Chosen character can no longer witness the event. Do you wish to switch to another perspective?
No, I think I've seen enough. I thought. Let's skip the rest and get this over with.
Narrative break truncated. Reinstating main character perspective. Resuming story.
Wait, what? I'm not dead? I thought with shock. I was eaten by a goddamn dragon!
It was really dark and the pressure on me was excruciating. I thought I was in hell or something, then I realized that I was stuck inside the dragon's throat. I pushed and pulled to try and make myself as much of a nuisance as I could, then I felt twice as much pressure and was pushed forward. Forward was bad from my perspective, because I was facing downward, so I took a deep breath and then splashed into the stomach.
It was half full of acid and I was surprised that it didn't burn like the cloud the dragon spewed out. It still stung like hell, because my back and hands didn't have any skin on them anymore, and I was pretty sure that my foot was gone, too. That meant I was bleeding and couldn't feel it, which was really bad, and I had to do something about it fast.
It was still pitch black and I couldn't see anything. I was also jostled around a lot, which gave me a good idea which way to move. I did my best to stand up and took out one of the immolation potions, then I felt around for the best spot to smash it. I found the throat opening and prepared to duck back into the stomach acid. I shoved my hand into the opening and smashed the potion, then slid down into the bottom of the stomach until the acid covered me.
The whole stomach lit up as the potion induced magical fire covered the whole place. I lifted my leg with the missing foot out of the stomach acid and held in my scream of pain as the immolating fire seared my stump. I pulled it back when I thought it was enough and waited for the fire to die down before I sat up and inspected the stump.
It wasn't too bad, so I accepted the loss and was sad that I never did get around to making a regeneration potion. If I had one, it would let me regrow my lost foot, not to mention my missing toes and fingers. I really needed to try and work on that as soon as I could.
The fire was still burning near the throat and it gave off some light. I could see a little bit and took stock of what my situation was. I still had both hands, one foot, most of my uniform, and my bandoleer. I was sure that nothing else in it was going to help me this time, except for my knife, so I took it out and charged it. I did it just in time, because the fire was sucked away and I could only see by the glow of the knife.
I jammed my knife into the side of the stomach and started cutting. Unlike nearly everything else I've tried to cut with it, the dragon's flesh was tough and resisted the magic of the blade and my enhanced strength. It felt like I was using a normal knife while trying to cut normal meat.
That was a scary proposition because I had been holding my breath this whole time, since breathing in stomach acid was not a good idea, and I cut as fast as I could. I wasn't looking to make a huge hole, just a slice that was big enough to get me out. The problem was, the stomach was deep inside the underbelly of the dragon and it had big thick rib bones. There were a lot of things between me and the outside, namely dragon scales.
I hoped beyond hope that I was close enough to the separation between the heavy armor top scales and the smaller underbelly scales. If I wasn't... well, I was sure that I couldn't hold my breath for that long. I blew a chance that I shouldn't have taken when I took a very brief sniff to try and get more air. I gagged and the noxious smell inside the stomach burned the inside of my nose. I lost the air I had and clamped my mouth shut a little too late.
Dragon stomach tasted as awful as it smelled. I barely stopped myself from throwing up and now I was desperate and used all of my strength to cut and chop at the dragon's side. Blood poured into the stomach and I discovered another problem. If I didn't get out soon, I would drown in a mix of stomach acid and blood.
I felt it stumble around as I essentially attacked it from inside, so I reached through the cut I had and held on to one of its ribs. I was tempted to take another strength potion, even if I would suffer twice as much when it wore off. The problem was, I was inside a dragon. I would be ingesting a lot of whatever was inside the stomach and the benefit did not outweigh having another taste.
I sawed my knife across the rib in front of me. I had cut away the surrounding flesh and the blood was up to my waist already. I needed the rib out of the way because I couldn't fit out between them. It was much too late to change directions now. My lungs burned and my body told me that I desperately needed air.
Air, air, air! I need AIR! I yelled in my head and grabbed the next rib and used the leverage to kick with my good foot at the partially cut rib. Sawing it off is taking too long! I NEED AIR!
I kicked and kicked and then gave up kicking and held on and pressed as hard as I could with my foot and the stub of my leg. I pulled with my hands at the same time, imagining the rib was a lever, and applied as much pressure as I could on the edge of it... then it snapped.
YESSSSS! I yelled in my head, pulled out the rib, and dug my knife into the flesh beyond it. I was too far gone mentally to care when the dragon tilted and dropped a few feet. I was so close to the surface that I felt the scales pushing out. SO CLOSE! SOOO CLOOOOSE!
The blood rose up to my chest and then went over my head. I closed my eyes and ignored my constantly burning nostrils. It seemed to take forever for me to not feel any resistance on my blade... and then I felt like a dam had burst and I tumbled out of the dragon in a flood of blood and stomach contents.
I landed on my back and didn't hear anything at all, then I felt water splash over me. I tried to get up and stumbled, because I had forgotten that I didn't have a foot, and ended up on my hands and knees. I tried to wipe the acid and blood from my face, then finally opened my mouth in I couldn't remember how long to take a breath.
“HUUUUUUUUUGGGHHHHHH!” I gasped long and hard, then I threw up for just as long. I had taken in a lot more that I thought I had with that stupid breath inside the dragon's stomach. I took several more breaths and then I collapsed onto my side. I felt someone take my hands and drag me away from the dragon, then two healers and Mage Henrietta was there above me.
They were speaking and I shook my head and pointed to my ears. Apparently, it wasn't just quiet and I couldn't hear anything. I felt water splash in my left ear and then my right, then one of the healers put their glowing hands on the sides of my head. Sound slowly started to come back to me, as if they were turning it up, and then I was able to hear clearly again.
“David! David!” Mage Henrietta said and reached for me. The healer shook her head and nodded at the other healer. They took out a huge pair of scissors and without touching the clothing, cut me out of my shirt, pants, and surprisingly, boot.
“Water!” They said and I was suddenly covered in water again, then I was rolled over twice and dragged away from my clothing. I was thankful it was grass and as the healers kept tending to me, I saw one of the combat mages burn my clothing. Another was burning the blood and stomach contents.
“David.” Mage Henrietta said with tears in her eyes and placed a hand on my chest. “I'm so glad that you survived.”
“Alex...” I started to say.
“He's worse off than you.” One of the healers said. “He's lost part of an arm and part of a leg. We've stabilized him and he'll be sent back along with the other dead and wounded, just as soon as the strike teams get back.”
Mage Henrietta sighed. “He sacrificed himself to save First Lieutenant Smith and the non-combatants.”
“What did he do?”
“We salvaged as much of the remaining ammo as we could and distracted it.” One of the combat mages said. “He knew it wasn't going to last long, so he took one of the enchanted rocks from the catapult and tied it to one of the projectiles.”
I closed my eyes and imagined what happened. “He ran up with it to hit at close range.”
“He activated the boost enchantments and shot it right on the forehead. The rock exploded and...” The man fell silent.
I opened my eyes to look at everyone's sad faces.
“Mage Lukas died killing a dragon.” Mage Henrietta said.
“How did you do this?” One of the healers asked and lifted the stump of my right ankle. “It looks healed.”
“Immolation potion to stop the bleeding.” I said.
“That... that's... insane.” The one holding my leg said and put it down. “That... the pain alone...”
“The acid was worse.” I said and she nodded as her eyes went to my hands.
“We'll finish your hands and work on your back next.” She said.
“That's okay. I have my...” I reached for my bandoleer with my free hand and it was gone. I looked at the fire where my clothes were and heard several pops. “Dammit.” I said, because I knew that all of my potions were now gone. “Does anyone have a spare healing potion?”
Everyone shook their heads and I sighed. I held a hand out to her and she took it to work her magic. Surprisingly, I did not get a tingly feeling out of it as I watched my skin regrow. When she was done, I put my knife in my other hand and gave her that one to heal. I was rolled over and several hisses were heard as they saw what was left of my back.
It took the healers a lot longer to repair the damage to my back and as I laid there on the grass and waited for them to finish, Mage Henrietta sat beside me and held my hand. She didn't say anything and neither did I. There wasn't much to say about everything that happened, until the strike teams came back. We wouldn't know until then if what had happened here was worth it.
The two strike teams came back with less than half of their numbers and asked for whoever was in charge. Nearly everyone turned to look at me, because I had been part of the briefing and both Alex and Mage Lukas were no longer able to listen.
“Go ahead and report.” I said and the strike team members tried to not watch my back being healed.
“Sir, the primary site was a complete success.” The leader of one team said. “Once the large male left, we dispatched the mother. Unfortunately, the baby dragons were not happy when she died.”
“I never knew they could move like that.” Someone else said. “Even with your warning about their ability to dash...” He shook his head.
“With four of them to contend with, it was a harrowing battle, even with our two assigned mages.”
Mage Henrietta looked at them and didn't see any mage robes. “They're dead.”
“Yes.” The leader said and held out a sack. “These are their belongings, even the damaged items.”
Mage Henrietta let my hand go to take the sack without speaking and the other team leader handed her a sack as well. It was much smaller and it was essentially just scrap inside. She sighed and tied both to her belt without standing up.
“The secondary site was as good of a success, although we lost a few more people. The extra juvenile that you warned might be there, showed up just as the third launch hit.” The second leader said. “It took the exploding rock in the chest and was knocked backwards into the mother.”
“It could still fight, even partially covered in webs and fire.” One of the team members said. “It was...” He shook his head. “I've never seen a dying creature do so much damage.”
Everyone else there looked around the completely wrecked mission site and looked back at him.
“At the time.” He corrected. “We managed to hurt them and killed the mother and one of the babies. We didn't think we were going to survive at all, until the defensive mage cast a shield over the dragons and the other mage staying inside with him to make the fire bigger and to keep it going.”
“Oh, no.” Mage Henrietta whispered.
“I've never seen a funeral pyre spell used like that before.” The second leader said and reached out to rest a hand on Mage Henrietta's shoulder. “Please, pass on our gratitude and our sorrow to the families of those brave mages.”
Mage Henrietta nodded and he stepped back.
“Sir? What do we do now?” The first leader asked me.
“The combat mages are finishing off cleansing the area of acid, so there's only two things left to do.” I said. “Stay long enough to get everyone healed enough for travel, then pack up the boats and head back to the garrison.”
“Sir, I thought... aren't we supposed to continue on and clear out the landing sites?”
“We don't have the manpower to do that anymore.” I said and glanced at the healers.
“You'll be healed in another fifteen minutes.” The healer said.
I nodded and looked back at the strike teams. “I'll report that the main mission was a success and recommend reallocation of strike teams with the construction crews. We made sure that there was enough room on the boats for your men.”
“Sir.” The man saluted. “Let's get packing, boys.”
They moved off, as did the few construction crew members that were left. They started gathering up what supplies that were salvageable and started piling them by the waterway.