Fang gazed out over the plains. A sea of fire greeted her. Waves of flame and ash rippled across the scorched earth in time with the wind. A cloud of black smoke spanned the horizon. Her jaw tightened. No spell in the world could create this much fire. There was only one thing that could: a dragon, and a very big one at that.
It had to be stopped. If this dragon was left unchallenged, it would burn everything from the plains right through to the base of the western mountains. Even the rivers and lakes would boil, and the towns and cities in its path would be left as nothing more than burnt out ruins. And anything foolish enough to stand in its path would die. Still, someone needed to fight it.
Fang was that someone.
She reached for the belt slung about the waist of her armour and tugged loose a small crystal. The gem shone a deep blue before a pulse of her magic transformed it into an ornate spyglass. She grinned. Magic was such a handy thing to have. It beat lugging around all of her equipment the old fashioned way.
Carefully, she brought the spyglass up to her eye. The seals carved onto the instrument flared to life, and she felt a gentle tug on her magic. The intricately carved lenses already magnified everything several times over, but the seals added that little bit extra she needed in her line of work. A host of symbols danced across the image she saw through the spyglass. She was looking for two things: magic and heat.
"Come on," she whispered. "Where are you?"
The symbols on the spyglass urged her to look west where the concentration of heat and magic was greatest. Finally, she found what she was looking for. Increasing the amount of magic she fed into the spyglass, she magnified the image of the dragon. Its scales were a deep, bloody red, and it was enormous, at least three hundred feet long. She couldn't even remember the last time she'd seen a dragon that big. The largest she'd ever killed was tiny in comparison, a mere one hundred and fifty feet long.
But she'd hunted alone then – except for Bahamut – but not anymore.
Fang stopped the flow of magic into the spyglass and crushed it in her hand. The instrument collapsed into its crystal form, and she tucked it back into place on her belt. Then she broke into a run, the interlocking plates of her armour clanking as she leapt over the edge of the cliff.
The wind whistled past her before something huge flashed through the air at the edges of her vision. A moment later and she wasn't falling anymore, she was flying. Bahamut had caught her. The black dragon was one of the largest that had ever been raised with humans. She'd brought him up herself, watching over his egg until he hatched and then feeding him by hand until he was strong enough to fly and bring down his own prey. She'd even slept next to him, curled up against the hard warmth of his scales.
Now, however, Bahamut was a full hundred feet of winged, fiery death. He didn't need anyone to look after him, and he could have swallowed her whole. But he wouldn't. She was his family. Wherever she went, he went. Whatever she did, he did.
"Come on, Bahamut!" Fang pressed herself against her dragon and activated the spells in her boots and gauntlets. Given how fast a dragon could fly, the only sure way to keep from falling off was to use magic to stick on. "Pour on the speed. We need to catch that thing."
With a low growl, Bahamut beat his wings against the air and surged forward. The race was on. Little by little, they closed the gap, and Fang urged Bahamut higher. Dragons were the world's greatest killing machines. To go with their enormous strength, size, and fire, they had exceptional sight, smell, hearing, and taste. They could spot prey from miles away and could see as well at night as they could during the day.
The only safe place – as safe as any place could be against a dragon – was the small blind spot located just behind and above a dragon's head. It wasn't much, but it was something. And the bigger a dragon got, the less likely it was to check that blind spot. Why should they? Large dragons didn't have predators. Everything else was prey.
They settled into position hundreds of feet above the massive, red dragon. It was time to get ready. Fang unclipped another crystal from her belt. A brief pulse of magic was enough to transform it into a helmet. A dragon's scales were incredibly hard, but the spells on the helmet's visor would help her find a few weak points. Then she palmed one more crystal and jumped off Bahamut.
The roar of the wind filled Fang's ears as she plummeted toward the red dragon. Symbols flashed through her visor, a hundred different things to keep track of. She adjusted for all of them instinctively and angled herself toward the base of the dragon's skull. Her magic flared again, and she picked up speed until the world below her was reduced to nothing more than the crimson blur of her target's scales.
At the last possible moment, Fang took another crystal from her belt and crushed it in her hand. A six feet long spear appeared in its place. The weapon gleamed almost black in the light cast by the inferno below. It had cost her a fortune to buy all of the exotic materials needed to forge it, and it had taken Vanille almost a month of hard work and research to come up with the proper spells. But the spear could pierce through almost anything, and more importantly it conducted and amplified magic.
Fang hit the dragon spear first and drove the weapon down into the slightly thinner scales where its neck met the base of its head.
Sparks flew and the force of the impact almost broke both of Fang's arms despite the protective spells on her armour. But even with all of her weight and the weight of her fall behind it, the spear only sank in about four feet. Her lips curled. It wasn't perfect, but it would probably do.
And then the wind had her. Fang lost her grip on the spear and tumbled back, end over end. Desperately, she clawed at the dragon's scales and activated the spells on her gauntlets and boots. She jerked to a stop. The dragon's scales were almost scorching hot beneath her, and the beast let loose a roar of pain and fury. Its head whipped back, and she found herself staring into eyes the colour of molten gold. Its eyes narrowed, and then its mouth opened. Her whole world caught fire.
The dragon's fire slammed into her with enough force to dent the breastplate of her armour. Warnings flashed all over her visor, and she felt little jolts of electricity run up and down her spine as protective spell after protective spell failed in the face of the dragon's fury. The finest Yun smiths had forged her armour, and it had been enchanted by arguably the greatest Dia mage in centuries. But not even her clan's skill and Vanille's magic could stand up to dragon fire. Nothing could, not for long.
"No choice then." Fang stopped the flow of magic to her gauntlets and boots. "I really hope this works."
Without her magic to stick her onto the dragon, she tumbled backward through the air, away from the dragon's fire. The world spun crazily, and she summoned another one of her spears and drove it down into the scales above the dragon's spine. Her shoulder almost popped out of its socket as she screeched to a halt. Without the added force of her fall behind her, she could only dig the spear about a foot into the dragon's scales. She grit her teeth and dragged herself down the shaft of the spear. A burst of magic had her sticking to the dragon again, and she jammed her weight down onto the spear again and again.
One and a half feet.
Two and half feet.
That would have to be enough because the dragon was rounding on her again. There was no fire this time. It intended to swallow her whole. It never got the chance. A dark shape raced down through the clouds of smoke. Bahamut rammed into the bigger dragon's side, and the two dragons pin-wheeled through the sky. It was all Fang could do to hold on as Bahamut bit and clawed at the bigger dragon.
The two dragons split the sky with their cries and the shriek of claws on scales. Then suddenly, the world began to spin as the two dragons tangled together. Fang held onto the spear in the dragon's back for dear life. Even with the spells on her gauntlets and boots, another big jolt would probably be enough to throw her off.
And then the world was right side up again as the red dragon knocked Bahamut away. Fang chanced a quick glance over the dragon's side and breathed a sigh of relief. Bahamut was bleeding in a few places, but he hadn't taken any serious wounds. But the red dragon wasn't done yet. Deciding that Bahamut was the bigger threat, it raced after the smaller dragon.
"Damn it." Fang clenched her jaw. Bahamut was tough, but he didn't stand a chance against the bigger dragon in a fair fight. This needed to end. She moved across the dragon's back, rhythmically engaging and disengaging the magic in her boots to let her run down its spine. She drove in a third spear and then a fourth and a fifth before the massive dragon beneath her finally caught up to Bahamut.
Fang snarled as the bigger dragon raked its claws across Bahamut's chest. The blow sheared right through the metal armour around Bahamut's chest, and the black dragon bellowed in pain and fury. But he was lucky. The armour had borne the brunt of the attack. Without it, the battle might have ended right there.
But the red dragon was far from done. It drew its head back, and Fang heard a sound like a hurricane as it drew in a deep, deep breath. The scales beneath her feet burned almost molten hot before the dragon let loose a blast of flame big enough to swallow a city. The fire wouldn't kill Bahamut – no fire could ever kill a dragon – but the sheer power of the blast hurled him back. He was a kite caught in a storm, and with him out of the way the red dragon turned its attention back to Fang.
The dragon turned to look at her, and she felt the scales beneath her grow hot again. Her armour wouldn't hold up against another blast of its fire. There was only one choice then. She grabbed another crystal from her belt and tossed it at the dragon's face. There was a flash – a blinding spell – and she leapt off its back. Falling from this height would probably kill her, but staying on the dragon's back would definitely kill her.
She dropped like a rock, and she poured all of the magic she could spare into hastening her fall. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Bahamut recover and give chase. But he'd never reach her in time. Above her the red dragon folded its wings and opened its mouth. Nothing was faster than a dragon in full flight.
Well, except for one thing.
There was no mistaking the white-feathered wings in the black, smoke-strewn sky above the dragon. Her backup had arrived. Like a bolt of lightning streaking down from the sky, those white wings surged past the dragon, sweeping, cutting, slicing right through the air until Fang felt a strong pair of arms wrap around her middle.
"Hold on." The voice was soft, husky, and wonderfully familiar. "This is going to be close."
They were only a few hundred feet above the ground now – close enough to see the leaves burning on the smouldering treetops below. And then they were pulling up. Fang's stomach did somersaults as the pull of gravity seemed to double, triple, and then more. Pink hair filled Fang's vision along with eyes the colour of the summer sky. White wings beat the air, and they soared up with impossible speed.
Below them, the red dragon crashed into the blazing forest, too big to pull up in time. It carved a swathe of absolute devastation as it through smashed trees, crushed rocks, and brought down a hill. The dragon came to a rest hidden in a thick, grey cloud of smoke and ash.
"You really took your time." Fang grinned and reached up to run her fingers along her saviour's cheek. "I almost got eaten there."
"But you weren't." Regal features gave way to a scowl. "I don't suppose it's dead, is it?"
Fang shifted to take a closer look at the cloud of debris through her visor. "When have we ever been that lucky, Lightning? I'm still getting a lot of magic and heat. It might be hurt, but it's more angry than anything else."
"Perfect." Lightning tightened her hold on Fang. "Hold on, I'm taking us higher."
Fang nodded. "By all means."
As they rose up over the ruined forest, Fang's mind drifted from the thrill of the hunt to a thrill of an altogether different kind. The people of Gran Pulse had never had an easy relationship with the winged denizens of Cocoon, the crystal moon that hung over their world. Centuries of intermittent conflict had bred nothing but resentment and fear.
Then Fang had found Lightning. The pink haired woman had fallen defending a small village along the outskirts of Yun territory from a dragon. She'd killed the beast, but the battle had left her with a pair of broken wings. Fang had stumbled across her a few days after that battle, huddled in a cave near the village.
But despite the agony she must have been in, Lightning had met Fang's intrusion without a shred of fear. Instead, there had been raw defiance and a fierce, unwavering pride. Fang had never intended to harm Lightning. Whatever the relationship between the Yun and Cocoon, she had saved a village of their clansmen, and the Yun always repaid their debts. But staring into the winged woman's eyes, she'd seen something that intrigued her. Something that refused to let her simply walk away.
Fang had gone back to the village for supplies and after no small amount of arguing and cajoling, she had finally convinced Lightning to go with her for treatment. The other woman had been understandably reluctant, but Fang had given her word. And Fang wasn't just some random Yun. She was the daughter of their chieftain, and her word was law.
It had taken less than a month for Lightning's wings to heal, but it was another two months before she left. Somehow, over the course of that first month, she and Fang had forged a strange, but seemingly unshakable bond. Some of the Yun were certain that it was nothing more than vile sorcery, and Fang was sure that many of Lightning's people felt the same way, but it felt right to them.
Lightning had gone back to Cocoon, but she still visited regularly. Whenever Fang had a particularly dangerous dragon to hunt, she always made sure to invite Lightning along. And if Lightning sometimes stayed for a few days afterward, she certainly wasn't going to complain.
"Sometimes, I think you enjoy flying more than me." Lightning continued to ascend.
"You might be used to flying, but I'm not." Fang glanced back down. "Wait… Lightning look out!"
There was a surge heat from the cloud of smoke below and a blast of flame ripped through the air toward them. But Lightning was already moving. She banked left and then jerked hard to the right as a second blast raced upward.
"It's still alive."
"I can see that." Fang winced. That last blast had gotten a little too close for comfort. "Bahamut!"
The black dragon flew toward them. Fang jumped out of Lightning's arms and landed on her dragon's back.
"We'll go distract it. Get your spell ready."
Lightning nodded, turned, and then leaned back to press a quick kiss to Fang's lips. "Be careful and try not to fall again. I won't be there to catch you this time."
"I'll be fine. And falling is kind of fun too."
"You Yun and your attempts to fly. Good luck."
Fang watched Lightning vanish upward into the clouds of smoke above them. The other woman would need a few minutes to set up her spell. It was up to her and Bahamut to get Lightning those few minutes. Below them, the red dragon took to the air once more.
"Come on, Bahamut." Fang patted her dragon's back. "I know you've got a score to settle. Let's go!"
Dragons burned all the time. It wasn't just their fire. It was their soul. In battle, they fought with unmatched rage and ferocity. That was why a smaller dragon rarely beat a larger one. But with Fang whispering in his ear, Bahamut fought with more than fury. He fought with guile.
Instead of trying to fight the larger dragon head-on, Fang urged Bahamut to aim for his wings and his flanks. Neither area would result in a quick kill, but the wounds would add up eventually. Again and again, Bahamut darted in to land one or two quick blows before he wheeled away. With each pass, the red dragon grew more and more frustrated. The magic gathering in the sky above them didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was ripping Fang and Bahamut limb from limb.
As the bigger dragon chased after them again, Fang glanced up. The people of Gran Pulse had learned to combined technology and magic. But the people of Cocoon had taken a different route. Naturally gifted in magic, they had turned spell casting into an art form. A deadly art form.
Lightning floated in the middle of the smoky skies, surrounded by several colossal, glowing seals of power. Her voice moved swiftly through verse after verse of her spell as her hands moved back forth to further shape her magic in conjunction with her words. She finished the last words of her spell and raised one hand.
"Fang!" she screamed. "Now!"
"Dive!" Fang shouted. "Bahamut, dive now!"
The black dragon folded his wings and dove to put distance between them and the larger dragon. The instant, they were clear, Lightning lowered her hand and pointed it squarely at the red dragon. The effect was instantaneous. There was a flash of light so bright it seemed the sky was bleached pure white before all the clouds for a dozen miles shattered. A single, tremendous bolt of lightning cracked the heavens and hammered down on the red dragon.
On its own, even Lightning's spell wouldn't have been enough. Dragons were naturally resistant to most forms of magic. But Lightning's spell wasn't on its own. Fang had driven five spears – spears that amplified and conducted magic – through the dragon's scales into vulnerable points along its back. Lightning's magic found the spears and crackled through them into the dragon's spine. Enough electricity to melt a mountain blasted into the dragon's body.
The dragon roared, but the roar soon turned into a shriek. Its body convulsed. Its wings flailed. And then it was falling, falling, falling to break upon a hillside far below. Blood leaked from its mouth and smoke rose from its body. Fang gazed at it through her visor. The readings were unmistakable. It was dead.
Fang patted Bahamut on the back and the pair went up to meet Lightning as she drifted down toward them.
"That was a close one. But it worked. And you also left quite a bit to salvage." A dragon's scales, teeth, and claws were all exceedingly useful – and valuable.
"Enough lightning will kill almost anything." Lightning smiled. "And it did almost eat you."
"Remind me never to get you angry. All right, Bahamut. Take us down. I want to get a closer look."
Bahamut glided back toward the ground. Lightning folded her wings and rode the rest of the way on his back behind Fang, her arms wrapped around the taller woman.
X X X
As always, I neither own Final Fantasy, nor am I making any money off of this.
This is based on Fangrai Forever Prompt #180: Alt universe, FLight as dragon hunters.
I've wanted to do something with this prompt for a while now, but I could never quite seem to latch onto an idea that I liked. However, I'm currently working on some original stuff that has dragons in it, and it sort of got the creative gears turning again, which is where this chapter comes from.
I've always liked dragons. They're big, scary, fly, and breathe fire. What's not to like? So I wanted to depict the hunting of a dragon as a very dangerous exercise requiring skill, luck, and a lot of hard work. It also helps if you have your own, albeit smaller, dragon to give you a hand. I know I hinted at a lot of backstory here, but for the moment this is a one shot. Much like the supernatural prompt in one of the earlier chapters, I may revisit this later when I've got fewer things to work on.
Also, I now have a new short story available on Amazon! It's called "The Lord of Dark Waters" and it's the follow up to "The Last Huntress." If you like fantasy with a good dose of action, you'll probably enjoy it. You can find a link to it in my profile (along with a link to a longer preview), but here is the blurb (the story runs to 24,500 words and costs $0.99):
Scarlett is the last of her line – a huntress sworn to kill all monsters
Rose is a girl searching for the power to take back her homeland.
In the frozen wastes of the north, Scarlett confronted the dark truth of her origins. Now, she journeys south with Rose, desperate to leave the horror of the north behind. But the past is never far away, especially when they are drawn to the Swamp of Darkwater to hunt down a rogue vampire.
There, amidst the cursed, whisperings waters filled with muck and memories, Scarlett and Rose will have not choice but to face an evil far greater than they imagined. For the swamp is an old place, filled with old evils. It is a place where the churning waters hide the ruins of a cruel legacy centuries in the making.
The Lord of Dark Waters has awakened, and they are the only ones who can stop him. If they fail, then all of the south may fall, drowned beneath the dark, hungry tide of an ancient evil.
I also have two other stories up on Amazon, and you can find links to them in my profile too. If you're interested in fantasy, you might want to look at "The Last Huntress." If you're interested in a paranormal Western, you might want to give "The Gunslinger and the Necromancer" a try. You won't be disappointed.
As always, I appreciate feedback. Reviews and comments are welcome.