Men & Monsters

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“Close the gates!” Cried one soldier amongst the madness.

“That’s not our concern! To the skies men, the skies!” An archer hollered back before firing his bow blindly into the towering pillar of smoke which now surrounded them. All they could make out was a fleeting shadow darting from one end of sight to the other before disappearing, only to return with more fire cast down upon them. Archers and soldiers alike scattered like ants as the city walls had been razed, with only remnants of the initial yeomen scurrying about and trying to fight back against the dragon besieging them. The wooden rooftops on each of the towers had collapsed under the firestorm, killing all caught underneath. The smokey air was soon filled with the anguished cries of pain and death.

Despite this, the fleeing townsfolk were left relatively unharmed. Giant’s assault had been focused primarily on the city walls, and the city buildings were hardly touched by the fire. Some of the humans below had taken notice of this style of attack, as warriors soon sought to hide rather than fight, should the dragon only fire upon those who attacked him first.

Giant laughed triumphantly as he landed on the city wall with one foot, the other still clutching Eira in its grip. The girl now had grown pale and weak from sickness, from both the flight and the horror she was forced to be made witness to. The poor girl had nothing left to throw back up, but she coughed and gagged as if she did as the intense heat only worsened her sickness. Meanwhile Giant towered over the city below, like a phoenix rising over it from the flames dotting the stone walls. His wings spread themselves far apart and his laughter didn’t stop as he looked over the land he was so close to conquering. By himself no less, he thought.

“Such magnificence. Why didn’t you tell me, Eira?” The question was never really meant to be answered as Giant, more arrogant than ever, looked over his shoulder. “Ah yes. Here come the rest of our happy little band. Thank the heavens these fools hadn’t done away with their bridge.” Sure enough, in the distance, dinosaurs marched toward the smoldering city gates. Many of them had to stop just to take the sight in, as some stood with their mouths wide open.

Many like Taurus could see their leader standing in victory atop the wall, which filled him with a great amount of pride and excitement. This feeling proved to be very contagious, as it was not only Taurus who began to speed up toward a sprint, but nearly every dinosaur under Giant’s command. Even Boulder kept up at an impressive speed for one his size. Cheers and cries filled the air from the raptors with their arrival to the kingdom.

Giant’s grin widened when he looked back forward, his eyes set entirely on the castle. It now shimmered as the sun seemingly rose from behind it, like a prize glittering in magnificence. An entirely different battle was about to unfold, as he could see small bodies scrambling to form their military ranks and even some light artillery in the form of catapults. These soldiers would be the cream of the crop, not like the easily-shaken archers he dealt with on the wall.

Leaping from the wall with one powerful leg, Giant flapped his wings but twice before he was high in the air once more. As he soared toward the castle, he neglected to see two catapults positioned behind the tall walls surrounding the fortress. Great boulders were thrown into the sky by Tanner’s crying orders. As he motioned for them to be shot from atop his white horse, his eagle staggered atop his shoulder to maintain balance.

The first boulder narrowly scraped against Giant’s leg, while the other struck him in the shoulder. Bellowing in pain, the dragon rolled back toward the earth, until he crashed into the Piermont’s vast and well-maintained lawn. Eira was released from his talons at long last with the crash landing, but with so much attention on him now, the dragon had little time to retrieve her. For now, he returned to the skies to continue his siege.

The Green Folk landed hard, coughing as she felt the breath forced from her chest when she found herself surrounded by Piermont knights and soldiers organizing to fight a dragon. Stumbling to her feet, Eira looked up just in time to bear witness to Giant as he landed atop the magnificent castle, one wing wrapped around a tower spire while the other spread out in a great show. Arching his head back, the dragon let out a triumphant and thundering roar, signalling to all that he had already won.

The show was enough to quake the knees of many of the soldiers who saw him, but with Tanner in command, they fought on, hurtling boulders and arrows toward the dragon. The boulders only worked to crash into the castle, while Giant could hardly feel the small pins pierce his thick hide. He cackled at their futile attempts of taking him down before soaring once more.

“Now where is my precious Eira?” He chuckled as he scanned the vast field standing between the castle walls and the colossal structure itself. Knowing that she couldn’t stay there, Eira did the only thing she could think to do, and that was to run toward the stables. Though they were made of wood, and thus the most prone to Giant’s hellfire, perhaps she could commandeer a horse and ride away from this madness. Giant’s words also alerted Tanner to the girl’s presence, when his horse reared back on its hind legs. Its heart raced in the face of the dragon’s onslaught, but it remained loyal to its rider, and did as Tanner asked of it. Kicking at its sides with the spurs on his ankles, the Eagle General's horse landed back down on all fours and sprung forward.

Eira could hear the galloping grow louder behind her as Tanner closed in, and as the tightness in her chest wore off, she found herself running at a speed she didn’t think possible. She was just within reach of the stables before she felt the back of her hood pulled back violently. Her cloak came back and choked her as Tanner had her in his grip and came to a stop.

“Why did you come back, you stupid girl?” He asked harshly. Eira spun around and freed herself from the general’s grip, surprised that he did not dismount to chase her. She narrowed her eyes at him.

“I didn’t have much of a choice.” She replied before looking up at the soaring and scouring Giant. Naturally Tanner followed her gaze, then hummed.

“I see. Then you’d better come with me.”

“Why would I do that?” Eira spat.

“Because I’ll give you the best chance of getting home at this point.” Tanner spoke with a certain nobility and humility the girl didn’t think possible of him. She hesitated, then cleared her throat.

“Where are my people? My friends?”

“Up there in the stables. I’ll see you all released and returned home once the drake is dealt with.”

“There are more beasts coming, they followed us here.” This news didn’t exactly surprise Tanner, but it was still just as disheartening. As they heard the dragon bellow from above, spitting a fireball at a catapult poised to launch a boulder at him, the general rode toward the stables. There, he swiftly gave the order to release the prisoners.

“But sir, King James will be furious if we…”

“We are under attack, you grunt! The stables are the most prone to burn, so release them!” Tanner spoke with such force it shook the guards, and when he looked back to Eira, he winked at her. Who was this man? Eira wondered. Just as they were told, the guards opened up the three stable pens and coaxed everyone to come out.

“What’s going on?”

“Where’s Justin? Justin!”

“Where are we going now?”

“What is that?” Were just some words from the Green Folk that Eira could discern from the mass as they reunited and looked heavenward.

“Brenin!” Adelae cried as the young boy made his way toward her, embracing her like he would his own mother. She stood tall with him in her arms and ran a hand through his hair, when she cooed to the whimpering child. “’s okay now. You’re okay.” She looked up just in time to meet eyes with Awel, who ran to her and gave her a long, passionate kiss. A kiss that Eira was forced to be witness to.

Part of her wished it was her that Awel was so eager to see, to hold, to kiss. But another part of her smiled, happy to see the young couple reunited. Once their kiss ended, the two couldn’t help but laugh together, when he rubbed Brenin’s scalp until it was a matted mess, exciting a joyful snicker from the boy.

“You’re free,” Tanner said in his booming voice. “I’d wish you could go on your way now, but that’s not possible. Not at the moment. We ask you to take refuge in the underground, with the servants, to best shield you from the dragon’s onslaught.” The Green Folk looked to the Eagle General with both suspicion and relief, thankful for their release but also skeptical of what the knight had planned, if he had anything at all. Eira stepped forward, catching the eye of many surprised Green Folk, some of whom even gasped at the sight of her.

“Please do as he says. We can’t escape the city now. Not until this is all dealt with.” Whispers ran rampant among the crowd, which Eira could hear called her and her allegiance into question. “Please.”

“Eira? How did you get here?” Awel asked as he and Adelae stepped forward. Eira merely pointed up to the winged serpent as it laid waste to another catapult. With another storm of hellfire burning men, wood, and earth, Giant called out for her to come back to him again when another flap of his wings took him higher into the air. “You rode that here?”

“No, he brought me here. That’s...Giant now. Stronger and more powerful than ever.” Her voice was filled with contempt for the dragon. Not ready to hear the whole story, some of the guards began to herd the Green Folk toward the small castle door that would lead them into the basement. Only Awel and Adelae with Brenin remained to speak with Eira as they walked toward her.

“What’s going on exactly?” Adelae asked as she held the small boy close.

“Giant is determined to claim our world as his. I guess this castle would act as his throne, or a trophy maybe, and his other men are sure to be in the city by now. He...keeps insisting that he’s doing this for us. After Tanner attacked your village.”

“What would that mean? If he did conquer?” Tanner asked from atop his steed.

“I don’t know. I don’t think we the Green Folk would be in too much trouble, honestly, but you and your soldiers…” She turned to the Eagle General. “He seems quite intent on wiping out.” Tanner narrowed his eyes at the girl when he patted his horse on the neck, in a small effort to relief its stress.

“Get inside, girl. Let us handle this.” He spoke coldly before riding back toward the front gates, careful not to catch the attention of Giant. Eira watched him as he went, unsure on how she felt about the knight, which led her mind to another. She wished Bernard was alright. At least he didn’t have to witness all of this going on, she thought.

“Well Eira, are you coming with us?” Awel asked as he wrapped an arm around Adelae and started toward the castle door. She turned, her expression blank and emotionless. It wasn’t until this moment that she realized just how exhausted she really was.

“I suppose so. All we have to do is wait now.”

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