As the Dawn of Fire breaks, the New Realm is born.
Dragonborn Part II
Dawn of Fire
"We have reports of what appears to be some kind of extra-terrestrial invasion--"
"--live footage of what looks like hundreds of flying reptiles pouring out of the sky--"
"--fighter jets have scrambled in New York City, engaging in dog-fights with what can only be described as--"
"--live in London where another portal has opened over Charing Cross--"
"--from Paris to Cairo, Moscow, Beijing, Tokyo, reports and footage are flooding in of portals opening above major cities across the globe--"
"--the United States military has officially increased its state of alert to DEFCON 1--"
"My fellow Americans, it seems that creatures we believed only existed in legend and fantasy are real and are now at war with humankind. Dragons are attacking planet earth. Please remain calm--"
"Do you still think we can save the world?"
"Yeah. Yeah I do."
* * *
"Heeey, C-Dawg! Merry Christmas bro!"
Marquis grinned cheerfully as he lay sprawled on the couch in his duplex living room, headquarters of the hood. Around him a couple tough-looking guys were sitting with their girls holding beer bottles, others slouched around a pool table (also holding beers), and a heated card game was underway in the next room. Heavy bass tones of gangster rap filled the smoke-infused air, broken up by intermittent spouts of laughter or profane shouting. It was a lively place. And below the surface, a sad one.
"Hey, Marquis," replied Cory as he stood before the gangster. While not exactly an open-lapped Santa, Marquis seemed at that level of jolly. Cory never knew him to be the most festive person, but whatever had him in such good spirits could maybe help the impending conversation go better than Cory was anticipating.
"Came to celebrate with your real family, eh? Present's over there under the tree, man. Courtesy of yours truly."
Ouch. Things were not getting off to a good start. "Listen, bro..."
"Go open it first!" Marquis ordered. Cory approached the musty, plastic tree and bent down. A few boxes were there, and Cory spotted the one meant for him, but raised an eyebrow at its shape. A big... egg? There was another box with his name on it that he never saw.
"Marquis. Listen." Cory took hold of the present and turned back to face Marquis's intent smile. That's not going to last, is it? Cory thought. "I've been doing a lot of thinking--"
"You're usually pretty good at that." Marquis put his hands behind his head.
"--for a while now. Look, I appreciate that you've given me a place when I never had one. There's something to be said for that. But the rest of it--all this--" Cory gestured vaguely around the room. Marquis raised an eyebrow. "There's gotta be more than this, man, you know? I mean, it's all one big party all the time, but no one ain't ever happy. We shoot up, we drink up, we kill people--"
Yup, the smile disappeared. The room hushed and they glanced back at their leader who sat up and spat in a commanding tone, "Its a kill-or-be-killed world, bro. What you sayin'? What you goin' on about? You got a problem or somethin'?"
Oh, crap. As if there had been any way on earth to avoid this. Fear crept into Cory like a fast-acting poison, but he showed no signs of it. He came here to do what he needed to do.
"I'm sayin'... that this," he again gestured vaguely, but it was clear he was referring to the gang as a whole, "ain't right. Now I been thinkin' a while--"
Lividness was fast approaching. Marquis scowled. "You never had a problem before. The hell is this?"
"Things are different now, they've been getting different for a while," Cory had to fight to keep his tongue operating properly. "I went to a church, Marquis--"
It happened. Marquis stood up, stood still, and his eyes burned with confusion fronted by sudden rage. "Are you freakin' preaching to me bro? What? A church? Hell do I care!? That crap don't mean nothin' to me, and it shouldn't to you neither!"
"You're wrong, man," suddenly Cory wasn't speaking of his own accord. "There's reasons to live, new ones, that we're missin' here. We're wrong--" Marquis interrupted him before he could find out what.
"You hearin' this? This punk be preachin' to us!" He laughed coldly. "All right preacher, what you gotta say? Here for confession or somethin'?"
"All I'm saying is I'm done helpin' you take lives and destroying them, and I'm done wasting mine. It's been saved, and I know how to help others now." Cory had no idea where the courage to say these things was coming from.
"My momma told me," Marquis almost shouted back, "every night to say my prayers and that Jesus loved me, just before gettin' the crap beat outta her. What kind of God lets that crap happen, man? I don' even know why I'm arguing! Look around you, good and long. Ain't no God in this world."
"Maybe you're right, but I'm gonna look for him. I'm done with the gang."
The music, the haze, everything seemed to fade as Cory looked into Marquis' eyes, that suddenly dawned with understanding. "You just gonna walk outta here?" he asked, icy venom lacing his words. "You made an agreement when you joined this family, bro. Family don't walk out on each other, no matter what. You try run away from home, there's punishments, you know? Just like any family. You don't jus', 'walk out'. You can try. I always liked you Cory, but there's rules, and I will not hesitate to bust a cap in your ass if I see it facing me and you ain't shut up about this."
"You're not gonna kill me Marquis. So I came to say goodbye. I love you. I'll pray for you." Cory turned.
"You really wanna end up in a dump somewhere you worthless piece of trash? Can't have no snitches bro! Last chance. No one 'walks out'." The metallic click of a handgun slide being pulled back rang in Cory's ears. Cory stood facing the door, seven feet in front of him. I did what I thought you were telling me. If you're as real as you showed yourself to me... well... your will be done I guess. Maybe I'll see you sooner than I thought?
"I'm sorry Marquis."
"You're DEAD Cory! YOU HEAR ME?? DE--!"
Just then the ceiling collapsed in on itself, sending everyone to the floor under a shower of dust and debris. Marquis scrambled to look back, just in time to see the serpent-like head of a giant scaled beast arching its long neck over the open room like a cat peering into a fishbowl. The gangster did not have time to mentally process what he saw, and therefore hardly even screamed before the dragon, with a concussive roar smelling of sulfur, devoured him in a single lunge of its jaws.
Gunshots may or may not have been fired off as the others in the room realized a creature they only knew from kids' books just ate their leader, but Cory remembered little of what happened next, other than that he ran, and looked down at the egg still in his hands, which had begun to shake as it cracked, and from its seams shone a light bright as the sun.
Cory was so busy running he didn't fully realize he was holding a live baby dragon. Sure, he knew it had happened, and any normal person in his circumstances probably would have simply fainted and died (what with all the burning, explosions, fire-breathing dragons, dragon-egg Christmas presents, gangsters getting eaten alive--one couldn't be blamed for it being a lot to take in), but something buried deep within Cory's brain, somewhere in the raw instinct of his amygdala, he ran onward.
What was it, four miles to get officially out of the city? Could he make that? He didn't think too hard about it. Even when frantic drivers clogged up the sludgy streets, bodies that had been taken up in dagger-filled jaws fell from the sky in front of him, a Christmas train car driven by a brightly smiling Santa almost smashed into him, and debris from apartment complexes' shattered rooftops rained down around him, he kept going. The only thing that entered his head besides the natural thoughts for survival were the blood-chilling, raging shouts of the monsters that his mind somehow translated, and they weren't exactly encouraging: "Find the lost ones! Destroy the Dragonborn! Devour the souls of these wretched vermin!"
At some point Cory understood he was holding one of "the lost ones", and that it wouldn't be long before he was noticed. His pounding feet carried him through a trash-littered back alley he knew well, when suddenly the ground trembled as a reptile with wings for forearms barreled into the ground, bearing its teeth with a snarl. Cory cried out and fell backwards, barely keeping the infant dragon from flying out of his hands. The dragon slithered toward him, digging its cracked claws into the concrete, and Cory only had time to think This is it, as the monster reared its head like a cobra preparing to strike.
Then there was a high-pitched sound like a missile falling from the sky, growing rapidly in intensity until just when Cory was sure a rocket was going to blow him and the dragon to smithereens, the ground between him and the beast exploded in a flash of light and a cloud of dirty-snow. Cory raised a hand to protect his face, and when he lowered it, he blinked several times.
Stooped before him in his own miniature crater, facing the dragon, a figure clothed in a flowing black cloak or coat crouched with an arm outstretched, holding a shimmering sword as long as a man and almost as broad. The figure raised his head of unkempt, platinum hair.
"Stay back," his misty voice commanded. Cory was more than happy to comply.
With an angry roar the dragon lurched forward, but the stranger deftly leaped above it just in time and came down on its head. The beast shook its neck in fury, but the man held fast, and taking action the moment the beast paused, with what looked like the ease of a farmer pounding in a fence post (which as an afterthought isn't necessarily easy), drove his blade down into its skull and out the bottom of its head. The creature crumpled in an instant, and the man in black lightly stepped off its ugly dead head as it came to rest mere feet from where Cory lay sprawled with eyes like dinner plates and a mouth devoid of function. The man, who now appeared only slightly older than Cory, had a fair elven face (complete with elongated ears) and held out a gloved hand, looking down at Cory with golden eyes burning like stars.
"Hi there. I'm Vexem, Gatekeeper, former guardian of the World Door from the planet Aylia. I'm here to protect you and the rest of the Dragonborn. Where are the others?"
Somehow a train of thought actually found its way into the speech station and he replied, "What others?"
Vexem the Gatekeeper from the planet Aylia seemed frustrated. Cory did not want to frustrate a guy holding a sword like that, who just made killing a dragon look like squishing a bug. "The other Dragonborn. Have you seen any?"
Cory wished he knew what the guy was talking about. And then suddenly--he did! The dreams and visions rushed back to the forefront of his mind. Just last night he'd dreamt of an old man named Eirngor, who also said something about a World Door. Images of faces of other kids around his age. Cory realized Vexem was still holding out his hand, and he took it, clinging to the baby dragon with the other.
"I haven't--but I know who you're talking about. I can see them sometimes. But dude! What the heck is all this, what's happening?" Cory cried and looked to the sky in awe, overcome with, well... overcome. "How did you find me?"
"There isn't time for questions. But flying overhead, I saw the child there," Vexem indicated the baby dragon, "and knew you were one. My senses were right when they guided me here. But are you the only one...? It doesn't matter. We need to go."
And before Cory could say "Where exactly--?", Vexem the Gatekeeper grabbed Cory by the arm and pair of luminous silver, transparent wings appeared at his back in a sparkly puff. The second the wings were open, Vexem launched into the air. Cory screamed. The dragon squealed with delight.
Monsters soared all around them. Below them, the city was burning. Raising his sword like a compass and prepared to fight through any obstacle, Vexem shot southeast, his midnight-black coat billowing behind him.
* * *
After a half hour drive through the countryside, Jacob and Rachel arrived at a small town. It didn't look like any dragons had attacked, but the place was getting ready for it. Some SUVs and a police patrol car had set up a roadblock, and Jacob pulled up slowly. A police officer said something into his radio, and with an anxious expression quickly approached the station wagon. Jacob and Rachel looked at each other, then at the baby dragon sleeping in the back seat, and exchanged shrugs. He rolled down the window. The cop leaned forward and didn't waste any time. "You're the first to come by since the news went crazy. Anyone following you?"
Jacob shook his head. The cop, who's shirt identified him as Deputy Halen, explained that he was worried about an onrush of refugees from the city. Jacob told him that it wasn't easy for people to get out. He was going to ask if they had seen any--
"What the hell is that??" Deputy Halen cried with a startled jump and pointed at the back.
Jacob sighed and replied with a sullen, straight face. "Long story. Maybe we can talk about it over a coffee and a sandwich or something? I don't know how much time we have."
The barricade opened and Jacob drove on through.
The festively decorated little town was clearly in a state of distress, but not so chaotic as Jacob might have expected. Where otherwise he wouldn't be surprised to see looting or rioting, this population of two-hundred and three at first glance seemed relatively organized. People darted from place to place like fretting rabbits, sure, in and out of different houses, carrying grocery bags and guns; yet despite looking desperately fearful there was more an air of seriousness than panic.
Deputy Halen guided them down the street to a local diner. A small crowd began to gather behind the station wagon and followed it curiously. Rachel reached back and grabbed the infant dragon under its torso, smooth as crocodile skin, and held it protectively in her lap. Its neck wobbled to and fro as its beady eyes peered out the windows, full of wonder. She scratched a wrinkly spot under its chin and two satiny flaps on the sides of its head connected to fishbone-thin horns expanded and it made a sound like a purr.
"I wonder if they were all this cute once," Rachel said, with the slightest flicker of a smile. Jacob looked over at Rachel, meeting her weary blue eyes with a comforting smile and winked.
"He takes after his mom."
She scoffed. "Are you saying I look like a dragon?"
"What? Dah-- no-- I mean," Jacob said, floundering to amend himself, "you said the dragon was cute, so I said he was like you, meaning you're cute, you know--?"
Rachel laughed. "I know what you meant, it's okay," she said, and smiled broadly as Jacob's cheeks grew a bright Christmas red. A moment later they parked outside the diner, where a neon outline of Santa beckoned them in with a flashing Ho! Ho! Ho! Jacob found it slightly ironic that a deer antler rack hung above the door. When Rachel stepped out of the car holding the dragon a collective audible gasp and anxious muttering arose from the onlookers. Deputy Halen quickly guided her through the door and called for everyone to stay calm and back off.
The diner didn't look open for business. Boxes and crates were stacked up along with grocery bags of canned goods behind the counter and beneath windows. A TV screen blaring images of devastation in the city hung above the counter. A contingency of diner workers and volunteers were hauling the supplies through the kitchen and into a basement. "Almost everyone's already contributed to an emergency food supply here," Deputy Halen explained. "We're encouraging everyone to stock up for themselves of course, but if things get as bad as...well, as God knows they could, at least we have a guaranteed stockpile here."
All eyes in the diner eventually found Rachel holding the dragon, and an astonished hush fell over them while they worked. She held him tighter, avoiding their stares, and Jacob moved in close to her. When the large owner came out, he froze and turned pale as the snow in the windowpanes.
"From the city, Bill," Deputy Halen said. Bill found his voice and motioned them to take a seat, offering them food and whatever they wanted out of the cappuccino machine. Deputy Halen got on the phone with the mayor and told her to meet him ASAP.
At least one major network hadn't evacuated and was still airing, and Jacob and Rachel watched intently as they ate. Constant replays of the latest footage captured from around the world depicted jarring scenes no one could have ever imagined to be real. One particular image chilled Jacob to the core, showing a particularly monstrous dragon covered head to tail in diamond-like, crystalline spikes with its full wingspan unfurled, roaring from the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago. Most news helicopters that captured such footage had since been destroyed.
After a few minutes the door opened and in walked the mayor, a lean woman in her fifties with graying hair and glasses, followed by a few other "important" members of the town. "Aaron, has anyone else come by since these two, err... three... got here?" the mayor asked the deputy.
"Jane Clyde," she said quickly, shaking Rachel and Jacob's hands as they identified themselves in turn. She had difficulty keeping an apprehensive eye off the little green dragon chomping happily on the remains of Rachel's turkey sandwich. "Begging you're pardon, but you two look like you've gone through hell. Aaron says you're from the city. Does the TV do it justice?"
Jacob and Rachel exchanged a glance, and since most people seemed to be looking expectantly at her, or at least at the creature in her lap, Jacob let her talk.
"Are you ready to believe anything?" Rachel asked.
"Young lady, I'll have my husband check the roof for reindeer hoofprints if you tell me to," Jane replied, straight faced and stern. Jacob grinned and sipped his hot chocolate.
After making sure they understood dragons could fly over the town at any time, Rachel did her best to explain the unworldly events of this Christmas morning. While she spoke, Jacob noticed faces beginning to crowd around the windows. Nervous breathing cleared all the frost away as eager eyes bore into the diner and shoved each other aside for a look. Half the town had to be there, and more kept coming. While the mayor and the others were enraptured in Rachel's story, which she was telling quite well, Jacob spontaneously wiped his lips on his sleeve, stood up, and walked to the door. Rachel broke off abruptly and called after him, "Where are you going?"
He was already out, and with a sigh of resignation she hurried after him, ignoring the mayor who called out the same question.
Outside, Jacob walked toward the station wagon through the crowd that parted almost reverently before him. Then he calmly stepped onto the car and stood there on the roof, looking down at the faces, a mixture of expectant, skeptical, and amazed. Rachel gaped at him, not knowing what on earth he had in mind, while Mayor Jane crossed her arms and waited to see what sort of antics this teenage boy had to demonstrate. Jacob, for the record, had less idea why he was doing this than anyone else. A voice took over that he could hardly claim to be his own.
"Hey people!" he called out to the crowd. More trailed in from the streets to gather around. And this is what Jacob said:
"All right. You've seen and know what's happening. Yes, barely an hour ago dragons came out of holes in the sky and started attacking earth. Yes, there's thousands of them. No, I don't know why they're doing it. Yes, they could be here anytime." The crowd shuddered and mumbled amongst themselves. Two small boys stood beside each other not far from the car and one of them spoke up, with something of a mischievous grin clearly indicating he did not fully understand the implications.
"Is it the end of the world?"
"As we know it?" Jacob answered. "Yes."
Outbursts. Wails of grief. Arguing. Angry challenges from fathers and mothers whose efforts to reassure their children were now being undermined by some kid standing high and mighty on a car. Rachel mentally face-palmed, though proud of Jacob's intentions. Her friend clearly needed some moral support up there though, and he was not ungrateful when she bravely clambered onto the car with him, where then she practically held out the infant dragon like Simba on Pride Rock. The crowd fell silent. The dragon gazed at them curiously, fluttering its tissue-thin wings and lolling it's tongue out of a mouth already full of tack-like teeth despite only being scarcely an hour old.
"This is what we're dealing with!" Rachel almost shouted. The crowd raised a collective eyebrow. "Except, well, bigger! And much more vicious," she amended. "Look, we just need to get over it: Dragons, yes, dragons, have attacked earth. They could come at any minute and we need to be prepared for it. I know that's hard to imagine, standing out here in the snow on what looks like any regular Christmas morning. I mean, up until only moments ago the only thing on our minds was having a good time with friends and family." As she said it she thought of her own family and a stray tear rolled down her cheek. "I guess it's sort of ironic...because that's what Christmas is about isn't it? Joy, peace, and goodwill, sure... but in hard times especially. It's about hope, which we have..." Rachel looked at Jacob, who met her eyes with a smile that let her know--even when the world might soon come crashing down, one source of his hope came from her courage. This bolstered her own confidence, and she continued. "...because of him." She pointed at Jacob. "I know this is a lot to take in and it's hard to explain. But people like Jacob, they... they're..." How do you tell a crowd of Minnesotans a teenager is one of the "chosen" to save the world? Fortunately, she didn't have to. For all of a sudden exclamations rose from the crowd and many fingers pointed at the sky behind Jacob. An icy chill ran through his veins and his heartbeat quickened. Dreading but ready to accept fate, he and Rachel quickly spun around.
It was no dragon, that much was certain. Jacob narrowed his eyes, curiosity now replacing his alarm, and gazed at the small, oddly shaped object flying ever nearer. It wasn't a bird... or a plane....
A person. Or rather, three people. Jacob had to do a double take and the crowd stirred in wonder as a person in a flowing black coat soared into view on glittering silver wings, carrying in one hand a massive sword glinting in the light of the eastern sun. Clinging to one of the legs of the man in black was a kid around Jacob's age with a clearly blanching expression-- thus likely a few shades less black than normal. Clinging to his legs and appearing to be having a slightly more enjoyable time was a black-haired girl in a grey jacket. On top of that, both kids held a tiny dragon. The man in black pointed his sword directly at Jacob and began to descend.
It wasn't the fact that two teenagers were flying with some magical fairy man that stunned Jacob. Something else made his heart leap at the sight of them.
The crowd watched in wonder and instinctively formed a wide circle in front of the car as the winged guy came to a hover above them. The girl slid off and stumbled to a stop, while the boy let out a little yelp and fell after her, crumpling in a heap before scrambling to his feet. He and the girl stood close, and while she maintained a better grip on herself he did not so quickly adjust to his new surroundings and flitted his gaze about like a nervous squirrel. The white-haired young man in black, whose features reminded Jacob of an elf from Lord of the Rings, alighted gracefully on the snow where his black boots left hardly an imprint, and he nodded at Jacob. He and Rachel jumped off the car and stood in bewilderment before the new arrivals. A hush fell over the crowd, and the mysterious elf was the first to break it.
"Hello, Dragonborn and consort. Vexem, Gatekeeper, former guardian of the World Door from the planet Aylia, at your service." He held out a hand.
"Jacob Ross." He shook it.
"Rachel Scott." She shook it.
"My senses were right again," said Vexem, "not that I doubted them. I found only two others in your city. From there, you were the closest. I assume you're in this village because you've found another?"
Jacob found himself ignoring Vexem and left Rachel's side to stand before the girl, who he now saw to be Asian, and the boy. Seeing two new dragons, the green infant skittered out of Rachel's arms and joined them, one red and one blue, who began to study each other much like dogs do at first meeting (minus the butt sniffing).
The three young people regarded each other in silence. The boy's fretting abated and was replaced by dawning realization. The girl's brown eyes seemed to study Jacob like he was a relative she hadn't seen in years. Turns out that wasn't too far from the truth. In fact, they had seen each other almost every night for the past several weeks. They were Dragonborn.
"Hey," Jacob said, nodding as a smile drew across his lips.
"Hi," the others said simultaneously. They boy let her introduce herself first.
"Kim Liang. Short for Kimberly, I'm um, not Korean," she said out of habit. She batted her eyelashes, feeling a little awkward in front of this boy she only knew from her dreams.
"Cory Barret. This is weird."
They laughed. Rachel smiled at them, only faintly aware of what exactly was taking place. Vexem seemed a little impatient, absently twirling his sword and sliding it deftly into the sheath on his back. The three dragons, in a greeting ritual instinctive at birth, coughed sparks in each others' faces one at a time. Meanwhile the crowd was like, What the fuu....?
And then shadows appeared on the horizon. Excited cries and more finger pointing. Everyone turned, and Jacob would've liked a pair of binoculars. Fifteen shapes stark-black against the paper-white sky grew rapidly larger.
"The first scouts," Vexem muttered. The Dragonborn and Rachel gathered around the Gatekeeper, dread rising in them again. Grimacing, Vexem turned to his allies, ready to make a game plan. "All right, five gargoyles, three wyrms, two wyverns and a Brown." They stared at him blankly. His face fell. He wasn't used to working with humans. "Um..." he had to adjust strategies. "...do these people have any weapons?"
A big guy with a handle-bar mustache shouted, "Get the women and children inside, let's LOCK AND LOAD!"
The crowd split. Those carrying kids rushed them into houses and came back with rifles, handguns, and shotguns. Jacob reached into the car and grabbed his twelve gauge. Mayor Jane approached him. "What exactly do you people have in mind--?"
"Do you have a gun, ma'am?"
"Then you better go get it." He cocked the shotgun. God, he loved that sound.
Cory, Kim, and Rachel looked frantically at Vexem while he analyzed the dragons' approach. "What do you want us to do?" Cory asked.
"Damn, I nearly forgot," Vexem reached into a pouch at his belt and withdrew five screwdrivers. He handed one to the each of them, including Rachel. Dumbfounded, Cory voiced what the rest were thinking.
"This is a screwdriver!"
"Philips All-Purpose, yeah!" Vexem affirmed with a smile that to them seemed maniacal. Screaming indicated the dragons were within distinguishing distance. Jacob gazed at them. The first looked like how most people think of dragon; the size of a moderate house, with four legs plus wings. The two flanking it were smaller, and Cory recognized them as the kind that attacked him in the alley. The next three were the wyrms, basically huge winged snakes. Gross. The gargoyles were living versions of the Gothic demon statues, seven to eight feet tall, bi-pedal, and hideous. As Vexem would later tell the Dragonborn, they formed the grunt units of the dragon army.
Shhhllnnnk.... The Gatekeeper drew his massive sword in one fluid motion. Jacob hugged Rachel before readying his gun. The other three looked blankly at their screwdrivers. Deputy Halen ran up to Jacob, holding his Glock. "If it means the same I feel safer next to you guys."
At least forty of the townspeople returned armed. Vexem ordered them to spread out, since grouping together was a fire hazard. Vexem led the group away from the diner and to the middle of main street. Though scared out of their minds, they held their ground as the Gatekeeper boldly faced the Brown dragon as it came to a shuddering landing before them. The wyverns slid onto rooftops, the wyrms slithered to the sides of their leader, and the cackling gargoyles crouched on streetlights.
The Brown eyed his adversaries thoughtfully, then spoke.
"Fortune favors me this day, that I should have the honor of slaying three Dragonborn at once! And what's this?" He grinned in the way dragons go about grinning. "A Gatekeeper to boot! My, my, this is a prize. By the time I'm through with you, you'll wish you would have died on the Doorstep. As for the rest of you...Dragonborn, would you mind translating this message to your people before I kill you?" The dragon directed his next shouts to the whole town.
"We have come to this planet to reclaim what is rightfully ours. Surrender...submit...and you shall be allowed to live on, free of this oppression you call freedom. You will be slaves to your true Gods. You will survive...as long as we deem." He stopped, and snorted smugly. His brethren roared approval.
Jacob looked to Rachel, Kim, and Cory, before turning to Vexem for a sign of what to do. The Gatekeeper stood glowering, breathing heavily. Then a fire ignited in his eyes.
"HE MEANS TO DESTROY YOU ALL! FIGHT, PEOPLE OF EARTH!" He leapt into the air and brought his blade down on the Brown dragon's snout.
The Brown shrieked in fury as gunfire erupted like a thunderstorm over the town. One of the wyverns took flight and bellowed fire over a row of houses. The gargoyles shot to the ground, sinking their terrible claws into the first humans they came in contact with. Deputy Halen emptied a full round into the mouth of one of the hissing wyrms before Jacob finished it off with two retorts of his Mossberg. Vexem and the lead dragon took their battle into the sky.
Cory, Rachel, and Kim held out their screwdrivers defensively, feeling like idiots. Looking up and seeing Vexem's dazzling blade flashing against the clouds, a thought entered Cory's mind: I wish I had a sword. Next thing he knew, after an instantaneous flash of blue light ran the length of the screwdriver and beyond, he was holding a sword. All-purpose indeed. He told the others the trick just in time for the three of them to decapitate the second wyrm that struck at them.
The townspeople made relatively short work of the gargoyles, despite casualties. The wyverns were another matter, as it took a while for bullets to prove effective. Leaving his friends and Halen to fight the remaining wyrm, Jacob charged after one of the wyverns as it made a swoop for the squealing infants hiding under the car. And that was the end of the station wagon, as the beast sent it spiraling through the air and crashing into the diner's brick wall. A part of Jacob's soul may have died. When the wyvern came round for another pass, Jacob pumped its mouth full of all the slugs in the chamber. He rolled out of the way as it came to a sputtering crash behind him. Okay that was boss, he thought.
The townspeople finally brought down the second wyvern, but not before half the defenders were gone and flames engulfed most of the buildings. Soon the Brown dragon collapsed onto the street, and a bloody Vexem ripped his sword out of its skull and strode off its head like another day at the office.
Jacob couldn't believe the scene around him. A victory, however small, had been won. Or was it a victory? The ragged surviving townsfolk began to cheer. Then suddenly, some implications dawned on Jacob and he marched over to Vexem, furious.
"Now what's going to happen? The dragon offered these people survival and they openly declared hostility! There's no way they'll be spared now--!"
"Take it from someone who knows, boy," Vexem shouted back. "No one is going to be spared. A town like this? A day's worth of appetizers. Trust me, showing these people they can win was the best thing for them. You fought well today."
"What do we do now?" Cory asked, clutching a bloody screwdriver.
It was the mayor who answered, carrying a deer rifle and looking quite disheveled. "You need to leave. It's clear you're meant to save the world. To that I say good luck. Don't worry about us, we'll make do. But where will you go?"
"Kid, if it's all the same, I'd like to come with you," said Deputy Halen.
"I think you're needed here," Jacob replied. "As for us, I think we know what to do: Find the other Dragonborn. Then to the remotest place you can think of...that's where we'll go."
And that is where they went.
Driving away from the town burning in the distance, Cory voiced some moral qualms. He was not the only one that felt the heavy weight of doubt creeping in. He remembered something Marquis said.
"What kind of God would let this happen?"
"The same one who has seen his people rise stronger from the ashes more than once." Vexem said, looking back at the smoke climbing like a signal into the sky. "What is today all about? As the fire rises, so must we. So must our hope."
The Momentary End