The warm jungle air blew hot in Alchemy’s face as Ashton banked around for another look at Manticore Hill. The foliage was mostly dense trees, here and there clearings showed spots where the elf saw manticores basking in the warm sunlight guarding their caves. He searched for any sign of gnome activity. Everything looked too natural for there to be gnomes about. The little humanoids were notorious for stripping the land, around their villages and settlements, bare of all nature. Other than the unusually large manticore colony, Manticore Hill looked totally normal.
“Can you see anything?” Alchemy asked Ashton.
“Nothing but a bunch of stinking manticores,” the griffon replied.
The wizard sighed. “I guess we’re going to have to go in on foot to get more info.”
“Looks that way,” Ashton agreed.
“Let’s circle around to the other side and see if Gavin and Martin found anything,” Alchemy said, pointing to the north side of the hill. Ashton banked again and set out as directed.
They were just topping the hill when Martin and Gavin came flying their way at top speed. The griffon’s head feathers were laid back in fear, and the elf clung to the flying saddle in desperation.
“Dragon!” Martin shouted as they shot over the top of Alchemy and Ashton.
Before Ashton could wheel around and follow their friends, a massive dragon, covered in bright green scales with red streaks through its wing membranes came roaring toward them. The wind from its passage shook the flyers as it over took them with two mighty beats of its giant wings. A stench of rotting vegetation followed in its wake.
“Wow,” Alchemy shouted. “That’s one big dragon!”
“It looks pissed,” Ashton replied as he came around to pursue. “I wonder what Martin did to piss it off.”
“Who says Martin pissed it off?” Alchemy asked, checking his flying straps and getting a tighter hold on the pommel.
“You don’t know Martin as well as Gavin and I do. He’d piss off a dragon just for the fun of it.” The griffon settled into a level flight after the dragon that chased their friends. The dragon didn’t waver in its intense pursuit of the other griffon.
Alchemy shook his head. “I don’t see the fun in pissing off a dragon. Been there, done that, it wasn’t fun.”
Ashton laughed a loud shrieking laugh. “You were ground bound if I remember. It’s a lot more fun when you can fly.”
Ahead of them, Martin pulled up, heading high into the sky, his golden wings pumping for all they were worth. The dragon followed the maneuver, although somewhat more clumsily.
“Alright!” Ashton cheered as he followed. “This is where it gets fun.”
A belch of flame shot out of the dragon, but the more agile griffon folded his wings just in time and dropped like a stone past the enraged beast. A flash of metal extended out from the griffon as Gavin tried to wound the dragon with his sword as they flew past it.
“You know you could help a bit with a spell or two,” Ashton told Alchemy as they got closer to the dragon.
The wizard pulled his new wand. He got lucky and found it in a second hand shop near The Lady’s Pleasure. It was oak, he’d never worked with an oak wand before, but it was all he could find in Buteamore. Apparently there weren’t a lot of magical folk in the area. The wand appeared to be in good condition, and the couple of minor parlor tricks he’d done with it in the shop had worked fine. Focusing on the dragon, Alchemy flicked the wand. “Burn!” a large fireball shot from the wand.
“Hey, warn a fella,” Ashton complained as the fire singed a couple of his crest feathers.
“Sorry, it was bigger than I thought it would be,” Alchemy replied, watching the fire strike the dragon in the back. The dragon roared its displeasure and turned its attention to the bigger threat.
“Hang on!” the griffon shouted as they shot over the top of the dragon. “Shoot it again. Try not to singe my tail this time.”
Turning in the saddle as far as the riding straps allowed, Alchemy aimed another shot at the dragon. The fireball flew well, but coming head on, the dragon managed to dodge out of the way. It loosed another jet of fire.
“Sheilds up!” Alchemy shouted projecting a magical shield just past Ashton’s tail. The fire hit the shield as the elf pumped more power into it. Trying to make sure the protection held.
“This is why pissing off dragons is no fun!” he yelled at the griffon.
Ashton stooped toward the ground and the dragon’s flames fell away. Alchemy looked around for Gavin and Martin. The two were coming up hard toward the beast’s underbelly. Gavin’s sword was raised high. Alchemy wished it was a spear. Warriors didn’t fight dragons with swords and expect to win. Even he knew that dragons, like boars required spears or pikes to win. Golden wings snapped open as Ashton turned back into the sky. The jolt threw Alchemy hard against the back of the saddle. He nearly dropped the wand.
“Warn a guy next time,” he said clutching the wand.
“Get ready for something a bit more spectacular,” the griffon shouted back. “We need to bring the brute down. I bet Martin’s getting tired.”
“I thought you said this was fun?”
“It is for about the first five minutes, then it gets dangerous.” The griffon closed the distance between them and the dragon. Gavin’s sword flashed in the sunlight and a bright gush of blood poured out of the green scaled underbelly.
“Good shot Gavin!” Alchemy cheered. He brandished the wand around and summoning all the magic he could, shouted. “Clank!” Chains appeared around the dragon. They only managed to entangle one wing but that was enough to severely hinder its flight. The dragon roared it displeasure as it plummeted from the sky.
The world spun a bit around Alchemy as the cost of the massive chain spell came on him. His head hurt and each movement of Ashton’s wings sent new waves of pain through him. “Hey you got him,” the griffon shouted as they followed the entangled beast’s spiraling path toward the jungle canopy.
“Yeah,” Alchemy muttered. He wanted off the griffon and into a nice hot bath after a bite to eat. Too much magic could take its toll.
“Way to go Alchemy!” Gavin shouted as Martin came alongside Ashton.
“You got a good hit too,” the wizard replied weakly.
“Magic drain?” the warrior asked.
“We need to get you back to town,” Gavin said. “Martin head in. We’ll send Buck and his guys back for this thing. Griz can probably use the meat.”
High on Manticore Hill, Kojo Rutu watched through the spyglass that Dr Gnome had given him as the two griffons leveled out their flight and flew toward Buteamore. The crash from the dragon hitting the forest canopy rumbled over the normal jungle noises. Forest birds flew up in a great rush. The goblin pushed the spyglass together and then walked toward the hollow tree at the top of the hill. A set of stairs led down into the hill. Dr. Gnome would not be pleased at the loss of the dragon. Sending trolls to enrage the beast so it would go after the griffons and elves seemed like a good idea at the time. He never imagined that the wizard was powerful enough to kill the dragon. The wizard was proving to be extremely competent. The goblin was not amused.