tagNonHumanThe Fire Dragons

The Fire Dragons


He was back, sliding through the cold air in great swooping circles with me at their centre. Balanced on two great wings, he lit the night sky with ostentatious jets of fire from his throat, the flame glittering off his vivid red scales.

A part of me wanted to spread my wings and leap up to join my suitor in the air, but I repressed it: a fire dragon had to act with a little dignity, a queen more so than a drake. Instead I lay motionless in the mouth of my den, my snug basalt cave atop my great mountain, and pretended not to notice as he soared and spun and shone across the sky for my enjoyment.

Twelve times already he'd come to flash his wings at me, and twelve times I'd driven him away, my teeth snapping at his tail. It wouldn't do to seem desperate, after all. But at the same time, I didn't want him giving up and trying his luck elsewhere. Perhaps tonight was the night?

I shouted up to him in my loudest, most roaring voice. "Are you going to flap around out there all night, pirouetting like a sky drake in a dancing contest?"

It was an invitation, and as soon as he heard it he started spinning towards me in a shrinking spiral, until with a spread of his broad leathery wings he came to alight neatly on the broad shoulder of stone in front of my cave, claws clattering on the rock.

He was big for a drake - perhaps two-thirds my own size - his long, lithe body armoured in a vibrant coat of blood red scales. A rippling row of blades ran down his spine, all the way from the twisted horns on his head to the menacing curl of his tail, each one as long and dangerous as the curving claws on his toes. Two evil yellow eyes stared at me intently from a face caught in a leering snarl, a rich and varied mouthful of blood-bleached fangs bared.

I thought he was cute.

But more important than the way he looked was the way he smelt. He carried a potent reek, sharp and acrid and alluring, a smell of fire and sulphur that seemed almost corrosive. I inhaled deeply, savouring the caustic odour, finding it to my liking. And I saw him sniff the air, tasting my own scent, the sour and stagnant death-stench I worked so hard to maintain.

"Well?" I used my bluntest, heaviest tone, and accompanied it with my best glare, sitting down on the rock with exaggerated nonchalance.

"I gaze at long last on Soursedge, vile fiend of the Pike, bane of the northern clefts." He spoke in a voice like molten gravel, piercing me with his eyes. "I was drawn by the legends born in the wake of your desecration, that tell of your loathsome heart, of your cunning and merciless mind, of your thundering roar which fills hearts with quaking terror for miles in all directions. Of your dread deeds, of the death and destruction you wreak with your sundering talons, your snithing teeth, your infernal all-consuming fire. And yet, I realise now that the legends did you no justice, for you are truly a more gruesome, despicable and terrible monster than ever they imagined."

Well. He certainly knew how to talk to a girl. "Go on..."

"Such wings! They could block out the very sun and wither the land. Such talons! They could slash open the very rocks and reduce them to dust. Such eyes! They could pierce the very hearts of the sternest queens and reduce them to thralls. Such a stench! It could penetrate into the very earth and leave it barren and lifeless. Surely no creature as repugnant and catastrophic as yourself has ever before crawled out of the dark recesses of the abyss."

His words caressed me, making my heart pump a little faster and my blood run a little warmer. "And who might you be, who flatters so insidiously?"

Before he could answer we were both distracted by the booming rustle of oncoming wings. Even before Marmondwike came into view I knew her by a stray whiff of her scent: a distinctively rich putrid foulness. She landed easily on the rock beside the drake, her charcoal black-scaled bulk overshadowing him as surely as her cloying fetor, blacker than her scales, overpowered his volcanic reek. He looked up at her in some confusion, unsure what to make of this new arrival.

"Why hello there, Sedge, who's your little friend?"

Marmondwike never talked in a manner befitting a fire queen. It was part of the reason I hated her: not only was she bigger than me, stronger than me and had a more evil stench, but I could never shake the impression that she was somehow more fearsome and terrible than I was, despite the fact that I'd never seen her intimidate or defile anything, and never once heard her say a harsh word to anybody.

"My name is Soursedge. And he was just complimenting me on my loathsomeness."

"Ooh! Flirting! Mind if I stay and watch?"

"Yes, I do mind!" I shot her a scalding stare, but she just sprawled down comfortably and gave me a look of friendly innocence. I turned back to the drake. "This is my insufferable neighbour, Marmondwike, a white-hearted worm beneath our consideration. Just ignore her and maybe she'll go away." These last two words I spat at her with vehemence.

"I don't think I caught your name, darling," she said to the drake.

"Um... hello, nice to meet you, I'm Pontefax," he replied, looking somewhat put out. "I mean," he said remembering himself, turning back to me and recovering his earlier poise, "I introduce myself, Pontefax the Sly, despicable devourer from the eastern vales." He unfurled his great red wings, stretching them to their full extent to show himself to full advantage. "And I come to offer myself as your mate."

"Good choice," said Marmondwike. Pontefax folded back his wings and looked at her. "A fine queen, dear Sedge. You won't find another dragon anywhere in the northern clefts with such a fiery heart or such fetid breath. To be completely frank she makes me wish I were a drake so she'd take me as her mate."

"My name is Soursedge!" I rose to my feet and stepped over to the drake, who looked up at me with an endearingly arrogant leer. I needed to be closer to him, to fill my nostrils with his reek, to drown out the stench of Marmondwike. "If I were to demean myself so far as to take a snittering scrap like you as my mate, I'd give you eggs and protect you from harm with tooth and talon and searing flame. What could you possibly offer me in return?"

"Devotion." He didn't speak any quieter now that I was right next to him. "I would devote myself to your dark glory, to your sordid heart, to your behemothic body. I would go out into the world and fight and fly and bite and burn for you, and bring back food to feed you, all while you sleep. I would dote on you."

I wanted him. He was everything a drake should be: silver tongued, vile bodied, evil breathed and mine. I fancied lying curled close with him, one wing draped over him, feeling him pressed hot against my belly as I drifted to sleep.

"If you were to do any less," I growled, "I would eviscerate you. Slowly. With a single talon."

"Oh get to the good bit," interrupted Marmondwike. "What about sex?"

I gave her a look to suggest that the threat of evisceration applied to her too. Pontefax, however, barely hesitated. "Such a queen as you must burn with all-consuming lusts. With me as your mate, no matter how searing your heat, how unslakable your need, how depraved your sexual whim, whenever, wherever, however often, I'll be there for you. Ready to satisfy you completely with the power and fury of a volcanic eruption that births a mountain, and the stamina and endurance of the wind wearing it back down into dust."

I prodded my "all-consuming lusts" with a mental talon, my mind turning over thoughts of Pontefax mounting me roughly, his talons digging into the scales of my back, his hot horrible breath on my neck... his tail rubbing against mine... his drakehood questing between my legs... Marmondwike watching voyeuristically from the mouth of the cave...

I hurled the thought away. Damn that queen! She was even invading my privatemost thoughts now! I focused on Pontefax, deciding to try a little flirting of my own.

"I'd never allow you to mount me, Pontefax the Sly." He looked crestfallen. "Not until I'd laid your foul body down and run my tongue and talons over it, until you screamed in rapture for me to stop."

He stared at me longingly, his forked tongue flickering between his teeth in anticipation.

"I'd use the tip of my tail."

We both turned to stare at Marmondwike.

"If you were my mate, little Pontefax, I could get you screaming in rapture with nothing but the tip of my tail."

She stood and moved to stand close besides the drake, swishing the tip of her black-scaled tail slowly back and forth through the air in front of his face.

"Marmondwike! What do you think you're doing?"

She ignored me and carried on talking in a quiet, rumbling voice. "And only then, when I heard you scream out loud, only then would I bring in my tongue." She placed her head a mere whisper in front of Pontefax's, snout nearly touching snout, gazing down into his staring yellow eyes. "I'd run it all over you. All over you. Every... little... bit. I'd find all the secret and sensitive places. Sometimes it'd be long, rasping strokes, sometimes quick and maddening little circles, and every single touch," here she flicked out her tongue to dance briefly across the tip of his nose, "would drive... you... wild."

I should have screamed and slashed at her, but like Pontefax I was stunned into silence.

"Only when you at last begged me to stop, begged me to end the unendurable pleasure, only then would I start working you with my talons. Just imagine what I could do with one of these." She raised a forepaw with four gleaming claws in front of his snout. "What torments I could inflict on your helpless flesh. I could have you shaking and writhing in degenerative ecstasy, and that would just be the beginning. Now." She stroked his chin with a single claw. "Imagine what I could do with four of them."

Pontefax wasn't moving, wasn't even breathing, just staring into her eyes, completely absorbed in her words.

"When I'd finally engulf you inside me, you'd realise that everything before was merely a pale prelude. I'd take it unendurably slowly, each movement making you weep. In, and out. In... and out. In... and... out. I'd milk every moment of your rapture as surely as I'd milk every drop of juice from your swollen glands. And when it was over you'd fall into an exhausted sleep, your body entwined with mine, and sleep longer and deeper than ever before. And when you'd wake up... I'd start all over again. With the tip of my tail."

He gulped. I finally regained control of my voice. "Marmondwike! Worthless soft-skinned soil sucker! You insufferable pastel-perfumed bee-feeding flower tender! Get away from him, he's mine!" I tried to ignore the way her words had left me tingling and damp.

Pontefax looked at Marmondwike. And he looked at me. I could see the quick mental calculation taking place in his head.

He turned back to her. "Marmondwike... uh... Marmondwike with scales as black as ashes at midnight, and heart even blacker. Whose foul fetor hangs about her like a second shadow, dark and dire and delectable. I introduce myself, Pontefax the Sly, despicable devourer from the..."

"Yes, dear, I heard you say that bit the first time."

"Oh. Well... um... I'd like to be your mate. Please."

I shrieked in rage. "How dare you propose to her outside my cave!"

Marmondwike gestured to me. "What about Sedge here? Not so long ago you wanted to be her mate."

"I did. But then I noticed what a vile and formidable monstrosity you are, next to which she," he nodded in my direction without looking at me, "is a mere bloated butterfly throwing tantrums."

"You can both get off my mountain right now!" I spat.

Marmondwike paused as if considering. "Hmm. You make a tempting offer, darling, but, no, no I don't think I really do want to take you as my mate. Especially not after you just called my dear Sedge a tantrum-throwing butterfly."

"What do you mean, your dear Sedge?" I hissed.

She ignored me. "Goodbye, Pontefax, better luck next time." She leapt into the night sky and with a thrust of her wings was gone.

Pontefax turned back to me, trying to slip back into the confident and fierce manner he'd worn so easily before events had started sliding so confoundingly through his claws, but an understandable nervousness showed through. "Great Sedge, malevolent matron of the mountain, repulsive reptile of the rocks, your powerful and pernicious mind must realise that the words spoken to that cotton-hearted cloud hugger meant nothing, and my devotion to you remains absolute?"

"It's Soursedge." I lay down on my ashen bed, too weary to shout or curse, my back turned to him. "I'd strongly advise your next move to be flying away, very fast. Talking to you any longer is beneath my dignity."

He didn't fly away but edged closer, too stubborn or stupid to give up. "I'm curious to know what a true fire fiend such as you could do with the tip of your tail..."

Pontefax flew away very fast, yelping in pain and fear. He left behind only the tip of his tail, which I still held between my jaws, chewing with a grim satisfaction.

* * *

My belly full, I lifted into the air with a downward beat of my wings and pushed towards home, a hunk of charred meat clutched in my talons. Beneath me, thick and ancient forest thinned and became more patchy as I climbed, until I was flying over scrubby and extensive moorland, a patchwork of purple heather and spiky green gorse. Ahead rose the Pike, an unsightly extrusion of grey rock and patchy scrub, thrusting austerely above the moorland. My mountain.

Or at least, it had been my mountain. Before Marmondwike had arrogantly settled on the opposite flank, and despite all my threats and bitter wrath, steadfastly refused to move. Why had I tolerated her for so long without challenging her? Surely it couldn't be that I was afraid? No. I wasn't afraid of anything, I told myself. Especially not of a florid flittering thing like her. Next time I saw her, I'd have it out with her, and drive her away from my home.

As I swooped in towards the dark maw of my cave I noticed the smell. Black, clinging, putrid... Marmondwike. She was in my lair!

I screamed in rage and landed fast and fierce on the rock, a torch of flame lighting the darkness. She lay stretched languidly on the broad mound of ashes on which I made my bed, yellow eyes regarding me casually.

"Morning, Sedge. Good night's hunting?"

I dropped the charred remnants of my prey on the ground and advanced on her, seething.

"You! You... child-cuddling cud chewer! What are you doing in my cave?"

"I just thought I'd come to welcome you home."

"You what?"

"Welcome home, Sedge, dear."

"Shut up! You cost me a perfectly good mate last night!"

She stared at nothing for a moment, as though struggling to remember. "Oh, you mean Pontefax? Really, I don't think he was good enough for a queen as dire as you."

"How dare you try and run my life, you preening, posing, pansy-scented claw polisher!" She grinned and closed her eyes, as though the insult gave her pleasure. "I despise you! Ever since you violated my mountain you have done nothing but antagonise me!"

"Ah, Sedge dear, if you weren't so cute when you're angry, I wouldn't be so tempted."

I spluttered. Then I growled, a deep menacing throb from the back of my throat. "Tree-tending, tickle-breathed, treacle hearted tadpole! I'm not putting up with you a moment longer! I challenge you to a trial of combat!" I let out a great gush of fire to reinforce the message.

"Very well," she shrugged, "if you like. It might be fun."

"Fun?" I blinked. "It will definitely not be fun. This is a battle of honour. When I defeat you, I demand that you leave the Pike and never come within sight of it again!"

"Agreed." I didn't need her agreement. In a trial of combat, each laid out their opponent's forfeit, and the loser was honour-bound to abide by it.

"And when I beat you," she said, rising to her feet, "I'll take you as my mate."

I paused, speechless. What? No respectable fire queen would have suggested a forfeit like that. Something so utterly humiliating, lasting a whole lifetime... I had a new respect for the sick depravity of her mind.

"Agreed." As humiliating as her terms were, to back out of them, admitting that I feared defeat, would be unthinkable. Besides, in my anger and spite I did not imagine that I could fail to win.

* * *

There was only one rule to a trial of combat. The first dragon to place their claws around their opponent's neck was the winner.

We faced each other on the wide, flat rocky ledge outside my cave, the Pike rising grey and stern to my left, and dropping away to reveal a bleak landscape of dull greens and dirty browns to my right. I hissed and growled at Marmondwike, circling slowly at a safe distance, sizing up my nemesis. She was a little larger than I was, and probably stronger, but did she know how to fight? She showed no signs of being ready for one, having begun the encounter by sitting casually regarding me, apparently enjoying the feeble morning sunshine illuminating her flank; only after I had protested at her insolence had she risen almost reluctantly to her feet and faced me like a dragon.

Talons clicked on rock. Two pairs of yellow eyes augered into each other, unblinking.Wings poised half-raised, tails swishing threateningly. I roared and let out a jet of scorching flame; Marmondwike just smiled knowingly back at me.

Suddenly, with no warning, we were both hurtling towards each other, fangs bared, powerful legs and broad wings working in tandem to send us shooting forwards like a snapped spring. We met in a crunch of scale and sinew. With our front legs we tore and wrestled, muscles straining against muscles, talons ripping in futility against nearly impenetrable scales, our back legs thrusting, trying to push the other off balance. I snapped my teeth angrily at her neck; she dodged me nimbly, and as suddenly as we were together we were apart, back to cautious circling.

I'd always prided myself on my ability to outfight anything, and Marmondwike wouldn't be the first queen I'd beaten in combat. But I'd had trouble gaining an advantage. As much as I'd strained left and right, pushed and pulled, feinted and heaved, she'd seemed to anticipate it and had moved easily to keep her balance, without ever trying too hard to topple me. Almost as if she were deliberately prolonging the fight.

"You never told me you fight like a ravishing inferno!" she called. "Wild and fierce and unpredictable! Tell me Sedge, do you make love the same way you fight?"

I roared and spouted a jet of flame at her head, which to my chagrin seemed to please her immensely. Her fanged grin filled my eyes, my skin throbbed from her shredding talons, her putrid scent clogged my nostrils. Fire queens rarely got this close to one another and the gaunt blackness of her remarkable odour - an air so foul it seemed living things must wilt in it - filled my lungs; an irresistible perfume which, emanating from a drake, might have fostered in me a barely containable lust. As it was, with Marmondwike at its centre, I used it to fuel my rage.

"We should have done this a long time ago, Sedge, my dear."

"Yes," I hissed, "then all I'd have of you would be memories; memories which I'd try to forget as soon as possible!"

"The caress of your claws against my scales, the full foul potency of your reek... mmm, this is really turning me on. How about you?"

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