I assumed Artaxus was roaring out of frustration. If so, it was understandable. He probably couldn’t see very much. I couldn’t see much either.
In the time we’d taken to get the van and transform it, Vaughn must have created a fog bank. It surrounded the park, or at least the portion of it that people were in, reaching the nearest shops, turning the streetlights’ illumination into a diffused glow.
It wasn’t a bad idea. At the very least, it took arrows out of the equation. Goblins could still shoot, but they couldn’t deliberately target anybody.
Well, not unless they had amazing hearing—which I couldn’t rule out.
What was more interesting is what the goblins weren’t doing. They weren’t charging in all at once. Nor were they pumping arrows into the fog in the hopes of hitting Vaughn. Presumably they’d discovered that that didn’t work already.
What they were doing was spreading out, presumably to find a place to get past the fog where no one would notice them. The biggest group of goblins stood at the park, but more and more were following the fog toward the shops.
I wondered if they were aware of it, but got my answer. A few goblins ventured into the fog only to be thrown out seconds later, sliding and sometimes tumbling across the stone walkways.
Around that time, the communications systems reconnected with everyone else’s, bringing up a list of everyone with a working communicator.
Izzy’s voice filled my ears. “—knocked him off the cliff again, but he’s going straight back up.”
“But you’re keeping him down. That’s all we need,” Travis said. His breath came quickly over the connection as if he were doing something else at the same time.
Roaring wind came through the background of Izzy’s connection. “I’m not sure how long I can keep on doing this. The last time he hit me with fire, he nearly knocked me out, and nothing I’ve done has hurt him much.”
Samita’s light brightened and she broke in. “He’s a dragon, and one of the oldest we know of. You’d need something magical to do permanent damage.”
Travis grunted. “Then what about Bloodmaiden? Isn’t monster slaying her thing?”
I turned on the mech’s gravitics, and aimed it in the direction of the park. Then I backed it onto its haunches and made it leap into the air. We flew, silently moving toward the park and the dragon beyond it.
“It’s not that easy,” Amy said. “I’ll be happy to go after him right now with the powers I stole, but not the spear. If I stab something that big, and that ancient with it, I might become it.”
“That’s a pretty big weakness,” Travis told her.
After a pause, Amy said, “I’ll be sure to to mention that when I’m next in the presence of the ancient Bloodmages who created my line.”
“We’re back,” Haley said.
“We’re nearly to Blue and the dragon,” I added.
We were. The mech’s altitude gave us a view of the whole compound—the rocky hill behind us, and the houses in the mini-suburb below, their lights glowing.
Around the bottom where the dragon had hit, small fires burned. Sparks glowed all the way down the side of the cliff, and the dragon stood at the bottom of it. Light from the fires glinted on his black scales.
He stood on his hind legs, and was already half way up the cliff without any real effort. Roaring something that sounded like a command, he reached out with his front claws and began to climb.
Travis’ voice came over the comm. “Do what you can. Blue, hold back and rest while they try it, but be ready to get them out of trouble.”
I let the mech hang in air, considering the best way to dive, and asked Haley, “Are you comfortable with the controls?”
She laughed. “It’s a little late to ask now. But they’re a lot like the jet’s, so, I guess?”
“Good. I’m going to whip around toward his back. That way he won’t get a shot at us with his breath.”
Haley took a breath, and said, “I’m ready.”
The mech dove, rockets activating to give it speed. We turned and I could feel g-forces pulling on my body. Haley fired the laser in the mech’s head. A bright beam that neither of us could watch directly without risking blindness raked across the cliffside, shattering rock, leaving great gaps in the hill, and finally hitting the dragon.
He screamed as the beam hit, burning a hole in his wing on the way to hit his hide. Scales shattered, exploding, and falling to the ground.
The dragon let go of the cliff, writhing in pain, but even as Artaxus did that, he whipped his neck around, moving so much more quickly than I realized he could, breathing out fire that completely surrounded us.