Luke breathes a sigh of relief while he watches the remaining zombies shudder and fall apart. He is about to run over to Nyx, who is on her knees, when a figure in the sky catches his attention. It is a large form with wide wings of gold and a long, narrow body of silver that cannot be more than two feet wide. A bright red light in the center of what Luke thinks is the beast’s head temporarily mesmerizes him as the creature gets closer. Luke’s heart sinks when the beast swoops toward the clearing with alarming speed. He desperately yells and waves his swords at the beast, but the elegant Sword Dragon lands behind Talos. The elf is barely able to raise his swords before a metallic paw viciously bats him out of the way. Luke watches as his grandfather slams into Nyx, both of them disappearing into the forest with a crash.
“We have to get out of here!” Aedyn shouts.
“No! We keep this beast here!” Luke yells back.
“Talos and Nyx were the only ones who had even a remote chance of beating this thing, Luke,” Aedyn argues, watching the dragon’s eyes scan the clearing. “It does not even see a reason to immediately attack us. It is taking its time choosing which of us to eat first.”
“I’d rather it eat me first than to watch it tear Haven apart before my eyes,” Luke defiantly growls.
The forest tracker charges at the enormous beast, which begins spitting balls of fiery metal into the air. Luke barely notices that Sari is stepping in front of him before he crashes into her. The wind is knocked out of his lungs, but Sari does not move an inch. Sari tackles the stunned half-elf out of the path of a chunk of fiery metal that is barreling toward them. The beast sweeps one of its wings at the tangled pair, leaving a deep gouge in the ground. Luke rolls out of the way with Sari clutching him tightly.
“You’re too stupid to realize when you’re outmatched,” Sari mutters. She scrambles to her feet and dives away from another slash of the beast’s wing.
“I thought I had backup,” Luke admits. He spins away from another wing slash, grabbing Sari by the waist to pull her away from an incoming flaming, metal orb. They continue dodging and flipping away from the large beast, every attack coming heart-wrenchingly close to hitting them.
“It’s like we’re dancing,” Sari laughs, excitement erasing her fear.
“I prefer my partners to be a little smaller,” Luke says, barely avoiding the dragon’s paw.
“Are you saying I’m fat?” Sari asks. A metal chunk skims her arm and leaves a stinging burn on her skin.
“I was talking about the dragon,” Luke replies apologetically. He dives at Sari and spins her away from the dragon’s mouth. The sword-like teeth gnash together where the juicy gypsy once stood.
“Oh,” Sari says, looking back at the beast’s maw.
The Sword Dragon roars at the sky, rearing up on its hind legs to stomp on the quick-footed pair. Sari squeaks in surprise as a clawed paw strikes the ground a few inches in front of her, the rush of air and force knocking her down. Luke is only slightly better off, stabbing his sabers into the incoming paw with all of his strength. At first they scratch along the smooth, metal hide, but they eventually hit a barely visible groove and slip between the plates of the paw. The dragon’s momentary surprise at feeling pain gives Luke enough time to free his sabers and sprint to safety. The paw slams against the ground and immediately lashes out at Luke, grazing his leg.
“This thing is getting too close,” Luke nervously says. “Eventually, my mind is going to be too exhausted to keep my body ahead of its attacks.”
“My muscles are already killing me,” Sari complains, wheezing and gasping for air. “Too much time in a damn dungeon hasn’t left me in the best shape. I’m surprised I made it this far.”
“Get to Haven and hide. I’ll handle this.”
“One lucky shot doesn’t mean you can kill it.”
Without warning, the dragon launches itself into the air and whips the ground with its tail. Luke and Sari scramble to get away from the flurry of destruction, but Sari trips over the remains of an orc zombie. A swarm of flaming metal orbs hurtle toward the gypsy who uses the last of her energy to flip, leap, and roll to safety. Sari makes a desperate leap, her right ankle bending the wrong way upon landing. She staggers a few steps before falling to one knee, gritting her teeth in pain. She can feel the hungry stare of the dragon, eyeing her like a helpless snack. A terrifying shriek of victory ripples through the air and the dragon’s neck stretches to gobble Sari whole.
The world slows down as Sari watches the approaching beast, which seems almost too surreal to comprehend. She barely notices Luke slide in front of her with his sabers glistening in the sunlight. The dragon stops abruptly without Luke putting his swords up to block. At first, Sari can’t understand why the dragon froze just short of the forest tracker. She sees Luke’s shoulders and arms loose their tension, but she is unable to see his face. Sari grunts in pain as she stands up and looks around Luke. Standing in the open maw of the dragon is Aedyn whose wooden staff is straining against the massive jaws. The priest winces at the pain from a tooth piercing his shoulder and another passing through his right leg. The dragon rears back and leaps into the air where it thrashes in an attempt to dislodge the priest.