Ch. 12.1 – Alex

Alex shot through the air, evading the titan above him with hairpin turns that his foe couldn’t quite match. That’s been my only advantage so far, he thought, pivoting to face his opponent. His Vision talent allowed him to fly backwards safely across the night sky, since the only meaningful hazard to him was Ekaida.

God. She’s magnificent. Her dragon form was only superficially like that of the classic monster of legend. Ekaida had the sinuous body, the long wings, four legs with talons, the tail, and a long neck. Yet as he blocked another dart of flame, Alex couldn’t help admiring the graceful way she soared across the sky. The wings were almost like a falcon’s, elegant and sweeping, with pointed ends and edged with down. Her neck was about as long in proportion to the rest of her as a crane’s, letting her look in any direction, but without seeming impossible as she flew. Her forearms were surprisingly human-looking, almost as though she were a muscular woman in armor, though her claws could never be mistaken for gauntlets. Ekaida’s face surprised most of all, the snout she’d started with had shrunk to be less like a T-Rex and more like a turtle’s, though she retained the sharp teeth and a small, tough crest. Ekaida’s features looked even more human than her arms, her eyes in particular.

Those eyes widened, and Ekaida smiled with glee as she tightened the circle she flew around him. “You’re exquisite, my beautiful boy, but unless you wake a Deep Dragon, I am the mightiest being you will ever face.” Alex realized with a thrill of horror that she was conjuring a binding circle, Blaze and Rift to trap him in mid-air. He shot straight up, feeling her majestas pull at him briefly before he tore free. The resulting shockwave rippled through the air. “Ooo. Clever clever, pretty pretty.”

“Seemed pretty obvious to me,” Alex replied, trying to bind her wings in loops of force. Ekaida almost literally shrugged them off, shattering his rings with a single beat of her copper wings that threw out a wave of Blaze. “I can feel your power, Ms. Ekaida, you can resist him!”

The dragon laughed, a genuinely amused and strangely human sound, as she flew at the Bastion. “Most of your kind get too clever, only seeing Majestic solutions to Majestic problems. As for resisting,” Ekaida continued, Alex barely dropping below her in time to avoid her grasp, “why would I do that? I promised him service. He promised me ecstasy. Travis kept his word.”

Alex grimaced, daring a Vision probe. What little he could see of her spirit was even more vast than the creature banking towards him. She goes on forever, he thought, awed in spite of the danger. A vast field, with cities from ancient Babylon, mythic Greece, the Roman Empire, and medieval Europe stretched before him, and Alex knew that what he saw was only a sliver of her memory. The parts I have the most context for, he guessed.

The bonds were just below the surface, but Alex could feel them radiating dominance. Concepts of rope, chain, and bandage glowed within the buildings and beneath the ground. Bandages? Wait. There. Alex reached out, trying to Adapt the bonds into shields.

The backlash threw the Bastion out of Ekaida’s mind and left him reeling. Great. Why couldn’t Travesty have been all hype? Alex felt one tiny consolation – her domination wasn’t supposed to be eternal. Ninety-six years left out of a century-long pact doesn’t do us much good, though. He threw a spherical shield around himself, deflecting the tail lash that slammed into him. “You’re trying to save me, too? That’s adorable!” Ekaida laughed. “You are my absolute favorite Saint George. Well, not that Saint George was even Saint George, but that’s a long story. I can tell you once you’re back with your girlfriend.”

“The girlfriend your master is trying to enslave?” Alex snarled, stopping his flight. Outrage, strangely, burned away his distractions rather than add to them. “Are you really okay with West using you like this?”

Ekaida’s entire body rippled as she nearly stopped in mid-air, wings beating with fierce uncertainty. Blaze kept her aloft where physics would have objected. “I…we worked it all out beforehand. There are limits.”

“This isn’t one of them?” Alex demanded. “Kidnaping people? Turning them into batteries?” He circled the Daimani, That’s right, she’s Daimani, not just a dragon, Alex remembered. “I’ve heard about your people, Ms. Ekaida. Fierce individualists, devoted to honesty and freedom. This can’t be who you really are.”

“We’re individualists, beautiful Bastion,” Ekaida replied, slowly picking up speed again. “Lonely individualists. The Breaking means most humans will never truly know us.” She made a grand sweeping gesture with one wing, indicating the city below. “Why do you think a super-knight fighting a dragon goddess goes unnoticed, even at this hour?” She pointed at the stars with a wave of her claw. “I have been a fierce conqueror, a gentle queen, a legendary monster, an epic hero. Playing the plaything is bliss I’ve not known in over a thousand years.”

“And what about the lives you ruin?” Alex snarled. “Enjoy whatever you want on your own time, but Sara and the Rift Prime didn’t choose this. Either you have to fight West, or I have to fight you.”

Again, Ekaida slowed, circling, watching Alex warily. “He’d have been mad to alter my memories. I’m an Elder Dragon. Even a Vision Prime could not bind my will beyond the end of our bargain.”

Is that an opening? Alex wondered desperately. Maybe. What have I got to lose? “A century might not be a long time for you,” he said gently, “but it’s more than a lifetime for most of us. How much human arrogance have you seen in your life?” Ekaida stopped completely, reverting to her winged woman form. The red dress became scarlet scale armor, matching the flaming streak of hair streaming from her head. “You can at least check, can’t you?”

Floating in the night, Ekaida frowned, looking away, eyes narrowed. “Of course.” She shuddered. “A simple thing, surely.” She made fists. “I…”

Space roared, and Alex’s friends appeared below them on the roof. “Kai, damn it,” Molly shouted up, “what do you think you’re doing?!”

Ekaida smiled suddenly. “Molly!” she cried happily. I think it’s going to work! Alex exulted. Wait, they know each other?

Then the Daimani pivoted and dove, fist extended like a classic flying hero as she stooped to attack the Ghost Dragon. Oh, for God’s sake!

Written by Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan was born in the Bronx, New York, giving him the right to root for the Yankees while making less than six figures. After a long, largely pleasant interregnum in suburban Connecticut, he moved to the Inland Empire, California to be with his wonderful wife and muse, a stepson, and a crazed feline. An occasionally too-avid player of and writer for tabletop roleplaying games, his other passion is metaphysics, which informs most of his fiction.

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