“... And then Vakkanus just ate all the sheep with one gulp, without even asking if the other three of us wanted some! And when Kyndi complained about it, he went with his usual excuse of being 'the oldest'. Merely two-hundred years older and thinks that gives him privileges, can you believe that?” Granatus asked his audience.
“Sounds though.” a twelve-year-old boy answered hesitantly.
“Exactly.” Granatus seemed unaware of his audience's bewilderment. “That's what I always say. Vakkanus can be a real pain sometimes!”
The story-time had gone into a rather dull direction: After telling some of his greatest feats, Granatus went probably unintentionally on a rant about the annoying side of the other apocalyptic dragons he had spend the last millennia with. Since not a single one of the orphans had family, they failed to connect to this stories. But even the smallest among them knew how rude it would be to point that out.
Meanwhile, Firana and her sisters were still in a mode of inwardly panicking. For now, the dragon seemed willing to let them live, so they were afraid about the end of the story-time.
Mel on the other hand was only half-listening to the dragon's ramblings. Because she picked up on something else that complicated the situation even more.
Two were behind some bushes, only twenty meter behind Granatus.
Three were behind cover very near to the orphans.
And twelve more were scattered around the edges of the clearing. One even hid in the tree Svetlana was still pretending to sleep under.
A total of seventeen people had been set into position, clearly observing the orphans everything that went on at the clearing. Initially there had been twenty, but when the Granatus began his story-time, three of them went away, probably to inform the higher-ups about the dragon.
And they were all masters of stealth. If it weren't for Mel's decades of experience as a secret agent, she wouldn't have noticed a single one of them. There was no doubt everyone else, possibly even Granatus, was in the dark about the presence of the watchers.
Mel could only speculate about their purpose. They had allowed the plan of the slavers to proceed, but that might have been because they noticed the dragon approaching. Then they had done nothing while the slavers were killed. And now, apart from three men breaking off to go wherever they went, the watchers were still just watching. But then again, if they were only ordered to watch, there was no need to send so many people. One or two scouts would have been enough.
Granatus interrupted her thoughts.
“Well then. I think I have talked enough. You now know all the important things about how fearsome we apocalyptic dragons are.
“Now I will eat a few of you.”
“What?” One of the children said.
“I am hungry. Also it will show you just how gruesome we are.” With that Granatus stood up from his position and started to approach the orphans.
“Oh my god, we are gonna get eaten!” one of the older orphans, obviously still seeing Granatus as part of the theater play, screamed out. “If only a heroine would come and save us!”
And then a heroine came.
After Lisa's departure, it took me a few minutes of straying through the forest before I found a tree I recognized as being close to the clearing. Then I heard a faint, deep voice coming from somewhere. Of course, I followed this new lead.
Somehow I had managed to psych myself up for this. The kids were expecting a good show, so I would have to do my best. My biggest fear was whether Lisa would nail the role of the evil dragon.
“... just how gruesome we are.” The voice said now.
“Oh my god, we are gonna get eaten! If only a heroine would come and save us!”
Sounds like I came just on time!
Without further ado, I readied the rusty sword and stepped forward. Thankfully I had used my time since yesterday to come up with some cool lines.
“Hold your evil deeds right now, dragonic fiend! Your hateful flames will be extinguished by the almighty stream of justice!” I screamed...
… And almost choked on my words when I saw Lisa's dragon-puppet.
It was perfect! She somehow had given it the height of a two-story-building with wings that would probably triple her width if she spread them. Also the puppet was a dragon of the four-legged, green-skinned variety.
After hearing my words, it turned it's head, almost as big as a car, in my direction and started to speak. “I sense a mysterious aura from you. Who might you be?”
Exactly what I wanted her to ask!
“I am the true and only Dovahkiin, the dragonborn, last of my lineage and strongest being in the known universe!” I proclaimed while striking a hopefully awesome pose with the rusty sword. This is actually pretty fun.
Lisa's puppet seemed to stare at me for a few seconds. When it spoke, it spoke without moving it's lips, apparently using some form of telepathy or something. “Are you seriously that delusional? Or did my sight simply rob your mind? You wouldn't be the first one, so there is no shame in admitting.”
This was not a good answer. I was supposed to be some cool heroine, so the 'dragon' doubting me wouldn't make me look good for the children.
“Run away!” Farana suddenly cried. “He is a real...”
“SILENCE!” Lisa's puppet roared, creating a wind that seemed to be almost magical in nature. When blew around me, I suddenly felt another shock coming from my sword.
Now that I thought about it, wasn't this feeling similar to magic?
Forgetting the play for a moment (everyone was busy getting up after being blasted of their feet by the wind anyways), I decided to tap into the weird magic feeling again, concentrating it on my sword...
… which instantly begun to shine in a bright light. Within seconds, the rust of it simply disappeared, revealing a new-looking, richly decorated sword that looked like it came right out of a fairy tale.
“What the heck?!” Lisa's puppet was flabbergasted at the sight of my sword. “What does the holy dragonslayer-sword Deus Ex Machina do here?!”
So it really is a magic sword! Let's use it for the play.
I approached the 'dragon'. Since we had entered the clearing from opposite directions, I had to move around the orphans, which was quite a way.
“Prepare to meet your demise by my humble hands!” I declared.
“W-w-wait a minute! Firstly, there is nothing humble about your constant boasting. And secondly, this sword is really dangerous, you know? How about I spare the children and you let me go?” The 'dragon' started to back away from me.
Hold on a moment! Wasn't the story supposed to be that the dragon just wants to steal the food for the picnic? Talking about eating children in front of the children is way too gruesome. I should have a stern word with Lisa afterwards!
“This sword will be your doom! Eternal punishments awaits you!” In this very moment, another unexpected thing happened: Suddenly, knowledge about how to use this sword entered my mind. It was just like back at the guild when I had chosen my weapon. Expect that the knowledge back then had been merely the basics of the basics. The knowledge I received now was pretty advanced stuff: How to handle yourself against ten or more enemies at once. How to instantly react to a enemy pretending to surrender. How to go into some sort of auto-fighting-mode so you could hold epic monologues during battle. And most importantly, how to use the anti-dragon-magic that was this sword was capable of.
Well, Lisa said I could destroy the puppet, so I guess I might as well use this.
By now I had passed by the orphans. Now that nothing stood between me and the 'dragon', it was time for the actual fight.
“Screw it. That sword won't matter if I kill you first!”
So Lisa realized that it is time for the final! Good.
“This is your demise! Ultimate technique: Super-vertical-asymmetric-live-undoing-dragon-killer-slash-that-is-super-effective-against-dragons-and-stepmothers!” I screamed while swinging down my still glowing sword.
A spark of purple light came out of my sword and shot forward. At the same moment, the 'dragon' released a stream of fire out of it's mouth. The two streams met between us and collided for a moment. But then my purple stream began to push the blue stream back.
“Impossible! How can a mere human...” The 'dragon' uttered before his stream was completely engulfed by my stream. The the upper part of the dragon was engulfed as well.
When the light faded, said upper half was gone. Only the four legs and a good part of the tail remained. Furthermore, the forest behind the 'dragon' had also been thinned considerably.
Let's hope no one complains about that.
I turned around to my audience to do the finishing line.
“And with that, love, friendship and superior firepower have won once again.”
The children started to applaud like only children could do.
Looks like everything went well! I thought.
“Looks like everything went well.” Lisa said five minutes later when she rejoined us.
“Indeed. The dragon was no biggie for our dear Mary here.” Svetlana proclaimed.
We sat under a big tree, a little bit upsides the others. After the play, the sisters (who looked weirdly distressed for some reason) had ushered us to resume the picnic with another backpack of food after the first one had been eaten before the play. I finally had gotten my fill as well, which I was currently devouring.
“But I really have to say that your puppet was very good.” I said to Lisa.
Svetlana snickered for whatever reason. “Exactly. It was almost as if it was a real dragon.”
“You don't say.” Came from Mel, who also seemed flustered. Maybe they had been scared by how authentic the 'dragon' looked and are now embarrassed? That must be it!
“I thank you for the compliment.” Lisa said in her usual monotone voice. “But I would like to add that an important part of the play was the sword you used.”
“Yeah, about that.” I said, presenting them the sword. “You won't believe it, but this sword is the real deal! I suddenly had a weird feeling and concentrated mana on it, and it just turned into this form. I even got some more knowledge about how to use it.”
The others examined the sword with curiosity. Finally, Mel said. “I guess it really is a magical sword. But in the end, it belongs to the orphanage anyways. We shouldn't forget to give it back.”
“That won't be necessary.” Came a voice from behind me. I turned around and saw that Firana had approached us.
“I can't tell you how glad we are for what you did, Mary. That is why I want you to keep this sword as a gift.”
“Thank you.” I answered, unsure of what she was talking about. After all, the whole thing had been just a play and the dragon had been just a fake, so why was she acting as if I had done something great?
Maybe she just wants to get rid of the sword. After all, now that it looks so expensive they might attract unwanted attention by having it at their orphanage.
“Can we also have the remnants of the dragon?” Mel asked.
“Sure. They would be yours anyway, since you are on a quest to protect us and a dragon is still a monster.”
“Good.” Mel said with a smile.
“What do you want with a bunch of meat?” Svetlana asked.
“Lisa, could you store the feet and tail in your inventory?”
“Then we will take this stuff... and sell it!”