Chapter 57: Drak’rrth
Thankfully, the rest of the day went mostly uneventfully, with the protocols in place, we managed to get the civilian population briefed, the defences were more or less all up and the forces on point. I sent the dragons to the designated standby points, to join the rest of the forces that were dispersed throughout the city.
Our vehicles were parked in the forest, while the tanks were on patrol, but would be hidden away later.
As evening came, things were quiet. Almost too quiet, actually. You could almost pick the tension out of the air and snap it into two. We all knew what was going to happen, and the question was only when.
The question, however, was whether the other faction was going to step in or not. To be honest, given how angry Drak’rrth had been, some help would arguably be really good. However, we received no word, no mysterious bits of paper, nothing. Perhaps they didn’t know.
Either way, by the time dinner came round, I found myself so restless that I couldn’t sit still, like a six year old kid that wanted to go and play videogames.
Except that this was no game.
Most of us finished our dinner quickly and in silence, before dispersing. I would only be rotated back on duty the next day, so I ended up sprawled on the sofa, trying to sleep.
As my luck would have it, just as I finally sunk into sleep’s embrace, the sirens went off.
“Chibai… No need sleep already.” I muttered, grabbing my rifle and hurrying to the door, pausing to shout up the stairs to whoever was listening. “All of you get to a shelter NOW!”
Subsequently, I barged out the door, with Fenek and Agenor close behind. Agenor was sent to the South Quarter, while I was in the North. I would have just flown to my post, but I didn’t want to be mistaken for the enemy. Instead, I intercepted one of the siren rovers and hitched a ride with Fenek.
I settled into my seat, trying not to put too much weight on my tail. “Driver, what’s the situation?”
“Their front scout has been sighted. Estimated twenty at least, and that’s only one vector. Other approaches are quiet for now, but that could change.” He replied over the roar of the engine and the wailing of the siren. “Good luck, sir. They’re coming from your quarter.”
I nodded as we exited the vehicle. Fenek shot me a concerned look as I climbed up a ladder to join Hector who was currently on the roof of one of the tallest buildings, on watch. “You didn’t sleep.”
I looked at Fenek for a moment, giving an emotionless smirk. “We’ll rest when we’re dead, Fenek.”
With that, I continued up the ladder, to join Hector. Fenek seemed a bit shaken, but seemed to dismiss it as battle-fever.
Hector himself was staring out into the darkness. Meanwhile, on the walls, fires were being lit, and the gates had been shut. Along the roads, the lights and sounds of the sirens streaked along, warning the populace to get to shelters. The loudspeakers continuously blared messages stating that this was not a drill.
“It is a good day for battle, yes?” Hector remarked, smiling and thumping me on the shoulder with an enormous arm.
“At least it’s not raining, I guess.” I replied with a shrug. “How long will they take before contact?”
“Shouldn’t be long now.” Hector remarked, “The sentries have already shot down the scout. What were those big barrelled things? Cannons?”
“More or less. Artillery. Basically advanced cannons, adapted to fire on airbourne targets. They’re called Howitzers.” I replied, while checking my guns and ammo to ensure that everything was in order. “Judging by the situation, I think we’re going to need them.”
From below, I heard the blaring of a vehicle horn and the sound of an idling engine. I poked my head over to see a rover parked below, and the driver beckoning me to go down. I slid down the ladder and landed next to them. The driver came out and saluted. “Corporal Brandon, 1RAB, Scout coy. I have intel.”
Hector landed silently beside me as I returned the salute. “Carry on.”
“Forward scout post has been overrun and is abandoned as per protocol. Estimate twenty airbourne targets and at least fifty on foot. Airbourne are four, foot two. Armed and armoured. Will be within artillery range in five mikes. Report end. Sir, you are the second station to receive the message. Command has been notified via radio and first recipient was the arty. Good luck.” He rattled off.
I nodded. “Acknowledged. Godspeed, scout. Notify the rest and RTU.”
He saluted again before speeding off in his rover.
“What’s RAB, and RTU?” Hector quipped, as we clambered back up.
“RAB? The Resistance Armour Battalion. RTU means return to unit.” I replied, as we got back onto the roof. “That’s a bloody huge force they’re sending. Hm… though the arty should soften them up a little. Sighters should be out.”
A cocked head. “Sighters?”
“People who radio to tell the arty whether they’ve hit or not, and tell them how much to calibrate their aiming.” I replied, and in the background, there was a low ‘Thum!’
Fenek skittered over, “What was that?”
“Arty.” I replied.
“Only one shot?” Hector remarked, “That’s hardly enough, even if those guns are big.”
“You’ll see.” I added, smirking.
There was a pause, before a faint explosion was heard in the distance. A while later, another round was fired, and then another.
A few shots later, there was a crescendo of shots. “Ah the first volley is out. They must have had a confirmed hit.” I remarked, as in the distance, I saw flashes of orange and red.
“Those are big explosions.” Hector added, staring into the distance. “And we cannot even see the enemy yet. Amazing!”
“Well, yeah, that’s the point. I think they’re using the shrapnel rounds, though. Those are nasty.”
Before Hector could respond, there was a thunderclap, and a flash of light from behind, in the vague direction of the town square. Both of us whirled around to see none other than Drak’rrth hovering smack in the middle of the square, glowering down the street, right at me.
“You.” He hissed, “You’ll pay for betraying us!”
In the darkened alleyways, I could see some of the forces scrambling to get to the square, only to run into an invisible wall of sorts.
I cocked my rifle, scowling. “I only pay in lead, bitch. Come get me.”
The next moment, I was in the square, right in front of a snarling Drak’rrth. “As you wish, cowardly one.”
Of course, he was a mage. I knew better than to shoot at him. He probably had more shields or something else even nastier. I felt my grip tighten on the rifle as we stared each other down.
In the background, I could still hear the artillery firing, and a whole lot of shouting. A glance at the gate showed the dragons’ force suddenly bearing down on the town, while the shells rained hell and fire on them. The walls were lit with the muzzle flashes from the myriad weapons being fired.
“You’re calling me a coward? I’m not the one hiding behind a shield, mister.” I snapped, throwing myself off to one side to avoid the claws that swiped past.
Before Drak’rrth could respond, there was a click, and I saw a small spray of blood erupt from his left side. I wondered if one of the snipers were still around, but as far as I could see, I was alone in the square…
The huge dragon reared up and roared in rage, his head whipping around to find the source of the shot as he bled from the wound. “What treachery is this?!”
“Don’t bother looking. If the sniper is worth his salt, he won’t be wherever he shot you from by now.” I doubted if it was one of my men, but you never know. Maybe Flayme or Fire got hold of a rifle.
That remark, however, cost me, as I didn’t see his tail. One moment I was standing in front of him, the next moment, I was hurled into a cart, which was promptly shattered, and I was covered in orange juice. Lucky, since the fruit actually broke my fall. I suspected that the crunching noises meant that my wings were in none too good shape, but through the battle-fever, I couldn’t tell. I did know, however, that I needed to keep Drak’rrth’s attention on me.
The dragon, however was still trying to locate the sniper.
Grabbing one of the not so squashed oranges, I hurled it at him, followed by a grenade, before diving for cover as the thing exploded. I was rewarded by another deafening roar of rage as I peeked over to find Drak’rrth charging at the cart I took cover behind. I fumbled with my pistol, having lost my rifle when I was smacked into the oranges. I dived into a house via the window just in time, as a clawed foreleg swiped the cart across the square.
The enraged mage roared, “Come out and fight! Cowardly filth! You don’t deserve to be one of us!”
The next thing I knew, the wall between me and him vapourised. I found myself face to face with him. Smoke bellowed from his cavernous nostrils as he snarled, showing me fangs that could easily snap a man into two.
Not really seeing any other options, I shot him in the mouth point blank. “Fuck you.”
My shot didn’t quite do any damage, and only succeeded in breaking one of his teeth…
The mage was in the city, surrounded by a protective bubble. Not only did he bring himself, he also teleported all his forces to the gates, which were already on the verge of being broken through. Keane shouted a challenge over to him, and was brought to fight a duel with the mage, to pay for his disrespect. It was…worrying to say the least, but both Hector and I knew that we couldn’t do anything to help.
I wish he wasn’t so reckless. But that’s what makes him…him I guess.
Instead, Hector and I busied ourselves with the radios, sending out orders as the gates were breeched, and the Council’s hoard flooded in, and our own forces rose to meet them. Within a few heartbeats, the city was flooded with the sounds of battle, and the smell of death.
As the fight wore on, our forces began to tire, even after they were rotated in and out for their rest cycles. However, the Council’s troops kept streaming in like an endless torrent…
Eventually, it was my turn to fight.
I joined the forces that barricaded themselves in a line of buildings, laying down fire on the Council’s troops, as the artillery rained fire and melted metal on them. However, every now and then, one of the warriors would break through, and we would have to fight hand to hand.
The whole place reeked of blood, and there were bodies everywhere, both human and dragon alike. Most of the buildings were in flames, or outright in ruins. The house we were taking cover in was but a shell, missing its roof. Rubble was strewn all around on the streets, fires raged and the gutters ran red with blood. The night sky was not black, but red and orange, from the flames, with occasional flashes of light when the artillery fired.
As I gunned down the warriors with the rest of my fellow comrades, we would shoot each other grim looks once in a while, while I would check to see if my Rider was still alright…
I could smell the humans’ battle-fever, and their faces were grim as they stared their adversaries down, occasionally shouting insults or hurling grenades if any large groups approached…
Obviously, Drak’rrth was none too happy about me blowing a hole in his perfect smile, as his head lunged forward and attempted to snap off my right arm. Thankfully, though, I rolled out of the way in time, only to smack against the wall.
I glanced round to find myself in a corner.
Drak’rrth wasted no time in going in for the kill, smashing the upper levels to bits as he pushed his way into the building. I felt the wall behind me shake, and watched as cracks spread. I could practically feel his warm breath down my neck as I clambered out through the freshly formed crack, taking a potshot at him as I got out.
As I skittered out the building, I heard the structure groan and creak, before it collapsed onto the massive dragon. I quickly made my way round to the other side, to the puddle of orange juice where my rifle sat. Grabbing it, I slid down one of the alleys as Drak’rrth attempted to extricate himself from the rubble.
“You cannot hide, o treacherous one! I can smell you no matter where you go!” He sneered, his tail whipping round and crashing into the building next to me, sending rubble flying everywhere. “What does it feel like, being cut off from your paltry force, hmm?”
I flinched as a particularly large piece of debris smashed into the road right next to me. “Feels like a much-deserved holiday.”
With that, I simply shoved the rifle through one of the windows in the half-demolished house and let rip a spray of bullets, the hole he bashed in the house having given me a clear line of fire.
As the building groaned and began to tip away from me, I pulled the rifle out and prepared to move, only to hear a soft ‘thud’ next to me, followed by a muffled “Ow.”
Bringing the rifle to bear, I turned round to see a mass of blue and white fur. Next to him sat a rather futuristic looking sniper rifle. Or it could have been a club. I didn’t have time to find out. He was in a pair of grey cargo pants, and wore something like a black shirt, with a combat harness. As I pulled him to his feet, I noted that his ears were also blue, as well as a thunderbolt-shaped marking on one of his eyes.
The moment I got him standing, I shoved his rifle into his grasp. “You, run. You get a clear shot, shoot. GO!”
I shoved him in one direction and skittered off in the other. As I ducked into a building, I spied him clambering up onto the roof of another house.
The next thing I knew, the window was filled out with Drak’rrth’s eye. Without really thinking, I levelled the rifle and emptied the magazine into him, only to have it impact against some sort of blueish energy barrier. The dragon laughed. “Do you take me for a fool? I am well aware that I need to protect myself!”
My gut screamed at me to get out, and I didn’t dispute it. I lunged out the door just before his foreleg burst into the house in a haze of dust and bricks, I fumbled with my pouches and found a grenade, which I tossed into the building as I vaulted over a low wall, covering my ears as it detonated, followed by a roar of pain.
“What, not enough protection? Tsk. Everyone knows that you must wear protection when trying to fuck someone!” I shouted over with as much bravado as I could muster as I reloaded.
I was rewarded with another roar of rage as the huge dragon burst through the building, revealing his right foreleg to be bloodied, and with a chunk of flesh missing. “You will pay for that!”
I vaulted over the fence adjacent to the previous one and skittered down another alley, to come across an empty rover, with the machine gun already cocked and ready…
Now…if only I had a gunner…
However, the current priority was to get myself some breathing room to think of something, so I jumped into the rover, started the engine and roared down the road, ignoring the stomping of the enraged dragon behind me.
By flooring the accelerator and going through the gears far quicker than I had ever dared, I managed to put quite some distance between Drak’rrth and I, once in a while, would hear that click sound again, and another roar.
It took a while for me to realise that in my haste to run, I had forgotten about the sniper wolf guy…. And a glance around told me that Drak’rrth had gone for him instead.
Cursing, I threw the wheel to the right, bringing the rover into a tight turn as I careened down the main road and made my way to the source of the rumbling; where the dragon was wreaking havoc.
I floored the vehicle as I crossed the square, seeing a lone figure running along the rooftops, with the huge black dragon in hot pursuit, unhindered by the buildings that he was crashing into. The moment I managed to align the rover with his path, I shouted up, “JUMP!”
The figure initially seemed not to hear me, until he reached a single storey building, which he leapt off and landed unsteadily behind the machine gun mount. I slowed down a little for him to steady himself before hitting the gas, knowing that Drak’rrth was closing. A flash of light behind me had me duck for cover instinctively, as a bolt of lightning struck the road just to the right of the vehicle. I swerved to the right, as the next bolt hit to the left.
“Use that bloody fancy gun of yours already la!” I snapped, swerving into one of the lanes in a vain attempt to get the heat off.
“I’m trying, boss!” He replied tartly, followed by another click and a roar.
“Your shots are too slow, dammit! Can you get the MG to break his shield too?” I snapped as I swerved to avoid a jet of fire, as the dragon soared above.
“Yea. Give me a minute.” He replied, and I heard him grabbing the gun and start chanting something.
I swerved down another alley, hoping that Drak’rrth wouldn’t realise that he could just land and squash the both of us. “I don’t have a fucking minute! Do it NOW!”
As if on cue, I heard the sound of the bolt sliding back, followed by the familiar ‘Brakakakakakaka’ of the gun as he opened fire. This was followed by a loud roar of pain, and Drak’rrth came crashing down just in front. Instead of braking, I made eye contact with the wolf and threw the gear into neutral.
I hurled myself out of the vehicle as it careened towards the dragon’s bleeding flank, with the wolf close behind. The vehicle itself didn’t really do much damage, but served to elicit a grunt of pain as it rammed into the dragon’s foreleg.
My rifle had once again been tossed somewhere or other during the fray, and I settled for unholstering my pistol as I walked towards the dragon, who although bleeding, was already getting up.
Jabbing my pistol into a wound on one of his knees, I snarled. “I don’t think so.”
“You think I’m defeated? You think I’m so weak?!” The dragon roared, glaring.
I emptied the pistol into the knee, causing a roar of pain, and a fountain of blood in my face, as I heard the bone crack and he came crashing down again. “As a matter of fact, I do.”
“Insolent brat!” His head snaked round and he opened his maw, presumably to set me on fire or something.
I grabbed my last grenade and glared up at him. “I don’t recommend you do that.”
Instead, the dragon began chanting… I began to feel my will begin to melt…. Magic…
My finger fought to get to the ring, to pull it out and lob it down that blasted creature’s throat, but I…I just couldn’t…
I felt myself melt to the ground…
All of a sudden, things were back to normal… I looked up to see Drak’rrth’s mouth frozen mid sentence, a trickle seeping from one of his eyes, before he came crashing to the ground. I had to throw myself out of the way as his huge head came down…
As I struggled to peel myself off the floor, a furred hand came into view. I took it, and was hauled to my feet.
The wolf smirked, thumping me on the shoulder. “You’re one crazy lizard.”
Glancing back at the limp corpse of Drak’rrth, I shrugged. “Only on special occasions.”
He gestured in the direction of the main battle, which was in no way going well. The dragons simply had the advantage of numbers. There were definitely more than fifty, and the front was being pushed back to the square bit by bit… “Maybe you guys might need some help, yeah?”
“Don’t worry. Our forces should be here in a few. Your guys are holding out quite well, actually.” He replied, as we made a beeline for the nearest aid station, as a few fighters rushed over to clear the area, some shooting us questioning looks.
“Sounds good, though our big guns should be rolling in…soon.” I replied, as a medic checked us over.
“Perhaps, but you might want to rest. You’re covered in wounds and I think some of your scales got torn off.” He replied with a chuckle, pointing to a random bench were a few of the wounded were lying.
“Pft. I have a job to do.” I replied, clambering into one of the rovers, pausing to spit out a mouthful of blood from a bleeding gum in the process. “I’ll rest when I’m dead. Didn’t get your name?”
“Kazuki.” He quipped, getting in next to me, “You overgrown lizards are crazier than I thought.”
I revved the engine as I made my way to my station. “Just doing my job.”
I clambered up to the roof to find Fenek leaning against an ammo box, while Hector seemed to be chewing on something. Fenek himself seemed to be flat out asleep, and I decided not to disturb him. Hector brightened up upon seeing me, getting up to clap me on the shoulder. “Ah! The mage is dead?”
“Yes. Activate the RAB.” I replied, pausing to reload my pistol. I paused to point at Kazuki and introduce him. Hector nodded in acknowledgement as he radioed HQ.
Kazuki himself seemed somewhat confused, “What is a RAB? I was told that this was all you had.”
“It isn’t. You’ll see.” I remarked, collapsing next to Fenek. I was indeed in no condition to join the fray at the moment… “Just listen for the loud noises.”
As I spoke, the sound of tank engines rumbling to life filled the air, as the tank commanders were given the go ahead, and some distance away, I heard one of the vehicles crash through the walls of one of the warehouses, having been hidden there.
There was some ragged cheering from our side, as the vehicles trundled into the battle, doing as much damage by running the land troops over, as their huge turrets did.
This allowed us to retake a good portion of the city, however, after a few minutes, a stalemate was reached once again as the big quadruped dragons began drawing the tanks’ fire away from their infantry. Once in a while, the artillery would get lucky and hit one of the quads, but those hits were few and far between.
Kazuki, however, seemed to be the only one who was at ease, and seemed to be cleaning his rifle.
At some point, he tapped me on the shoulder. “What?”
“Look outside the gates.”
I got up, and looked as directed, expecting to see a second hoard of dragons. However, instead, I saw more of the wolves, attacking the dragons from the flank and rear, their weapons firing what looked like lasers, while a few of their own tanks started firing. At least those used actual shells.
Seeing that the enemy was distracted, I grabbed the radios, tossing a few to Hector and telling him to follow my lead. “All lines, begin offensive now! Do not attack the canids, they are on our side. The enemy had been flanked. Repeat: Begin offensive now!”
Caught up in the heat of the battle once again, aches and pains forgotten, I slid down the ladder and into the rover with the other three in tow.
Gunning the engine, I came to a screeching stop at one of the lines and beckoned the troops to follow me, as the council’s forces seemed to be caught up in confusion.
“Go go GO!” I screamed, as I vaulted out of the vehicle and joined them as we went forward, cutting the dragons down one by one. In the background, the artillery roared, guns fired, fire raged, engines roared.
With their leader gone, and their flank under attack, some of the dragons just outright took flight, while others surrendered. By the time the wolves reached the gates, most of the force had been taken care of, and we were combing the streets for stragglers.
Out of the crowd of canids, came Gareth. He flashed a smile as I staggered over, my fatigue beginning to seep in. I was starting to realise how badly abused my body was too…
“Remember me, dragon?” He remarked, leaning his gun on the floor.
I nodded, “Yeah. Great timing.”
He shrugged, “Was the least we could do. Got the news a bit late, though. Good to see that Kaz here managed to help.”
I chuckled, trying not to let my fatigue show too much. “You have no idea, man.”
…with that, the blackness claimed me, and I collapsed.