The doom drake tore through the city. Debris exploded into the sky with each strike. And we were miles away.
I looked around for others. Many were reeling from the previous attacks and the fall of the monster. The dust still hadn't fully settled and the monster was already well into destroying Briqor.
Was there any way for me to get there? Maybe I could help evacuate? They did announce that it wasn't safe there, but we had hoped we could slow the monster down. They were supposed to have more time to evacuate. There was no way that everyone was out by now.
I didn't care how far it was. I had to try. I had to do whatever I could to get there and protect the people who were caught unaware. I began running. There had to be a way.
The monster continued its rampage in the distance. It was hitting harder now, destroying buildings much faster than it had made attacks on us. Had we not affected it at all? Why would it not kill us quickly and get it over with? I knew it was bent on destruction, so why not destroy? Maybe it was saving its energy for the town. But that didn't really make sense. It didn't seem like it slowed at all. Maybe it was testing us, seeing if we were an actual opponent. Maybe it got bored with attacking us.
I couldn't be sure about any of it, but that was the best I could think of. Still, it was hard to believe that we were that ineffective against it.
There was a shadow above me, and I looked up to see a dragon flying in the direction of the monster. Malcolm. Even the distant sight of him made me angry.
I was a distance from the carnage behind me now and I was already winded. It had been a long day, and I was already running a lot to try and take down the monster the first time.
I heard something just behind me. Footsteps hit the ground not too far away. I looked back and saw Porthos, a violet portal still blinking out of existence behind him.
"What are you doing?" he huffed.
"We didn't stall it long enough," I said. "There are still people in there."
"You're trying to help them escape," he said as a statement rather than a question.
"I can't let it kill more, especially people that are unable to protect themselves. There are families in there."
"I can teleport you part of the way," said Porthos, "but not that far."
It was further than the range I had seen any Gnome teleport without a teleportation gate. I would need an army of Gnomes to get over there quickly, and Gnomes were among the least represented at the battle.
My eyes settled on the shadow again and I looked back up at Malcolm's dragon.
"Can you get me up there?" I asked, still running.
"Why would you want to do something like that?" asked Porthos.
"That's the fastest route over there. I need to get there, and he is no doubt headed to Briqor to try and tame the doom drake again."
Porthos took a deep breath. "You're sure?"
"Yes," I said. "Put me on the tail." I stopped running and Porthos focused on the purple glow in front of him. As it grew, he spread his hands further apart as if stretching open the portal that was being formed.
"Good luck," he said. "Don't get yourself killed."
I couldn't make any promises.
"Wait, Kaia," Tigala called after me. "I can fly you there. Let me transform." She was far enough behind us that she had to yell to be heard.
I looked back at her and then lowered my eyes as I swallowed hard. She stopped her pursuit, knowing she wouldn't reach me in time, and I stepped through the portal.
In an instant, there was a rush of wind around me. I fell through the air and caught the dragon's tail in my chest. I grabbed as soon as I realized what I had hit, and kept myself from slipping free of it.
The dragon roared at my arrival, shaking Malcolm, and another person who sat behind him on the beast.
"Woah, calm down," said Malcolm, agitated.
I watched nervously as they kept their heads facing forward. Then I repositioned myself so that I had a better grip on the dragon. I threw a leg over it and hugged the tail with my whole body, to keep a low profile in their peripheral and to keep myself attached well.
I knew I should have waited for Tigala to fly us to Briqor. It was safer, and I'm sure I broke her trust in me on some level, but I needed to deal with this first. I needed to deal with him.
"We need to go back," said the Human I didn't recognize. "We must have gotten something wrong. Despite all of the mind magic you have put into the colossus, it still doesn't show any signs of listening to you. We need to either figure out why or stop it. Brighton is already—"
"I already told you no, Arthur. It will give in eventually. It's just a matter of time," said Malcolm.
"But you don't understand. We're lucky it hasn't turned on us yet. If it does, then all we did was unleash it on the world. I know you have better plans than that. We need this to work, or we need to stop it."
"It will work. We're not going back." Malcolm's anger was audible. "If you want to, leave whenever you feel like it, but I have a mission, and I am going to see it through. This is how we make the world a better place."
"Only if it works," said Arthur.
"It will," said Malcolm.
Arthur must have counted that as Malcolm ending the conversation. He didn't press further and instead sat awkwardly behind his brother, just in front of the dragon's massive wings.
It was hard to believe that this creature had attacked the colony just a couple of weeks ago, and now I was riding it to an even bigger threat.
I looked up at the two Humans again. Malcolm kept his face forward and shoulders stern. How did he think that controlling that monster was making the world a better place? Sure, people fight. Other races have hurt Humans. But everyone has the same story. We all were hurt by others.
Maybe it was just my experience on Daegal talking, but I was beginning to think that race meant very little. It was superficial. Sure, some people looked different than others. Different races had different cultures and customs. And different races had problems with each other. But as a reason to hurt someone, it was just a line drawn in the sand. It was an excuse to avoid dealing with the fact that we all do things we regret. We all hurt other people. To ignore that fact was to become the people you are trying to destroy.
But at the same time, I hated him. The last time I had seen Malcolm, he had told me that he killed my family. I had wanted to kill him. I wanted him dead for what he did. And now, I hung onto the dragon that he rode with him completely unaware. This was my chance if I was ever going to do it.
Should I? I thought. I readjusted myself and grabbed the knife I had strapped into my belt. I didn't know who Arthur was, but he didn't look like the type to be any good in a fight. I could probably knock him off of the dragon without him having a chance to defend himself. And then, I could take Malcolm out. I could stop him from mind-controlling the monster. I could remove the person that caused so much pain from the world. One less monster to deal with later.
Even if we could take down the monster, we would still have to deal with him. It was only a matter of time. I might as well save us the time and do it now, right? I would be helping our cause. Wouldn't I?
I took a deep breath as I imagined it. The anger still boiled inside of me, imagining him killing my parents. Him being the one that left me an orphan, alone in the woods. He took my childhood. He took my culture from me. He turned me into a thief. And he hurt countless others in the same ways or worse.
Abigail lost her mother. So did Coran, as frustrating as he was. He took Cairn's husband. He killed Garlar, Ferek, Seth, and Wallace. He killed Zef. He tortured countless people, all for the chance to kill more—to eradicate the earth of all other races. If anyone was a monster, it was him.
But could I do it? Could I plunge a dagger into someone? I looked at the blade. It wasn't just any dagger, it was my father's. My father wouldn't have. He respected life too much. He only even fought that final day because he was forced to. Because he knew that if we went peacefully, I would have died along with them.
My face was hot with rage, yet I couldn't convince myself to do it. Killing Malcolm would solve so many of my problems, right? I would finally get revenge for the people I had lost. I would avenge their deaths. My parents. Zef.
What would he do in this situation? I thought. He would probably make a joke and try to convince Malcolm to join our cause. I shook my head again. Killing Malcolm felt like the easy solution. It felt the way to fix things the quickest. But everything told me that it wasn't what I should do.
I didn't care. It was what needed to be done. This was no longer a game where we get to go camping and searching the woods for missing people. No, this had turned into a war, whether I liked it or not. And you can't be weak in war. You have to strike first before you are struck.
I pushed myself to my feet with the dagger in hand. I glared at the two of them as the wind blew past my face. I was angry, and I let all of that anger flood into me. I needed to do it. I needed to be the good soldier and take advantage of the opportunity provided to me. I needed to kill Malcolm.
I walked forward slowly, each step pushing against the wind. Each step I took was a step closer to ending the pain, ending the hurt.
I reached out for the back of Arthur and hesitated before I grabbed. Malcolm spoke at that exact moment.
"The drake attacks in a cycle," he said. "It destroys and then re—"
The rest of the words faded from my mind. Cycle. It brought back a memory of Zef.
Hatred breeds hatred. Someone has to be the first to break the cycle.
I stopped in my tracks thinking over the phrase, wishing I could find another meaning for it, or a way to ignore it. But I couldn't. Zef was right. If I killed Malcolm now, it wouldn't solve anything. It would only damage me. It might stop some of the pain right now, but it would break more ties. It would only hurt more people in the long run. It would hurt me. I would be a killer. Not by accident this time, but with the literal blood on my hands.
I tried to turn back and get back to my seat on the tail to avoid being seen, but at that very moment, the doom drake roared, and a stray fireball flew our way. Malcolm yelled to the dragon, and it swerved to dodge the hit. The quick change of course knocked me off balance and threw me forward into Arthur's back.
Arthur screamed as he lost his grip on the dragon and slipped off the side. I did everything I could to hold on and try to grab him at the same time, but I wasn't quick enough.
Malcolm turned his head around. "Arthur, are you—" Then he saw me.
"You," he said with an anger that rivaled my own. "How many times do I have to kill you?"