“He’s alive!” I shrieked then opened my eyes.
I gasped and quickly slapped my hands over mouth. A second later, Jaiden’s joined mine. Fire suddenly shot above our heads and the dragon was suddenly staring at us, his long neck hovering over the remainder of the walls. Smoke poured from his nostrils, which were narrow and set above his mouth on the arch of his face. His mouth curved around his elongated face, but ended just before a row of deep blue spikes that ran down his neck. His eyes were mildly curious as he stared at me. Suddenly we were grabbed, faster than a beast that big should be able to move.
“So you are the annoying little freak that has been causing so much trouble,” Satan purred, holding us tightly.
“What do you want?” Jaiden demanded.
The dragon looked a little irritated and dropped the Human boy at his feet. He looked me over, turning this way and that. He snorted, and this time, cold air blasted out, tinting the air white with snowflakes. I shivered, and not from the cold.
He tilted his head. “You’re so young, but older than the pesky little worm that birthed Jesiah. So strange that some of the greatest hindrances to my plans have been females. You are the weaker sex, so you shouldn’t pose so much of a problem. I have many males on my side to force you into submission, but every time it looks like I’ve won, you females break what I have set down. And if it’s not females, it’s young people in general. Challenging the cultural prison—yes prison for sin and I direct most of it—and bringing to people’s attention that they could possibly be wrong about how they see the world.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I managed to say as he held me down. My thick braid was dangling behind my head, swinging with me as he move his hand, or whatever the clawed appendage was, back and forth to examine me.
“Show me your designs,” the dragon said in a bored tone of voice.
I frowned. What? Why in the world did he want to see my designs? I glanced over to see the battlefield. I squinted. Who was winning? There was a deep growl and the dragon snapped his teeth, bringing the sharp white spikes inches from my face. I swallowed.
“What goes on out there is none of your concern,” he spat, tossing me in the air and catching me. I yelped as I landed in his palm. “Your battle is with me. You chose it, not I. Now, show me your designs.”
There was a threat in that voice, so I brought them forth and he snorted out smoke and small flames again.
“Fascinating,” he said. “Your kind has always been pesky. The Son likes appearing to you.”
I decided to test something out. “You mean Jesiah?”
The dragon didn’t even flinch, but he changed from hot to cold in a second. “Bah, he is ridiculous, coming down to die for you worthless maggots. What could that possibly accomplish?”
“I could tell you, if you like,” I said, leaning back on my hands.
“You, a little pest, has figured it out?” he asked then tossed his head back and roared with laughter. “Well, little squishy, tell me.”
“He was the perfect sacrifice,” I said with a nod.
“Like the animals they used to sacrifice. Animals were good enough to keep the sins away. It would take one perfect physical being, and since that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, God came down in Human form, as Jesiah, to sacrifice Himself for those who repent of their sins and turn to Him. I mean, we can’t just sin all we like now, but we need to live like Jesiah did, which was perfectly, or strive to live like that anyway.”
I fell silent and the dragon stared at me, shock in his eyes. Suddenly he flung me down to where Jaiden was, and I landed hard. Jaiden helped me up and pressed something into my hand. It was an arrow with the scroll tied onto its shaft. I grabbed it and slunk over to the lowest point in the wall. The dragon was breathing fire into the air in his rage, so I slung my bow off my shoulder, seated the arrow on the string, aimed at where I thought was our allies were, and fired. Satan stomped behind me.
“What did you just fire out there, you wretched creature?” he screamed then his eyes searched Jaiden. “The scroll piece! You horrid beast! You rotten girl! Abomination! Half-made, sewn together combination of Elf and Human. A being against our Maker’s creation! How can you even follow him, especially so loyally? He doesn’t want you!”
“If He didn’t want me, why did He make me?” I asked.
“Why did He make the ones He isn’t going to save?” the dragon roared.
“I don’t have an answer for that,” I said quietly. “But He has to have a reason. He always has a reason.”
He growled. “So you’re telling me that my fall, my bringing with me a third of the stars of Heaven, was known to Him the whole time? Yet He still made me?”
“You know it was,” Jaiden said suddenly. “You’re just testing how much we know. And how much we’ve surmised.”
The dragon’s laughter rumbled in his chest. “Very good boy. But now that you have discovered my ruse, I’m going to have to kill both of you.”
“Before that, I have one question,” I said, looking the beast directly in the eye.
He hummed. “What?”
“Have you been in this little area since you took over the Humans?”
The dragon snorted fire again. “Yes. It was very tricky to get my body small enough to fit in here, so that was a feat in and of itself. You know something, Strangeling? I should really thank you. You’ve been releasing us from our bodies, making us spiritual beings again. We have been prevented from doing that to ourselves or each other.”
I noticed his tail moving closer to Jaiden. Grabbing my friend’s arm, I jerked him out of the way and drew my sword with the other hand. I brought the blade down on the blue underside of the appendage, and cut it clean through. The dragon’s roar was of pain this time, and Jaiden drew his own sword, though his hands were trembling slightly. Satan looked at us, rage plain in his eyes.
“Enough talk!” he growled. “Let’s end this.”
He turned, the rest of his long tail sweeping most of the inner walls down, and reared, breathing fire into the air. He thudded back onto his front feet and I thought how miraculous it was that the floor didn’t cave in and send us tumbling to our, at least Jaiden’s and my, deaths. The dragon began breathing fire again, this time at us. We ran underneath his belly to avoid it. Suddenly, he switched from hot to cold and snow began to cover the floor as he breathed out on it. Snow would be difficult to fight in.
“Come little Strangeling. You wanted a fight, now fight me,” Satan taunted.
“Big talk coming from such a little lizard,” I said without thinking.
There was another roar of anger, and Jaiden and I ran out from under him as he began stomping around trying to crush us. We struggled to get away from him in the foot of snow that he had laid down on the top of the building—well, actually it was the new top of the building, I thought as we got far enough away. I sheathed my sword and, as he turned to us, quickly got my bow ready and fired. It glanced off him. No. No way. He had armor? That wasn’t fair! How were we supposed to beat him?
“Fily,” Jaiden said quietly.
“Yes Jaiden?” I asked hollowly.
“We’re in trouble.”
“Yes. Yes we are.”
I put away my bow and drew my sword again, swallowing hard. There wasn’t really anywhere we could run. I closed my eyes. God? Help us. We can’t do this without you. I— I yelped as I was scooped up again.
“Don’t bother praying. He doesn’t love you. You’re a freak of nature, against His original design. What would he want with you?” Satan asked, lazily tossing me up and down to amuse himself.
My anger flared, and my designs, which had to have been fading at that point, tingled back to life. I had dropped my sword when he had abruptly picked me up. But I had my knife. I drew it, plunging it into his blue tinted wrist. He roared and jolted. I was thrown up high in the air and I gasped, too shocked to scream. I fell for what seemed like forever, but was suddenly caught in strong arms. I heard a strange noise as we landed and looked up into the face of Gabrithon. He smiled at me and set me on my feet. The dragon snorted fire and was staring at us.
“Centaur,” he said, then looked over to my other friends, who were pointing their weapons at him. “Elf boy! Tell me, how well did your wounds heal? Nolan had quite a bit of fun punishing you.”
“My wounds have healed fine,” Elthinor said with a nod, his eyes cold. “And all is forgiven between Nolan and me.”
Satan growled. “Forgiveness is overrated. I shall just kill you all. Now die!” he roared, spewing fire around and melting all the snow.
We scrambled away in all directions, leaping and ducking as the spray of flames followed first one then another of us. He cornered Gabrithon and was toying with him, bringing the fire closer then taking it away. When my Centaurian friend tried to run, the dragon would chase him back into the corner. I bristled and Elthinor caught my eye before I could do anything. He pointed at the dragon then touched his eye. I took out my bow, positioning myself quietly. The dragon blinked and I fired. He screamed, his voice rumbling as he stumbled backward. Gabrithon shot away, joining us where we all standing and breathing heavily; he was obviously scared. When he had lowered his clawed hand away from his face, I saw that I had hit my target. The mess from the popped eye was leaking down his cheek.
“Dratted girl!” he shouted, trying to ease his pain.
“Any ideas?” I asked.
“Cut off his head?” Pinnathir suggested.
“How? His body has armor on it.”
“Only the red scales,” Jaiden said softly. “You cut through the blue on his tail and on his wrist.”
I dashed forward onto the dragon’s belly and he snatched me up. I heard cries as Elthinor, Jaiden, and Valtrak leaped up and began slicing through the coarse, but weak, blue scaled belly. When Satan tried to stand up, Gabrithon and Pinnathir, who couldn’t climb up on him, sliced through the weak part of his feet. The dragon tumbled backward, releasing me as he tried to get my friends off of him.
I crawled up to the base of his long neck and plunged my sword into it. He roared and went for me, but Jaiden sliced through his wrist, and the hand fell down to the ground below. The red scales were only tough on the outside, I realized. I pressed the sword until it popped through the other side then began to cut through tough muscle. I bit my bottom lip and had only gotten a little way through when I was snatched up by the other hand.
“Wretched little thing! Abomination before God Most High!”
“I’m not an abomination!” I shrieked. “He loved me enough to die for me! He didn’t do that for you! So that would mean you’re the abomination!”
The dragon froze and I saw Jaiden run forward and, with a tremendous effort, manage to remove the head from the body. The eyes dimmed as the head fell to the ground and the hand released me. We all quickly got away from the body. I walked over to the edge of the building, stepping over what was left of the tail. As I watched, all the dark creatures began to disappear, popping and melting all over the place, until our side was all that was left. A touch to my shoulder had me turn to see Elthinor. His face was joyous.
“We won!” he said excitedly. “We won, Fily!”
I smiled and was about to reply when there was a loud crack. I looked down to see the side of the stronghold crumbling. My mind raced. There wasn’t enough time to move me. I was too far in. I stepped forward and shoved Elthinor as hard as I could. The floor beneath me crumbled as I saw Elthinor land safely away from the weak points. I didn’t scream as I fell, instead I closed my eyes. There was a crack against the back of my head then blackness.