Panther the dragon is trying to save her one remaining child, and she risks it all.
Gray clouds obscured the black dragon's view of the enemy.
But not for long.
Catching up to them, Panther roared in rage. They had taken Starset, her only hatchling. The only one that she had been able to save from them.
The word made smoke rise from her nostrils. How she loathed them. Now she was chasing after a whole swarm of them who had her daughter. She would never let man take away her last child.
She pumped her pitch-black wings harder, ignoring the searing ache that made her muscles scream in protest. She was in hot pursuit of two of the once five of one of man's favorite invention: flying ships. Their so-called technology had grown more advanced in the past few hundred years. Almost completely wiping out the entire Nightflyer race.
The last dragon species in the world. And Panther wasn't about to let the humans take her future. Her race's future.
Roaring, she opened her jaws wide and let out a stream of hot flames. Her fire licked the back of the ship flying in front of her, catching the back on fire with an explosion. Swerving over the now plummeting machine, she fixed her piercing green gaze on the final ship.
The last one.
The one that held her daughter captive.
"STARSET!" she bellowed with all her strength. The back of the ship opened, a large door lowering downwards. And standing on the edge of the belly of the ship was a man holding Starset by the back of her neck.
The human she hated the most.
He had killed her mate, Fierceheart, the last male Nightflyer. The man wore a mask over his face--to help him breath at this high an altitude Panther guessed--and had an evil smirk on his face.
The same one he had when he had set fire to her and Fierceheart's cave, killing two of their newly hatched sons.
The same one he had when he had shot Fierceheart out of the sky with a giant metal ballista.
And now, the same one he had as he tried to tear apart the rest of Panther's world.
Her shattered, fragile world.
"I have something of yours," he yelled over the cold air swishing swiftly past them. Panther narrowed her eyes and bared her fangs at him, a warm heat beginning to burn in the pit of her stomach.
"She's the only one other than you left," he continued. The heat in Panther's stomach intensified with every word he said. But it was what he said next that really pissed her off.
"And you're gonna watch her die."
Thank the stars that dragons were fireproof.
Reaching for the now scorching heat that raged inside of her, Panther drew in a deep breath, and with a huge flap from her wings pushing her forward and closer to the man, she let out a long jet of orange-red flames, the only sound she heard being the roar of fire from between her maw and the blood pounding in her head.
But her strength was failing.
She had been flying after Starset for hours and was continuously setting fire to flying ships, while all the while breathing thin air that seemed to get thinner by the second.
But she fought the urge to stop and rest because she knew that there was no escaping her fire.
There was no way he would escape.
Something exploded within the ship, the explosion throwing the man and Starset out of the ship. Pinning her wings to her sides, Panther cut off her fire and started plummeting to earth, the cold air piercing her thick scales and making her spine tingle.
Both the man--being badly burned--and Starset were tumbling through the open air, the man screaming and her daughter crying for her.
Starset's cries made Panther squeeze her wings to her side even tighter.
I'm coming, little one!
Since Starset was still only a hatchling, she couldn't fly yet and her wings were flailing around her, small but sharp talons clawing at empty air.
"I'm almost there!" Hang on, Starset!
Panther glanced up from her daughter to see the sandy ground of the desert coming steadily towards them. Panic flutter in her stomach as she realized that she only had maybe a minute left to reach Starset and fly away safely or else they would both be killed upon impact.
Despite every ache, every pain, and the fact that she couldn't feel her wings any more, Panther starting flapping as hard as she physically could, angling them down and pumping them up towards the sky to pull herself closer to her daughter.
Once within a few feet of her, Panther reached out a paw yelled over the driving wind, "I'm here, little one! Now flip on your back and face me." doing as she was told, Starset used her tail to spin around and face Panther, her back to the ever-rising ground.
"Good. Now reach for me!" Starset extended one of her short arms towards her mother's stretching her claws as far as she could.
"Momma, I can't reach!" she wailed.
"Yes," Panther called back, "you can!"
Forcing, driving her wings harder, Panther was able to hook the tip of her claw on one of Starset's. Roaring with effort, she yanked her shoulder forward, grabbed her daughter's wrist, and pulled her into her chest. Snapping her wings open, she shot up and out, now flying horizontal to the ground, now only about a hundred feet from the rolling hot sands of the desert.
Dots started filling her eyes, her vision becoming hazy and blurry. Knowing that she was about to probably literally die of exhaustion, she flapped once as hard as she could while tilting her head and chest up to give her lift, and wrapped her wings around Starset as tight as she could, then started hurtling to the ground.
Closing her eyes and grabbing Starset with all four of her legs even tighter, she waited for the smash of the sand on her back, bracing herself.
When she did finally hit the ground, she more felt than heard the sharp cracks of her shoulders and wing sockets dislocate, sand spraying everywhere, hundreds of feet in the air. Panther tumbled down the large sand dune she had struck and, coming to a stop at the bottom, she sucked in a huge breath filling her lungs with warm, satisfying air. Opening her wings, she looked down to see Starset curled up to her, quivering in fear and shock.
"Starset?" Panther asked quietly. "Are you hurt?"
She had done it.
She had saved her race.