It was already quite dark by the time Nikan, Emma, and Emrys reached Riverside. They slowly picked their way through the crowd of celebrating Burrows and made their way over to Violet’s stall. When Violet saw them, she burst into a huge smile and ran over and hugged Nikan. “I thought you were never coming back! C’mon, they are starting up another song. Come dance with me!” Violet grabbed Nikan’s hand and pulled him to the town center, where the band was indeed starting up another song.
Emrys leaned back against the table and grabbed two apples. He handed one to his sister and took a big bite out of the other. It was crisp and delicious! Emma hopped up on the table, and both watched as Nikan and Violet swirled around the dance floor in a boisterous, lively dance.
“Can you imagine what Gram and Gramp would say if we told them about this?” Emma asked as she took a bite of her apple.
“Or Mother and Father, or Aiden!” Emrys said and then stopped. The smile faded from Emma’s face.
“We are wasting time here!” Emma said as she looked down at her apple. “Why wouldn’t this mayor see us? Why do we even need their help? We should just go!”
“We wouldn’t get very far in a world we know nothing about, and besides, it is night. We need to sleep, which puts us into tomorrow anyway. So we’ll meet with the lord high mayor and decide what to do after that,” Emrys reasoned.
“Do you think he is OK?” Emma asked.
“I think so. Something tells me that if he was in extreme danger, somehow we would know,” Emrys replied. “I can’t explain it, but I just have that feeling.”
“I hope you are right,” Emma said.
As they were talking, the song ended. Violet and Nikan slowly made their way back over to the table, still holding each other and laughing. And then they heard it. The same evil-sounding howl they heard two nights before, just outside Nikan’s post, only this time it sounded like there were more than one! Nikan, Violet, and the twins looked up in horror as they frantically tried to see what was making that noise. Several massive, dark shapes were gliding silently through the night, blotting out stars as they moved.
After another screeching roar, one of the massive, dark shapes broke into a dive. In the firelight, the twins could see a massive, scaled beast with a long neck, powerful limbs, a long, sinewy tail, and massive, leathery wings dive among the partygoers. It grasped two helpless Burrows and streaked back up into the sky before dropping them from a great height. The two Burrows screamed as they plummeted back to earth and crashed into a stall that luckily was filled with brightly colored blankets and pillows for later in the evening when the Burrows of Riverside would sit and watch other communities set off their fireworks. At that moment, everyone in the town circle snapped out of their frozen terror and started screaming and running. Another massive, dark shape dove into the crowd but didn’t manage to grasp any of the fleeing Burrows.
“Go!” Nikan yelled as he pushed the children away from the circle and then turned toward Violet.
Emma and Emrys started running but stopped short when they heard a strangled cry directly behind them. The twins turned and saw one of the vile creatures swoop down and close its talons around Violet before it shot back up into the air.
“No!” Emrys cried. Time seemed to slow down as suddenly rage took over and began to consume him. Without quite knowing why, Emrys raised his hands as though to catch the flying creature and stop it from escaping. Emma’s eyes grew wide as the dark beast stopped in midair.
“I said no!” Emrys screamed as he squeezed his hands. The beast let out a strangled scream as its bones snapped like twigs, and it dropped Violet. Emrys raised his hands over his head and slammed them into the ground. The crippled beast flew into the ground headfirst and lay there. It twitched a moment before what life it had left escaped and it lay still.
A second beast whirled around and dove at Emrys. As it fell, the creature opened its mouth, and a torrent of fire cascaded from its gaping jaws. Emrys faced the oncoming blaze and cupped his hands. The fire spread out as though it hit something solid and invisible in front of him. Emrys twisted his hands as though forming a snowball, and the fire followed suit, compacting itself into a boiling molten ball. The dragon—there was no doubt now that was what these creatures were—finished its dive and tried to gain altitude. As it passed, Emrys reached out and caught its tail with an invisible grip, stopping it midflight. He swung the dragon down into the center of the town circle, obliterating the stands and tables there. The dragon twitched and died, its body smashed, its bones broken from the catastrophic violence of the impact.
Emrys looked back up into the trees, his eyes wild and tears streaming down his cheeks. He saw one last dragon flying among the trees. With all his might, Emrys screamed and threw the fireball up at the flying dragon. The fireball connected in the middle of the creature’s stomach and erupted; the blast engulfed the beast in flames. The burning creature plummeted from the sky in a fiery blaze and hit the ground, never to move again.
Emma moved silently next to her brother, her eyes wide with fear and concern. Emrys stood there, scanning the sky, his fists clenched, waiting for the next threat to appear. Riverside descended into a quiet hush. Emma put her hand on Emrys’s shoulder. “I think it is over.”
Emrys turned to his sister and collapsed into her arms.
Nikan held an unconscious Violet and sobbed.