that I had left a ‘Do NOT Disturb sign!’ upon the entrance to my Cave! I made it complete with plenty of visual references of what would happen to someone who couldn’t read.
But, after they had flashed their badges at me, I swallowed my anger and I did my best to be a good host to them. Whatever social faux pas I had managed to create, they let slide. Thankfully.
Which is all well and good, as it’s not every day a person armed with a gun, can restrain themselves from emptying their clip into a growling, smoke-belching, and royally pissed off Dragon, getting in their face.
The senior partner of the snappily dressed MBI pair, was an Incubus who introduced himself as Special Agent Gordie Carfax.
I gave him the once over as he put away his Glock and then allowed me to inspect his badge. Near as I could tell, he was legit. He was a six-foot four blue eyed, blonde haired specimen. His appearance made him look like he stepped out of a ‘Thor’ movie set. And not as an extra.
Today, instead of wearing battle armor and casually tossing Mjolnir around, he was dressed in a smart three-piece suit which gave him a tight professional air. Also, his head was crowned with a hundred-dollar hair-cut, that lent him a pompous demeanor. Which, in my humble opinion, matched his personality, or lack thereof. My first impression of the dude was that he never suffered diarrhea, he was so tight-assed.
Luckily, the other Special Agent proved to be much easier on my eyes. She, was a Cyclops and I decided that she was a cutie, despite her towering over her partner and me.
For some odd notion the set of her face and her purple hair, which was cut into a uni-bang (Har!) over her single eye and horn, reminded me heavily of a human male that I had helped to prevent from committing suicide the previous day.
‘Donnie?’ was the first thought that sprang to my mind upon seeing her. ‘He did mention that he had sired a child on a Cyclops. But there is no way she could be his daughter, as they appear the same age. Maou this is strange!’ I mused. As she put away her piece, I noticed that she’d been packing a six-shooter gun that looked a lot like Donnie’s.
After they finished introducing themselves, they explained that they were there to take a statement concerning my recent situation.
Once they had said that, I got into a lot better mood I can tell you! Because right then, I wanted those bastards who had wronged me, and I wanted them BAD! They’d managed to get away from me, even after I’d managed to restrain them. Luckily, they did leave behind several pieces of themselves in the process of escaping.
Eventually, we all ended up sitting around one of my workbenches in my Cave workshop. When they entered, they looked curiously at the new spot on the wall that was composed of a bright pink granite, as opposed to the Cave’s usual brownish gray. As I had them sit down, I told them that I would explain why it was such an odd coloration, eventually.
As I looked back at them across the bench after beginning my story, I could tell that they were facing me with a polite yet guarded interest.
Even without my Dragon Mojo, I could tell that they were just barely preventing their inherent skepticism from showing on their faces, as I recounted everything that had led up to my ‘situation’.
“…and that was the moment in which everything turned to shit.” I stated.
“Mr. Belushi, if I may interject?” Gordie began, pushing his audio recording crystal that was sitting atop the bench between us, closer to me. I glanced down at it sourly. I’d already been talking for what seemed like the longest while, and I was getting tired of having to face so many painful memories right then.
“You mentioned that that was the moment, when everything turned to shit?” He asked, looking concernedly at me. “Was such a course of action appropriate?” he began. My anger flared at that implication.
“Maybe, I don’t know, why?” I demanded, giving him an annoyed look.
“What more do you expect to say?” I asked peevishly, giving him a glower. He didn’t reply immediately, instead he just kept his mouth shut and waited for me to elaborate. I then glanced over at his partner for some relief.
She was sitting with her fists balled up underneath her chin, elbows on the table surface. I huffed a bit then, as I could see there was no help coming from her in that moment.
‘I guess they’re keeping the Good-Cop/Bad-Cop routine in reserve.’ I decided, and then sighed.
“What of, the use of my breath weapon?” I asked indignantly, while staring at Agent…, excuse me, Special Agent Gordie. He nodded once.
“That maybe, just maybe my using it may have PROVOKED THEM!!!?” I shouted angrily as I slammed my paws loudly onto the table. I then rose to my full height as I began to lean menacingly across the table over him.
“They were the ones sneaking around my Cave and grounds! In full invisibility mode no less!” I shouted even louder then, feeling my wings extend themselves involuntarily.
To their credit, neither of the special agents before me, so much as moved a muscle in response. Both of them stayed as cool as cucumbers. Well a cucumber without any Kappas lurking around, that is.
“Mister Belushi,” Didi injected then quietly, distracting me slightly. In response I swung my head around and glared at her, as I could feel my eyes already starting to redden with my fury. Didi stared calmly back at me with her sole purple colored eye, and continued.
“My partner and I are not here to assign blame for what happened. We are merely here to find out the facts.” She almost whispered then. I found myself having to relax a bit in an effort to hear what she was saying. Which was probably why she did it.
“If you would please Mr. Belushi, try to calm yourself. Gordie and I need to know as many of the details of your recent tragic events, as you feel you can recall.” She paused and then tilted her head for a moment and gave me a sympathetic look. She continued.
“Every detail that you can muster, no matter how small, could very well give my partner and I, a leg up on locating the ones who caused your incident.” She finished in a manner that left me feeling mollified with her succinctness. But, I was still somewhat pissed at the earlier insinuation with my breath weapon.
“YES!” I replied gruffly, as I sat back down onto the workbench stool, while I pulled in my wings and then shrugged them into place.
“I used one of my breath weapons. What of it!?” I demanded, but without making eye contact.
“Neither of us are making any accusations of your having used,…” she began, but I interrupted her.
“You’re both cops, right?” I asked huffily. Didi stopped talking and raised the right end of her unibrow for a moment. She nodded.
“I know that you’re both packing heat, right?” I asked rhetorically. She nodded again while glancing over at her partner. He looked back at her for a moment and nodded once.
“Is it safe for me to assume that you’ve both fired them before? And not just for target practice?” I asked, pointing out what I thought would be their double standard. I wasn’t going to just sit there and make it sound like I was some Fireball-happy Dragon.
“Yes.” Gordie replied.
“No.” Didi replied, which caught me off guard.
“Never?” I asked, incredulous. She smiled.
“Not even once.” She continued, as she pulled hers from her holster and sat it down in front of me to allow a better look, as did he. Unlike her partner’s standard issue Glock, it appeared to be a handmade antique version of a ‘Wild-West’ six-shooter. I stared in awe of it, and her.
Silently, I used my Ki-sense and I could tell right then that she was telling me the truth: that she had never used it to harm anyone.
“Though there have been several times, I wish that she had.” Gordie injected then. Didi looked over at him with her eye and didn’t say anything, but she made a moue with her lips.
“So why the special restraint?” I asked her, honestly curious. She gripped her piece tightly.
“To make up for the excesses of my Sire. According to my mother, he was a trigger-happy moron.” She replied mysteriously.
“I can understand that. But why carry that one? Why not an automatic like your partner?”
“This one is special.” She stated as she held it up before her in both hands, and looked at it admiringly. “It was made by my niece from some plans that I had stumbled across in my mother’s cave. My mother was the one who made the original version, which is now lost.” Didi explained.
“Really? It’s weird that you mention that, because I talked to a guy just yesterday, who said he’d been described as a trigger happy-moron by his Cyclops lover. He carried a gun that looks a lot like the one you have now.”
“Oh?” she asked me, with just a hint of dubiousness crossing her tone.
“Really.” I replied, “In fact had a name for it. He called his piece, ‘Winona’.” I began, but I was surprised by her reaction.
“WHAT?!” she shouted, as she jumped to her feet. “WAIT! This person’s name, was it,…’Donnie’?!” she demanded. Her question left me feeling off-kilter.
At that point she and I began comparing notes, and we came to the same conclusion, that our respective Donnie’s were one and the same. For the next few minutes she aggressively pumped me for whatever other information I could recall about him. (Har!).
But not like what you’re thinking, you pervert.
“Oh yeah,” I said at the last after mentioning that Donnie had been driving a Bugatti Veryon, as there weren’t too many of those whizzing around. “He also mentioned something about a Wizard that no one can remember. But he’s wrong! If you ever bump into him, let him know that someone else does.”
“Really?” Didi frowned, somewhat disinterested.
“Yeah, the notion of this Arawn-Mage seemed pretty important to him for some reason. So, if you would please, let him know that Pirin, my Dragon-Maid, remembers one of her teachers talking about him. That teacher being her mentor in the magic arts.” I would’ve gone on and mentioned more about that Jumping-Spider, but that was when Didi’s partner intervened, as he wanted to get back to my statement.
“So yeah,” I began, getting back on track and resuming my huff. This time a bit more humbly. “I used my breath weapon.” I continued quietly. “The weaker of the two.”
“Weaker?” Didi asked, puzzled. I looked back at her and explained the difference between the Fireball breath weapon that every Dragon is born with, and the ‘Plasma-Sphere’ breath weapon that I picked up from my ordeal through the ‘Seventh-Pass’. It took a bit to explain it all. But in the end, she was left dumbfounded when I finished.
After a patient prompting from her partner, I then began my monologue in earnest.
‘What the fuck?’ was my first thought. At first, I thought that there was something wrong with either my new ability or my eyesight. Because the evidence was quite clear; that there was no one there. But, double-checking with my Ki-Sense, there wasn’t. I was all set to dismiss my concerns of my newly found Stewardship-Sense, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small pebble on the ground move.
It wasn’t much, but my eyes latched onto it. What’s the big whoop about that you ask? Pebbles move all of the time, Right? Yeah, they do. But they don’t spontaneously move a couple of inches- uphill. Something or someone invisible, had accidentally nudged a pebble while carefully moving.
‘Someone doesn’t want to be seen. Why?’ I asked myself, as I turned my back towards ‘Ms. Invisible.’, and returned to look at the reservoir. So, as nonchalantly and quietly as I could manage, I summoned up a fireball.
The next thing I did, was to ascertain where exactly that invisible other was. Once I was sure, I immediately jumped up and around and let loose with that fireball as quickly as I dared.
The effect was immediate.
“AAAH!” came a scream from the mouth of a red-tinged green Wurm who appeared out of nowhere. She ducked and fell to one side as she threw herself onto the ground in front of me.
Luckily for her, she had managed to dodge my fireball at the last second. Though I’d swear that her scraggly hair had been left singed. Darn my luck, I’d have preferred worse.
“What the fuck?!” she shouted then, as she slithered forward a few feet and drew herself erect to turn and face me full on. I could see her eyes turning red with anger then, as they were a nice contrast to those curiously orange color cheek scales of hers.
“What kind of stunt was that all about?” She demanded then, “You nearly took my head off!” she continued, and then she did a double take.
“Wait a minute! You knew I was here?” she continued, her mouth hanging open slightly in surprise. I smiled evilly at her.
“SHIT!” she shouted, her eyes going wide in consternation and clutching her paws into fists at her sides.
“Who the fuck are you, and what the fuck have you been doing sneaking around me and my Cave!” I shouted back as I approached her. Instead of being intimidated, she stood her ground and glared back at me.
Stupidly, I got even closer to her then. While I did she extended herself upwards, up till she was towering over me. She wasn’t the biggest Wurm I’d encountered before, but she was pretty sizable.
“Answer me!” I shouted then, right up into her face. She smiled back then, and that was when I began to realize my error: That I was well within arm’s reach of the ‘Hulk’ version of Dragon.
‘Oh shit!’ I thought in sudden fear, as I began to back track away from her. But I wasn’t quick enough. Though I had enough time to say one thing more, as she made her move.
“OOF!” I intelligently uttered when I intercepted her right hook with my face.
I fell into darkness.
It took me a while to come to. I didn’t want to then, as I was in so much pain. But my returning consciousness was relentless. As I rose back to alertness, I became aware that my ears could hear, before my eyes could see.
And from what I could hear, there was some fighting going on nearby. There were echoes of shouts of: “Get HIM and pin him down!” and “Don’t do that you idiot! That’s just a dodge!”.
That, and a bunch of other folks screaming and yelling incoherent things. All of that mayhem came to my ears as I slowly got a handle on my surroundings.
The next thing I became aware of was that I was uncomfortable. I was in a sort of half-standing, spread-eagled position upright against a cold solid surface. There was something spread painfully tight all across my bod, keeping me there.
As my eyesight began to return, I noticed what that tight something was- some kind of thin cordage woven into a net. It had some give to it, but when I tried to move myself, it prevented me from moving more than an inch.
Finally, when I got both my eyes working, I started moving them around. I was in my Cave main hallway, down near the kitchen and I was alone there. For now, at least.
Soon, my eyes stopped crossing, and I looked all over as best I could. I soon became aware that the cordage holding me, was spread-anchored onto parts of the wall. It was weird in that it felt like that I was some kind of giant spider’s prey, wrapped in silk. But it wasn’t Arachne silk, as best I could tell. I should know, I tasted it.
I then flexed some muscles to try and test my limits as I was so weak, but then I had to suppress a groan when I realized just how much pain I was in then. It felt like someone had used me as a punching bag while I was out.
Right where that Wurm had punched me, I could feel a particularly intense pain as if a bone or two in my face had been broken, however long ago it was.
Panting, I was able to begin building up my strength. Finally, after I was able to quiet myself and concentrate on my Stewardship-Power, I tried to force myself up and off of the Cave wall.
But it was of no use. It just held itself, and me, in place. It wouldn’t budge, despite my doing everything I could to move it. I couldn’t understand why I was unable to get anywhere.
By rights, with my incredible Dragon strength, along with my Mojo and Land-Stewardship Power, the stuff should’ve snapped like dental floss. But it didn’t. After a few minutes of fierce struggling I was forced to give in.
‘Damn!’ I thought then as I made myself to relax, so as to regain my strength and try again. ‘What the hell is this shit?!’ I demanded mentally.
No sooner than I thought that, was when I heard Angelique begin to scream. In pain or in fear, I had no idea.
Not that it would’ve made a difference. All I knew then, was the fact that one of my mates was in danger!
I HAD to act. So, I did.
I began to invoke the inherent ability that every Dragon has: the ability to assume our ‘natural’ Dragon form. It takes a lot of Mana, and it was more than likely going to leave me wasted in terms of ability. But I didn’t care about that then.
Angelique was in danger, and it was up to me to do something about it.
With a flick and a snap, I could feel my mass expand up and outwards as I began to assume my ‘True’ Dragon form. In the very first second, I felt a moment of triumph and exhilaration!
Then the pain kicked in. It was excruciating.
“AAAAHHH!” I screamed. It was agony! I felt like someone had sliced into me, all over my body. Automatically, I could feel my body resume itself into the Maou-commanded form.
“What the hell?!” I demanded in dismay, as I looked down at my body. Undoubtedly, I was an awful sight. From what little I could tell then, I was bad off. How to describe it?
Have you ever seen an old commercial for a cooking tool, that they used to sell on late night TV? Something called the Veg-o-matic?
It, was a device in which you could ‘slice, dice, and julianne’ (whatever the hell that is) a potato and other veggies. That’s because it kept a series of stiff wires held in a checkerboard pattern; that you pushed the veggie through.
Right then, I felt like one of those ‘julianned’ potatoes.
So, there I was standing upright and in a world of hurt. Looking down with my eyes, I could see that the front of me was now sporting a series of square cuts, all over my hide. I gasped in pained surprise, when I saw that the net’s cords had managed to slice through my scales too!
“What in the Maou’s name!?” I asked myself hoarsely, astonished at what I was looking at. The sight of so much of my blood oozing from the myriad cuts across my bod, left me off balanced enough for me to just stand there and stare in shock.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here, me bucko?” came a voice from somewhere nearby. I’d been so gob-smacked then, that I hadn’t heard that someone approach. Looking up, I saw then the one person who I can describe as their ringleader. It was a Dragon.
She was a western type Dragon, similar to me in form only taller, much taller. I’d have said that she stood at least two extra feet in height. She had all the standard Dragon traits: Hips, Tits, Claws, Paws, Wings and Attitude!
But what made her stand out to me the most, was her coloration. From the tips of her toe claws, all the way up to the tips on her wing claws and all parts in between, her hide was covered almost entirely with varying shades of Orange. Even her hair was Orange too.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. I had myself an Orange Julius icon wannabe for a villain. But I kid you not. It should make sense though, as America should have realized by now that anyone colored Orange is really bad news.
“Och! My wee lad! Have you’ve found the limitations of yon Dragon-Net, eh?” this newcomer stated as she stomped her way down the hallway towards me, smiling cheerfully all the while. I didn’t reply at first, that was because I found that her and her coloration was oddly mesmerizing, in a sickening sort of way. I didn’t reply at first.
“What’s the matter my bonnie Dragon? Does the proverbial cat, got yer tongue?” she asked as she came within reaching distance of me and tilted her head saucily at me. Then she did something that was way weird. She reached out a claw and passed it gently across one of my cuts; catching some of my dripping blood on it.
After a moment, she lifted that claw to her nose and sniffed it gently. When she did, I could see a smile reaching across her face. Right then I knew that she was bad news. Then, she licked that blood off of her claw. I so very wanted to wipe that smile from her face.
“MMMmmm.” She murmured with a heavy sigh as she closed her eyes. “Ah, that hits the spot quite nicely!” she breathed. “So much Spirit Energy! ‘Tis a pity that I not have gotten to you sooner!” she continued in that curious Scottish brogue, as she leaned forward and opened her eyes a few inches from my face. I noticed then that her eyes were colored a deep orange too.
“Who the fuck are you, and what the hell do you want!” I shouted then. She giggled then in reply.
“Who I be, dinna matter!” she shot back, her smile turning into a grin. “What I want, does.” She replied as several of her henchmen (Hench-Dragons?) came slinkering around a corner.
My attention was diverted from Miss Sunny Dee, when I saw all six of them arrive. They were a motley bunch, they included one of every specie of Dragon, including that red-tinged Wurm that had managed to knock me out earlier. I tried to grab that one’s attention, but she kept her eyes strictly on her boss.
Collectively, they would’ve stood out from any other Dragon group I’d encountered before, because they were the scruffiest looking gaggle of Dragon I’d ever witnessed All of them had scars or gouges, crisscrossing their bodies, they had raggedy wings (for those who came with them) and/or numerous missing scales. Yet, the one thing they all had in common was that every one of them had a part of them colored Orange. It was a weird thing to see.
“STATUS!” Orangey shouted then, turning to take in her ragtag group of Hench-whatevers.
“We’ve got the rest of the household subdued.” Spoke a seedy looking Ryu with a missing horn. Looking closer, I could see that her left ‘antler’ had been broken off near its base sometime earlier. It gave her a lopsided appearance.
“Including the Incubus, Alonzo?” The full-orange one demanded then.
“Hai!” the Ryu replied, “Though that boy-toy gave us all one helluva fight!” she grimaced.
“I expected him to give us the biggest resistance, how did you manage him to subdue him?”
“He wilted as soon as Filbert here,…” the Ryu began, indicating the Red-tinged Wurm with an outstretched paw.
“AHEM!” the Orange one cleared her throat significantly, interrupting her while glaring down at her underling, and glancing at me significantly.
“Oh!” the Ryu exclaimed nervously, catching her leader’s implications and looked at me for a second. She then calmed herself and continued.
“All of the fight in him drained away as soon as,…uhhh,…our Wurm,…managed to get ahold of the Dragonewt.”
“That’s because she is his lover, as I told you earlier! Don’t you remember?!” Orange Cream Soda-Girl half growled. “He’d sooner die than let her come to harm!” she stated as she began to turn to me.
“Thank you Lady Ness.” The Ryu stated demurely with a bow, and then her eyes went wide when she realized her error. The error of letting me know her leader’s name.
Lady Ness didn’t say anything then. Instead, she immediately flung out an arm and backhanded the Ryu forcefully with a fist.
The Ryu didn’t shy away in that moment when she saw that fist headed her way, instead she closed her eyes and allowed it to connect to her face with a loud ‘SMACK!’; which propelled her back and away down the hall.
“IDIOT!” Lady Ness shouted then. “Let one more of our names drop again, and I’ll have your guts for garters!” she raged. Off down the hallway, I could see the Ryu pick herself up from the floor and nod her head silently.
Oh, she looked miserable then. Not that I was too terribly inclined to feel any sympathy for her. After all, she and her friends had invaded my home like a bunch of bandits, and caused my family harm.
“What the fuck do you want,….Nessie!?” I demanded then, “I take it that tourist season isn’t all that good up at the Lochs anymore?” I snarked then, triumphant when I finally put some of the puzzle pieces together. Nessie turned to me with a chest-rumbling growl and grabbed ahold of my face painfully with a paw.
“Haud yer weesht!” she sneeringly commanded. “So you figured it out have you, eh? Aye, I be a descendant of the Loch Monsters!” she grinned. “Not that it’ll be doing you any good!”
“Dammit Woman! What the hell is all of this about?” I mumbled as I best I could through her claws.
“What?” she asked with another sneer. “I want what every female Dragon wants! I want myself a clutch of bairns!” she shouted then into my face, her eyes blazing.
“So, find yourself a guy and start making them!” I mumbled back.
“Gods-be-damned fool!” she replied, spittle flying, “I dinna want a Jessie for a sire!” she shouted once more as she reached out with her other paw and grabbed me by the short and curlies, cupping my dicks.
Well, the problem being that I didn’t actually have any pubes anymore. Hair pubes that is. Scale pubes, yes. Just like every other Dragon in existence.
“I wants me a Male Dragon to give me,… some proper Eggs, ye,.. blasted…bampot…” she stated and then hesitated as an odd look appeared on her face while she continued to fumble with my dynamic duo. She stopped what she was doing, let go and then kneeled in front of me.
‘What now?’ I wondered as she began to reach in through the netting that held me in place, and carefully parted my kilt.
“AH! The rumors are true then! You’ve got yourself a plethora of nibbly-bits!” she cried with delight in her voice.
“If you wanted to get laid, all you had to do was ask!” I shot back, a bit shrilly, as I tried to wiggle myself away from her. This was because her attention was giving me a bit of a double stiffy. She looked up at me between my slowly engorging penises, and gave me an evil grin. That gap-toothed smile of hers stopped my engorgement for a second, it was so nasty. She saw my reaction, and in response she stood up and got into my face.
“I want me a male for myself that I get to control, and keep an eye on!” she smiled. “Just like any proper Dragon would!”
“Well that’s kinda late for that, Skarasen!” I shot back and smiled when I saw her wince when I remembered her secret family name.
“I’m the only one around and I’m already taken!” She stepped away from and kept her smile plastered on her face. Her reaction caught me short.
“Nay lad! Ye not be the only male in existence. Not anymore, ye took care of that!” she continued as she folded her arms in front of her ample bosom.
‘What the fuck are you,..’ I thought to myself and then stopped when the full realization hit me.
“YOU FUCKING COW! DON’T YOU DARE!!!” I shouted then, loudly enough for my voice to echo loudly in the cave’s hallway. Nessie gave me a triumphant look as she turned to the Ryu and made a shooing gesture. The Ryu smiled, nodded and then slithered off.
“LEAVE MY SON ALONE!!!” I screamed out after her, as I attempted once more to struggle out of my bonds. And failed. But this time I realized that I was getting weaker, all due to the blood loss caused by so many cuts.
But I didn’t despair. Well, too much at least. That’s because I had an ace up my sleeve. Following advice from Dame Nizzyl the Dragon Realm’s Archivist. I had gone back and reworked a number of things in my Cave. Long story short, I had modified the Brooding Chamber with a number of traps and other similar devices; all made of stone or flame.
It didn’t take long before I heard one of the traps activate and then I heard someone screaming in pain. I grinned at the sound of it.
‘Gotcha!’ I thought gleefully. ‘Thank you, Grimtooth’s Traps!’ I thought then guardedly, with a smug smile crossing my face for a moment, then my head began to droop with my ever-mounting fatigue. But I was determined to summon help.
‘Frazzis!’ I projected then as best I could. But it was no use, there was no way she could’ve heard me, I was so weakened and dizzy. My thoughts were interrupted, when I felt someone grabbing me again with her claws poking me in the face. Opening my eyes, I could see that this time, it was the Ryu holding me.
Oh, I could tell that she was pissed. Her orange-reddish eyes were blazing fiercely at me then. Off to one side, I could see why, her other antler/horn was now missing. Its stump was now bleeding a slow ooze.
‘Not so lop-sided now.’ I grinned.
“Bakayarou!” she screamed into my face. “I should rip one of your horns out for that!” The problem being that in order for her to do so, she’d have to let the restraining net go first.
“Go ahead then short stuff! Take your best shot!” I dared her. I wondered then if she would be so stupid as to actually let me try?
‘Please do!’ I thought then and growled in an effort to goad her. Also, I suppressed my natural inclination to smile when she began to undo the netting. But, unfortunately, before she could get very far, she was stopped at a command from Nessie.
“Boke-Aho!” Nessie shouted from a distance away, “Stop that! There are more effective ways of dealing with him!” Boke-Aho obeyed her, though reluctantly. Turning my head, I took in the sound of several people coming our way.
I felt my blood drain when I saw who it was that were coming. It was Lady Ness, along with two of her Hench-Dragons. One of them was holding Angelique, and she was fighting them every step of the way! She was spitting, and growling and trying her best to bite the one restraining her, and everyone else within reach. Unfortunately, it was all to no avail as they kept themselves well away from her.
The other Hench-Dragon, was holding my old man. He wasn’t fighting then, but I could tell that he looked like he’d been through a grinder. He had at least one massive shiner on his face, and he had so many cuts and bruises on him that I was surprised he was awake, let alone walking. What little blood I had left, boiled at the sight.
“You,…you,…Nagini!” I raged at Nessie. She didn’t reply, as that motley group of handbag wannabes and their hostages stood in a semi-circle in front of me.
“I’ll make this simple, Mr. Belushi.” She began. “You will tell us how to disarm the traps that are guarding the brooding chamber, and you will tell us right now. Because if you don’t, then I’ll start removing body parts from this one.” She stated quietly, resolutely, as she placed a paw onto Angelique’s bulging tummy. Angelique’s eyes went wide when Nessie did that, but instead of spitting and struggling, all of her fury drained away. In a trice she was left a despairing drooping Were-cat.
“Allen!” she pleaded, her ears and whiskers drooping plaintively.
“I’m sorry Angelique.” I was sorry for her being in this situation, sorry for so many things then. Nessie gave me a few seconds to speak, and when I didn’t, she tightened her claws on Angelique’s tummy, I could see the furrows they made when she pressed them in Angelique’s flesh.
Angelique began to whimper and struggle with the pain that Nessie’s claws gave her. But she looked at me and shook her head emphatically –‘NO! Don’t give in!’. I did my best to comply.
“Damnit! What kind of monsters are you!?” I demanded in an attempt to distract them.
“Desperate ones.” Nessie replied coldly as she took her paw up and away from Angelique and pointed her claw tips point-down into her tummy instead. The threat was obvious.
‘Oh Shit!’ I realized, as my Ki-Sense told me that Nessie wasn’t kidding around. ‘She’s honestly going to resort to that!’ I quailed when I saw the tips of Nessie’s claws sink in far enough to draw blood.
“STOP IT!” I shouted. “Just stop it! I’ll give you what you want! Just stop hurting her!” I whined in utter defeat. “This is what you gotta do,…” I began.
“No!” Nessie barked. I stopped and started to wonder what the hell she was going on about. “You will tell Alonzo the methods necessary to disarm any further traps. That is to insure that you’re not just trying to fool us!” I felt the floor give out under me when she said that. But, I had to admit, that was a logical conclusion. I probably would’ve been that cautious as well.
“All Right. Alonzo!” I began, looking at him as he was marched close to me. He began to speak, but wouldn’t meet my eyes at first.
“I’m sorry Allen! I wasn’t strong, nor combative enough when they showed up…” he began, abashed at his failure.
“It’s alright Dad.” I replied honestly. “We were all caught off guard.”
“Enough with the maudlin talk, start with the instructions!” Nessie interjected then, shaking Angelique roughly enough then to cause her to squeak. I growled at her for that, then I began telling my old man all that he needed to know, to get safely through to the brooding chamber. I had to admit, it took a while. He seemed to be delighted with everything that I’d come up with to protect my kids.
“Damn son!” he blinked, and then smiled at me. “Well Done!” I felt a glow of warmth when I realized that that was the first honest admiration I’d gotten from him in a long time. Possibly ever. But that glow was short-lived when we were both interrupted by a command from Nessie to have us ‘get on with it’. So, I finished up.
Yet, just before my Old Man and Angelique was led away from me. He gave me some parting advice.
“I know what you’re capable of Allen.” He stated meaningfully, while he didn’t quite look at me as he was forcefully drawn away. I had no idea right then what he’d been talking about.
But as I hung myself into the net and began to despair in earnest, I heard the first of the other traps being disarmed. I began to chew on what it was that he had said. It just kept nibbling away at me, for some reason.
Then it hit me! He hadn’t been looking at me! Oh NO! He’d been looking instead at the Stone-Wall-Behind-Me! I realized then what he’d been referring to. Gods I’m such an Idiot!
You don’t get it either do you? A Stone Wall. I’d been forcefully pressed up against a STONE wall And, what is it that Male Dragons have the inherent ability to mold?
I immediately drew upon every last bit of my remaining strength, and forced the stone at my back to loosen and flow. In an instant I’d moved myself out of the netting that was holding me back, and into parts unknown.
I’d swum through many a viscous substance before. Ah hell, I’d even swum my way through the Great Salt Lake on a hot sunny day. But even that didn’t compare to the stone that I was forcing myself to slowly ooze my way through.
It was made worse off by the fact that I couldn’t breathe. But then, who could? It wasn’t like I had any gills.
You’d think that swimming through stone would be silent. But you’d be wrong. I could hear everything then. The sound of my heart beating, the sound of the Hench-Dragons when they realized that I’d somehow gone missing, and the sound of clawed feet of all kinds stomping around the Cave, searching desperately for me.
During my stone swim, I listened to the songs of my Cave. In increasing desperation, I finally latched onto the signature song of my workshop. Slowly, but surely, I made me way towards it. Finally, when it seemed like I couldn’t last any longer I found it….and then, with a rapid inhalation of much needed air, I fell out onto its floor and began to pant heavily.
I was free!
Yet I was still in a bad way. The force of my escape had weakened me to the point, that all I could do was lie on the floor of my workshop and feebly shake with exhaustion.
But, I was free. Looking up as best I could manage, I began to smile. That’s because Luck was with me, as I’d heard them passing this room at least twice during their frantic searching. So why did I head to that out of the place spot?
Because it was in there, that I had placed the two bottles of healing potion that my Mom had gifted me several weeks earlier. Breathing heavily, and somehow still bleeding what little blood I had left, I began to crawl my way over to the part of the wall that I’d put them.
It took me a long while, and it hurt me with every push and pull. During which I felt the few scabs I had, break open with the effort. But I managed to get to underneath the First aid box. Then, using every last bit of my strength reserves and beyond, I began to reach my way up to the box lid that lay so maddeningly within reach, yet it felt like I was trying reach across the Grand Canyon!
I began to shake violently with the exertion, as I scraped the bottom of the barrel- energy wise. Just to get ahold of that catch on the box’s lid.
‘Come on, come on! Just a little bit more! Alllmmmmmmmooooooosssssttttt there!’ I thought as one of my claws caught ahold of the catch and then slid off of it.
‘No!’ I silently howled. My eyesight began to blur as I could feel tears of frustration starting to well out of my eyes.
‘Please!’ I begged as I tried a second time, and failed. Mounting the last of my ability, I tried a third time strictly by feel.
And then I gave off a small chirp of triumph, as I heard, more than felt the catch undo.
But then, was when I fell to the floor with a loud ‘kawomph!’ My strength had given out at the last. I was so utterly spent then, that I couldn’t even shake with my exhaustion.
‘So close!’ I thought in utter despair. ‘So, fucking close.’ I thought as I began to experience tunnel vision. But I began to not care anymore, I was just so fucking cold then. I couldn’t remember feeling that deep kind of cold before.
Silently, I began to beg forgiveness of everyone I’d managed to fail in that moment: Frazziss, Angelique, my Old Man, and most importantly, my unhatched son. He would be doomed to be raised by someone who didn’t appreciate him. He’d be nothing more than a plaything. But I was in so deep, so close to death then, that even that evil thought wasn’t enough to inspire a wing twitch.
But in that moment, between my Life and my inevitable Death, something weird happened.
I saw my woman.
No, not my Frazziss. It was my woman, my human woman, Chiara. My first Wife was there shaking her head and looking sadly at me. I saw that she was there sitting alongside me. But me being me, I couldn’t even manage a simple hello. Gods, I’m such a lout.
She didn’t say anything at first. But, after a moment she got up to her feet in a way that I could only describe as ethereal.
Once she was up, she slowly made her way over to the first aid box and pulled one of the healing potions out and away from it. Yet, she didn’t grasp it like a human would. No, it seemed like her hands couldn’t quite get a purchase on it. Instead, she nudged it out with sheer willpower, until it teetered on the edge of the shelf, and then for a moment it looked like it was going to stay there.
Then it fell.
Straight down to the hard and unyielding cold stone floor, where it would undoubtedly shatter.
Then, I felt my arm move. But not by me. It moved just enough for that bottle to land squarely and softly with a slight ‘plop’ into the palm of my hand. Instinctively I grasped at it. Looking over, I could see that my hand was in the grasp of a furry paw. The fur of that paw was black. Blinking, I noticed then that that paw was attached to a ghostly Were-cat that I recognized.
‘Angelique’s mother, Chloe. Thank you!’ I thought, as she smiled back at me. It was then that I realized, that the scales between us were now in balance. I had saved her daughter’s life, and now she had saved mine.
Somehow, I managed to pull that bottle up to my mouth, and then I crunched it between my teeth, not caring of any cuts that I’d get from the glass.
The cold, yet somehow warm salty liquid began to seep into me and at first, I felt a small glow that wormed its way deep within my being. Then it became a raging inferno as it reached into every part of my body!
That’s because that healing potion did it’s work and did it well! I could feel my blood renew itself, and every last one of my cuts closed up. But it didn’t stop there! Oh no!
As I lay there and let the potion do its work, I felt a song begin to form in my mind as all of my power of a Dragon, all of Ki-power, all of my Land-Stewardship power meet and coalesce inside of me.
What was that song? Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song.
‘Ah-ah-ah!’ I sang mentally in tune. ‘Ah-ah-ah!’
It was then in that moment of exaltation, that I heard a voice. A voice that I’d not heard in far too long of a time.
It was the voice of my first wife.
“Now Get Up!” Chiara commanded me once, and spoke no more. I obeyed her as I felt the inferno continue to rage within me. I began to realize what that inferno was.
It was rage.
Not your run of the mill road rage. Oh no. This was Berzerker Rage! The kind that inspired Vikings into a battle frenzy that their sagas sung about! It was mine today, and I howled with the joy of it.
I howled a battle cry full of vitriol and anger. For it was time to make someone pay, and pay well for the sins they had committed against me.
After that, everything was like a dream. Almost immediately, Filbert the Wurm showed up and began to snap her fists and tail at me. Or she tried to at least.
‘We come from the land of the ice and snow!’ I thought raged.
Instead, I shrugged every lash from her, like she was just an annoying fly. Until finally I’d had enough of her shit, and swatted her away from me.
‘From the midnight sun, where the hot-springs flow!’
She flew away from me like she was a ragdoll. She ended up at the far end of the workshop, coiled in a heap like so much overly-cooked spaghetti. I then made my way out, by smashing through the door like it was pumice.
‘The hammer of the gods.’ I sang as I continued in my rampage.
There were other fights after that. Images of biting, clawing, gouging, and other things…, but I can’t remember them all.
But I do remember that moment when Nessie and I met, down near the Brooding Chamber.
‘To fight the horde, sing and cry. Valhalla I am coming.’
I smiled then, and her eyes went from annoyed, to fearful. I will take to my grave the look of surprise on Nessie’s face when she realized I wasn’t as weak as she’d thought I’d be.
It’s a memory that makes me smile every time I think of it, now. And all during that melee, the Immigrant Song continued playing in a loop in my head.
Finally, at the last when I came to something resembling normalcy, I was crouched on the floor of the Cave close to the entrance of the Brooding room, panting and shivering with fatigue. Pirin was there, and she was crying.
“Loknarr! Are you there!? Can you hear me? If you can, then Help!” she cried shrilly from her position of several feet away from me. “You’ve got to do something!” she begged, not quite standing within reach. I was distracted from Pirin’s beseeching by the sight of Nessie, for she was in an awkward position.
She was dazed and battered, all the while with enough fight left in her to to try and to wiggle her way from her predicament: That she was pressed partially inside the wall near the brooding chamber.
I realized why right quick. During my battle-fury, I had pushed her into it with my stone molding ability. In fact, later on I found out, that was what I ended up doing with the few enemies within paw’s reach during that fight. I didn’t kill anyone, despite…
“The fight,…” I began, still panting hard.
“It’s over, you ended it.” Pirin said desperately, interrupting me.
“Wha,..what happened?” I tried again as Pirin came over and grabbed an arm, trying to get me to stand up.
“Loknarr! PLEASE! Your father is in a bad way, he needs your help!” she shouted into my ear then, her eyes blazing furiously.
Reluctantly, I allowed myself to be led away by Pirin. What she ended up showing me, left me aghast. He was indeed in a bad way. He was sitting outside the dining room in a fetal position and bleeding heavily. Yet instead of attending to the gashes that he was hemorrhaging blood from, he had chosen to keep himself wrapped around something.
Frazziss was there with him, trying to do something, but not accomplishing much. She too looked pretty roughed up, like she’d just recently been in battle. I had no idea of when she had managed to show up. Yet she had.
I ignored her as I gave Pirin the orders to find her way back to my workshop and retrieve the one last remaining healing potion. I was determined to use it on him.
“Allen,” Frazzis began when I came close, “I’m sorry.” Was all that she could say as she gave me a pitying look.
“Why? The healing potion should take care of him, lickety-split!” I stated, wondering. She pointed then not at my old man, but instead at what it was he was holding.
It was a Dragon’s Egg.
It was the male one, and it was cracked. Cracked enough that I could see some of the albumen inside of it dripping slowly out, staining my father’s arms and chest with my son’s life. I extended out my Ki-sense and double-checked them both, and gasped.
Yep, both of them were dying. My son and my Dad. They had only minutes in which to live.
“Dad!” I cried, suddenly scared of the realization of what had happened during my rage. He had chosen to protect my son, at the cost of his own safety.
“Allen,” he replied, carefully opening his eyes in his ashen face. “I’m sorry,…that I couldn’t,… do more.” He began haltingly, gasping with the effort of every word.
“It’s Ok Dad, you did great!” I replied, as I tried to reassure him. He smiled indulgently at me then. It was then in that moment that Pirin showed up along with the last healing potion bottle. Instantly I took it and popped out the cork. I then bent down and then,…
I stopped because I realized my dilemma.
The dilemma was this: I had two people to save, and only one healing potion. I could save my father, but at the cost of my son’s life, and vice versa.
I stopped, and couldn’t start again. I was torn. I wanted to save them both, gods damnit!
“Loknarr!” Pirin screamed shrilly then. “Don’t just sit there! Do something!” she continued, jumping up and down slightly in frustration as she lay her paws on my father’s shoulders, her wings extending in her fury.
Even with that, I couldn’t decide.
Then my father came to my rescue. Just like fathers everywhere always do for their kids. Or, at least they should if they were truly worthy of the title of a father.
“Allen,” he began hoarsely, his voice quavering with the effort. “You know what you need to do boy.” He stated with a great effort. I stared at him as our eyes met, as his words had an effect on me. It made me recall that time oh so long ago, and yet so near, when he made me eat that entire box of rancid cereal.
I realized then, that there wasn’t actually a dilemma. I straightened up and then, while keeping my eyes locked with his, I poured that bottle out into the one person that truly deserved it.
The crown of my son’s egg.
The effects of that potion were almost immediate. Both my father’s and my eyes were drawn down to see the sight of the cracks in my Son’s egg began to join together. Within a few seconds the albumen had stopped dripping and the cracks had vanished. I didn’t need my Ki-sense to know that my boy would be all right.
Pirin on the other paw, was pissed.
“LOKNARR! YOU IDIOT! Why did you do that! You could’ve saved my Alonzo!” She began to rage at me, as she presented her paws with her claws all out.
I knew then that she was ready to kill me she was so furious. But, my Old Man prevented her with a sharp denunciation that cost him. I couldn’t watch then, as she checked her anger and wrapped him in her arms, clinging to him desperately.
It was all that I could do then, to sit back on my haunches as I began to come to grips with the enormity of my decision. Even though I knew that there wasn’t a parent worthy of the name, who’d want to outlive their child, or grandchild; I was still racked with guilt.
I watched in dismay as I saw Frazziss reach out firmly to my old man, and demand the safe return of her egg. Alonzo gave it to her freely, but after she clutched at it fiercely, he didn’t let go.
He said something to her then, something that I couldn’t hear. Something that made her eyes blaze with a fierce red light for a second. But then she did something odd. She frowned and then nodded.
“I promise.” She said loudly enough for me to just barely make out, and then she shed a tear as he let go. She then clutched our son’s egg firmly to her bosom.
“Pirin.” I could also overhear my father starting to speak to Pirin, barely above a whisper. “Please forgive… Allen.” He asked her as his life blood continued to slip between her arms, down onto the ground in an ever-slowing cadence.
She looked back at him with a tear-filled frown for a moment, and then she looked at me with anguish in her eyes. Then, while still looking at me, she nodded. That seemed to satisfy him as he gave her a weak smile.
He then reached out a shaking hand to me. I crawled over to him and gripped that hand tightly with my own.
“Dad, I’m,…I’m sorry….”I began, but what was prevented as he reached out let go of my hand and placed a finger against my lips. We stared at each other then, for a long moment in pregnant silence. There was so much more I wanted to say to him in that moment, but it was too late then. He regripped my hand once more.
Then he spoke.
“I’ve,…never,… been,….more,….proud…” he stopped and looked at me as if he were about to say something more. But then was when the light in his eyes faded, and his hand that was gripping mine, slackened and then fell away from my grasp.
“Alonzo?” Pirin gasped as she began searching my father’s face, to find,…nothing. She then clutched my Old Man to herself in a tight embrace. I could see her eyes starting to well up with her tears.
“Alonzo,…” she sobbed, “talk to me,” she pleaded, “Please?” she whimpered as her face began to screw up. I could see her flood of tears flowing down her face when she pressed her head into his shoulder.
“no,’ she whispered shrilly, as her lower lip began to quiver with the realization of his passing. I then heard her breath catch three times as she inhaled and then finally, she opened her mouth widely and screamed out a long banshee-like wail for the loss of her lover and intended mate.
Her cry echoed resoundingly through the cold stone chambers of my Cave.
It was a cry as old as time itself.