“I didn’t even know they still existed…” Lukas breathed. That’s when he looked over to where you and Mathias had fallen across the river and saw your bleeding temple.
“Mathias, get her out of here!” he barked to the Blade of the Ruby Seas.
Mathias didn’t need to be told twice. Whatever that thing was, it didn’t look like the dragons were capable of fighting such a large creature while the force field was still up. Still…
How is that thing able to stay in that form if he’s a dragon? you wondered. Shouldn't the force field prevent him from coming inside?
“____________, we have to get off the ice,” Mathias told you and picked you up from your hand. While you knew you needed to get off the ice as soon as possible, doing so proved to be harder than expected. In your state of panic, keeping your footing with such a lack of friction was nearly impossible.
“Mathias!” you squealed when your foot slipped bringing back the previous pain your ankle had experienced when you had fallen off of Emil’s back.
“____________!” the dragons exclaimed.
“They’re small…but food is food,” you heard someone say. From the amount of information you gathered together, you guessed that the voice you had been hearing belonged to this…water-residing dragon. However, unlike Lukas and Mathias, this dragon appeared to lack the basic civilized qualities as if it was no more than an animal. It was difficult to make out its full size when you were trying to get off the ice, but you were able to catch a short glimpse of the look in its ravage bloodshot eyes. There was no trace of reason or conscious within this dragon’s soul—only the basic animal instincts of a predator ready to lunch on his prey.
“The red one…” the dragon then said directing its eyes straight onto the Blade of the Ruby Sea’s cape.
“Wha—No! Mathias, duck!” you screamed and tugged onto his cape causing him to slip onto the ice.
“Gah!” Mathias cried out in surprise just as he narrowly missed the water dragon’s fangs. At that given instant, your stomach nearly hurled again if it hadn’t been emptied the evening before. The dragon was frustrated.
Wh-Why are you doing this? you thought. These are my friends! Stop this!
“Who is that?”
I’m ____________, you replied to the dragon’s thoughts. I am communicating with you through your thoughts.
It’s very possible.
“It’s annoying. The food is annoying…”
“No!” you cried aloud.
The long snake-like dragon’s thoughts had dropped out of existence for a brief moment when you saw it lunge for Mathias’ bright red cape. This was no time to think, either. Just before the dragon dove back into the ice, you gave Mathias’ cape a hard tug and pulled him out of the way just in time.
“Damn, that was close!” Mathias breathed. The ice was completely full of holes now. When you looked back at where Lukas was, the ice had broken up so badly that progressing any further down the frozen river would be impossible. The only thing that mattered now was getting out of the river and away from the water dragon beast.
“Missed,” you heard the dragon say. “Try again from below.”
“It’s going to resurface!” you told the dragons.
Lukas was baffled. “You can hear its thoughts, _____________?”
“Yes, I can—”
“The blue one…”
“Lukas, it’s coming for you!” you shouted, but by the time you warned him, it was too late. Lukas’ body went sailing into the air when the dragon pushed its snout above the breaking ice. In his helpless human form, the Divine Keeper of the Sapphire Flames looked no more than a mouse being tossed up by a playful cat ready to lunch on its prey when it was done being amused.
Your heart was racing. With the given rush you were feeling from sharing the water dragon’s emotions, you felt a limitless amount of energy ready to fuel your actions—if only there was a place to gain footing on the ice.
“Lukas!” Mathias cried when he saw his friend dropping into the open mouth of the creature.
To your amazement, just before Lukas dropped into the dragons’ mouth, he tilted his body to the side and fell upon the dragon’s face. Then, he used the cursed chains he was still shackled to and pulled back at the dragon’s upper jaw much like a horse with a bridle.
“It hurts!” the dragon roared in your thoughts. “Annoying pest! Off! Off!”
There was a sense of rage boiling up in your stomach. You felt angry, upset, yet not at the brink of fear. Lukas was hanging on for dear life, but if he dropped from such a height, there were only three places he could go: the river, the ice, or the dragon’s mouth.
“Get off, get off, get off!”
If you promise not to eat my friend, then he will let go! you told the dragon.
It was pointless for the dragon to listen to reason, however. From the sound of its voice, it wanted nothing more than to find something to eat. Desperate to get Lukas to release his chains and drop him into his mouth, the dragon went berserk, smashing the remaining traces of ice to and fro down the river.
Mathias cursed. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing that it’s not looking at us anymore, but we’ve still got to help Lukas.”
“Right, but how?” you asked.
“You’ve got me,” Mathias replied scratching his head. The ice downstream was completely destroyed so there was no preferable method of following the dragon.
“What is that thing, anyway?” you asked.
“That’s a sea serpent,” Mathias answered. “It’s a type of dragon that can’t fly but swims very well in the water—freshwater or seawater. I’m surprised they’re still around. They were supposedly the first kinds of dragons to die out.”
“B-But…rare dragon or not we can’t just let him eat Lukas.”
“No, we can’t,” the dragon agreed. “So he’s not listening to words?”
You sadly shook your head.
“Fine,” Mathias grunted. “Then he’s going to have to listen to force.”
You blinked. “How are you going to catch up with it?”
"You got me there."
While the two of you were thinking, you heard something that sounded like a hollow thump right below you. When the two of you looked down, you saw a familiar color of bright red wood from the caravan that had once served as your prison when you had been with the merchants.
“Oh, hey, look at that,” Mathias noticed. “Looks like the caravan finally caught up with us.” Just then, a large chunk of the bright red wood floated out from under the ice and onto the edge of the freezing water. With its slightly curved shape and strong frame, it looked like it could be perfect for using as a boat.
“Mathias, we can use this to get to Lukas!” you beamed.
“Mm, if you say so…” Mathis mumbled looking like he had second thoughts about getting insi—
“Alright, ___________! Let’s get in!”
You had never been inside a real boat before. Back at the castle, you had seen tapestries of the days when men would venture out to sea on large boats in search for suitable land to live on. They never did come back. Now, after laying your eyes on the sea serpent, you wondered if perhaps the men had been eaten by such ferocious beasts or fell victim to some other unfortunate element.
The boat was considerably unstable when compared to resting on Lukas’ back or riding in the caravan on land. Since it wasn’t built for travelling on the water, the sides wobbled from side to side hitting rocks that were too close to its bottom and threatening to capsize.
You swallowed. Mathias would be alright, but if you fell into the river, you were sure to die of hypothermia from the freezing temperature. Even if you didn’t die from freezing to death, there was still the question of whether or not the sea serpent would come back and gobble you up.
“What an adventure this has turned out to be, eh, __________?” Mathias chuckled despite the grim circumstances.
“How can you be thinking so positively at a time like this?”
“Sometimes thinking about something good makes you want to keep going,” the dragon answered with a wistful tone in his voice, his wild sandy blonde hair blowing in the wind as the current carried the makeshift boat further downstream.
You couldn’t help but smile even with all of the worry weighing down on your heart.
“I’ll bet if Lukas were here, he’d say something like, ‘Thinking about something good can also get you killed, you thick-headed idiot.’ Something like that?”
“Hey, that sounds just like him!” Mathias laughed, oblivious to realizing it was an insult.
You mean you’ve been listening to him all of this time? you wondered. It’s amazing how you can just blow off insults like that. I wonder if it has to do with getting Lukas to grow on you…
“Oh, whoa! __________, I think I see them!”
Sure enough, when you squinted your eyes to block out the snowfall, you could see the large shape of the sea serpent still diving back and forth in the river as Lukas was still hanging onto its upper jaw.
“Off! Off! Off! This prey isn’t worth it!”
“It’s getting upset,” you said summarizing the sea serpents thoughts to Mathias.
“I’d be annoyed if someone was riding me like a mad horse, too,” Mathias chuckled and readied his sword.
“Wh-What are you going to do?” you asked feeling a sudden sense of dread going through your gut.
“Easy: I’m going to kill it!”
“What else would I do to save Lukas?”
“I-I don’t know, but doesn’t that seem wrong? It’s a dragon, too, isn’t it?”
“Hey, when someone important to you is in trouble, wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to protect him?”
In a fit of rage, the sea serpent dove down in the water again hoping to shake Lukas off.
Oh, Lukas, please hang on…
“What in Eliatha is this…?” you suddenly heard Mathias murmur. When you looked down, you saw that a small jar had rolled off from one of the built-in drawers and tapped the end of his heel.
“It’s not a bomb or a firework, unfortunately,” you sighed bending down to examine it as the boat drew nearer to the sea serpent splashing in the distance. While you turned it in your hand, you examined the murky yellow and purple colors of the strange contents. It looked rather familiar, now that you thought about it, but where had you seen this before?
“Ugh, it’s bigger up close,” Mathias grimaced getting his sword into a ready stance.
You looked up. “Will you even be able to last very long? Your arm is damaged, and there’s only so much a sword can do on the water.”
“You have any better ideas?”
“Uh…” You looked down at the jar again.
Think, ___________, think! you frantically thought. Come on, where have you seen this before?
“I’m guessing you don’t have anything better to think of?” Mathias piped up.
“Wait!” you suddenly said. “Mathias, I’ve got it!”
“Eh?” The dragon raised his eyebrows.
“I-It’s a long shot, but if you get the chance, I want you to pour this stuff down the sea serpent’s throat.”
“What the heck is it?”
“If it’s what I think it is, then it should be netiss fat.”
Mathias made a disgusted face. “Gee, I thought gutting its throat was bad, but netiss fat? Isn’t that a little cruel?”
“You’re the one who said if someone important to you was in trouble, you’d do everything in your power to protect him. Lukas is important to me just like he’s important to you, so are you going to do it or not?”
“I like your guts, _____________,” Mathias chuckled and took the jar. Just to make sure it was the real thing, he opened it up at the last minute to give it a quick sniff.
“Bleugh—Gah—For gods’ sake! It reeks!” he gagged.
“It must be the real thing, then,” you murmured and returned your attention over to the sea serpent.
“Okay, Mathias, when it gets close enough, pop the top and pour it in, okay?”
“You don’t need to tell me twice, ___________,” Mathias grinned.
In a matter of seconds, the sea serpent had spotted your little caravan boat and stopped.
“You…” it thought. “You will make better prey.”
“It’s going to come, Mathias,” you said relaying the sea serpent’s thoughts back to him.
“Got it,” Mathias replied.
“I’ll attack the prey. Smash them. Destroy them. Devour them.”
The sea serpent was getting closer, but as it approached, it dove deeper into the water with Lukas already wet and coughing from the multiple times he had submerged already.
“Hang on, Lukas…” you whispered.
“They’re above…” the sea serpent’s voice said.
“It’s going to attack from below…” you breathed. That was one element you had forgotten about. If it destroyed the boat, you would be done for without a doubt.
“Don’t worry, ____________,” Mathias assured you. “Just leave it to me—”
“Mathias!” you screamed when the makeshift boat broke in half as the sea serpent came rising out of the river in an explosion of ice, sound, and scales. You were clinging onto your piece for dear life, but when you looked down, you noticed the ground was getting farther and farther away from you. The sea serpent had taken your half of the boat in its mouth.
“_____________!” Lukas and Mathias both cried.
“Mathias!” you shouted. “The jar! Give it to me!”
Without saying a word, Mathias brought back the jar in his good arm and hurled it as hard as he could while making sure he didn’t fall into the water. The jar was flying at you, but you were ascending rather fast, yourself.
“Ngh!” you grunted reaching out your hand to make out the small shiny shape of glass getting closer and closer…!
“Got it!” you exclaimed, and just in time, too.
“You are going first, human,” the sea serpent thought and brought you as high as its long body could.
I don’t think so!
Holding onto the wood with one arm, you brought your legs together to hold the jar in place as your free hand unscrewed the lid. Sure enough, a foul smell began to rise up from the container bringing back memories from the time you had travelled through the Bone Forest.
And just like that, the moment the sea serpent’s large, cavernous mouth came into view—tongue, teeth, and all—you threw the entire opened jar inside his throat hoping the effects would work up before you became the next thing that dropped into its stomach.
“It worked!” you exclaimed.
“____________, grab onto my hand!” Lukas suddenly cried out from the top of the sea serpent’s snout. He still had his chains wrapped around its jaw, but from the way the creature was wildly thrashing about, you knew he wouldn’t last for long.
“L-Lukas, I can’t!” you shouted. It was hard enough trying to hang onto the wood, but having to jump and hope that you would grab Lukas’ hand was something else.
“You’re going to have to trust me!” the dragon hissed. He was losing patience, and the two of you were losing time.
You swallowed. It’s now or never…!
With a powerful thrust, you kicked off the wood and stretched your hand out to grab Lukas’ extended hand. Looking at the way the sea serpent was thrashing, there would just be enough time to fall straight for his snout—
“Got you!” Lukas breathed and wrapped his hand around yours. “Don’t let go until I tell you, whatever happens!”
“Y-Yeah…” you whimpered trying your best not to look down. Lukas was holding onto the chains with one hand and holding your hand with the other. At this point, you were dangling like a limp doll on top of a wild and enraged sea serpent.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to dive sooner or later,” Lukas grunted. “When that happens, I’m going to let go of the chains. That’s when we drop."
“Right,” you nodded.
“Vile, foul, beyond taste! Disgusting! Disgusting! Disgusting!” the sea serpent roared. “Vicious taste that has tainted my tongue! Begone!”
Just then, you began to experience a sharp downward motion. The sea serpent was going to dive.
“Get ready…” Lukas said.
Something went wrong. Why the sea serpent decided to throw its head back at the last second before hitting the water, you’ll never know, but the point being instead of hitting the water, you and Lukas ended up flying straight for the sky before you had a chance to let go.
“Lukas!” you screamed.
“Grrgh! Stupid beast!” Lukas growled. “____________, hang on!”
“Lukas, we’re going to die!”
The dragon didn’t say anything. His face was completely expressionless, and his eyes burned with an unreadable light. You couldn’t see Mathias or the river anymore. The sea serpent had tossed your far past the snow flurries near the ground. You didn’t even know how high you were at this point. Your hair was still whipping in the upward direction, but you knew that in a matter of seconds, the two of you would drop down to the ground again. Even if you managed to fall in the river, there was no way you were going to survive the impact or the freezing temperature.
Then it came: the drop.
“Lukas…” you whimpered.
“__-__________...” the dragon murmured. He was at a loss for words. Then again, what could he have possibly said to make you feel better? “At least it will be quick?” That would be rather typical of him.
But, much to your amazement, you never did hit the ground. Heck, you never even saw it. Did you die in the air? You weren’t moving anymore—at least, not in the downward or upward direction.
“___________, open your eyes,” you heard Lukas say. “We’re fine.”
“Did we die?” you stupidly asked. All that blood you had lost from your head was making you think weird things.
“No, no, you’re very much alive,” a voice said from above. You had heard that voice before. It seemed like such a long time ago, but its familiarity brought some relief to your shaken spirits.
“Golden Sentinel, do you think you could take one of them?” the Eye of the Topaz Blizzard asked. “They’re getting to be quite heavy.”