Of Cats And Dragons



Published 2020-10-27
Camilla Ochlan

Lizards, he thought at first -- but huge, taller than a man, with golden scales that glowed like hot coals and teeth and claws that flashed in the firelight. Flames spewed from the monsters' gaping mouths, setting alight the world around them.

"Those things are fast," he threw over to Templar, hoping his friend had a guess to what the scaled horror could be.

In unison, Tormy and Tyrin let out excited hisses.

"Fire lizards," Kadana answered through the cat noises. "Really big ones. Don't let them bite you."

"Or breathe fire on you," Dev added without humor. "Their fire sticks to skin. Water can't put it out."

Two creatures chased after the fleeing riders, both fiery nightmares sporting glittering hoods that flared at their ridged necks as they ran upright on long spindly legs. Their front arms waved through the air as they ran. Bone-shaking shrieks rang out from their scaly throats, terrifying the already galloping horses into a life-or-death sprint.

"Out of the way!" Shalonie grabbed the reins of Nikki's horse and pulled both horse and rider off the road in time to avoid a collision with the fleeing farmers.

Spying Templar and Kadana closing ranks to block the way forward, the fire lizard on the right dug its thick claws into the hard-packed dirt and unfurled its sparkling hood with a loud snap. The other over-sized reptile leaped to one side of the road and roared savagely.

Music rang through Omen's mind as psionic patterns began forming, and without thinking, he flung the first lizard backward with a wide psionic sweep. The creature stumbled, its hood blowing back like a small sail in a windstorm. The second lizard's belly glowed with sudden white-hot intensity, and it opened its mouth to spit flames at them.

Templar growled out a spell in convoluted Nightspeak and a bright circle of blue light appeared around the scaly beast, blocking the red-hot blast of sticky flame and igniting the ground at the reptile's clawed feet instead.Dev's arrow flickered through the dusk, finding its home in the belly of the lizard Templar had trapped. A second arrow followed and buried itself in the beast's thigh. One of Liethan's crossbow bolts pierced its neck a moment later, and the creature staggered and fell backward.

At the same time, Kadana charged the other eight-foot tall reptile head-on. The scaled beast had recovered from Omen's shove and was racing forward again, jaws open to meet Kadana's attack. She knocked it back with a strong blow of her blade, both lizard and horse twisting on the path and dancing around each other. But the moment the creature was turned away, Tormy leaped toward it. "I is got you!" he shouted, landing on the fire lizard's tail.

The long tail separated from its body like it would have for any variety of small lizard. The black scaly tail wiggled fiercely, inviting Tormy to jump up and down with glee. Kyr clung to Tormy's saddle, white-faced and thin-lipped. Tyrin crowed triumphantly from the depths of Kyr's pocket. The giant lizard lost its balance and stumbled about as if the bones of its hind legs had become jelly. The effect would have been comical, if the creature hadn't burped up a plume of bright flame in its panic, setting the nearby undergrowth ablaze. The canopy of leaves above them caught fire, and Omen feared they'd become engulfed in the flames in mere moments.

Water, I need water! Omen thought, recalling several domestic spells to produce the liquid in various amounts. He raised his hand to cast the first one to come to mind, aiming for the nearest patch of spreading fire -- too near to Tormy and his bright orange fur.

Kadana swung her sword at the lizard caught in Templar's magical circle. Her sword cut through the creature as if the scales were no barrier to her icy blade. The giant reptile's head tipped to the side, a small tendon still connecting the thick neck to its scaly body. The large form crumpled to the ground.

"Good one!" Liethan shouted, and he shot another bolt toward the tailless fire lizard nearest Tormy. A fluorescent substance squirted through the lizard's black scales, spraying outward. All the horses danced away in terror, moving themselves and their riders out of the path of danger. And though distracted by the wiggling tail, Tormy instinctively skittered away as well, leaping to safety and carrying Kyr and Tyrin with him.

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