Type of Short Story: Novelette
Summary: The Iron Dragons: flying, steam-powered battleships. Used by knights to fight the dragons that dwell in the sky.
It was only a few moments before the ship and the beast engaged in combat. The dragon made the first move, lunging at the cockpit with its snout wide-open. Lily dove the Iron Dragon downward, just as the beast’s jaws snapped shut. Behind her she could hear a chorus of metallic clicks, as the archers fired off their crossbows. The beast howled in pain, as the barrage of arrows crashed into its body. Though most had merely bounced off the creature’s scaly hide, enough had struck his soft underbelly that Lily could see droplets of blood fall down onto the windshield of the cockpit.
“Try to aim for the wings.” Harding said. “Crippling it will be easier than killing it.” The archers silently agreed, and continued their assault.
For the next several minutes, the knights of the iron dragon engaged the winged monstrosity that threatened their countrymen. The twin serpentine forms twisted in the sky, shining silver and green in the sunlight. The two combatants would often get so close that they’d appear as a single half-flesh, half-metal double helix in the sky.
They would swoop, and smack into each other, denting the metal on the air ship, and cutting the flesh of the monster. Through the various windows of the craft, Lily and the others were given dozens of up-close glimpses of the beast’s increasingly bloody body. Its stench dominated the cabin, to the point that it was the only thing the knights could smell, besides the blood, and the smoke from the engine.
The creature’s roars and growls eclipsed all other sounds. The knights in the craft felt like they were really and truly in the belly of the beast. All other sensations and life experiences had been supplanted by this dragon. It occupied all senses, and only its death or theirs would free them from its grasp.
Throughout the ordeal, Lily found her mind bombarded by memories of the last time she’d seen a dragon. Her nostrils could faintly smell her sister’s burnt corpse, and hear her final death cries. Tiptoeing around the edges of these flashbacks was the paralyzing terror and fear that Lily had felt at the time, and the threat that it would take over again. But Lily resisted. Throughout the ordeal, she kept herself focused on the task at hand, expertly dodging the beast’s attacks, while flying in close to give the archers clear shots. There had been a few moments when she wasn’t able to push these emotions back, and she felt them overwhelm her. But when these moments came, she simply did what she’d done at all other such times; drown it out with blind, undiluted hatred.
As the fight went on, the wings of both combatants became riddled with holes and tears. Both now had to struggle to stay airborne, but neither was in any immediate danger of falling out of the sky. The fight would go on.