The dragon rider breathed a sigh. Pirate patrol, she thought, would that she would give anything to be at the front. There was a name to be made there, and promotions. This was just empty sea. Miles and miles of empty sea stretching beneath the massive wings of her dragon.
She glanced across at her wing-man. He looked as bored as she did. She could feel the movement of the dragon’s powerful muscles flexing beneath the scales, keeping her airbourne.
Behind her, the distant coastline of the mainland remained visible as a dark line on the horizon, miles away. Closer to her flightpath, the sails of fishing vessels could be seen plying the waters, making a living for the fishermen who braved the waves. It is true that occasionally there would be pirates or perhaps an enemy ship out here. But today, the sea was empty.
They had been in the air some hours, and she knew that soon, the dragons would have to turn and make their way back to the stable, reaching their limit in endurance, and that moment wasn’t too far away.
Her dragon roared, as trained, when it spotted something.
She turned her head to look the way the dragon’s head now faced.
Smoke? There? There’s nothing further out to sea. Everyone knew the world had only the one continent. Maybe an enemy force?
She signaled her wing-man. As one, the two dragons banked, heading towards that smoke. As the waves disappeared beneath her dragon, she could begin to make out detail. There were three grouped sources of smoke on the horizon. She again signaled.
The dragons rose in the sky. She searched for a cloud bank or something she could use as cover to approach the smoke unseen by any watchers, but the sky remained unseasonably clear. She looked at her wingman as his dragon roared.
A dot in the sky. Big. Its turning.
We’ve been spotted, she thought, as she signaled her wing-man. She ordered him to investigate the smoke. She wanted a closer look at this airborne creature. Even at this distance, she could see it wasn’t a dragon. It moves more like a hawk in an updraft. It couldn’t be a hawk rider from Disheeba. There’s nowhere for it to land, and the Empire lies between us and them, a Thousand miles distant.
Her knees squeezed the scales on the dragon's neck, making the wings beat faster. She closed with that.. bird?
Details became apparent as she got closer. This was no hawk. It had fixed armoured wings and a tail, like that of a fish, upright behind it, and a second, smaller set of wings behind the first... what is this?
And then she heard it, and incessant droning noise like thousands of angry bees approaching. It was closing, fast. It had a bump in the centre of it, and a transparent shining something in the very front. The distance was getting smaller by the wing beat, but she couldn’t take her eyes off it. She was so mesmerized by the thing, she lost all sense of what she was doing. In the end, the dragon roared and rose in the air, narrowly avoiding a collision. She looked down as it passed beneath her. She could see it had a rider, behind a window of..glass? His eyes showed awe and wonder.
And the noise of it suddenly increased, and the creature began to climb to chase her.
It moves so strangely, she thought, how does it fly when the wings don’t move?
Suddenly, it broke off the chase, turned into a dive. The humming seemed to hit a fevered pitch, and it sped away from her. To the smoke.
Lt. Hendel, she thought, her turn to give chase, what have you done?
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