Izzy shot into the air, moving so quickly that she was nothing more than a blue blur. She hit the dragon’s wing at the joint where the small inner wing ended and the larger, triangular far end of its bat like wing began.
The bone made a crack that was audible to all of us below.
Izzy didn’t stop there. She followed it up with another punch that I didn’t see, but found its mark.
Artaxus stopped breathing fire and snapped at her, twisting his neck around. He failed to catch her. She’d shot upward again, hovering far above him.
It might be that she should have dived toward him to finish him off. It might be that he should have aimed a blast of fire upward at her.
Neither of those things happened because the dragon had begun to tumble.
Izzy had hit the wing on the right side, and the triangular section no longer caught the air as well. The wing bent upward, losing most of it. Meanwhile the downstroke of the uninjured wing twisted the dragon sideways, aiming it to the right.
That was good because it aimed Artaxus away from us, but very, very bad because it aimed him toward the crowd of Stapledon students now sleeping in the park.
Someone gasped, and it may have been me as the tumbling dragon flapped its wings uselessly, trying to level out and control its flight.
For one almost unbelievable moment, Artaxus appeared to have succeeded. The dragon had stretched out its wings as wide as possible, and it was no longer sinking. The broken wing was still slightly bent, but not as bent.
Could it be healing? I wasn’t sure.
A thought from Daniel appeared in my mind. Nope.
He was right even if he wasn’t bothering to explain why.
The dragon was drifting past the edge of the park, and inexperienced with dragons as I was, I thought it looked confused. It had turned its head to check the broken wing, and it appeared to be flexing it, but the wing wasn’t taut. The leathery flap ought to have been tightened by the wind–which meant that something else was keeping it up.
Artaxus gave his wings an experimental flap, managing to tilt sideways without changing direction or losing altitude.
It couldn’t be Daniel. He couldn’t hold more than a couple tons with his telekinesis. While that wasn’t exactly weak, the dragon likely weighed several times as much.
Near me, Camille grunted, and I recognized the obvious. She was keeping him up. I’d seen her in action against the Cabal. Unfortunately, Artaxus recognized the obvious too. He turned his head away from his broken wing, and barked out words in a language I didn’t recognize.
I recognized the effects though. Creatures appeared in the park. Some of them simply became visible. Others moved, and I realized that I’d mistaken them for small trees or stumps or vines. Goblins rushed out of the shops and dark areas in the park–which had become almost entirely dark except for the street lamps that should have illuminated more.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that they all went for us–the goblins’ spears glittering in the lamps’ light. Almost entirely small creatures, the rest melted into and out of the shadows, but their eyes glowed with reflected light.
Travis’ voice over my communicator cut through the fae’s shouts. “Everyone! Head in the game. We’ve got to get our people out of the park. Let’s get in one group. Toughest on the outside.”
We knew what he meant. Lee had had us practice variations on the Greek phalanx. Of course, it wasn’t exact. With us, the toughest fighters went on the outside, but the people on the inside were Vaughn, Sean, Camille, Samita, and Daniel.
Jaclyn, Amy, Cassie, Haley, Travis and I stood around the outside. Presumably we’d shield them with our bodies, and they’d shield us with their minds.
That left Rachel and Izzy outside the group altogether.
Ahead of us, the dragon bellowed something I didn’t understand, and the little people pulled out bows, nocked arrows, and began to fire.
None of them reached us. A gust of wind came up and blew them to the side.
From within the group, Camille groaned. I checked my HUD, finding her in my peripheral vision. Unlike my fear, she hadn’t taken a stray arrow. As I checked on her, she took a deep breath as if she’d been relieved of a great weight. Simultaneously, Cassie said, “Look at that!”
The dragon had gone entirely past the edge, and instantly began to drop. Artaxus’ wings did him no good, and he didn’t even try. He pulled them in as he dropped and hit the ground. The weight of his body shook the ground beneath my boots, and the answering bellow was not a cry of pain, but rage.
I had no doubt he’d be back even if he had to climb straight up the cliff. In fact I felt fairly sure we’d see him soon, but thanks to Izzy, he’d be walking.
Meanwhile, we were covering ground. Not wanting to waste bots, I found myself punching goblins, strange earthy-looking little people, and even a walking tree.
Between its entangling roots, and tough bark, I finally beat it with an assist from Sean. His steel ball bearings set it on fire.
After that I finished it with a punch that shattered its rapidly blackening trunk.
We made it across the road to the park only to find that we weren’t the only ones awake. Rod pulled himself out of the group of sleeping people. “They put everyone to sleep with a faerie drink. It didn’t have any effect on me. What’s the plan?”
Travis caught a stray arrow in his hand, eyeing Vaughn as he cracked it in two. Vaughn shrugged, but the winds didn’t falter.
“The plan,” Travis said, “is that Izzy runs interference with the dragon while we get people inside.”
“Izzy shouldn’t have to do that alone,” I said. “I can help, but I’ll need Haley.”
Haley whispered, “This isn’t a plan to get me out of danger, is it?”
I shook my helmet. “No. I need you to run the weapons. Think Catmecha.”