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[ Read more about author Frej Wasastjerna ]

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Linetta of the Dragon Patrol and Grendygla, her highly articulate dragon, face a pack of undead.


by Frej Wasastjerna


by Frej Wasastjerna

There's nothing quite like riding a dragon.

Sure, being in the Dragon Patrol has its drawbacks. For one thing, there are those old biddies in command. I hope I'll never become that kind of prune-faced old maid.

But a day like this makes it all worthwhile. Soaring through the clear azure sky, swooping and curving below the cumulus clouds that show where the updrafts are, with the sun tanning my skin in strange patterns through the chainmail...

However, we Dragon Dragoons, as we call ourselves unofficially, aren't here just to enjoy ourselves. Patrolling the northern marches is a serious business, so I kept a sharp lookout. Even so, Grendygla the Magnificent saw it first. Human eyes aren't really a match for those of dragons.

She turned her snout towards me and said, "Esteemed Mistress Madam, broad on our larboard bow, in yonder quagmire, there are visible indications of an unseemly commotion. Shall we venture into closer proximity with the objective of investigating said disturbance?"


Grendygla, Empress of the Air, swept back her wings and we dived. I whooped with joy as the air tore past my face. The tears the wind brought to my eyes made it hard to see anything until we were close.

Then I saw him: a hunk of a man, slashing with a sword at a dozen unholy-looking creatures. His clothes hung in tatters, to my great enjoyment. On his enemies even their flesh did so, but that seemed not to faze them. They gathered around him, staying just beyond reach of his sword. Sometimes they came a little too close, and he lopped off an arm or slashed open a belly. Beyond drawing back a little they paid no attention to that.

Actually they were pretty frowsy-looking monsters, nothing to stop a Dragon Patrol girl and her dragon, though the man looked worn out. That didn't stop him from being gorgeous, though. "Linetta, today is your lucky day," I told myself and pushed down on Grendygla's neck as a sign to land.

Land we did. I didn't bother wondering who were the good guys and who the bad ones, we Dragoons don't want any monsters around. You know what they do to property values. I just stabbed a monster from behind with my sword, and Grendygla Monsterbane bit off the head of another. She promptly spat it out, shaking her head with a grimace. Then I was too busy cutting down monsters to pay attention to what Grendygla was doing.

She was helping, though, and so was the hunk. It didn't take us long to finish them off.

Mister Hunk sat down, apparently too exhausted to care how wet the ground was. "Thanks," he said. "Those undead had harried me since yesterday morning."

I whistled. That meant he had been fighting them for about thirty hours.

"Why didn't you just cut them to pieces?" I asked.

"I did. Trouble is, that didn't help. The pieces slowly reassemble themselves." He pointed with his sword at an arm that was inching towards a torso. Only my helmet prevented my hair from standing on end. "They have to be burned or eaten, and all the vegetation in this swamp is too wet to burn. In my home village, we let our dogs eat them, but I didn't have a dog and humans fall sick if we eat stuff like that."

I looked at Grendygla, Terror of Evildoers. Dragons eat anything without falling sick. "Can you eat them, then?"

"Most definitely no, Mistress Linetta! The gustatory sensation accompanying ingestion of said abominations is far too reminiscent of nightsoil."

I had to translate this for the hunk, who plainly didn't understand dragonspeech. Then I turned to Grendygla again and asked, "Do you really know how nightsoil tastes?"

I still haven't figured out how the scaly creature managed to blush. "Yes, Respected Mistress. You are doubtless aware how juvenile wyrms are constitutionally unable to abstain from devouring almost anything."

As if I weren't. That's how I lost my first suit of chainmail.

Well, we obviously had to get out of here. "Come here," I said to the hunk, patting Grendygla's neck while I mounted. He obeyed, and I folded him down over Grendygla in a position where I could keep him in place by just casually keeping my hand on that shapely ass. Whether out of surprise, tiredness or whatever, he didn't object.

Grendygla was another matter. When I ordered her to lift off, she gave a few perfunctory flaps with her wings, taking us nowhere, turned to gaze accusingly at me and said, "Honored Lady, if it is your intention that I take to the air with a burden like this, you are external to your mental faculties."

For all that I'm used to Grendygla's odd turns of phrase, that one took me a moment to figure out. But even without it, her meaning was clear.

Well, one of us had to stay while the other went to our base at Kalo Chregak to fetch an additional dragon. Which one? An easy question. After I had just finished saving the hunk from the undead, how would it have looked if I had left him alone to face their renewed assaults, even if only temporarily?

I had to send him to ask for help. Grendygla knew the way home, and then the hunk had to tell the commanding officer why I wasn't flying my dragon.

Explaining what I wanted him to do, I climbed out of the saddle and let him mount it instead, strapping him into it so he wouldn't fall to his death if he fell asleep. Then I told Grendygla to lift off.

Again she balked. "Admired Sergeant, I am still too encumbered to fly. This specimen of humanity is significantly, not to say substantially, more ponderous than your highly regarded frame."

I suppose she had a point there. There is a reason why only the most petite of women are accepted into the Patrol. Chainmail, sword and all, I still weighed a good deal less than he did.

"Grendygla the Mighty, if you fly him home you'll get a spoonful of honey," I said.

That perked her up. "Five spoonfuls?" she said, her eyes shining with hopeful greed.

"Okay," I sighed.

It really took a great effort for her to get airborne, but she made it. Flapping low over the tops of the stunted trees, she went flying homeward, leaving me to face the undead for some hours.

I began to inspect them. Right in front of me there was one that was missing only its left arm, and before I had time to react it had picked that up with its right.

I cut off its right arm, then its head. Before it fell over, I hacked off its legs as well. Then I kicked its torso as far away as I could.

Before I started scattering the rest of it, I looked behind me. Two of the undead were coming at me, and several others were already sitting up, with only a few pieces missing. I had to take care of them. By the time I was finished with that, I found that the limbs of the first one had already crawled more than halfway to its torso.

I kicked that torso a bit further, but by then an arm had already reattached itself to one of the other undead.

They kept me busy. I managed to keep them from reassembling themselves fully, but I had to keep moving all the time, chopping this limb away and kicking that one into the bushes. It wasn't all that difficult -- in the short run.

The trouble was, it kept going on, leaving me no time to rest. After a while, both my right arm and my legs were tired. Having to pull my feet out of the muck with every step didn't help.

I began to use my left arm to throw pieces of the undead, overcoming my revulsion at touching them for the sake of giving my legs a little rest. That helped a little. On the other hand, my sword was getting blunted by all the hacking.

I began to get an idea of what the hunk had gone through. As the sun ever so slowly sank westwards, I wondered whether help would arrive. Maybe Grendygla and the hunk had run into trouble. Come to think of it, hadn't I asked too much of Grendygla? The way she flew when she left, it was clear that Mister Hunk was too heavy. Would she make it back to Kalo Chregak? I felt like kicking myself for staking my life on that.

Could I just leave the undead behind and walk away? Most likely not; they would assemble themselves and follow, leaving me no opportunity to rest that way either. Presumably the hunk had tried it and found that it didn't work. Anyway, if I wanted to be picked up, I had to stay somewhere near this place, so the Patrol would know where to look for me.

If it was coming, that is. Suppose Grendygla made it back, but Commandant Emella didn't pay any attention to what the hunk and Grendygla said? Maybe she would think he had murdered me and throw him into jail? Well, Grendygla could tell her that that was wrong, but would she believe a dragon? They don't have any admirable reputation for honesty.

By the time the western sky was turning golden, my right arm was so worn out that I had to keep the sword in my left hand for a while. But my clumsiness in fighting lefthanded meant even more nicks and blunt spots on my sword.

I began to get really scared. Unless help came, I would die tonight. If I did, would I turn into one of those undead myself?

My fear enabled me to ignore my exhaustion for a while. However, I knew that this extra energy wouldn't last. My situation was desperate.

I began to suspect that this wasn't my lucky day after all.

Then, just as I cut off a head on my third attempt, I saw them. Wings in the south -- the dragons were coming!

Beside myself with joy, I ran towards them, shouting. It was the Patrol, right enough. Even the hunk was there, riding on Gargax the Titanic, our strongest dragon.

There was a riderless dragon. That must have been for me.

But why were there several of them? And why were there covered buckets hanging from them?

Soon the Patrol landed and cut the undead to pieces once again. Staggering from weariness, I began to walk towards the nearest of those dragons that hadn't had any riders.

"Just a moment," the hunk said with a grin. "I thought up this idea on the way to your base. Let's see if it works." He took one of the buckets, pulled off its cover and began pouring a sticky, yellow-brown liquid on one of the pieces of undead.

Oil? Did he plan to burn the monsters?

But if it was oil, why did the dragons act so interested? "Hey, keep the dragons out of the way," he shouted, and some of the Dragoons complied while others helped pour. I was just too tired to help, so I sat there and watched.

After a while, all the pieces of monster had been doused with that liquid. The dragons were allowed to approach and started to munch on the pieces, growling softly the way they do when they are happy.

What was going on? I stood up and went to take a closer look.

Grendygla was among the dragons, looking pooped but content. "Honored Comrade in Arms," she said, her tail waving gently with pleasure, "this additive vastly enhances the flavor of any nutrition."

Oh. I was beginning to understand. I dipped my finger in the liquid and tasted it.

Right. It was honey.

[To read more by Frej Wasastjerna, go to http://www.frejwasastjerna.net ]


Copyright © 2001 by Frej Wasastjerna . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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