Brittney had just fallen into a fitful sleep when she heard a loud thump, as if something heavy had just dropped right next to her in the dark. With a small shriek that she managed to suppress, Brittney’s first thought was that there was a large rat on the floor. This made her cringe in horror, but then she heard wings flapping and felt some relief, thinking that it was only a bat. But when a small jet of flame, accompanied by a long string of words, came next, it was all Brittney could do to keep herself from fainting in fright.
“Who are you, and what do you want?” She asked coldly, fearing lest it be yet another trick by Thorac to keep her and her brother from even getting sleep.
The creature let out another string of words. Brittney thought at first that it was speaking another language, but when it did the same words over again, she realized that it was speaking English, but very quickly.
“Slow down!” She exclaimed in exasperation.
The creature did its best, and Brittney finally heard the sentences more distinctly. “I’mafriend,andI’mheretohelpyou. Don’tbeafraid. I’msorrythatItalkreallyfast,butIcan’ttalkin anyotherway. MynameisPrickleandI’maracerdragon.”
Brittney relaxed. So it wasn’t a trick. “You’re here to help me?” She asked.
The dragon nodded.
“Alright. Listen very carefully to what I have to say: are you paying attention?”
The dragon nodded.
“My brother and I are being held hostage by my father’s greatest enemy, Thorac. You’ve probably never heard of him before, but I’m pretty sure that you’ll recognize the name of his dragon: Thorn the Terrible.”
Prickle hissed loudly and an angry jet of flame burst from his mouth, lighting up the prison cell for a moment and allowing Brittney to see the how little her rescuer was.
“I thought you might know him. Now, before I go on, let me explain why my father and Thorac are enemies. My grandfather was the king of all these islands and everyone who lived on them. Once, while he was on a sea voyage, he found Thorac alone in the middle of an abandoned village. He brought him home out of pity and raised him as his own son. This was three years after grandmother had given birth to my father, and of course father would become the rightful heir to the throne. My father and Thorac grew up together, played together, and laughed together.
“Finally my grandfather died. Of course, he left his kingdom to my father, not Thorac, since he was his blood son, and heir by birth. This caused Thorac to leave the kingdom in a rage, promising my father revenge someday. My father thought that he would forget and forgive over time, and for a while, he seemed to have merely disappeared off the face of the earth.
“However, unbeknownst to my father he was merely biding his time, nursing his hate, and eventually carrying out his plan of revenge: namely kidnapping my brother and me and asking for a ransom of 50,000 gold coins. If my father was unable to pay within a week, Thorac gave him the choice of either having Patrick killed, or agreeing to let him make me his wife.”
Brittney finished the history with a shudder of horror, and Prickle let out another jet of flame, agreeing with Brittney that Thorac was a terrible person.
Brittney recovered, asking the dragon, “So how do you intend to free my brother and me? You are so small…”
Prickle chuckled. “Iamnotyouronlyrescuer, therearefourotherdragonsheretohelpyouas wellasahuman. TheyareallwaitingoutsideformetoreportthatIhavefoundyou. Thenwewillbegin ourplanofrescue.” He repeated this again when Brittney gave him a confused look.
Her face cleared after that and she replied. “Oh, that’s wonderful. Go and report to them, but don’t forget to tell them about Thorac and his fiend of a dragon, Thorn the Terrible. They’re both inside the castle right now, and I would so hate for any of your friends to be hurt or killed for my sake.”
Prickle nodded, and looked as if he was going to fly out the window. Then, suddenly, an idea occurred to him. He looked at the sleeping form of Brittney’s brother, Patrick and tilted his head to one side as was his habit whenever he was thinking seriously.
“Icouldtakeyourbrotherwithme.” Prickle said after considering him for a moment.
“What?” Brittney asked. Prickle repeated his idea. Brittney’s face lighted up. “Oh, could you? I would feel so much better if I knew at least my brother was safe! Do you think you could both fit through the window?”
“Ithinkso, itsbiggeruptherethanitlooksfromdownhere.” Prickle assured her.
“I’ll wake him up and explain things. The sooner you are out of here, the better and the safer for all of us and your friends.” Brittney replied briskly as she gently shook her brother.
Patrick opened his eyes sleepily, but when he saw the dragon his eyes widened. Brittney explained their plan in a hushed whisper, and as soon as he realized what was going on, Patrick readily agreed to accompany the dragon to safety.
Soon, Patrick was situated on the dragon’s back and Prickle prepared himself for takeoff. It was hard for him to fly with the boy’s weight, but somehow he managed, and the two of them disappeared through the window.
Brittney let out a sigh, suddenly realizing that she would be lonely without her brother there, and found that she had felt more comforted in his presence than now, when she was all alone.
Thomas kept his eyes on the castle all the time while Prickle remained inside. After about half an hour of waiting, his vigil was rewarded by the sight of Prickle, carrying something heavy on his back, flying towards them.
Quickly, Thomas alerted his friend, and Thistle woke the other dragons, who had fallen asleep, exhausted from the day’s excursion. They all watched the little dragon eagerly as he approached them.
“Ihaveaboy, andamessagetodelivertoallofyou!” Prickle began, landing next to Thomas and dumping Patrick unceremoniously on the ground next to him. In as little time as possible, Prickle explained who their unknown friends were and how they had come to be in this deep trouble.
Thomas’s face grew dark with anger as Prickle told him the harsh cruelties the two siblings endured in the hands of Thorac. The dragons were all hissing their disapproval, and all of their eyes glowed dangerously.
Once Prickle had finished, Thomas took command. “We have to free the girl.” He exclaimed.
“But how?” Thistle asked.
“Surprise is our advantage right now, and according to Prickle, we outnumber our foes six to two.”
“Thou hast forgotten how clever and powerful Thorn the Terrible is my friend.” Nettle replied. “I have seen what he can do to a mighty kingdom.” Her eyes welled up with unshed tears. “His power is worth at least three treasure dragons, and if his master, Thorac, is able to control him, his power must be greater still.”
There was a moment of silence. Thomas sighed.
Patrick turned to Thomas and looked up at him with tears of disappointment in his eyes. “You can’t help us then?”
Thomas’s eyes flashed, and his jaw set in grim determination. He placed a hand on Patrick’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. We’ll get your sister back home, no matter what it takes.”
Thistle nodded in agreement, and one by one, all the dragons joined him. They would get the prisoner out, or die trying.
Once the decision had been made, Thomas and the dragons came up with a strategy. It would be impossible to enter the fortress without being spotted if they flew in, but that seemed to be the only choice.
“We’ll just have to fly in ready to fight.” Thomas said finally. “Make sure we’re ready before we go. However, we can’t bring Patrick into the fortress with us, and he certainly can’t stay out here alone…that means a dragon has to stay out here with him.”
All the dragons avoided eye contact, none of them wanted to stay out of the action. Thistle whispered something in Thomas’s ear, and he nodded with a pleased smile.
“Nettle, Thistle says that he promised to keep you safe, so you will stay outside with Patrick.” Nettle began to protest, but Thomas stopped her. “Someone has too, Nettle. And it isn’t like you’re not helping.”
Nettle hung her head, but slowly nodded. “Alright Thomas. I shall stay with Patrick.”
As silently as possible, the other dragons took off. It didn’t take them long to fly over the walls, but they met Thorn almost immediately.
Thomas had never seen Thorn the Terrible before, and he was just as horrible as the stories portrayed him. He was a giant compared to Thistle, and although Brier and Bramble were bigger than Thistle, even they were small in comparison to Thorn. He turned on them suddenly, his eyes glowing red in the night, and Thomas was barely saved from being burnt to a cinder when Thistle covered him with his wing just in time.
Now the fight was on. Thorn showed amazing agility for a dragon of his size, and even though he was vastly outnumbered, he fought with power and confidence.
Bramble, Brier, and Thistle circled the huge dragon carefully, looking for any points of weakness. Prickle found one, but it was by a complete accident that he did. He was flying in circles above Thorn, (much to the dragon’s annoyance), and breathing occasional spurts of flame. One of these went into Thorn’s eye, and with a roar of anger and pain, Thorn clawed at the little dragon.
Prickle barely managed to dodge his anger by ducking behind one of the bigger dragons. Thorn turned his anger on the other dragons. He breathed continual fire on them all, and Thomas almost suffocated from it.
With a last effort, Thomas took an arrow from his quiver, laid it to his bow, forced his stinging eyes to find the target and his trembling hands to steady themselves, and let his arrow fly. It landed straight and true, deep in the left eye of Thorn the dragon.
Taking a deep breath to calm his excitement, Thomas quickly let fly another arrow, but this one missed, and he hurriedly fired another. This one also found its mark and Thorn was blind.
He roared again, louder and in greater anger and pain, but now he was helpless. Thomas let fly one last arrow, and the dragon who had so long terrorized the islands breathed his last, feeble breath of flame.
Thorn the Terrible died.
Unfortunately, the exhausted dragons and human had no time to rest, for coming down the passage was Thorac himself, awakened by Thorn’s last roar of rage.
He stopped at the bottom of the staircase he had been running down and stared at the strange assembly before him. Bramble and Brier were limping from wounds afflicted by the dragon, and Thistle and Thomas were standing in obvious exhaustion. Prickle, cowering behind Brier, was trembling in fear.
Slowly, Thorac’s smooth smile spread itself back across his face. “You killed my dragon.” He said calmly. “Congratulations.”
Thomas was taken aback at Thorac’s self-assurance, but he steeled his nerves and replied. “We’re here for your prisoner.”
“You mean prisoners.” Thorac corrected. “I have two... a girl and her brother.”
Thomas suddenly smiled. “Actually, you only have one prisoner now, although not for long. The boy escaped.”
Thorac forgot himself for a moment and gaped at Thomas. “B-but…” He spluttered. “How could he escape?” He quickly covered up his amazement with irony. “I don’t suppose he flew out the window?”
“Yes.” Thomas replied seriously. “He did fly out the window.”
Thorac was incredulous. “He flew out the window?” He paused, studying Thomas’s face carefully. “You must be joking.”
“I’m not.” Thomas replied briskly, getting back to the point. “Now please, hand over the girl.”
Thorac’s easy smile took over his expression again. “Do you really think it’s going to be that easy?” He asked.
Thomas shook his head, bracing himself for the fight he was sure would follow Thorac’s next statement.
Sure enough, fire leaped to Thorac’s eyes, and his smile disappeared. “You have to fight me first.” He said angrily, pulling out a sword.
Thomas took his own out, given to him by Thistle just that evening before they flew to the island. It glimmered in the early morning light and Thomas felt more secure knowing that it was within his grasp.
“Bramble, Brier, look for the girl while I keep him occupied. Thistle and Prickle will be here with me in case… well, in case something happens.” He whispered.
Bramble nodded knowingly, and Brier surprised him by having tears in her eyes.
“You will be careful, Thomasss?” She asked softly. He nodded. “Good luck.”
Thomas grinned. “Thanks Brier.” He turned back to his opponent who had been pacing up and down impatiently. Bramble and Brier disappeared.
“Are you ready?” Thorac asked, his eyes lighting up maliciously, “Or are you afraid?”
Thomas felt his anger rising, but he forced himself to calm down. “Yes, I’m ready, but no, I’m not afraid of you or what you might do to me.”
Thorac rushed at him. Thomas wasn’t ready for the sudden attack and barely brought his own sword up to block the Thorac’s thrust. The fight continued, but Thomas found himself getting stronger as he fought, then weaker. His sword seemed to move on its own as he parried and thrust, forcing Thorac further and further away from his friends. Thorac grew more and more vicious, and his fighting became wilder in his anger. Thomas was feeling his exhaustion creep into his arms, and he fought harder, realizing that he would have to win before his strength gave out.
“Getting tired are we?” Thorac snarled.
Thomas ignored his opponent’s comment and continued fighting; grimly he knew his strength was giving out quickly…it wouldn’t be long before it was gone.
Suddenly, from behind him, a young boy’s voice spoke. “Let me fight him!”
“Patrick!” Thomas gasped out, breathing heavily. “Get back! You’re going to get hurt!”
“No, I won’t! I know how to fight, and you’re exhausted. Please, let me finish…I’m ten, father has been teaching me fencing since I was four!”
Thomas glanced back at Thistle, and to his surprise, Thistle gave him a quick nod. Thomas needed no more urging. He tossed his sword to Patrick, and the young boy caught it deftly.
He took on the fight as if he had started it. Thorac was now obviously losing, and before long Patrick had made Thorac lose his sword and had the man at sword point.
“No, I’m not going to kill you.” He said to Thorac’s whimpered question. “I’m going to bring you to my father and let him deal with you.”
Thomas gathered his wits and quickly helped Patrick tie the defeated enemy in strong ropes. Suddenly, Bramble and Brier arrived, and in their company was an older girl who rushed towards Patrick with tears of thanksgiving in her eyes.
“Oh, Patrick! I’m so glad to see you safe! Thorac in bonds instead of us! Thorn the Terrible dead!” She hugged her brother, much to his discomfort, and tousled his hair affectionately. She turned her grateful gaze towards the dragons and Thomas now. “Thank you all so much.” She said sincerely. “I cannot tell you how many terrible consequences you saved my brother and me from.”
“You’re welcome.” Thomas replied quickly with a grin. “I’m Thomas, at your service.” He bowed.
Brittney curtsied and returned his grin with a smile. “I’m Brittney.”
To his embarrassment, Thomas felt his face growing hot, which was a sure sign that he was blushing, so he quickly gestured towards the dragons. “These are my friends…Thistle the hermit dragon, Prickle the racer dragon, Nettle the royal dragon, and Bramble and Brier the treasure dragons.”
Brittney curtsied to them as well, and the dragons bowed. “I am very pleased to meet all of you.” She said. “And I can’t thank you enough for freeing us.”
Now it was Thistle’s turn to feel embarrassed. He changed the subject quickly. “We need to get you and your brother home Brittney. I’m sure your father is worried out of his mind about your predicament.”
Brittney’s hand flew to her mouth. “Oh yes! We must get home right away. But…” she turned to Thomas with an air of puzzlement. “…how are we going to get home?”
Thomas smiled. “You get to ride a dragon.”
Patrick’s eyes widened and an excited grin slowly spread across his face. “I get to ride, actually ride, a dragon?” He asked. Thomas nodded.
Brittney looked at the dragons skeptically. “Are you sure they can carry us?” She asked worriedly. Thomas nodded again. “Which one will we ride?”
“You will ride Brier, and Patrick can ride Prickle.” Thomas answered easily, mounting Thistle. “Just watch me; it’s not difficult, because the dragons do all the work.”
Brittney and Patrick watched Thomas and followed his example, mounting the given dragons and holding on tightly (but not too tightly).
Bramble grabbed Thorac in his claws and gave him no chances of escaping now.
Once they had figured it out, more or less, the dragons took off and Thistle led the way back to Brittney and Patrick’s home on a far island while Brittney pointed out the general direction.