"Dragon Quest" Part VII by NobodyAtAll

Part VI

Warning: spoilers for the Vulcanus Saga.

Note: read “He’s The One That Makes Ya Feel Alright” and “Because Alcohol Tastes Better Than Tears” first.

Hey, it’s Eddy again! It’s been a while since you last saw me.

Still not much has changed, other than what went down in Las Vegas last week.

Cal’s brother died. The funeral was yesterday. He’s bummed about it, and everyone in the ChaotiX is bummed for him.

I feel like I might be getting close to a breakthrough with the cube, and my training with Grampa Chrysus is coming along nicely.

I can maintain the dragon arm for longer than thirty seconds now. Noble dragons have phenomenal magic resistance, all but the strongest spells just bounce off them.

So, if any evil wizards start casting spells at me, I can block them, if I can catch the spells with my arm.

Magic’s a lot different here on Magicca. They’ve got a lot of spells that are functionally identical to spells on Earth, but with different incantations. And they’ve got spells that don’t have equivalents on the home side.

To be fair, the reverse is also true. Apparently, nobody on Magicca ever thought that a cantrip for tying shoelaces was necessary.

I mean, it really isn’t.

Did you know that the plastic tips on shoelaces are called aglets?

But plastic ain’t really a thing on Magicca yet, so aglets are usually made of metal here, instead.

Erdrick and Aurelia’s foals are all healthy and grown up. It seems that it’s not a guarantee that they’ll inherit any abilities from the magical side of their gene pool.

One’s a pegasus, and another’s an alicorn. The pegasus, a red stallion who Cal suggested we name Knuckles, can glide like a pureblooded woolly pegasus. The alicorn, a white stallion who we named Icarus, can’t glide at all.

Nadia didn’t get either reference, because she’s still learning about Earth pop culture.

To be fair, I’m still learning plenty about Magicca.

Right now, I’m at Dragonheart Palace, walking through the gardens with Nadia and Nocturne. It’s a beautiful, sunny day.

Since Lorik retook the throne, he threw the gates open like he used to, so we’re not the only ones enjoying the gardens. There’s a lot of people here, many with woollies, and guards making sure everything is alright.

People usually behave here. They love Lorik. And they’re grateful that the gardens are open again. When my Uncle Harvey was King, he kept them to himself.

Harvey’s still in ChaotiX custody on Earth. For his own protection. Dehak’s still at large here, and Harvey has tons of dirt on him, but he’s too scared of Dehak, even across worlds, to spill the undead beans.

Erdrick, Aurelia and their hybrid offspring are playing huggy tag nearby. Nocturne recommended a good spot in the gardens for it, he knows the place like the back of his… paw.

“Other than the gallows being turned into firewood, this place hasn’t changed a bit. Gotta hand it to Harvey for maintaining this place all these years.”

We’ve got a few ideas for what we’re gonna put in the gallows’ old spot, we’re just trying to decide which one to go with.

Vic suggested something about a skull fortress, but there’s not enough room for that.

In case you’ve forgotten, Nocturne is a talking cat. He’s the familiar of Panthera, Royal Mage, who is currently talking magic with Des.

But Nocturne wasn’t really in the mood to sit through another round of shop talk, so he decided to hang out with us until they’re done. Shouldn’t be much longer.

As we pass the barracks, we see Dharin, Captain of the Royal Guard.

Dharin’s a big guy. Blonde, but greying and balding, bearded, bulky, muscular, covered in body hair and scars. On Earth, they’d call him a bear. He’s not actually gay, though. He was married, but his wife was killed in an incident that also mangled his left arm. Magic couldn’t heal it. So he doesn’t do a lot of fighting anymore, but he’s got decades of experience as a guard and a soldier, and he’s not letting that experience go to waste, he’s passing all he’s learned down to the next generation of guards and soldiers. He’s even writing a book, though it’s a bit tricky with his bum arm.

That’s the real meaning of the saying “those who can’t, teach”. It doesn’t mean that people become teachers out of incompetence.

Des corrected me on that when I used that phrase incorrectly around him. The more you know.

Dharin might look intimidating, but I’ve seen for myself that there’s a big ol’ softy under that mug. Always gentle with the new recruits, he’s like a father to his men. He calls them his boys.

He’s a big teddy bear, really.

Just don’t insult the royal family or his dead wife, or you’ll learn the hard way that he can still beat you senseless with a bad arm. I’ve seen that for myself, too.

He retired out of disgust when Harvey took the throne, but happily came back when the rightful king returned. He was worried sick about his boys the whole time, and mourned for everyone Harvey “gave the pink slip” by sending them to the gallows.

The guy who replaced him as Captain of the Royal Guard during Harvey’s reign is now in prison for a number of crimes related to what he did as Captain.

“Yo, Dharin. How’s things?”

He beams at me.

“Two o’clock and all’s well, Master Edward. Have you heard from Sir Calvin yet?”

“Yeah, he said that he would love to tag along to the Lich Yard, but that he made an obligation to someone. He said that he’d be sending someone else in his stead, who is just as good as him, and that they’d be here at 2, so–”

On cue, one of the other guards runs up to us.

“Captain! Captain Dharin! You’ve gotta come see this!”

“What is it, lad?”

“It’s… I don’t know the words, Captain! We’ve got an unusual guest!”

I turn to the guard.

“I think they’re here for me. Yo, Erdrick! Get your cute fluffy butt over here!”

“Ewdwick am come-in, daddeh!”

So me, Erdrick, Nadia, Dharin follow the guard to the gates.

Nocturne spotted a mouse and went off after it.

A talking cat he may be, but he’s still a cat.

And you can always trust a cat to be a cat.

When we reach the gates, we find…

“Yo, Eddy. I don’t think Cal thought it through when he asked me to come here.”

The jaws of everyone save me, Nadia, and Erdrick drop.

“Is that Sir Calvin?!? Why’s he made of metal now, Master Edward?”

“Actually, my name is Alpha. There’s a reason I look like Cal…”

So the four of us explain it to the others. That Alpha is a robot, and what a robot is.

Nadia’s already met Al and his family, so we’ve already had this conversation with her, and we know the best way to put it.

Not exactly the truth, but a lie they can understand.

Dharin strokes his beard contemplatively, with his good arm.

“So, he’s like a metal golem… but animated without magic? He’s powered by controlled lightning instead?”

"That’s… more or less… adjacent to the truth, yes."

Al pats the silver shoulder bag he’s wearing. I haven’t seen him wear it before.

“I’ve got the you-know-whats in here, Eddy, in case we run into trouble at the Lich Yard.”

“Hold on.”

“Am dat a–”

“Yeah, it’s a bag of holding. I picked it up in New Quezon City’s magical district. The owner insisted that it was on the house, but I insisted on paying for it anyway.”

“How yu git muh-nees, mistah Aw-fuh?”

“I do construction work on the side, Erdrick. I’ve got experience in construction, I’m a fast worker, and I don’t need a hard hat. I could do it full-time, but then I’d put a lot of organics out of a job. Plus, y’know, I’ve got a city to protect. We’re working on clearing the wreckage of Vegas, but Beta and Gam can handle that without me for while.”

“What’s Prommy doing, then?”

“Writing his next musical. It’s a sequel to The Incredible Singing Robot. I don’t want to spoil it, but the robot finds love. I think Prommy might subconsciously be thinking about Minerva.”

“Wobuts nu enf, dey cwang.

“Ha! I guess we do. So shall we get going?”

I turn to Nadia.

“Do you mind holding down the fort?”

“I was going to go get my crossbows, but I’ve got magic lessons with Panthera in ten minutes, so I can’t tag along. Come back alive, Eddy. Get out of there the moment it becomes too dangerous.”

“I’m sure it’ll be fine, Dehak’s not there.”

I’m saying that based on all the rotten animal corpses we’ve found between Dragonheart City and Dragon Roost Mountain. All of them had traces of magic on them. We can connect the dots.

He’s going back and forth between the city and the mountain, and so am I.

We all see the implications there. He’s switched targets.

He wants to steal my body, Cal reckons, because it wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize after the undead bastard failed to bodysnatch Cal.

So we’re all staying on guard. Cal’s got plenty of experience with assholes trying to steal his body.

Nadia kisses me on the cheek, and neither of us fully process what she just did until she’s halfway back to the castle.

We both start blushing, and everyone else starts laughing.

In Dragonheart City, Nocturne, a silent look of determination on his furry face, chases a mouse through the alleyways.

He’s been chasing that mouse since he spotted it sticking its tongue out at him and giving him the finger from the other side of the gates separating Dragonheart Palace from the rest of Dragonheart City, and he wasn’t going to ignore a slight like that.

That gesture is just as rude on Magicca as it is on Earth.

His pride as a cat is at stake. No member of the Felidae clade worth their salt will let a rodent give them cheek and get away with it. They’d never live it down.

Just as the mouse stops running, and Nocturne pounces to land the killing blow, he notices something.

That mouse looks a bit too rotten to still be walking around and giving cats the finger.

He tries to pull back, but it’s a bit hard for a cat to stop mid-pounce.

As me, Erdrick and Alpha make our way out of the city, we notice something.

A big cloud what looks like dark smoke, rising up from a nearby alley.

“Probably a house fire. Firefighters are a thing here, right?”

“Of course. You see all the thatched roofs, right? This city wouldn’t still be standing if firefighters weren’t a thing here. Look, those wizards are on it. They can put it out with water spells. Let’s get going.”

I put Erdrick in my bag, summon my golden dragon wings, and me and Alpha fly off.

I hear one of those wizards as we leave.

“Godsdamned weekend wizards!”

That’s basically the magical equivalent to calling someone a Sunday driver.

It’s a common phrase back on Earth, too.

In the alleyway, Nocturne swallows what’s left of his rotten lunch, sucking up the tail like a fluffy sucking up the last strand of spaghetti.


Eurgh. I like them a bit fresher than that.”

Nocturne makes his way out of the alleys, keeping his yellow eyes on the skies.

He looks up at the “smoke cloud”, billowing away as it dissipates, and sees Edward and Alpha flying out of the city.

He knows that smoke cloud is no mere smoke cloud, and, more or less, where it’s gone.

Back to where it came from.

Or rather, what it came from.

But they’re already out of earshot. He can’t warn them.

They’re flying into a trap, and it’s Nocturne’s fault.

Nocturne murmurs to himself, his deep, rich voice tinged with worry.

“I maaaay have just made a whoopsie. Damn it, Pan-Pan’s gotta know about this.”

And Nocturne returns to the castle.

“I hope he doesn’t laugh at me…”

Another of the perks of the bond that master and familiar share is that each will always know where the other is.

Nocturne is feeling deeply embarrassed about what he’s just done.

But he’s a cat. He saw a mouse. It wasn’t talking. Nocturne asked it if it could talk, only got a squeak in response, and now he realizes that the mouse was merely feigning an inability to speak.

He suspects that the mouse was baiting him into hunting it, and has a working theory as to why. He knows why the mouse didn’t get any closer than the gate: it couldn’t.

Or rather, the entity possessing the mouse couldn’t, because they’re being kept out of the castle grounds via means more powerful than mere walls and gates.

Arcane security has been bumped up since Lorik retook the throne. That entity already got into the castle once, and Lorik wasn’t going to let that happen again.

Last time Lorik made that mistake, he spent a decade in his own dungeon, and one of several pleasant conversations with Mayor Jeremy Logan of Earth that Lorik has had since his liberation has taught the King of Drakonia what he should have known all along:

Never build a dungeon that you can’t get out of.

Nocturne is embarrassed because he let his feline instincts drive him into making a mistake that a cat as smart as him would usually avoid.

In his defence, he couldn’t help it.

All cats know, deep in their souls, what to do when they encounter something small, furry and squeaky. It’s pure hunting instinct, honed over millennia of evolution. Nocturne may be able to supresss that instinct around foals, but when he smells a rat or a mouse, it’s like pushing a big button in his brain.

Hunting small furry squeaky things is what a cat does.

And you can always trust a cat to be a cat.


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