61 Farringdon Road, London, September 8th, 1915
The bomb rocked the buildings on Farringdon Road. Danny found himself lying face down on the walkway. Dust and screams filled the late evening air. A whistle sounded far above, another incoming gift from the Kaiser. He coughed, bowing his head, hands up to protect. The ground shook. Footsteps pounded.
Up, he told himself, but his body refused. “Up!” he said aloud and he found himself running to a building torn and battered, fire licking at its sides, his messenger satchel bouncing on his back. In the near dark, he stopped just inside what used to be the foyer. Fire consumed half the building. Low clouds reflected its eerie glow over the broken heap of timber and bricks before him.
“The zeppelins are here!” someone needlessly shouted. Muffled, as if it came from the other side of a large water trough.
With his good eye, Danny squinted into the shattered interior. A bloodied severed leg quivered. Something moved beneath it. He plunged into the debris, heedless of the flames, and threw the leg aside. More timber, a broken bed frame from the floor above. More bricks and pipes than Danny thought were possible. How tall was this building before the Germans bombed the shite out of it?
A hand grabbed at his arm. He grasped it back, his free hand still flinging debris aside. In a moment, someone’s head came clear, coughing and cursing like a sailor. Danny let go to push-off one last beam.
He reached down; arms linked under the person’s torso and heaved. They emerged in a bundle, each half supporting the other. Something crashed nearby. Smoke billowed. What was left above burned, raining flame and ash.
“Gotta get you out,” he said.
The person sputtered dust, flinging their long, dark hair aside and Danny saw it was a woman. One arm flopped useless against her side. The other clung to him for support.
He guided her out into the street. Sirens called. Someone approached them, asked if anyone else was in there. The woman shook her head, one side red, a flap of skin on her forehead exposed bone. She opened her mouth and said something.
A bomb screeched above. It detonated further away, but the earth trembled still. The person ran down the street. Danny hoped they were going to an air raid shelter, but wished the bloody fool had taken the woman with him.
Danny needed to search the other buildings, make sure no one else was trapped. He couldn’t let them burn.
“Ma’am, can you make it to the shelter by yourself?” he shouted above the siren. He could barely hear himself.
She said something, her mouth moving in exaggerated movements. He realized he couldn’t hear. She pressed her hands over his ears and they popped.
He scrunched his shoulders at the deafening sirens and pulled close to the woman, repeating his question. She placed her mouth near his ear and said, “Don’t worry about them. You need to come with me, Wyvern.”
Did he know her? He couldn’t place her, but she clung to him like a leech. It looked like he’d have to take her hospital himself.
“Wievern. Daniel Wievern, ma’am. Please come with me. I’ll get you to hospital.”
After which he knew he would put off delivering the sergeant’s letter to pick at the rubble for anyone he might be able to save.
* * *
A nurse snagged Danny by the arm before he made it out of the hospital. “Sir? Your mother is calling for you.”
“She’s not my mother. I can’t stay here.”
Fires burned. He had to save them.
“Come back as soon as you can? Just to check in,” she added, giving Danny a look meant to prick his guilt.
He nodded and left the nurse, pushing his way past the crowded waiting room. Outside was dark, bombs still fell, but distant enough that someone might think it was almost over for the night.
The second bloody blitz of the war and the Germans rained death from above in those damn zeppelins. He clenched his fists, staring at the wicked-pale orange clouds above, knowing he should be up there. The low drone of a Moraine-Saulneir buzzed overhead.
“Danny! You all right?” someone called.
It was his trench-mate, Jim. They used to call him Jimmy but after he lost his arm everyone started calling him Jim. The same blow that took Jim’s arm, took Danny’s left eye, but they didn’t change his name.
Danny reassured his friend he was fine. “Gotta run. People to save.”
“Leave it to the home guard. Sergeant wants your arse. Now.”
Danny grimaced. “Direct order?”
“Straight from his pie-hole: ‘Get that Wievern lout here before dark’.” Jimmy scanned the unnaturally bright night clouds. “Might be able to convince him it’s still day.” He gave Danny a half-smile and handed over his bike.
Danny swore under his breath and pedaled through the dark streets. He arrived breathless, leaned the bike against a tree and ran up the steps of the requisitioned royal post office. As he entered the wide foyer, the sergeant barked at a courier, handing him a bundle. The kid, who didn’t even look like he was past thirteen, darted from the room.
Danny caught sergeant’s eye. “Where the hell you’ve been, private? Did you deliver?”
Danny snapped to attention, saluted, then said, “No, sir. Bomb hit on Farringdon Road.”
“You look fine to me.”
“There was a woman—“
“Fuck me, Danny! How many times do I have to tell you? We’re not home guard. And you’re not on the front lines no more. You have one fucking mission!”
“Get the fuck out of here and deliver that letter or I’ll drop a bomb on your arse meself! And take these to Army Service Corps. They needed them two hours ago.”
Danny grabbed two small packages the sergeant indicated, saluted, and left. The bike was gone, so he stashed the packages in his messenger bag, crushing the letter, and started running back towards the ASC’s command post.
It was much darker now, though fires still burned and bombs still dropped from a clouded sky. From the ground, they could just make out the bloody dirigibles, like the golden finger of a god flinging sparks into a sea of fog.
Something burned in Danny. He wanted, no, needed to help. He couldn’t do nothing while the city burned. He saved that woman. She wouldn’t have made it out of there in time before the whole place turned into an inferno. He wanted to tear off his messenger bag, but he kept running, promising himself that he’ll ask for a transfer to home guard tomorrow morning, if not sooner. He kept a steady pace he learned as part of the British Expeditionary Force. Damn it, he was trained for more than delivering messages. He’d been in France since the start, back in August of 1914. Seemed like ages ago now. It only took once. He didn’t duck quickly enough and he lost his eye. They sent him back to London faster than you could roll a fag.
As he ran past the hospital, glancing up at the second story ward, he wondered if the woman was still there. He rounded a corner, turning on King’s Cross, and ran into someone. They clung to him, breaking his stride and forcing him to stop.
“Wyvern! You didn’t come back. Come with me.”
It was the woman. Her grip on his arm was like iron and she dragged him after her.
“It’s Wievern, ma’am, like a basket-weaver,” he said, yanking his arm from her grasp and stopping. “I can’t come with you. I’ve got to—“
“Save this city, boy. Which is what we are going to do.”
She snapped her fingers, and he thought he saw a spark. It flashed over her face, showing blood seeping through her head bandages. Her eyes were a stormy sea, and her hair had been pulled back. She was probably twice his age, late forties or so. And crazy.
He opened his mouth to say something, but shook his head. He wanted to go with her, help those he knew were trapped, but the sergeant’s orders…
Danny turned to leave, and broke into a trot. A few paces down the road, he ran into someone else. He took a step back when he realized it was the woman again.
“What? Did you— ? How— ?”
“No time to explain, Danny boy. It’s taken me ten years to find you. I’m not letting you out of my sight now.”
He sighed. The determination in the set of her frame told him he wasn’t getting rid of her anytime soon. “Fine. Come with me. I’ll finish what I got to do then you can explain all you want. Deal?”
She growled, but stood aside, allowing him to pass.
A year ago, he would’ve been shocked at a woman growling at him in the dark, but not anymore. Not after what he seen, and done, on the fields of Aisne.
* * *
The bombing raid was over, but fires burned throughout London. Streets were filled with the home guard and the fire brigade, mostly women, trying to put out one conflagration after another. Thrice, Blackwood, that was the woman’s name, had to pull him away from burning buildings after he’d stripped down to his woolen trousers and tramped through them looking for survivors. After the third one, she told him he had to stop, that he was needed further up the road.
“You said I needed to save this city,” he said, trying to loosen her iron grip.
“Not like this,” she answered, resolutely pulling him down the street towards the river Thames.
He finally dug his heels in, making her stop, though she still clung to him. She was the same height as him, medium build. Though he could think of a dozen ways to kill her, he couldn’t think of a respectable way to brush off someone her size.
“If not like this, how? Let go of me, you m–”
“Mad? Were you about to call me a mad woman? The whole world has gone mad, Danny. And it is time to put a stop to it. You can do it.”
“Stop this war.”
Danny barked a laugh. “Get it done by Christmas? Just like last year? And how am I, one single–” He paused. He was about to say ‘wounded’, but didn’t. “–soldier, supposed to end the war?”
She pointed up. “You’re going to take out the Zeppelins. All of ‘em.”
Danny couldn’t laugh anymore. He shook his head and turned to leave, pushing at her hand still firmly attached to his forearm.
“Ma’am, if you don’t let me go, I can’t be held responsible for any injury you may sustain.”
“I didn’t take you for a coward,” she said, the orange glow of a nearby fire glinting off her gray eyes.
Danny balled up his fists and she let go.
“What would your parents say to you leaving a woman alone in the streets? What would they say if they knew you didn’t even try?” she asked.
“I am trying. Besides, they’re dead,” he said, as he walked away.
To his back, she said, “You didn’t kill them.”
A hitch in his step slowed Danny for a second, but he kept on walking.
“It wasn’t your fault, Danny. Your parents were dead before the fire got to them.”
A group of women wearing wool knickers and scarves wrapped about their mouths pumped water into a house. Not the house on fire, that was lost, and anyone who might still be in it, but the one next to it. They were hoping to keep it from catching and setting off a blaze that would take out the entire street. The building’s residents, women with babes and a few elderly couples, stood scattered on the road ahead, all staring at the fire, faces dry and smudged with soot. Danny wondered if he wore their same lost look. The tears would come later, much later. At least, they had for Danny.
Over his shoulder, he said, “You knew them.”
Her quiet, close voice made him jump. She had moved to stand beside him, but she wasn’t staring at the fire.
“Does this have something to do with them?”
“It has everything to do with them, and you.”
Danny nodded, and when she moved, he followed.
* * *
Temple Church stood south, just off the Strand, filling Danny’s view, its high arched frame reaching for a nameless god. The round bit on the top was dark. No lights burned to highlight the domed, copper top nor shone through the stained glass mosaics on the tower.
They went round back and Blackwood knocked on a door. It seemed no one slept in London that night for someone opened the door immediately. A boy, maybe ten or so, looked up at them.
“Nurse Keat?” he asked.
Blackwood nodded, and the boy waved them in.
Danny frowned. Was she lying?
The boy moved down a narrow hall, talking over his shoulder the entire time. “Most of the wounded were taken to the hospital, but three of ‘em they didn’t want to move. We put them up in the rectory. Plenty of space in there. The deacon said they can stay as long as needed, but he can’t attend to them himself. He doesn’t have that kind of learning, he says. And seeing as all the nuns are busy administering aid in people’s homes, he said he just couldn’t bear to add to these folks’ suffering by adding his inexperienced hand. He decided he would pray to God to ease their suffering instead.” The boy prattled on, either to explain the deacon’s cowardice at touching burned victims, or to calm his own nerves, Danny couldn’t tell.
When they entered the room, Danny was surprised at how strong the smell was. Charred flesh made his stomach turn in a way he didn’t want to think about. It had always been that way, but he had never given it much thought.
Blackwood hissed at the boy to bring water and clean rags. He scampered off and she went directly to the worst burned. One side of her face sunken and falling off, like a candle that had been placed too close to one side of a hot stove. All her hair had been singed off; her scalp looked mottled, as if mold drew out unknown continents.
She was unconscious, which couldn’t be said of the other two unfortunates, moaning and sobbing. They weren’t as bad off, and one even looked like they had no burns at all.
“Quick,” Blackwood said, “before the boy comes back.”
Danny came close and hovered by her side, unsure what to do.
“Should I go get another nurse?” he said.
“No,” she said. Holding up her palms an inch from his face, she added, “Lick ‘em.”
“You heard me. I need your saliva. My magic’s not strong enough for this one.”
“And what’s my saliva got to do with it?” Danny said. And why had he followed this woman?
She gave him a sad and desperate look. “Did your mother not tell you anything?”
Blackwood cupped her hands and held them at his chest.
“Okay, just spit.”
His lips pressed together and he frowned at her.
“Just do it! He’ll be back soon then I’ll have to kill the boy if he sees what we’ve done.”
A patter of footsteps sounded far off, but was getting closer. Danny glanced over his shoulder, then did as Blackwood wanted. A big, wet glob splattered over her palms. The hunger the burned flesh awoke in him had given him plenty to expunge.
She danced around a bit, careful not to lose any. He wiped the corner of his mouth, as Blackwood rubbed her hands together and started chanting. He thought it sounded French, Gaelic, and something else all at once.
Blackwood bent to slather her hands over the melted woman’s face, neck, and shoulders.
Danny gasped and took a step back, staring at Blackwood’s hands as they continued to pass over the woman’s face as it transformed from a ruined mass of flesh to something whole and healed.
“Bloody hell!” he blurted.
“We will have no such language here, son,” a voice from the door said.
Blackwood moved to block what she did from view and Danny spun to face a man dressed in a tweed jacket.
“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not accustomed…I didn’t know…”
“It’s all right, son. But don’t make a habit of it. Blackwood, is that you? What are you doing?”
She moved away, clasping her hands behind her back.
“Attending to your patient, Deacon Marshall. The one you wouldn’t touch.”
The wounded woman’s head was covered in white, neat bandages with openings for her eyes, nose and mouth. Danny wondered how Blackwood had done it so quickly.
“Who sent you?” the deacon said. “Are they so desperate they’ve resorted to enlisting the help of people like you?”
He pushed past Danny to stand near the cot. Blackwood sneered at him, but said nothing. The deacon visually inspected the woman while the boy brought in the supplies Blackwood had asked for. Blackwood busied herself with attending to the other burned victim’s wounds, but she kicked Danny in the shins as she did so, indicating with her eyes that he should spit in the bucket of water.
“Well, she seems to be breathing a bit better now. Thank you, Blackwood,” the Deacon Marshall conceded with a nod. ”It seems you’ve been to the infirmary yourself this evening.”
“Yeah,” she said, “Me and half of bloody London.”
The deacon scowled at her, but ignored her blatant jibe. He concentrated on the other burn victim and Danny took the opportunity to spit into the bucket. He didn’t understand it, but he’d be damned not to offer relief to those he could help.
“There may be more coming,” the Deacon Marshall said. “They only sent you?”
“I’ve got my assistant,” Blackwood said, nodding to Danny.
The deacon snorted. “I don’t mean to be blunt, but he’s not doing anything.”
It was Danny’s turn to scowl.
“Doesn’t need to do much. He’s Dragonblood.”
“I have no idea what she’s talking about, sir. I’m here…well, I don’t right know why I’m here, but I’m here to help anyway I can.” He held out his right hand. “Private Daniel Wievern at your service, sir.”
Deacon Marshall raised an eyebrow at him and clasped his hands behind his back.
“No, sir. Wievern, like weaver, but with an ‘n’.”
“Interesting,” he said, giving Blackwood a knowing eye. As if Danny wasn’t standing in front of them, he bent closer to Blackwood and said, “Does he know what that means?”
“Sorry, sir?” Danny interjected at the same time Blackwood said, “As ignorant as you were ten years ago, deacon.”
The deacon’s eyes widened and his cheeks reddened. “Well, I won’t have it, Blackwood. You take your black magic somewhere else. I’ll not have you defile sacred ground.”
“I’m not planning to,” she said, then gestured to the man she administered to. Already the skin about his burnt forearms looked whole, raw and pink, but whole. Not the blackened, angry red welts they were before Blackwood gently washed them with the water Danny had spat in. “And if you haven’t noticed, we are helping.”
The deacon narrowed his eyes at her. “What is it you want?”
She gave him a grin with no mirth in it. “It’s not what I want, deacon, but what this city needs.”
* * *
“Stop fidgeting,” Blackwood said.
“What else should I be doing?” Danny asked.
“Do as I told you. Keep watch. Make sure no one disturbs me. We only have one chance at this.”
Danny stared up at the dark sky and wanted to run. He stood just under the Temple Bar Griffin. A dragon, really, but everyone called it a griffin. His eyes focused on the faint cloud-glow on the dragon’s raised claws.
The bronze dragon stood atop a tall, ornate, and rectangular base, maybe thirty or forty feet high. Each long side had an alcove, housing a statue of Queen Victoria on one side, and the Prince of Wales on the other. The short ends had bronze reliefs commemorating some royal celebration Danny couldn’t give a fig about that night. The dragon atop held a scroll in its front claws, its wings held aloft, barbed tail snapping out to the sky like a whip. The dragon itself wasn’t that big. Maybe the size of a large horse. Hard to tell in the dark. Danny had passed it numerous times, going about delivering messages, but had never paid much attention to the site of Temple Bar, one of the old city’s gate boundaries. The dragons were part of the city’s coat of arms, signifying the frightful protection the creatures would bestow on the great City of London. This wasn’t the only one. Twelve more surrounded the old city, but Danny knew this one was different. Unique or not, fat lot of good the ancient boundary markers did London now, he thought.
He couldn’t believe Deacon Marshall so easily gave Blackwood what she wanted even after she fixed, literally fixed, the last man’s broken leg, but he supposed she deserved it. But the deacon had handed over the city’s keys as if he handled them like a normal pair of slippers. It didn’t sit right with Danny.
Fuckin’ hell, he thought, the night couldn’t get any stranger.
“Are you keeping watch?”
Danny jumped and looked one way down the Strand, then the other way down Fleet. All the buildings here had been spared from the night’s blitz, and no one roamed at this time of night. If he and Blackwood stay out much longer, they’d be greeting the early morning crowd soon. He pinched his eyes shut, then re-opened them, snapping his head to one side. It made him a little dizzy, but it also awoke his senses. He breathed in deep, and felt a pressure on his chest.
“Is it getting hot?” he asked, trying to keep his voice at a steady whisper, but panic crept in, making his last word louder than he had wanted.
He walked around to the other side of the dragon’s base. Blackwood stood facing him and the dragon above, her eyes closed, her mouth moving. She held the foot-long, gilded city key in front of her like a staff, both hands wrapped about it.
Danny clutched at his chest. He was having a hard time breathing. Metal scraped on stone above him, dusting him with a dry, fine mist. He wanted to look up, see what was happening above him, but his head felt as heavy as a sack of coal. He thought his neck would break. He leaned against the dragon’s pedestal.
“Something…wrong…” he tried, but a sharp pain rent through him. A cry escaped his lips and the world went dark.
When he opened his eyes, his back and stomach muscles felt as if they worked. Something brushed against his sides and he angled his head to see a heavy leather drape. He looked down at Blackwood, a grin so wide on her face he thought it would permanently stay that way, like his mother used to tell him when he made a funny face.
He opened his mouth to say something, but only a straggled cough came out and a whiff of smoke. He looked down his snout past the ridges of scales, trying to focus on his flared nostrils. Then realized he had a snout.
He backed up a step, his hind legs fell through air. With his fore-claws, he grabbed hold of the stone pedestal beneath him, gouging the ornate structure, desperately trying to break his fall. The leather drapes continued to buffet the wind above him and he wanted to scream at whoever the cheeky bastard was.
“Wyvern!” Blackwood called.
Danny took in a deep breath, fire broiling in his belly and chest.
“You won’t fall, Wyvern. You’re a dragon. And dragons have wings, remember?” Blackwood said.
Danny thought he heard mock in her voice. He narrowed his eyes and her face came in sharp focus. He could see every pore on her face, and the pull and release of the rods and cones in her eyes. He thought, if he tried, he could probably see into her brain.
What had she done? Was he a dragon?
He swung his long neck to one side and, indeed, he did have wings.
And he could see – out of both eyes.
A pressure built in his chest and he let out a roar, fire and smoke belching forth like a fountain.
“Don’t get too excited,” Blackwood continued. “Why don’t you try out those wings?”
Danny didn’t need any encouragement. He flexed his back muscles and drove his wings down in a great heap, at the same time pushing off the pedestal. He bumped into the top of an adjacent building, blocks tumbling, but he righted himself and climbed higher and higher. So high, he could feel the fine mist of the clouds condense on his scales, making him heavy and cold. He shivered, shedding water. He looked down and saw a dark London split by the winding river Thames. To the west, the glow of the remaining fires marked the zeppelin’s route that night. To the east, the city’s low buildings looked as if they cowered in the dark, happy that on this night, they had been spared. Far beyond the rolling hills, he could see the glint of waves on the dark sea.
He looked straight down, and realized he had moved quite a bit down the river. He banked to the left, his dragon body knowing what to do. If he didn’t think about it too much, it did the right thing. If he tried to work it out, his wings got out of sync and he wobbled in the air.
With a deftness he didn’t feel, he alighted back onto the pedestal and looked down at Blackwood. She looked so small. And human. His belly rumbled with a familiarity he didn’t want to think about.
“We must make haste, Wyvern. That body will demand food soon and we can’t have you flying around during the day, they’ll set the Royal Flying Corps on you. Now, do you think you can handle our weight?”
Danny cocked his long head at her. She gestured for him to come down into the square before the statue’s pedestal. He did, and noticed his body, his human body, sat slumped against the stone. He thought he looked smaller and far less intimidating than what he had always imagined. He snorted smoke, hoping that was only because he was currently knocked out cold at Temple Bar.
Blackwood strode over to his body, the human one, and positioned herself behind him, hooking her arms beneath his and hoisting him until his back rested on her chest. She then backed towards Danny, the dragon, dragging Danny’s human body over to him.
He had so many questions, but they jumbled in his head and he had no way to ask them. He could only hope Blackwood had a plan. She seemed to have one so far, so he decided to trust her.
She gestured for him to help. He lowered himself to a crouch. With a grunt, she managed to drape his human body over his back. She climbed aboard; using his scaled knee has a step-stool. He could feel her arranging his body and herself on his back. When she settled and patted the back of his long neck, he stood and tested the weight. It was too much, but he’d be damned if he left his body in the streets of London.
With a belch of fire, he leapt into the air, his wings beating frantically, neck straining forward until he reached the sky above the buildings. His beats slowed, but he still took great sweeps until he reached a height where he could glide over the burning streets of the city.
* * *
Danny woke to the stench of iron blood and sulfur, and the taste of raw meat and brimstone on his tongue. With his gaze, he traced the long, thick timbers that held up the barn’s roof. The events of the previous night played over in his head and he scowled. Passing his tongue over his furry teeth, he wondered if this is how crazy people felt; satisfied? With a sense of well-being he hadn’t felt since his parents died? Like he hadn’t lived till he felt his wings beating a steady, mile-eating rhythm?
He signed and propped himself up on his elbows in the bed of hay he had slept in. His gaze passed over Blackwood’s form, under a blanket and still asleep, over the half eaten carcass of a cow, and then settled on a bronzed dragon curled up next to the cow. The dragon’s tail was wrapped about its frame and its wings were tucked neatly over its back. And it lay there as still as a statue.
Danny stared at it for a long time.
“He’s impressive, isn’t he?”
A shivered passed through Danny. “Yes.”
“And I’m impressed you figured out how to get back into your body. Do you think you can take over his again without my help?”
Danny glanced over at Blackwood. She had sat up, and was stretching her arms above her head. His gaze settled on her breasts and he wondered what it would be like to have her straddling him in a different position than last night. He coughed and brought his attention back to the dragon.
“Can I?” he asked.
“Well, you managed to get back into your body, didn’t ya?”
Danny shrugged. He wasn’t aware when he had left the dragon’s body. It must have happened while both bodies slept.
“What am I?”
“You haven’t figured that out yet? You’re Wyvern.”
“What’s a Wyvern?”
“That’s your name, Danny. Not Wievern. Someone got that wrong at the orphanage. And it’s the reason it has taken me so long to find you.” She snorted. “You’d think I would have figured that out sooner.”
He turned towards her and caught her in a yawn. She gave him a coy smile, then said, “But I have. That’s all that matters now. We’ll have you in fighter-shape before the Germans can send in their bloody zeppelins. Won’t they be surprised to see you!” She barked a laugh and slapped her thigh, then stood up.
“But what am I?”
Her smile turned sad. “Dragonblood, Danny. Your people have Dragonblood in you. Either your mother’s or father’s line, I’m not sure which. They were murdered before I could find them.”
Danny’s blood ran cold. “Murdered? I thought–”
“That you did it?”
“I started the fire. That night. It was me. I was playing with fire. My father had told me—“
“Did you mother encourage it?”
Danny shrugged. “I started the fire.”
“It wasn’t you.”
His jaw clenched and unclenched. He looked at his boots. “How can you be so sure?”
“Have you ever been burned?”
Danny had always been attracted to fire and hot things. He used to hug his mother’s stove while she rubbed his head. It was such a comfort. When his father would catch them, he’d scream at ma, saying she was the worst mother. She would always laugh, showing him that Danny was fine. And he was. Always had been. Fire couldn’t touch his skin, and the heat just made him feel…right.
“As long as you’re alive,” Blackwood continued, “the Dragonblood in your veins make you impervious to fire and heat. Whomever of your parents were of Dragonblood, they wouldn’t have burned in the fire you started unless they were already dead.”
“They were murdered,” he said, a shiver passed through him, leaving his heart like stone.
“And you would have been, too, had ya been in the house in bed like you should have been.”
Danny blushed, and immediately wondered why. He let it pass, then said, “Who.”
“Assassins. The Kaiser’s men knew your kind were still around, and they planned to get rid of you all before the war broke out. Or maybe they were just killing you off because they couldn’t stand that we had an advantage.” She shrugged. “It is not much of an advantage. Your kind defend our boundaries. Can’t leave the kingdom, and you’re strongest within the city of London.” She indicated towards the dragon. “You two will not last long away from the city.”
Danny wanted to take to the air and rain fire on the world. All these years he had thought it was his fault, that he had killed his parents. He got up, brushing hay from his clothes. He tried to keep his voice calm. “Where are we?”
“Not far. Just on the other side of Temple. Danny, we can wait—“
“What happens now?” he asked. He didn’t want to wait any longer.
She went over to the still-as-death dragon and patted the sharp scales on its head. “Practice.”
* * *
That night, the Wyvern banked around the dark edge of a tall, roiling cloud. Three zeppelins droned ahead, churning a line in the sky as straight as an arrow towards London.
They hung in the air like bloated, grotesquely enlarged ticks; over six hundred feet long, and fatter than any sea monster the Wyvern had seen. Moonlight gleamed on its great sides, an alternate dull silver and matte black as it bored through a cluster of clouds.
The nearer they got to the city’s boundaries, the stronger the Wyvern’s wings beat the air. His chest swollen with unspent fire, he stayed a few miles back, watching as the small pilots tried their best to shoot the zeppelins out of the sky with their tiny stings. Their bullets did nothing but puncture the hides within the zeppelin’s aluminum shells; the leaks too small to make a difference.
A plane buzzed over his right shoulder and he felt the sting of bullets scrape over his thick scales. The Wyvern roared, more at the shock than the pain. He flew under the plane, getting out of pilot’s range. They danced in the sky; the Wyvern matching the pilot’s every move. Together they approached the rear-most zeppelin and the pilot shifted from trying to shoot the Wyvern to shooting the zeppelin. The pilot tried to keep his bullets focused on one spot, but when he feared a crash, he peeled off.
The Wyvern dove forward. His claws clung to the zeppelin’s shell, gouging deep scars along its side until his body caught on a support beam. Peeling back a sheet, he peered within. A hydrogen filled bladder hung beneath.
His belly rumbled, like a mountainside rolling across the land. Reaching in, he punctured the balloon and spewed a gout of fire as hot as the sun.
The zeppelin shook with the Wyvern’s rage.
Flames roared and licked into the night sky, setting the nearest clouds aglow. A succession of blasts shuddered through the Kaiser’s beast held between the Wyvern claws. As the aluminum frame melted, the dragon launched into the sky.
Men screamed as the ruined carcass glittered with golden flames and shifted down to the green fields surrounding London.
The pilot who had attacked the Wyvern drew abreast with his buzzing metallic beast. The man’s fist pumped the air, then he sped forward towards the other zeppelin, waving the Wyvern forward, and Danny followed.
* * THE END * *
Author’s Note: I wrote this for my newest anthology, Wars To End All Wars, in case we didn’t get enough stories. But we did, and my story didn’t fit in well with all the others we chose. So, here it is just for you! I hope you liked it. If so, please consider buying Wars To End Wall Wars. First year’s proceeds will go to Doctors Without Borders.