The dragon soaring above the town let out a piercing shriek as it let loose another torrent of fire on the fleeing ponies below.
My mind instantly went into crisis mode, taking stock of the situation. In front of me was Pine Falls, half of it currently on fire. The hospital, guard house, and all the buildings around there were still untouched. Guards were currently trying to rally at the edge of the fire, most of them unicorns with ranged weapons of some sort. The pegasi and earth ponies were busy attempting to control the fire.
Priorities: Get to the guard house, formulate plan on the way there.
“Scorch!” I shouted, snapping her attention away from the blaze. She winced and looked at me a little fearfully. “Does fire hurt you?”
“N-no,” she stuttered out. “Only if it’s really, really bad.”
“Good. Come on, we’re going in!”
She gulped somewhat fearfully, but followed me as I took off towards the town. We weaved our way through the narrow alley ways and ash covered roads until we made it to the guard house, where Sky was hovering over a large group of soot-stained mares and children.
“Battleclaw!” he yelped in surprise. “You’re just in time, that d- I THOUGHT I TOLD YOU TO TAKE THAT BLACK DRACO OUT OF HERE!”
He angrily started to fly towards the dragon, only to be stopped when she cowered behind me at the sight of Sky.
“Back off, sir,” I growled simply, glaring at him. “Her name’s Scorch. She’ll be staying with me.”
Ignoring my tone, he harshly spat out, “If we still have anywhere to stay after this! Why did you bring her back here?!”
“Because,” I stated coldly. “I’m gonna hold off the bastard that’s burning down everything. Scorch?”
The teenage dragon tilted her head curiously. In a firm voice, I told her, “Remember that cabin with the green roof we passed by on the way here? I need you to go in there, ask for Whirl Wing or Gentle Heart, tell them Omnius Battleclaw sent you. If they don’t listen, just go wait in the woods.”
A brief flash of mistrust appeared in her eyes. For an instant, she hesitated.
“Scorch, please,” I pleaded. “If we can’t stop Quartz from destroying the town, a lot more ponies are going to end up like you were: alone, homeless, and scared.”
That did it. She nodded once, still trembling slightly, but then ran into the direction of Whirl’s home.
Sky shook his head, and muttered, “A black dragon…you seriously had to bring back the damned black dragon.”
“She’s an orphan,” I replied evenly. “Or at least she hasn’t seen her parents since she was a hatchling.”
“That’s not important now,” Sky relented, his cold glare telling me that we weren’t done with this conversation. “As of right now, your orders are to distract that dragon while I gather the rest of the guards and get them reorganized. See if you can get the dragon over the lake or something.”
And with that, I gave him a salute, before tearing off into the very heart of the inferno.
You know how in video games they give you a path through the fire? That’s normally total bullshit. Fire doesn’t have a controlled path, so if you’ve gotta find your way through one, it’s all just one big risk.
So it wasn’t very surprising when I couldn’t find a safe path through the inferno on the ground. Quickly running out of time, I shot my arms towards the roof of a nearby grocery store and pulled myself onto its roof. From there, I ended up using my arms to jump from one blazing rooftop to another, with fire constantly threatening to engulf me completely. At one point I was nearly incinerated by one of the roofs collapsing underneath me, sending me tumbling into a burning home.
Smoke instantly started to fill my lungs as I tried to find a way out that wasn’t on fire. Realizing I didn’t have much time, I went to the nearest window and hurled myself out of it, my fur protecting me from the worst of the glass. The moment I hit the ground, I was off, still charging towards the green dragon that flew overhead.
This isn’t going to get me anywhere, I thought to myself as I found myself at another dead end (or as I like to call it, "Extreme barbeque pit"). Time to do something stupid again.
Taking a deep breath, I let out the loudest howl I could. The sound of it carried over the roaring fire, and did what I had meant it to do: get the dragon’s attention.
The dragon gave me an amused look. “Hmm…out of ponies for me to roast then?” it chuckled darkly. “Pity. And WHAT exactly are you?”
My knuckle dusters crashed together once more.
“I’m just one angry sunuvabitch,” I growled.
I balled up my fist, and sent it hurtling towards Quartz with as much strength as I could put into it. The attack caught the emerald dragon directly on his right wing, throwing off his flight course. Unbalanced, he was forced to land on the ground, his bulk crushing two buildings beneath him. To buy himself some time, he unleashed another pillar of flames at me.
Instinctively, I fell to my stomach, and flattened myself to the ground, avoiding the worst of the attack. My hat was lucky enough to have survived the blaze with me, thankfully enough. The instant the flames had cleared, I shot forward, leaping over the smoldering debris that littered the area in front of me.
Quartz swiped at me with his massive clawed hand, causing me to leap over it, and nearly get incinerated once more. As it was, I only just managed to grab his finger with one of my hands, pulling myself out of the fire. Infuriated, he started waving his hand around in an attempt to shake me off. I tightened my grip with one hand in response, while my other started pummeling away at his hands. My claws probably couldn’t cut through the tough material, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t try to crush my way through it.
Roaring in pain, he finally raised his hand to slam it, and me, into the ground. Instead of that, I used the momentum to launch myself into the air, far out of his reach. Once more, my hand shot forward, stretching out to impossible lengths, and latched firmly onto the largest spike that sat on top of his head.
You all knew this attack was coming.
“Gum-Gum ROCKET!” I shouted, pulling myself at top speeds directly at the dragon’s face. More specifically, the one spot that I don’t need a weapon to seriously damage…
With another adrenaline filled roar, I dug my claws into his left eye, tearing it to shreds inside of his skull. Red hot blood poured out of the ghastly wound, staining my coat and hat, and nearly burning me alive.
Angrily, Quartz snatched me up in his clawed hand once again, this time making sure to pin my arms to my sides.
“You little RAT!” he snarled, holding me up to his one good eye. “Who are you, to dare attack me?!”
His grip tightened, cutting off my lungs’ air intake. In a weaker voice, I managed to growl out, “The distraction.”
Nothing happened for a few seconds after I said that. Quartz gave off an amused chuckle.
“Wait for it…”
Suddenly, four grappling hooks attached themselves to his jaws. Taken by surprise, the dragon stumbled backwards, casually flinging me out of his grasp…towards the river.
The last thing I saw before I hit the water was the sight of another group of hook-toting pegasi flying towards the now pissed off dragon.
I felt air being forced into my lungs, making me cough out a generous amount of water. I feebly rolled over and pushed myself to my feet.
“Easy there, Fuzzy,” a familiar voice said from my side. “You alright?”
“Yeah…I think so,” I wheezed. I shakily stood up and shook my head a bit. “Ye Gods…what happened? And how long was I out for?”
A yellow hoof helped keep me from falling over, and Whirl said, “First off, you were out for a couple hours. I’m surprised you’re still alive. Second, that dragon hurled you into the river. Apparently you hit it too hard and knocked yourself out. You’re lucky that Scorch told me about everything.”
“She made it to you fine then?” I asked, worried about the timid dragon.
“Yeah, she just scared us half to death when we saw her,” he chortled. “Anyways, I pulled you out of the river while the guards finished off the dragon. You can see where they’re dumping the body from here.”
Indeed, from where we were standing, I could make out a large green speck in the distance being covered by a huge mound of dirt. Looks like they were burying the bastard…good. He got what he deserved.
Frowning, I asked him, “What about the other dragons?”
Whirl’s face took on a grim tone. He knew what I was talking about. “They were killed a couple of days ago. Remember how Twitch was nearly mauled by them?” I nodded, and he let out a deep sigh. “He went back to the cells to confirm which one of them did it, but…they undid the locks without us knowing.”
My brain filled in the rest of the details for me. I closed my eyes in sorrow, and shook my head. I couldn’t find the words to describe what I felt at that.
The former guard winced, and wisely decided to move onto a different topic. “So, Scorch huh? What’s her story?”
“You know that dragon the guards killed? Speaking of which, how’d that get pulled off?”
Whirl grinned at that. “You never had to take the training course, but we were taught a veeerryyy useful technique for dealing with dragons.”
I rolled my eyes and gestured for him to get on with it.
“Well, basically, the pegasi flew in and got it pinned, right? After that, the unicorns and earth ponies came in and started plunging weapons made out of lead into it. His natural body temperature melted the lead while it was inside him, and his heart did the rest,” he explained.
That’s a pretty good strategy, actually. It reminded me of that old Greek story about Bellerophon, and how he killed a manticore by impaling it with a lead spear.
“Heh, you retired just when things got excited,” I pointed out as we started the trek back into town. “So what happens now?”
Whirl Wing shrugged, flapping his wings to take to the sky. “Gotta clean up the mess now. Then we can start rebuilding, and life will go on…”
“Yeah…hey, about Scorch,” I started.
He cut me off with a chuckle, and said, “Don’t worry about it. I took you in when no one trusted you, so it makes sense that you’d do the same for someone else. She can sleep in your room for now.”
“Hooray, I get the couch again!”
Several hours later, and Scorch, Whirl, and I were digging around the rubble, searching for survivors. Unfortunately, as Sky put it, we were really just searching for bodies at this point. If anypony had been trapped inside of a burning building, they were as sure as goners. If the fire hadn’t killed them, the smoke would have. At least since Quartz had been killed, the pegasi were able to get the fires put out fairly quickly, thanks to the rain clouds in the area.
I guess the only other good thing about it was that there was only one dead body found that day.
I just didn’t expect it .
Whirl slowly trotted through the remains of the hotel that traders would use whenever they came into town. Some of the timbers were still smoldering as he crept into the ruined building. “Hello?” he called out loudly. “Is anypony in there?”
The hairs on the back of my neck stiffened right about then. Time seemed to slow down, and I turned to look at Whirl…just as one of the support beams came plummeting towards his head.
“Look out!” I shouted, trying to stretch my arms out to catch the beam…but it was too late.
He looked up, before giving me a sad smile, like he had accepted his fate. His eyes closed, just as the beam crashed down upon his neck. The floor beneath him gave way, and he ended up falling into the basement level, soon buried by smoldering debris.
Scorch screamed in shock, and time resumed its normal flow. Instantly, I started digging through the rubble, my claws hacking away at the pile. The entire time, I kept thinking to myself, “No, no, no, this can’t happen to him, he hasn’t done anything wrong, no, no, no” over and over again. Scorch joined in after the shock wore off, and together we hacked the majority of the wood away, until…
“Whirl? Whirl, buddy, come on now, answer me!” I said, pulling into my arms. “Come on mate, say something!”
Desperately, I felt for his pulse with my free fingers…
He was dead.