where there’s smoke

The demon rose from her shadow and plucked the arrow from the air moments before it would have hit her outermost magical shields.  The shaft broke in two as the massive hand in the darkness crushed the missile in its grip.  Then feathers and stone sharpened head followed the split shaft into oblivion as the demon swallowed the weapon into its depths.  While the sorceress had sensed the projectile coming towards her, and had no doubts that her own spells would have protected her from harm, she was still fascinated to finally get to see her guardian in action.

Pulling her gaze away from the demon, she followed the flight of the arrow to see if she could locate her attacker.  The celebrations were still swinging wildly around her and when no immediate threat showed itself she began to suppose it could have been an accident, a celebratory firing into the sky that went errant.  She didn’t actually think that was the case, but it had already been a strange day and wouldn’t discount any theories until she was certain what had happened.  She also wanted to make certain it had been a deliberate attack before she alerted the dragon to it, but sensing its presence in her mind she turned back to see the beast staring at her.

Its snout rose in a sneer and its voice filled her head, “Go find out if it was deliberate.”

She nodded in deference to the dragon’s request and went to find where the arrow had been fired from.  The demon, pulling free from her shadow again, stalked in front of her, sniffing the air to pinpoint the projectile’s path.

The King, noticing the sudden reversal of the dragon’s mood, while shying away from the tremendous amount of heat pouring off the beast’s scales, stammered, “Is everything alright?”

“I doubt it,” the dragon growled, digging its claws into the stone floor and tearing boulder sized chunks free with ease.

A small tendril of smoke escaped the beast’s maw and rose to collect in the domed ceiling of the grand hall.  The dragon had fit through their modified opening after it used its magic to shrink to a quarter of its normal size, which it had done only after circling the King’s castle four times so he, and all his citizens, could see its true form.  And, much as the sorceress had predicted, the King had fumbled over his words of greeting and deference until the dragon had shrunk to a more manageable size for his tiny brain to comprehend.  Even after the festivities had kicked off without a hitch, the King had continued to tremble and cower next to the might beast.  It had pleased the dragon greatly.

The whole day, up until it had felt the arrow’s vibrations cutting through the air as the projectile approached the witch, had pleased the dragon.  It had enjoyed stretching its wings for the flight down from its cave.  It had enjoyed feeling the fear wash over the citizens of the kingdom as it roared overhead.  It had relished the scents of the various dishes that had been cooked and served just for it and the glint of the sunlight casting rainbows around the jeweled offerings.  But then someone had fired an arrow at the witch…

The beast had sensed the witches hope that it had been an accident, but it knew better.  There had been too much velocity, and too much accuracy in the shot for it to have been anything but a direct attack.  The dragon knew what she would find, knew the archer’s death would be quick, if not painless, and knew how much he would enjoy razing this kingdom to ash in his wrath.  The fire swirling within the beast began to ratchet up to an inferno.

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