“…Friends Are Made...”
I stretched my fist towards the largest one first, catching him in the gut. With an “oof!” of pain, he bent over, allowing me to run over to him and slam my head into his. Dazed, he stumbled backwards while the other two charged over to me with their heads lowered. I sidestepped one of them, but got caught by the same one from before in the side.
He then started slashing at me with his talons, attempting to rip open my stomach in retaliation for attacking his comrade. Amazingly, the chainmail vest held up to his onslaught of slashes, allowing me to curl up both of my fists and slam them on the back of his head. Down he went, out for the count.
Instinctively, I rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding a blast of blue tinted flames. If I hadn’t dodged, I would have been burnt to a crisp. I got up, and faced the remaining dragons, my teeth bared in a feral snarl.
Two to go.
The croc dragon shot forward like a bullet, his claws balled up into tight fists. I stood my ground, and pulled my fist back a bit. As soon as he had gotten close enough, I let loose one of my signature haymakers, smashing him straight in his jaw.
Okay kids! It’s time to do some math! Werehog strength + adrenaline + nearly unbreakable knuckle dusters + idiot dragon running full speed…
Well, let’s just say he’s gonna need a straw for the rest of his life.
This left just me and the last one: a black scaled, slender looking dragon. I had the feeling that this one was gonna be a bit tougher than the others. My suspicions were confirmed when I feinted towards his right, prompting him to spit out another burst of flame that nearly scorched my hand. I pulled it back in time to avoid it, allowing him to move a bit closer.
We circled each other for a bit, both of us trying to seek a lull in the other’s defenses. He was using his flame breath to his advantage, keeping my arms away from him, and letting him inch his way towards me. If he got too close, he wouldn’t even have to try and attack me with his claws; he could just incinerate me.
So I did the only thing I can do in a situation like that: improvise. I grabbed my hat, and flung it like a Frisbee at his head, breaking his focus. As he inhaled to prepare another burst of flames, I rushed forward and tackled him to the ground. Pinning him at the neck with one hand, I immediately started whaling on his face with the other, alternatively slashing and smashing.
Finally, his body went limp underneath my hands as his eyes rolled into the back of his head. Triumphantly, I let go of his neck, and stood up, howling my victory to the moon.
“Nice…going there…Battleclaw…” a pained voice wheezed from behind me.
Oh no, I completely forgot about Twitch! I ran over to where he was lying on the ground, and knelt beside him.
He was in pretty bad shape. Blood flowed freely from several slashes on his legs, while his armor was actually melted onto him in certain places. I needed to get him to a medic, ASAP. Knowing that the rest of the guards would be here to put out the fire, I carefully picked Twitch up in my arms.
“What…about the…dragons?” he asked me with a great amount of effort.
“Don’t worry, the other guards will be here soon. Right now, we need to get you some medical help,” I said, wincing in sympathy as I accidently brushed one of his burns. It was hard to believe that those teenage dragons did this to him. Sure, he wasn’t the brightest or the toughest of the guard, but he’s pretty good in a fight.
Not even from my time in Equestria, or from watching the show, did they once mention that teenage dragons could do something like that. Especially the last one…
As I raced to the hospital, I spotted some of the Pegasi pushing a rain cloud in front of them. Good, that’ll deal with the fire. Looks like that was what Whirl had gone off to do when I said, “Get backup”.
“He’ll be alright,” I growled in relief as I walked into the guard house with Sky. “Other than a couple of weeks cooped up in bed, that is.”
Now that the situation had been dealt with, Sky had asked me to fill him in on the details. He also kept asking questions about the dragons.
“That’s good…now, you DID make sure to restrain those dragons after they had been dealt with?”
“Sir, I knocked them out,” I stated confidently. “They shouldn’t be awake for a few more minutes. Plenty of time for the rest of the guards to tie them up.”
“Okay, I trust ya,” Sky said, relieved. He took a long drink from his bottle, once again offering it to me before hid did so. As always, I declined.
A couple of tense minutes later, and the door had burst open, revealing a very soaked Whirl Wing. Shaking himself dry, he stepped to the side, allowing two unicorns to pass by, their horns glowing as they carried the trio of dragons inside.
Sky hissed in surprise at the sight of the black one. In the blink of an eye, he had jumped out of his chair and started undoing the bonds around it, causing me to start protesting against that.
He then shouted, “Battleclaw, you stupid idiot! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE!?”
“Thrashed a few punks and stopped them from burning down those woods?” I asked rhetorically.
He smacked me across the face at that. “This is no time for jokes! You need to take the dragon OUT of Pine Falls! NOW!”
“Don’t you know ANYTHING about Black Dragons?!” he shouted in fear and anger. “They’re ruthless! Merciless! If that one’s mother finds out we’re holding it in our town, we’re all doomed!”
Shit. The only time Sky ever has been scared of something is…well, never. The Shadow-Stalkers, dogs, bandits…nothing ever got to him. For him to actually be shaking in terror at the thought of something like this didn’t do well for morale.
“Alright, I’m off,” I said, slinging the black dragon over my shoulder. “How far should I take it?”
“Run in one direction for three days,” he commanded. “That should give us enough distance to play it safe when he’s found.”
Great…good thing I don’t need sleep now. On the way out of town, I stopped by the spot where the ponies were still attempting to put out the blaze without any of the other trees lighting up.
“Can’t forget my hat,” I muttered to myself as I dusted it free of soot and ash.
Once it was secured tightly to my head, I adjusted the black dragon on my shoulders (clonking him another good one on the head for good measure), and ran off into the woods.
For three days and nights, I ran. The only times I remember stopping were to eat, drink, rest, or re-knock out the dragon on my back. My arms and legs started to burn from running so long, protesting the added weight of the dragon. I was half-tempted to just ditch him in a canyon, leave him for dead.
That’s not how I work though. He hadn’t really hurt anyone, other than Twitch, and the doctors said he’d make a full recovery. If anything, it looked more like the croc dragon had done that. This dragon’s claws were too thin to leave the gashes I saw on Twitch. Those thoughts constantly lingered on my mind, as I asked myself the same question over and over again:
What have I gotten everyone into?
The dragon stirred once more on my back, tempting me to stop and knock him out again. This time, however, something stirred in my conscience. In my hesitation, the dragon opened his eyes to look at me calmly. He didn’t struggle, he didn’t flail. He just…looked at me.
I kept running with him on my back. Finally, I had to ask him, “You comfy there, kid?”
The dragon looked at me curiously, and asked quietly, “Where are we?”
Looks like I made a mistake: He’s a she. I feel like an idiot for thinking she was a dude, now that I think about it, since she’s much more slender than the other dragons were. Well, learn something new every day, right?
“Nowhere near that town anymore,” I replied. She nodded at that, and dug her claws into my shoulders.
“Good,” she said in a quavering voice. “Where are Burns and Scales?”
“Still locked up in the town jail, I’d wager,” I cautiously said. Her grip loosened, and she let out a small sob of…joy?
“They’re…they’re locked up?” she asked hopefully. I stopped running, and turned to look at her closely. Her entire body was trembling, and she had tears welling up in her gold colored eyes. Small scratches covered her back and arms…for the first time, I noticed that she didn’t have any wings on her back like the others. She was just a hair taller than I was, and her scales glimmered hauntingly in the moonlight.
Taking a chance, I softly whispered, “They can’t hurt you anymore now.”
Confirming my suspicions, tears started streaking down her face, quiet sobs coming from her throat. She fell to the ground and curled up into the smallest ball she could have possibly made. For some reason, that sent a fresh wave of anger through me.
Sky had acted like black dragons were the meanest, toughest things alive. I guess the thing everyone forgot was that this one was still for all intents and purposes…a child. Sure, she had held herself pretty well in our little scuffle, but now?
It literally tore my heart in two to see her like that. Even if they’re considered a demon, a child should never have to cry like that. Not when I’m around.
Slowly, I pulled her over to a small patch of pine needles that I had gathered on the ground. As I set her down, she flinched violently, but remained curled up like a dog.
For about an hour, I just let her sit there and cry. It was a heart wrenching sound, a mixture of sorrow, joy, relief, and fear.
When she started to calm down, I gently placed a hand on her back and said, “I’m sorry for scaring you all like that.”
Hesitantly, she lifted her head to look at me, confusion in her eyes. “Wh…why are you sorry? We were the ones who were doing something wrong…”
Listen to that. She just said what they’re doing is wrong. That implies that she still has her conscience. And not only that, but I can feel that she’s being sincere.
Smiling, I replied to her, “You sound like you didn’t want to be doing that in the first place. So why were you then?”
She wiped away her tears, and pushed herself into a sitting position. “Because…they would have hurt me if I didn’t.”
“So? The way you were fighting me makes me think that you coulda kicked their trash,” I stated, leaning against a tree.
No reply. It looked like she wanted to say something, but couldn’t muster up the courage or find the right words to say it. Certain things started to click in my head right about then.
“What’s your name?” I asked her.
“I…Scorch. My name is Scorch.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Scorch,” I said, holding out a hand. “My name’s Omnius. Most folks call me Battleclaw though.”
Tentatively, she extended her hand towards mine. I have to say, it was pretty funny to see my own enormous hand completely engulf her own.
Things went rather smoothly from there. It took just a bit of time, but I managed to coax her story out of her. It turns out that she was stolen from her nest when she was just a hatchling by the same teenage dragons from earlier, under the orders of an adult emerald dragon named Quartz. Scorch told me about how she and a few of the other hatchlings caught around that time were forced to do his bidding. Stealing gems from diamond dogs, fighting each other just to get stronger, cleaning his treasure horde…the works.
Because of all that, she was the only hatchling to have survived the first few years. Unfortunately, during that time, her wings were also forcefully ripped out of her back in a sparring match gone horribly wrong. The other teenage dragons were already Quartz’s children. From how she explained it, it seemed that Quartz was trying to raise an army…but that can’t be…can it?
There's also the matter of why she trusts me...Not to make myself sound like an ass, but I DID beat her to a pulp and take her away from the only other dragons she'd known. Best not to press her now. She's been through enough for a while.
When she finished telling me about her life story, I asked her, “Well, you’re free now. Where you gonna go now?”
Scorch looked at the ground and idly scratched it with one of her claws. “I…I don’t know. If I knew where my real parents were, I’d go there. But it’s been so long though. I don’t even know where my nest is anymore!”
You know what? Screw Sky.
“Scorch, why don’t you come stay with me?” I suggested on impulse. “I’ve got enough money to get a new house, and I’m sure once we tell everyone the whole story, they’d be more than happy to let you stay.”
“You’d…you’d do that for me?” she asked in a stunned voice. “Why?”
It was my turn to shrug. “To be honest, I don’t really know. I just can’t stand the thought of leaving an innocent kid alone in the woods. Doesn’t sit right with my heart.”
Scorch’s eyes lit up, but she still asked, “Are you sure? You’d want something like me to stay with you?”
I rolled my eyes, and growled, “You’re asking me, a freaking fur covered diamond dog reject that can’t swim and wears a straw hat, if I’d want company.”
The black dragon choked for a second, before letting out a quiet laugh. She seemed surprised that she was still able to do that.
“See?” I smiled. “Laughter. It’s good for the soul.”
And it’s good to be The Traveler.
It took us a lot longer to get back to Pine Halls than it did to get to where we were. Then again, I couldn’t travel through the night now that I had a new friend who had to sleep, unlike me. What meager supplies I had brought with me quickly disappeared, but you’d be surprised how much venison a black dragon can help you get.
So between all of that, it took us roughly a week to get back to town. During that time, I managed to figure out something about Scorch:
SHE’S A FREAKING DRAGON VERSION OF FLUTTERSHY. No, really! Every time a twig broke in the night, she’d nearly feint in terror. Even though she didn’t mind killing a few deer for food, she only did it out of necessity. Really, she preferred the nuts and berries we might be able to scavenge.
Oh, and of course, she’s really shy about suggesting things.
Still, she’s nice enough. Still scared about the dragon hatchlings in town, but I reassured her that they’d be long gone by then.
Unfortunately, I was right.
“…Scorch, please tell me that that’s not smoke.”
Pine Falls was burning…and an emerald colored dragon was circling the blaze, igniting the homes of everypony underneath him.
“No…” I whispered in shock.
Sky was right. A dragon did come for its hatchling.
We just chose the wrong one.