Dragon’s Ring — Snippet 16
It had taken relatively little effort for Zuamar to find the dragon Jakarin. She had not found a new lair. Instead she clung to the cliff top on what remained of her island. It was a bare shard of broken rock, balancing above the hungry waves. The hole in the fabric of Tasmarin had healed up, but there was not enough of an island left to be really habitable. Lord Zuamar wondered if Vorlian could possibly be misinformed. She was in gold-grief by the looks of her. On the other hand her loose scales indicated that she was coming up to molt. Dragons always needed gold. But in molt . . . well, they had to eat some of it. If she had none, and some human made an offer . . . Dragons had been trapped like that before.
She hissed angrily at him, eyes wide and angry, teeth exposed. “This is mine, Mine. GO.”
“I hear you’ve been consorting with humans,” said Zuamar.
She did not answer. She simply attacked. Launched straight off the cliff edge at him, spewing a clumsy ill-directed fountain of flame.
It was so unexpected it almost succeeded. Zuamar folded his wings and dropped like a stone, the ferocious heat of her flame hot on his tail. He turned the maneuver — which left him dangerously exposed from above — a dragon never willingly gave up height advantage — into a steep banking turn. She followed, clumsy in her haste, revealing her youth and anger in doing so, instead of gaining height. His wings were bigger than hers, even if she had youth on her side. She tried to flame him again . . . but either she had less breath or flame than she thought she had, for it came nowhere near him.
He beat his way up into the sky, tendrils feeling for the advantage on the thermal above the sunbaked rocks of her island. She was doing no more than to try to follow him by sheer wing-power. Had she never dueled with another dragon of similar size? Zuamar knew that the answer would be “probably not.” Once, before Tasmarin, dragon had fought dragon, often. They’d been SENT to fight — aside from anything else. Zuamar was the veteran of a dozen such duels, and many more minor skirmishes. Nowadays . . . picking on something your own size was not a particularly clever thing to do, and there was seldom a reason to do so. He turned his head to give her a burst of flame . . . but she’d lost ground. She was out of range. Zuamar knew his range precisely, and would not waste dragonfire. Besides, if he could get above and behind her . . . He gained more height. Too late she worked out what a precarious position she was getting herself into. He dove. Frantically, with what was plainly every ounce of her strength, she managed to veer away from a direct impact. But his talons tore one of the webs on her wing, and his blast of flame seared her delicate wind-tendrils. He banked and used the momentum to regain some of his lost height.
She began . . . to flee.
Zuamar simply continued to climb. She was struggling to fly, losing height, trying to reach that piteous island of hers. A worthless strategy, as she had no cave to retreat into! He dove again. This time she failed to evade his talons. In a spiraling wash of crimson fire — mostly his, they fought. She fought with the desperation of one who knows that there is but one possible end to it all. He — largely out of reach of her claws — ripped through her scales and wing-webbing, tearing great gouges into her muscles. Dragon blood spewed as they fell towards the broken and shattered stone of her old eyrie. At the last minute, Zuamar tore himself clear.
She could not halt her fall. Dragon scale, skin and bone were tough beyond all other forms of living flesh, but not harder than the new-splintered rocks.
Lord Zuamar roared his triumph to the sky. And then, as was ancient tradition, he sank down onto her carcass and began to feast.
He felt . . . younger and stronger afterwards. They might claim that here, on a plane of Dragons, that dragon should not devour dragon, but he was larger than most of them. And those that he was not larger than, would not raise a single claw against him.
He quested about for her hoard. It was — rather like her attempts to fight — pathetic. Barely a dozen bits of gold. Several rings, a bracelet, and the rest in coins. One of those caught his attention. It was something he had not seen for many years. A ducat. He wondered how such a treasure had come into the hands of the fat-witted Jakarin. Well, he couldn’t ask her now.