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Take to the Heir

True loyalty never dies.

By Brendan ParkerPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 19 min read

Syridax was badly wounded. Her wing membranes were torn on both sides, with gaping holes dotted between the metacarpals. Heat had blackened most of her emerald scales, with many more scraped away during a bad fall. Three long claw marks, still oozing blood, wove up the right side of her ribcage. Her pelvis was fractured, and she walked with a heavy limp, carrying as much weight on her front legs as she could.

Too weak to take flight, she staggered along the forest floor, barbed tail dragging limply behind her. To her back, clouds of thick smoke rose against a darkening sky. Memories of the battle still lingered, as fresh and painful as the wounds on her body.

She remembered her master, the man with the golden eyes and the ring of horns around his head; the man the other humans bowed to. Countless times Syridax had flown into battle with him saddled on her back, and together they had bested all opponents. But this time had been different.

The enemy humans had come in force, their multitudes stretching to the horizon. Garbed in black metal carapaces, they surrounded her master’s fortress of stone. With them came three red dragons, ferocious beasts of a kind Syridax had never seen, flown by pale riders.

Syridax had taken to the air, her master on her back. Her sister, the yellow dragon Zorax, was ridden by her master’s mate, a woman with hair of glistening silver. The blue and purple dragons took their respective riders as well, men wrapped in iron scales.

Balls of fire arced through the air, raining destruction on the stone towers of her master’s home. Flames climbed high, and smoke choked out the sun, bathing everything in a crimson shade. From this hell emerged the red dragons. Their breath was scorching, their claws reinforced with metal. The fighting was vicious. Syridax saw the blue dragon felled, its throat ripped out by the teeth of one of the reds. It dropped, rider with it, into the dark mob of enemies beneath. The purple dragon took a hit from a fireball, and she saw it go down, although where it landed, she knew not.

Tooth and claw, fire and barb, Syridax and her sister tore the red dragons apart. Her sister was badly wounded, her less so. It seemed they had tasted victory…

And then…

A shadow passed over the sun, so large that it bathed the land in dark.

It happened in an instant. A pair of massive black jaws closed around her sister, and the yellow dragon and her rider were swallowed whole by an obsidian monstrosity. Syridax heard her master’s scream from her back, as he grieved his lost mate.

The black dragon was the most colossal Syridax had ever seen, tenfold larger than herself. Its wings seemed to stretch to the borders of creation, its body rivaled the size of the fortress beneath them.

On its back, Syridax could make out a dark speck, a man with billowing wings of cloth. He shouted at his dragon, and his cruel voice carried through the air, gripping her heart with claws of icy fear.

Her own master had descended into a fit of blind wrath. He steered her towards the beast, his human words giving way to bellows of pure rage. Syridax prepared herself for the likelihood of her death, and then—

—A rush of fire swept through the sky like a tidal wave. It exploded from the monster’s jaws, engulfing her and her master. Everything went black.

When she came to, she was falling backwards towards the ground, her wings trailing limply at her sides. It took her a moment to regain her bearings but when she did, she immediately twisted her head to look behind her.

The saddle on her back was empty. Her master was gone.

Pivoting her body, she regained control of herself, flapping her wings against the hot air. She scanned the horizon frantically, hoping in vain that she would spot his form, falling nearby, close enough that she could reach him. There was no sign of him in the red haze. A thick shadow suddenly loomed to her right, and she turned just in time to see a massive pair of claws raking through the air toward her.

Pain exploded from her side, and the force of the impact sent her spinning. Through the smoke, she barely even caught sight of the stone tower before colliding with it. Bones shattered as she ricocheted off the structure, and suddenly the tops of trees came into view, rushing towards her. She managed a few weak flaps of her wings before cratering into the earth.

The pain was blinding, and she blinked in and out of consciousness. She saw the black dragon circling overhead. She had landed away from the fortress, amongst the trees of the nearby forest, and through the heavy smoke, she knew she was out of sight. A part of her screamed to re-enter the fight, to take to the air and battle the black dragon and its cruel sovereign, who had taken her sister and her master.

Yet, the beast in her knew better. The battle was over—it was not a fight she could win. Giving her life now would mean nothing. And so, she limped away…

Minutes turned to hours as she hobbled through the trees. Day edged into night. Hunger began to overtake her, and she longed for a meal to regain some semblance of strength. She was several leagues from the castle when a smell caught her attention.

It was the smell of a horse—but not just any horse. She knew it to be one of her master’s horses. They were the most well-kempt and well-fed of any in the land, and the scent alone made her salivate. Her master had never allowed her to eat one, but now…

She picked up her pace, following the odor. Suddenly, a glint of silver caught her eye. She stopped, immediately becoming cautious. Amongst the emerald foliage of the forest floor, caught in a shaft of moonlight, she saw a human garbed in metal scales lying face down.

Deciding that he looked too dead to be any threat, Syridax moved in for a closer look. She saw sticks with pointy metal tips sprouting from the man’s neck and waist, doused in blood. There was no sign of a horse, which Syridax found disheartening. She wondered if it had fled when its master was felled, as she had.

Suddenly there came a high-pitched noise. Syridax froze. It had seemingly arisen from the silver man’s torso area. Was it possible he was still alive?

It came again, a kind of squeaking, chirping sound. Curiosity overtook Syridax, and she moved in. Using her snout, she flipped the silver man onto his back.

What she found was quite unexpected.

A human child, no larger than the sole of her clawed foot. It was dressed in white cloth and had a shock of pale hair on its head. Its eyes were shut tight, and as she observed it, it let out another soft squeak.

Why, Syridax wondered, had the silver man been carrying this infant? Curiosity quickly faded, however, as her natural impulses took over.

Her stomach rumbled. The child was small, but it would make a decent enough meal for the time being. She would’ve eaten the man as well, but his silver scales would be hard to chew, and she didn’t like the look of those pointy, metal-tipped sticks.

Syridax lowered her jaw, her shiny teeth glinting in the moonlight as she prepared to scarf down the small morsel. Only when her fangs were inches from its flesh did it suddenly stir, cracking open its eyes.

A flicker of gold rippled through the still night air. Syridax stopped, her heart hammering in her chest. Those eyes…

There was no mistaking it. She had only seen those eyes on one other human in all her days…

…Her master.

She knew in an instant, though the odds seemed impossible, that this soft, fragile creature was his offspring. How she had never known of its existence before this time was a mystery to her, but there was no doubt in her mind.

Her thoughts were awhirl as she tried to parse this new development. She was so distracted, she hardly even registered the emergence of a new set of sounds—galloping hooves, and the shouts of human voices.

Crashing through the underbrush came five men on horseback. Four of them were garbed in black metal carapaces, which Syridax recognized to be those of the enemy. The fifth was a pale man, with white robes and a black shaft of wood at his side.

Their horses all reared up at the sight of Syridax, and the men let out hollers of fright.

In their human words that Syridax could not understand, they shouted back and forth to each other.

“It—it can’t be! That’s king Halloran’s dragon! I thought they said it went down during the battle!”

“Forget the dragon, look at the child! The eyes! It’s the princess!”

“Fan out, surround the beast! Gelder, alert Lord Suldar!”

One of the men turned, galloping away on his horse at full speed. The others began to circle around Syridax.

The branches overhead were too thick for her to take flight, but if she bolted then and there, it was likely she could outrun them. However, that would mean abandoning the child.

Looking down, she stared into its bright, golden eyes. They glowed with the warmth of twin suns against the gloom of night, and in her heart, Syridax felt the torch of undying loyalty she’d held for her master.

The small creature seemed unaware of the men around them. Its gaze was fixed on Syridax, a look of wide-eyed wonder on its face. It reached a chubby arm up towards her, placing the small fingers of its hand against her snout. In its soft face, Syridax saw the reflection of the man she’d loved so deeply.

She knew then, with a detached certainty as cold and unbreakable as the scales on her body, that she would protect this child to her last breath.

Raising her head, Syridax spread her four great legs to form a protective cage around the infant. Opening her jaws, she released a piercing roar, which reverberated through the night air like crashing thunder.

She saw the men flinch in hesitation, before continuing to spread out, dismounting their horses—all except the pale man, who remained mounted and stayed further back.

The three in the black carapaces drew their weapons.

Ordinarily, a few tiny humans would not have been a threat to Syridax, but in her weakened state, they posed a real danger.

Turning towards the nearest one, she opened her jaws and exhaled a burst of flame. It was all she could muster—enough to knock him off his feet but not much more.

She heard clanging coming from her right side and turned to see one of the men hacking in vain at the scales on her calf. She flicked her tail around, catching him with the sharp barb and sending him sprawling. She dropped a clawed foot onto his chest to keep him down, then struck at his neck with her fangs. His scream was silenced as she tore out his throat.

Pain suddenly burst from her opposite flank, and she turned to find another one of the humans. This one was smarter; he’d aimed for the spot where her scales had been scraped away. His metal spike had sunk deep into her flesh.

Syridax reared up on her hind legs and the man lost hold of his weapon. Thorns of pain radiated out from her pelvis, but she stayed up, flapping her wings and creating a gust of air that blew him backward.

Her front legs came crashing back to the ground. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the first man, the one she’d scorched, approaching her from the side. She swiped out with her front foot, her claws tearing through his metal scales like they were cloth. He fell back and did not get up.

The metal spike was still lodged in her side. Bringing her neck around, she clamped her teeth down on its hilt and pulled. The pain was blinding. With a spurt of blood, it dislodged and clattered to the ground.

The final man was not finished yet. Getting to his feet, he picked up one of his comrade’s weapons. Letting out a piercing yell, he charged her. Syridax snapped her neck around and brought her jaws down, biting off his head. However, his weapon scraped against the scales of her face as she did, nicking the corner of her left eye.

She squinted it shut, a trickle of blood already running down her cheek.

Letting the head drop from her jaws, she turned at last towards the pale man. To her surprise, however, she saw only his horse—he had vanished. Suddenly, she caught a flash out of the corner of her right eye.

She spun her head, snapping her jaws. The man had somehow appeared behind her back—apparently making a run for the child.

She caught a glimpse of his face—gaunt cheeks, red lips, and black eyes. He hardly looked human at all. There was a flash from his staff, and he vanished.

Syridax was stunned. This was no ordinary human she was dealing with.

Turning herself in a circle, she scanned the forest through her one functioning eye. All around her, darkness closed in like a thick shroud.

Suddenly, in the distance, she heard a heavy, booming roar. She thought at first it must be thunder, until it grew louder and deeper. Fear made her insides choke into knots. There was only one thing big enough to make that sound…

…the black dragon.

It was coming. Whoever its master was, they’d already been alerted of her and the child.

Suddenly, another flash. A beam of white light streaked toward Syridax, and she attempted to shield herself with her wings. With a searing crack, she felt the streak rip through the left appendage, leaving a smoking hole in the membrane.

Pulling her wings down, she saw the pale man several yards away wielding his staff. In a fit of blind rage, she charged him, gnashing her teeth. She bit down on nothing but empty air.

It was then that she realized she’d left the child undefended. She turned in haste, only to see the pale-faced creature crouched demonically over the infant. He reached for it with spidery fingers.

Something happened then that Syridax did not understand. As his hand got close to the child, there came a sudden burst of sparks. It wasn’t large, but it was enough to make him withdraw his arm, a look of confusion on his face.

Syridax saw her chance. She pounced, bounding over the child, pinning the pale man to the ground. His staff was sent rolling away across the forest floor.

For a moment Syridax stared into his hideous face. His eyes were like gaping pits, his skin like that of a dead man. He opened his jaws, revealing rows of needly teeth, and let out a wailing hiss.

Syridax drowned the man in flames. It was all she had left, but she felt it was worth it. When the last ribbons of fire twisted through her teeth, all that remained of his head was a black outline in the soil.

Syridax flared her nostrils, pulling in a heavy breath. The fight had taken everything from her, she was more wounded now than she had been before. Blood oozed from her left eye and the wound on her side, and now there was a fresh hole in the fabric of her wing. She wanted to collapse to the ground, and simply fade out of consciousness.

As if on cue, another pulsing roar echoed across the land. This one was closer by at least a league. The black dragon was near. There was no chance of outrunning it on foot and no place to hide. Only one option remained.

Syridax looked at the hole in her wing. On some instinctual level, she understood what it would cost to use it, without giving it time to heal. If she took flight now, the damage would become irreparable.

There was the possibility that with time the membrane would heal enough to allow for some brief gliding, but she likely would not be able to take off from the ground ever again. She could only hope that whatever capabilities she had left would be enough to allow her to hunt.

Regardless, she knew one thing: this would be her last true flight. She would never again traverse the great blue oceans of the world, or soar above the white caps of the tallest mountains. She would not sail across grasslands or weave among the stars. She would never return to the cliffs where she’d been born, to find a mate and sire young.

All this she accepted, as she looked into the child’s golden eyes. Wrapping the claws of her foot gently around it, careful not to cause it any discomfort, Syridax lifted it and pressed it to her chest. She struggled forwards, towards a break in the trees where she would be able to take off.

To her back, the call of the black dragon crashed against the landscape. It was very close now. Syridax broke into a staggering run, flapping her wings as hard as she could. The pain was immeasurable, and she felt wing fibers severing permanently. Her first attempt to push off the ground was a failure, as was her second. Finally, with one giant leap, and a pounding of her wings, Syridax took to the air.

She climbed as high as she could manage, holding the child close. The land was dark, except for the fires that burned back in the direction of her master’s fortress.

She dared not look behind her, even when she heard another piercing roar. It was accompanied by a steadily loudening whooshing, which she knew to be beats of the creature’s colossal wings.

In the far distance, she saw a blanket of fog rolling across the landscape. If she could just make it there, it was possible she could lose the beast.

Suddenly, a burst of heat erupted from behind her. The flames were not close enough to burn, but Syridax knew that the next blast would be.

At last, she turned her head back. Looming behind her was a colossal shadow. Its yellow eyes burned like bonfires. Once again, Syridax heard the voice of the evil man, shouting terrible words against the wind.

She flapped her wings as hard as she could, fighting through the pain that it caused her. The fog was growing nearer—

Another burst of flame ripped through the air. Syridax took evasive maneuvers, banking hard to the right. A blast wave generated by the heat caught her in the side and sent her spinning. When she managed to get herself back under control, she hardly knew which way was up.

The child! Fear clutched her like icy jaws as she felt a sudden lightness on her chest. She remembered the battle—her empty saddle—her master…

Looking down, she opened her claws ever so slightly…

…And found a pair of golden eyes beaming up at her.

Relief washed over her. Closing her claws once more, she pounded her wings as hard as she could. The black dragon was almost upon her. She could hear its master’s shouts. At any moment its jaws would engulf her as they had her sister.

At the last possible second, Syridax pulled her wings into her sides, transforming herself into a hardened projectile. She dropped, shooting towards the ground, and then—

Fog engulfed her like a freezing wave. The sensation would’ve been terrible, had it not been for the rapturous sense of safety that came with it.

Syridax once again spread her wings, not daring to flap them lest the noise alert the monstrosity to her location. She slid through the mist, gliding on the cold air. Behind her, she heard the black dragon’s piercing screech, only it was further away.

One final time, she heard the voice of its master, screaming in unhinged frustration.

He would not find victory that night. Not while Syridax drew breath.

Time became immaterial as she soared onwards. Eventually, even the pain in her wings faded, replaced by a numb ache. The fog eventually thinned out, and she looked back, anxiously scanning the horizon, but saw no sign of the black dragon.

She flew as far as she could, until exhaustion threatened to claim her senses. In the distance, she saw a long stretch of hills. They would make good cover, she thought.

Against the side of one of the mounds, Syridax spotted the dark mouth of a cave. She spiraled downwards, landing with an awkward stumble. Only then did the pain in her wing return.

Limping into the cave, she discovered a large, spherical chamber. She opened her claws, finding the child fast asleep. As she set it down, its eyes cracked open, however. It bared its teeth at her, mouth stretching against its round cheeks. Syridax recognized the expression from the many times she’d seen it on her master—it was what humans did when they were happy.

Syridax tried to return the look, baring her teeth as well. The child let out a series of high-pitched chirps. Once more it placed its hand on her snout.

Syridax could only hope that her wing would heal quickly. When it did, she would try to hunt. Any food she could find she would bring back to the cave, and scorch with her breath to make it edible for the child—Syridax knew that her master only ate food that had been burned—she knew not why.

Right then, however, Syridax could not remain standing for another second. She slumped onto the cave floor, curling up into a tight circle and bringing her wings against her sides.

The child climbed up her flank, snuggling itself into the crook of her body…

…And in the dark of the cave, in a lonely stretch of hills, dragon and girl nestled together, closed their eyes, and drifted off to sleep.


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Comments (8)

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  • Sara Jane Triglia about a year ago

    I could feel the pain. You described it so well. A well written story. Thanks for sharing. Would love your feedback on my dragon story if you have the chance.

  • Deanna Fratusabout a year ago

    This was great. I love the action and the descriptions.

  • Kelli Sheckler-Amsdenabout a year ago

    What a fantastic job. An enjoyable challenge entry

  • K. Bensleyabout a year ago

    Great story mate, love to finally see some action

  • Dylan Criceabout a year ago

    Finallllllllly!!!! Really enjoyed your battle sequences! Been waiting to see some draconic combat. These are fire breathing death lizards after all. Two thumbs way up and really enjoyed this one! Really struggled with the how do ya kill a dragon? Magic. Balistae. Dumb luck. Of course, use another dragon. Black dragon is going to be a pain to bring down. Keep writing and would love to see how it ends. Great job!

  • Testabout a year ago

    I wouldn't have expected a battle scene to work as it's own story, but you write action very well, really kept ratcheting up the already high tension, and provided enough character through Syridax to make the reader care about the stakes. Well done!

  • Gina C.about a year ago

    Hey Brendan, great job with this! I really loved the concept of the "black dragon". I thought that was really cool! Nice job filling this with action!

  • Heather Hublerabout a year ago

    This was such a wild ride! So thrilling and full of tension. I liked how you kept a sense of urgency throughout the story until the end, where you allowed the reader to finally rest just like the characters. Well done :)

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