“It’s a Land wyrm,” Mim muttered, raising her staff, “get back,” she warned.
Breanna wasn’t certain if she was talking to them or the Dragon, but either way, she knew it was somehow wrong.
The surrounding Guards shrieked, and the Iskia cawed and fluttered as the beast roared. But Breanna stepped forward. Leasha tugged at her sleeve.
“It’s alright,” Breanna explained, “I know this one.” With every ounce of her being, she knew she recognised it. She knew this was the soul. This was the Whisper that had spoken to her in the dark.
It was this Dragon who had reached out to her when she had been alone in the tunnel. Trapped and unable to move. This was the voice that had not only reassured her and told her she was safe when she needed it most, but it was also the reason, and she only realised it now, it was the reason the ground had moved, she had been shaken loose. This Dragon had been the one to save her life.
For the first time, she was starting to feel close to understanding why people thought the Dragons were God’s.
Breanna stepped forward and, as she had done before so long ago on the beach, she laid her hand on the creature’s snout.
But this time there was no great trip into the Dragon Realm. The Land Wyrm wasn’t hungry, its connection to its brethren wasn’t as strong and she was not dragged into the world beyond her own.
But she did connect.
She could feel the Dragon’s thoughts, feel the Whisper in his mind. Hears his unspoken words.
“He wants us to get on.” She turned to Mim and Leasha with a smile. Leasha laughed but Mim looked horrified.
“You want me to climb on to the back of a ruddy great dragon?”
“Yes,” Breanna replied simply. And, as if in response to the query, she grabbed hold of the barbed spine of the beast and eased herself onto his back, resting between two giant barbs strong enough to crack the earth.
Once on, her connection to the creature was even stronger. She knew it understood her need to get to the surface and she trusted that it would take her there.
The two giant front claws and long thick swishing tail propelled the creature swiftly along the ground. As she passed Leasha, she reached down to grab her and with a deft jump, Leasha was behind her on the beast. Mim, a little clumsier and far shorter took both of them to help her but within moments all three of them were tucked securely on the back of the Dragon and the Wyrm understood it was time to go.
“I’m not ruddy sure about this!” Mim exclaimed.
“Hold on,” Breanna warned and the creature faster a hundred times over than it appeared soared up through the tunnel.
With just two legs and a giant tail, Breanna never would have supposed the Dragon might be fast. But it sped through the tunnels, blasting rocks from the path and smashing them to dust as it went. It didn’t take her long to realise that the Deep Worlders had not carved their home themselves but instead had made a home living within the tunnels carved by the journey of the land wyrm.
As they blasted their way through tunnels, the Iskia in hot pursuit squawking their delight and fear, Leasha saw off guards with her pickaxe and Mim struck at others with the blunt end of her staff. Even she was not quite mad enough to blast her magic within the cramped walls of the Deep World.
From every tunnel and every entrance they passed, more and more deep dwellers swarmed toward them. They passed through the main village Breanna had seen from above, the forges burned hot and she was worried as the Dragon stormed across one tumbling molten slag and tin tumbling deep dwellers, but barely noticed the burns itself.
Once through the village, it was quiet. The storm of the chase was behind them, and the Iskia had charged out in front. Breanna knew there was only one way to ensure they would not be pursued any further although it would make it impossible for them to return through the entrance she had found.
She turned to Mim, “close the tunnel.”
“Close the tunnel.”
Mim stared at her, startled and turned to look behind them. The tunnel wound its way far back, but the Deep Dwellers. Fast and high in number, they were gaining on the gang quickly. Most had dropped to all fours, galloping like a stag in full charge. They would catch up. There would be too many. Even with the dragon and their weapons, they couldn’t hope to fight them all off.
Mim turned back to her, eyes wide but determined, she gave a curt nod. She spun her staff and then let out a crack of thunder that shook the rock all around them. The dragon was startled, and the deep rumbling grew as first small rocks and then larger ones began a steady hail.
‘Faster,’ Breanna thought, pressing the swift beast to outrun the cave in.
With a mighty roar as if it came from the belly of the earth itself, the ground below them shook and the roof above them collapsed. Shrinking against the belly of the beast, the three riders were pelted with rocks but the great digging claws of the land wyrm scrambled free. With nothing more than a momentary pause, they were off once again.
But they were plunged into darkness and as the dragon ran on its two legs and swishing tail ran Breanna realised above the caws of the Iskia and the shouts of pursuing deep dwellers there was a new sound she could hear.
Like the sound of a rushing waterfall.
But her realisation was too late. The dragon slipped, and plummeted down, down, down, and with a crash, the beast and it’s three riders crashed into the water.