• Published 7th Nov 2015
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Changeling Escapades: Skyrim - Erised the ink-moth

A Changeling is teleported to the frigid land of Skyrim. Lost in a frigid and hostile land, he must find a new source of love to sustain him. Worse still, Alduin the World Eater has returned to bring about the end of days. What our changeling do?

  • ...

The Dragonstone arc I: Out of the frying pan...

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away…

Wait- Hang on here...
I keep getting these intro cards mixed up.

Meanwhile, beyond the frozen tundra… in the homeland of the Nords, where radiant stories bloom and you can dual-wield magic and swords!


That’s where Stross ended up after his teleportation spell went amiss, face down in the dirt and feeling like the world had just tap-danced on every inch of his chitinous black shell.

He took a moment to get his bearings… then another… and another…

Finally, after about four full minutes of waiting for the pain to subside, he pulled himself up and began to get a look around.

“Ow my head.” the changeling groaned as the ichor in his veins sloshed around and his vision blurred. Something about this place felt wrong to him, in a way he couldn’t explain. It was so empty and hard. “What just happened, and-... And what happened to my body?" He yelled, holding what used to be his hooves in front of his face, trembling.

Instead of ending in stumps, each of his legs now had five smaller appendages on the ends; he'd somehow gained fingers and toes. Stross had tried being a griffon once or twice, so the fingers he could get used to. But as soon as he tried to stand up, he found his new legs giving him problems, wonky and disproportionate as they were.

He imagined the peels of laughter if anyone saw him trying to waddle around on all fours with his butt in the air.

He immediately decided he didn't like this body and tried to use his magic to change back. But trying to dispel whatever magic had changed him and revert back to his normal shape yielded no results, and only left him with a throbbing headache. Whatever had changed him was more than his simple illusion spell, it was something fundamental. And he was stuck like this until he figured it out.

“Well that was pointless.” Stross groaned as a dull pain set into his skull.

Sitting himself down again, Stross patted himself down to make sure he still had everything else. To his relief, he did. He felt his horn protruding out of his forehead, and his trusty wings tucked safely inside his shell. He still had hard chitinous skin that was corroded and full of holes, and though his muzzle was squished into his face, his mouth was still full of pointy teeth.

"Alright." Stross said to himself. "New body, no idea where I am, and I'll need to feed before too long. I can do this. I can deal with it."

Pushing himself onto all fours again, despite the awkwardness, Stross started moving. He soon found himself on an overgrown dirt path in the middle of a chilly forest. Roads usually led somewhere, and seeing no better alternative, he decided to follow it.

Slowly crawling along, the changeling made it to a larger, much more traveled road. Just as he was inspecting it for any direction, he heard a number of loud hoofsteps from his right. Quickly ducking into a dense patch of foliage, he waited to see who was coming.

Soon, the source of the noise showed itself. More than a dozen large figures clad in blue cloth and chainmail made their way down the road, riding atop absolutely enormous steeds that made even Equestria’s largest stallions look like pigmies. As they passed, Stross noticed the giant swords and axes they carried, as well as their wooden shields with blue bear insignias upon the front.

What are those things? Whoever they are, they’re packing a ton of steel.” Stross thought to himself as they passed “One thing’s for sure, I’m not in Equestria anymore. I could ask them for directions... but somehow I doubt it.

Suddenly, a shout came from the forest in front of the group. The battlecry was echoed a hundred times over as dozens more of the strange bipedal creatures burst out of the undergrowth and from the trees above, dark red uniforms everywhere, with bows and arrows poised and ready to fire. Shouts of rage and distress echoed throughout the ranks of both sides until a thunderous voice silenced them all.

“ENOUGH!” it bellowed, seemingly commanding authority over them all, “Hold where you are my brothers, we are outnumbered.”

“What would you have us do Jarl Ulfric?” another voice asked.

There was a short pause. Stross tried to see what was going on, but the trees blocked line of sight. He could barely tell what was even going on.

“Stand down and surrender yourselves. There is no need for more bloodshed... not among our own.” the voice said quietly.

“A wise choice Ulfric.” a third voice joined in, spitting the name like a curse.

“-even if our own are a bunch of elf-loving traitors.” The deep commanding voice amended. “To think I have been named a traitor for fighting for my people. Can any of you Imperials say the same?”

“Enough! Take them into custody, and gag this one.”

Stross was starting to feel a bit nervous as he watched from his hiding place, unable to see the exchange directly, but getting an unmistakable vibe from it all. Intrigued as he was, he felt a bit too close to the action. Unfortunately, he was right.

“Got another over here!” a soldier called gruffly from behind him.

Stross whipped his head around just in time to see the sword handle collide with his face before falling into darkness.

"Gods... what is this thing?"

"It was with the rebels. Take it into custody with the rest!"

Stross awoke in a familiar setting, one he knew would surely mean death for him if he couldn’t escape. Stross had heard stories about captured Changelings being locked in cells with nopony to feed on, starving to death due to the negligence of those who didn’t understand them. Heck, even he'd been captured once or twice.

Looking at the bleak stone walls of his cell and ignoring the pounding in his head, he struggled into a sitting position. Saying there wasn't much to the cell was being generous. At best it was a stone box with a wooden-frame bed in it. The ratty clothes that had been draped over him smelled distinctly of something foul, and he wasted no time in ripping them off.

Sheesh who keeps the standards in this place, the prisons in Equestria are way better than this.” He thought as he looked for a way out. “No windows. And judging by how dark it is I’m probably underground… or it’s night time.

“Perfect.” Stross sighed as he walked over to the bars.

It was only as he took the first step that he felt something drag at his left ankle. Looking down he spotted the cause: a chain had him shackled to the floor.

“Hmm, so they feel like giving me a challenge, do they?”

He tried to gather energy into his horn for a spell to cut though the chain, a glow slowly grew stronger as he focused. But before he could muster the strength to complete it, the spell fizzled and popped, giving Stross a seizure that sent him to the floor, gritting his teeth.

No magic to draw from, how long have I been out? How long since I last fed… and how much did that teleport take out of me!? Oh this is not good.

Stross held out a hoof... no. He held out a hand, checking the corroded holes in his skin to see how much the decay had progressed. Every Changeling had some form of it, the rot that threatened to overtake them. Feeding was the only real way to reverse it, and from the way bits of shell crumbled away, he needed food badly.

With his magic a no-go, he instead grasped the bars and looked around for any other way out. Looking out of his cell for the first time he saw another row across from his, each occupied by one of those big fleshy creatures he had seen before.

"Hey. Psst, hey!" he called to the cell closest to his.

The burly figure within jumped a bit when it saw Stross reaching out at him.

"I need to feed on you! Just a little!" he whispered. "Wait- no! Don't turn away! I can even get the rest of us out while I'm at it. C'mon! I'm starving!"

As he tried to get closer he felt his head pop through the vertical bars. Quickly pulling himself back out, an idea occurred to him. Deciding to test his theory, he turned to his side and tried to squeeze through the cell door. With a lot of pushing, jerking, twisting and discomfort, he managed to get his entire body through the bars and to the other side before the chain around his ankle impeded any further progress.

“This stupid thing… if I had my magic you’d be molten dust right now.” he muttered under his breath as he pulled fruitlessly at the chain. “Come on!”

He turned back to the man in the cell next to him. He could easily reach the bars on the other side. He just needed to feed a little bit, but the man was far too terrified to make it happen.

"Come on man! I just need to drain you for a second! It won't hurt at all, promise!" Stross tried to convince him.

"AHH! Get it away! Someone get in here and help me!" the man shouted.

Stross cursed and looked around frantically. Someone was sure to have heard that. He went back to the shackle around his ankle and tried to get it off somehow.

Before he could find out if he could chew off his own leg, a voice got his attention.

“Spindly one, ain't ya. You’ll need to do a lot more than that to break out of our prisons, bug.” an Imperial guardsman told him passively before turning to another standing nearby. “Get the others ready for transport to Helgen, I’ll take care of this one.” he said, lightly pounding his fists together.


When Stross awoke with a new throbbing spot on his forehead, he found he was on a wooden cart being pulled slowly through the mountains, one of a few. Seated next to him on his cart were four other prisoners, one wearing the blue chainmail he’d seen when he first arrived, another in a heavy fur coat, the last two wearing the same type of rags Stross had refused to wear himself. None of them said so much as a word, though they gave him strange glances every now and then, keeping their distance on the narrow bench.

At least the view was nice. From where they passed along the open cliffs and hilltops, Stross could see for miles across the land. There were snow-covered peaks and rolling green plains dotted with small wooden houses here and there. The sun hung above, glazing the land in a strange stillness… an uncanny silence that covered them all, with only dull mutters from behind or ahead breaking the monotony. That was how it stayed for the next couple of hours until the fifth member of their wagon-group woke up with a small groan.

Stross had noticed it first when she woke, blinking the sleep out of her eyes. If he was being honest, he’d been watching her for most of the ride; as nice as the scenery was, she was more pleasing to look at. She was different than the rest of them, her entire body was much more slender than theirs, her arms thinner and lacking the rippled layer of muscle. Most notably was her face, it was longer that most others he’d seen, with pointed ears that poked out under her long silver hair. Now that they were open, he saw her large amber eyes had a beautiful shade of deep orange in their sclera.

Stross secretly wished she had woken up sooner. Partly so he might have someone to talk to, and partly so she wouldn't have missed the amazing view as they climbed over the mountains. All there was to look at now were trees, rocks, and some snow.

“So… finally awake I see.” the man in blue chainmail spoke up. “You tried to cross the border when you were caught in that Imperial ambush, right? Same as us, and those two over there: the horse thief and the bug.”

“Damn you Stormcloaks.” the thief interrupted, clearly angry with his predicament, “Skyrim was fine until you came along; the empire was nice and lazy around these parts. If it weren’t for you I could have stolen that horse and been halfway to Hammerfell by now.” he seethed.

Wait... Skyrim? Hammerfell? I never even heard of those places, anywhere. I must have been taken a really long way.” Stross thought, not knowing the half of it. "And why wasn't anyone talking like this until the pretty girl woke up!"

“We’re all brothers and sisters in binds now, thief.” The Stormcloak spat back.

The man next to Stross tried to grunt something through his gag.

“What’s up with him?” the horse thief asked, “Did he try to bite them or something?”

“Watch your tongue! You’re speaking to Ulfric Stormcloak, the true high king!” the Stormcloak scolded.

High king? But why would they be treating him like a prisoner?

“Ulfric, the Jarl of Windhelm? Leader of the rebellion? But if they’ve captured you, where are they taking us?” The thief asked, fear now entering his voice.

“Where do you think? End of the line.” the Stormcloak answered grimly.

“You- You can’t be serious! They can’t do that, I wasn’t even with you!” the thief yelled in disbelief.

“Shut up back there.” the driver of the cart uncaringly threw back.

Oh... well that explains it. If it's a rebellion, it must be serious if they’re willing to execute anyone even remotely involved. And… I was caught with them-… oh no. Well, I guess I’ll just have to make yet another daring escape from the clutches of the law then.” It was hardly the first time anyway. Stross was practically a pro when it came to running away from angry constabulary. He'd be just fine!

With no magic and a body he wasn't used to.


The wagon train finally came to a small village, and the guards opened the front gates for them to pass. The Stormcloak’s eyes sparkled with memory once he got a good look at the buildings.

“This is Helgen.” he said in a bit more than a loud whisper, “I used to be sweet on a girl from here, would visit 'er whenever I got the chance. I wonder if Vilod is still making that mead with juniper-berries mixed in. It’s funny, you know?” he chuckled sadly as he looked away, possibly hiding tears, “When I was a small boy, Imperial walls and towers used to make me feel so safe. How times have changed.”

“S-Sh-Shor… Mara… Dibella, Kynareth… Akatotsh! Divines… help me… someone get me out of this nightmare.” The thief begged as he looked skyward, pressing his bound hands together in the hopes that someone would hear him.

“Hey, what village are you from horse thief?” the Stormcloak asked.

“Roriksted… I- I’m from Roriksted.” The thief answered shakily. “Why do you care?”

“A Nord's last thoughts should be of home. Anyone’s last thoughts should be of home.” he answered. “You, wood-elf. Where are you from?”

The silver-haired elf stared for a moment before deciding to answer.

“I was visiting a friend in Elsweyr.” She told them. Her voice was like soft music, yet it was hollow, and she spoke as though she wasn’t completely there. “I was heading back to my home in High Rock… and now I’m here. Funny how things go from bad to worse huh? I think I'm ready to wake up right about now.”

She had obviously caught Stross staring at her, and had stared back in return. Stross didn’t mind though, he liked looking at her eyes. After a moment she gave him a funny look as her eyes focused in on him.

“So where are you from then?” she asked, not seeming to really care.

Stross found himself startled out of his staring by her question. “I umm… I’m from the Duna-mar Badlands, outside southern Equestria.” he stuttered out in his scratchy voice, “I don't think I'm supposed to be here. I'm kind of lost.”

“So… the bug can talk.” noted the Stormcloak. "Well, enjoy your last look at Skyrim... while you can."

The wagons reached their stop at the end of the town. On the way they had passed a military official on a horse talking to some more pointy-eared people in pitch black robes. The Stormcloak identified them as General Tullius and the Thalmor, muttering something at the end about those “damn elves” and how he “bet they had something to do with this”. The elf riding with them all shot him a glare when he said that, but it quickly faded away as her empty, sad stare returned.

Stross looked around when the carriages pulled to a stop, it surprised him to see that most of the townspeople had begun to gather up ahead. Save for a few, like the children who were being led back inside. “A public event? Maybe this isn’t an execution, maybe it’s just some formal disgracing or something. People wouldn’t actually watch this sort of thing, would they?”

Spotting the chopping block and the headsman’s huge axe quickly silenced that optimistic notion.

When they dismounted the wagon with the rest of the prisoners, an Imperial soldier with a book began reading names as they stepped forward.

“Ulfic Stormcloak, Jarl of Windhelm.”

The man with the gag stepped forward.

“Ralof, of Riverwood.”

The Stormcloak soldier stepped forward with a look of resentment towards the imperial.

“Lokir, of Roriksted.”

At this point Stross had realized that while his hands were bound, his feet were free now. He considered taking his chances and making a run for it then and there, but the thief beat him to it.

Lokir had been cooped up in a panic for far too long, and he screamed his objection into the Captain face. “NO! We’re NOT rebels, you can’t do this!” the second his feet touched the ground he was running, and he sprinted away as fast as his legs could carry him. “You’re not going to kill me you Imperial dogs!”

He didn’t get far before the captain signaled to the archers. One arrow hit him in the thigh, another in the small of his back, and a final one drilled him right through the back of his skull. Lokir was dead before he hit the ground.

“Anyone else feel like running?” the guard captain threatened. “Then get on with the list!” she ordered.

Well… looks like running's out of the question. Poor guy.” Stross briefly mourned for the stranger he had only just learned the name of as he cycled through possible options in his head.

“You there, step forward.” the guardsman continued, but stopped when the elf stepped before him. “Wait, who… are you?”

“Fenora Tandis, herb farmer of High Rock.” she told him, hope creeping back into her voice. “I was just on my way back home when you caught me and dragged me here. I appreciate the ride, but I don’t suppose you can let me go now?”

“Captain, what do we do? She’s not on the list.” The bookman asked.

“Forget the list,” the Captain ordered, “she was caught with the Stormcloaks, she goes to the block!”

“I’m sorry,” the bookman told her, “we’ll make sure your remains are delivered back to High Rock.”

“No!” Fenora snapped suddenly, before continuing in a more somber tone, “Elsweyr, have them send me to Elsweyr. Town of Last Oasis.”

“Very well, next.”

Stross watched as the elf was dragged off and shoved into line with the rest. “You’ve got to be kidding me! These Imperials are worse than the ponies even AFTER we invaded.”

It was true as far as Stross had ever known. Violence wasn't in the nature of ponies. Fear could make them do crazy things, but after the invasion of Canterlot had been repelled, and changelings were on the radar again, the ponies only tried to protect themselves. They searched for his kind high and low... low and high! The ones they found were imprisoned and... died in captivity. But that was just negligence; they never actively tried to exterminate them!

But these Imperials just outright killed anyone they felt like, just on the suspicion of working with the rebellion. There was no fear… just hatred. It was small wonder why there was a rebellion to begin with. But just what had happened, Stross wondered, to make things get this bad in the first place?

he didn't have enough time to ponder. With Fenora out of the way, the guard captain finally spotted Stross, but didn’t know what to make of him. So she settled simply for a hard scowl.

“Oh what fresh Oblivion is this?” The captain asked rhetorically.

“I’m just a friendly, innocent Changeling?” Stross said with a pleading grin.

“Umm… captain?” the bookman began. “What do we-“

“I don’t care what that abomination is, send it to the block!”


Before the execution began, General Tullius and Ulfric had a quick, one-sided conversation in which Tullius denounced Ulfrics’ title as a hero of the Nords. He scolded him for using some power known as ‘the voice’ to murder his own king, at which Ulfric could only grunt angrily though his gag.

Next, a priest in bright orange robes walked up to the block, raised her arms to the sky in offering, and began a prayer. “As we commend your souls to Etherius, blessings of the eight Divines be upon you, may you find-“

“How DARE you!?” She was quickly interrupted when a Stormcloak soldier pushed his way up to the block. “I’ll not have you slander our beliefs the moment before you sentence me, and my brothers and sisters to death! Everyone in Skyrim, every true nord knows there are nine Divines now.” he shouted, “So for the love of Talos, shut up, and let’s get this over with!”

“As you wish.” The priestess hissed before stepping down.

The Stormcloak walked over and was knelt down at the chopping block. “My ancestors are smiling at me imperials, can you say the same?” Were his last snide words before the headsman raised his massive axe and cleanly severed his head from his shoulders.

The Imperial Captain shoved the body out of the way with her foot, wearing a disgusted look on her face.

“You imperial bastards!” his comrades yelled out as his body was kicked aside.

“Death to the Stormcloaks!” cheered the village onlookers in contrast.

Man, they’re going to need to clear some room near that block before this is over. Those bodies are gonna really pile up in a sec- Oh, why am I thinking this?! I need a way out of here!” Stross mentally panicked and started looking for buildings to duck into when he was sure he wasn't being watched.

Two more Stormclaok soldiers had met their end by the headsman’s axe, and still every escape scenario in Stross’s head ended with him dying in some horrible fashion.

“Next, the wood-elf!” the captain ordered.

No... no, not her. She's not supposed to be here either! She didn't do anything wrong!

Stross’s mind was suddenly focused not on merely saving himself, but the elf he’d just met as well. He frantically looked around for a way to save Fenora as she was escorted to the block. As far as he knew, she was innocent, just like him. He couldn’t just do nothing.

You bastards aren’t getting her, and you're not getting me either.” Stross thought as he gathered his magic at the tip of his horn. “Come on, just enough for a stun spell, or a flash-bang spell… something. Now or never!

A trickle of white light at the tip of his horn became a rainbow orb of light that launched into the crowd and exploded, blinding and staggering everyone unfortunate enough to have stared at the pretty lights.

It was then that Stross rushed forwards through the dazed crowd of fellow prisoners. He grabbed the business end of the headsman’s axe between his bound hands and wrestled it from its still-dazed owner.

It was far heavier than he thought it would be, or maybe he was just really weak. Maybe both, but as the Imperial soldiers began to recover, he dragged both it and himself in front of Fenora, taking a defensive stance between her and the platoon of armed men.

“Halt!” the Imperial Captain shouted, “Guards, kill them! Kill them both! NOW!”

Stross felt too weak to stand. And as the soldiers closed in on them, they seemed to know full well it was an easy fight.

“Stay back!” Stross growled as his horn glowed menacingly. Then he surprised himself again that day and split his stun spell into a wave that washed over the row of soldiers. It slowed them a tiny bit, but not much more.

As he fell to his knees, feeling the elf woman take the axe from him and drag him back towards a corner segment of fifteen-foot high wall, he knew he was finished. “I can't believe I'm going out like this. This isn't fair!" Stross screamed in his head as he thought about all the things he still wanted to do. "Maybe she can use me as a shield when I'm gone. Maybe it'll be enough for her to get away. I want to do something good with my last breath… First of the Fallen, give me that at least...

The guards closed in to finish them. But fate had a mind of its own that day, and the sky was suddenly covered in dark clouds that blocked out the sun.

The guards around them paused, looking around, confused.

“What in Oblivion is that?!” general Tullius yelled as a dark figure swooped low over the roofs of Helgen.

“Sentries, do you have a bead on it?” the Captain yelled.

“It’s in the clouds!” one yelled.

Then a dragon with scales black as the night sky descended into the village, wrath burning in its bright red eyes.

“No it’s not! It’s right there on that tower you idiots, shoot it!” General Tullius ordered.

The volley of steel-tipped shafts merely deflected off its rock-hard hide as the dragon looked on in contempt. Suddenly the dragon opened its mouth, and instead of a roar, a thunderclap erupted instead. As the sound echoed across the sky, a rain of fire and brimstone began to fall. The dragon itself then took to the air, breathing streams of molten fire upon all those it spotted below.

It was pretty safe to say the execution had been put on hold.

As the dragon set the village aflame, the guards tried desperately to get the townspeople to safety while the Stormcloak prisoners fled for their lives.

“Hey, bug thing, get up!” she shook him as he lay there.

It was Fenora. She was still alive. He could barely see anything through the smoke and fire, but one thing he did see in her was life. Her eyes, those glowing amber orbs were alit with a will to live that had been absent until then. They had their chance to escape.

“We have to get out of here before the whole village burns down around us!” she yelled as she dragged by the scruff of his neck under the cover of what was once the village inn.

“What’s going on?! Where did that dragon come from!?” Stross gasped, smoke filling his nostrils.

“I… I don’t know.” Fenora admitted, “I thought that dragons all died centuries ago. Look, we’ve got to go or we're cooked! I heard a soldier yelling for everyone to get to the keep. We should try to join them.”

“The ones that just tried to kill us?” Stross questioned like Fenora was insane.

“Do you have a better plan?” she countered. “Stone is less flammable than wood.”

While they were talking, the roof of the building they'd taken shelter in exploded in a rain of embers.

“The keep it is.” Fenora decided for them, and ran to the door before they could get buried in burning wood.

Before she made it two steps, Stross called out to her, and made it clear he was too weak to walk. Fenora looked at the burning buildings around them, then at the strange creature that had thrown himself in front of an army to save her mere moments ago. Shaking her head at the idiocy of it, she rushed to him and threw him onto her back, his still bound hands were brought around her neck so he could hold on.

“The gods give me one chance… and I’m stuck with baggage.” She grumbled as she dragged him along.

They made their way through the town, dodging pillars of flame from above and rolling waves of debris from below, staying close to the fort’s inner walls to avoid the fire where they could.

All around them was chaos as the imperial mages and archers attempted to bring the dragon down with only their longbows and spells. They may as well have been firing toothpicks and spitwads as the dragon body-slammed into yet another house, sending destroyed furniture and timbers everywhere.

Out of the chaos, Stross noticed a man laying on the ground. Both his legs were bleeding stumps, and he urged a small boy, his son, to flee the town and leave him behind. It took the calls from a pair of Imperial soldiers for the boy to finally relent and flee. Moments later the great black dragon landed down over the broken man, and the earth shook. One long breath of flame later, and his charred bones were all that was left of him.

When Fenora and Stross finally reached the front door of the keep, they were just in time to witness an argument between the Imperials and the fleeing Stormcloaks.

“Ralof, you damned traitor. Out of our way!” yelled the bookman from earlier.

“We’re escaping too Hadvar, you can’t stop us this time.” Ralof, the Stormcloak who had ridden with them to the block shouted back.

“We’ll see about that, have at it!” Hadvar yelled as he drew his sword.

Ralof responded in kind. But both were interrupted when the dragon torpedoed into the ground, plowing through it with its massive talons. Both the gathered Stormcloaks and Imperials barely had any time to dodge. Even then, some were not so lucky. Those caught by the dragon were dragged into the sky along with it, and thrown into the distance.

“I can see my house from here!” one yelled as he was flung, “It’s on fire!”

“We don’t have time for this meaningless squabble, get inside the keep!” Ulfric yelled to those remaining.

There were no arguments as the men quickly scrambled and shoved their way into the keep. Fenora made to join them, dragging Stross on her back, but was too late, as a giant slab of flaming rock fell in front of the doors and blocked their access before they could get through.

“Great. What now?” Fenora asked.

Stross quickly looked around, trying to find an alternate means of escape.

“Over there!” He yelled as he jerked in the direction of a gate across from the keep's entrance.

With a great amount of effort, Fenora managed to pry the gate open enough to get them both through. As she did, the spot where they were just standing a moment before exploded into flame. The dragon had spotted them and was now intent on gunning them down.

“RUN!” Stross yelled.

“Forget that, ride!” Fenora yelled as she sprinted for a delivery wagon with the dragon swooping down behind her with its talons ready to rend them both into shreds. She pushed the cart onto the road and hopped on the back. Stross managed to shift his weight so that they both tumbled into the cargo bed.

The wagon failed to take a turn in the road and instead rolled off into the woods, narrowly avoiding trees and boulders. Above them, the dragon let out a furious roar as it lost sight, and decided to set the treeline ablaze in spite before it took off into the sky, leaving several dozen dead, and a burning wreck of a town behind him.

But Stross and Fenora managed to escape.