Friday, January 4, 2019

#FridayFlash - The Siege

This one also happens to be from my Shalafae Archives. Something from the long past, in Lord Shalafae's younger days. Before he freed the dragons from slavery, before he found his cursed swords.

***

Zeonall tossed his head, foretalons tearing at the ground. ~How much longer are we to wait?~ The black dragon's restlessness was palpable physically and empathically.
Ulrin Shalafae reached up to lay a hand on the dragon's chest. ~We'll ride soon enough.~ A low growl was the dragon's response.

The sun beat down on them both, oppressively hot though it was only midmorning. The slightest breeze stirred, but could do little to cool the Sidhehan warrior or the army arrayed below him. Mortals grew restless, though he was unsure if the heat or the dragon was the largest cause.

I cannot blame them their impatience. The battle should have started at dawn, when the advantage was ours. But these demiImmortal generals have their own rules of engagement. He barely suppressed a sigh. Which the Emperor says I must follow.

Zeonall mantled his wings, giving Ulrin shade while basking himself. ~You intimidate them almost as much as I do, my lord.~ The dragon called him lord, accepted him as a rider, but Ulrin heard the undertones; Zeonall would only respect him so long as the Sidhehan proved worthy of it. Should Shalafae ever show weakness, the dragon would turn on him.
He looked up at his mount. Their first combat mission together, and the albino couldn't think of Zeonall as just a steed, or a slave, or anything beneath him. They were partners in this, dependent on each other. Ulrin didn't know if he could ever call the dragon a friend, but they were at least compatriots.

~You think too much.~ Zeonall shifted, his saddle straps creaking. ~You're people are dangerous when you start thinking.~

Ulrin laughed, long and loud. Heads turned to stare, and he finally sensed their awe and wariness. The Empire rarely sent representation to this colony, let alone a young albino lord and his warrior dragon. Their mere presence might be enough to forestall a war.
~The generals come. They don't look happy.~ Zeonall stretched his neck to hold his head high, and spread his wings further in a pose of intimidation. Ulrin stepped forward, awaiting the demiImmortals.

"My lord," the fat one said, bowing as deep as his massive belly would allow. "The occupying force refuses to turn over the city. I am afraid this calls for a siege. As they control the port, we will need the navy to create a blockade, lest they ship in supplies."

Zeonall growled, underscoring Ulrin's clenched jaw and fists. "Is there anything in that city that could not be replaced?"

The generals paled at his tone of voice, and stammered vague answers. A reedy man with too many medals on his chest finally gave him a straight answer. "It is a port town built to supply the mine. The only items of note are underground."

Ulrin gave a feral grin, and Zeonall growled when he realized the Sidhehan's intent. "Then I shall gladly clear away the malcontents." He turned on his heel and practically ran up the dragon's side and into the saddle. Two strong beats of his wings, and the pair were airborne.

They tasked me to end this now. Rules of engagement be damned; that would have us mired here for interminable days. If the Emperor wanted it handled at their pace, he wouldn't have sent me.

~Their city designer never thought of dragons,~ Zeonall told him with a draconic laugh.
~Explain. Teach me.~ Dragon combat was not his family's forte.

The dragon opened his mind just enough to share his understanding with his rider. ~All those terraces and straight lines are perfect for strafing. Once the lower tiers are aflame, there's nowhere else to run. Any that do make it outside the gates will be picked off by the army. It's like they wanted to die in flames.~

~Then attack as you see fit.~ Ulrin loosened his grip on the reins.
Zeonall paused for a moment, mind blank except for one feeling; his previous masters had never let him have his head. The dragon expected a trick, and when none came, he roared his exuberance.

Shalafae grinned fiercely, sharing Zeonall's bloodlust, awaiting the oncoming slaughter eagerly. The wind whipped through his hair, brought tears to his eyes, and screamed in his ears, but it only stoked his excitement.

The dragon dove, making his first strafing run. He extended his wings only at the last moment, leveling out above the lower city. A jet of flammable venom shot from his open mouth, bathing the buildings in flame. The wind of his passage spread and fanned the fire.

Ulrin more felt than heard the terrified screams of the people below. Most were mortal slaves, easily panicked, unable to think on their own. They milled in the streets, easy targets for Zeonall's next strafe.

The dragon attacked exactly as he said, working his way up the hillside, leaving death and destruction on every pass. The heat of the fires rivaled that of the sun, and smoke darkened the sky.

Ulrin fed on the wave of death energy that rose from the city, renewing himself with it. Zeonall laughed and roared, reveling in the sky.

The entire city was soon engulfed in flames, and the dragon rode the thermals above it. Ulrin patted his neck, though doubted the gesture could be felt through thick scales. ~Well done. Very well done.~

~Happy to please, my lord.~ 

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