How to Kill a Dragon-COMING April 2021!
The dragons are gathering, which can only mean one thing. Death.
Minx, a royal Fae has been tasked with saving her people. Problem is, the only way to do that is by slaying a dragon and bringing their hide back to Paddling Grounds. The magic that resides inside dragons is strong and without it her people will die.
Except Minx has never slayed a dragon, she hasn’t even ever seen one, but she knows where to find them. With help from her Faelyr, half fae and half tiger companion, Minx sets out to Talon Range.
Kaleb, the dragon heir to the Pyra clan isn’t looking for war. But then again no one has ever asked him what he wants. He has a duty and he will do whatever is needed to keep his people safe. Even if that means taking on the darkness himself.
When Kaleb and Minx come face to face, a battle erupts. Neither are giving up, neither will fail. Until they realize they share a common enemy and only together can they defeat them.
With a pull between them that is strictly forbidden, Minx and Kaleb find they are on their own and time is running out.
A fae, a dragon and a war neither are prepared for. The end of both species is near and only they can save each other.
Among the Fae, there was no hunter more capable or fighter more skilled than Minx. But as her father repeated his request, she still couldn’t seem to wrap her head around it. “The dragons… they’re gathering?” she asked.
Her father nodded solemnly. “It’s as I’ve told you. They’ve been spotted in the area recently. I’m afraid we’ll need one of their hides if we’re to keep the ward in place over Pandling Grounds and Heilo Lake.” He had knocked on her door just moments ago, interrupting an otherwise quiet afternoon, to bring her this mission. “It will be a difficult job,” he warned, “but I’m certain you can handle it. Who else can we rely on, if not you, our Dragon Hunter?” The gravity in his expression faded somewhat and he spared her an encouraging smile.
Minx had trained for many years, gaining a reputation among the Fae for her ferociousness and skill in battle; such was her expertise that she’d earned the title “Dragon Hunter”. But this would be her first time actually hunting down one of the Royal Dragons whose hides the denizens of Pandling Grounds utilized in their shield spell. Since the end of the Great Dragon Wars that took place many years ago, the monstrous things had been rarely seen, of course. To hear that these beasts were on the move again filled her with excitement—the excitement of one about to rise to a new challenge.
“So, after all this time they’re finally trespassing on our lands?” she asked, rising from the edge of her bed and taking up the bow she’d left sitting against the wall. In the corner, snoozing contentedly, was her Faelyr companion, Mau. She channeled her thoughts at the sleeping lyr, urging her awake. Time to get up, Mau. This is going to be a big hunt, unlike any other.
The enormous feline opened her eyes, outstretching her paws and loosing a yawn. Oh, what’s on the agenda this time around? asked the Faelyr telepathically.
It’s time for me to live up to my title, was Minx’s sole reply.
Mau’s bright eyes widened for an instant and she rose from the floor, striding over toward the bed. Is that so? The dragons are getting feisty, I see…
Her father watched as Minx looked over her weapon, checking its tension and inspecting the arrows in her quiver. His grey brows arched and he smoothed out the folds in his tunic, picking up one of the arrows himself and testing the sharpness of its head. “Do you have everything you need? If you need more arrows, perhaps a new bow, I’m sure we could arrange for—”
“I’ve got more than enough,” she assured him with a mischievous grin. Tying back her dark locks into something manageable, she moved to the chest of drawers and pulled her bracelets from the topmost, slipping them onto her wrists and taking care to polish the dull blue stones embedded in them. “To be honest, father, I’d feel like I was cheating if I prepared much more. This poor dragon won’t know what hit it.”
From the side of the bed, Mau offered a telepathic taunt. Now, don’t get too full of yourself—else you might get us both killed!
With great pride in his eyes, her father placed a hand on her shoulder and sized her up. “I know you’ll do well, my dear. You’re a royal, built for this kind of mission. I haven’t the least doubt of your abilities and I’m certain you’ll come through for us.” Wrapping her in an embrace, he gently added, “But do be careful. A father worries, after all.”
She returned his embrace, slinging a slender arm around him. “Of course, father. I’ll be back before you know it. Mau and I will see this through.” The loyal Faelyr padded over silently, pausing at her side.
“All right. I’ll be off, then.” Her father spared her one last look—a mix of paternal pride and nerves all at once—and then stepped out into the quiet afternoon.
Minx fastened the quiver of arrows to her back tightly and adjusted the straps of her calf-high boots. Taking her bow in one hand, she led the way to the door. All right, Mau. Let’s do this, she told her Faelyr companion. Let’s hunt a dragon. Everyone’s relying on us to get this done—and when we finish the job, our social standing is going to hit the roof.
It helps when your parents are on the Council, doesn’t it? offered Mau with a laugh.
Sure, my mother and father are on the Council, but that doesn’t mean I get everything handed to me. If anything, it means I have to work harder than everyone to show my worth. But when we’re through with this, there won’t be any doubt. I’ll have really earned the title of Dragon Hunter.
They passed through the door and across the platform built into the side of the tree which was their home. Across the canopy were countless other habitations, all of them built into the towering growths of Pan. These ancient, friendly trees, whose roots sometimes acted as pathways between the Fae in the sending and receiving of messages, were riddled with small homes, their occupants taking in the sun on freestanding decks or chatting with neighbors on adjacent limbs. Minx and Mau made their way down the narrow steps winding the length of the tree and arrived finally upon the forest floor. From there, they set out for the oldest tree in the forest; wise Winterlimb. It was beyond him that the steps into the city could be reached.
So, began Mau as they started past Winterlimb and into the city proper, what’s a Royal Dragon doing in the area? They haven’t been active in these parts for a long, long time…
Yes, the big ones haven’t been seen around here since the Great Dragon Wars, replied Minx. Some believed them to be extinct. Apparently, that’s not the case. I don’t know why this thing is poking around now of all times, but it’s a good thing, because we need its hide to keep the protection spell going. Without it, Pandling Grounds and Heilo Lake will be vulnerable.
They trekked past the city, hurrying into the wilds surrounding the bustling Pandling Trade Center. The Trade Center, where members of every race did business, had about it certain rules that all were required to abide by. A ban on all weaponry was at the top of the list. Not wishing to deal with the legal repercussions of toting around her bow within the Trade Center’s limits, Minx and Mau skirted the borders of the Trade Center and set off for the neighboring glades, marching through clusters of close-growing trees where they were bathed in shade. From there, they would be able to access the edges of the Pandling Grounds—where the dragon had allegedly been spotted.
It was a pleasant day, haunted by a fair breeze and the trademark scents of the warm season. The greenery all about them was pronounced, and as the leaves mingled with the sunlight the forest seemed to throb with a dream-like green. The boughs of old trees creaked lyrically with every gust of the wind, and through the canopy could be glimpsed knots of cottony clouds which crawled relentlessly across skies of blue. Minx couldn’t have asked for better conditions that this. It’s a perfect day for a hunt, she thought as they trudged through the underbrush. Wouldn’t you agree?
Mau didn’t reply, however.
No sooner had the pair broken through one wall of trees and entered a clearing toward the northern side of the Pandling Trade Center did they spy something baffling in the distance. Ordinarily this was a vast and empty space, populated only by travelers on their way in or out of the territory.
On this day, the plains were anything but empty.
Minx stood half-way in the shade, peering out into the distance where a great mob had assembled. What’s this? she wondered, studying the marching mass. Judging by the armaments of those marching, it appeared that a large army had assembled. An army bound for her home territory, where armed conflict was forbidden, was a dizzying sight. She scanned the throngs narrowly, and found among their ranks members of many races. There were Wuffs among them—Plurn and Krah, too. But what had brought this massive group to the Trade Center in the first place? I’ve got a bad feeling about this, she thought. Have you ever seen a force like this one descend on the Trade Center? Weapons aren’t allowed there—and I imagine they’ll frown upon armies, too…
Perhaps we should go and check it out, offered Mau, stepping out into the clearing. It’s not every day you see a swarm of that size headed for the Trade Center. Do you think they mean trouble?
Minx started into the distance. It’s possible…
Before they arrived within the limits of the Pandling Trade Center, Minx made certain to stash her weapons away, leaving them in a secure spot with Mau for a guardian. Unarmed, she passed into the Trade Center just in time to catch the various folk there, only moments ago engaged in trade, now looking out with concern at the approaching army. The advancing forces had not gone unnoticed by the Pan leadership, and several members of the Council—her own mother and father among them—were now starting through the town square in the interest of ascertaining the mob’s purpose.
Minx pushed her way through the crowd, joining her parents. “Hey!” she called out to her father. “I was just about to head out of the area when I saw this army marching for the Trade Center. Do you know who they are? What they want?”
Her father’s look was grim as he conversed quietly with other Council members. “No,” he said finally. “We don’t know what they want. But we’re going to find out.”
Within minutes, the army of Wuff, Plurn and Krah had arrived at the Trade Center gates. The mob was so large that their presence in the entryway all but blocked the movement of wagons in or out of the Trade Center.
The fox-like Wuffs looked to make up the bulk of the army. Though she had never seen such a thing herself, Minx had heard it said that their war parties could sometimes swell to over a thousand strong. Intelligent and not to be underestimated on the battlefield, the Wuff were an engineered race, created by audacious magic users in ages long passed. Just as Faelyrs, like Mau, were the offspring of the Fae and Lyr-shifters, so too were the Wuff born from the Fae and Fox. Unlike the Faelyrs however, Wuffs retained their humanoid forms, bearing only certain beast-like characteristics, such as tails, pointed ears and fur.
Then there were the Plurn. These ferocious creatures, a mixture of man, lion and tiger, operated in large prides not unlike their feline counterparts. Unlike the Wuffs, whose societies were matriarchal and centered around pods of women and children, the nomadic Plurn were ruled by vicious males with a perennial inclination toward war. They had a peace treaty with the Wuffs, but the savage power of the Plurn lurked always just beneath the surface.
Finally there were the Krah, who shuffled amidst the others with their scaly feet and sniffed at the air through serpentine nostrils. Though often terrifying to behold and given to violence, the lizard-like Krah were largely herbivores, and their territories expanded in keeping with their grazing needs. Agile and capable of climbing feats that no other race could hope to aspire to, the fearsome Krah also retained a treaty with the Wuffs.
Precisely what had drawn this melting pot of powerful warriors to the Trade Center was unclear, but to see them amassed in this way did not inspire peace or confidence in the onlookers. Instead, those who looked on at the army as they jammed up the gate, did so with palpable dread.
It was a Wuff—a lone female with long, silvery hair—who emerged from the mass of warriors and surveyed the members of the Council with a smirk. “Good day, citizens. Could someone possibly point me to the ones in charge of this Trading Center? You see,” she said, hiking a clawed thumb at the massive army to her back, “we have a long list of demands that need met.”
It was Minx’s mother that stepped forth, motioning to the other members of the Council. “You’ve come to speak to us, then? The Great Council? What is it that brings you here?” Hands at her sides, she took another step forward, silken robes flowing in the breeze. “This show of force is quite unnecessary. Need I remind you that weapons and combat of any kind are prohibited on Trade Center grounds?”
The Wuff vixen chuckled darkly, shaking her head. “Show of force? You haven’t seen anything yet.” Taking a step toward Minx’s mother, she went on, hands on her hips. “You see, we’re in a bit of a pinch. Our friends here, the Krah, are in need of more grazing lands. The Plurn have joined us today to ensure we can secure them from our dear friends the Fae.” She tapped at the ground with her clawed foot.
Minx’s mother frowned. “Well, I’m sorry to report we haven’t got any grazing lands to spare. You’ll have to go elsewhere.”
“No?” the Wuff feigned sadness, sporting an exaggerated frown. She turned to her fellows, singling out one of the nearby Krah. “You hear that? There’s nothing for you! I suppose you’ll have to starve!”
There was a burst of hissing, agitated speech from the masses of Krah.
“Come to think of it, there’s another thing we could use your help with,” continued the vixen. “My people and I need access to Heilo Lake.” She spared a sharp grin, the silvery fur on her arms bristling. She was clad in tight-fitting leather armor, with steel faulds and gauntlets for added protection. Her features were soft and youthful—cute, even—but spoiled by a bestial viciousness. The vixen was armed with a formidable longsword, and her war-like bearing told onlookers everything they needed to now about her skill with it. “Surely that won’t be a problem?”
At this, there arose hushed murmurings amongst the Council members. Minx’s mother looked to her husband, then locked the vixen in a steely gaze. “No one is allowed access to Heilo Lake.” Her tone was hard-edged, allowing no room for argument.
“No one? Not even Valry of the Wuff?” asked the vixen, striking her breast with her fist.
“No one,” reiterated one of the other Council members. Leaning on a cane of corded wood, the elder statesman shook his head and set his feathery beard quaking. “You should leave this place. We will not be intimidated.”
Valry took a sudden step toward him, various of her skulk mates following after. “Oh, but you will be intimidated, old man. Here, round this one up,” she ordered a pair of tods at her side. The muscled Wuff warriors abruptly seized the old man and dragged him away from his fellow Council members, his cane falling to the ground and feeble cries on his lips.
For minutes now, Minx had been on the verge of stepping in. She couldn’t bear to sit idly by while this mob intimidated her own parents and threatened to intrude upon Heilo Lake. Had she been armed, she would have let the arrows fly—but with her weapon stashed outside the Trade Center with Mau, she knew she wouldn’t stand a chance against an entire army. Sensing her mounting anger, her father placed a hand on her shoulder, as if to say “keep calm”.
Minx’s mother stepped forth and picked up the older councilman’s cane, shooting daggers at Valry. “Unhand him immediately! This outrage will not go unpunished. Heilo Lake is ours alone, and we allow no one to access it. But surely you knew this before coming here with your army.”
Valry chuckled, nodding to another pair of tods waiting in the wings. “Grab this one, too. She’s being mouthy.” Without a word, the mighty Wuffs marched to either side of Minx’s mother and took her by the arms, dragging her back into the throng. “And take a few more. Wouldn’t want them to get lonely.” Tods came forth at once, taking hold of nearby Council members and pulling them away. Some in the army had brought chains with them, and these were fastened around the wrists of the captives—five or six in number before Valry was placated.
Minx’s anger had reached a boiling point. Panicked at seeing her mother pulled away in chains, she prepared to lash out—to fight off the army bare-handed, if necessary—but her father interceded before she could do so. “Please,” pleaded her father, approaching Valry, “reconsider. Release these hostages. There is no need for this. We cannot allow outsiders to access Heilo Lake, but surely we can negotiate on other fronts and find some way to—”
Valry silenced the Royal Fae with a savage kick, her leathery heel knocking the air from his lungs and sending him falling into Minx’s arms. “I’ll be very happy to reconsider—as soon as I get what I want, that is.” She bared her sharp teeth in a coquettish smile. “You refuse us access to your special lake, and you have no grazing lands for our friends the Krah. But we have something you want,” she mocked, taking up a lock of Minx’s mother’s dark hair and running it through her clawed fingers. “I propose a trade for these leaders of yours. Deliver us the hide of a Royal Dragon and we’ll return these prisoners safe and sound.”
“A dragon’s hide?” gasped Minx, helping her father to his feet. “But—”
“It’s my final offer,” spat the vixen. “We won’t leave here empty-handed. Either you deliver a precious dragon hide within a week, or we kill the hostages. It’s that simple.” She raised her right arm over her head and made a quick motion with her hand. At her signal the entire war party began to shift, slowly backing out of the Trade Center entrance. Before she disappeared back into the mass of Wuff, Plurn and Krah, Valry paused to size up the remaining Council members and other onlookers, their eyes wide with terror. “You have one week. Be thankful I’ve given you that long.”
Over the course of minutes, the war party marched from the Trade Center, dragging their hostages behind them. The Council members who’d been left behind now clustered together, exchanging panicked glances and despairing over the fate of those kidnapped. “A week? How can we hope to come up with a dragon’s hide within a week?” one of them asked.
“We already needed a dragon’s hide for ourselves! Without it, the warding spell will fail and our territories will be vulnerable! We can’t afford to just hand such a thing over to her,” muttered another.
“Father,” said Minx, watching the retreating army, “Mau is waiting nearby, with my bow. If we follow the army and find some high ground, I can take out that Wuff leader and rescue mother.” She knew it was a reckless plan before the words even left her lips, but she was possessed by a fiery anger. This insult was too great to bear, and her desire to save her mother overpowered her. “One shot. That’s all it will take. One good shot…”
“No,” he replied sharply, drawing her close with a tug of the arm. “No, don’t be rash. If you attack them, there’s every possibility they’ll overrun you. Your mother might even perish in the chaos. Don’t doubt the viciousness of the Wuff; Valry wasn’t lying when she threatened to kill the hostages. She’s given us a week to deliver the dragon hide. This will be the only way…”
“I mean it,” he continued, taking her into his arms. “It would be reckless to try and fight an entire army with nothing but a bow—whether you’re Dragon Hunter or not.” He cleared his throat. “It’s true that we need a dragon’s hide for ourselves, but… the situation has changed. We must see to it that we can meet this unreasonable demand of Valry’s…”
“So…” Minx lowered her gaze, trying to swallow her anger. “So, we’re going to give them what they want? We’re… I’m… going to get them a dragon’s hide?”
Her father nodded. “Yes. And you cannot afford to fail. Your mother’s life, and the lives of the other hostages, depend on your success.”
Securing a dragon’s hide to ensure the continuation of the warding spell over Pandling Grounds had seemed a big job to her only moments ago. Now, she had to somehow secure two.
The stakes had gotten higher.
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