Dragon, 57

Sometimes on an Adventure, you End up Playing a Supporting Role in Someone Else’s Drama

Ao3 Link

“Another day, another impenetrable magical fortress in the mountains.”

“Yes, you’re such a badass,” Gavin said, rolling his eyes. “Now put your helmet on.”

Owen did as he was told, grinning at Gavin once he was fully armoured. “Tease all you want, me being a badass turns you on.”

Gavin smiled back. “Yes it does. We’ll have sex after we storm the castle. Let’s go.”

“You two couldn’t possibly be more annoying if you tried,” Edwin said, also strapping his helm on.

Gavin smiled. “Sure we could. Does that mean you don’t want to have sex after we storm the castle too?”

“Uh…” Edwin flushed. He glanced at Sir Erik. “I have plans.”

Owen patted him on the back, gauntlets clanking against Edwin’s plate. “Some other time, then.”

Edwin gave him a smile that Owen actually thought might be shy, and nodded. How he could be shy after spending a night in between Owen and Gavin was a mystery, but it was cute.

“Alright,” Gavin said, striding forward. They were at the end of the long and winding path, in the shadow of the Citadel’s front doors. Nothing had attacked them yet, which was good because this path was narrow. Cal was standing there with his people, patting his arm weirdly. But he looked up at Gavin. “These are big-ass doors,” Gavin said. They towered over them, solid stone, ten paces high.

“They’re enchanted,” Cal’s mage friend Lillian told him. “It’ll take a few minutes to get through them.”

“Just a few minutes,” Sully agreed. “I can shut down the magic on them, just give me…”

Cal moved to the front of the group, pulling his sword off his back. He had two, a short one at his hip and a long, battered one on his back that was too big for him—not that Owen could criticize, since he had Little Sword on his back at the moment—and that battered sword looked oddly right in his hand and as he drew it.

And Cal approached the gates, swinging the sword one time.

The doors blew inwards, struck by something powerful. They flew right off whatever hinges held them in place, and landed with two heavy bangs on the stone ground of the inner courtyard.

Cal put the battered sword away and waved at them to follow him inside.

“Or we could do that,” Sully muttered.

“Didn’t think he had it in him,” Owen commented, slightly wary as he watched Cal.

Beatrice smiled. “Me either. But Cal’s got a lot of surprises packed in that tiny little body.”

“I can hear you,” Cal called over his shoulder.

“I know—I’m saying you’re short.”

Gavin patted Owen’s arm. “It’s fine. Let’s just go.”

Owen sighed. “Sure. Let’s just ignore that arresting display of super-strength.” Obviously nothing about that was at all worrying.

“You’re just jealous,” Gavin told him. “You’re plenty strong, Owen. Come on.”

Owen planned to arm-wrestle Cal later, just to see.

They crossed unimpeded across the courtyard and climbed some steps to the main doors, which were normal sized doors and opened on being pushed. Inside was a large, vaulted antechamber with two curved staircases leading up each wall. On both floors were sets of double doors, and smaller doors stood on the walls left and right.

There were no demons around. Disappointing.

Sully sighed, pointing at the lower set of double doors. “That’s the meeting hall. It’s the main room. The other doors up there will lead to the laboratories and the armoury. The side doors lead up and down both. There’s a concourse on the third floor that’ll connect all the towers, and the lower floors are all connected as well.”

“Where are they likely to be?” Cal asked, looking at the side door to the left.

“The lower floors, is my guess. It’s…well, it’s where most of the living quarters were.”

“That’s what they called dungeons back in your day?” Gavin asked Sully.

“We didn’t have a dungeon. It wasn’t a war where you took prisoners.” Sully didn’t meet Gavin’s eye. “We sometimes kept research specimens in the towers.”

“We’ll take the downstairs,” Cal said, heading to the door before Owen could ask questions.

“We’ll search the towers, then,” Owen said, wondering what Sully’s comment had meant. Research specimens.

Elaine nodded, looking at the knights. “Quentin, you and Parry accompany the prince. The rest of you come with me—we’ll look for the demons and distract them. We’ll meet you back here.”

That was what they’d already decided, so there was no further discussion. They broke into those three groups, Cal’s heading left, Owen’s right and the knights heading for the main hall.

Through the door was a short hallway leading to some stairs that went down, but they found a door with stairs leading up instead. “It occurs to me,” Gavin said as they started to climb, “that all the magic-users went with Cal.”

“They did do that, didn’t they?” Owen asked, taking up the rear position because Quentin and Parry had gone up ahead, swords out. Owen didn’t have his sword out yet. No point. “We probably should have insisted that one of them come with us.”

Would it actually help if one magic person were with them when a bunch of demons showed up? Hard to say, but it couldn’t hurt.

Gavin nodded, twirling his unstrung bow in his hands. “I’m not sure how my bodyguard ended up not having any magic practitioners on it. That seems like an oversight on your part.”

“There are no practitioners among the order,” Owen told him. “It’s not my fault, it’s your kingdom’s discriminatory hiring practices.”

“Well, I think we can probably blame the mages for that, actually, they kind of scoop kids up and train them before they can decide to become knights.” Gavin frowned. “We could probably have poached a mage from them. What about that one you liked, the one who helped you at the banquet?”

“Nicholas?” Owen asked. “He was a good kid. Needed a bit more experience.” He’d reminded Owen of himself a little.

“Doing this would have given that to him. Plus wasn’t he one of the chosen ones? He’s probably super powerful or something. Once he graduates from school we should hire him.”

Owen shrugged. “I mean, why wait? What’s he going to get from reading a bunch of old books that he can’t from going around doing stuff in the world?”

“Spoken like a truly uneducated peasant,” Gavin said, smiling to himself.

“This uneducated peasant will be saving your ass when the demons show up.”

“I hope so,” Gavin said. “I’m pretty fond of my ass.”

“Me too. It’s one of your good qualities.”

“I’m going to pretend that was a compliment.”

Owen reached down and gave Gavin’s ass a grope. “It was.”

Gavin just rolled his eyes. “You’re lucky you look good in that armour, Sir Owen.”

“There’s a hallway up here,” Sir Quentin called down. “It’s empty.”

Owen and Gavin climbed the rest of the stairs quickly, emerging into a wide hallway that curved on either end, clearly encircling the third floor of the fortress. The wall opposite them had doors periodically, but on the same wall they’d emerged from were circular protuberances that were obviously the towers they were looking for.

As Gavin led them for the closest one, Parry remarked, “wonder what’s all in there.” He pointed at the other doors. “Sully didn’t say what else was up here.”

“Supplies, maybe,” Owen suggested. “the kitchen.”

“It’s a lot of doors for a pantry and a kitchen.”

“There could have been a lot of demons.”

“We’ll look through them once we’re done in the towers,” Gavin decided as he approached the door to the tower. “Doesn’t sound like Cal’s people are going to be in here anyway, so it’s not like there’s a rush unless someone with horns shows up and tries to murder us.”

“Which I’m surprised hasn’t happened yet,” Owen admitted as they got to climbing more stairs. “This is supposed to be their fortress. They don’t seem all that angry that we broke in.”

“It’s kind of abandoned,” Parry agreed.

“No,” Gavin said, shaking his head. “It’s not. It’s not as dusty or derelict as you’d expect it to be if nobody had lived here forever. Someone’s maintaining it.”

Owen agreed, and that made the two knights even warier. “Hopefully,” said Sir Quentin, “they are not home.”

The tower windows were all narrow and meant for aiming arrows out from. A series of doors leading up the tower revealed two empty rooms, obviously unused, one large room full of long tables with bloodstains on them, and, at the top, a library.

“Wasn’t expecting this,” Gavin muttered, snooping around.

“Guess demons read too,” Parry said, running his finger along the spines of the books, stopping and taking a slim one off the shelf at random, flipping through it. “In demon language, though.”

“This is Ancient Dynese,” Gavin muttered, looking at one himself. “Or some of it is, anyway. I don’t know what this other language is.”

Owen looked at a book too, but it was just full of words he couldn’t read and strange circles and looked magical, so he put it back. “There’s nothing here.”

“Yeah,” Gavin agreed, looking around. “I mean, millennia of lost history. But nothing we can stab. Let’s go.”

Parry slipped the book he’d been looking at into his belt and they left. The top of the tower was a walkway around the conical roof, which afforded a great view of the mountains but not much else. They proceeded down from there and headed for the next tower.

The bottom room in this one was full of hooks that hung from the walls and ceiling with nothing on them. “But they didn’t keep prisoners,” Gavin commented.

“Not for long, anyway,” Sir Quentin agreed.

The second-floor room was a mess, mostly full of broken furniture and other junk. The third floor looked like a study to Owen. There was a writing desk, a long table, some chalk markings on the tables. It was like what a wizard’s study should look like—there was even a notebook on the table full of crumbling pages with pictures of magic circles again, and a few drawings of what would be a terrifying creature if it were real, long fangs protruding top and bottom from the jaw, eyes in front and on the sides of its head, four in total, curled horns, long claws, rippling muscles. Quadrupedal, though one drawing had it standing on its hind legs like a bear. “Someone had a fucked-up imagination,” Owen muttered.

“Hm,” Gavin agreed. “I guess that’s to be expected from a demon.”

Owen nodded, and they proceeded up to the top floor.

“Door’s locked,” Parry said, shrugging.

Gavin frowned. “That’s new. Maybe Cal’s people are in there. Why lock it if the room is empty, right? Open it.”

Parry raised his sword, but Owen smiled at him, put a hand on his forearm. “I got it.” He kicked the door hard, and it broke inwards.

Parry scowled. “I could have done that.”

“Sure you could have, lad,” Quentin said.

Owen peered inside the room, crossing the threshold. There were no windows or they were covered, and it smelled rank in here. “This is…weird.”

As he said it, Owen heard something let out a breath. “Oh, shit…”

A growl filled the room and that was all the warning Owen had before something moved. He stepped back, out into the staircase. And was collided with as the monster from the drawing downstairs emerged from the room, cracking the doorframe and slamming Owen into the window behind him.


“I’m fine!”

Owen was not hurt, but he probably wasn’t fine either. The armour kept him from being crushed—which he was vaguely aware wasn’t how armour usually worked, so thanks, dead dragon—and then suddenly the wall behind him just kind of broke outward, and the monster charged through the hole with Owen in its claws, sailing through the air with him.

Well, fuck. Owen could hear Gavin shouting, but it wasn’t like he could do anything and a few seconds later, with a crush, Owen was slammed into the roof of the main building. Into, and through, the roof of the main building, crashing through it with the monster on top of him, falling through rotted wood of the fortress’s attic space, and onto a stone floor with force that took his breath away, the monster on top of him now.

Up close, it seemed not to have enough skin to cover its body. It was the size of a large bear, a bit bigger, and it had its front claw on Owen’s chest, growling down at him, drool dripping from its maw.

It raised its other claw to strike, and Owen didn’t let it, drawing his dragon bone sword fluidly and striking at the monster’s legs and belly in one blow, drawing blood. Whatever this thing was, it definitely felt pain, and it reared back, giving Owen time to roll out from underneath it and stand.

They were in a narrow room crammed with shelves, many of which had collapsed with their abrupt entrance through the new door in the ceiling. The thing couldn’t move properly in a space this small but Owen was trapped in here with it, so he lunged for the door and tore out into the hallway, the monster chasing him with a roar that shook Owen’s bones.

He’d liked demons better when they’d looked like Sully. Sully was small and easily dismembered.

The door led to a hallway and Owen ran down that. The monster chased him through the door, breaking it apart and the wall with it, crashing into the wall opposite as well. On the other side was what looked like a large room so the next door Owen saw he charged through that too, pulling himself into a big, circular space, slightly raised around the edges but clearly focused on the depression emanating from the centre of the room, which was covered in old stains. Blood, looked like.

Owen hoped he didn’t add any new stains to it—at least not with his own blood.

He moved into the centre of the room, right at the bottom of the depression. The monster broke into the room too, but prowled now, circling the edge of the room, not coming down right away. Owen turned, sword in hand, watching it. It was growling, menacing, clearly not letting him go. But seemingly unwilling to come into the circle.

The circle. Hm. “I see,” Owen said to it. “I see. Circles are supposed to trap demons, aren’t they? Is that why you won’t come down? You afraid of this thing? Your buddies here use circles like this to keep you trapped, don’t they?”

The monster roared at him, standing still a moment.

“Yeah, yeah,” Owen said, banging his sword hilt against his shield, strapped on his other arm. “Shut it. You’re not so tough. You’re just the guard dog, aren’t you? You’re just…”

The monster leapt suddenly, giving Owen enough time to put his shield up and not much else before it collided with him. And crashed him right through the floor, sending them smashing into more stone below, which also gave way and ended in another collision with something that was fortunately strong enough to stop their descent.

Owen’s head was ringing, but he waited, watching. The monster reared up to smash him again and Owen reacted, dropping his blade, heaving his legs up and rolling them over his head, reaching behind his back as he rolled and unstrapping Little Sword. Owen fixed his grip as he stood, turning the huge broadsword sideways so it cleaved upwards as he stood and pulled it with him. The monster smashed down. The sword cleaved up.

And Owen staggered and fell backwards as Little Sword came free of the monster’s head, riven in two. The monster collapsed, blood pooling.

He’d have to thank Franz when they got back to the capital.

Owen sighed, stood back up and retrieved his other sword, holding one in each hand as he took stock. He was standing on a stone table that was now cracked, in another huge, circular room.

The knights were just over there, mostly behind Edwin, whose glowing sword was holding a handful of demons at bay. Regular ones that didn’t look like bears.

Well, wasn’t that nice.

Owen started in their direction, hopping down from the table. “Hey,” he said, gesturing at the ceiling with his left hand, holding the dragon bone sword. “Sorry about the, you know. How’s it going?”

“Fine,” Edwin said, looking a bit stricken. All of them were looking at Owen, knights and demons both. Clearly surprised, like nobody ever crashed in through the ceiling.

A loud crashing sound seemed to reverberate through the fortress for a moment, distracting Owen. But he blinked, trying to only see one of everything, and continued his approach towards the knights. The demons kind of parted and moved out of his way, which was nice of them. “Gavin and them are probably on their way down,” Owen explained. “They’re taking the long way.”

One of the demons behind him, a skinny demon with an elongated jaw and a sword in each hand, leapt at Owen, probably thinking that Owen was in front of him and wouldn’t notice. Silly. Owen spun his dragon bone sword in his left hand and stepped backwards, stabbing under his arm and taking the demon in the gut. He staggered back and fell over with a gurgle, and one of the other demons knelt beside him in alarm.

Owen smiled at the knights. “Turns out demons aren’t that tough.”

The demons all around him, five or maybe eight, Owen wasn’t sure, exploded into movement and so did Owen. He trusted his armour to keep the magic away from him and just lifted his arms to defend himself, Little Sword in one hand and his shield on the other arm, held loosely to accommodate his holding the dragon bone sword too.

As he ducked and blocked and stabbed and swung, Owen reflected that it seemed kind of unfair that only one of his swords had a name. Maybe he should fix that. What kind of name suited a sword made of dragon bone? He should ask Joey, but Joey wasn’t here and also that might be a bit racist.

As Owen gave Little Sword a heavy swing—useful for keeping them away from him—he came back-to-back with Edwin. Actually, that wasn’t a bad idea. “Hey, Edwin?”

“What? I’m busy!”

“Yeah,” Owen agreed, stabbing the unnamed sword out. “Does your sword have a name?”

“What? No!”

“It should. All good swords have names.” Owen raised his shield, blocked a rain of fire from one of the demons. “How about Tigerclaw?”

“It came from a lion, Owen,” Edwin growled, as they span around so Edwin could lash the magic sword out at the demons on Owen’s side and Owen could menace Edwin’s enemies with Little Sword. He took one under the arm and then the demon had fewer arms.

Owen could see the other knights fighting, having slightly less success than he and Edwin were—but most of the demons were focused on the two of them, so that was useful. “I know,” Owen said, squinting as he tried to keep the demons in focus. “It’s a joke. Lion’s Roar would be good, though.”

“We’re not talking about this now…”

As Edwin said that, something happened. Owen wasn’t immediately sure what, but he felt a pressure enter the room from nowhere, and all the demons…stopped moving. Owen turned, and there in the middle of the room was a demon lady in a black dress inlaid with pearls, her horns curling around the front of her head like a crown, long claws at the end of each finger. Skin an ash grey, she looked about a head taller than Owen. “That,” she said, “is enough.”

Owen took a step towards her, swords up. “You’re the boss demon, huh?”

“That’s correct,” she told him, giving him a look-over. “May I presume you’re in charge of this charade?”

“Sure,” Owen said, taking another step. “Don’t worry, we’re just rescuing some people and we’ll be out of your hair soon.”

“I think you shall die long before that.”

Owen smirked, and he swung out with Little Sword, using the obvious motion to hide the jab from the unnamed dragon sword at the demon’s belly.

It didn’t matter. She caught each sword in a hand, flicked her wrist and span Owen off the ground, slamming him into the back wall twenty feet away. Some mortar dust landed on Owen’s helmet, ran down past his eyes. Owen blinked, completely unsure of what had just happened.

But Edwin was running at the demon lady, glowing sword out, prepared to slash at her face.

She caught that too between two fingers. “Please,” she told Edwin. And she tossed both him and the sword over her shoulder. He landed near the dead monster who’d come in with Owen.

Then she turned, surveyed the knights. And scowled. “None of you are Nathen,” she said, archly. “Where is he?”

“Nobody here by that name,” Elaine said, as all seven of them prepared to fight the demon lady, weapons raised. Owen’s ears were ringing too much for him to talk, but he wanted to tell them that was a bad idea. She was really very strong.

In front of them, suddenly, appeared a man. Pretty chubby, wearing loose clothes and holding a heavy sword, he flared out owl-like wings and stood in the demon’s way. “You weren’t supposed to be here.”

The demon stopped, looking at what Owen assumed was an angel, unimpressed. Owen tried to stand, but couldn’t. “Was your little light show meant to distract me? Get out of the way.”

The angel shook his head. “No. Cameron, don’t do this.”

“I already am,” Cameron told the angel, striking down with one hand. The angel blocked it with his sword, the floor cracking underneath him as he did. Owen tried again to get up, finding Sir David there, helping him stand. He was very dizzy, shit. He had a concussion, Owen was cogent enough to realize that.

“You okay, lad?” David asked him, as the two of them fought.

“Yeah,” Owen said, fighting down nausea. “Hit my head. A few times.”

“Flying through the ceiling will do that to you. Any idea what the fuck is happening?”

“No. Gavin’ll be on his way down. We need to get him and get the hell…”

Owen was cut off by the angel being slammed into the wall near him, Cameron still standing where she’d been, blood on her claws. “Fuck,” the angel muttered, standing up. Owen gave him a hand. “You guys get out of here. She’s too powerful for you.”

“You too, looks like,” Owen told him as the angel stood. “Look, we can help you…”

A snap of a bowstring got Owen’s attention and he looked up. And, squinting, Owen saw an arrow clutched in Cameron’s fist, which she snapped and tossed away with a snort.

Gavin, Owen thought vaguely, taking a step forward against a wave of nausea. He was standing there in the doorway, another arrow nocked. Cameron waved, a line of destruction running up the floor towards Gavin. Owen tried to move but couldn’t. Fuck, Gavin was going to get hit by…

Parry appeared from behind and pushed Gavin aside, strangely blurred in Owen’s vision. The magical whatever stopped at his feet, and he stood there a second, watching Cameron, who watched back.

Something strange happened between them, but before it could come to anything the angel winced. “Shit.” And he rushed forward at Cameron, sword down.

Just in time for a shaft of light that looked like a trumpet sounded to crash through the ceiling, shining brightly, the glare wiping out everything else in the room for a minute. When it faded and Owen managed to squint through what light was left—both in the room and in his eyes—there were standing there several more angels, at least a dozen. Or at least Owen assumed they were angels because of the shining weapons and holy light and wings.

It was a bit of a giveaway.

At the front of the group of angels was a tall man with distant eyes and a long spear in one hand, dressed in white. He looked at Cameron. Cameron looked at him. Then he looked at the other angel. “Your attempt to distract us has been…noted, Bartholomew.”

“I have this under control,” the first angel—Bartholomew—insisted. “Please, it’s fine…”

“Clearly.” The boss angel turned to Cameron. “It is time to rid the world of a blight, Cameron.”

“Oh?” Cameron smiled. “So you’re going to put down your weapons and let me kill you, are you, Raphael? It’s about time.” She extended her arms, and more demons started to appear from nowhere.

“Okay,” Owen said, stepping forward. He realized he was still holding both swords and put them away, though it took a few tries to get Little Sword on his back. He put his hands up as he approached them all. “Listen. Angels and demons. You guys are going to fight. And I get that. It’s like me and dragons. It’s a natural enminitity. Enemity.” Owen frowned. His head hurt a lot. “Enmity, that’s it. And that’s fine. But could you just let the rest of us go before you do that? We’re just sort of here, and we don’t want to be collateral damage in your battle. I heard that happened once and it was kind of shitty for us. So maybe just…chill. For like, ten minutes. And we’ll go. Okay?”

Raphael and Cameron looked at him. Then they looked at each other.

Then a series of footsteps sounded, and into the room burst Beatrice and Lillian with another demon bear on a glowing leash, followed by a hot naked lady with horns and wings, two tall guys Owen didn’t know, one with a furry tail and one with strange tattoos on his face, a boy with dog ears, Cal, Sully, Joey and two more guys, one of whom was also naked, horned and winged and the other was dressed but covered in scales.


They all kind of…stopped, in the entrance to the room. “What the fuck?” Sully asked, into the silence.

“Ah,” Cameron said, turning to face them. “There he is.” She took a step forward, looking at Cal. “Hello, Nathen.”

Cal looked at her, ratty sword in his hand. “Cameron, lord of demons,” he said, voice low. He looked at Raphael. “And you’re Raphael, the one they call archangel.”

“That’s correct, if it pleases my lord.”

“It does not,” Cal said, waving the sword as he approached both of them. Owen frowned. He was acting kind of funny. “I appreciate you gathering here, however.”

And he swung the sword out, something invisible seeming to hit both Cameron and Raphael, as well as the demons and angels with them.

“My lord!”

“He’s not your lord,” Cameron growled, claws out. “He’s a monster.”

“Cal!” Owen wasn’t sure who shouted that, but Cal leapt at Cameron, power slamming against power, making Owen’s ears ring even farther. Raphael attempted to join, but Cal turned on him, batting his spear away, letting Cameron lunge at him from behind so he had to turn, which put his back to Raphael, which…

A blaze of fire appeared in between the three of them and then there was another man there, drawn and tired looking. He put a hand on and pushed Cameron back, and did the same for Raphael, then he grabbed Cal’s arm. “Enough, Nathen. Don’t.”

“I’ve given up,” Gavin said, touching Owen’s arm. Owen jumped. He hadn’t noticed Gavin sneaking around to him. “There’s no point in trying to figure out what the fuck. We’ll ask them later. Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Owen said, smiling. “I’m fine. I’m glad you’re okay.”

“I was fucking terrified.”


“Just don’t do it again.”

“Well the demon bear died, so I probably won’t.”

“Good plan.” Gavin held onto Owen’s arm as another concussion broke through the room, and Cal knocked the new man back—only to be jumped on from behind by the two people he’d come in with, who held him in place and took away his sword. The bigger guy wrenched it from Cal’s hand, leaned it against the floor and stomped on it, snapping the weak metal.

Cal slumped in the other guy’s arms, blinking a lot. “What the…aw, fuck.”

Struggling to his feet, Raphael stared at Cal. Cameron did the same. Owen watched them both, head spinning.

Angel and demon looked at each other as if communicating quietly. Then Raphael straightened. “It seems that…deliberation is required. We shall withdraw. Bartholomew. You are neglecting your mission.”

“I’m not,” Bartholomew insisted. “I’m multitasking. The other thing is also under control.”

“Hm.” And that beam of light returned for a moment, and Raphael and the other angels were gone.

“Hm,” Cameron echoed, waving a hand. The demons started to teleport out, one at a time, until she was the only one left. “A brief reprieve until we can…decide. Until later.”

And she vanished as well. The man who’d appeared between them was already gone.

Bartholomew sighed, wings sagging. He smiled at them all. “Sorry for all that. I’d explain, but the world’s about to end somewhere else and I need to go. Sullivan, I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah, I should fucking think so,” Sully said, arms crossed.

Bartholomew disappeared as well.

Owen sighed. “Well.”

“Indeed,” Gavin muttered, pulling him forward. They all sort of congregated in the middle of the room. “What the fuck?” he asked of Cal once they were all gathered.

Cal smiled weakly. “I guess I owe a few explanations. But first—this is Wes and Mick,” he said, gesturing to his two companions, a huge northerner with a tail and a slightly less huge southerner without one. “And that’s Travis,” he pointed at the scaley guy with his arm around Joey. “And Louis and Mathilda. They’re only here for the treasure. And that’s Darby, we found him down there too.” That was the boy with wolf ears, whose hackles were raised as he watched them all.

Louis and Mathilda were clearly dragons, and Owen suppressed his instinctual desire to punch them. “Hi,” he said instead.

“Can Owen get a healer?” Gavin asked. “He’s a bit loopy.”

“Sure.” Tattooed Mick came over, put his hand on Owen’s forehead. “You’ve got a concussion.”

Owen nodded. “I got pushed through a wall. And a roof. And two floors. And then almost through another wall.”

“That’ll do it,” Mick muttered, a cold feeling spreading through Owen’s head. His vision cleared up and his hearing stopping ringing. His headache disappeared and his thoughts were less foggy. “There.”

“Oh, wow,” Owen said, blinking. “I was way more out of it than I thought.”

“You don’t fucking say,” Edwin muttered from nearby.

“Okay,” Owen said, looking around. Everyone seemed unhurt, which was kind of a miracle, actually. “Let’s get out of here.”

Cal nodded. “I’ll explain everything once we’re clear of the fortress, okay? Promise.”

“Fine,” Gavin said. “But I do want answers.”

Owen did too.

Cal smiled. “Me too. Let’s go. Sully?”

“I doubt they’ll interfere,” Sully muttered. “Cameron said she was letting us go. Sort of. We can walk if you want, but it’s probably safe to teleport out.”

Cal nodded at him. “If the prince doesn’t object, take us back to Techen’s Stand, will you? Then we can rest.”

“Yeah. Just give me a second—there are a fuckton of you and teleporting is hard.”

While they waited, Cal turned to the sexy dragon lady. “I assume you’re staying?”

“I shall,” Mathilda told him. “I shall take the treasure in the fortress, per our agreement. I do want back the Sceptre, of course.”

“Right. Mick? I told her she could have it in exchange for help.”

Mick nodded, unslinging a long sceptre that seemed to be made of bone from his back and handing it to the dragon. “Sure thing. I don’t want to see it ever again.”

“I’ll come with you to the town,” Louis told Joey. “I want to make sure you’re okay.”

“I’m fine.”

“Yeah, yeah, shut it.”

“Okay,” Sully said, taking a breath. “Everyone hold the fuck on.”

“Never teleported before,” Owen muttered, holding Gavin’s hand.

“Me either.”

Suddenly a sensation of a hook behind Owen’s eyes took over his body and he was being pulled, gliding along faster than he could—

Something grabbed that hook and yanked, and they were hurtling in another direction now, a sensation obvious to Owen even if he didn’t know what was happening, even if he wasn’t conscious at the moment, even if…

They appeared again in another large hall, brightly lit by the sun and smelling of salt. The walls and floor were made of a pale, porous substance, and huge windows overlooked an ocean. “What the hell?” Owen asked, and he wasn’t the only one. They were all looking around, trying to figure out what was…

“There it is,” a new voice said. Owen turned, saw at the end of the hall a pedestal, a throne made of the same substance, coated in seaweed. On it sat a muscular western boy a little younger than Owen, clothes soaked through. He was wearing a necklace, some rings, a bracelet. And a crown, all made from bone.

“Who the fuck are you?” Sully demanded, as they all rounded on the young man.

He stood up, smiling down at them. “I’m the Sea King—and you have my Sceptre.”

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