“I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with a Q.”
Bill frowned, seriously doubting Kris’ statement.
“Quillhog,” Scarlet squealed, pointing at the woods that dominated the terrain to the right of the road.
“Very good,” Kris giggled. “Your turn.”
“Elven eyesight, huh?” Bill asked, squinting at the woods but seeing nothing.
“Don’t worry, Billy boy, you’ll get a turn,” Scarlet assured him. “Now then. I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with a Z.”
Bill sighed, seeing nothing anywhere that looked like it would start with a Z.
“Zirta’Threen,” Kris squealed, pointing at Coppin, who instinctively recoiled, eyes lighting up with horror.
“Very good,” Scarlet clapped. “That makes it your turn again.”
“Zirta’Threen is Elven for dragon,” Kris told Bill, even though he already knew that. “Okay, here goes. I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with an X.”
Bill shook his head. “I think I liked it better when you two hated each other.”
“Xyroto’Paal,” Scarlet laughed, pointing at the woods again. “I never hated Kris, Bill.”
“Very good, Scarlet! It’s your turn again,” Kris giggled. “Yeah, Bill, Scarlet never hated me. I’m lovable.”
“My mistake,” he sighed.
“I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with an A,” Scarlet smiled.
“Apple,” Bill muttered.
“Ah, Bill, good guess, but wrong,” Scarlet said, patting him on the shoulder.
“Yeah, it’s obviously that Akrat’Netra over there,” Kris agreed.
Bill gave up.
As night rolled across the land, the small party headed into the relative safety of the woods to make camp. Bill built a low fire, wary of the watchful eyes of Grimfang the Black’s cult, for they had entered the territory claimed by the dragon and his followers a few days prior.
By the next day, they would reach the base of Widow’s Spire, a lonely mountain that stretched high into the sky, and had become home to the fearsome beast they had come to slay. Then, it would be in the hands of the Fates to see if their skill was enough to carry them through.
As he settled back, staring into the fire, Bill pondered the situation carefully. That Grimfang’s cult was a makeshift mess would have been an understatement. The various creatures from the monster races that had fallen under the dragon’s banner were poorly organized, outfitted, and supplied. The only threat they carried with them was their blood thirst, but precious little more.
It was the dragon itself that Bill was worried over. Grimfang was suspected of being at least a thousand years old, maybe more. Easily one of the most powerful dragons in the world, the mighty beast would not leave the mortal coil quietly, or without a fight. To battle such a monster, the wise warrior needed a plan, a back up plan, an ace up his sleeve, and a kind Fate to oversee his fortune.
Luckily, Bill had three of the four.
“Whatcha thinkin?” Kris asked as she flopped down next to him.
“I’m thinking of a battle plan that ends with all of us going home in one piece,” he told her, draping an arm around her shoulders.
“Oh,” Kris murmured, nestling against him. “If that doesn’t pan out, you got a plan for you and me to get out, right?”
Bill smiled. “Sorry, baby doll, but this is one of those all or nothing deals.”
“I hate those,” she pouted. “They never seem fair.”
“They never are, either,” Bill agreed. “So, with that in mind, just in case things go south tomorrow, I want you to know how much I appreciate you trying to get along with Scarlet. It means a lot to me.”
“Forget about it,” Kris yawned. “I remembered something that made it all better.”
Bill blinked a few times. “Wait, what? When did that happen?”
“I gave you a ring a while back, and you accepted it,” Kris told him as she tugged on his shoulder to make it a better pillow. “That means we’re married.”
“I thought that was a birthday present,” Bill said.
Kris shrugged. “Birthday, wedding, bar mitzvah, whatever. You be my bitch now.”
“My bitch,” Kris sighed. “You’re my bitch, Bill.”
“I’m not sure I feel okay with this,” he told her.
“Don’t worry, I ain’t gonna go pimp slapping you, not unless you get out of line. I know how to take care of my hos.”
“I feel a bit unsettled here,” Bill sighed.
“Quiet, bitch, daddy needs her sleep,” Kris told him.
“Yes, ma’am,” Bill agreed.
As the sun crested the sky the next day, the party looked upon the camp of Grimfang’s cult, arrayed around the base of Widow’s Spire. As Bill had hoped, they had an easy way to reach the dragons lair, one that didn’t involve climbing a mountain.
“Mine cart,” he said, pointing it out to the others. “That’s how they take sacrifices to Grimfang’s lair.”
The followed the track to the gaping hole in the cliff face, home to the most savage creature any of them had ever seen. None of them missed how foreboding the entrance was.
“So, what’s the plan?” Scarlet asked.
“You and Kris circle around to the north and draw the cultists to you while I make a run for the mine cart and ride it up to see our new friend,” Bill told her. “Then, while you two mop up the minions, I kill the dragon.”
“That is a terrible plan,” she replied, the look of concern on her face mirrored on Kris’.
“You got a better one?”
She considered the situation for a moment, then frowned and looked away.
“Figured as much,” Bill nodded. “Though, I was kind of hoping you did.”
“You were always the tactical thinker, Bill,” Scarlet said quietly. “I’m just good at killing stuff.”
“Okay, so, let’s get moving, and if the Fates are kind, we’ll be having dinner together later.”
“This is insane,” Coppin said suddenly. “The idea that you, alone, have even the slightest hope of facing off against a monster such as Grimfang is simply ludicrous.”
“Look, pal,” Bill told him. “There’s only four things a mercenary needs to complete a job successfully. We got a plan, I got an ace in my sleeve, and I’ve done said all my prayers to any Fate that will bother to listen. All we can do now is our very best, and hope it works out.”
“What’s the fourth thing?” the small dragon asked.
“A back up plan,” Bill told him.
“Please tell me you have one,” Coppin pleaded.
“I do, actually,” Bill smiled.
“Mind if I ask what it is?”
Bill told him. The miniature pink dragon went wide eyed for a moment, then smiled and nodded before heading out to do as Bill had asked. As soon as he was gone, Bill sent Kris and Scarlet to work, pausing to savor the kiss his lover gave him.
“See me soon,” she whispered in his ear.
“Count on it,” Bill grinned.
Their plans laid, the trio broke up, and set about the task of slaying a dragon.
“So, how do we go about getting the attention of a hundred monsters all at once?” Scarlet asked as they jogged through the woods.
“That part will be easy,” Kris giggled. “The hard part comes after that.”
“Surviving getting their attention?”
“Pretty much, yeah,” the Elf smiled. “But don’t worry, I got an idea.”
“It better be a good one,” Scarlet grimaced.
“Oh, it is,” Kris told her. “It hurt my head a whole lot just to think of it. That’s how I know it’ll be a good one.”
“You are so weird,” Scarlet told her.
“Ain’t I just?” Kris grinned.
They paused as they reached the point Bill had directed them too and waited for his signal that he was ready. Once they saw it, they would have to get every creature in the camp to come their way so he would have his chance to reach the mine cart. If even a few of them didn’t come, everything could fall apart.
“This is a bad idea,” Scarlet said as she pulled the dual swords on her back.
“You don’t get to be a mercenary and have good ideas,” Kris replied, hefting her staff.
A flicker of light from Bill’s position told them it was go time. Scarlet took a deep breath and started to walk out into the open, only to find her way blocked by the Druid’s staff.
“I got this,” Kris grinned, eyes twinkling with mischief.
The Half Elf nodded and stayed behind her as she strode out into open, already chanting in a language known only to Druids, the language of the World itself, handed down by the Fates that governed the elements. Beyond anything known to arcane mages, the Words were true power, and nothing in the world could ignore them.
Kris thrust her staff high as she finished her chant, hurling a fireball into the air. Behind her, Scarlet watched with a bit of concern, both for the less than stellar magic show and for the small number of monsters that had already taken notice of them.
“Whatever that was, I’m thinking it fizzled,” she said, stepping around Kris and swinging her blades to the ready.
“The True Words never fizzle, Scarlet,” Kris replied.
As the handful of creatures pulled their weapons and started forward, the fireball Kris had launched reached the apex of its arc. After that, everything happened very fast.
With a deafening roar, the small ball of fire exploded, raining thousands of fragments down on the camp, setting tents and creatures alike ablaze. Many scrambled in fear, running about mindlessly as they burned. Some tried to tame the fires, while others raised the alarm. In only seconds, the result Kris sought was achieved.
Scarlet watched, open mouthed, as every monster present turned to face them.
“I know how to get peoples attention,” Kris said smugly, twirling her staff in one hand.
“That you do,” the Half Elf nodded. “Now, can you keep it?”
“Silly girl,” Kris grinned. “I am a Goddess.”
The monsters moved towards them in a wave, roaring in rage as they brandished cruel weapons meant to inflict pain before death. Scarlet grinned at the sight, thinking to herself that if there was ever a good way to die, this was certainly it.
Lightening crackled past her, reeking of ozone and making her yelp as it struck down a good dozen of the beasts baring towards them. Looking to her side, she saw Kris, her brothers half mad lover, and had to fight the urge to flee the Elf.
“Stay by my side. Kill any who draw close. The rest, are mine.” Kris’ eyes burned with an inner fire and she seemed to almost float as she summoned the power of the True Words.
“Sure. No problem,” Scarlet gulped.
Their battle was joined.
As soon as the fireball detonated, Bill began to run. He had known as soon as he’d seen Kris launch it what she had in mind. It was the same trick she had used a couple years before on a Troll encampment, and it worked just as well then as it did now.
Pouring on every ounce of speed he had, Bill hauled for the mine cart, knowing that if even one of the creatures gathered about tried to stop him, his momentum, and his chances of reaching the cart, would be gone.
With the monsters distracted, as being set on fire tends to do, Bill found he had little difficulty reaching his destination. All eyes had turned to the Elf and the Half Elf on the outskirts of the camp, and already, bloodthirsty cries were being raised. He could only hope they would be able to hold out against the tide of beasts until Coppin returned.
While he usually avoided relying on others to do what had to be done, Bill knew that in this particular instance, to waste a resource would have been foolish. Part of him hoped, regardless, that Coppin would not have to come into play, for that could only mean that things were not going well.
Reaching the cart, Bill spotted the lever that set the entire thing into motion and dove forward, slapping it with his sword a half a breath before he landed in the heavy steel vehicle. He grunted a bit as he landed, dragging his massive shield in with him as the cart began to climb.
Scooting around, he re-positioned himself on his knees and planted the shield in front of him, the sharpened bottom edge biting into the metal easily. That done, he grabbed his helmet from its hook on his belt and dropped it on his head.
The counterweights that moved the chain the cart was attached to were far heavier than he, and after a few feet, he found himself flying up the track at dizzying speed. It was all a bit too much like the rides at the Gnome carnival Kris had dragged him to a while back, making him glad he’d skipped breakfast.
He really didn’t need it keeping him company in the cart when he faced Grimfang the Black.
As the cultists drew down on the two women, Kris set huge swaths of the field on fire, scorching many of the creatures in mid stride, and leaving the rest only a narrow approach. As they hesitated, looking down the flaming corridor, she rewarded their uncertainty by unleashing a swarm of enormous beetles from her staff.
The first group of monsters in the path of the insects died screaming, their flesh stripped from their bones in seconds. Behind them, the rest of the cultists seemed uncertain if they should proceed at all.
“She cannot cast spells such as this for long,” a Minotaur in the back bellowed. “Slay them! In the name of the living God, Grimfang!”
Emboldened, the monsters trampled the tattered remains of their allies, and rushed the Druid and mercenary. Kris could not help but smile at the foolishness of their actions.
“Get ready,” she said to Scarlet, who was busy gaping at what the tiny Elf was capable of.
Chanting so fast, the words were a blur to all but her own ear, she assailed them with spells. Boulders burst forth and set themselves ablaze before rolling over her enemies. Shards of ice the size of ships fell from the sky and exploded, hurling shrapnel in every direction. The forest at her back came alive, and filled the air with arrows the size of tree limbs.
All about her, the minions of the dragon screamed as they died, and to her ears, it was music. By her side, Scarlet trembled at the awesome power being unleashed, and believed, for a moment, that Kris truly was a Goddess.
A Fate that was cruel, merciless, and unrelenting.
Bill stepped out of the mine cart, looking at the entrance to the lair of Grimfang, a gaping maw in the side of the mountain. Nodding to himself, he entered, shield in one hand, sword in the other.
He did not have to travel far, only a dozen yards, before a booming voice echoed to him, as well as in his mind. “Who goes there?”
“The man who has come to end you,” Bill replied. He did not shout, and knew he didn’t need to.
In the darkness ahead, something enormous shuffled and coiled as it laughed. “You think yourself worthy to face me, Human? How arrogant.”
“I may be, but at least I am no coward, lurking in the shadows,” Bill chuckled.
Rage floated to him on the air as Grimfang rose and approached, his foot falls shaking the cavern. When the beast came into the light, Bill seriously began to reconsider his choice of career.
Towering, the dragon was easily thirty feet tall at the shoulder and black as night. Claws bigger than Bill tore at the stone as the dragons tail whipped about in fury, dozens of barbed spikes dripping poison on the floor.
It was the beasts head, however, that made Bill catch his breath. The sheer size of it, with spikes and barbs jutting up through the skin around a maw filled with boulder sized teeth that glittered razor sharp in the light would have been enough to undo most men. Worst of all was the eyes, sickly green and filled with such malicious intelligence that the creatures hatred seemed to flow out and strike at his very mind.
“Tell me, little man, who are you?” Grimfang asked, his voice filling both the cavern and Bill’s mind, though it never opened it’s mouth except to snarl.
“Does it really matter?” he asked in return, holding his ground.
The dragon laughed at that. “You are brave, and that I freely give you. I only wish to know who it is I dine on today.”
He nodded slowly, then answered, “I’m Bill Wick.”
Grimfang stepped back with a shudder of fear, then realized what he had done and snarled. “I do not believe you. Anyone could claim to be that man, and it would be but a lie.”
“Yeah, well, what can I say?” Bill shrugged. “That’s my name, and now that I’ve told it to you, you know who it is that ends your long life.”
The dragon eased around him, watching him carefully. “Could it be that you are he? Really and truly?”
“What? You want to see some ID or something?” Bill asked.
Grimfang laughed at that. “I suppose we will see then, Mr. Wick, if you live up to the reputation you have earned.”
“Ready when you are,” Bill nodded.
“I doubt that, very much,” the dragon roared as it reared back and spit a stream of acid at him that melted the very stone itself.
Scarlet fought with everything she had. Bodies were already piling up at her feet, making the very ground she held as much her enemy as the monsters that came in seemingly never ending waves. Sweat poured off her in equal measure as blood, and she couldn’t help but wonder if she would see the next sunrise.
At her side, Kris continued to assault the cultists with wave after wave of magical attack, but even she was beginning to show signs of fatigue, her spells focused more on simply holding them back than the grand, sweeping disasters she had wreaked earlier.
“If we get through this, I want you to know something,” Scarlet yelled at her as she impaled an Orc with both swords.
“So, you really do have a third nipple,” Kris replied as she buried her staff in a Troll’s stomach and set the beast on fire.
“What? No!” Scarlet barked, kicking the Orc into his companions as she spun to lop a Goblin’s head off. “I wanted you to know that you were right about me. I do have feelings for Bill. I always have.”
“Oh, is that all?” Kris asked, firing a jagged shard of ice from her hand to drop a Troglodyte. “I already knew that. I could see it in your eyes.”
“I know, I just wanted to admit to it,” the Half Elf panted, blocking a blow from a Gnoll even as her other sword spilled its intestines. “But, I need you to understand that I know he loves you, and I’d never get in the way of him being happy. Even if it means I can never be with him.”
“Aw, Scarlet, that’s so sweet,” Kris sniffed, a tear in her eye, as she summoned roots from the earth to rip a Minotaur apart. “I’m so sorry for being so mean to you before. You’re his sister, and he loves you as one, which means, you’re my sister, too.”
“Do you mean that?” Scarlet asked, knocking a Cyclops hammer back before spinning her blades around to gut it.
“I really do,” Kris told her, pulling the air from a Hob-Goblins lungs, suffocating him where he stood.
Scarlet couldn’t help but smile. “Well, then I guess that no matter what, I got to make sure you walk away from this, sis.”
Kris returned the smile. “Bill would never forgive me if I let you die here, you know. Neither would I.”
They laughed as they faced the horde of monster bearing down on them, determined to survive.
Grimfang pulled back, laughing. “I guess that either you were not Bill Wick, or your legend is mostly gossip, to be felled so quickly.”
“Who said I fell?” Bill asked, standing up straight from behind his shield, the acid rolling off it harmlessly.
Grimfang growled. “You come well prepared.”
“I’m facing the fiercest black dragon in the world,” Bill chuckled. “I’d be stupid not to.”
Grimfang smiled at him, tail whipping. “Let us see what you are made of, Mr. Wick.”
One eye on the wicked tail of the massive black dragon, the other on the crushing jaws, Bill began to run, using the natural rock formations of the cavern to his advantage. A stalactite was crushed by the powerful tail, poison spilling everywhere but on him as he ducked through the narrow spaces to small for the dragon.
Circling, he tried to keep himself in the beasts blind spot, no easy task under the best of circumstances, made that much more difficult by Grimfang’s wary nature. Still, luck was on his side as he emerged from between a row of boulders and found the dragon sniffing after him.
Not ready to smile yet, Bill hustled across the open space, jumping on whatever he could find to give him a some height as he made for the dragons exposed flank. Reaching a ledge, he jumped for the beasts back, realizing as he did that Grimfang had lured him in, whipping his massive head around to billow corrosive acid at the mercenary.
Bill heard the sizzle and pop of steel melting by his ear, the acid splattering on his shoulder guard, his quick turn of the shield not fast enough after all. Acid rolled over his head in waves as he continued through the air, hitting Grimfang on the hindquarters and desperately seeking purchase on the slick scales.
Driving his shield down, the sharpened edge bit through the thick hide and held, giving him some breathing room. Grimfang howled in rage, the cut of the shield the first injury he had known in hundreds of years.
Bill gasped with relief as the steady stream of acid abated, though he could now hear sizzling coming from his back as well. If he didn’t find a way past the breath weapon, and fast, he was going to be fighting in the nude. Not something he was looking forward to.
“You are a clever one, Mr. Wick,” Grimfang acknowledged as he slammed his head into the shield, sending both it and the man behind it flying. “That almost worked. Regardless, you are the first to so much as scratch me in so long, I’d forgotten what it felt like.”
“I’m honored,” Bill panted as he rolled to his feet.
“You should be,” the dragon chortled as it settled back on its haunches, readying its breath weapon. “Sadly, now you must die.”
Bill barreled straight ahead, sliding under the vicious green spray of acid as he dropped his shield and gave it a solid kick before hurling himself onto it, his back thudding against the rare metal. Swinging his sword up, he left a long, shallow score down Grimfang’s belly before coming to a stop, slamming into a grouping of rocks.
Grimfang bellowed in pain, swinging his head around to find Bill already on his feet, shield coming to the ready. Narrowing his eyes, the dragon began to accept that this man was certainly everything he had ever heard.
“I’ll melt you to the floor,” he hissed.
“Not with that stance,” Bill replied. “I got plenty of room, and love sledding.”
Grimfang growled, but knew the Human was right. So long as he could repeat his last move, it was only a matter of time before the dragon would be gutted, but would never guarantee a successful strike on the Human.
“So be it,” Grimfang snarled. “Let’s see how you like being shredded by my claws!”
Bill dove forward, slipping under the massive paw of the dragon as he tucked himself in and rolled to his feet, the rock formation shattered by the beasts blow. Already, Grimfang was turning back towards him, leaving him little time or room for a strike back at the monster.
Jogging sideways, Bill sought for an opening, but found none. The reach of the dragon far exceeded his own, putting him on the defensive. There was only one way he could see to get past that, but it meant letting the dragon hit him.
“Hmm…” Bill fretted as he swung himself around, spinning his shield on his arm as he dropped to a knee.
Grimfang roared as he swung his paw down on the puny human, but jerked it back quickly as it met the sharp end of Bill’s shield, leaving a deep gash in the flesh. Stepping back, Grimfang decided to regroup.
Glancing up, Bill briefly congratulated himself on not being dead, and pressed his advantage. Running at the dragon, he hoped to catch it off guard, but quickly realized that was a mistake as he brought his tail back into play, slapping the mercenary across the cavern.
“Ouch,” Bill grumbled as he pulled himself to his feet.
“You are every bit the man I have heard, Mr. Wick. I feel almost sorry for killing you,” Grimfang told him as he stalked ever closer.
“Yeah, I guess that means you won’t agree to lay down and let me kill you easily then, huh?” Bill shot back as he ran a circle around the massive creature, careful to avoid the tail.
“I’m afraid not,” Grimfang replied. “Though, if you’d like to do that for me, I’d be agreeable to making it quick.”
“Never planned to go out with a whimper,” Bill chuckled as he changed direction quickly, dropping to his knees, sword swinging up to slash at the powerful tail whipping over his head.
Blood flowed from the wound, forcing Grimfang back again, howling. “You are so very smart, Mr. Wick. Nothing like the other Humans who have sought my head.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Bill said, taking the brief respite to catch his breath.
“You should,” Grimfang acknowledged. “Though, we are done here. I’ve put you where I want you, and now, I’m going to eat you.”
Bill cocked an eyebrow, taking in his surroundings. The cave entrance before him, the narrow shelf of rocks at his back, and the dragon plowing straight at him from behind, mouth gaping. He had time to feel like an idiot before the rock shattered and he felt the hot, wet, breath of the dragons mouth.
Rolling with it, Bill thought fast, and wedged his shield as deep as he could in the beasts maw even as it bolted, full speed, out the cavern opening and into the air. Bracing his shoulder against it, he jabbed his sword up, against the soft tissue at the back of the creatures mouth.
“Now I have you right where I want you,” he told the dragon.
Flapping his wings, Grimfang rose high into the air, circling. “Then we are at a stalemate. I cannot bite down, nor use my breath weapon, or you will drive your sword up into my brain. However, you cannot do that, or we’ll both fall to our deaths.”
“Thing is,” Bill replied. “I’m okay with option number two.”
Grimfang felt the unfamiliar sensation of panic. “You would never.”
“I’m a mercenary,” Bill replied. “Dying is all I’ve got to look forward to. Way I see it, this is one hell of a way to go out.”
“No,” Grimfang howled. “I will not be felled like this! Not by a mere Human!”
“In case you missed it, I ain’t a mere anything,” Bill snapped. “I’m Bill fucking Wick, and I done told you I was going to kill your ugly ass.”
The dragon known as Grimfang the Black howled in impotent rage. Bill drove the sword home.
Kris and Scarlet stood amidst a sea of corpses, covered in blood, most of it belonging to the creatures they had slain, some of it their own. As they panted, exhausted, they looked to each other and smiled, for they had lived. It had not been easy, but they had done it.
“All that’s left,” Kris gasped as she leaned on her staff. “Is for Billy to do that dragon in, and we can call it a day.”
“You really think he can?” Scarlet asked, huffing as she put her swords away.
“Phooey,” Kris replied. “He’s Bill! Of course he can.”
Scarlet chuckled as she bent over, hands on her knees. “Well, he better make it fast. I’m tired, hungry, and in dire need of a bath.”
“Hey, look at that,” Kris said, eyes turning to the sky. “It’s not every day you see a lizard falling off a cloud.”
Scarlet looked at her in concern, thinking the Elf had gotten a head injury, then remembered who she was looking at. Shaking her head, she looked up, and saw what Kris had.
“Oh, crap,” she whimpered. “That’s no lizard, that’s Grimfang!”
“Aw, he’s gonna come down here so we can kick his ass without climbing all the way up to his bedroom. What a good evil dragon.” Kris clapped and spun her staff over head.
“Yeah, probably not,” Scarlet told her. “We might want to run away now.”
“Nah,” Kris replied with a smile. “I think he’s cute the way he keeps rolling over.”
“Rolling over?” Scarlet wondered, turning back to look at the massive beast.
It was, as Kris said, rolling over, slowly, as it plummeted to the ground, its wings flapping uselessly at its sides. It was also headed right for them.
“Okay, time to go,” Scarlet cried, grabbing Kris and yanking on her to no avail.
“But I wanna hug the flying puppy,” Kris wailed.
“This is no time to go bat shit on me, dammit,” Scarlet snapped, yanking as hard as she could. “That is several tons of dead dragon about to plow into us going Fates know how fast. We need to move!”
Kris wrinkled her nose. “The flying puppy wants to plow me? That’s kind of gross, even for a Druid.”
“It’s not a freaking puppy!” Scarlet screamed.
Grimfang, falling out of the sky with the grace of a rock, was almost on them, leaving Scarlet no choice but to wrap her arms around Kris and shield her as best she could. Kris oohed from under her arm at the dragon as it hit the ground, tearing a deep, wide furrow in the earth.
Slowly, it came to a stop, only a foot from them, the massive head of the beast close enough Kris could tap it with her staff, which she promptly did. Scarlet, meanwhile, gasped for breath and thanked every Fate in the heavens she was still alive.
“Are you sure it’s dead?” Kris asked.
“I sure as hell hope so,” Scarlet replied, pulling a sword to jab at it.
The mouth cracked open, releasing the stench of acid as it did, sending both women back a step in disgust. Then, as if by magic, Bill emerged, dragging his shield behind him.
“What the hell?” Scarlet gaped.
“Billy!” Kris squealed. “You stink.”
“Good to see you, too,” he chuckled, pulling his helmet off and dropping it on the ground.
“What the? How the? Why the?” Scarlet stammered.
“Oh, no, I’m fine, thanks for asking,” Bill told her.
Scarlet stared at the dragon, then at Bill, then back at the dragon. Slowly, she begin to smile, and reached up to thump him on the head.
“To damn thick in the skull to know when to die,” she chuckled.
“Always was,” he grinned.
“Mr. Wick,” Grimfang wheezed.
All three of them dodged back a step as the dragons eyes cracked open, rolling slightly to find Bill. Hesitantly, he stepped forward, dropping both his sword and his shield as he did.
“Figured you to be dead already,” he told the dragon.
“Soon enough,” Grimfang replied. “You are a terrible aim, it seems.”
“Never been too good at hitting something I couldn’t see,” Bill admitted.
“Congratulations are in order,” the beast sighed. “You succeeded where all others have failed for over a thousand years, by going the one place they all avoided. Well done.”
“If it’s any consolation, I was making the whole thing up as I went,” Bill told him, resting a hand on the creatures snout.
Grimfang chuckled. “Such will be my legend, then. Brought down by a man who made it up on the fly. There are worse things than that, I suppose.”
“There’s always worse,” Bill agreed. “To die without having lived. To leave the world and be remembered by none. That’s worse.”
“Do you think I will be remembered, Mr. Wick?” he asked. “For what I was? Or will I only be known as a dragon that you killed?
“I doubt anyone will ever forget the name Grimfang the Black,” Bill told him. “Don’t worry about that.”
“Hmm. Perhaps you are right. Though, now, your legend will grow larger than mine. How will it end, do you think?” Grimfang’s voice had grown weaker, his time almost done.
“I’ll go kicking and screaming, fighting it to the very last, the same as you,” Bill said softly. “There’s no other way for us.”
“No, I suppose not,” he replied, his voice a whisper. “Thank you, Mr. Wick. It is an honor to die by your hand.”
Bill could think of nothing to say as the light in Grimfang’s eyes went out, his massive chest moving no more. Over one thousand years had he lived, only to die in a bloodstained field, the only witnesses to his passing those who had ended his life. It was the only way for a warrior to go, and Bill saw his own end there as well.
“What happened up there, Bill?” Scarlet asked quietly.
“We fought,” Bill replied, stroking the dragons snout. “I won.”
“You okay?” Kris asked him, touching him lightly.
He nodded. “Yeah, I’m good. We should head for home.”
They turned their back to the dragon and headed away, the long road home still ahead. Behind them Coppin returned with hundreds of other Lythfield dragons to deal with the remains of Grimfang.
Pausing, the small pink dragon watched the three mercenaries go. Bill had sent him to gather the other Lythfields, but it seemed they had not been needed after all, and for a moment, Coppin wondered if they ever had been, or if Bill had simply wanted him out of the way.
Smiling to himself, he turned to his brothers and sisters, and together, they began the arduous task of laying Grimfang the Black Death to rest.
A week later, Bill stepped out of the central bank of Hillian, tucking away the official letter they had given him in exchange for making such a huge deposit. Anywhere he went, their seal would be recognized, and for the time being, he and Kris were pretty well off.
He took a deep breath, smiling to himself, sending a small group of children running and screaming. No matter, he felt, for perhaps it was high time he and Kris took a vacation.
“Are you done yet?” Kris asked from where she sat on a bench.
“All finished,” he nodded. “You ready to go?”
“I’m good,” she told him as she hopped to her feet. “But Bunny was getting pretty tired of waiting.”
“Tell him I apologize, but a transaction of that size takes a while to complete,” Bill replied, bowing slightly to Bunny as Kris hugged him up.
“Blah,” she drawled, hanging her tongue out. “I hate math. It has way too many numbers in it.”
Bill laughed and waved her on. “Let’s go, babe. I had a great idea.”
“Did it hurt?”
“Can’t be that great, then.”
“Did you want to at least hear it?”
“Yeah, I guess I should before I laugh at it.”
“I was thinking we could take a vacation for a while, and visit the beach.”
Kris stopped dead in her tracks, looking up a Bill with wide eyes. “Really? You mean it?”
“Why not,” he shrugged. “I know you’ve been wanting to go for a while now, so this seems as good a time as any.”
Bouncing on her toes, the Elf squealed in delight. “Can we rent a cabin on the ocean front? How about canoes? Can we do that? Oh, and fishing! We can go fishing for big ocean fish, right?”
Bill rested a hand on her head to stop her bouncing. “We can do anything you want.”
Giggling happily, Kris hugged him. “Thank you, Bill!”
“Ah, shucks,” he told her. “You deserve it for the way you worked with Scarlet. I was kind of afraid you might leave her to die first chance you got.”
Kris gave him a withering glare as she marched away from him. “Don’t be silly, Billy. I’d never do that. She’s your sister, and that makes her my sister, and I love her.”
Bill nodded, more than a little impressed as he trailed after her. “I’m very glad to hear that.”
“Besides,” Kris told him, stopping to throw a devilish grin over her shoulder. “We agreed that if it ever came down to it, we’d share you.”
Bill went stiff. “Do what?”
“Relax,” Kris giggled. “I’m just screwing with you. I do that sometimes.”
Bill breathed a sigh of relief. “Good to know, I think.”
Kris gave him a wink. “Or maybe, I’m screwing with you now, and we did agree to it. She is kinda cute, after all.”
Bill went stiff again.
©-2017 Cain S. Latrani
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
No dragons were harmed in the writing of this short story.