Part 23

15

As Dolce`’s scream died down, a hot reeking breath blew the back of Alchemy’s blond hair. His heart beat faster, he lunged sideways, grabbing the woman as he dove for the ground. A heavy clawed paw covered in large gray scales landed inches from their rolling forms. An exploding rod blasted above them, the projectile hitting the ground beside the paw. A roar shattered the quiet of the hillside. As they came to a sudden stop against a large boulder, Dolce let out a soft cry of pain.

“Sorry about that,” Alchemy said as he pointed his wand at the monster above him. It towered many feet over the two Elves. Large dark gray scales covered most of its body. It stood on two legs, and looked down at them with hateful red eyes above a mouth full of huge sharp teeth. Its forepaws were little more than stubs, making almost comical grabbing motions. Its large leathery wings were spread in alarm as the Goblin on its back goaded it to press its attack.

“Burn!” Alchemy flicked the wand. The fireball shot out and bounced harmlessly off the monster’s chest. The Goblin astride it laughed.

The wyvern took a clumsy step forward, trying to pin the elves down under one of the massive feet it balanced so precariously on. The monster was made for flying, not walking. Distant cousins of dragons, Alchemy had heard from several reliable sources that they weren’t the most intelligent things around. When it tilted its head to get another snap at them, he saw a strange metal helmet on the thing that had reins running back to the Goblin. Maybe this was how the little green man controlled the great gray beast. As the monster went for them again, Alchemy pointed the wand at the reins. “Cut!”

Nothing happened.

The Goblin laughed. “It’s immune to your magic Elf.” The rider swung something around his head and tossed it toward the boulder where the Elves tried to shelter. A net flared out. Alchemy scrambled to his feet, but he wasn’t fast enough. As the net hit him he lost hold of his wand and it went sliding down the hill. Dolce` screamed again as they became entangled in the strong mesh that felt like some kind of thin metal. Alchemy could only assume it was Gnome made. The Goblin tied the end of a cord attached to the net onto the Wyvern’s saddle.

“Don’t struggle,” Alchemy told Dolce` as he pulled her to him. She only nodded into his chest as the creature hoisted them up into the air with labored wing beats. Alchemy tried to think of what they could do. His wand was gone. Her knife was gone. And his sword was back in the safety of the rocks where he and Staghorn had spent the night. He tried not to think about the Ursa lest tears begin again. He needed to be clear headed if he was going to find a way out of this for him and Dolce`.

***

The wyvern carried them around to the hill’s north face. The manticore colony was thickest there, and a large cave dominated the hillside. The nesting monsters fled the hill for the safety of the air. Below them, Alchemy saw hundreds of young manticores frantically calling for their parents, beating their tiny leathery wings in fear and alarm.

About a dozen Trolls stood just inside the cave entrance with large pikes and maces in their huge mottled-brown hands. Gaslights provided light further into the cavern as the wyvern carried them beyond the area where sunlight reached. The Trolls rushed to keep up with the flying monster and it captured prizes.

Above the clamor, Alchemy heard the Goblin trying to force his mount to land. He untied the cord to the metal net, and the two Elves fell the couple of feet to crash on the cavern’s hard stone floor.

“Are you alright my dear?” Alchemy asked as he started struggling to remove them from the net.

“What do they want with us?” she asked.

“I presume they’re going to take us to Doctor Gnome,” the wizard responded as a Troll pike stuck between the holes in the net, indicating they should be still.

The wyvern roared in anger. Trolls shouted. Goblins screamed. Heavy chains clanked as they brought the great flying lizard down to earth. Alchemy watched as they somehow got large chains attached to the strange helmet of the beast’s head before Trolls forcefully drug it down a shadowed corridor at the far end of the chamber.