Dragon, 37

Start As You Mean to Go on, because Some Things Just Keep Repeating

Ao3 Link

The bells started ringing just as Owen and Gavin were returning from lunch.

“What the hell?” Gavin asked, looking up at the ceiling as if it would give him answers. The bells were faint in the castle, but could still be heard.

“What is it?” Bells rang periodically in the capital, it wasn’t that strange. Owen didn’t think he’d ever heard these exact ones before, he had to admit. They were lower, more methodical, than the church bells that clanged way too early in the morning every day.

“Those are the alarm bells,” Gavin said, expression tightening. He turned and headed down a hallway at speed, and Owen followed him.

“Alarm bells. Something’s approaching the city?” Owen suddenly felt like he needed his armour and sword.

Gavin nodded. “The last time I heard them…well it was when I got kidnapped.”

Owen looked at him. “We should get you somewhere safe. Like a basement or something.”

Gavin shook his head, waved a hand at Owen. “The castle’s a fortress, it’s fine. It’s probably just some mercenary company approaching the walls.”

“Does that happen?”

“Not often,” Gavin muttered.

“Where are you headed?” Gavin had turned away from the route that would take them to his apartments.

“The tower,” Gavin told him. “I want to see.”

Owen scowled. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Something in his stomach was turning over at that.

Gavin smiled, taking Owen’s hand. “What’s going to get to us in the tower, Owen?”

Owen sighed. Gavin was the smartest person he knew, but sometimes he was really dumb. “I don’t know. I’m getting an image of a big lizard, wings, breathes fire. Like a flying mermaid or something, I don’t…” he shrugged.

Gavin snickered. “What flying mermaid would ever dare attack me with my dauntless companion at my side? It’ll be fine, come on.”

“Okay, okay. I wish I had my sword.”

“You’re overreacting,” Gavin said. They were at the bottom of the tower stairs and Gavin started up them.

“I have a….weird feeling about this.” Maybe Owen was just paranoid. It was probably nothing. But he had the strangest feeling that they were in danger.

He guessed the bells were meant to engender that feeling.

“Let’s see if there’s anything to it before we worry, okay?” Gavin asked, leading Owen up the stairs.

“Yeah, okay.”

The bells were still ringing when they got to the top, and Gavin went to the nearest window and started walking a circuit around the room, eyes on the distance beyond the city walls. It was a clear day today, with visibility for ages. “I don’t see anything,” he muttered after he’d walked all around. Owen didn’t either.

But the bells were still ringing.

Owen’s stomach started to feel light. “Gavin, let’s go downstairs.”

Gavin looked at him, at the expression on Owen’s face, and back out the window. “Yeah, okay.”

A shadow passed over the tower for a moment. As if something had flown by the window.

Owen grabbed Gavin by the arm and pulled him to the stairs.

The tower shook.

Nothing seemed to move for a moment, no sound in the world. And then the entire eastern wall of the tower burst open, the roof collapsing that way, as a flat, scaled head smashed through the stone, breathing fetid air on them. Black and red, holding yellow eyes with jagged slits. Claws came into view as more of the tower collapsed around it, longer than Owen’s arm. Long horns protruding back from its head. Big, it was big, bigger than the others Owen had seen. A female, he thought distantly, as he backed Gavin up to the wall, reaching down to snatch a sword from a bracket there. “Owen…”

With a hiss, the dragon surged towards them, stone collapsing around her. Owen grabbed Gavin and threw them both to the side, then lay them down and put Gavin under him with a yell as the whole ceiling of the tower started to collapse.


“I’m fine.” Owen braced himself against the stone and mortar hitting his back, but fortunately most of the falling masonry landed on the dragon, which served both to shield the two of them from the worst of it and also distract her for at least a few seconds. “We’re going to have to get to the stairs,” he said to Gavin, raising his voice to be heard over the noise.

“How?” Gavin demanded, white as a sheet. “Owen.”

“It’s okay,” Owen promised, scared. Not for himself, but for Gavin. He could probably fend the dragon off, or at least get away from it, but the idea that something might happen to Gavin was horrifying to consider. But they’d been in dangerous situations before, the two of them. They could do this. He could do this.

The sound of falling stone stopped and the dragon screeched, and Owen looked over his shoulder to see it half perched on the tower, its massive form taking up all available space and then some, and looking down at them.

A massive claw came down on them from above and Owen tried to roll away form it but failed, and both of them were covered, grabbed, lifted with massive gouging of the masonry, pinned between two claws longer than swords and sharper, glistening around them. Owen swatted at the dragon with his sword, but to no effect.

With a precision that Owen could have characterized as careful, her other claw came over, separated Owen from Gavin with little difficulty despite how tightly they were holding on to each other, and lifted Gavin higher. “Owen!” Gavin hollered.

“Gavin!” Owen was dropped to the ground, not interesting to the dragon anymore. He immediately rolled, got to his feet. The dragon was turning now, taking the shouting Gavin with her, and with a flap of wings, she let herself fall from the tower. “No, you fucking don’t,” Owen growled, breaking into a run and leaping from the edge of the tower after the dragon without hesitation, landing hard on her broad back a little below the wings as she tried to gain height.

The dragon had spines running down her back, laying flat, and Owen grabbed on to them with one hand, keeping a grip on his sword in the other, getting onto his hands and knees as he tried not to let the spines cut him open. The dragon’s back was fairly flat at the moment so Owen took a chance, surging to his feet and running with a shout, up past the flapping wings and onto the dragon’s neck, taking a leap and landing belly first on the dragon’s head, between the horns.

That got her attention better than Owen landing on her back had. The dragon threw her head, snarling, and Owen’s grip on her was tested, especially since his right hand was full of sword, but he managed it by hooking an arm around the base of her left horn.

Looking down, Owen could see Gavin, struggling, in the dragon’s right claw. Dragons were careful with the things they liked, he knew. She would make sure not to hurt Gavin as much as she possibly could. Owen didn’t want to spend too much time counting on the gentleness of a dragon, though, so he forced himself to breathe properly, to focus on the head. All he had to do was piss the dragon off enough that she would land on the ground, put Gavin down nicely and let Owen kill her.

Or something.

Owen was a little short on options up here, so he went with the one plan he had—even if it was nuts. Closing his eyes and trying to get a sense of the force the dragon was using to try and buck him off, Owen let himself fall to the side, still hanging on to the horn with his left arm, and swung down to the side of the dragon’s face, in serious danger of losing his grip and falling to his death from higher up than he’d realized they were.

His momentum took him sideways like a pendulum, and Owen held his sword poised, waiting, waiting for the endless seconds until he passed into the dragon’s field of vision. And then he stabbed the fucking thing right in the eye.

The dragon roared, violently tossing her head as fire brewed in her mouth. Owen pulled the sword out of its eye and kept his grip on the horn only with extreme difficulty. They dropped, loosing nearly half the tower’s worth of height in a stomach-plunging instant that nearly dislodged Owen from his precarious position as a hanger-on, before a massive effort from the dragon’s wings managed to slow them. The wind was rushing in his ears, the dragon was roaring and screaming and smouldering and flapping, his heart was pounding, but over it all, Owen could hear Gavin shouting.

Their descent continued in a slower way, but with one violent shake of the head, Owen was suddenly dislodged and fell with a cry, hit the ground with a thud and felt all the air leave his lungs at once. It hurt like hell but Owen didn’t think he’d broken anything. More concerning in an immediate way was the dragon bearing down on him, and Owen rolled to the side to avoid a heavy front claw and ended up underneath her belly as the ground shook.

Extricating himself from underneath the dragon, Owen tried a strike at the neck as he was close to it, and found himself hitting a snapping jaw instead. Owen ran as fire blossomed, just avoiding the white plume. She had hotter fire than the last two.

Panting, Owen came to a halt several feet from the dragon and turned to face her as she roared. From here, she was even bigger than he’d realized, the only thing so far that managed to put the castle in any sort of perspective. She’d caused a lot of damage to the castle’s walls and brick and mortar were still raining down as they fell loose. In her right front claw she still held Gavin. He was looking down at Owen, and there was some blood on his face.

Owen felt murderous all of the sudden.

Arrows pinged off the dragon’s hide, and Owen looked behind him to see some castle guards with bows. “Stop—you’ll hit Gavin!” he hollered at them, pointing Gavin out since they’d obviously fucking missed seeing him. “Dragon scales are indestructible anyway!”

The arrows didn’t hurt the dragon but they did have the effect of getting her attention and she lowered her head, flames roiling around the edges of her mouth. “Shit. Move, all of you!”

Owen threw himself to the side just as a blast of flame shot at them, searing the air and leaving a glut of ash in its wake, colliding with an invisible something that protected the panicking guards.

Before Owen could ask himself, a hand tugged on his, helping him up. “The plan is to go for the neck, yes?”

Aria. Owen looked at her, wondering how she’d gotten here so fast. But if she’d seen the dragon, she’d have known it was headed for the castle. She had her battleaxe at the ready. Owen shook his head. “The plan is to get her to drop Gavin.”

Aria looked at Gavin in the dragon’s clutches, nodded. “And after that?”

“Then we go for the neck,” Owen said, taking a breath. “We’re going left.”

“Understood. Dragon scales are impervious to magic too, so we don’t have Cleo.”

“Got it,” A second ago Owen had only had himself, so not having Cleo wasn’t bothering him overly. As useful as it might have been.

Owen charged the dragon and Aria followed him, moving around to the dragon’s blind side. Owen ducked under a poorly aimed swipe from a claw, watched her as she tried to turn her head to see the two of them out of her right eye.

Fire erupted forth and Owen leapt forward to get behind it, Aria going farther left. As Owen had hoped, now that he had her turning left bodily, it was her right front claw that came up, prepared for a swipe, letting Gavin fall in order to make it happen. Owen leapt forward into the swipe, diving through the gap between the dragon’s claws, rolled forward and ran to Gavin, who was just collecting himself now. Not alone—Franz’s dog was with him. The dragon swung around with a snarl, following him.

“Gavin.” Owen put hands on him, helped him stand. He was bleeding from a cut somewhere on his scalp, and one on his arm as well. But he was alive. Owen felt the world stop falling out from under him. Beside them, the dog was growling at the dragon.

“I’m fine, I’m just…Owen!” Gavin pulled at him as fire crackled in the dragon’s mouth again, and Owen heard it more than he saw it.

“Fuck,” Owen pulled Gavin back and the two of them ran as the dragon lowered her head, preparing to shoot. Owen got onto Gavin’s left side and gave him a hard push towards Cleo and the line of guards, himself going right because he was the one the dragon wanted to crisp.

Sure enough, she followed him with her line of white fire, which cut off abruptly with a howl as Aria’s axe struck the dragon in the neck. With a snap of her jaws and a shake that seemed to take her whole body, the dragon drove Aria back several steps before swinging those claws down.

Aria blocked them with her axe, impossibly standing her ground. Owen took advantage of the opening and ran, ducking under the arm to get under the dragon’s head. The dog ran with him like it was going to attack the dragon and the two of them charged it, only to be confronted with massive jaws when he got close, brimming with fire. “Oh, fuck you.” The dog was growling, and Owen grabbed his collar and hauled him back.

Even from here the heat of it was burning Owen’s skin and he jumped back, knowing he wasn’t going to get away in time, knowing that he was…

The dragon reared its head with a roar, and it took Owen a second to see the arrow—arrows—in its eye, and to look over and see a battered Gavin, standing even though he must have wanted to collapse, holding one of the guards’ longbows steady and nocked, ready to fire again if he had to.

Owen had never been so in love with him as he was in that moment.

But he took only a second to appreciate Gavin before turning back to the dragon, who was growling fiercely and preparing a blast of fire that would take aim at Gavin and all the soldiers. Cleo would protect them.

But Owen wasn’t going to risk it. He ran in, got under the dragon’s head. She lowered, preparing to shoot flame. The dog tackled her, causing her to raise her head just slightly.

Owen raised his sword, pierced the soft underside of her neck from below, and gave an almighty wrench to the right side, tearing the dragon open. Hot blood and something else rained down, coated his right side, burning. The dragon roared, writhed, flailed, fell. Owen was knocked back, nearly crushed, by the dragon’s death throes as blood spurted out from the wound, coating the ground. Flame burst erratically from the dragon’s mouth and the sound of her screams filled the castle grounds. Franz’s dog was barking, and pulling Owen away by the arm as Owen tried to stand.

After too long, the dragon finally stopped moving. Owen released the breath he’d been holding. His entire right side felt like it was on fire, but he couldn’t make himself do anything more than turn, face Gavin.

He staggered forward, towards him, towards Gavin, always facing Gavin. Gavin threw his bow aside and ran to meet him, stopping just in front of Owen. Owen smiled.

“I’ve…I’ve slain the dragon, your Highness. You’re safe now.”

Gavin smiled, eyes shining with tears. He put a hand on Owen’s cheek. “Thank you,” he whispered, before taking that last step, wrapping Owen in a hug that he couldn’t help but reciprocate. Gavin was still here, okay. Both of them were still here, and alive, and okay. It was okay. “Thank you.”

It was okay.

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